The Maltese appear to exist in a perpetual state of contradiction. On the one hand we’re very much in line with the chilled out Mediterranean way of living (the nasty side-effect of that being that we’re also more likely to forgive politicians opening offshore accounts), on the other hand, we’re also keen to blow our top off at the first opportunity: the other flip-side of the Mediterranean mentality — conditioned, no doubt, by the warm climate — being a tendency to shout first, rationalize the situation later.
Which is why, looking back at our recent history, we’d be surprised to discover just how many things that used to get the local populace hot and bothered have simply lost their sting.
Here’s just a few of them.
What was previously seen as a dangerous precedent by the religious elite (and certain facets of their political counterparts) became a readily-available right pretty much overnight, after an overwhelming majority voted in favour of the introduction of divorce in a 2011 referendum. Since then, the fire and brimstone preaching against the perils and moral degradation of divorce seems to have disappeared into thin air.
The ‘slippery slope’ argument still prevails, however. Which brings us to…
2. Civil unions
Another case of ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes’ syndrome among the country’s conservative Christian elite, the introduction of civil unions in 2014 showed that actually, letting the gays legally co-habit was in fact no big deal.
3. Spring hunting
Malta’s uneasy truce with the EU over the vote-mongering matter of spring hunting led to yet another referendum in 2015. Since then, however, the matter has receded back into its niches, with the issue remaining a bone of contention among hunters and environmentalists, but not really the populace at large.
4. Labour in government
The Labour party’s chequered history following the Mintoff years, and the anti-climactic two-year term under Alfred Sant (1996-98) cemented the party’s ‘unelectability’ in the eyes of many. That all changed in 2013, when a revamped PL under Joseph Muscat (and aided by a slick PR machine) won the general election in a landslide, with the Nationalist Party — previously seen as the ‘default’ government — still struggling to recover from that particular blow.
5. Condom machines at University
Talk about a non-issue blown out of proportion. Perhaps yet another example of how leftover Catholic panic still gripped most of the island and its institutions up until quite recently, the idea of introducing condom machines at the Tal-Qroqq campus was seen as a step too far by most of the people who matter. “But you can get condoms from various pharmacies close by!” they would clamour, missing the point by a mile.
No surprise that KSU were nothing short of “thrilled” at the news of authorised condom dispensers finally being installed within the hallowed walls of the UoM.
6. Rude literature
The possibility that author Alex Vella Gera and (then) student newspaper editor Mark Camilleri could have landed in jail owing to Camilleri publishing Vella Gera’s sexually explicit story Li Tkisser Sewwi within the pages of the University publication Realta’ was a shock to the Maltese cultural community, and became something of a cause celebre after it erupted in 2009. Luckily, the two of them were acquitted, and the law adjusted accordingly to prevent any future moral meddling into the arts.
7. Sex shops
The same law that would prevent a repeat of the Vella Gera-Camilleri fiasco also allows for sex shops to be set up on the island without any legal repercussions. But as someone who knows the business recently told local media, sex shops are really quite irrelevant in a world where such accessories can be bought easily and — perhaps more importantly — discreetly, thanks to the handy phenomenon of online shopping.
8. Illegal immigration
The arrival of boat people from Africa to Malta was a major hot potato back in the 2008 general elections, even leading to a worrying boosting of the far-right in local political discourse. But with numbers decreasing in recent years, the matter appears to have lost its edge among the general population. That’s not to say that racism doesn’t remain a problem. Neither does it mean that we should rest on our laurels, and give in to indifference on the issue.
BONUS: Franco Debono
The belligerent former PN backbencher and persistent thorn in former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s side was a ubiquitous presence in the run-up to the 2013 general elections. But the outspoken lawyer, who didn’t take kindly to Gonzi’s jab at his supposed “irrelevance” is now rather inconsequential even though he seems to be wanting to make a comeback on the Labour Party ticket and is supposedly responsible for Constitutional reform.