One advert from the 2013 electoral campaign which I remember rather vividly was Labour’s much-maligned ‘Courage to Vote’. Like most of Mario Philip Azzopardi’s productions, it was a clumsy effort, a shameless sales pitch to the upper middle classes.
To use an euphemism, ‘Courage to Vote’ wasn’t a box office success, and maybe it wasn’t the reason why swathes of upper middle-class voters embraced Labour.
It did get me thinking, though.
Having been brought up in a Labour family, seven years at St Aloysius College weren’t easy: I lived through the silent class war of the 1990s, the bullying it brought with it, and emerged as an even more ardent Socialist.
Most of those ‘superior’ human beings have nowadays blossomed into wonderful IIP agents; thankfully, I’m hopeless at selling even the cheapest of vacuum cleaners, let alone my citizenship.
As the last years have shown, Labour’s behind-the-scenes flirtation with what used to be a Nationalist domain was more successful than the ill-fated ‘Courage to Vote’. It was branded as a ‘Moviment’ (read: a larger electoral donor base, with added Lou Bondi and Robert Musumeci).
The ploy, however, came at a price even for those who like me voted Labour in 2013.
Żonqor, even before Panama, was my breaking point from a party with whom I identified even when it wasn’t ‘cool’ to be Labour.
Muscat’s new order showed more than an unwillingness to improve on the mess George Pullicino and others in the Gonzi administration left in the murky planning stables; they took over the system and cranked it up to 11.
Żonqor wasn’t only the end of my loyalty to Labour; it was my final net to the PLPN establishment, a sad realisation that the system is rigged to be ridden by the better rider, with most of the common citizenry trampled underfoot.
It takes a lot more courage to stick your neck out and protest in an age where your enemy is composed of politicians in and out of power, developers, estate agents, bankers, employers, unelected people in high places, sections of the media, far-right groups and others pimping themselves as new friends.
Iż-Żejjed Kollu Żejjed is a protest born out of a very common sentiment that goes beyond class and political beliefs: that the construction industry has overstepped its limit and is behaving like it politically and physically runs the island.
Both parties are silent about the daily bullying of this badly-suited elite and their fleet of trucks and hymacs.
Żonqor, even before Panama, was my breaking point from a party with whom I identified even when it wasn’t ‘cool’ to be Labour
Careful not to burn bridges until a brighter day comes, the two PN fragments have tread with extreme care, while Labour was busier restoring the industry to the usual laissez-faire even after three apartment blocks collapsed, leaving families homeless first, humiliated later.
Iż-Żejjed Kollu Żejjed has managed to bring together, despite all sorts of partisan accusations and online harassment, over 60 groups of concerned citizens, including resident associations, cultural organisations, NGOs and niche groups.
These organisations, just like the individuals who will attend next Saturday, have understood that concern about the industry transcends party lines.
Labourites don’t sleep better than Nationalists with a hymac excavating the plot next door at 7am, and are as susceptible to damage to their properties as Nationalists are.
In short, nowhere’s safe from the developers’ onslaught.
It takes courage to protest, as opposed to voting in solitude once every five years. And we need that courage because the stakes are too high.
Staying at home is allowing the construction industry a carte blanche that will roll over all of us, it’s allowing the Planning Authority and its highly salaried heads to get away with murder, it’s allowing the system to gobble up the natural environment, green spaces and our collective peace.
Let this slide, resort to a mere Facebook post, and they will ignore your opposition to db, the AUM dorms in Cospicua, the Mistra project, the Żebbug tower, the dozen others expected to pop up, the take-up of obscene amounts of agricultural land… I could go on.
Your silence, awkwardness, and diffidence is their biggest weapon. Since public groups started forming in opposition to one project or other, the powers that be have quickly resorted to applying the divide-and-rule routine; and your different partisan beliefs are their favourite crate of full-metal-jacket ammo.
Irrespective of your colour, there is no way mega projects or the creativity of the Buttigieg-Ellul duo in planning will improve your quality of life.
The naysayers will merely trumpet what the political parties want them to believe about this protest.
Political parties, ever the cynics, will try to either ignore it or infiltrate it, both knowing that their symbiosis with activist movements is bound to be short lived.
They know that activist principles run deeper than those of any political party; but they should also know that unlike politicians, activists grow older and wiser. The mistakes of the past will not be repeated. MPs would do us all a favour by staying at home.
Let your courage to protest be the start of something new.
Let next Saturday be the birthdate of a movement that is truly willing to defend what little we have left, and one that will not bend at shifts in power.
Wayne Flask is a member of Moviment Graffitti.
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