Stand up and be counted

Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said he will stay away from today’s demonstration calling for justice in the wake of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia last Monday.

He’s right to do so. Being there is not his place.

And that, in its very self, says it all, doesn’t it?

A true and functioning democracy, one where those holding the highest offices are performing their duties correctly, cleanly, with a clear conscience, would actually see such leaders LEADING the march. And they would be welcomed by the people. Their presence would be a consolidation of rule of law, a testament to the fact that the government is truly there for its people, leading the country forward in light.

But these are dark days indeed.

To say I am gutted, destroyed, numb, shaking in disbelief is putting it mildly.

This is going to be another one of those “do you remember where you were when…” moments.

I was on the sofa, happily entertaining my four-year old who had just returned from school when my husband received the phone-call that would shatter the peace and change life as I knew it till then.

They’ve killed Daphne – they’ve blown her up, he told me, incredulously.

Rushing to my lap-top, the news was till then not confirmed, but the location was too precise for it not to be her. You see, I knew that stretch of road well, having babysat Daphne and Peter’s kids on numerous occasions in my youth.

Since that moment nearly one week ago, I’ve read all the coverage, scoured the blogs, sifted through hundreds of Facebook posts. But it’s all for nought.

I keep shaking my head, refusing to believe it, but believe it we must. Someone (and at this point, it doesn’t really matter who) has struck at our heart and soul, the little there was left of it, and smashed it to smithereens and scattered it to the four winds.

And what today pains me the most, deeply, is the realisation that many of my co-nationals have not realised the severity of this cold-blooded murder, in spite of the fact that the rest of the world has. Maybe because they are blinded by their political allegiance, or because they simply do not have the sensitivity to understand the gravity of the situation, or worse still, because they are actually secretly happy, having fallen prey themselves to the us-them narrative.

Slowly but surely, the moral fabric of our society has continued to erode, eaten away by big interests – from oil suppliers, to drug traffickers, to construction magnates. That fair and just society that was dreamed up in the 80s and that saw the opening up of this island state to the rest of the world, is no more.

It’s all about money now. That is the bottom line, and to hell with all the rest.

The rest being you and me. Fuck you Jack, if I’m comfortable, who cares?

From the residents of my hamlet who flaunt road rules on a regular basis as long as that means they don’t have to drive 5m more to reach the veg seller, to the driver who chucks his empty cigarette packet out of the window, to the supplier who asks whether your quote should include VAT or not, to my journalist ‘friends’ who didn’t utter a peep about this murder because they are now on the government payroll.

This is the weak, empty, soul-destroying reality we are living in.

And for those who care, getting through the day is a very hard daily struggle.

I suspect this is what kept Daphne going for so long. She cared, she hoped to see a different world, a better world, a fairer world.

Many couldn’t reconcile the Daphne who wrote her acerbic blogs with the woman who produced the high-quality magazine Taste and Flair. But that was just it – she aspired to that beautiful world, she challenged us to raise our standards with those gorgeous photo shoots, whether it was food or decor. It was all part and parcel of the same thing.

Clearly, she saw things in a very black and white way. And having been accused of that myself on many an occasion, I can fully sympathise. And yes, that approach can grate, that approach can lead to recriminations of “but you’re not looking at the whole picture”. But sometimes, if you’re aiming for the highest of standards, there simply is no other way.

For to concede would mean to allow that erosion of values to commence, and we know that the slope is very slippery indeed.

Daphne and her family and friends paid the ultimate price for this.

The point now isn’t whether she was always right in her writings, nor really who commissioned the bombing (though for legal and criminal reasons that is important too).

The point now is whether we as a nation can take a good, long, hard look at ourselves, at what we have become, at how a country that is at the leading edge in one field (LGBT rights) is so abysmally backwards in others, at how we have allowed government after successive government to continue to erode our values as we continue to be pitted into an us-versus-them discourse.

When I wrote this blog post back in June, I certainly never imagined I would be returning to the very same points, this time because of the murder of a journalist, wife, mother, sister and daughter.

Make no mistake – this is about ALL of us. This is about who we are as human beings. This is about who we want to be. This is about the world we want to leave behind for our children.

We need to shout it out, loud and clear, for everyone to hear.

We need to refuse to accept that the country we live in has created a society where a journalist can be blown up outside her house, where people can say she deserved it, where others can start their thoughts with “I feel sorry for her but…”. There is no but. There never is.

You’re either on the right side of this or on the wrong side of this.

It is that simple.

To Peter, Matthew, Andrew, Paul, Corinne and the rest of her family – condolences are not enough, but they are all we have at this point in time. With hope that there will be so much more, soon.


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