EU commissioner Dalli: Us and Them

Published: March 7, 2011 at 7:04pm

The golden years: Muammar Gaddafi with Labour kingpin Lorry Sant

In the welter of media annoyance about John Dalli’s apparent support of Muammar Gaddafi, an equally contentious statement he made slipped past almost unnoticed. It reveals a tendency towards racism, intolerance and religious prejudice, and runs directly contrary to the European Commission’s stance on these matters.

There you have two armed groups fighting against each other,” Dalli told his interlocutors at that business breakfast last Friday.

That to me is a definition of a civil war…. And I know Libya and the Libyans, a little bit, and I know how head-strong they are when they decide about that.

Also you have to understand that it is in their nature, in their religion, that while we (Christians) preach forgiveness, they (Muslims) preach vindication.”

14 Comments Comment

  1. .Angus Black says:

    Dalli m’ghandux skuza. Wara kollox din id-diskussjoni saret qabel nofsinhar.

    Vera zelaq, waqa u storda.

  2. Edward Caruana Galizia says:

    Why are Maltese politicians so bad at PR? I guess that’s the price you pay when you spend around four decades not caring about what you say or how it is said, and in what context.

    We lost all pride in our institutions thanks to those Golden Years when the PM could do and say what he liked, and that mentality is still around.

    Or is it just a product of being ignored by the whole world for so long that we have never been put on the spot and made to care about what we say?

    • Joseph A Borg says:

      They’re not used to arguing and exploring ideas. If you happen to be a questioning type you’re immediately pushed out of the club.

      Questioning things means a waste of time and highly irritating, upfront inefficiency. When things unravel, then they can justify spending time and money fixing the problem or they raise their hands and shrug their shoulders.

  3. Antoine Vella says:

    I had described it as “crude stereotyping” because I thought outright racism might be too strong a word.

    I don’t think Dalli intended to offend Libyans or thinks they are inferior in a Lowell kind of way. It’s just that he’s graceless, as you described him on one of your entries.

    • George Mifsud says:

      Antoine Vella

      He did not want to offend Libyans, but let me assure you that he definitely thinks they are inferior. This over and above the fact that he hasn’t got a ‘graceful’ bone in his body.

  4. ciccio2011 says:

    Dan ma jistghax jibghat lill-President tal-Kommunita Ewropeja biex itih l-ekwivalenti tal-“mahfra Presidenzjali” u b’hekk jahfirlu il-bqija tas-sentenza ta’ prigunerija li qal li qed iservi? B’hekk johrog b’rasu mghollija.

  5. ciccio2011 says:

    Nestor Laiviera:

    My one line comment of 4 March 2011:

    “Dalli’s statements proved embarrassing for the European Commission…” An embarrassment for whom, Nestor?

  6. David says:

    Retaliation or “vendikazzjoni” at times seems to be an instinct in human nature. However while Christianity teaches aganist the eye for an eye principle, Islam still holds this principle

    [Daphne – Once we’re into teachings, David, here’s another one: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Christianity might preach forgiveness but European civilisation certainly does not, which is why we have prisons and a penal code. Under this system, it the state vs the wrong-doer, rather than the victim vs the wrongdoer, but the wrongdoer is not forgiven by the state. He or she is punished. Should the victim wish to forgive the wrongdoer, then that is a separate issue. Punishment happens regardless, though in certain unusual circumstances the victim’s forgiveness may mitigate its harshness. Non-shariah states have the same system, even if corrupted – as in the states of North Africa. It is the state which punishes and not the victim. An eye for an eye underpins even the justice system of ‘Christian’ Europe: kill one person and you’re in jail for 20 years. Kill several and you’re never released. It’s not just preventive. Also, both Christian forgiveness and Old Testament (not Islamic, be careful there) vengeance are or were there to serve the exact same purpose: the prevention of long-running feuds. The idea is that you get it out of your system and move on. Then there was retribution, as distinct from vengeance, which came in the form of blood money and which was widespread in Europe. You can start reading here.

