Tuesday, 25 November 2008


Around a month ago, I visited the apartment in which my maternal grandparents used to live. (The photos in this post were taken during my visit.) When my grandmother passed away in 2005, the flat remained uninhabited. Nobody has lived there since that time. Most of the furniture was left untouched. Even certain dry food items in the kitchen were left there. When I went there, it felt as though someone was still living there.

During my late teens, it was very common to spend Christmas Day with my maternal grandparents inside that apartment. My aunt used to join us and we always had a wonderful time, eating a delicious cake that only my grandmother knew how to prepare and exchanging countless funny tales! Any gifts were obviously welcome! :)

As I walked through the apartment, so many memories came rushing back from my mind's archives. I thought about my grandfather, who passed away in the year 2001. His brother had kicked the bucket only a few months before him. I visualised my grandmother, always ready to offer me some tea or something to eat. I saw myself on the scarlet sofas, laughing my head off, free of any worries, enjoying several Christmas Days...

The apartment belongs to the Government. The latter is expected to reclaim it by the end of this year. I wanted to visit the place before entry will no longer be possible.

As I left the apartment, I felt as though a thick chapter of my life was coming to an end. That place represented the source of so many happy memories. Walking through it without seeing the faces that I was used to seeing there filled the place with sadness. I left with a very heavy heart.

Christmas Day is exactly one month away. Talking about memories, during this time of the year, I cannot help thinking about my mom. Even though she passed away in 2006, I still think about her quite frequently. She was a stubborn person, but extremely loving. To her, Christmas was that time of the year during which one ought to do his/her utmost to transform this world into a better place.

Since she passed away, whatever was left of my biological family broke into several fragments. Since then, my wife and I always wonder where and with whom we might be able to spend Christmas Day. How different things would be if she were still here! She would probably still be calling almost daily to see how my day was, to see that my wife and I are fine, to make sure that we do not need anything...

My mind is packed with several wonderful memories of events shared with my mother. Having said this, almost whenever I think about her, my thoughts frequently go back to the last few months she spent here. Her pain as she struggled with cancer. The terribly cold night my wife and I spent with her at Boffa Hospital only a few days before she passed away. The times when she asked me to give her something to drink and I could not do so since she could no longer ingest anything. Imagine how you would feel if you could barely help a person who had devoted many years to making sure that you never went hungry, cold, penniless!

It is quite fascinating to think about the ability that human beings have to recall memories. They can make us feel enormously happy, but they can also reduce us to tears.

Conversations with an Evangelical Christian

Red: So, do you think that homosexuality is bad?

Evangelical Christian: Yes.

Red: Why is it something bad?

Evangelical Christian: Because it is a sin and the Bible says so!

Red: Oh...but how can you be sure that the Bible is correct? How can you be sure that many of its writings are nothing more than a reflection of beliefs that were somewhat popular several centuries ago?

Evangelical Christian: The people who wrote the Bible were inspired by God...

Red: Ok, let me ask you another question. Do you believe that there is a place called Hell where there is fire and eternal pain?

Evangelical Christian: Yes, I do.

Red: I thought that if God represents the highest degree of love imaginable, he should be able to allow his children to progress, to develop, to change...don't you think that the concept of eternal damnation is against the idea of love?

Evangelical Christian: No!

When having such conversations, all the reasons which had compelled me to drift away from virtually any popular religion come strongly back to mind. I really enjoy thinking about the possibility of building a better world where all people could live together in peace, but it is extremely difficult for me to switch off my rational mind as I try to make a number of positive differences in my life. To believe that homosexuality is wrong or evil simply because of what a person wrote hundreds of years ago is unacceptable to me.

As a person, I like supporting my beliefs with various rational arguments. If, for example, I believe that socialism is better than capitalism, I will do my utmost to provide solid evidence to explain my position. I would never even contemplate going out there to praise socialism simply because somebody wrote that it is a great ideology several centuries ago!

I have to admit that during the past few years, my flirting with religion has often been motivated by the desire to enjoy the nice aspects associated with various religions - the commitment to friendship, to helping one another, to believing that we are brothers and sisters, etc. Those things could be quite attractive, especially in a world in which true friendships seem incredibly hard to find. In the past, I had tried to find such things in secular organisations, but the only time I came close to witnessing a genuine commitment to achieving goals such as co-operation with other human beings, helping those who are suffering, and building a fairer world was when I met several Communists at an international seminar in Brussels earlier on this year.

As stated in a previous post, I cannot deny the fact that praying has often made me feel good. Yet, I still wonder whether my mind was playing tricks on me to convince me that prayers really work...

