In politics, the word liberal has various meanings and is used to tag various groups, some of whose beliefs are nearly opposite each other (for instance some “liberals” in terms of economic policy happen to be very “conservative” in terms of civil rights issues).

I won’t get into the various definitions of the term. For the purposes of this article, by liberal I refer on issue related to civil liberties such as divorce, same-sex marriage, decriminalizing drugs, euthanasia and prostitution – and why I support each one of them.

Yes, one of the reasons is that I’m a “liberal”, in that I believe that people should have every right to choose how they live, unless it involved harming others. That is a fundamental principle, but I go beyond that.

The other reason is that I believe that human suffering should be reduced as much as possible. I believe that by being conservative or illiberal the law is creating unnecessary hardships on people whose actions are either completely harmless or at most, only harmful to themselves.

Decriminalizing drug use: Some people are able to use drugs (especially the soft ones) only for recreational purposes. They may or may not be harming themselves (this mostly depends on the kind of drug, the quantity used and how frequently it is used). These people are also breaking the law, they are criminals. Why? Why should a person be arrested, prosecuted and possibly imprisoned when he didn’t harm anyone else other than himself? Isn’t this an unnecessary cruelty?

Some, unfortunately become drug addicts. A few of these finance their addiction through a regular legal job or just happen to be rich. Others, especially (but not exclusively) women finance their addiction through prostitution which though not illegal in itself is still very likely to send you on the wrong side of the law (read below). Others resort to the crime of theft or drug dealing. Except for the latter, who are drug addicts harming? Why should these people be punished further for their own illness (I strongly believe drug addiction is an illness, I plan to dwell on this in another post) Do you imagine a cigarette smoker prosecuted for smoking and being addicted to tobacco? Why should a heroin addict (unless he commits crimes with victims) be treated any differently? Once again – unnecessary hardship, cruelty.

Prostitution: The simple act of having sex for money is not illegal. They couldn’t make that illegal, such a law would be completely unenforceable. However anything else from loitering to organized prostitution is. In other words a prostitute can – and does – get arrested from lingering in a dark alley with not many clothes on and cannot regularize her job. Which, I should believe should be a job like any other. She couldn’t have the legal protection entitled to other workers resulting in being many times the victim of abuse from either her employers and her clients.

Why? Just because someone decided it’s not immoral to sell shoes or pastizzi but lending your body is. And since they couldn’t make that illegal they made practically everything else that surrounds it. To make it hard, deliberately inducing unnecessary hardship and cruelty.

Same sex marriage: Once again who are the victims of married homosexuals? (That it can affect a happy heterosexual marriage is absurdly beyond imagination). Why is society giving a message to these people that they should be treated as second class citizens and that they should be satisfied with some half baked “civil union” law that gives them some rights but not as much as heterosexual couples? Why the unnecessary cruelty?

Euthanasia and suicide: Working in a home for the elderly I’v seen people in unbelievable pain that no amount of morphine can control or extremely sad situations such as losing all your loved ones, your privacy, your eyesight and both legs who still want to live. People who for various reasons – religion being the most common – believe that still, life is there to be lived until natural death. This is what they wish and this is what they’ll do. So far so fine.

However I’ve also seen people who think different. People who want to die. Including a person who literally pleaded with me to give him something that can make it all end. Yet, in our society, because people with a superior morality decided that “life utill natural death” should not only be a value but also a law, any kind of euthanasia and assisted suicide is strictly prohibited. You have to suffer until the end because we said so. Unnecessary hardship, cruelty. Why?

Is it too “liberal” to believe in a society where reducing unnecessary human suffering is also a fundamental value? Where people are only punished if they harm others, and not get whipped further because they have harmed themselves, or offended the strict moral code of some holier than though?

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When Poland was under the Soviets, Trade Unionist Lech Walesa used to greet his fellow Solidarity members with rosary beads in his hands. It wasn’t simply a religious act. It was an act of rebellion. The Soviets had taken all freedoms from the people of this vastly Catholic country including freedom of worship. The Poles were up in arms and the Catholic church was by their side. Rightly so.

