Sunday, 29 May 2011

Land of reflectors

Friday was the day of reflection before we cast our vote in a referendum that should not have been and that had a weighted question that should not have been even more. I promised myself ages ago I wouldn’t talk divorce let alone write about it. But promises and reality are hardly compatible so we should get them divorced. Or is that unlawful or sinful?
It was the day of reflection when we, all contemplative and reasonable, weigh most intelligently whether to give an aye vote or a nay. Friday morning I had warned all around me not to mention the “D” word in case they influenced me with their words and looks and deeds.
I had nearly suggested to my wife, whom I love dearly, that we should save ourselves the trip to the polling booth on the dreaded day. You will surely, I said, vote the opposite of what I will, so once our votes annul each other we might as well stay at home. How do we know how we will be voting I hear someone ask? Married for over 30 years gives you special intuitive powers; and being married for so long makes you disagree with your beloved spouse even if deep down you want to agree. In spite we trust.
Back to my contemplative Friday. After discarding the idea of remaining in bed to really reflect on the issue and to keep away from the temptation of reading some more bilge about the not-to-be-mentioned divorce issue, I slowly crawled out of bed and grabbed all the Iva and Le propaganda that had piled up on my bedside table. Not a huge pile except for some battered woman, innocent children and some other strange endorsers─like God and his Son─ we were spared the many obnoxious faces on postcards which we get during elections.
Anyway while throwing away all this detritus I tried hard to keep my eyes off pictures of pompous politicians and pious pastors who could sway me with their wholesome or nefarious ways. That done I switched on my laptop hoping to keep all corrupting stuff from reaching my brain. Alas that was impossible: messages unseen the day before were glaringly trying to sway me. I took a cursory look at my Facebook page and bam! more images, more messages, more words of wisdom asking me to save our families or give new families a legalised future. I inwardly cursed laptops. I even had a cryptic message from a Catholic group asking me to vote yes to divorce. Why were these interfering agents trying so hard to keep me from reflecting alone on how I should vote?
Satan smiled at me and said that the yes vote was his doing while a horrific Jesus begged me for my vote (sorry Jesus for calling your picture horrific but it is just that. If I were You I’d come down again, rip up the picture and place a proper one of the real me, I mean You). I nearly blew my top and felt like permanently closing my Facebook account. Couldn’t the electoral commission reach an arrangement with Facebook and make them stop all this corrupting ware from reaching us? We had a Green person trying hard to attend as an observer and the electoral commissioner tried hard to stop him. Couldn’t the commissioner also do something and block this Facebook and blogging interference on my reflection?
I left home and headed for my car. I tried hard not to look at the bumf strewn all over the streets. The yes and no camps might have been at loggerheads about everything but in getting our country to look shabbier they heartily agreed and managed. I then drove round a bit to contemplate more on my vote on Saturday. Then horror of reflective horrors, more propaganda, all displayed in resplendent boredom, greeted me. Billboards bored into my brain ordering me to vote “yes” or “no” in the referendum. I tried hard not to look but didn’t wish to meet my doom before my time by crashing into one of the billboards. Although come to think of it maybe that’s what we should have done: crushed all billboards out of existence. I tried hard not to look at the boards. I think I could have looked at them till kingdom come and I would not have been swayed one way or the other.
The two camps, the aye-seekers and the nay-seekers, didn’t come up with the most exciting of stuff. Some billboards nearly literally drove me up the wall because I had to look at them a few dozen times to understand what they were trying to convey. Most times I didn’t understand what the hell or heaven they were saying. Thankfully all came conveniently with the “yes” or “no” neatly ticked at the bottom so I could work out who was desperately trying to appeal for my vote. As we are admonished at all times: look at the small print. I never knew that this advice actually referred to referendum billboards.
I kept trying hard to keep away from these corrupting, illegal messages which were trying to convince me one way or the other but the day went on with hardly a moment when someone or something didn’t jar my reflective contemplation.
Friday then was thankfully over and we moved to the big Day, voting day. The suggestion that my wife and I stay at home never materialised. So off I went together with my wife to cast our votes. As I was jotting my choice I reflected a bit more: how many couples were voting together and whose next step was going to be to ask for their divorce papers?

