‘Politicians did not represent the populace… they were travelling for private firms. If they represented anything, it was vested interests, vulgar but not even popular.’ – G. K. Chesterton
Among his numerous interventions, Pope Francis seems to like to reflect and comment on the role of politicians, and with good reason. Politicians have a most powerful impact on the common good and the long-term consequences for the welfare of the communities and nations they are expected to serve.
In one interview he said with his customary directness and outspokenness, that a politician has three major responsibilities.
Firstly, he has to declare with utmost clarity what he intends to do once in government. He must present society with an electoral programme that is clear and well thought-out, explaining why he wants to do this or the other.
Secondly, he must be honest in presenting his position.
Thirdly, he must be independent of campaign contributors or, if unavoidable, make clear who is financing his campaign and by what amount. In short, transparency and clarity must be paramount.
One does not need to look afield to realise how pertinent the Pope’s exhortations are.
G.K. Chesterton had an even more scathing comment on the political class, when towards the end of his life in 1935, he said: “I identified political liberty, rightly or wrongly, with representative government. Then came the breach… I became quite convinced of two facts. First, that representative government had ceased to be representative. Second, that Parliament was, in fact, gravely menaced by political corruption.
“Politicians did not represent the populace, even the most noisy and vulgar of the populace. Politicians did not deserve the dignified name of demagogues. They deserved no name except perhaps the name of bagmen; they were travelling for private firms. If they represented anything, it was vested interests, vulgar but not even popular.”
Locally, the Pope’s warnings against political corruption, and Chesterton’s contempt are so visible in the inability of successive governments to safeguard our physical heritage. This is reflected by the irreversible damage inflicted on our environment by the disfiguring urban development that has ruined so much of our architectural heritage and choked off so much of our precious open spaces.
But while the public is constantly being shocked by new underhand deals and highly questionable projects that impact the physical environment, an even more sinister and unrepresentative development is going on.
For some reason best known to itself, this government seems to be hell bent on dismantling our Christian heritage under the banner of being progressive, inclusive and liberal. Without any political mandate whatsoever, the family is being redefined, gender ideology is planned to be imposed on our children, porn shops legalised, vilification of religion decriminalised and now requests for surrogacy and abortion.
We have lost all sense of shame and propriety. The fact that pornography is easily accessible should concentrate the minds of those in power to do their utmost to curtail rather than promote such an evil activity that degrades and ruins the lives of people so ruthlessly exploited in this sordid commerce. Besides, is promoting lust, promiscuity, deviancy and sexual irresponsibility in the interest of our country’s development?
One wonders how vilification of religion is a breakthrough in our emancipation. Offensiveness and hatred do not need official encouragement. If anything, there is already a marked decline of civility and good manners that once were the hallmark of our people.
Worse still, as a member of Life Network, I am particularly irked by the fact that the Embryo Protection Act, fashioned after so much consultation and deliberation to give maximum safeguards to nascent life is being scrapped after a charade of so-called consultations with civil society.
We should be infuriated that we, the people, are treated like goats and that both political parties seem totally indifferent to the traditions and beliefs that have underpinned our country for generations.
Despite the celebrations marking the 450th anniversary of the Great Siege that saved our Christian heritage, and despite popular participation in the festa season, Malta is rapidly losing its Christian identity.
People get the politicians and the governments they deserve. Pope Francis has made it crystal clear that men of good will have to enter the fray and take a stand in the public sphere.
Time will tell whether the Maltese will live up to his appeal and put a stop to this rot.
Klaus Vella Bardon