Dad, political sociologist, local councillor, drummer from Malta

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dilemmas of writing

Picture: Graffiti art by Retna

When I write my weekly column in the Times of Malta, I use a rather systematic procedure. I normally write the first draft on a fixed day, I go through it the day after, and I then send it to the editor.
In the days preceding the actual writing process, I write down notes and comments and insert them in a folder full of ideas for upcoming articles. Subjects usually range from social policy to environment, from politics to social movements, and from international affairs to culture.
Even though I would have my own opinion on each subject chosen, I try to use my sociological imagination as much as possible, thus attempting to go beyond static interpretations, and asking questions rather than giving ready-made answers.
One main dilemma I face every week is which subject I am to choose for my subsequent article. My sociological imagination has its better and less good moments, and my ‘ideas’ folder proves particularly handy in the case of the latter.
Indeed, there are issues which are very topical, and others which are timeless. For example, if Parliament is discussing a particular issue – as was the case with the non-American non-University of Sadeen - it would be fitting to write about it. But other issues, such as the need to protect the environment are not necessarily bound by the parliamentary rhythm.
In these past weeks, however, a new dilemma has emerged in my article-writing process: the Panamagate invasion.
First it was the news that Energy Minister Konrad Mizzi was being promoted to Labour deputy leader despite his Panama dealings. Then it was the news about Keith Schembri and Joseph Muscat’s defence of the duo. Damning news emerged day in day out and eventually, the issue found its place within the global Panama Papers scandal.
Voters are increasingly reflexive and can easily give a historic defeat to Labour
In other articles I already gave my opinion on the issue. An oligarchy seems to be in place. Mizzi and Schembri should go. Joseph Muscat seems increasingly less in control within the oligarchy. Voters are increasingly reflexive and can easily give a historic defeat to Labour. And so forth. So I will not repeat what I already wrote about.
Yet, as a writer, my dilemma is that if I write about another topic, it would seem as if Panamagate can now be ignored and that a new normal is in place: a normality of corruption, untouchable politicians and so forth. I simply refuse to accept that Malta should go down such a putrid path.
And this is precisely the Panama paradox, or the dilemma I am referring to.
There are a lot of issues which are crying out for public debate, important as they are. To name a few, these include precarious employment, pensions sustainability, quality of air, electoral reform, water sustainability, judicial reform, migration, climate change, transport policy and so forth. Not to mention less ‘serious’ issues but equally interesting. For example, Eurovision. Or Willy Mangion’s epic search for garages. Or the impact of Xarabank on everyday democracy.
But I simply feel that it is not on to discuss other issues while Panamagate is in place. I want to be part of the civil society wave that stands up to be counted against such blatant misgovernance. For Panamagate is not only about Konrad Mizzi’s choice on how to populate his assets.  It is about a global elite whose behaviour has a terrible impact on fairness and the common good. And this impacts different aspects of policy making. Particularly when they are characterised by lack of transparency, which is the case in various decisions involving Mizzi himself.
Now if Panamagate creates a dilemma to writers, activists, and others who, like myself, would like to discuss so many other issues, I shudder to imagine its impact on the day-to-day decision making process and operations of Government itself.
As long as Panamagate stays in the way, we can only expect more attempts at silly propaganda, defensive tactics, political antagonism, and indeed, implosion.This is when the government is supposed to be fully concentrated on delivering its electoral manifesto. Which once again, begs the question: what is Joseph Muscat waiting for?

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