Shacked up and breeding bastards

Published: May 5, 2011 at 2:32pm

Exactly who is masterminding the Yes and No divorce referendum campaigns? I ask because quite apart from wanting to tear out my hair when I watch them speak on television (more often, I can’t be fagged – the subject is that tedious), I cringe over the steering-wheel every time I drive past one of their billboards.

First it was the No campaign’s ‘Marriage with an expiry date’ – as though you can’t walk out on your spouse when you want to, ending the marriage in all but name. And now it’s the Yes campaign’s horrendous ‘Ahna pogguti u t-tfal bghula’, which loses all the crass vulgarity in translation. ‘We’re shacked up together and our children are bastards’ doesn’t quite reach the depths.

Is either one going to bring in the vote? No. What they do is alienate people like me even more than we are alienated already. We wanted no part of this to begin with, and now we’re actually driven to the point of wanting to dissociate ourselves completely.

It’s not just the crassness of both camps that gets to me. It’s the damned stupidity. The No campaign don’t have a leg to stand on, so they can’t make intelligent arguments, still less smart straplines, even if they want to. So it’s going to be crass and stupid all the way, whether they like it or not.

It’s their great good luck that their frontrunners are far more personable than those of the Yes campaign, but that’s as far as it goes.

The Yes campaign, with commonsense on its side, has descended into chaotic farce and vulgarity. You don’t argue for divorce by saying that no divorce leaves us with ‘pogguti’ and ‘bghula’. What sort of illogical reasoning is that?

The only argument for divorce, the essential point of it all, is this: those who enter into any contract have the right to break it – certainly by mutual consent and with penalties if not. The whole issue of penalties, which were part and parcel of all divorce laws until recently, has in recent years come into question because people came to realise that the apportioning of blame made a bad situation worse.

It is screamingly, obviously against the very spirit that underpins respect for human rights and dignity that you should not keep a person trapped in marriage against his or her will. There is nothing noble about this. It is about as noble as debt-bondage or widow-burning.

The true test of the No campaigners’ argument is in taking it to the logical extreme: do they think that people who don’t want to be married to each other anymore should be forced to live with each other against their will? They know why they should answer in the negative, even if, as I sometimes suspect, they would prefer to say Yes. So if the law allows them to severe the marriage contract – which separation does, yes, we are allowed to severe the marriage contract already – why does it not allow those who have dissolved their marital contract to dissolve the actual marriage-in-name?

There won’t be any answers on a billboard.

31 Comments Comment

    • John Schembri says:

      El Topo, I like watching soccer every now and then. I watched the first halves of Barcellona, Real Madrid, and The Shalke 04 with Man United ….and I missed THE game which Manchester United won hands down!

      I’m finding football more interesting than this bickering between the two opposing divorce camps. People like me made up our minds months ago, maybe for the wrong reason: I won’t let two spoiled brats have it their way in our parliament, even if I were pro-divorce. I believe that Pullicino Orlando wants this divorce law for himself and that Joseph Muscat wants divorce to be perceived anti-clerical like Mintoff, which he is not.

      Both the Jesus poster and the “bghula” poster put me off. Religion and the state are two different entities. My children did not know what the word ‘bghula” meant; the word is no longer in use.

      Divorce solves some social problems but creates a lot more.

      Daphne, it is impolite to hurt the feelings of other people, no matter how stupid the feelings or beliefs are for you.

      [Daphne – “It is impolite to hurt the feelings of others” – ah yes, but there is a standard to be adhered to which stops short of the hysterical and unreasonable. It would be poor manners to tell somebody ‘You’re mad to believe in the Virgin Birth”. It is not poor manners to say the host is rice-paper, because that is an incontrovertible fact. It is, on the other hand, extremely poor manners for somebody to demand that I describe the host as the Holy Eucharist and to become agitated when I don’t, on the grounds that I have to respect his beliefs while he is not obliged to repect mine.]

      • John Schembri says:

        I nearly forgot to share this with you here. Last Tuesday Father Colin Apap was on One Radio, on a live programme, trying to avoid the current subject. But as the Italians say “La lingua batte dove il dente vuole”, and one of the first phone-ins was by some PL supporter and divorcee quoting part of our Constitution regarding Malta’s religion.

        Well, Fr Colin was caught between a rock and a hard place with the stupid questions on this hot subject, on the official radio of an anti clerical political party.

