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Right and wrong are not a popularity contest | International Women’s Day 2022

By Daphne Caruana Galizia (June 5, 2017)
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(This piece was written by Daphne Caruana Galizia, Maltese investigative journalist on June 5, 2017, just four months before her assassination on October 16, 2017. The copyright of this work belongs to The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation. On International Women’s Day, 2022, as a tribute to Daphne, The Probe is reproducing this article with permission from The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation.)


I wouldn’t ordinarily put up a post explaining my absence when I’m going to be away from this site, or on it only intermittently, for any length of time. But in the present circumstances, I believe I should – particularly because I have received many messages by phone, WhatsApp and email.

No, I haven’t gone anywhere (though a holiday would be nice). I’m actually working to a deadline on something that has been delayed rather longer than it should have been, because of all the distracting action in the last couple of weeks. So as soon as that’s done, which will take a couple of days, I’ll be back.

I know – you don’t have to tell me; it’s the reason I do it – that this website has over the last four years become a gathering-post or rallying-point for decent people who feel frightened and threatened at the rise, growth and spread of amorality (not by any means the same thing as immorality). I know why you come here, because lots of you tell me – but I knew it instinctively, even before you did.

You come here to feel normal in a sea of insanity where the crowd cheers the Commissioner of Police for failing to take action against a corrupt cabinet minister and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff; where supporters of the party in power celebrate and have their picture taken on the steps of a bank which launders money for Azerbaijan’s ruling elite, because it is linked to the politicians they support; where even educated people who have had all the advantages in life vote a corrupt political party into power for the narrow reason that they’re renting out flats to buyers of Maltese citizenship who never set foot in them.

The electoral result shocked you (not me, for reasons that I will explain in another post on another day when I have more time) not because you see general elections as football matches in which the prize is unadulterated power for five years for ‘your’ team, but because it makes you feel like the only sane person in the asylum. Now you’re hunting around for other sane people, temporarily blinded to the fact that 45% of the population made the same choice that you did, though 55% did not.

You want reassurance that it is not you who is in the wrong because you think people who do serious wrong should not be in government. No, you are not wrong because you think the police should act. No, you are not wrong to feel sick when the mob cheers a corrupt police officer. Of course you are not. You are right.

Four years ago, I wrote a piece calling out the incoming Nationalist Party leader for beginning a speech with “30,000 people can’t be wrong”. Of course they can be, I wrote. A million people can be wrong. The rightness or wrongness of a fact, action or opinion is not established by the number of people who believe it, do it or hold it.
Of course it is wrong to vote for corruption. Of course it is wrong to vote so as to put corrupt politicians into power. It is very wrong. And to do it for your own personal benefit, rather than simply to ‘back your team’ (which is bad enough), is worse than wrong. Winning and losing are not factors in deciding what is right and what is wrong. Winning and losing are about the power to prevent wrongdoing or the power to perpetrate it.

You would be surprised that the forces of darkness and corruption think themselves the decent ones, despite their necessarily intimate knowledge of what they themselves do. This self-delusion is a coping mechanism, nothing fancier than that. And part of that coping mechanism is using the media machines and other means at their disposal to go after their critics by portraying them as bad and evil, enemies of the people, who wish to harm the heroes of public largesse.

Why doesn’t it get you down, somebody asked me the other day. How can you cope with an entire Labour Party machine going at you day and night, assaulting you from all angles? How do you deal with it?

My answer was what it always is: that the Labour Party, in all its different shapes and forms and under its different leaders, has hounded me irascibly since I was in my 20s. Yes, for a quarter of a century. The extent of it only became visible to the public with the internet. But it was there beforehand.

I can cope not only because I had the good example of my parents to follow, who had to contend with so much that was terrible in the years 1971 to 1987, and who always did so with dignity, correctly and without moral compromise, but also because I read widely and know that this is a standard, textbook fascist method that powerful people use for the public destruction of their critics, particularly when their critics stand alone.

Others have been there before me, in situations which require far more bravery and moral courage than has been required of me over the years in Malta. Others are there still, in horrendous situations as they are in Baku, Azerbaijan. What I am put through by the plots, conspiracies and machinations of Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, Glenn Bedingfield, Kurt Farrugia, their television station and radio, their internet trolls and the rest of them, is as nothing compared to the hellish nightmare that those brave people must endure in their far more dangerous battles.
The fight against corruption and the decimation of the rule of law must continue. The temptation now will be for people to see no way out of this horrible mess and to leap on the bandwagon with the cry that if you can’t beat them, then you might as well join them. It happened four years ago and has been happening systematically all along, which is why Muscat’s party got the result it did (but more about this, again, when there is time).

The temptation, too, will be to round on the Nationalist Party and blame it for failing to deliver a victory that was well nigh impossible in the prevailing circumstances. Instead of holding the government to scrutiny as it ploughs on, railroading our already fragile democracy and collapsing institutions, we shall occupy ourselves ripping to shreds the party that was our only hope of deliverance.

And in doing so, we shall miss the point as we generally do: that it is people who vote for political parties, and not political parties which put themselves into power. Would Muscat’s party have been returned to power in any other European Union member state outside Italy? That is the question we have got to address. And even in Italy, corrupt politicians resign, are subjected to due process, or have coins thrown at them by angry crowds.

The problem that has to be addressed is the widespread and ever-increasing amorality among a sizeable percentage of the Maltese population of Malta (not all of Malta’s population is Maltese; tens of thousands are not). It spans the entire socio-economic spectrum and has nothing at all to do with social class, privilege or the lack of it. Thirty, forty years ago, this amorality could have been excused on the grounds of illiteracy and ignorance, of Malta’s isolation from the world in a tightly controlled and insular environment.

Now, there is no such excuse and we have to face the brutal fact of what we are, and examine how it has come about and whether there are any solutions. I happen to think, right now, that there are probably none, because amoral familism, the root cause of it, is the result of centuries of social programming. But it may be possible.

One thing is certain: you are not going to change amoral familism by pandering to it, or by making its practitioners believe they are right. That simply perpetuates the situation, and the Nationalist Party has been guilty of this too, because the mentality is endemic.

Nobody can seek to understand Maltese politics or Maltese society without first understanding amoral familism, which shapes and drives both – and which, it has to be said, has ruined both too.
I’ll be back when my deadline has been met. Please keep posting your comments and I’ll moderate them as and when I am able too.

Meanwhile, remember that yours is the acceptable attitude, and no matter what others tell you, the Third World behaviour we are seeing now is not normal or decent simply because it has won.

Malta is in a dangerous place, and now we can no longer say that it is corrupt politicians who have brought it to this point, for it can no longer be denied that those corrupt politicians are a reflection of society.

There is something else I should say before I go: when people taunt you or criticise you for being “negative” or for failing to go with their flow, for not adopting an attitude of benign tolerance to their excesses, bear in mind always that they, and not you, are the ones who are in the wrong.

What they want most of all is for you to join in the chorus of approval, or at least shut up about it, so that they can feel better about themselves – because despite all that they say, and their cocky attitude, they struggle with their self-respect. They want people to admire them so that they can admire themselves, despite behaviour that is so far away from admirable that it isn’t even on the horizon.

We know for a fact, now, that beyond the party’s core vote, pride in voting Labour, so prevalent in 2013, has turned to shame in doing the same in 2017. That is one of the reasons why (I’ll write about the others later) the electoral result was the same though the talk about town was completely different, as people openly dissed Muscat’s party whereas in 2013 they were dissing the Nationalists. The silence of those who were not boasting openly that they would vote for Muscat, as they did in 2013, was the silence of embarrassment. That, at least, is a start.