Mediterran

(English translation below)

 

Dan hu l-Baħar l-Aħmar:

Xerrdu d-demm forsi jsalva l-ewwel wild.

Ħenjin dawk li huma mistiedna għall-ikla tal-Ħaruf.

Dan hu l-Baħar l-Iswed:

Xerrdu l-irmied forsi jinħafrulkom dnubietkom.

Ħenjin dawk li huma mistiedna għall-ikla tal-Ħaruf.

Jekk ma nferaqx il-baħar, għax m’emmnux:

Dak l-għoġol mhux tagħna, dak tal-ġirien.

Jekk ma mxewx fuq l-ilma, għax m’emmnux:

Iva nemmen. Iva niċħad.

Dan hu l-Baħar il-Mejjet.

Ħenjin dawk li huma mistiedna għall-ikla tal-Ħaruf.

______________________

MEDITERRANEAN

Free translation:

This is the Red Sea:

Let’s strew some blood that we may save our first-born.

Blessed are those who are invited to the supper of the Lamb.

This is the Black Sea:

Let’s strew some ashes for the forgiveness of our sins.

Blessed are those who are invited to the supper of the Lamb.

If the waters have not parted, it’s because they lacked faith.

This golden calf is not ours, it’s our neighbours’.

If they could not walk on water, it’s because they lacked faith.

Yes, I believe. Yes, I deny.

This is the Dead Sea.

Blessed are those who are invited to the supper of the Lamb.

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L-Oħrajn

Ma bkejtx għas-siġra.
(Mur ara, fadal iżjed siġar,
Waħda inqas x’inhi?)
Bkejt għall-oħrajn,
Jistennew il-kundanna
F’ċelel tas-siment.

Ma bkejtx għan-niċċa.
(Mur ara, min għadu jemmen fil-qaddisin?
Sakemm mhux dawk li jirbħu l-ġenna kull ħames snin)
Bkejt għall-oħrajn,
Mimlija indulġenzi mhux mirbuħa.

Ma bkejtx għalija.
(Mur ara, jien diġa nofs triq għall-qabar)
Bkejt għall-oħrajn
Li ser jidfnuni
U ma jistgħux jibku
La siġar u la niċeċ
Għajr minn fuq is-santa tal-imwiet
Li hi ħajjitna.

Æ

(Image source: Times of Malta)

Lil Din l-Art Ħelwa

 

Sejjaħtli, u m’għaraftekx:

Wiċċek griż siment

Leħnek fgat.

M’għadekx Omm il-Mara l-Ħoxna:

Int sirt il-Mara l-Ħoxna:

Obeża, imħanżra, imdennsa;

Tgħix bil-karità falza

Ta’ min faqqrek.

 

Sejjaħtlek, u m’għaraftnix:

Wiċċi ċass, miblugħ

Leħni fgat.

M’għadnix iben il-franka:

Jien sirt żonqor u franka:

Bla ruħ, bla qalb, bla tama;

Ngħix fil-ħniżrijiet

Ta’ min faqqrek.

Fittxu l-Ewwel is-Saltna t’Alla

‘Fittxu l-ewwel is-Saltna t’Alla’ hija daqxejn  il-motto mhux uffiċjali ta-Ħamrun. Bħal li kieku il-Ħamrun huwa xi ċentru spiritwali kbir bħal ngħidu aħna Mekka jew Bodh Gaya, u Strada Rjali hija l-Camino de Santiago. Għal snin twal kont nemmen li ‘Fittxu l-Ewwel is-Saltna t’Alla’ kienet biss il-logo tal-każin tat-Tamal— taf int; daqxejn ta’ frażi ħelwa biex nuru li San Gejtanu kien jaf xi jgħid. Domt mhux ħażin sa ma ndunajt li dak ma kienx kliemu.

Is-Saltna t’Alla – il-Ħamrun. Anke jien u nerġa naqra kliemi, inħoss sens ikrah t’ironija. Għalija s-Saltna t’Alla mimlija anġli u bini sabiħ u deheb u inċens, – mhux gallariji mmermra, ħwienet mimlija affarjiet taċ-Ċina, u nies fit-triq għadhom lebsin il-paġama. Għalija s-Saltna t’Alla hu post ta’ mistrieħ u hena, mhux dħaħen u għajjat. Huwa ovvju li hemm xi ħaġa li ma fhimtx.