      • Alfred Bugeja says:

        Actually, it’s “…dove il dente duole”

      • John Schembri says:

        There are two versions “duole” and “vuole”.

      • Just a minor technicality – but please don’t let it get in the way of a good rant.

        Transubstantiation is what happens to the wheat/rice paper and wine when they are transformed into the body and blood of Christ. They keep the external “accidents” of matter but their “substance” is transformed into that of the flesh and blood of Jesus.

        So you’re right to a point. If you had to chemically and physically examine a consecrated circle of wheat/rice paper you’d find it’s just that. But unfortunately for believers – who are helpless to “prove” otherwise – there are no tests that can be conducted on the “substance” (in the Aristotelian sense) of a body.

        Another point that many well-meaning “defenders” of the Eucharist are consistently failing to use to counter your Mohammed cartoon jibe is that Catholicism is the only religion that claims to have been founded by God Himself (God made man, of course). Theory goes that although we do not have the whole truth and nor do we hold exclusive rights to the truth, our view of the truth is the best you can get this side of the Beatific vision…. precisely because the person who “wrote the truth” – of which there is necessarily only one – has told us “what to believe”

        Boring, I know … but you started it :)

  1. K Farrugia says:

    The best billboard seen so far was a small one painted on a van in front of AVIS in Msida with Sander Agius in his warden comical character stating “I want you to vote YES on 28 May!”

  2. Interested Bystander AKA non-Catholic outsider says:

    debt-bondage or widow-burning

    Live on super one

  3. Interested Bystander AKA non-Catholic outsider says:

    “So if the law allows them to severe the marriage contract – which separation does, yes, we are allowed to severe the marriage contract already – why does it not allow those who have dissolved their marital contract to dissolve the actual marriage-in-name?”

    If does if they buy it abroad.

  4. BuBu says:

    “So if the law allows them to severe the marriage contract – which separation does, yes, we are allowed to severe the marriage contract already – why does it not allow those who have dissolved their marital contract to dissolve the actual marriage-in-name?”

    Ehm…”sever” I reckon you meant here. It’s ok Daph, we all make mistakes.

  5. Tim Ripard says:

    Get the English right please. It’s sever.

    1. Divide by cutting or slicing, esp. suddenly and forcibly.
    2. Put an end to (a connection or relationship); break off: “he severed his relations with Lawrence”.

    [Daphne – I know that, Tim, as you would imagine, so skip the patronising attitude. If you were to write at the rate I do – 1,200 words an hour as standard, and that’s writing from start to finish and not typing up something that’s been thought out and planned already – you would do a lot worse than put an ‘e’ where it doesn’t belong. ]

    • Interested Bystander AKA non-Catholic outsider says:

      A man’s wife died and he asked the engraver to inscribe “Lord, she was thine” on the headstone. When the man visited his wife’s grave, he was horrified to see that it read “Lord, she was thin”.

      He phoned the engraver and in a temper shouted down the phone “You fool, you fool, you messed up the carving. You left out the ‘e’, you fool”. The next day, the engraver let him know the work was done. Upon visiting the grave that afternoon the man was gobsmacked to see it now read “Lord, e, she was thin”.

  6. liberal says:

    Yesterday somebody told me that he will be voting “No” because he dosen’t want to see “those Labourites” celebrate.

    I think that 30% of voters will be voting depending on their party of choice. How did all this become a political issue?

    I get very depressed sometimes at the amount of ignorance in this island.

    Today I saw a sticker on a van. I couldn’t see it well because I was driving. There was one of the guys from Zoo dressed like a Roman soldier with the slogan “Ghati l-Cesri dak li hu ta’ Cesri” …. hopefully they were taking the mick.

  7. psa says:

    NUMBERS ARE IMPORTANT. If a Yes majority in the rederendum is what would make parliament approve a divorce bill then I don’t mind such billboards which may target people who would vote Yes just because they think that there shouldn’t be any bastards. I don’t think that such billboards, although they might make intelligent people like you cringe, would make you change your mind (from yes to no).

    [Daphne – I don’t cringe because I’m intelligent. I cringe that there are still people around who think in terms of ‘bastard child’. The Yes campaign’s essential thesis is wrong: that we should vote for divorce because bastards are bad and being a poggut is possibly worse. And they describe themselves as liberal.]

