A civilized country

Joseph F.X Zahra's blog on Newsbook

A photograph in the letters’ page ofThe Sunday Times of Malta caught my attention. The picture shows cyclists including a child accompanying her mother cycling on what could easily be Tower road in Sliema with the title “How the Sliema front might have looked if it was another country such as France.” What comes to mind is a peaceful country with roads well kept, embellished with trees and well maintained road signs and with car drivers safely driving next to cyclists. It is a picture of a civilised country.

Malta has been through a history of ups and downs, of significant heroism during the last World War which united citizens in respect and understanding, to a time of nationalist aspirations and prosperity in the sixties followed by a long period of anxiety and ill-ease in the nineteen seventies and eighties as the country experimented with nationalisation, socialism and political struggle. But even after a long period of peace, prosperity and economic growth and diversification, with low unemployment and social cohesion, the country still suffers from incivility in attitude and behaviour. We could have thought that it is so easy to govern a country of 316 square kilometres and with less than half a million people, but human nature and its vices seem to get the upper hand as the nation continues its search of identity.

You recognise a civilised nation from the way citizens speak and behave. From their respect of their history and its arts, from the way people eat and what they read. A civilised country is recognized from the people’s driving habits, from the way they spend their free time, from the way they keep their homes. You can measure a civilised country from how big their libraries are at home, from the quality of the books on their bookshelves, from the paintings that are hung on the wall. You recognise a civilized country from the architecture of its citizens’ homes, from the conversations between friends during lunch or dinner together. You recognise a civilised country from the attendance at theatres and exhibitions, from the number of visits to museums and parks. You recognise a civilized country from what its citizens do when travelling abroad on holiday. You recognize a civilized country when sleaze and corruption is abhorred by the population in general, and the justice system is never interrupted.  You recognize a civilized country from the respect that people have towards each other even if they are visitors irrespective of their race and religion. You recognize a civilized nation from the high participation of citizens in civil life, and from the quality of debate in parliament, from civilized dialogue between rival parties, and people’s trust in the nation’s justice system.

All this is a reflection of the values that bind this society together.

We can only blame our education system and the standards in the national media if we do not tick all the boxes in the check-list for a civilised country as described above.

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