The Cowardly Custard retreats to his tent
Chicken Run Sant ran for shelter yesterday evening to a tent in Qormi and stood behind a business-breakfast podium to speak to a crowd of… better not say it.
He was safe and secure in the knowledge that here he was among admiring eyes who think of him as superior, after having seen the 1979 Harvard certificate that his friend Frans Sammut so kindly reproduced in his award-winning best-seller, ‘Alfred Sant: Vizjoni ta’ Bidla’ (Sensiela Kotba Socjalisti).
Jason and the Lion of Change having already frisked the gentlemen and searched the ladies’ handbags for the presence of a serious security threat called Jeffrey, the Cowardly Custard felt it was safe to proceed. Having fled to the Crosscraft set in the PBS studios when confronted by an angry dentist who is perfectly qualified to carry out the threat (which he didn’t make) ‘naqlaghlek snienek’, he now felt safe to say what was on his mind.
And this is what he said: he will only confront Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando in court and with his lawyer present. Funny, but I thought that his lawyer was present in the studio that day. I thought his lawyer is always stuck to his right hip. Isn’t Michael Falzon a lawyer? Yes, that’s right – he’s a lawyer who is employed by Bank of Valletta plc. He seems to have saved up quite a lot of vacation leave, or maybe he’s just taking unpaid leave. He would always do the right thing, of course. The deputy leader of the Labour Party would never sink to the level of the disgusting Nationalists and abuse of his position.
‘He expected to have an exchange of views with me, imma jien ma nitkellimx ma’ nies bhalu,’ Chicken Run Sant said. I apologise for using the vernacular, but it’s the only thing that seems appropriate here: ar’hemm, hej. Zutt! If they lived 200 years ago, Pullicino Orlando might have challenged Sant to a duel at dawn and our feathered friend would have run clucking away.
So let’s disabuse Big Bird of the notion that he needn’t engage in any exchange with Pullicino Orlando ever again. After this election, they’re both still going to be MPs, whichever side of the house they’re sitting on. In parliament, Sant can’t refuse to answer Pullicino Orlando’s questions. He is obliged to answer them. He forgets that Pullicino Orlando is neither a journalist who can be ignored nor a student who can be harassed.
‘Then what did he do? He went on television and cried,’ Henrietta the Hen said in a sarcastic voice. The crowd in his wigwam jeered. Labour – the party of unpleasantness. No wonder they end up with such ghastly leaders.
Michael Falzon lets off fireworks
Besides hunting in Romania, the Lion of Change (OK, I know it’s the lioness who hunts while the male sleeps, but if I call him a woman he’ll sue me again) has another hobby. ‘I have a licence to let off fireworks,’ he proudly told his interviewer.
The feast of Stella Maris parish in Sliema must be the most low-key festa in the entire Maltese calendar. The sorts of people who live in that neighbourhood are not the kind to follow the vara up the street and get drunk in the local hanut tat-te (there aren’t any).
But Falzon loves it, and he probably keeps it going singlehandedly, even though he now lives, famously, with a swimming-pool in L-Iklin (thank God for his feathered friend’s promise to halve the surcharge – you can really struggle on a BOV salary). I might be wrong, but he’s probably the only one behind that vara in August.
As he explained to his interviewer, he loves brass bands and fireworks. Along with hunting and santi tal-Madonna, these are his hobbies (and writing poy-ims, too).
So then I wondered whether this passion of his has anything to do with the fact that when the kowc tal-bidla – sorry, kowc tar-rebha – arrives in town, the cross vultures on board are greeted with loud, bright suffarelli.
It’s against the law to let them off in public like that, and there are always policemen around – but hell, what’s a little bit of law-breaking when you’re trying to set an example?
The Lion of Change is an intellectual
Michael Falzon told a recent interviewer that he writes poetry. You could picture her eyebrows going up, because he said, ‘Yes, really.’
Then one of the radio stations (I forget which, but it was probably Super One) broadcast one of his poy-ims. Here it is.
Lejber is de best.
Some interesting passages from ‘The Moral Basis of a Backward Society’
The political scientist Edward C. Banfield wrote The Moral Basis of a Backward Society in 1958. He describes the people of a town in southern Italy, with emphasis on their political and social behaviour, showing how they were reluctant to cooperate or to maintain any kind of continuing relationship beyond those of the nuclear family.
Banfield argued that the people he studied behaved at all times as if they were following a rule which he called amoral familism, the guiding principle of which was to maximize the material gains and short-run advantage of the nuclear family, assuming always that all others will do the same. Those with no families he described as following a principle called amoral individualism.
Because of its relevance to Malta in 2008, I thought you might be interested in some passages from this study of southern Italy 50 years ago.
“The amoral familist who is an office-holder will take bribes when he can get away with it. But whether he takes bribes or not, it will be assumed by the society of amoral familists that he does.”
“In a society of amoral familists, the claim of any person or institution to be inspired by zeal for public rather than private advantage will be regarded as fraud.”
“The amoral familist will use his ballot to secure the greatest material gain in the short run. Although he may have decided views as to his long-run interest, his class interest, or the public interest, these will not affect his vote if the family’s short-run, material advantage is in any way involved.”
“The amoral familist will value gains accruing to the community only insofar as he and his are likely to share them. In fact, he will vote against measures which will help the community without helping him because, even though his position is unchanged in absolute terms, he considers himself worse off if his neighbours’ position changes for the better. Thus it may happen that measures which are of decided general benefit will provoke a protest vote from those who feel that they have not shared in them or have not shared in them sufficiently. In 1954, the Christian Democrat Party showed the voters of Basso that vast sums had been spent on local public works. Nevertheless, the vote went to the Communists. …It seems likely that the very effectiveness of the Christian Democratic propaganda may have helped to cause its defeat. Seeing what vast sums had been expended, the voters asked themselves: Who got it all? Why didn’t they give me my fair share? No amoral familist ever gets what he regards as his fair share.”
“In a society of amoral familists, the voter will place little confidence in the promises of the parties. He will be apt to use his ballot to pay for favours already received (assuming, of course, that more are in prospect) rather than for favours which are merely promised….The principle of paying for favours received rather than for ones merely promised gives a great advantage to the party in power, of course. In effect, however, it is often more than offset by another principle, as follows. In a society of amoral familists, it will be assumed that whatever group is in power is self-serving and corrupt. Hardly will an election be over before the voters will conclude that the new officials are enriching themselves at their expense and that they have no intention of keeping the promises they have made. Consequently, the self-serving voter will use his ballot to pay the incumbents not for benefits but for injuries, i.e. he will use it to administer punishment. Even though he has more to gain from this party than from any other, the voter will punish a party if he is confident that it will be elected despite his vote. The ballot being secret, he can indulge his taste for revenge (or justice) without incurring losses.”
Amen. It looks like we haven’t travelled very far in the last half a century: using our vote to teach the party in government a lesson but hoping it will be elected all the same, sulking because we haven’t got our fair share (and as Banfield points out, people like this never do get their fair share, no matter how much they get), keeping an eye on what the others are getting so that we can use our vote to break off their connections. Yes, yes, yes – but Banfield was writing about a hick town in southern Italy in 1958 – and here we are, still thinking and behaving the same way.