Freedom of worship is a fundamental human right and a society that tramples upon it can never claim it’s a democracy.

Unlike the “forced atheism” of the Soviets, Malta is today witnessing a wave of secularism. Believers and non-believers are coming to the rational agreement that freedom of worship should be accompanied by the freedom not to worship. That, within the remit of the law, everyone is free to practice his religion but not to impose it on others.

This change was particularly marked by the divorce referendum, where 53% of the voters, a substantial amount of whom must be Catholics, agreed that if a marriage is over, one should call a spade a spade and declare it over. Whether the former spouse decides to have a new relationship and even get married again or not, is up to him. If he considers that a sin because his Catholic beliefs, he has every right to remain single.

Like always, this created a backlash from fundamentalist Catholics who consider imposing their beliefs a human right. They are even uniting on Facebook in a group they call “The Catholic Vote”. Discussing the usual issues: Divorce, same-sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, IVF and occasionally even drug legalization. Needless to say, compassion, forgiveness or, horror of horrors, turning the other cheek don’t feature anywhere in the discussions.

I won’t enter the merits of the issues but rather the tactics used to achieve their goals. One of them is lumping all issues together and threatening that if say, a legislation regulating same-sex relations is passed this will pave way for the much more frowned upon abortion. When truth is that there is absolutely nothing in common with these issues except for the fact that the Catholic church opposes them both.

Another tactic is implying that everyone who disagrees with them is a sleazy hedonist, who wants to cheat on his wife and most probably takes drugs!

Then there is the ultimate tactic: Playing the victims. The terms “harassing Christians” and “Christianophobia” are regularly used. Yes, for these fundamentalists, daring to disagree with them is considered as harassment, even hatred.

There will be no mincing of words on this. Unlike Lech Valesa, you don’t have a case. No one is going to take away your religion. Stop playing the victim, grow up and get over it.

Christianophobia may be a reality in Nigeria and Egypt where attending mass might get you bombed but not in Catholic majority Malta. The “secularists” and “humanists” you hate so much, would be the first to defend you if someone tries to forcibly take religion from you.

But it’s not the case. And you know it.

In this article I will be not be criticizing the Catholic church. I did when I felt so, but on the issues presented below this would be highly unfair. I’ve accused the Catholic church (as an institution) on many things, including for being oppressive such as when it comes to the attitude towards homosexuals. However something it does not deserve to be called is inconsistent.

This does not mean that a substantial number of so called Catholics are not inconsistent and hypocritical.

Lately two rights related things have been at the forefront of local news – the right to divorce and the right to seek asylum for refugees or potential refugees. The institution of the church is against the first but in favour of the second.

I think the church is consistent in the sense that in its interpretation of the Bible and the words of Christ it feels divorce should not be a right, and that the right to life (of asylum seekers in this case) is sacred.

However, as one can see on most local media, the right to life not being respected by many so called Catholics, the same ones who vehemently oppose divorce and the rights of homosexuals. The variety of these hypocrites is wide ranging – from high ranking politicians up to nauseating fanatics posting comments on online newspapers.

A couple of days ago 55 Somali nationals were saved by the armed forces. 28 were kept in Malta (a democratic country that has signed the 1951 Geneva convention) while another 27 were sent to Libya where human rights are anything but respected. However, when were told they left voluntarily this raised eyebrows to those who believe in human rights and organisations such as the UNHCR and JRS (the latter being a part of the Catholic institution itself). Rightly so. The lucky migrants who were on the same boat and made it to Malta denied their friends went voluntarily in Libya. A little knowledge about Libya as well as common sense, proves them right.

Apart from the extreme (and violent) racism many Libyans have against black people, immigrants are also denied their rights by the government and Libyan institutions. Many people were arrested without charge and tortured in Libyan prisons, which have nothing to do with our prisons. Neither do the Courts of Law. Getting out of prison hasn’t anything to do with being innocent. One can only get out by escaping or bribing officials. The amount of people rotting in Libyan jails, tortured or murdered will never be known. Libya is not accountable to anyone.
Yet, what do we get from most of the same Catholics who not only oppose divorce and rights towards homosexuals, but also go berserk if a Christian symbol such as the crucifix might not be visible in public spaces? Silence.

