Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Meeting With the Prime Minister

A few weeks ago, an open letter signed by 26 individuals was sent to Dr Joseph Muscat, the Leader of the Labour Party as well as the current Prime Minister of Malta. The persons who signed the letter included Dr Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, one of the country's former prime ministers. I also agreed to sign the letter. 

The letter attracted some attention in the media. More specifically, the links relating to a number of publications have been posted at the end of this blog post.

Following the articles which appeared about the said letter, I was informed that Dr Muscat wanted to meet with us to discuss the points that were raised. The meeting was going to be held on 1st December at 4pm. The venue was the Auberge de Castille in Valletta. 


Out of the 26 individuals, around 16 turned up for the meeting. We met outside the Auberge de Castille shortly before 4pm so that we could all go in together. 

After being led to a large meeting room right next to the Prime Minister's Office, Dr Muscat came out to shake hands with each one of us. Clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt, the Prime Minister then walked to his chair to start the meeting. We sat down around the oval-shaped table.  

Dr Muscat went through the letter and expressed his reaction concerning each point. As expected, his response to virtually all the issues was characterised by various references to the government's positive achievements following the Labour Party's electoral victory in March 2013.

Surrounded by the portraits of the country's previous prime ministers, almost every person who attended voiced their views regarding a number of topics. I told Dr Muscat that I wanted to speak as a university graduate who was working in the financial services sector, an area that has often been praised as one of the most successful in the current economic climate. I said that even though I managed to qualify for a mortgage, the thought of paying the bank until I was 65 was quite daunting. Previous generations were reportedly often able to pay off their home loans within around 10 to 15 years. Being in debt until the age of 65 led to more pressure and anxiety; if I could no longer keep up with the monthly payments for one reason or another, I could end up losing my home.  I expressed my hope that the government could do something to help ease this burden for the thousands of people living in similar circumstances.

I also expressed my disagreement concerning one of the narratives that had been promoted by the Labour Party even before the 2013 election. More specifically, I told Dr Muscat that I totally disagreed with the notion that there was no longer any conflict of interests between the employer and the employee. My own experience and that of many other workers clearly demonstrated that employers typically squeezed their employees as much as possible without giving fair remuneration. I added that the issue of the conflict between employers and employees formed part of the basis of leftist thinking. I argued that it was, therefore, practically impossible to identify with such a political viewpoint and reject the existence of the said clash of interests.

With reference to the housing issue, Dr Muscat did not offer any reassurance at all. No mention was made of any government scheme aimed at helping existing and potential home-owners to pay off a mortgage within a much more reasonable time-frame. Furthermore, the Prime Minister said that the aspiration to own a home would soon no longer be sustainable given the country's environmental constraints. He added that renting will need to become more popular in the future rather than opting to have one's own property. 

Dr Muscat's reaction was quite disappointing. His response totally neglected the hardships associated with living in debt for most of one's life just to have a stable roof over one's head. Moreover, simply encouraging rent as an alternative does not offer much relief to the countless individuals who wish to avoid the fear of losing one's home as a result of not being able to keep up with the monthly payments. 

Turning to the class warfare issue, the Prime Minister was quite succinct. More specifically, his view was that any focus on the said matter would be counterproductive.

The meeting lasted for around 90 minutes. Dr Muscat concluded by saying that even though his door was open to everyone, he could not guarantee that he would accept every request that was brought to his attention.

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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A Letter To W

Dear W,

I should have seen the dark clouds gathering on the horizon.  I should have been able to forecast the massive storm that was unleashed in early October 2012. The signs had been there since, at least, Christmas 2011. 

Christmas is normally a time when family members make an effort to be with one another. It is a time when millions of people around the world celebrate friendship, peace, and love. It was one of our favourite times of the year. Do you remember how excited we used to be as we decorated our home? And how we looked forward to opening our gifts? Beautiful memories!

