There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.
– Daphne Caruana Galizia
I’ve been trying to write and re-write this blog post for a while now. Part of me still can’t quite believe that Daphne Caruana Galizia is dead – murdered. Assassinated, to be precise. Every time I sat down to write this words just failed me. So I guess I’ll try to keep things simple and attempt to articulate what’s been happening in my head.
First, there came the shock and disbelief. I wandered around the city pretending to look for the right place to sit down and do my work, but really I was in a strange daze, only half-listening and half-seeing. Everything seemed a little muffled. There was the shock at the fact that there was yet another car bombing in Malta, then there was the dread that came when reports came in that it was Daphne. She seemed indestructible to me. Fearless. Relentless. Hungry for justice. I didn’t always agree with what she did or how she did things, but that doesn’t matter – who the hell agrees with a person on every single detail? She was a role model for someone like me – an outspoken Maltese girl who fancied herself a bit of a writer, even when her writing was average at best. Who else did I have? How many strong, intelligent, precise, eloquent female writers did we have on our rock? How many of them have the courage to stand against corrupt politician after corrupt politician, with libel suits and threats coming hard and fast? I couldn’t do it. Hell, sometimes I hover over the ‘publish’ button on this blog wondering if what I’m saying is ‘ok’ – what would I do if I was about to expose another dirty politician? I’d be too scared to click. I’ll probably hover over ‘publish’ and tweak and edit this for an hour before I upload this.
Next, the grief. The morning after the news broke things sunk in properly. I was in bed scrolling through Facebook and pausing at the Maltese headlines that were flooding in. I stopped and read Matthew Caruana Galizia’s heartbreaking status about the moment he heard the blast and rushed to his mother. I read about the moment he was in that field, surrounded by pieces of his mother. Policemen standing, unable to do anything – of course, the police force should have done something when she reported the threat on her life two weeks prior. Now it was too late. Then I just cried. For him and for her and for what it all meant or could mean. For what my home country has become – a mafia state. Words seemed to fail.
The anger and frustration came hot on the heels of that sadness. Outrage. Disgust. They all melted together and the words came back to me in a flurry. Here’s what I shared on my personal Facebook, because I still feel the same:
“They” (Who are they? The powers that be, regardless of political allegiance) might not have ordered the hit but they’ve created the exact conditions that facilitate this kind of brutality. Every politician and law enforcer is accountable. We’re accountable. We’ve allowed for it through overwhelming complacency as a nation.
Oh, and if the police didn’t protect Daphne, how can you be confident that they’ll protect YOU? Your family? That they’ll ‘protect and serve’ because you’re a human being and not because you’re on the same ridiculous “football team” of a political party? That they won’t leave you high and dry because you speak out against corruption (again, forget party colours), or be one of the idiots car-cading to the sound of your death bells? When police rejoice in the murder of a journalist (with no consequences, of course) something is very, very wrong. If you feel safe, you’re not listening hard enough. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying enough attention. If you’re not disgusted, you should be. Keeping quiet is how bullies and scumbags win, or feel they’ve won. We need now, more than ever, to speak up and speak out when we see wrong being done by the people in charge. Forget your party. Fuck the party. This is about your rights and your country. A country that is getting more fucked up by the day.
There have been protests. Vigils. Sit-ins. Some people are standing up and doing things to try and get some sort of justice in the rotten EU state of oh-so-sunny Malta. My only hope is that they don’t stop – that we don’t return to the same lackadaisical attitude that brought us to this point.
There have been statements made by ‘politicians’ trying to ride on the back of this tragedy. The same politicians who just weeks earlier were slagging Daphne off and trying to escape from her pen. Some dared to suggest that heqq, you have to be careful what you say hux (that’s a summarised form of it, anyway). As though pointing out corruption and expecting the culprits to be held accountable opens you up as fair game. I’ve even seen a worrying number of keyboard warriors banging on with their ‘shame on you’s directed at the grieving family for not wanting key figures from our corrupt government to attend the funeral. People are ridiculous.
We still have some strong writers in Malta, but it’s not every day that we get a DCG. That brings me to another thing that’s been on my mind recently – the abysmal state of journalism and news in Malta. Where do our journalists come from? What are we doing to foster good investigative journalism? Are serious journalists even safe anymore? It doesn’t feel like it. Our news outlets are questionable at best, filling their pages or websites with the usual partisan bullshit and barely ever scratching the surface of what’s really happening in Malta. I’ve felt uneasy about this façade we’ve been presenting to the world for a while now. Oh, look, we’ve got the EU presidency! Oh, and look at this, Valletta is the city of culture 2018! Oh, and we did this, and that, and the other! EUROVISION! A news article about toilet hygiene while people are still demanding justice for Daphne’s assassination!
The costly aversion of the eyes from the bubbling, open sewers just beneath our pothole-ridden, traffic-choked, garbage-littered streets. Crime. Corruption at the highest levels of government, creating the perfect climate for those looking to do wrong. And yet people persist in keeping their blue-or-red blinkers on, worshipping their leaders instead of holding them accountable for their actions. Make no mistake, voter. You’ll be held accountable for the smallest of crimes – they’ll hold you accountable. But the same rules don’t apply to the ones who supposedly make or safeguard them. Spineless hypocrites (just another term for ‘politicians’).
And I’m sure someone reading this might try to make it look like my views are coloured by one of the major parties on our island. That’s part of the problem, of course. Go ahead – I don’t care. I have no party. To hell with them all. They’ve all failed us. Failed Daphne and her family. We need to start from scratch. Call in pest control because the country is being run by rats. Clean slate. I might be asking for too much, I know.
I won’t be silent. I won’t be afraid. But I don’t think I can bring myself to call that place ‘home’ for now. It doesn’t feel like it.