Evarist Bartolo, Shadow Minister for Education and a lecturer in communications at the University of Malta, writes about the need for critical distance. And the need to sail away from our comfort zone.
Most of us Maltese know very little about the Maltese Islands.
We do not know much about these islands because of the way we have been brought up to look at our past. Most of us look at our past with a set of ideas and assumptions immersed in myths, legends and mostly lack of information that give us a poor picture of ourselves and our ancestors: that we have always been Catholic and nothing but Catholic since St Paul converted us nearly 2000 years ago. This way of thinking about our country and us is such a poor caricature of our rich past and identity! We need to discover our past and ourselves.
But to do that we must stop hugging the old familiar coast we know. We must sail forth … away from the comfort zone we have created. It will be worthwhile as the Maltese Islands we will discover, will equip us to feel more at home in the diverse, borderless and multicultural world of the 21st century.
If we explore our past with new eyes we will discover what a multicultural and diverse identity we have: that we were Muslim centuries ago; that several Maltese were persecuted, even burnt at the stake, for spreading Lutheranism in Malta; that perhaps for centuries these islands had no people living in them and we are a nation of immigrants; that we have Maltese and Gozitans living in every corner of the globe and we have many amongst us whose ancestors come from many different countries with a diversity of cultures and religions and that even three centuries ago you could walk up Valletta’s main street and hear people talking to each other in many different languages.
As Andre`Gide says: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.” Are we ready for it? We now have enough serious historians who have researched and discovered our past but their work has still not reached our schools and media and so we still look at our country and ourselves with the same old eyes.
Photo: Aron Mifsud Bonnici