You surely knew how much I loved the Christmas season. You were definitely aware of how I yearned to spend it with you. Sadly, you ignored all that and thought only about your own interests. Although we did not have the funds to go abroad as a couple and in spite of the fact that you knew that I could not take vacation leave in December, you insisted on wanting to spend Christmas Day abroad. Ignoring all my objections, you decided to leave me alone on Christmas Day. 

Leaving me alone on one of the most important days of the year was not enough for you. Where did you spend your Christmas Day? At the place of one of your ex-boyfriends in Spain!!! As you very well know, he was not any guy. He was the guy with whom you had lost your virginity! Even just writing about it makes me feel sick! The total lack of respect shown by your actions is still so hard to believe! I was so ashamed that when I attended a family party on the evening of Christmas Day, I told my inquisitive relatives that you were unwell in an attempt to explain your mysterious absence.

Why did I endure your Christmas abandonment? I seriously cannot imagine too many guys putting up with such behaviour. I decided to let it slide since I genuinely loved you. And true love is hopeful; it never stops believing that things will get better no matter how bad they are today. Sadly, you never saw love in the same way.

2012 was expected to be a great year for us. Among other things, it was the year during which we both hoped you would be able to acquire your citizenship.  You were granted citizenship in August 2012. Do you remember that last interview prior to becoming a citizen? Do you remember talking favourably about our relationship? Most importantly, do you remember asserting that you would get married to me again if you were given the choice? I wonder if you still ever recall that interview whenever you think about the disgusting actions that occurred less than two months after acquiring your citizenship.  

It was certainly during the summer of 2012 that you started removing one brick after another from our marriage until the whole thing collapsed. During that time, your work circumstances brought you in contact with the guy with whom you are presently living. He already had a girlfriend and they were supposed to get married in 2013. They had been together for 10 years! 

Having talked to two girls who allegedly witnessed the way things developed between you and him, you were the one who seduced him. Even though you were married to me and although you knew that he had a steady girlfriend, it seems that you went after him like a heat-seeking missile. When you were at home, he increasingly dominated your conversations and I regularly found you chatting with him online. 

The farcical birthday celebration of his girlfriend should have continued to alarm me. Instead of sitting next to his girlfriend as well as the person that he was supposedly planning to marry, he went to sit a few chairs away from her! It was such a blatant act of disrespect that practically everyone present commented about it. 

As time went by, things got worse for me. One of the key moments when I noticed that big trouble lay ahead of me was when you had called at around 8pm one evening to tell me that you were keeping him company as a friend following his decision to break up with his girlfriend. I had prepared dinner for you that evening and I was so hurt by the fact that you preferred to stay out till almost midnight! I remember storing your dinner away in the fridge. You never ate that food and it became such a terrible symbol of those dark days that it took me around 2 months until I finally got rid of it. Every time I used to see it in the fridge, I just did not want to touch it. 

I cried so hard that evening. I looked at so many of our photos taken during our trips abroad and during various celebrations. We looked so good together. So many happy memories! So many sacrifices endured together in order to build a better life for both!   

The next few days were characterised by your spending more and more time away from home. I was terribly worried and I made it very clear that I was not happy about the time you were spending with him. You kept insisting that you were just friends. 

As you pursued your interests without showing much concern for my welfare (lack of respect once again!), I was getting ready for the holiday to Florence and Pisa that we had planned a few months before. We had been to Florence in 2011 and it was surely the best holiday of my life! We had celebrated your birthday there. We were both so happy and we returned to Malta committed to return there the following year.   

Sadly, the holiday that I had been looking forward to for several months turned into one of the worst nightmares of my life. We left Malta on the 4th October. Contrary to our holiday in 2011, I ended up making most of the travelling arrangements on my own. You slept throughout most of the flight. Furthermore, you were quite cold as well as distant as we walked around when we got to Florence. 

