Front page.

Editorial | Wednesday, 12 May 2010 Issue. 163

Bookmark and Share

The dividends of hate

Last Sunday brought with it the macabre revelation that unidentified vandals had broken into the Addolorata Cemetery and desecrated the tomb of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s mother, Inez Gonzi (nee Galea).
Reactions to this grim discovery were both swift and – rightly – horrified. If the gesture was intended to shock, it can certainly claim to have been a success. In fact it is hard to say which is the more shocking aspect of the whole sordid affair: the act in itself, with its wanton destructivity and sheer disrespect for humankind’s most deeply-rooted sentiments; or that some people would resort to a course of action that even the most primitive of ancient societies would have instantly recognised as an untold barbarity.
For there can be little doubt in anyone’s mind that the intended victim of this disgraceful act was not the Prime Minister’s deceased mother, but the Prime Minister himself. And there is something uniquely atavistic about the very idea of hitting out at a living person by sullying the remains of his or her dearly departed family members. In fact one finds traces of this savage impulse in the written records of our earliest civilisations: Achilles’ cruel dismemberment of Hector in The Iliad being perhaps the best-known example.
The only difference, of course, is that Homer adorned this grisly episode with dazzling poetry and profound catharsis. No such poetic adornment is even possible in this case, as there are simply no redeeming factors – none whatsoever – that can possibly make the crime look like anything but the monstrous descent into human depravity that it actually was.
But the crime shocks on another level, too; in that it brutally re-evokes bitter memories of a recent past that has evidently not yet been fully exorcised. Comparisons are odious, but one cannot help be reminded of the almost identical vandal attack on former PM Dom Mintoff’s family grave in 1998. On that occasion, not only was the grave itself vandalised, but actually broken into and the remains of Mintoff’s long-dead parents disinterred. Small wonder that Mintoff himself would claim, in a recent television interview, that he was willing to forgive anybody for any offence or misdemeanour in the past... except the persons responsible for that shameful act of delinquency.
Given that we are once again being steered towards a climate of intolerance and political hostility, one would also be justified in questioning whether there can any direct political responsibility to apportion for the crime. But inevitably, this is the point over which the country ceases to make any logical sense, and rapidly descents into partisan tribalism.
At a glance one can certainly argue that politicians of all hues have a collective responsibility to maintain control over their party’s more irascible and uncivilised elements. One could even claim that party leaders in Malta have traditionally disregarded this basic principle... lured by the enormous political advantages to be gained through the manipulation of emotions and by rousing the masses to a frenzy.
But having said that, it is both irresponsible and immature to capitalise on such crimes to incite hatred against one side or the other – as some people in the Nationalist camp have predictably seized the opportunity to do.
Incredibly, some would even have us believe that the blame for the desecration of Mrs Gonzi’s tomb should be laid directly at Opposition leader Joseph Muscat’s door... as if the perpetrators were somehow obeying direct orders from the party leadership, or at least responding to invisible stimuli emanating from Mile End.
This is not just irresponsible in the extreme, but also highly dangerous. Such manifestly unjust claims can only serve to add more fuel to a fire which already threatens to spread beyond any form of control.
Of course, it is no surprise that the person making such bald and insubstantial claims happens to also be the person most guilty of deliberately inciting violence and hatred on purely political grounds. Such hypocrisy has after all come to be expected from that particular direction.
But while it is both absurd and dishonest to point fingers at the Opposition leader - or for that matter, to event hint that it might have been the work of Nationalist agent-provocateur: an utterly inensate suggestion if there ever was one – it would also be a mistake to underestimate a degree of political responsibility... if not directly for the act of desecration itself, at least for the poisoned atmosphere which made it possible to begin with.
Politically speaking, Malta is once again in a precarious position – as was confirmed by the unruly scenes in parliament last week. On the one hand, government’s leader of the House has imparted the impression that it is keen to push through unpopular measures even through dishonest means. On the other, we have a somewhat shrill and inarticulate Opposition leader, whose overreaction to events last Thursday quite frankly failed to inspire the necessary confidence that a change of government in the short term would necessarily be a change for the better.
This is a dangerous mix, as a growing portion of the population will inevitably be left feeling increasingly restive and frustrated. And yet, if politicians could only look beyond their own limited field of vision and make the necessary concessions in the name of national reconciliation, a good deal of this unnecessary tension could easily be defused.


Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download front page in pdf file format

The dividends of hates

Anna Mallia
Corruption and the private sector

Tolga Temuge
Anna Mallia’s hunting fantasy

Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email