Opinion. Giselle Scicluna
So, to the land of contradiction, where freedom of speech champions malice and looking a gift horse in the mouth is a national pastime. Common sense has bypassed our islands by a million miles and even if our highly acclaimed educational institutions churn out thousands of bright young things every single year, our sense of judgement remains foolish at best. But let us count the ways…
Tax refunds. Oh, dear Almighty God! The Minister of Finance in his infinite wisdom declares that for no reason other than the country enjoying its first huge surplus in decades, a tax refund is well overdue. Everyone and his dog will be receiving a cheque through the post any day now. All well and good until a backlash of biblical proportions ensues. A quick scan through the commentary boards of the national newspapers is all that’s required to understand the malady that’s gripping the nation… ‘a stunt’, ‘a paltry sum’, ‘an affront to the people of this nation’ are but a few of the milder exclamations, but you get my drift.
What was supposed to be an unexpected windfall, however small, has turned into a ‘monumental gripe of the week’. What these naysayers are conveniently forgetting is that they have a choice, a choice wherein they can vociferously protest this indignity. If they feel so strongly about this, they can always not cash the cheque, or better still send it back to the Treasury. But in all honesty, I’m not holding my breath.
Holy trees. I am all for nature and the environment, but I am also under no illusion that Malta, where we’re practically living and breathing on top of each other like the proverbial can of sardines, could ever be the Hanging Garden of Babylon. Indiscriminate felling of centuries-old trees is despicable and should be curtailed whenever and wherever possible. That said, creating a robust infrastructure, with all that it entails, to accommodate an ever-growing population is the lesser of two very real evils. Common sense however is quite thin on the ground in these instances, as hundreds of column inches published lamenting this sad state of affairs can clearly demonstrate.
But one must look closely at the sources of these protestations. I’d bet my last Euro, that most, if not all of those who are rabidly beating their breast are not the environmental paladins they purport to be. How many would forgo their air-conditioned, fuel guzzling SUV, or climate controlled palatial home in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint? How many would limit their air miles in a bid to safeguard the environment? Yet, they still grieve the felling of a tree as if it was a national tragedy, because and let’s be honest here, if common sense is not our strong suit, hypocrisy surely is.
And to add to this murky soup of petulant discontent, we now have foreigners incessantly complaining about the state of the country. This lack of reasonable judgement is apparently a highly contagious affliction. Somewhere on my social media feed, one fine gentleman had the gall to compare our country’s dearth of greenery to his blissfully evergreen hometown of Sheffield. There are a hundred million trees for every square mile of Sheffield, he said, whereas here in Malta… “Cranes, cranes and more cranes everywhere”. What has seemingly escaped the gentleman in question is that nobody in their right mind would want to spend their summers in wet and gloomy Sheffield, himself included.
No one, locals included, would rather have a landscape that’s spoiled by these infernal machines, but if the population keeps exploding at the current rate, cranes will remain part and parcel of our landscape. If the widespread belief persists, that Malta is the ‘promised land’ where the living is easy, then we all must contend with the not-so-pretty consequences of over-population. And yet, and yet, despite knowing that the influx of foreigners is greatly contributing to this indiscriminate urbanisation of our land, the rumble of malcontent keeps coming. Common sense dictates that you do not complain interminably about a problem which you yourself are creating.
There are dozens of circumstances I could cite where common sense has all but left the building, but that would take weeks to list. From our parenting skills to our contempt for our mother tongue, our lacklustre skills in debating an argument, our penchant for burning people at the stake without even an inkling of the facts – plain ordinary good judgement simply escapes us. And on and on it goes… Forget the much-maligned concept of Switzerland in the Med because if poor judgement could generate electricity, then Malta would be the Las Vegas of the Mediterranean.