COMFORTABLY NUMB

I hate to admit, but we Maltese are a very passive people. We have the tendency to allow things to wash over us. Including things that people in other democratic societies take to the streets to protest about.

Although we are proud members of the European Union, we are still trapped in an insular mindset that is hard to change. In the misguided bid to preserve a sense of our own identity, we are unwittingly limiting those very rights that the EU promotes to safeguard the wellbeing of its citizens.

Indeed, there are several situations that should provoke our reaction. Planning permits dished out for the short-term profit of developers causing long-term impact on our environment like the approval, yesterday, of yet another petrol station and, on ODZ land to boot. The retroactive permit for the open-air dining furniture on public land at the Valletta market granted to the operators who flout the law and get rewarded for it. The latest statistics showing Malta with the highest increase of CO2 emissions in the EU. Controversial IVF laws. Lack of social discipline thriving on inadequate law enforcement and leading to violent crime of which PC Simon Schembri is the most recent victim.

Being used to this, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that members of the police force organised a march in solidarity with the aforementioned PC Schembri, who was run over and, critically-injured, left to die while on duty. A horrified public, outraged by the brutality of the crime perpetrated against the police constable, joined the protest in large numbers. This was just like they did when journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated by a car bomb – although, since then, vocal indignation has almost fizzled out in the face of widespread apathy.

Both circumstances are beyond comparison, but it seems that physical violence is the only time we feel that the line has been crossed and it triggers us into motion. All other transgressions, however dreadful, are met with silent acquiescence, especially if implied allegations concern members of the ruling administration and other politically exposed persons.

Perhaps it is because we live in a small community where everybody knows each other and consequently, we look the other way because we do not wish to bite the hand that feeds us. When we do find the courage to stand up and be counted, we are held in contempt for having had the temerity to call the authorities to account.

We spend much of our time within the echo chamber of social media where truth is an irrelevance. Continuous allegations of corruption no longer ruffle our feathers. On the contrary, they have become tiresome. As we stride along the yellow brick road to our dream of success and happiness, our train of thought is that the end justifies the means and therefore, everything is permitted.

We are sunk in passive indifference and with apologies to British rock band Pink Floyd, I daresay we have become comfortably numb.