Tag Archives: Politics

Are we the last generations of humans on planet Earth?

Catchy title, no? And no it’s not clickbait – look around you.

In Brazil, huge areas of the Amazon rainforest are burning out of control. The Brazilian president Jair “Captain Chainsaw” Bolsonaro has waited until today to ask the military to step in to assist, when Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research announced that it has detected more than 75,000 wildfires in the Amazon rainforest since January.

And the cause of these wildfires? Possibly farming companies looking to clear land to make a profit. Land that for millennia has acted as the lungs of the planet, absorbing carbon dioxide and generating oxygen – for humanity, not just Brazilians. And it seems to me that it’s Bolsonaro’s influence on politics and culture in Brazil that has empowered these people to feel they can act with impunity – or dare I say it, maybe his government is sponsoring them behind the scenes, as a way of speeding up the deforestation Bolsonaro seems hell-bent on. Were there wildfires in the Amazon on this scale 20 years ago? 50 years ago? There were not.

Slightly further north, in Iceland, scientists have put up a memorial to a glacier that has ceased to exist due to the climate crisis. There’s no doubt whatsoever that human activity is responsible for the change in temperatures that caused this to happen.

And a little further northwest, in Greenland, scientists are finding that coastal glaciers are more affected by deeper, warmer water than previously thought. If the Greenland ice cap were to melt entirely, the world’s sea level would rise by over 24 feet. It’s not hard to imagine what that would do to London, or New York, or Sydney, or Jakarta.

And all the while temperatures rise and in turn humans install more power-hungry air conditioners and contribute further to the temperature change.

And what is humanity doing? Not very much.

In Nepal, proposed construction of a new airport will destroy large areas of forest, including rare animal habitats.

In Malta, construction is out of control due to political corruption and the Maltese islands are rapidly becoming a dustbowl.

In China, construction of new coal power plants continues.

In the US, energy consumption continues to increase and hits a new record almost every year, with 80% still provided by fossil fuels in 2018.

Everywhere, traffic increases as car ownership rises and the transport of commodities increases to support a growing global population.

And in fact out-of-control population growth is another huge factor in the unsustainability of what is being done to the planet. The catholic church is of course one of the biggest causes with their intransigent backward policies on reproductive health, indirectly supported by the USA with their global gag rule.

I don’t think there has been a period in history when more politicians and religious leaders were enabling more damage to the planet than today. And I can’t understand why these people are in power. Is humanity really becoming collectively so stupid that they vote into power people like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Boris Johnson? Is humanity really becoming collectively so selfish that as long as their own personal interests are served, the rest of the world can go fuck itself? Is humanity really so blinkered from reality that they continue to support and fund damaging religious organisations like the catholic church?

If it was possible to graphically represent all the things I’ve been talking about in a graph that measures ‘damage to planet earth’ against time, I’m pretty sure the result would be an upward curve increasing in gradient, not even an upward straight line.

A day is going to come when that curve passes a certain critical point, the oceans rise, crops fail, water supplies dry up and temperatures are too high for humanity to survive. The question is, when will that day be?

I actually think there are people alive today who will see the start of the extinction of humanity.

And people wonder why I get depressed.

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Why does everything have to be so fucking hard?

Malta’s bureaucracy is so out of control that it’s amazing the island hasn’t sunk into the Mediterranean under the weight of all the paper generated by government departments and the money earned by local lawyers.

Since I met my partner six years ago, it seems that there hasn’t been a single day when we’re not chasing down documents or anxiously awaiting news of a government decision about our lives. After a while it gets seriously detrimental to my health, and I don’t think my anxiety levels have been below a 6 out of 10 in the last six years.

My partner is from a non-EU country, whereas I was born in the EU, and in essence, that is the cause of all the difficulties. Just happening to have been born in a particular country affects our lives so much more than it should. We’re all human beings, right? What is the purpose of national boundaries, of passports, of visas, of apostilles, of work permits and restrictions? I’ll tell you. It’s racism, xenophobia and naked greed. It’s one group of people thinking they need to protect themselves and their wealth against another group. It’s one arbitrarily-bordered country deciding to restrict the rights of another. There’s no fundamental reason why the world has to be split into countries. There are enough natural resources for everyone.

