“Who among us … has wept for the deaths of these brothers and sisters?
Who has wept for the people who were on the boat?
For the young mothers carrying their babies?
For these men who wanted something to support their families?
The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!
(Pope Francis, Liturgy of Forgiveness, Lampedusa, July 8, 2013)
It is eerily disturbing and profoundly shameful that these evocative words of Pope Francis, uttered merely a few hours before the crisis of irregular immigrants on our own shores would so dramatically fall on deaf ears, on blind eyes, on cold hearts in these Islands of ours that for centuries have called themselves “Christian”. The hate speech on social networks and on newspaper comment boards reveals that we are a people who, in losing the ability to be compassionate, to “suffer with” others, also risk losing our humanity.
These signs of moral and cultural decline inevitably raise the question:
Is this the Malta we want to live in? Is this the legacy we want to leave our children?
As a member of the think-tank Converse, throughout 2012 I participated in a series of conversations with fellow citizens from different walks of life where we pondered the same question “What kind of society do we want to live in?” As in these past few hours dark colours of the Maltese “character” have re-emerged, that question is not only more pertinent than ever, but my answer more resolute than ever.
I do not want to live in a society of greed, self-interest and opportunism.
I do not want to live in a society marked by coldness of heart.
I do not want to live in a society that makes a mockery of the “civil”, the “social”, the truly “human”.
Through our words we reveal that we are caught up in a tribalism of fear. We are afraid of the “other”—whoever the other might be… including those marked as “other” in our midst—because we are afraid of our own insignificance. Yet we make ourselves insignificant when we do not recognize that true human grandeur is a matter of character, of dignity, of spirit, not of wealth or vacuous power. True authority comes from one’s soul not from ostentatious displays of (pseudo)dominance. On the contrary, I want to live in a society that is just because its citizens are responsible, and therefore truly heroic because they have the courage to walk in another’s shoes. I want to live in a society that is generous because its citizens are confident in their own skin, in their abilities, in their potential.
I want to live in a society that is truly at peace, because our hearts are rooted in a common quest for what is truly meaningful.
I want to live in a society that re-discovers the art of conversation, of truly “living with”, of “keeping company with”—the only way we can “work with” to build a future for all.
What kind of society do “you” want to live in?