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The big divide

The older I get, the more I realize that the greatest divide in our country lies neither in social nor in economic classes. It lies in politics. And the deepest differences in our political rivalry lies not merely in colours and flags. It is ingrained in our mentality.

Labour's General Conference last week saw a resurrection of the Mintoff personality. Joseph Muscat never misses an occasion to compare himself to the "Great Saviour", from contesting on his district, to bringing over Mintoff's daughter to address the delegates. We also endured a number of candidates, from 'experienced' ones to the new young ones, hailing how great Mintoff was and how Gonzi has ruined their lives. This led me to question: how is it possible that people in their twenties actually believe this?

Undoubtedly, Mintoff's declared plan to "create a socialist generation" succeeded in its entirety. The traditional Labour voter still believes that he depends solely on the state. He still lives in the tuna price budgets, and feels eternally indebted to the Saviour for giving him pensions and bonuses. He still measures a government's performance by how much money he hands out. He still awaits the Budget to calculate how much he is going to get. And he has managed to ingrain this philosophy even in his children.

That's why today we have 25 year olds who take our free education, open University, and free scholarships for granted. That's why we have 25 year olds who take the infinity of open opportunities which are today at our disposal for granted. And that's why we have 25 year olds who still think that "Gonzi has ruined our lives".

Take the water and electricity rates as a modern day example of this mentality. Labour promises that it would re-introduce subsidies. The "Laburist" claps in awe at his Leader's declaration, which means that his €100 bill will be reduced by, let's say, €10. He doesn't realize that this means that the €500 bill of the swimming-pool villa owner will be reduced by €50, and that these have to come from his taxes.

On the other hand, PN, whilst removing the subsidies, introduced a solar-heater grant scheme. Instead of subsidizing your bill, you are being given the opportunity to invest in a renewable energy product with the help of the state, which will practically reduce your bill by approximately 50% for years. The intelligent citizen, takes this opportunity to reduce his dependance on Enemalta rates and to reduce his dependance on the government's budget.

The traditional Labour support does not fathom that this is a measure in his favour. He prefers a one-time €400 cheque, rather than a one-time €400 investment which will benefit him in many years to come. Similarly, he would prefer a €7,000 cheque which he would spend in a few months, rather than a €7,000 scholarship which will benefit him for his whole life.

Mintoff created a generation which depended on government charity. He took away all the fishing rods and closed away the sea, so that he would be the only one distributing fish. That's why traditional Mintoffjani still attribute to him a god-like status. He dumbed a generation into believing that we should owe everything to politicians. And even today, behind the mask of a flashy new emblem and blue scenography, this squalid socialist mentality is still very much alive in the new generation of 'progressivi' and 'moderati'.

I believe differently. I was always taught to work hard so that you never have to depend on any politician's charity, but only on yourself. I am thankful for Eddie and successive Nationalist governments because instead of giving us fish, they gave us the fishing rods to let us catch as much as we want ourselves. I am thankful because today, the youngsters of my generation, can say that we are where we are and we can all achieve what we set our minds to, thanks only to ourselves and our parents' work. We do not need to feel indebted to any politician for what we achieve daily. We are indebted only to our hard work. That's why we only want a government that gives us good fishing rods and ensures a supply of fish in the sea, not a government that promises us fish without any clear policy on how to give us the freedom to go fishing ourselves.

In reality, this is the big "us and them" divide trickling through generations. There is only one way we can stop this bi-partisan mentality: through a proper and fair electoral reform. It's a real pity that Labour walked out of the committee working on such a Constitutional reform at the beginning of this legislature. A real pity. And I cannot for the life of me understand how they seem to back Franco Debono on such reforms, which need a two-third parliamentary majority, when they were the ones who walked out on them. That is where, in my opinion, Franco badly missed his target. The one who stopped these fundamental Constitutional and electoral reforms and party-financing laws, with which I whole-heartedly agree, was not Gonzi but Muscat. At least by yesterday's vote, he realized that handing us a Labour government was only going to guarantee that these reforms would stop from being discussed for a long time.

One last thing: please Dr. Muscat, spare us the "I'm the son of a working family" classist crap from your Prize Day speeches. We are all the sons of working families. And we are all workers. Mintoff's class envy should by now be dead.

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