Last week, Facebook rightly erupted with shock when Times of Malta reported that passers-by not only filmed a man who was standing dangerously at the edge of the bastion in Valletta, clearly agitated, but also jeered and egged him on to jump.

One of these brutes was even heard to hurry him on because she was late for work. The banality of evil personified.

Many resorted to social media and online platforms to voice their alarm at the sorry state of the nation.

Some friends who have never ever voiced their opinion publicly before on anything and usually just share pictures of kittens, so to speak, shared the story and their indignation with the world thinking that they are safe from accusations of partisanship because this is only a ‘human-interest story’.

Wrong.

This latest horrific episode is also political. Because what is the meaning of politics? There are many definitions but I will choose one. According to David Easton, a Canadian-born American political scientist, politics is “the authoritative allocation of values for a society”.

A value is what is prioritised for the greater good, sometimes at some personal cost. Can a value be bad? Isn’t it an oxymoron? 

A value is bad when one pursues a path that does not lead to the good of society, to the common good and persists in it. Much has been written in the past years about how this country has discovered the price of everything, including people, and the value of nothing.

The recent relentless pursuit of instant self-gratification has changed this country irrevocably. We are familiar with the tale of Jay Gatsby who is unwilling to combine his desires with the moral values of society and instead made his money in underhanded schemes, illegal activities and by hurting many people to achieve the illusion of his perfect dream.

The Great Gatsby is a social satire commentary about the collapse of a nation of infinite hope and opportunity to a place of moral destitution and corruption.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? One only has to look out of the window to see the moral corruption writ large on our landscape.

But what about the landscape of our conscience? We numb it because ‘everyone needs to eat’ and it’s better to keep your head down and not ask questions or criticise authorities because look at what happens to activists and journalists who pop their heads above the parapet.

So we say nothing about the stealing of millions from our taxes, about the shocking spectacle of politicians who cling to power in spite of the many scandals in their wake and about the lack of prosecutions of powerful people by our police force.

But, once in a while, we take a break from posting pictures of fluffy kittens and rant on Facebook because it’s good to rail against society when it has nothing to do with ‘partisan politics’.

Or so we think.

The incident on the bastions in Valletta is also the direct result of the politics of impunity that has seeped into every stratum and in every institution. The mob felt empowered to hurl insults in broad daylight at a man who was clearly in distress because that’s what they also do on social media and no one stops them.

Heck, Owen Bonnici, who was found guilty by the highest court of trampling on protestors’ rights by repeatedly cleansing the memorial to Daphne Caruana Galizia, whitewashes his reputation at a hate speech conference, so why will anyone stop me when I pile on the hate on a clearly distressed man on the bastions?

What’s another lost life in the maw of this culture of impunity? A journalist was assassinated yards from her home? “She had it coming.” An injured migrant was dumped by the side of the road by his employer? “He had no papers.” Boatloads of migrants are lost at sea? “Malta is full up.” A woman is buried under the rubble of her home because of cowboy construction? “Mistakes happen.”  People jeer a man who is clearly distressed? “Something bad must have happened in their life.” It has been reported that the police will investigate the braying mob at the bastions. Good. Imagine their shock when these individuals are picked up when their idols or, let’s say, their role models in politics have yet to pay for their crimes. “Not fair!”

We must stop rationalising evil. When the brand of politics promoted by the government deteriorates the fabric of society, then it’s everybody’s business for politics is too important to be left solely in the hands of politicians. We must save the nation together.

We must stop obfuscating, rationalising. Everybody does it, that’s what we say. So we come to occupy a moral safe house where everyone’s to blame so no one’s guilty. 

We might not all be guilty but we are all responsible for what happens to our country. Edmund Burke, writing in 1790, said the nation “like some vast family, is a partnership, not only between those who are living but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are yet to be born”. We have a task.

The seeds of regeneration are planted but they need constant watering.

They need your voice because when you sit on the fence in great moral issues, while you are silent, monsters are breeding quietly.

Is this the nation we want for our children?

If you need emotional support, you can call Richmond Malta’s helpline on 1770. Alternatively, type OLLI.Chat on your desktop, mobile or tablet browser to chat with a professional 24/7.

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