    • Moggy says:

      Daphne, I don’t think you’re getting the point somehow. It’s not because “bastards are bad and being a poġġut is possibly worse” that the IVA campaigners are up in arms about. I think that many of us – including the IVA people – have managed it past that point and recognise the fact that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with any of that.

      [Daphne – Not at all. The underlying argument which the Divorce Movement (but mainly Jeffrey) puts forward is that divorce is a solution to the ‘problem’ of unmarried parents and illegitimate children. If there were no ‘pogguti’ and ‘bghula’, does it follow that we don’t ‘need’ divorce? Of course not. There should be divorce legislation because those who enter into a contract are free to break it, with or without penalties depending on what the law and the presiding judge has to say about that. And this is quite apart from the fact that a separation contract or judgement effectively does dissolve the marriage contract completely – and this means our legal system already acknowledges the fact that the contract can be dissolved, leaving you married in name only. I had to explain this only a couple of hours ago to a woman who thought that, when you are separated, you still have rights over your husband and his property, and that both of you are still governed by the ‘communal property’ law. That is the extent of the confusion. I had to explain that when you are separated at law, your legal position is exactly the same as that of a divorced person, except that you can’t marry again.]

      Rather, though, it’s the current situation where these people have no choice but to remain in such a position without having the facility to regularise their position in society – if they so wish – which is so unfair.

      The fact that a group of people living on this island think that they have some form of God-given right to decide what other adults do with their very personal and private lives (with the blessing of the Church and the party in power, I must add), thus forcing people to remain in the status quo rather than choosing their own status – that is what IVA is on about. That is what is supremely irritating to many on the island.

  8. Both sides, I feel, are completely misrepresenting themselves. What argument against divorce is stronger than the one that Jesus Christ himself is flat out against it?

    If you don’t want divorce it’s only because you have a Roman Catholic – not even Christian – outlook on life. If one fights “tooth and claw” to keep one’s marriage together, one only does so because deep down one believes in the validity of marriage. Such a stance is based on love which is the quintessential Catholic virtue – even if one is not RC.
    I don’t know why the anti-divorce people keep mentioning children and quoting statistics. What difference would it make, to the children, if their parents aren’t together because they’re divorced, separated or have had their marriage declared null? How can they prove conclusively that it’s better for society if people stay together?

    The pro divorce lobby is chock full of self-serving people who can’t put together an excuse for supporting divorce. They should at least be honest with themselves. Learning, on the eve of the referendum, that Dr Schembri works “in” the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, for instance, didn’t quite help the pro divorce people in their quest for martyrdom for a greater good.

    At the end of the day this is a bit like voting PN or MLP/PL. Nothing short of a Damascene experience – including blinding light – will turn a pro-divorce chappie into an anti-divorce bloke.

    • Moggy says:

      If you are a Roman Catholic, then don’t go for divorce yourself. It is not your place to deny the option to others and force your beliefs on everyone else. It’s as simple as that.

      • It is not your place to deny the option to others and force your beliefs on everyone else.

        I will be asked in a couple of weeks whether or not I want divorce legislation to be introduced into this country and I’m going to say no – if my wife won’t have gone into labour on that day. So yes, I’m afraid it has become my place to voice my opinion and make it matter.

        I’m not forcing my beliefs on anyone, though. You can believe that divorce is Lily the Pink’s medicinal compound for all marriage ailments. Can’t make you see that it’s not.

      • Aristotelian says:

        Excuse me, Reuben.

        You claim that you are being asked for your opinion on the matter, and therefore it is your place to voice your opinion (by voting). That’s well and good.

        But you commit an error by believing that ‘your beliefs’ aren’t ‘forced on anyone’. The two outcomes are:

        a) Divorce becomes legal in Malta, so Maltese people can get divorced in Malta instead of flying to Germany to get it done, and so on. Under a) even people who don’t believe in divorce (like yourself) will never make use of the system, just as you won’t fly to Germany now to get a divorce.

        b) Divorce does not become legal in Malta (you presumably will vote this way). Under b) your preference deprives others from having the opportunity to get divorced in Malta. Since you don’t believe in the idea of divorce, and you claim that this is simply your opinion, why should your opinion influence the capabilities of others who think that their lives would be significantly improved by having a divorce?

