Imagine a state of affairs where obedience is the only option and nobody you are obeying actually cares what you think. Imagine the frustration of trying your absolute best to be the best according to rules you never fully understood but were always told are there for your own good. And now that you’re in it, imagine if this feeling doesn’t end after you graduate.
Students used to be united in freedom and an equal thirst for learning. A University education meant that the brightest young minds came together to relish in knowledge, knowing full well that by the end they would be considered the elite. Respected. Can you imagine that from where you’re sitting right now?
This University is run on the principle that students are there for one reason: to be put through rigorous training to end up fully certified, functioning members of a society based on contribution and remuneration. The Rector will ramble on about how every single student is like an adopted child to the institution. This would be a lot more believable had the dinosaur not defined “active students” as people who go to lectures and do their work on time, totally removing any shred of independent thought or hope for any student organisation. You would think that this tyranny of the masses might end if you just put your head down, say your “yes professor/doctor/supreme leader”, and graduate. That there is vindication after making it through a system clearly designed to make you question every single fibre of your being leaving you tired and bruised, if you ever make it out alive. You’d be right in celebrating until every single ounce of frustration is drowned out by all those f@cking annoying whistles. Finally, your transition out of the abject sh*thole that is the education system in this country.
Now, remember that whole imagination exercise we did in the introduction? Do it again but now you have graduated, and it still feels exactly the same, but for some reason a lot more sinister. Let’s take a walk outside campus for a second and figure out why people nationwide might be feeling exactly the same as you do at University, but they can’t graduate out of it.
The definition of authoritarian rule is specifically the feeling we all have at University, one where obedience to the state is a priority well over and above personal freedoms. Our Prime Minister is not a dictator, and we do not live in an authoritarian state. However, there have been a number of happenings related to this country that, if seen in isolation, might give someone the vague idea that we have a little snake of a problem sliding in an out of our island paradise.
For the sake of my wordcount, although not at all removing the significance of these issues, I will not be discussing: Panama Papers, Hearneville, Tillgate, Egrant, 17 Black, Vitals Global Healthcare, Electro Gas, Shanghai Electric, Pilatus Bank, Satabank, Citizenship Selling Schemes, the Planning Authority, the Lands Authority, the Rule of Law, Konrad Mizzi, Keith Schembri, Yorgen Fenech, Chris Cardona, Adrian Delia or Joseph Muscat. Let’s also not discuss Daphne Caruana Galizia, although we really, really should. I’m going to avoid the obvious.
Small things like how Malta is set to, with absolutely no public consultation, embark on a pilot project to install facial recognition software to boost security in Paceville and Marsa. Let it be known that this type of security has proven to be wildly inaccurate in areas where it was employed already with up to a 92% inaccuracy rate. Small things like a chip being stuck to minor students’ bags if they use Government-provided free transport to let parents know when they get on and off. Great idea in principle, but let it be known that this was sprung on students and parents with absolutely no consultation whatsoever with the totally unveiled threat of removing the privilege of promised transport if they don’t adhere to being tagged. Some teenage students commented to the media that they feel like animals, but the Ministry who has long been attempting to follow Singapore as an education model said that it’s fine, so like, chill.
Authoritarian regimes silence independent media, Malta doesn’t do that. Independent media is allowed to report whatever they want as long as within the boundaries of ethical reporting and writing. Except for the fact that Government inboxes can sometimes be full; or Ministers neglect to call all the press for conferences; or it takes two months for a Freedom of Information request to come back telling you the information you were looking for cannot be divulged for some convoluted reason.
Now imagine a state of affairs where obedience is not the crux of politics, but respect is. Imagine a country where we know that if we don’t like not being consulted about decisions, we can call out authorities we gave power to. Imagine a life without frustration at something we just don’t understand, just hoping that one day it will get better and we can all celebrate together. Imagine it while you still can.