Washing-machines for nothing (and your fridge for free…)

It is one thing, I suppose, to enter politics out of a vocation ‘to serve the public’… but quite another, to end up also doubling up as the ‘go-to, free-of-charge’ household delivery-man, for your entire electoral district

It has been brought to my attention that some of my recent articles have been rather… ‘pessimistic’, to say the least. And having revisited a few of them this morning:  well, what I can I say? Guilty as charged, I suppose…

But then again – as I wrote only last week - 2022 hasn’t exactly got off to a spiffing start, has it? The New Year is barely into its second (out of 52) weeks… and already it has been blighted with disease; blood-stained with rape and murder; drowned out by the usual cacophony of (mostly hate-filled) online commentary….

.. and just when you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse: we all know that there’s also going to be an election in a few weeks’ time. You know: just to turn up all the existing stress, anxiety and political aggression to the very maximum level on the dial (all the way up to 11 on the Spinal Tap amplification scale, in fact…)

Not that I’m in any way superstitious, or anything; but I’m beginning to understand why primitive cultures used to reason that… “The Gods Must Be Angry”. Honestly, there is simply too much unbridled negativity in the air, to be put down to mere coincidence alone.

It is almost as though we have collectively pissed off some all-powerful, all-malevolent ‘Cosmic Force’ or other… I mean, how else can we possibly explain so much misery, being inflicted on so small a nation, in such an incredibly short space of time…?

Ah, but wait… I’m being pessimistic again, aren’t I? So tell you what: it is, after all, the season to be making ‘New Year’s Resolutions’, and all that; and while I don’t normally go in for such nonsense, myself… maybe 2022 isn’t such a bad time to pick up the habit (even for the simple reason that: what on earth could possibly go wrong… that wouldn’t go just as wrong anyway?)

With a superhuman effort, then, I shall banish all negativity from my thoughts; and – as once famously recommended by Eric Idle, in circumstances far worse than ours today – ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ (Da-dum! Da-da-da-da-da-dum!)’

That election I mentioned a second ago, for instance? It’s not all doom and gloom, you know.  Far from it, in fact: why, it just so happens that I needed a new washing machine anyway… (for let’s face it: after 70 years of reliable service, my old Candy deserves to be put out of its misery, once and for all…)

…Oh, and a slightly larger fridge-freezer would come in useful, too: because - in view of the likelihood of all of us getting quarantined, sooner or later - I’ll be needing a heck of a lot more space to stock up on vital provisions…

… speaking of which: I’ll be needing provisions to actually stock up on, too. You know: a ‘hamper’ of this; a ‘hamper’ of that… and while I’m at it, maybe a few dozen packages of toilet-paper, of the kind that they regularly dole out for free (or so I am told, anyway) at all those coffee-mornings…

And hey presto! One minor change in perspective later… and just like that - from one moment, to the next - the otherwise ghastly prospect of yet another election campaign, is suddenly transformed into… ‘A deal. A steal. The sale of the f***ing century…’ (Even if only for bargain-hunters such as myself, who are currently interested in ‘white goods’, and other such domestic appliances and/or services…).

For as Luciano Busuttil very helpfully informed us all this week – and, as a former MP for years, he should know – “Dishing out jobs, making false promises and even handing out free fridges to voters is all fair game in Maltese politics…”

And if that’s not specific enough for you: “he even knows of candidates who resorted to handing out free fridges, cookers and air conditioning units donated by ‘sponsors’ to constituents…”

Actually, wait: no, that’s not ‘specific enough’, by any means. Sorry, Luciano: but you can’t just throw out that kind of detail… without also telling us exactly WHO would be available to provide those services (and, more to the point, which electoral districts they actually deliver to...)

I, for instance, happen to vote on the ninth district, myself. So… do you know of any particular candidate, contesting in the Ta’ Xbiex/Gzira/Msida area, who happens to have a free washing machine – and/or fridge-freezer (I’m not THAT picky, after all) - to deliver to directly my home, free of charge?

Labour, Nationalist… it doesn’t really matter all that much (so long as the washing machine itself comes with a guarantee of at least 20 years: so I won’t have to think about replacing it, before General Elections 2042 at the earliest…)

But in any case: Luciano Busuttil can always message that information to me privately – with all the relevant names and numbers, etc. – at any point before election day. In the meantime, however, we are left to admire the (not-exactly-shocking) revelation that…

… Yup, folks. That’s the way you ‘do it’, in Maltese politics. It’s not just about door-to-door campaigning… or even organising coffee-mornings, for that matter. Oh, no: you’ve also got to… erm… ‘install micro-ovens’… ‘custom kitchen deliveries’… and you’ve got to move those ‘refrigerators’, too… not to mention all those ‘colour TVs’…

And that’s not all: for Busuttil also pointed out that…  “One of the requests that shocked me the most was when someone asked for my help in doing up his bathroom. The person said other candidates had helped him out”.

So… what I can say? Small wonder that long-suffering MPs like Luciano Busuttil would eventually tire of such hard manual labour… and give up politics altogether.

It is one thing, I suppose, to enter politics out of a vocation ‘to serve the public’… but quite another, to end up also doubling up as the ‘go-to, free-of-charge’ household delivery-man, for your entire electoral district. (And it is something else entirely, to end up literally on your hand and knees, doing all your constituents household DIY jobs yourself…. and even then: all for a vote that you may, or may not, even end up getting, in the end…)

No, indeed: under those circumstances, I’d probably end up quitting, too. Which naturally brings me to the flipside of this glorified ‘Trade Fair’ we otherwise call a general election. For let’s face it: if Luciano Busuttil’s experience is anything to go by – and he is certainly not the only politician to have complained about the same situation before - the only option left, to those candidates who may actually disapprove of these tactics, is to either:

a) just play along with the game, like everyone else… or

b) just not contest elections at all.

And what this all ultimately means, in practice, is that… let’s see now: what’s the nicest (or most ‘optimistic’, if you prefer) way I can possibly put this? The only candidates left to actually contest elections, are the ones who DON’T actually object to providing that kind of ‘service’ to begin with… i.e., the ones who see nothing whatsoever wrong, with reducing general elections to the equivalent of an undisguised meat-market, or ‘tele-shopping’ exercise…

… and even then: only those candidates who can actually afford to spend all the money that would be required – presumably, tens of thousands of euros - to provide all those goods and service in the first place (as well as to hire a team of their own specialised delive… I mean, ‘electoral assistants’, to keep the goodies flowing for the full six weeks of the campaign…)

In other words: the only electoral candidates left standing, in all this – i.e., the ones we eventually get the privilege of voting for, every five or so years – are the ones who actually ENJOY playing this whole ‘trading-in-influence’ game (and, even more so: the ones who have become rather good at it, through long years of experience…)

At which point: can anyone genuinely still be surprised, that Maltese politics has been so blatantly reduced to its current, abysmal state…?

But hey! Look what just nearly happened there: I almost broke that New Year’s Resolution of mine… literally just a few seconds after making it!

‘Always look on the bright side’, remember? (Da-dum! Da-da-da-da, da-dum!)’ And from the perspective of all those Maltese constituents, who – like myself – happen to be in need of a few free household appliances, here and there… the same rotten deal also translates, very literally, into: ‘Washing Machines for nothing, and our fridges for free!’

All things considered, then – and you can call be an ‘optimist’, as much as you like - I, for one, can think of a lot more (ahem) ‘dire straits’ to actually be in, than that…