Saturday, 12 April 2008

First and Second-Class Citizens

In virtually every historical era, it could be said that most societies were split into two main groups - the first-class citizens and the second-class ones. Whereas the former have traditionally enjoyed various rights, the same cannot be said about the latter individuals. Whether we are talking about the women in ancient Greece who could not vote or the various immigrant groups in present-day Europe which are often demonised by many people, it is hard to deny the fact that human beings are still divided into groups that are associated with different opportunities.

As a socialist, I look at people as human beings. I give much more importance to the characteristics which we all share as members of Homo sapiens than to man-made concepts such as one's nationality. At the end of the day, if you had to compare a person from Nigeria to a German individual, both need to be nourished, both probably experience some degree of fear when faced with a number of stimuli, both need to relieve themselves of their natural waste products...

As a socialist, my perspective is an internationalist one. I am aware that as long as the same economic model is used in various parts of the world, people in very distant countries are nevertheless still extremely likely to have to deal with the same problems on an almost daily basis. Of course, a country might frequently have its own issues to deal with, but this does not mean that one should pursue progress in one's own country without being interested in what is happening in the rest of the world.

Living in Malta, it is my impression that there is a very irrational fear of anything that is unfamiliar. Whatever is completely new to huge parts of the Maltese population is often apparently perceived as a hostile element. Following the arrival of hundreds of African immigrants to Malta, one can still hear countless individuals spewing a great deal of hatred towards them. Prior to the arrival of these immigrants, a shocking degree of hostility was directed towards the Arab population living in Malta. To my knowledge, this hostility never reached the point witnessed in countries such as Germany where the negative feelings were translated into a number of violent acts. Sadly, I have still heard comments from some Maltese people such as "Hitler made a mistake when he killed the Jews...he should have killed the Arabs!"

Whenever I go out, I see many immigrants from different countries. I find it extremely sad to notice that the immigrants from certain parts of the world usually have no Maltese friends with them. As individuals who often cannot vote for various reasons, it seems that such immigrants tend to be swept aside into a universe of their own. Their lives and the lives of the other inhabitants often appear to unfold along parallel lines. I consider the hostility displayed by many Maltese people towards many immigrants to be totally unacceptable, especially when Malta is often portrayed as a very Catholic country!

As a socialist, I still look forward to the day when classes will no longer exist; when all human beings will be able to live together peacefully as citizens who share the same opportunities.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back.


La delirante said...

Very interesting post Red and very well written too!

As you can imagine, I totally agree with you in this one. I believe that societies are always looking for scapegoats. If something goes wrong, if salaries are low there is always a group to blame.

It is sad that people who are walking on the Maltese streets but who have a different skin colour to that of the majority are being discriminated against. Probably they are the ones who have been granted a refugee status and are trying to integrate to society and yet they can't. I hear someone saying in the street to another peson when he saw one person whose skin is dark: "Look, they are even driving now". I was shocked as first, that person could have been a tourist, or someone married to a Maltese citizen, or maybe a refugee...I guess that we all have to learn a lot when it comes to being tolerant...

Anonymous said...

My congratulations David,

Somebody vote for this blog post. The vote is valid for the blog of the month (April 2008) and the blog of the year (2008).

The reaction of the vote is as follows:
It is a very interesting and thought provoking post. His posts always are anyway :) As usual, Red speaks his mind and has a clear position about issues that are so important in our times.

Red said...

Thanks a lot for the nice comments from everyone! :)

Pawlu said...

While being Catholic (or Christian, rather), Malta is also quite insular - we like to keep ourselves to ourselves when it comes to culture. It's not evident on the surface but it's inbred, I think.

I'm not saying that it's a good or a bad thing - I like that you're surfacing this topic when it's taboo for a number of people, and all is open for discussion.

My personal views are that there's only so much inter-cultural mingling you can do - there will always be some fundamental cultural differences which impede full integration. The Maltese are even wary of the Gozitans, let alone the Muslims and Africans etc. It's not a good thing to emarginate minorities, but on the other hand, it's not always the case that the minorities want to be assimilated.

Open minds breed discussion, is all I can say. Both sides of the home/away teams are a bit blinkered in that respect.

Anonymous said...

My re-congratulations David,

You have another vote, obviously, from a different person:

The post is very thought provoking. I may not agree 100% with the content, but I like that the issue's being raised when it's often swept under the carpet. Well written!

Red said...

Thanks once again for the votes and for the feedback! :)

Pawlu, I can understand your points, especially when you mentioned the fact that many Maltese people talk negatively about Gozitans, let alone Africans or individuals who cherish the Muslim faith! Although I can imagine that there might be a few people who find it hard to integrate with others, one must not forget the many barriers that are erected by the locals so that integration becomes an extremely difficult process.

When it comes to mingling with people from other cultures, I still believe that there are many, MANY Maltese people who are still suffering from the island syndrome and are, therefore, quite narrow-minded in the approach they take. Being a small country, reputation is considered to be almost sacred to countless individuals. Family members are often subject to a huge amount of pressure to avoid "tarnishing" the family reputation.

I still remember a woman who was sitting next to me on a bus many years ago. A Maltese girl was apparently joking flirtatiously with a guy who had a strong Arab accent. The couple descended together. The woman next to me muttered, "If my daughter had to go out with an Arab, I would kill her!!!" I remained frozen in my seat.

There is still a huge amount of ignorance in this country when it comes to mixing with individuals who come from different countries or cultures. Some try to justify their ignorance by resorting to man-made inventions such as "nationalism" or by hailing themselves as defenders of some culture. The bottom line, however, is that ignornace often leaves behind several victims.