It is so sad to think that there might be so many other people out there who yearn for friendship, support, and love...who try to find these things in a secular way without too much success...and who eventually end up forcing down a number of totally irrational beliefs down their throats simply to have some true friends, family-like occasions, and perhaps even a romantic partner. Why is it so hard for so many people to adopt the nice and practical qualities of various religions (such as caring about your neighbour) without carrying the burden of having to believe in countless ideas which often lack scientific support?


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

An Interview with...Myself!!! Part 2

Q: The current government in Malta, led by Dr Lawrence Gonzi, has often argued against the concept of subsidising companies such as the Malta Shipyards Ltd. The government keeps saying that if a state-owned company is transferred to private ownership, the company will be much more profitable. What are your views about all this?

A: Unless I am mistaken, the European Union strongly limits the amount of aid that the State can give to one or more companies. That is not something about which I am very happy.

As far as Malta Shipyards Ltd is concerned, I totally disagree that this should be privatised. Let me explain further. A company's success or failure is usually determined by its management. In the case of the aforementioned company, it is quite clear that it has suffered from fairly inadequate management strategies for many years. This has led to the company's incurring losses for a fairly long period of time. The government has pumped millions of Euros into this company in order to sustain it, but the masses keep being told that all that money was wasted. Nowadays, we have heard about the necessity to privatise this company so often that few individuals seem to bother to ask: why has the Malta Shipyards company been incurring losses for so much time? Furthermore, it appears that an even smaller number of individuals has wondered whether there are any alternatives to privatisation.

When it comes to the provision of subsidies, I am totally in favour of this, as long as certain conditions are satisfied. In the past, whenever a state-owned company faced countless difficulties, the government simply pumped huge sums of money into those organisations in order to help them remain afloat. What is so wrong about that? When a human being is in serious trouble, millions of people around the world would agree that providing some form of assistance to that person is a highly admirable thing to do. Is one, therefore, to conclude that it is fine to help another individual, but totally wrong to attempt to rescue a state-owned company that is caught in the grip of a financial storm? Whenever people provide charitable contributions, they hope that that money will be used for its intended objective. Likewise, whenever tax-payer money is utilised to help a company, a country's workers hope that those contributions are going to be used to achieve the desired goals. If money is given to a company and it is not used wisely, then it is quite understandable that several people might prefer to cut the umbilical cord with that company. When subsidies are used wisely, a company can generate more income and job stability is retained.

Going back to the Malta Shipyards company, I still believe that if the government had really wanted to help this organisation to get back on its feet, the subsidies that were given to it for so many years could have been utilised in a much better way. A good management team could have been assembled to rescue the company from chronic losses. If it is true that there were too many employees, the management should have consulted the government and the unions so that a plan could have been drafted to transfer the extra employees to other organisations. All this was possible without the need to resort to privatisation.

Q: Why are you so sceptical about privatisation?

A: A private company is mainly interested in the maximisation of profit and the minimisation of costs. A state-owned company also wants to be profitable, but it also has other interests, such as providing stable and fulfilling jobs. Obsessed with profit, most private companies would not think twice about sacking countless employees if such individuals are not deemed to be "profitable".

It is also important to remember that the profits earned by a private company end up in the pockets of a relatively small percentage of the population (the shareholders). Any profits made by a state-owned company would benefit the entire population. In a discourse published in 1993 (Abuses of Socialism are Intolerable), Kim Jong Il said the following: "The renegades of socialism are converting socialist ownership into private ownership, claiming that the 'administrative command system' relies on the absolute dominance of state ownership. The socialist ownership which consists of state and all-people ownership and cooperative ownership forms social, economic foundations which enable the popular masses to occupy the position of masters of the state and society and play their role as such. It is clear that if socialist ownership is dissolved and converted into private ownership, the means of prodution, having been privatised, will be concentrated, sooner or later, in the hands of privileged people, speculators and a handful of other exploiters, no matter what the method of privatisation may be. It is not long since privatisation was carried out in those countries in which socialism had collapsed, but millionaires have already appeared while the vast majority of the working people are suffering because of unemployment and poverty" (p.141). Kim Jong Il has been criticised for several things, but his comments have been supported by historical events in many countries.

Q: Any comments about Dr Joseph Muscat?

A: I like the fact that he is a very good diplomat. His attempts to foster fraternal relationships within the Malta Labour Party are highly admirable. Having said that, I believe that he should be more critical when it comes to the neo-liberal ideology that has pervaded virtually all the countries in the Western world. I understand that it is not realistic to expect huge changes to happen in a short span of time, but I would love to see Dr Muscat talk about the plight of the suffering in this country more frequently.

To be continued...