Uneasy lie the heads.

Posted in 1 by Editor on June 22, 2009

No, there’s no typo in the title. Of course, what Henry IV says in Part II, Act III, Scene I, Line 33 – when complaining that the solace of restful sleep does not come easy to those in power – is “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.

Shakespeare speaks of one head, the king’s, hence the third person singular. Weary and wary (who wouldn’t be when beset by rebellion?), Harry’s crown weighs heavily upon his royal skull.

No typo then, the use of the plural is expressly intended. I speak of all heads that wear a crown. Let’s start with the Prime Minister and kap. (Aside: The Nationalist Party prefers to use this Italianate term, from capo from the Latin caput, head, as opposed to Labour’s unapologetically semitic mexxej. Much in the same way as they prefer Nazzjonijet Uniti to Labour’s Ġnus Magħquda…a hint of the PN’s unease with ethnic identity?)

But back to business. The June 6 results can’t possibly fail to be a pain in the neck for the honourable gentleman, in whichever of his two institutional positions of responsibility. This holds for anyone who is anyone in the governing party. In fact, I would go as far as saying that this is true for anyone with a modicum of brain who identifies her/himself with the PN.

For the June 6 results are not merely symptoms of a passing malaise but they indicate deep subterranean changes. They confirmed what we had been suspecting for a while, namely, that a growing number of voters no longer recognise themselves in the either/or fundamentalism that has ruled this country for far too long.

You may consider yourself a Nationalist and yet not accept all of the PN’s views as sacred dogma. Likewise, if you feel at home with the Labour Party. More and more citizens that feel they belong to one of the two major parties are ready to disagree with particular policies and statements enunciated by the respective office holders and elected representatives.

But what happens, you will ask, if I am “blue” and discover that I disagree fundamentally with what “blue” stands for? The easy answer is that in this case you are not really “blue” and that, for the sake of moral consistency, you ought to come out in the open about it. The less easy answer is another important question: “What does it mean to be really blue (or really red) after all?”

In my view, a growing number of voters on both sides will increasingly tend to vote, not for “their” party, but for the party that addresses their concerns with greater credibility. This growing category of voters will also increasingly tend to vote for the party that is less fundamentalist in terms of the requirement that members and supporters should adhere to its articles of faith.

For example, a kap who believes that declared gays ought not candidate themselves for Parliament is thereby imposing his prejudices on his party’s members and supporters. Such a kap will tend to become unelectable and a political liability. This is true of any policy based on the moral convictions, tenets of faith or mere prejudices of only a part of the electorate. It is true of any other issue of the same nature, from divorce to cremation. I suggested that we begin by considering the implications of these seismic changes on Lawrence Gonzi because I think that, of the two leaders, he is the less likely to successfully adapt to the emerging political landscape. He belongs to a cultural world that may once have been solid but has now largely melted into air.

If this is the case, then the PN needs to draw the consequences and to reinvent itself. If it is doesn’t, peggio per loro.

What about the PL? Well, Joseph Muscat has so far shown that he has a feel for the changing electorate that is not simply beyond Dr Gonzi’s will but also beyond his comprehension.

This is not a moral issue but a cultural one. I am convinced that Dr Gonzi is a good man but that is not the point. The point is that today’s world requires a correspondingly contemporary world view that he does not have. It is not a question of age. I know far too many persons – on both sides – who are younger than Dr Muscat but even more intellectually out of touch with the world than Dr Gonzi himself. It is a question of culture.

Am I suggesting that a party’s survival depends on promising whatever quantitatively significant market segments signal that they want, according to market surveys? No. Such a party would not “hold together” and would be swept aside by the electorate itself. Dr Muscat is a case in point. He is both the product of ongoing deep changes in our political culture and a conscious agent of this change. 

An easy task? Far from it. Uneasy lie all heads that wear a crown, including that of Opposition Leader. You can’t sleep as you sail uncharted waters.

Mario Vella

You can access the original article in Dr Vella column in the Times of Malta of June 22nd at http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090622/opinion/uneasy-lie-the-heads



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