Where is Dr Adrian Vassallo who is ready to riot to save Catholic values? Is he only concerned with the evil of pornography? Isn’t the life of human beings on his agenda? Doesn’t allowing people to be kept in inhumane conditions come into conflict with his Catholic values?

Ok, let’s leave the freak alone. Where are the pseudo-Catholic politicians who are vehemently against divorce because of their faith? Those who solidly supported the Italian government’s appeal for the right to keep crucifixes in public places? Why are they silent on an issue that can be of life and death for some people?

Above all, why is the Prime Minister denying all claims by the UNHCR and JRS and stubbornly refusing to open an inquiry on what really happened at sea, so that maybe such abuses will not take place again?

Is this what Christianity has become in our country? Waving flags to the pope (who condemned such deportation of asylum seekers himself), flaunting the crucifix and hating homosexuals? Only to put it aside when it’s not convenient?

I’m neither a hippy nor a young priest full of energy believing all humans could live and love happily each other, only to find it was only an illusion. However, I do wonder; what about love and compassion? Where have we lost them along the way? I don’t think Elvis Costello was asking too much in his song ‘What’s so Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding?’

 

On an international level, we can barely deny that hatred is dominating. Human rights are being eroded, and except for people in organisations such as Amnesty International, it seems that things like Guantanamo Bay, chemical warfare and the nuclear threat are not things that should spark any kind of outrage. I don’t believe this is World War III, but I do think it is Cold War II.

 

However, I’d like to draw attention to our, Maltese situation, where many find it more important to find someone to hate than to love. Probably we will soon discover a market for online hate-dates who knows.

 

A couple of years ago, there was a case, in Italy where a child who was about to be kidnapped, was murdered by the blow of a spade from his kidnappers.

 

We’re all human and I can easily understand if the child’s parents and other relatives and friends who loved the innocent child felt some strong feeling for revenge, wishing the perpetrator would be locked forever possibly with constant torture. Their emotions are deeply wounded; someone murdered their son just because he annoyed him crying.

 

What I find a bit disturbing is the fact, that when the news hit Malta and was featured on Xarabank, many people expressed a scary amount of hatred and a need for revenge. The common sentiment was ‘kieku jiena ntertaqhom bicciet’ (if it was up to me I’d tear them to pieces). I think this is scary due to the fact that these people had nothing to do with the case. They did not know the child. They were not emotionally involved. Hatred is a bad and dangerous feeling; however, while it’s only normal for the parents to feel it, I could not understand how complete strangers could feel such an urge for revenge.

 

Yesterday, I was reading an online article on The Times of Malta and was amazed at the comments many people were sending. The issue was that a person uploaded material with his former girlfriend having sex and the girl took legal action against him. Fair enough, but it seems those commenting on The Times really missed the point, probably on purpose. The former couple happened to be Gozitans and instead of discussing issues such as privacy and data protection, ethics and what should be the stand taken by the law, the discussion turned out like an online war between Maltese and Gozitans. I sent a couple of comments trying to divert the discussion back to the fact that someone breached the privacy of another person and this was not acceptable. My comments were ignored. Everyone seemed to be enjoying an orgy of hatred towards people who happen to be on a rock instead of another.

 

Some village feasts have become a battle ground. I support this saint and I’m willing to kill if it needs to! I wonder whether the saints themselves could understand the concept or even more approve it.

 

When African migrants started coming to Malta I was struck as to what extent people could hate others because of a different nationality, culture or colour of the skin. (I’m not referring to those wary of many African migrants, but to those completely indifferent and talk about migrants with a venomous tongue). Now I can understand. We just 400,000 people could not even stand each other for minor differences, how can we behave as human beings towards people whose differences are more wide.

 

What’s so funny about peace love and understanding? I have not heard any answer that actually made me laugh.