By force of habit

In “The Republic,” Plato proposed the analogy of the human soul and the State. He held that the State should be a reflection of the soul – and its final and primary aim was the attainment of the virtue of justice.

Last Monday’s events speak volumes on the soul of our State. And on the state of our soul.

Before proceeding further, I should like to clarify what I intend to put down in writing. This is no war-cry call to arms – be it the weapon of words, or otherwise. This is neither a eulogy for a voice violently silenced. Rather, this is a rude awakening, a moment of lucidity as the anesthesia of indifference releases it grasp, if only momentarily.

It’s very easy, when faced with this sheer act of violence – at once senseless and yet full of meaning – to quiet our conscience by lighting a candle, or changing our profile picture, or quoting some distant author. To do just this would be to waste away Daphne Caruana Galizia’s memory and all that she stood for, belittling and banalising an occasion that calls for a greater, nobler, course of action.

As I write, the Gospel reading for today recounts Jesus’ harsh rebuke to the Pharisees – the authority of the time – regarding their hypocrisy. “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil.” (Lk 11:39)

Is this rebuke still valid to us? Last Monday’s events have broken through and shattered the fragile facade that covered our society and brought to light what we ‘are filled with inside.’ Only the obstinate will fail to realise this. The State – and here I do not refer solely to our governing institutions, be they executive, judicial or legislative, but rather to each person as a member of the State – has much more to strive for in its mission to serve the common good in justice.

Aristotle would speak of virtues as being acquired by habit (habitus). Justice, then, should not be expected to come down from above – from our governing institutions – but from within, from us. If we truly seek to be the change we want to see, we must begin now. The time for passing over this duty to some higher institution has led us to the situation we now find ourselves in.

We do not need a rewriting of laws, nor a new Constitution. What we need is to purify the soul of this nation. No law can achieve this. It is we who must act justly. We must courageously begin to seek out real justice – that justice which gives everyone his due, which has fairness and equity as its foundation. We must exercise justice, and demand it of others.

We should stop waiting for a hero. We are the hero our country needs.

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