The reaction of many Maltese devoted Christians towards the painting of Lassana Cisse, a migrant who was shot and killed in a racially motivated attack in 2019 (and on which, to date, no justice has been made), was appalling.
Lassana’s atrocious murder has been the subject of debate this week, with many condemning the art work done in St.George’s Basilica, without knowing the meaning of this series of paintings. The new paintings portray the ‘works of mercy’ which are key Christian ethics – and are the strongest expression of Christian values, as you are helping those who desperately need help. Along the painting portraying Lassana Cisse, are paintings depicting prisoners and the poor, the social groups displaced to the margins of society.
This case seems to expose that what drives popular opposition is not inequality per se, but perceived unfairness.
This is an unfortunate reality for the subaltern and the marginalised of our times, which would have been the chosen ones for Christ to preach to. Though, due to discourses providing an ‘easy’ and convenient way to answer societal issues rooted deep down in the system, migrants, prisoners, the poor and minorities are pointed at and scapegoated. This creates a hostile environment for these social groups. How can we hate someone so much without even knowing them?
How can we hate someone so much without even knowing them?
Immigrants in Malta are often portrayed as ‘a concern’ and that they are being privileged. The usual argument is that it’s one thing to lose your job to someone who competes under the same rules as you do. It’s a different thing when you lose your job to someone who is taken advantage of and paid an inadequate wage with no rights. Yet the anger is targeted at the marginalised and not at those exploiting them. This builds upon the argument that people are aroused with opposing unfair treatment, rather than inequality, as profits are put before people – as witnessed in the shocking case of Lamin Jaiteh, who was dumped on the road after falling two storeys on the workplace. These minorities are not a thing. They are human beings just like us. They are not privileged. They have unimagined struggles every day, and thus deserve their human rights and freedoms.
The global economy is run by a global work force and working class, with the majority being people of different ethnicities. Politicians acknowledge that we require workers from all around the world, and that the imbalanced global economy, a global pandemic and a climate crisis will cause many to migrate. However, this doesn’t mean that we should import workers and deprive them of their freedoms and decent rights.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that some of the key workers and ‘frontliners’ are foreigners and people from the abovementioned lower social classes. Yet, many have been quick to establish a binary system of ‘good, wanted workers’ and ‘bad, unwanted workers’. Everyone can contribute to our society, our economy and our politics. These marginalised people are not a class of people who are here to serve the privileged. They are just like us.
Many have been quick to establish a binary system of ‘good, wanted workers’ and ‘bad, unwanted workers’.
Many have seen Manuel Farrugia’s painting as unfair, since it is the disenfranchised who was painted, and not other victims, such as victims of domestic violence. Let’s not go into the fact that it is unpleasant to use the death of a mother to forget another person’s gruesome death, when it’s probably these same hypercritics who are the first to find fault in the domestic violence victim.
This reveals that we care more about what we perceive as unfair, rather than inequality. If only we have the same outrage at the greed we see around us every day.
But we can change this if we let the subaltern have their basic rights and a chance to follow their dreams and live their lives. After all, this complies with the teachings of Jesus in the ‘works of mercy’, which preaches social justice and egalitarianism.
Moreover, this should be the driving force of the Labour Party and its members, as per the Party’s own statue, “success is to be measured by the progress made by the weakest members of society.”
We need to ensure this and work to fulfil this aim and principle, so that no one is left behind and see that we create a more just, fair, and equal society that works for the many.