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San Gejtanu huwa għall-Ħamrun dak li Maradona u Ronaldo huma għall-futbol, Bob Marley u Freddie Mercurcy għall-mużika, u Einstein għax-xjenza; kulħadd sema’ bihom, iżda ftit jafu eżatt min huma jew għalfejn huma nies kbar. Fil-Ħamrun kulħadd jaf iħarbex erba kelmiet mill-Innu Popolari lil San Gejtanu (jew jekk le imqar inħanxru n-noti għas-sillabi ‘la la la’), iżda ftit jafu li ‘Fittxu l-Ewwel is-Saltna t’Alla’ mhumiex kliemu – ibda minni  l-ewwel wieħed.

X’inhi s-Saltna t’Alla? Fetħa sewda indurata bid-deheb u daqqiet ta’ griż u vjola skur hekk kif ħolomha Emvin Cremona fuq is-saqaf tal-Knisja? Jew l-anġli ta’ Vinċenzo Cremona, suwed faħma bi snin ta’ telqa, imdendlin mal-linef tal-korsija? Jew in-niċċa kkuppata maġenb il-bieb il-kbir, fejn l-Iswed maqbud perennement f’ġenuflessjoni quddiem Marija u Binha hekk kif ħolmu Karlu Darmanin?

Iva, l-iswed huwa popolari ġol-Ħamrun. Jekk titla’ t-telgħa ta’ wara l-knisja, anke l-Madonna tkun laħqet swiedet. U l-marmalja miġbura taħt il-mant tagħha wkoll hi sewda; jew sewda fuq barra maħruba mill-ħruxijiet tal-Afrika, jew sewda fuq ġewwa mikula bil-beżgħat tat-telqa u l-injoranza. U fil-mumenti ta’ dwejjaq – f’dawk il-mumenti suwed dlam – tinbet rabbja ġo fija u nheżżeż snieni: Din mihiex is-saltna t’Alla.

Imbagħad jiġi l-Iswed iċanfarni.

Jekk is-Saltna t’Alla hi diffiċli tagħrafha, San Gejtanu tagħrfu mal-ewwel – u mhux biss għax Iswed, iżda għax iswed, liebes l-Iswed, b’tarbija bajdanija f’idu. F’lejliet il-Milied tal-1517 ġewwa l-Bażilika ta’ Santa Maria Maggiore ġewwa Ruma, San Gejtanu dehritlu l-Madonna u offritlu lill-Bambin f’idu f’esperjenza mistika. Xi ħlew.

Aħfruli, iżda huwa diffiċli għal xi ħadd bħali jirraġuna dawn l-istejjer, ħelwin kemm huma ħelwin, b’mod razzjonali. Forsi huma biss parabboli biex ifakkruna li hemm xi ħaġa isbaħ mis-swidija tal-ħajja ta’ kuljum. Forsi din hi s-Saltna t’Alla, u b’xorti tajba forsi tilmaħha biss għal ftit sekondi – imbagħad lura għas-swidija.

Imbagħad jiġi l-Iswed iċanfarni.

6027017906_e017abdf88_zIva, f’dak il-lejl tal-1517 ġewwa Santa Maria Maggior San Gejtanu lemaħ is-Saltna t’Alla. Iżda nemmen li kellu viżjonijiet akbar u aqwa fit-toroq ta’ Ruma u Napli. San Gejtanu, li ra lil Kristu tarbija, ra s-Saltna t’Alla wkoll meta lemaħ ‘il-Kristu Marid, lil Kristu Midjun, u lil Kristu Kriminal – kollha mexjin ħdejh fit-toroq dojoq u maħmuġa tal-ibliet. San Gejtanu, avukat imlaħħaq u bin l-aristokrazija Veneta, sab is-Saltna t’Alla fil-faqar u l-miżerja.

