If there’s something most Maltese refuse to take part in it’s pomp and ceremony. Not only do they refuse it but they actually go out of their way to snub and mock it if they can. Dress codes are casually disregarded, the concept of the thank-you note never quite made it to our shores and punctuality is a mere suggestion. Many do not only not know how to behave in socially demanding situations but they laugh at anyone who does and make them sound like they’re soft. The thing is that, while I can almost understand how the man in the street can get it wrong, I’m less patient when my politicians do.

Who can forget the reports that then leader of the opposition Joseph Muscat arrived late to meet the king of Spain? Or when he didn’t go to the president’s farewell dinner because he claimed that he didn’t like formalities and preferred eating a hamburger and chips? Improbable as that might be, it’s hardly an excuse for not properly executing your constitutional role.

A country’s politicians are not just people who won a popularity contest; they are elected officials representing the country’s highest institutions. This means that, yes, they should be able to able to speak properly in both our official languages and that, yes, they really should have an understanding of protocol and of what their words mean. There is simply no excuse for the cringefest we were all party to a few days ago when the president of Ukraine addressed our parliament.

There he was, a leader with a pale, drawn face wearing a T-shirt, amid one of the bloodiest wars of the last 77 years, having to listen to half-baked, empty platitudes from a room of pink-faced men in suits that can’t even imagine what a war looks like. It beggars belief that this audience was even organised given that we seem to have had so little to say in the first place. If they were expecting a round of applause, they certainly didn’t get one as President Volodymyr Zelensky threw truth bomb after truth bomb into the room. To quote Mark Twain: “If you have nothing to say, say nothing.”

I was reminded once again of our ancestors leaving their own children outside to die during the cholera epidemic- Anna Marie Galea

However, all that pales in comparison to the way Maltese people in general reacted to the speech. Regardless of what they might believe is going on or whose side they have taken (not that the majority seem to understand what is going on or have bothered to do any research, if social media commentary is to be believed), the reactions were despicable. The callousness, the lack of sympathy and empathy, the obvious wish to cast out the person they viewed as the troublemaker. I was reminded once again of our ancestors leaving their own children outside to die during the cholera epidemic. All these hundreds of years later and we will do anything to preemptively save our own skins. The concept of dying for your country remains an alien thing only taught in English literature lessons. It’s something only “stupid” people do.

Is it any wonder that we continue to allow our country to be ravaged repeatedly? We don’t even look up to see all the damage being done because our heads are constantly kept down in our efforts to be as convenient as possible. How could clientelism not flourish in such fertile grounds? Make no mistake, watching this week’s exchange was just a reminder that we definitely did get the politicians we deserve.

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