        I can understand that some people can’t imagine ever being in a position where they feel that divorce is their only way out. Some people are in these positions, and it’s a selfish rationale (like yours) to have your preference influence others’ capabilities.

      • Joseph A Borg says:

        I’m not forcing my beliefs on anyone, though. You can believe that divorce is Lily the Pink’s medicinal compound for all marriage ailments. Can’t make you see that it’s not.

        I for one certainly wouldn’t force you to see that believing in you particular brand of metaphysical mumbo jumbo is simply a choice foisted on to you by birth that you glibly accepted as fact.

        I will however do one better than you and support all government legislation that lets you waste time comforting our insignificant mortality with fairy tales. I do it in the name of tolerance and inclusivity as a secular humanist.

        Frothing-at-the-mouth ideologists are blind to the fact that they have contracted foot in mouth disease. Even when they sprinkle it with funny innuendoes and pseudo-witty remarks.

  9. JoeM says:

    “Severe the marriage contract”? Surely you meant “sever the marriage contract”? I presume that these slips happen even to the best of us, Daphne.

    [Daphne – That’s right.]

    • Aha! there’s more to this slip than meets the eye. if she wrote “severe” it most probably means that she pronounces “sever” incorrectly. Ajma he-ej. Ajma he-ej.

      [Daphne – It doesn’t. It means that she touch-types. When people touch-type, their fingers work on autopilot, ‘predicting’ the spelling of words used more often than similarly-spelled words which are used less often – roughly similar to the ‘prediction’ facility on your mobile phone text message system. Not many people know this, because not many people touch-type.]

      • It’s true. I don’t touch-type. I just think and the words flash on screen. That’s superior brain power for you :)

        [Daphne – Gosh. They didn’t teach that at secretarial school in 1980.]

  10. Lino Cert says:

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. Our separation law is wrong since it allows one spouse to separate even if the other doesn’t want to, so the divorce law will simply make things worse. Separation/divorce should only be available to those couples who wish to cancel the contract by mutual consent. Otherwise why have marriage at all if it is non-binding, it just becomes a useless exercise. Stop marriage then, but don’t introduce divorce, and cancel separation. I am an atheist by the way, religion doesn’t come into it at all.

    • R. Camilleri says:

      I am somewhat intrigued by this idea. So how would that actually work in practice Lino? Impose a curfew on the spouses? Maybe house arrest?

      Or else let them live apart, but still let them have power over each other’s assets? Would make for quite the drama I guess.

  11. Lomax says:

    Frankly, I am really SICK of this whole non-campaign. I just want to wake up on June 1st and be done with it.

    This “bghula” and “pogguti” billboard, however, takes the biscuit. Funnily enough, I suspect that most of today’s pogguti do not even want to remarry. They are happy to remain “pogguti”. And children are not bghula – not even legally, let alone socially.

    For me, the only one sound argument to vote “no” is that the children of the first marriage would be treated as “second class” offspring. It already is the case today, mind you, but at least nowadays it is not condoned by the State. Manteniment garantit my foot!

    Still, I have listed my reasons for voting “no” in another post and won’t repeat here. However, frankly, I’m so sick of this whole charade that I’m sorely tempted to go on a short holiday weekend that particular weekend just to avoid being here. I won’t be so uncivic, even though, I have to admit, it is really tempting.

    • Second Class Offspring says:

      Lomax, I beg to differ and I think you are very wrong in thinking that children from a previous partnership are treated any differently from those coming from the current partnership. It can happen, of course, but it is very much the exception rather than the rule. I saddens me that you think this way.

  12. john says:

    One good thing about this divorce ‘debate’ is that it allows one to flip through the newspapers at a faster rate.

  13. Village says:

    ‘The Great Disruption’ by Francis Fukuyama. Worth reading for enlightenment on the subject of divorce

    Fukuyama moves squarely into the realm of social norms and
    values. His thesis is that from the early 1960s until the early 1990s, most western countries
    (including Australia, which he deals with somewhat sporadically) witnessed a disruption in
    our social order. The Great Disruption came in three forms. First, an increase in crime.
    Secondly, a decline in interpersonal trust. Thirdly, the breakdown of the family, whichFukuyama perceives to be the result of rising illegitimacy and divorce rates.

  14. Andrew says:

    Just saw the Alternattiva promo… the guys at Floriana will probably be paying themselves to have these ‘ads’ aired on TV.

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