Id-deheb, inċens, u mirra…kollha huma sbieħ iżda mhux biss. Ma nafx ngħidilkom eżatt din is-Saltna t’Alla x’inhi – iżda jekk għandkom ftit minuti – anke jekk ma temmen f’xejn – aqra Kapitlu 6 tal-Vanġelu ta’ San Mattew minn fejn hi meħuda dik il-frażi li San Gejtanu tant għożż. M’hemmx anġli u qaddisin, m’hemmx viżjonijiet mistiċi – hemm biss kliem iebes u sempliċi li mhux kollu għadni fhimtu aħseb u ara kemm imxejt miegħu.

Issa li wasalna fi tmiem is-sena ħaġa waħda nixtieq: li nagħraf is-Saltna t’Alla fis-swidija tal-ħajja – u li bħal San Gejtanu ikolli s-saħħa naffaċjaha u nsib fiha dak li hu tajjeb u nkattru, biex jekk nitaqa’ mal-Iswed fit-toroq tal-Ħamrun…ma jċanfarnix.

IRBAĦ! IRBAĦ! IRBAĦ! – YOU COULD BE A WINNER!

AGĦFAS FUQ WIEĦED MIR-RIGALI U GĦANDEK ĊANS TIRBAĦ! – CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRESENTS AND YOU COULD WIN!!!

 

§                                   RIGAL I

§                                                                       RIGAL II

§                    RIGAL III                

§                                            RIGAL IV

§     RIGAL V

§                                                       RIGAL VI

§                              RIGAL VII

§                                                                 RIGAL VIII

§    RIGAL IX 

§                                       RIGAL X

§            RIGAL XI

§                                                       RIGAL XII

 

…Il-Milied it-Tajjeb u Sena Ġdida mimlija riżq!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to All!

 

Thou shalt not judge a man by his playlist

I do not know who came up with the idea for the (by now) infamous Malta Philharmonic Concert ‘The Prime Minister’s Playlist’, but whoever it is: please, please, please, for the love of God and the good of everyone involved – reconsider!

As soon as the event popped up on people’s Facebook the reaction was either brutal or completely indifferent, and I do not see that attitude changing much until the actual event happens in February next year.

Let us take the worst case scenario, which some critics have touted, i.e. that this is some form of narcissistic propaganda exercise by the Government to show the ‘Leader’ in a good light. If this is really the case, it’s an extremely unhappy idea.

Showcasing someone’s playlist is inviting audiences to make a judgement based on personal taste, and personal taste is rarely a reflection of someone’s intellect or capabilities. Mozart loved toilet humour, Hitler ‘liked the Disney’, and apparently Johnny Depp plays with Barbie dolls (sorry for ruining that one for you ladies). Oh, and Al Pacino’s favourite song is ‘You’ve got to be carefully taught’ from Rodger & Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

Whether it is good or not, we constantly make judgements based on taste. What we wear, where we go out, the music we listen to, our social media feeds – these are all parameters that shape our judgement of others. This concert is adding one more unnecessary (and frankly irrelevant) parameter to our judgement of Joseph Muscat.

So far the actual playlist has not been revealed, but we are to expect ‘a varied selection of pop and rock tunes, from decades-old timeless hits to more contemporary works,’ as the Facebook event page states. I have to admit, sounds a bit like a breakfast show on Radju Malta, but let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.

Whatever the case, such an event will not change people’s perception of the Prime Minister: those who love him might find one more reason to love him (though probably not: they love him no matter what), and those who hate him will add more weapons to their arsenal.

If the purpose of this very expensive exercise is to bring people closer to orchestral music by emphasising the Prime Minister’s interest in the form, it could have easily been done with far sleeker means. It could have taken the shape of a promotional video clip or a little performance stunt in Parliament (which would have been far more interesting than what has been going on lately in there). Or how about an old-fashioned concert ‘under the patronage of’? It could still have had ‘a varied selection of pop and rock tunes, from decades-old timeless hits to more contemporary works,’ without delving into the Prime Minister’s personal taste.

So please, once again, I appeal to whoever it is to reconsider. We can all pretend it never happened, and all will be well again. We already love passing judgement way too much – do not create more unnecessary opportunities for us to do so.

