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David Friggieri | Thursday, 04 June 2009

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Transcript from a European election debate

Gonzi dahak bik!
- U intom x’ghamiltu, ma dhaktux bin-nies intom?
- Nerga’ nirrepeti, Gonzi dahak bil-poplu Malti u Ghawdxi!
- Ghalqu dawn il-hotels: A, B, C u D.
- Iss, iva, imma trid tghidilna kemm fethu in the meantime.
- Ghandek il-figuri, Chris?
- Staqsi lil Vince, dak jafhom il-figuri.
- Lilek qed nistaqsi, wegibni!
- Jien ghidtlek ghalqu l-hotels taht GonziPN.
- Wegibni!
- Xoghol!
- Mhux vera.
- Ambjent!
- Immigrazzjoni!
- Sahha!
- Pawza qasira ghar-riklami. Nirringrazzjaw lil W, X, Y, Z...
- Ergajna lura fl-istudjo.
- Gonzi dahak bin-nies...
- Il-Laburisti lanqas jafu jaghfsu l-buttuni. Inkonsistenti.
- (Dahka ironika)
- Nista’ nurik dar-rapport, ha arah.
- Mhux dak ir-rapport trid turihom lin-nies, dan trid turihom.
- GonziPN ghadu jidhak bin-nies, ehe. Arroganti.
- Ha nghidlek minn dahak bin-nies. Kieku kien ghalikom lanqas dhalna fl-EU
- Ippermettili, jien ma nterrompejtekx. Mela...
- L-Ewropa rridu nibghatu nies kapaci...
- Jekk joghogbok, tinterrompinix...
- (NB: angry, tense faces throughout)

Five years after Malta reluctantly squeezed into the European Union, it should have become amply clear that all those fears about losing our identity to some hegemonistic monster were at best paranoid, at worst completely misguided. And if there is one factor which proves that Europe hasn’t had the slightest effect on Malta’s way of doing things – on its identity – then that must be the way guests (even some of its supposedly illustrious ones) behave on talk shows on local television.
The discussion may be tackling European Parliament elections with a selection of MEP hopefuls, but the whole business has a ring to it which is miles away from anything remotely European. It’s still all intom and ahna, mhux vera and u zgur li vera, gdibtu and ghidna l-verità. When the discussion moves away from the usual cheap insults and actually manages to engage with a couple of token issues, it does so in a superficial way: ahna vvutajna b’mod konsistenti, ktibna rapport, nwieghdu li nressqu mozzjoni.
There are, thank God, one or two exceptions. Simon Busuttil is a convincing orator who has an unparalleled knowledge of his directives, facts and figures. But by and large, he too has had to keep afloat in a sea of incoherent thoughts, mindless clichés and cheap jibes, so he too has given into the temptation to play the simplistic game being played all around him. Arnold Cassola, who is cogent and clear, has done his best to get his message across without falling into the simplistic or populist trap.
Europe is about so much more than what this disappointing electoral campaign has made it out to be. It is about so much more than ahna and intom, than pressing the right buttons and ‘defending Malta’s interests at all costs’. It is certainly about more than the infantile ‘ibghatu messagg lil Gonzi’. One only needed to tune into Rai’s European election debates to see what Europe is also about. Old battle horse Marco Pannella, was yesterday engaging with secularism, Immanuel Kant, Europe’s roots, Altiero Spinelli’s legacy, political theory, xenophobia and immigration.
But Malta’s writers, truly independent journalists, researchers, intellectuals and artists must decide to engage in order to stop the rot. Leaving Europe to career politicians and chancers was always going to yield us diminishing returns.



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