My brilliant father was born in a small village in Gozo. Although not from a scholarly family, he consumed books like oxygen and while it is not technically his field of study, he knows more about local history than many of the people who claim to know it intimately.
When we lived in the UK, he would spend whole evenings at the kitchen table plotting our weekend trips on giant paper maps which my mother would hold in her lap. Despite the fact that they had two daughters, both under the age of 10, who were more than a handful to manage, almost every weekend without fail, we would crisscross the country in search of the next landmark. We spent hours and hours in that car, driven by his determination to see every single thing of note.
We once drove for four whole hours in the unabating torrential rain to see a single standing rock in an enormous field. It wasn’t even signposted, but he took photos of it from every angle. I think I had thrown a tantrum on realising that we had journeyed for hours just to see this solitary pebble and he took me aside patiently and explained to me why it was important that I cared.
A people who is not proud of where it comes from and is unable to respect that past is a people without rudder or identity
Why I should always care when I’m looking at a very small puzzle piece of what brought our civilisation to where it is today. That lesson has never left me, but it also hasn’t served my growing stomach ulcer very well either.
You see, while other countries protect their heritage and fight for it tooth and nail, here, we simply treat it as an inconvenience to the so-called progress that many Maltese people seem to aspire to. The latest thing which has really gotten my knickers in a twist: the Ħal Resqun Paleo Christian Catacombs which currently reside under a roundabout but are going to be at risk from a proposed not one, but two tunnels and one of those fabulous flyovers we seem to love so much.
I don’t yet know if potholes are included in this deal, but I suppose if the traffic gets too congested, I could always get out of my car and peer into the catacombs through one of the flyover holes just to pass the time and it will still take my dad four hours to get there so we’ll all feel right at home.
I will reiterate what I have already said countless times in the past: it is beyond abhorrent that we do not seem to give two figs about our history or our past. It does not only smack of ignorance in its most opaque and base form, but it also reveals how deeply we remain tied to the inferiority of our colonisation.
A people who is not proud of where it comes from and is unable to respect that past is a people without rudder or identity.
It is also a mute people, prone to having to take on others’ voices because it has none of its own. There’s little point in making such (an unnecessary) fuss about a flag when you can’t be bothered to protect the actual cornerstones your country is built upon.
Superficial? Us? Never.