The 5th October was our last full day together. We went to visit the Uffizi Museum. I remember that I was holding your hand at one point in time and I told you how happy I was feeling. In the evening, you were very cold once again and you did not hesitate to rush to chat with him on the iPad once we got to the hotel. It was the iPad which I had given you for your birthday and which took me a year to pay off! 

On the 6th October, after visiting the convent where Fra Savonarola had lived, you told me that you wanted to talk to me. I immediately sensed trouble. Very big trouble. Without betraying any sadness, you informed me that you were no longer happy with me, that this other guy was very much in love with you, and that he had bought you a ticket to join him on his holiday in Spain. The shock was so great that I could not hold back the tears. Devastated by the pain, all I wanted to do was to return to the hotel. Once we got to our room, I just locked myself inside the bathroom, fell to the floor, and cried my head off. I could not believe that you were capable of doing something similar to me! 

Before you left the hotel to go to the airport, you told me that you would make a choice at the airport about whether to go to Spain or to return to me. I cried until I had no tears left and then forced myself to go out to eat something. My eyes were so red that everyone was looking at me strangely! Even though I was so hurt by your words and deeds, I hoped to open the hotel room door and find you there saying that it was all a big mistake and that you wanted to be with me...that we would stick together through thick and thin...that our love would help us to fight against all the problems that we had! Alas, this did not happen. I opened the door and there was nothing but darkness. The darkness of an abyss. 

As you know all too well, I spent the rest of the "holiday" on my own. I forced myself out of bed to try to visit some places and to continue eating properly. As I toured places that we were supposed to visit together, I was often overcome by a tremendous feeling of sadness. For instance, as I walked through the beautiful Boboli Gardens, there was - at least - one occasion when I had to sit down to cry since the pain was too strong. All this pain whilst you were having a wonderful time in the company of your new partner.

When I returned to Malta a few days later, I cried for a long time when I saw the two pillows on our bed. More specifically, I looked at your pillow and realised that your head would never grace it again. I grabbed the pillow and held it close to me, hugging it tightly. It still had your scent. My body was shaking as I cried on the bed.

During the first few weeks and months following your hasty Florentine exit, I went through pure hell. You might recall that my manager had left the company I was working for in October. This meant that apart from dealing with your loss, I also had to find ways to cope with an increasing workload (by December, I had over 150 emails in my inbox!). Every morning, I had to pull myself out of bed to go to work since I had to earn my daily bread. It was either that or face total collapse. 

The evenings of those first few weeks and months were among the darkest in all my life. Whilst you were enjoying yourself with your new partner and draining our credit card to furnish the apartment you were living in, a heavy stream of tears normally flowed down my cheeks onto my clothes as I saw the many beautiful photos we had taken together, read the first emails we had exchanged with one another when we decided to get together romantically, and thought of all the plans we had made for the future...On those lonely evenings and nights, I remembered how we had both clawed our way up - making countless sacrifices - from the poor days of 2006 to the relatively comfortable lifestyle that we enjoyed at a later stage. Do you remember how we were so cash-strapped in 2006 that a colleague of mine had lent us a pair of trousers for you to wear at my mum's funeral since we could not afford to buy one? We had come such a long way since then, but you clearly could not care about the achievements we had made and what they represented for the future!

When recalling your many acts of disrespect towards me, it is quite amazing to think about how you tried to brush all the pain you caused me aside and expected us to still be very close friends. When you came over on one occasion to collect some of your things from the place which was our home for a number of years, you even asked whether I could prepare a burger for you! On another occasion, you tried to hug me before leaving, but I refused. Just because your love for me might have died ages ago did not mean that I shared the same stance towards what had happened between us. Notwithstanding all the hard times, all the acts of disrespect, all the fears and anxieties that we faced, I never stopped loving you. Even when I felt terribly wounded by your behaviour, I kept believing in a brighter tomorrow since I always thought that true love never gives up.   

