Archive for May 2012

There is always a 'but'

Did you ever notice how us Maltese have developed an unfortunate habit of qualifying a position against or in favour of something with a counter-position? Let me give you a few examples:

  1. I am not racist....but these people should be sent back immediately from where they came. 
  2. I do not condone poaching and illegal hunting...but those Germans had no right to film such illegalities and give Malta a bad name.
  3. I am hell-bent on bringing down this oligarchic power-block...but I am not willing to do so directly so that I can be used as a scapegoat (???)
  4. I am not against gay marriage...but I do not believe that gay couples should have the right to adopt children
I'm sure there are plenty of other examples that are better or more ridiculous than the ones I have listed above. One wonders why we have a knack of adopting 'neither here nor there' positions. Is it out of fear of being labelled or perceived as being loony, radical or controversial? Is it a cause of recent historical events which have ingrained in us a certain caution to be as objective as possible? Is it the cause of purely individual/egoist interests; that is, not to step on anybody's toes or to be in everybody's good books despite one's personal beliefs? 

It could be none of the above, or a mixture of all of them. I don't really know for I am no sociologist. What is sure is that this culture of caution is all pervading. It is especially prevalent in most politicians; such that we are not exactly sure what they actually stand for. This is precisely why you come to have some respect for politicians such as Dr. Adrian Vassallo, who are consistent and unashamed of their beliefs, even though you may or may not disagree with them.

Being in favour or against something with certain reservations is not bad or deplorable or anything of the sort. But when you see a consistent pattern of cautious speech/actions you begin to wonder whether there is something more to it than meets the eye. To be honest though, sometimes it really pisses me off, especially when the X but Y position is just ridiculous and illogical. In any case, it would be an interesting to study this, I guess. 

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Le changement?

Throughout the European Union government leaders and heads of states from both sides of the (central) divide are being chucked out of power. This is a testament to the utter failure that is austerity economics/austerity politics which seeks to appease the markets purely out of human misery. Pardon my French, but let's face it, you have to be absolutely fucking mad to expect people to give you gratitude for ending up jobless, hopeless and in complete disarray largely through no fault of their own. Why should people have to pay for the gross negligence of a select few?

This failure, which mainstream parties seem to be unable to appreciate, has given a great boost to extremist or fringe parties thus putting centrist parties at the cross-roads. With the exceptions of Portugal and Spain, which have both elected mainstream conservative parties respectively (and that after long-term centre-left or socialist governments), the political centre is paying the price of its obstinacy and blindness. Francois Hollande, who hails from the mainstream French Socialist Party, got elected on an anti-austerity/pro-growth ticket. Whether he would be constrained to drift towards what I call the "pure centre" during his tenure remains to be seen. But I see no reason why he should unless he also wants to get the boot after one serving one term. 

Recent elections also point towards a rejection of a Franco-German hegemony that has completely usurped the European Union.There is simply no "Union" if Member States are constrained to the diktats of France and Germany, regardless of how well-meaning their ultimate intentions may be. Europhiles and federalists alike should reject this powerblock hegemony, not embrace it - and one can only hope that Hollande remains true to his word; that is, by remaining steadfast in reshaping France's diplomatic relationship with Germany and thus its overall outlook on Europe. 

But it is not all rosy for those, like myself, who are anti-austerity and welcome le changement. The rise and rise of the fringe also translates, very evidently, to the ugly rise of fascism which can easily capitalise on hopelessness and fear. This is a big challenge for the common-sense politicians who must convincingly establish that they can offer ordinary people a hope that is greater than populist isolation, protectionism and xenophobia. 

The recent tidal shift in contemporary politics requires a new mindset. Until recently politicians seemed content to justify their actions because of global economic constraints. This is clearly no longer a legitimate excuse. Furthermore, reducing budget deficits by cutting spending is no longer the be all and end all. Keynesian economics, expansionary monetary policy and so on should no longer remain anathema.

At the end of the day people may be willing to let go of privileges and luxuries like travelling abroad, eating out and so on and so forth. But to go so far as to deny persons a basic yet decent and dignified standard of living is not only absolute madness but completely self-defeating. This right, in my opinion, is as fundamental as free speech, freedom of conscience and all the other basic rights and should be enshrined as such. It would surely be a good accompaniment to a constitutional provision which demands a balanced budget. 

Who knows if politicians will ever learn from this crisis? 

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