trauma - Maltese psyche

Trauma – 3 years later

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Until October 16, 2017, I was one of the thousands addicted to clicking Running Commentary hoping for another update. After the June election of that year, Daphne had already gone eerily silent. But the chilling silence that fell on the nation after that afternoon in Bidnija, froze her memory as a permanent lesion in the Maltese psyche. Shattered with that blast, our people’s soul shook too… many feeling lost, seeking direction in a political chaos that threatened to sink us deeper into social breakdown.

It is perhaps ironic, therefore, that my personal addiction to “the blog” was less its news value, or even its penchant for gossip, but indeed its penetrating insight into the Maltese psyche. Daphne’s insightful analysis—often through mere anecdotes, quirky observations, and hundreds of readers’ reactions… each one personally vetted and sometimes followed up—shed a powerful light on the oddities that make us “Maltese”.

Running Commentary was a mirror on our collective soul: a mirror forced upon us, often to ridicule or condemn us, but—paradoxically—also to encourage us to rise to the occasion. As our carefully crafted, mask-like makeup cracked under the invasive glare of the blog’s spotlight, it revealed faces hardened and embittered by the strange malady of indifference, greed, recklessness, and short-termism…

Running Commentary made obvious what we preferred to remain hidden: a collective tendency to numb our “social conscience” through turning a blind eye, not only to tomorrow but to one other—friend or foe alike.

Thus, we condemned ourselves to a plastic existence.

Thus, three years later, we risk repeating—like a broken record—the same tendencies to dismissing our communal wellbeing, or the health of the most vulnerable, by refuting to give up, or tweak, personal habits and comforts.

COVID-19 might be a different kind of trauma from that of a car bomb in the idyllic hamlet of Bidnija. But the reaction of denial, confusion, even mockery, and disdain, is just as predictable because emerging from the same mindset. Three years later, we seem to have learnt pretty much nothing … or at least, very little.

Still, hope is the last to die. And if three years ago, our rejection of collective horror might have annihilated the messenger, today we know that it was unable to silence the message.

Likewise, it is up to us to prevent what could become inevitable, if we persist in denial and indifference in the face of this new slow tragedy that is the pandemic: more exhausted frontliners; more bodies wrapped up and hurriedly buried; more families mourning their loved ones; more of us struggling with fear, and long term health effects; an economic failure because we chose to pursue prosperity, but without learning responsibility; we chose to acquire at all cost, and often without thinking twice of the ecological effects; we fended for ourselves, forgetting our neighbor.

For that is the sad reality of persisting in the hardening of hearts. Gentle fire might cast out darkness … but darkness itself rebels by becoming fierce demanding light. Likewise, death opens the underworld, but only to expose that, even while we might seem to be among the living, our corruption has already made its abode there and, in this senseless life, we are merely investing in a lavish grave. The mantra that “life is too short” perpetuates the myth that selfishness should trump over selflessness, that time is less significant than space.

But if we choose to reclaim what could be ours—the perpetuity of Life and the longevity of Time… If we choose to tenderly for all the living, even at the cost of self-sacrifice… then we will also invest in a slow climb out of Hades toward true flourishing… Then we will also build gently, but solidly, a future that will persist beyond our natural death to be enjoyed by those to whom we owe a better tomorrow.

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