The Progressive Santa’s wish list for 2022

Some of us grew up believing that a paunchy grandfather-like figure was responsible for leaving the presents under our Christmas trees, who also happened to like munching down, specifically, a few cookies, followed by a glass of milk. This figure visits every corner in the world, delivering presents to every child, which would be something that the child would have yearned for all year round, by virtue of a long wish list.

Speaking as adults now, most of us might be able to see through this fable to entertain the children of today. In no way will this article delve into the mystery that is, if this figure, Santa Claus, actually exists, but we will be looking and thinking about a hypothetical maybe, progressive wish list which the people of this island would like to see in 2022. After all, we live in a democracy, which by no means implies that we snap our fingers and get whatever we wish from the Government, rather, looking back at 2021, what should be considered by the same people who we have elected to the House and the issues which they should consider addressing in the year to come.

1. Unpaid internships should be next on the agenda

This subject merits its own article and a much deeper analysis but let us discuss briefly anyways. Let us look beyond our borders. In 2018, the European Parliament successfully implemented a ban on unpaid internships for all trainees who work in the Parliament.

At a glance in Malta, looking at some posts by different companies offering unpaid internships, one comes across some of the following requisites:

  • Must have own laptop
  • 40-hour work week
  • 1 day of sick leave per month
  • Unpaid internship
  • Previous experience required

The above is a summary of some of the perhaps, ostentatious, requirements that one comes across when looking up internships that qualified under the ‘unpaid’ category. In this contribution we spoke about why young people wish to leave the country. One of the four ideas that stood out the most was raising living standards and controlling the rising cost of living. In no way is this a link or a result of unpaid internships, this is simply an observation from a third party’s perspective. One begins to ask questions such as, when exactly should I start getting an income? And saving up for my first car/property? 

The Sutton Trust has warned that a lack of any financial compensation from many internships, threatens to push many less advantaged people out of careers, and this is even more so since internships are increasingly perceived as a “requirement” or asset before a first job in top professions. Do we really wish to be the generation, or form part of the bandwagon of over glamourizing work with no compensation, leaving few hours and limiting much required rest, just to get to the top? An intern is arguably there to learn, make mistakes and be given work to get done, not a programmed free-for all minion.

2. If there will be an election, let us unite, not divide

We have previously addressed that our current two-party system, divides rather than unites its people. As a nation, we indulge in the political culture, as much as the English indulge in a cup of Earl Grey tea, first thing in the morning. An election in Malta is something some people very much look forward to, there really is nothing quite like the ecstasy of going to a mass meeting with your friends or watching a debate on national television with the rest of the family. And yet, I cannot help but notice that the climate tends to intensify immensely on a more personal note whenever an election comes round, affecting relationships of every kind. Is this where it’s really heading?

If there is an election in 2022, God willing, it will be the perfect test for both party leaders. Prime Minister Robert Abela has definitely made progress ever since the beginning of his tenure, despite the baptism of fire he received – the revamp of the divorce law, the remedy for pre-1995 leases and now, the new Cannabis legislation, and the changes in the Cabinet at a glance, are progressive legislative and political steps.

However, like many things, there are some things which do need to be ironed out. A greater due diligence on Government officials would be an imperative step to ensure the new Legislature’s mandate for meritocracy and transparency. Rather than scattered structures, competency will be ensured and prioritised.

On the other hand, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech, while optimistic, leaves much to be desired. Bernard Grech’s position on certain issues can be best described as a ‘see-saw’. It is quite confusing how one week, the leader is open to the discussion for a topic as scandalous (in the Maltese context) as abortion, and the next prohibits anyone who considers themselves in favour of abortion as having no place within the Nationalist Party.

This is not the only issue; the response was with regards to the novel Cannabis legislation. And yet, boosts the thought of an election to happen as soon as possible. On the other hand, Bernard Grech’s vision is to return the prodigal sons that have left the Nationalist Party and yet the pattern of conservative positions and the same party politics method of pointing fingers, still remains.

