February 2011


National Pride has different meanings for different people. It can be healthy – supporting your country’s football team or feeling pleased when a co-national makes a groundbreaking scientific discovery. It can be sick – idealizing your culture no matter what (As if I can ever feel proud we fight in the village festa). It can also be destructive, especially when one discriminates on people coming from a different country or have a different ethnicity.

Discussions between Maltese people on the Libyan revolution be it on a bus-stop, at the pub and most of all on the Internet are demonstrating a lot of healthy Maltese pride.

Sure, some people are in panic. This is very close to Malta, co-nationals find themselves in Libya, some in risky situations, and a large amount of asylum seekers are to be expected. Even worse, the man still in power in Libya is utterly crazy. A crazy man with not much more to lose – a deadly combination. One of the risks of this is that he may bomb oil rigs (something which he has already threatening), creating a natural disaster in the Mediterranean.

However, talk between Maltese people isn’t just about the consequences we may face and our (many times realistic though sometimes inflated) fears but also a deep desire to do something to stop the massacre. As well as solidarity with people at present in our country who have friends and relatives being butchered or living in terror in Libya.

Many options are being considered. In spite of the fears (the mad-dog might want to retaliate in some way), most Maltese are demanding sanctions on Gaddafi and that we refuse to send him back the jets of two defectors – which he might use again on innocent people. Democracy in Libya and the whole region is also being discussed a lot, not only because we will benefit from it personally but also because we believe in it and would like others to have it.

Obviously such things are not the concern of everyone. Negative traits of some Maltese are coming out. One of the most disgusting is that for some this has become a pointing fingers at “the other party” be it PN or PL with the your-leaders-are-better-friends-of the-tyrant-than-mine attitude. The pathetic attitude of tribal way of seeing politics some of us have.

However, I honestly believe this country has moved on a lot these past two decades. Gone are the days when we say “bhal ta barra” when we see a successful Maltese musician on television. We are believing, more than ever that we can and do have voice in the international community, even if we’re a tiny island.

This kind of pride is healthy, very healthy.

Many people who, like me’ have an aversion towards any kind of discrimination, many times focus too much energy on political correctness especially on using the right words. Today we refer to homosexuals as ‘gays’ or ‘lesbians’ rather than the derogatory word ‘faggots’. We don’t refer to black people as ‘niggers’ or the disabled as ‘handicapped’. So far this is a positive thing – basic decency and respect.

The problem I see is that sometimes certain people go too far, albeit with good intentions. We sometimes focus so much on the right words and symbols that they end up being barriers towards minorities.

From personal experience, I sometimes find it difficult to find the right words when referring to disabled people. Or should it be people “with a disability”, “with special needs” or “with mixed abilities”? Does it really matter? I respect disabled people as much as I respect every other person I know. I don’t consider them as inferior or a burden in any way, and believe society should enable them to live a fulfilling life, including building a career. (What really gets my blood boiling for example is accompanying a person on a wheelchair to a bank or government building and finding the place inaccessible – with my complaints falling on deaf ears).

A friend of mine told me she doesn’t like to refer to black people as black. Once again, she has noble intentions, and she honestly doesn’t make any distinction between people on basis of skin color. But, if I may ask, what’s the problem with calling a black person black if he is. (In the same way I’m white, or pink whatever).

Once, attending a talk delivered by a Police Officer I was amazed how he went at lengths to use the right words when referring to a black person till he came out with the bombastic “persuna ta’ karniggjon skura” Ironically, he didn’t find it hard to state he is likely to select persuni ta karniggjon skura more often for body searches.

Respect and decency are one thing but I believe that obsessing too much on using the right words only creates unnecessary barriers. After all, a rose is a rose by any other name.