We’ve all heard the phrase make hay while the sun shines, but in Malta we’re champions of cutting down the hay while everyone else is still asleep, even if we have no horses to feed. We’d much rather have bales of it needlessly blocking off rooms in our house, just in case the euro fails and we turn to a more grass-based economy.
Malta’s love of free shit doesn’t (only) exist because we’re inherently cheap, it’s more to do with a natural instinct to stockpile. A foreigner watching us at PAMA may be confused by the sheer number of tuna cans we’ve added to our basket, but why not? They’re 25% off and what if the Phoenician Empire rises again and decides to claim what the Carthaginians took from them 2,000 years ago?
While the world was shocked at the people braving impossible waves to catch free fish with their bare hands, Maltese people were a lot more inclined to shrug and post sassy comments online. But at some point in our life, we’ve all been grabbing metaphorical street-awrat, the storms have just been a little tamer.
“If you zoom into the Maltese genome, you’ll find an għonnella-clad woman hanging onto the ‘Hobbit-lookalikes’ strand, picking oranges off a branch that leaned over into a public path”
When you live in Malta, there’s three natural responses to things that startle us (such as green, open spaces or free stuff). The international options are always fight or flight, and those apply here too; but locally there’s the bonus third reflex of “aħtaf qabel ma jaħtfuhielna“.
On a mundane level it’s on of the (many) reasons we don’t see as many wild flowers during picnic season. People are not content with enjoying nature’s bounty and moving on. We’ve got to cut it off and take it home, because “if we don’t, someone else will”.
It’s the same way people will pick buckets full of capers until the bush growing on the side of the road is completely bare. There’s only so many ħobżiet you can eat before they go bad Ġuż… but what if (God forbid) someone else gets to enjoy ftira before he can come back next week?
On a national scale it’s a massive contributor to the phenomenon of corruption being so commonplace. Once elected, many politicians see their tenure as a five-year time frame in which to reap as many benefits as they can… because if we don’t take dodgy contractor bribes now, when the other party is eventually elected in they’ll enjoy all the illegal benefits, and that’s just not fair.
Look at it this way, if Europe was a massive chocolate factory, the Scandinavians are all politely nodding at each other and calling each other Charlie, while we’re out here looking like a bunch of blueberries because the the siren song of “imma b’xejn” was too strong to resist.
“When you need a calculator to keep track of how many different civilizations have colonised your home over the millenia, there’s gonna be some deep-set mentalities that won’t be broken in a generation or two.”
The “if I don’t, someone will” mentality extends beyond hoarding more free things than Smaug on an episode of the Antiques Roadshow. It’s also used to dismiss potentially positive progress. I’m willing to bet most vegetarians have had an older relative repeatedly offer them meat at the dinner table because “it’s dead now, so mhux xorta?”.
They’re probably the same people who’ll be confused when you refuse a plastic straw or struggle to carry your shopping home because you forgot your canvas bag (again!) and refuse to take a shitty plastic one that’ll probably rip before you get to the car anyway.
When you need a calculator to keep track of how many different civilizations have colonised your home over the millenia, you know there’s gonna be some deep-set mentalities that won’t be broken in a generation or two. If you zoom into the Maltese genome, you’ll probably find a tiny, għonnella-clad woman hanging on to the ‘Hobbit-lookalikes’ strand, picking oranges off a tree whose branches have leaned over the wall into a public path.
The gale-force winds brought up more than some very confused fish, it also unearthed a primal Maltese desire to forgo all warning signs in the hopes of a bargain. The last time this phenomenon was observed on the Maltese isles a crowd turned on each other for a hefty discount on barbecues.
While to some this behavior may have seemed like a herald of the apocalypse, let’s look on the bright side: all the people who were land-fishing were working together. No fights broke out, no nanna was trampled outside of a LIDL. So the next time you’re faking indifference as you walk by a supermarket’s cheese-tasting display for the third time, remember that you too are awrat-fishing… your storm is just a little calmer.