Family Values, Nationhood and Unity

When it comes to our survival in the world, we swim or drown together – one flag, one nation. It is important to remember this when times are good, as unity will be vital when hardship strikes.

A nation is considered a country when defined as a physical territory. It is however to a far greater degree defined by shared values and culture. This is so clearly seen by the generational conflicts that persist when a nation is divided by imposed territorial boundaries.

The first signs of Maltese nationhood appeared in the early 19th century. Before then we were the island fortress of the Knights of St. John. The flag itself seems to have originated in the 15th century as the red and white colours granted to Malta by the Aragon King of Sicily. As far as I could research, the first patriotic use of the Maltese flag was between 1798 and 1800, when it was flown by the Maltese insurgents against the French knights.

Our nationhood is young at just over 200 years, an odd 160 years of which spent as an occupied territory under British rule. Our independent statehood is even younger, just 53 years old. Moreover, for the past 13 years we have been transferring our sovereign powers in big chunks to European institutions, to such a degree that we are now practically governed by foreigners, again. We of course have all the trappings of self government but, really, it is all just window dressing. This is undeniably factual and it is quite interesting to note how we went full circle in a couple of hundred years.

So, are we a nation? I would very much wish the answer to this question to be a resounding ‘YES’. However I do not see much evidence of this, nor do I detect any great feeling of being one nation.

Do we have reason to be proud of our national identity? My answer to this question is that we most certainly do. We have strong traditions and strong values. This notwithstanding, when politics are involved, it all goes to the dogs. In my view the reason for this is a sad and cynical one.

Winning an election in Malta has precious little to do with values, future generations or a sensible economic or social policy. It is a fund raising and numbers game. The party that plays it best wins. I will repeat what many have said before me. In a two party system where 40% of the votes go to one side and another 40% go to the other side, no matter what, the electoral campaigns target the middle 20%. Both parties need to get 50% of this 20% (i.e. 10%) + 1 vote to get elected. The winner takes all. The loser is condemned to whinge and whine uselessly for 5 years. In the last election the reds got 75% of the middle votes and that was it.

The reds have become as good and even better at this game than the blues used to be. What has swung this election, and every previous election since 1964, are the pre-election jobs with government and publicly controlled corporations, electoral promises to well chosen minority groups and a finely tuned public relations machine. Nothing new there. One is tempted to say ‘well done’, if it were not for the fact that this makes a mockery of majority rule and democracy and more importantly, it is not a game.

We are passing through a period of unprecedented prosperity. According to our newly discovered liberal values, all are entitled to everything, lest anybody is left behind or stays without. Welcome to the age of entitlement and instant self gratification where values are packaged into products, as may be necessary from election to election, in order to harvest votes. No value is sacred and all is up for grabs.

In my opinion we need to appreciate that the well being and prosperity we have today are built on the foundations of our traditions. Our society is built on the traditional family unit and the stability and balance that the traditional family provides. The traditional family of mother, father and child is not a recent invention. It has been so for millions of years and across many species and a result of a natural selection process over many hundreds of millions of years. More importantly we love it and it is inextricably intertwined in the fabric of our society and culture. Of course we need to be a tolerant and understanding society. We would however be sowing the seeds of social disintegration if we take the hatchet to the traditional family unit. The bonds that exist within a traditional family are the strongest that exist in humankind without a doubt. Anybody who tries to say differently betrays the presence of a hidden agenda.

The traditional family sustains our society and our economy, with parents and extended family members helping in so many ways the upcoming generations, our children and grand children. This latter consideration is particularly relevant in the context of family businesses that account for 80% of local jobs and make up the vast majority of Malta’s SMEs (Source: PWC Business Survey 2016).

Family is why expatriates come here in their thousands not just to find jobs, but more importantly to bring their families to a safe place or even to start a family. This last assertion is supported by NSO statistics. Families have an obvious vested interest in future generations and are necessarily pro-environment and pro-sustainability.

We may not have much by way of self government but we do have our identity, culture and our traditional values, and all of these emerge from our families and the society that our families collectively create. We must protect this which fundamentally defines us. Family values unite us. Passing legislation that deliberately attacks the traditional family unit will not unite this country, quite the opposite.

We appear to be witnessing a progressive erosion of family and Maltese values and way of life. Were this not the work of our own representatives I would say it smacks of the machinations of an occupying power. It is far easier to govern a populace that has no traditions, identity or values and where anything goes. I am sure that this is not the case as our representatives are all honourable men and women. Nonetheless I would remind them that at least 85% of the electorate are traditional family members and believe in traditional family values. We are the overwhelming majority that cannot and will not be taken for granted.

Article published in the Sunday Times of Malta, 9th July 2017