Tar-rizzi waqa’ l-baħar…

The sad truth is that, abiding by rules which curtail our wish to park where we want, drive how we want, fish and hunt or, in general, do whatever we want is seen as an infringement of our freedom. We build now and regulate later; we only slow down for the speed cameras and quickly ramp up the gas. We are culturally inclined to ignore or bend the rules with an “u iva”. We are flexible with our moral codes to suit our needs for the moment.

Those of you keeping up with the news could not have missed the developments on the falsified medical certificates controversy, with the most recent being statements inferring unfair or selective targeting.

With Malta being Malta this is, of course, unsurprising. However, what first comes to mind when reading about medical certificates which are, let’s say, not based on actual illness is a mental pffffttt. I mean, what’s new? So many children and adults have had to have a certificate made; the “nagħmel ċertifikat” is ubiquitous for those wanting to take a sickie or wishing to take their children abroad for a holiday during school days, or any other reason. What does this say about the Maltese? Why are we indignant about what was defined a racket and yet fail to see that each and every one of us is also a huge part of the problem?

Malta is a country where people feel it is OK to play hooky from work and get covered by a certificate from a medical professional who should know better but prioritises their bottom line. Malta is a place where the question “bil-VAT jew bla VAT?” determines many prices and undeclared profits. It’s a place where your restaurant receipt may not actually be a fiscal one, but unless you take the time to check the fine print you may not realise that.

Sea urchins and our moral flexibility

Let us take, for example, sea urchins (rizzi, in Maltese), which are finally protected from the overfishing which has decimated, if not nearly quasi-obliterated them from their once flourishing existence around the Maltese islands. For those who are not as old as I, once people complained about rizzi because you could barely step onto the rocks in the sea with all the sea urchins nestling among them. It was a long time ago, when people slathered themselves in baby oil and UV indexes were science fiction of the highest order. Then, tragically, we found out how good the poor rizzi tasted, especially with pasta. However, given that the yummy stuff is actually the eggs of the female without which the species cannot multiply, we have seen their numbers plummet and the country’s coast cleared of nearly all the spiny creatures.

You may ask where I am going with this line of thought. In this country, when a significant step is taken legislatively to enforce something or ban something, people will complain, loudly injecting a huge dose of whataboutism. The sad truth is that, abiding by rules which curtail our wish to park where we want, drive how we want, fish and hunt or, in general, do whatever we want is seen as an infringement of our freedom. We build now and regulate later; we only slow down for the speed cameras and quickly ramp up the gas. We are culturally inclined to ignore or bend the rules with an “u iva”. We are flexible with our moral codes to suit our needs for the moment. Some of the same people who complain about pollution, the importance of eating organic, and the vulgarity of some, think nothing of sharing some powdered joy at their posh parties and dinners. Some of those other ladies who do hair and nail treatments without nary a VAT receipt, complain about people parking in front of their garage and their partner’s illegally shot bird of prey in the freezer.

Crossing into the ‘irregular’ territory

I, for one, know that I am guilty of some things myself, although possibly minor. Could I truly manage to do everything by the book without shortcuts, cheating, and finding excuses? Could I bring myself to confront someone giving me a service without an appropriate receipt? Could I always stick to the speed limit, even in those few hours when the roads are blessedly free of traffic jams?  

I ask myself these questions (and I could ask myself many more) because there are so many mundane and trivial instances when my behaviour crosses into the ‘irregular’ and it is also very indicative of the problem when I realise that I cannot bring myself to type the word ‘illegal’. 

The very mental culture of this country must change for things to improve. In the meantime, I guess what we really need are enforcement, fines, and a good, long, and unbiased look at the mirror.

Photo: Kindel Media

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