That being said, this is just a bird’s eye view of what the average person might see on their daily news portals. What will matter should there be an election is the following:

  • Will the parties play party politics and point the fingers at each other for every matter worth its salt?
  • What approach will the parties take when faced with the common people who will be voting for them?
  • Will our politicians focus on actual policy and listening to the people – or will they fall into a petty and siege-like attitude which will also encourage their followers?

3. The Sexual Health Strategy we so desperately need

Time and time again, we have heard talk of a sexual health strategy being brewed. At present, the current National Sexual Health Strategy has not seen any changes since 2011, almost 11 years. The 2011 strategy has time and time been described as draconian, and something that falls short of addressing the present needs of the country.

While the digital age has brought a more open conversation about sexual health and happiness, there is still a stigma wrapped around things which lead to quality sexual health.

The reluctance of some pharmacies to source the Morning After Pill, which only became legal in 2016; the easily masked misinformation surrounding contraceptives and the content being shown to children learning about “sexual education” in Maltese schools are perhaps contributing factors to Malta not leading the way in this department. If a new policy is in the works, it should address the following matters:

  • Consent in sexual relationships
  • Sexual Hygiene
  • Provide resources, such as videos and/or frequent infographics (which are scientifically accurate) which demonstrate how contraceptives work, how pregnancy occurs, how the morning after pill works etc.
  • Devise a public health care walk-in clinic, free from stigma.

4. Finding the right antidote to the pandemic

This is obviously, by no means, a warranted medical opinion. It would be highly ignorant to call it as such. Rather, mere observations of the effects the pandemic has had on the people around us. From the beginning till the very present moment, the pandemic has been a whirlwind for many of the people in this country. It has left its effect on the mental health of many and put into doubt the livelihoods of businesses and more importantly, has left some families grieving at the loss of their beloved members. There is no doubt that the vaccination drive programme carried out by the Ministry of Health was a commendable one and highlighted the perks of taking the vaccine for the greater good of the general public’s health.

At present, cases are on the rise once again and the efficacy of the current restrictions are often put into question by many. The rise of cases comes to no surprise, with winter approaching and the holidays begging for more social gatherings between friends and family. And yet, we are still faced with crippling anxiety over the possibility of getting the virus or whether or not we should get a booster shot. That being said, from this, stem two issues which need serious addressing:

i. The epidemic of medical misinformation

In an age where social media is easily accessible, a common phenomenon, and perhaps an epidemic in itself is how easily accessible it is to fall into medical misinformation traps that cloud one’s judgement. Medical misinformation is in itself, a contributing factor to the scepticism borne from citizens in making daily choices that affect their wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.

This should probably be a New Year resolution, pun entirely intended, which the Health Authorities should watch out for otherwise, how easily accessible it is to be led on by information which presents itself as correct in fact. How can we debunk these myths? How can we demonstrate the facts in a way that everyone can understand? Are our actions proving otherwise? What about patients’ rights?

ii. Some of us have learnt nothing from the pandemic

A post-pandemic world will be different in many ways. It has affected the way we interact with others, how we work and often even determines how we will spend the rest of our day. And yet, we have seemed to forget that some meetings could have been summed up in an email. University students are experiencing changes from online examinations to old school pen and paper examinations on campus. Some cannot fathom why there is such a rush to return to things as they were before the pandemic hit us all and how, despite the rise of the COVID-19 cases, going back and forth might actually be causing more anxiety than we can comprehend.

So, with all this, what is the antidote? Well, the Government is by no means a miracle wish granter. However, there are some things which are also our responsibility. Sometimes, it is not just the Government’s responsibility, but also our own, to ensure that we take care of our health and wellbeing and as a result, of those who we surround ourselves with. Ultimately, while we can understand why we would need to go out, after all, no man is an island, if we can limit ourselves to activities which are necessary, part and parcel with taking necessary precautions and adjustments, we would already be taking a step towards genuinely flattening the curve.

So, what will 2022 look like for the progressive voter and the people? The chance of a whole new array of liberal policies put forth by the political parties? Or will we witness something incredulous? Just like everything else, time is the ultimate truth-teller, and in this case, only time can tell us, but maybe this Wishlist can serve as a blueprint.

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