When I was first asked to join Bernard Grech’s team, shortly after he was elected Leader of the Party, I must admit that I was sceptical. I knew very little about Bernard and I was not active in politics - although I was always interested and followed closely and involved myself in other ways. I was concerned about the impact that such a move would potentially have on my professional life, the progression of my legal career, my personal life and how it would affect those close to me. It was not an easy decision to make, but I felt obliged to contribute to bettering the political situation in our country. I believed that saying ‘no’ would have been selfish, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. Today, I am the PN’s President for Political Research and part of the party’s leadership team.
Eight months in, I cannot but stress the duty and responsibility that each one of us has towards shaping the country’s future through our contributions. Feeling angry or disappointed at our current political situation but then never visibly engaging ourselves politically, “staying out” of politics – as many put it - is, ironically, a political move in itself. Being able to maintain this distance speaks to a situation of privilege. Apathy about politics is an indicator of privilege. ‘Privilege’ here should not be taken to mean ‘affluence’ or ‘wealth’ but it refers to the situation of the majority - those of us who choose not to care can only do so because the electoral results do not affect them. My ethnicity, my education, and my socioeconomic status have afforded me certain rights and opportunities - rights and opportunities that are not up for debate by elected officials – regardless of who those elected officials are.
There are various reasons why some people might choose to distance themselves from politics. Perhaps they were brought up in an environment where politics has always been an ‘afterthought’- not because one does not care about people, but because they have never been directly affected by politics or felt the negative consequences of political decisions. There may also be individuals that. wish to get involved but are hesitant. Asking difficult questions - even to ourselves - requires courage.
I understand you. I was there. You are not alone in your feelings. But it is essential to recognise that having those feelings and choosing to look the other way is an act of privilege.
Neutrality in politics` can no longer be an option. The side lines are not an option. Writer Jenny Offill explained this concept brilliantly when she said that “what it means to be a good person, a moral person, is calculated differently in times of crisis than in ordinary circumstances”. She pulls up a slide of people having a picnic by a lake. Blue skies, green trees, white people. “Suppose you go with some friends to the park to have a picnic. This act is, of course, morally neutral, but if you witness a group of children drowning in the lake and you continue to eat and chat, you have become monstrous.”
Taking this example, it is therefore up to us to ensure that our voices and votes shape the course of history. When you see something wrong, you ought to speak up. You must act. You must make your voice heard. That’s the truest form of empathy. Not just feeling - but doing. Not just for ourselves or our children, but for everyone, for generations to come.
And if we want to keep the possibility of progress alive in our time, if we want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, then we must reaffirm our place in Maltese history.
We live in a political landscape where cynicism and polarisation are rampant. But this pessimism denies one truth: we, the people, have greater political power than we realise.
Use your voice. Join us in this fight for our democracy. For this country that gave us its name. Get out of your comfort zone and roll up your sleeves you too.
We have a lot of work to do. But we have our democracy - and the dignity of our country - to win back, and that is a very strong motivator.
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