The Second Republic

Partisan politics have become increasingly problematic. The latest charade at the end of the Junior College Student Council elections have made it painfully obvious how party politics have infiltrated our institutions much to the detriment of the functioning of those same institutions. Let us be honest about this and admit that this is not the result of current policies, but a systematic erosion of a system that had already accommodated political patronage when it was set up.

17 years ago, when I myself was a student at Junior College, the same political divisions existed,  albeit with one key difference. We never resorted to hooliganism to celebrate or taunt political rivals. What happened at Junior College last week was just a symptom of just how deep the rot is. What we are facing is far worse than a political crisis; it is the moral bankruptcy of a nation.

Partisan politics are responsible for our culture of clientelism and nepotism. It is a system that by it’s very nature, built on party loyalties, will condone corruption at all levels for the sake of party interests: the end always justifies the means. Sifting through the reprimands and condemnations  of recent happenings issued by political entities and individuals, it is hard not to be appalled by the sheer callousness of tone. No political party will condemn too harshly or push for any form of disciplinary action because someone from one of those parties will at some point do the same, and when that happens that person will need party protection. Indeed the whole Junior College incident has already been swept under the carpet by both parties.

This situation is sometimes referred to, erroneously in my opinion, as Malta’s tribalism, but tribalism is fundamentally different to clientelism. In a tribe every individual shoulders responsibilities, and the rules of that community are strictly adhered to. In a tribe, the common good comes before personal gain. Does it work? Well, several communities around the globe have survived perfectly well into the 21st century with that system. The discussion on whether it is a good system is another matter.

Clientelism is different. In clientelism loyalties are bought and sold; you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours – and if it profits me personally I will also stab you in the back while doing so. Elections in Malta are not won out of tribal loyalties but out of sheer business transactions. PL’s last two elections were won simply by offering floaters and opportunists and disgruntled Nationalists all sorts of remunerations: land, permits, business deals, positions of power, jobs, immunity, and more besides.

There is a lot of talk about constitutional reform – something which on principle is much needed, but so far no-one has come up with a real solution. As Judge Giovanni Bonello has made so painfully clear, the proposed reform won’t work. Both parties form part of the same system based on clientelism, so what good can come out of patching up a flawed system? The solution must lie elsewhere.

We need to get rid of political parties.

Carlo Levi in his book Christ Stopped at Eboli has a wonderful passage about political ideologies: fascism, nazism, communism, socialism…they are all one and the same. We are brought up to choose some abstract political ideology that demands loyalty to a set of ideas rather than to a community. Politics is no longer at the service of communities, but the other way round.

Let us take a local example. In 1993 the Local Councils Act was passed by the Nationalists then in power. It was hailed as an important step towards a broader democracy with a decentralisation of power from central government and empowering communities. The result is a political breeding ground for the bigger parties, and a spectacular squandering of public funds on inane binge-eating festivals like the infamous Festa tal-Banana (Ħal Qormi) and Festa taċ-Ċikkulata (il-Ħamrun). The councillors who actually work for the benefit of the community that elected them are few and ineffective in a system that favours party loyalty even at a community level.

So imagine reversing that situation, and having by law a system that eliminates political parties from Local Councils all together. Candidates would all have to be independent, and must not be members of any political party, nor can they receive funds from political parties for their electoral work. Now extend that to the entire political system: a Parliament made up of representatives of communities rather than political parties. And you can still have a Cabinet – a technocratic government where Ministries are given on the basis of competence not party loyalty.

Such a system would reduce clientelism but it must have several other safeguards in place, including an independent judiciary and police force where no appointment is made by an individual or select group of individuals. But there is also another safeguard that can be reintroduced, and that is bicameralism (reintroduced because Malta did have a Senate from 1921 till 1933), and while Parliament represents communities bound geographically (i.e. towns and villages) the Senate could represent communities bound by common interests (lawyers, doctors, academics, etc).

There are many models that can be adopted, but unless we acknowledge the root of the problem, i.e. partisan politics, and act on that problem, we will remain stuck in our sorry predicament. Even though PL would like us to believe that this is ‘the best of times’ and PN wants us to believe that this is ‘the worst of times’, we have to acknowledge that whatever ‘time’ this is – it is at an end. We need to start afresh by reminding us what politics is really about: living together and not selling each other out.