Do we need politics, after all?

    Once, a politician himself told me: “Father, politics is dirty”. If this is true, it is very sad, since we need politics. Stemming from the Greek word Polis, which means a city, our society needs to be guided, guarded, its well-being nurtured and strengthened. That is what the common good is all about.

    Only when politics is free from smearing and from indolence can politics can be considered less dirty.

    This is the reason why responsible citizens have the right and the duty to elect responsible and capable individuals to govern them, – a right which has been achieved through the toil of our forefathers – that is, to lead them in the right direction, in both state and domestic affairs.

    Ancient Roots

    The history of democracy which permeates our political system traces back from its origins in the ancient world when power was concentrated in aristocratic factions and intense struggles. Athens is often regarded as the birthplace of democracy. In the year 507 B.C., the Athenian leader Cleisthenes introduced a system of political reforms that he called demokratia, or “rule by the people”. Thus democracy is a system of government in which power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or through freely elected individuals.

    The aim of the democratic system is, therefore, to guarantee a much more just sharing of the common good, in order to eradicate injustice and poverty. However, it seems that, despite its benefits, it is not flawless. The individual vote with which politicians are elected is not proportionate to the thought process an individual might invest when deciding whom to vote.

    Status and wealth do not matter

    Whether one is rich or poor, being perpetrator or victim of injustice, old or young with obviously different needs, does not matter. The vote may be cast, not after a rational process but determined only by irrational, tribally-driven passion, and yet both votes have the same value. It is common knowledge that our electoral system is based on ‘the winner takes it all’ approach leading to the complete discarding of thousands of votes.

    Democracy is turning out to be a sort of neo-capitalism where the rich become richer and the poor even poorer. Obviously, I am not proposing to remove the so-called universal suffrage but to highlight its implicit weaknesses.

    Lack of national pride

    An intrinsic flaw in Maltese society is the fact that we are not a nation proud of itself. Our society resembles someone who is obsessed to clean up the house to perfection, only to be followed with the questionable act of throwing dirty water, out on the street. This is a common scene on our islands and is based on an intrinsic, yet mistaken belief that such acts are acceptable. This act betrays one’s short-sightedness and, speaking bluntly, it is quite embarrassing.

    Such short-sightedness is evident when it comes to education; there is an elevated number of illiterates and absentees from school. Culturally, we lack awareness. This manifests itself in our lack of interest and, even worse in our damaging of cultural heritage.

    Environmentally, cutting corners seems our national pastime. Recycling is practically a travesty and waste is dumped into our pristine seas, jeopardising our rich and beautiful coastline.

    So it may truly be that our politics is dirty since the individuals elected to form our parliament, where laws are legislated and the common good is promoted, are themselves the fruit of our society where personal interests prevail. The Maltese conviction that “Not that which you know counts but those who you know” encapsulates it quite well!