    • David says:

      So I think we agree on the teaching aspect. Christianity helped in reducing the harshness of punishments in Roman times and the concept of humanitas or mercy is not alien to our Western criminal law system in the application of punishment. This may explain why Sharia has harsh punishments.

      [Daphne – No, it doesn’t. Spend some time going through old Maltese newspapers at the National Library and see just how very harsh punishments were in our grandparents’ – mine, at least – lifetime: hard labour for petty theft, hanging for murder, and so on. Scroll a little bit further back, though you won’t find newspapers this time, and the punishments are even worse: deportation to the Australian penal colony for the theft of a loaf of bread, public floggings, torture, the works. Just a couple of days ago, in a reply to somebody else, I described the punishment meted out in Valletta to slaves after a rebellion, only just over 200 years ago: they were paraded in chains down what is now either Merchant Street or Republic Street – I can’t be bothered to read for Wettinger’s Slavery in Malta to look it up at this time of night, all the while having pieces of their flesh ripped off with red-hot tongs and those pieces stuck to other parts of their body with boiling tar. Christianity did absolutely nothing to mitigate punishment. On the contrary, some of the worst punishments were meted out in its name.]

      Now on the criminal law system, our concept of justice is not not based simply on retaliation. I think there is distinction between justice and vindictiveness. The latter is motivated by hatred.

      [Daphne – Who said anything about vindictiveness? Perhaps it’s what Dalli meant when he said vindication, but that’s not what he said. Nor did I. Vindictiveness is something else entirely, and certainly not anything to do with the concept of an eye for an eye, blood money, or our penal system.]

      Current penal theory favours rehabilitation of the offendor and not just retaliation.

      [Daphne – Yes, not for the benefit of the offender, though, but for the benefit of society, so that we don’t have to deal with further offending. It has nothing to do with Christianity.]

      On the concept of humanitas in Roman Law you can read

      [Daphne – Thank you, but I have a sufficient number of books and studies on Roman law and justice at home.]

  7. David says:

    On humanitas “Despite the changing nature of the concept, Bauman considers that the essential element of humanitas Romana was a civilized behavior and attitude that avoided acts of brutality toward other members of the human race”.

    I am sure you are familiar with the following words but for the benefit of those who may not be familiar –

    The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
    ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
    The throned monarch better than his crown;
    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
    The attribute to awe and majesty,
    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
    It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
    It is an attribute to God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
    When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
    Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
    That, in the course of justice, none of us
    Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
    And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
    The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
    To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
    Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
    Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

    Portia’s words are inspired by Christian New Testament teaching as compared to Shylock’s Jewish Old Testament culture.

    [Daphne – I repeat that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Please don’t quote 16th-century anti-Semitism at me as a defence of what you perceive to be 16th-century Christian mercy. Please read more widely than the Merchant of Venice – try history proper – and discover the exact nature of Christian mercy in that period. This is not a sixth-form lecture room and I have neither the time nor the patience to discuss things I left behind 30 years ago. Sorry to give you the brush-off, but honestly.]

  8. Anon. says:

    Dalli might fool those who do not know him personally, but he will never fool those who have worked with him.

    I was a colleague of his at Blue Bell (the jeans factory), and he wasn’t exactly tolerant of those who had political opinions different to his. That was in the 1970s. No forgiveness there.

    Ironically now he had to turn on the people he despised so much to get some media attention, and he got more than he wanted now thanks to the international media.

  9. Jo says:

    Today I remembered a film I watched in England – The Bernardettes. A true story about the “love and understanding” shown by the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to unmarried mothers. And this took place in the 1960s not the Middle Ages. Did you watch it, David? It was in the cinemas in Malta but obviously it wasn’t very popular.

  10. Uncle Sam says:

    To come to a conclusion about EU Commissioner John Dalli’s character all you have to do is visit the following link

    This pillar of Maltese society, in the CV he submitted to Brussels, claims that between 1970 and 1995 he was a lawyer for the World Bank.

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