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‘How Ugly It Is To Label People,’ Leading Maltese Author Says After Receiving Strange Message Of Support

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One of Malta’s leading writers has shared an experience that reveals how people shouldn’t jump to conclusions when approaching people – and how it can sometimes land badly.

“I have to admit, this message shocked me,” Lara Calleja, author of award-winning Kissirtu Kullimkien, said as she shared parts of a conversation she held.

In a message sent to her, someone who says they’ve worked with disabled people for years praised her for her work. 

“I’ve worked with disabled people for the last 17 years, and when I see people like you I’m happy to see that I can help change happen,” he told her.

Calleja, who won the European Prize for Literature earlier this year, said that while she knew the person had approached her with good intentions, being labelled and defined according to her appearance was not something she believed was right.

“I’ve shared this screenshot to show you how ugly it is when you put someone under labels and different categories,” Calleja said.

“Man, woman, trans, Muslim, disabled, white, black, red – these labels don’t say anything about the person.”

“And no one should be placed under one cap.”

Calleja’s nuanced point led to a discussion online about the typical approach to certain groups in Malta, and how they can be overbearing and offensive.

Speaking to Lovin Malta, Calleja said people need to be thought of as “individuals, and not as a collective group.”

“When we group people into categories, we generalise and therefore it’s so much easier to discriminate – even if it’s positive discrimination,” she said.

“A person who feels discriminated and put into a specific category can feel constrained into what society expects from that person,” she continued. “This applies to everything – gender, race, culture, physical and mental conditions – we’re all somehow sufferers of a category we’re put into.”

She also wanted to make a point about how some people tend to approach these topics, meaning well but using language that immediately changes the power dynamic, whether it was intended or not.

“Even though I don’t like using the word ‘disability’ for political and personal reasons – we really need to stop the miskin/jaħasra attitude. We should start speaking about such topics with a sense of integrity. The current dominant approach to this? Unnecessary or unfounded compassion.”

Lara Calleja appeared on Lovin Daily after winning this years European Prize for Literature – check it out below

What do you make of Calleja’s perspective?

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Johnathan is interested in the weird, wonderful, and sometimes dark realities late capitalist society forces upon us all. He also likes food and music. Follow him at @supreofficialmt on Instagram, and send him news, food and music stories at [email protected]

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