Saturday, 21 May 2011

When love is on the rocks

I really love Malta. Anyone who says it doesn’t rock must be stone deaf or worse. Some time ago while the world was passing through one of its most momentous periods tinged with blood, tragedy and radiation fears, we, or, rather, our representatives in Parliament, discussed for eight or nine long sessions how or when we were to vote for divorce. And the vote approaches where we will have to agree or not to divorce. If our esteemed members don’t deserve their salary and super-special pension for anything I’m sure no one will grudge them their earnings for being super good at nitpicking.
I don’t know if, after all this time, anyone remembers or followed it very well – the marathon debate, I mean. We had Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando promising us he would vote with the opposition even before the debate opened. So if he knew even before he heard the debate how he was going to vote why bother debating? Couldn’t he, at least, have told us he thought he was going to vote with the opposition but that if, by any chance, one of the long speeches in Parliament changed, or maybe dulled, his mind, he would change it and just maybe vote with the government side? At least it would have given us a bit more interest in the outcome.
It was like watching a game of football with extra time and a few dozen penalties but with foreknowledge of the result. Rather an inane exercise, I’d say. The referee could have stayed home and cooked a wholesome meal for his friends. If Dr Pullicino Orlando hadn’t told us how he would be voting, he would have proved to all of us he really was a free spirit unshackled by pre-conceived, pre-ordained ideas.
In fact, I now await his solemn pledge that in the referendum he will vote, not according to what he wishes or thinks is right, but that he will come to a conclusion after all the bigwigs of the land have regaled us with more insights and studies and views. This will prove to us, lesser mortals, that his vote will be cast as a real, free-spirited person in what should be a choice based on very solid and sound conclusions.
I also need a lot of weighing in the divorce debate. I just can’t decide how to vote, so I am still waiting for said bigwigs to convince me. I am at heart very much in favour of divorce, so, at first sight, I wish I could vote yes to divorce as proposed by the referendum. But I’m not too sure I want to vote yes and have a strange smile-fest from the likes of Dr Pullicino Orlando, Joseph Muscat and Evarist Bartolo, all doing an Irish jig to celebrate the passing of their Irish-style divorce in Malta.
As the famed DJ and anti-divorce campaigner told The Times, after the divorce laws are in (if they are) he will be waking up every day thinking of and wishing he could divorce. I do fear that the uncontrollable desire to get divorced will surely happen to us married men and women of this rock. We will all end up craving to get divorced just because it’s in the statute law. And at my age, waiting for four forlorn years to get myself a divorce will really be tough. Four years added to my age right now and I’ll end up being given the divorce papers, or whatever you get when you get divorced, together with my kartanzjan and pension. Not really the best time to get myself back on the marriage market.
So, maybe, I’ll opt for a no to divorce on that day. This will mean, of course, that my cherished idea of being a young-at-heart liberal would then go down the proverbial drain.
At the start of the campaign we nearly had an eerie silence from the Church authorities. Now, close to the actual vote, we seem to have a deluge of words and actions but still not, it seems, officially sanctioned. Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech has declared a holy war on all Catholic adults who even dared think they would vote in favour of divorce. The bishop raved and ranted against all “brigands” and “wolves”. There seems to be a whiff of antagonism in the house of our bishops. Would they − horror of diabolical horrors − be allowed to divorce or whatever happens to bishops who can’t work together?
The Archbishop and the band of seven wise priests seemed to indicate that the best way forward would be restrained debate and definitely no crusades. I know history teaches many lessons and the Church in Malta does not want to go the whole hog and fight divorce the way they fought Dom Mintoff and his obnoxious ideas back in the 1960s by using all sorts of Catholic, but hardly Christian, stuff and decrees. The way the Church has been acting makes you feel it has lost its bite.
Even the anti-divorce campaigners don’t seem to have made much of a campaign. I remember the frontman of the campaign promising us that prominent politicians and other leading personalities were going to join the fight against the damning demon of divorce. The yes to divorce campaigners sound even more histrionic than the more sedate, supposedly anti-liberal no-to-divorce camp. In fact, the dullness was only coloured by a silly Nazi slur swung by one divorce campaigner.
Except for a few ex-Presidents and a DJ, I haven’t been too impressed by what the anti-divorce movement has produced. What’s happened? Is it all going to be let loose on us closer to the day of reckoning? Will we, the startled and wanting-to-be-illuminated citizens, before making our decision be assaulted with all sorts of mind-numbing data and arguments that we will not be able to refute or refuse?
Could it be that, then, this onslaught of ideas will change the course of our coarse history and Dr Pullicino Orlando, after weighing all the arguments, will publicly recant and tell us that, after a long and proper deliberation, he will, after all, not vote in favour of divorce?
This article first appeared in The Times May 21 2011