Where exactly did I go wrong? Yes, there was an intimacy problem which became harder to resolve as I felt increasingly under pressure to "obtain results". Till this very day, I cannot pinpoint the exact cause/s of my problem. It was probably the result of performance anxiety, stressful work conditions, boredom with routine, and a state of mild floating anxiety when confronted with the fact that we were so vulnerable here for many years. You should know that for most of my life, I always felt the need for an external support system - whether it is family or some type of organisation. Like most other human beings, feeling relaxed and confident of having that support system would have surely helped me to feel less tense in my everyday life. I am also quite convinced that the ways in which you reacted to my problem together with the fact that you never made an effort to make certain changes which could have led to some progress contributed significantly to my intimacy issues. I know that you will strongly deny this last point stating that just because certain things happened in 2005, they could have continued to happen in the same way without the need for any particular changes. All I can say is that every time you failed to listen to my feedback and every time you decided that only your analysis was correct represented additional acts of disrespect towards me. Over the years, your pride and self-righteousness became so inflated that you could hardly ever admit making a mistake. You always had to have the last word. 

There is no doubt that the intimacy problem plagued our marriage for many years. It is, however, a total lie to say that we lived like brother and sister. Brothers and sisters would not usually have been sexually intimate with one another. And they would not normally walk around holding hands or massaging each other intimately. 

We spent over 7 years together. I was often anxious about the fact that you were very unhappy about the intimacy problems, but I always believed two things. First, I strongly believed that the solution to the problems had to come with the work of both partners with little to no external help. Second, equipped with the hope that things would eventually get better, I thought that the rest of the marriage was strong enough to ward off the possibility of a total collapse.  

In retrospect, I believe that my problems did not necessarily have to lead to the breakdown of our marriage. I think that our relationship broke down gradually as you stopped showing respect towards me. Your decision to spend Christmas away from me in December 2011, your insults and threats whenever we talked about our problems, your reckless spending, your total lack of interest in making the slightest effort to help me overcome my difficulties, your lies during the summer and autumn of 2012...those are the factors that brought our relationship to an end. You frequently said that you tried to find a solution by taking the initiative to see a psychotherapist. True, but as I had told you on many occasions, a psychotherapist was unlikely to be able to resolve the type of problems I had. Just to give you one example - if fairly long hair was very important for me on a woman, how was the psychotherapist going to deal with that? It's not as though I was living with her! You ignored the feedback that I had been giving you for so long that there was even a time when you cut your hair really short notwithstanding the fact that you knew all along how important long hair was for me! Once again, your interests came first. To hell with what I believed or told you!

Before I forget, do you remember how you had sometimes remarked that some of the problems in our relationship might have been due to the fact that our courtship was limited to the phone and to the Internet? You occasionally complained about the fact that we started living together without the chance to date for a while before deciding to live under the same roof. Notwithstanding all that talk, what did you do after you left me? You immediately moved in to live with a guy that you barely knew! Indeed, by the time you started living with him, you had only "known" each other for around three months!!!! And you went straight from me to him; there was no interim dating period!    

To conclude, we could argue for months about who should have done what and when. The bottom line is that you and only you were the one who threw in the towel. You were the one who disrespected me once again by making plans to go to live with another person. A most disgusting form of selfishness prevailed in your life. You withdrew over EUR 2,000 from our credit card account to sustain your new relationship and never repaid that money. You initially made promises to continue paying your share of the debts which we had accumulated over a period of time, but you then quickly found a number of excuses to avoid honouring those promises. As you withdrew money from our credit card to go abroad in December, you surely never spared a thought relating to my financial welfare. You just thought about your own interests without giving a damn about the person who had stood by you through thick and thin for several years. 

You and I are clearly extremely different when it comes to our understanding of what it means to love a person. To me, love is best expressed by the following words written by St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." I was willing to be patient, to be kind, to avoid pride, to avoid disrespecting you, to trust, to continue hoping, and to persevere in spite of all the difficulties. You, on the other hand, were surely not willing to act in the same way.