Making it count

Miguela Xuereb

On this the third anniversary of the murder of one of our colleagues, Daphne Caruana Galizia, one cannot help musing: was it worth it? Was it worth it that a woman was mowed down in the prime of her life, let alone career? Was it worth a woman’s life to bring Malta face to face with a bunch of crooks whose prime, if not sole, aim was to fatten their bank accounts? Was it worth the heartache and the sheer graft it took for Daphne to unearth the stories which she published and was about to publish?

Daphne was not out to be liked. In the current climate, this seems almost inexplicable, masochistic. We do not live in a milieu where people pride themselves in doing what is right. I have lost count of the times when I have been told “Imma int jaqbillek….?” Loosely translated as “Is it to your advantage…?” What I love most about that question is the look I get when I shrug. I am pretty certain that that would be the point at which many have consigned me to the loony bin. Daphne was the same. She did not do things because they were good for her, advantageous, financially, or socially rewarding. She did them because they were the right thing to do. Because of the scale of values of ordinary decent people good was good and bad was not on.

It would have been more advantageous for Daphne to sit back and chillax. She had a family, a stable home, a wide and interesting social circle and time to do what she preferred doing. She could have chosen to write a novel since writing was her forte. And in a way she did. Move over JK Rowling because the maze of Mafiosi dealings she uncovered will certainly one day make an amazing Netflix movie.

But was it worth it?

We love our movies here. I lose count of the Facebook posts I see asking for a good series. Evidently, these are not people who read. The court reports make for more riveting stuff than any series I have ever seen and that includes Game of Thrones. A university head of department shamed in open court, leading businessmen who neither ask nor remember (is there a forgetfulness potion in the Court coffee?) police officers who give the lie to the former prime minister as to who called in the FBI, a former police commissioner cutting a pathetic figure and painting a travesty of his position. Just a few of the colourful characters one could look forward too.

While the number of those who care about this massive landslide of miasma is quietly pursing their collective lips and increasing in number, I ask again…

Was it all worth it?

Joseph Muscat paid the highest price he said. Well, he was right by his standards because for him the price was gain and he lost what he had gained. He lost is because he faced a relatively small group of determined people who measured standards in a different way. This is the basic difference and this is where Daphne made a difference and why it was all worth it.

This is not an issue of PN vs PL. This is an issue of values: ‘Doing what is right’ vs ‘Doing what is right for you’. This s not a minor matter nor is it an easy one. In her writings, Daphne appealed to a group of people with advanced reading and writing skills. The trolls who attacked her never had any clue as to what she wrote, only what they were told about her. The Daphne audience was being seduced into the ‘Doing what is right for you’ mentality. After, in the 80s, this was also the cohort which had become genteelly impoverished. For this group, largely, this was a wake-up call: your sirens are not calling you to a better society but are using you to gain their own millions. That was the underlying message of The Running Commentary. And that was understood well. Daphne’s relentless blogging opened enough eyes that, on her murder, a movement, progressive and vocal was born. Joseph Muscat was not obliged to resign because the protests against him were nationwide. They were not. Had he gone to the polls he would have had a sweepstake. He was obliged to resign because he was confronted by a compact, values-driven group whose message resonated with the international community. And that group was based on Daphne’s work. There the foundations lay. There the nub.

So while it is sad that still, you find many, many persons who cruise through life perfectly insouciant, absolutely careless that those whom Daphne fought with so much courage were (are?) there only and purely for their own gain, their number is shrinking. Those who read the testimonies in court, those who realise that these ‘crooks’ which Daphne wrote about were not of the Robin Hood ilk but would have been more at ease at a Corleone wedding, the number is growing.  

I do not condone murder in any form and the murder of shining light in journalism saddens me immensely. And yet, had this not happened, many would still be in denial. This is the heartbreak and the continued sacrifice which the Caruana Galizias make every day: the acceptance that their wife and mother died for value and that that value is bearing fruit.

Three years ago, the journalistic fraternity came together with the phrase “The pen conquers fear”. That is the ultimate legacy of Daphne Caruana Galizia. And the pen is outing corruption. Fearlessly.