And it’s simply egregious that when two people fall in love, they should have to jump through so many legal and bureaucratic hoops just in order to be able to live where they choose.

It started when we first got together. My partner was (informally) separated from her Maltese husband, and that meant she lost the right to stay in Malta, unless she took employment in a ‘reserved occupation’ which basically meant drudge work as a carer for the infirm – not exactly the life we wanted. So our first task was to find a way to legalise her residency based on our relationship instead of her previous one. That took 40 documents from an assortment of sources, 6 months of uncertainty and nearly €2000 in legal fees. We also had to wait until we had been together 2 years, which meant 2 years of not knowing if or when we would have to deal with a government department cottoning on to the situation and deciding she had to be deported. Anxiety score: 8. Luckily bureaucracy tends to breed inefficiency and confusion, especially in Malta, where most of the time the left hand hasn’t a clue what the right hand is doing, and I think we have that to thank as much as anything else, for getting things sorted without deportation.

The next problem we had was that her passport still bore her maiden name, whereas when she married she (unfortunately) took her husband’s surname and her Maltese identity card showed that name. Never change your name, people, we are witness to the hell that can cause. Every time we went abroad, we had to take her marriage certificate with us and run the risk of being denied passage because she was clearly not travelling with the husband whose name was on her identity card.

Could she have changed her name on her passport? Only by travelling to her home country and enduring more bureaucracy by registering her Maltese marriage there. She didn’t want to do that, not least because even early on in the marriage she was already having doubts about the relationship and was fairly sure it wouldn’t last.

In Malta you cannot legally change your name simply by filling in some legal forms like you can in the UK and other civilised countries. No, the only way to legally revert to her maiden name in Malta was either legal separation or divorce. WHY THE FUCK CAN’T MALTA GROW UP AND LET PEOPLE MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS ABOUT THIS STUFF? With legal separation taking 1 year and divorce 4 years, we opted for the former, to try and rectify the situation as soon as possible. That little process ended up with us having to produce another 20 or so documents, and was complicated by the fact that her husband had already moved abroad. In the end it took 10 months and entailed 2 court appearances and over €2000 in lawyers fees. Anxiety score: 9.

Finally, after those two prolonged and stressful processes, we were living together legally in Malta and could travel (subject to visas) without eyebrows being raised at the clash of names on her documentation.

You’d think at that point we’d breathe a sigh of relief and say, enough. Well, we wanted to, but couldn’t. Why? Because we wanted to exercise our human right to get married, that’s why. And marriage allows me to retire with her in her home country in the future.

In my partner’s home country, a nation stifled and held back by religion, divorce is not permitted. End of story. There is simply no divorce allowed. The ONLY exception is when a person of my partner’s country has married a foreigner, and the foreigner divorces them abroad (the foreigner must be the one initiating the divorce).

So my partner couldn’t legally divorce her husband in Malta and expect that divorce to be recognised in her home country. No, it had to be the other way around, otherwise if we ourselves married and travelled to her home country, she would be breaking the bigamy laws and could be arrested. He had to divorce her, which meant reaching out to him, cap in hand so to speak, and hoping that he would agree and do the right thing.

We swallowed our pride and managed to persuade him to divorce her in his adopted country – luckily a civilised, relatively secular country where divorce is easy and not too expensive. In the end it took 5 months and we had to send him about €800 to cover the fees (that was a condition of his co-operation). But at least he is now legally relegated to the status of ex-husband.

End of the story? Not quite. In order for us to marry in Malta, her divorce had to be registered with the Maltese authorities, which meant going back to her former husband and persuading him to request an apostilled copy of the divorce decree and fedex it to us, so that we could hand it in at the Maltese public registry and in return receive a Maltese divorce certificate. Anxiety score: 8.

I tell you, you couldn’t make it up if you tried. It’s like starring in Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil or being stuck inside a Kafka novel.

That brings us pretty much up to the present, where we’ve set a date for the wedding, our relatives have booked their flights, and we need to hand in all the necessary documentation (more visits to notaries with witnesses to get more meaningless rubber stamps). Except, my partner’s apostilled birth certificate, which she handed in for her previous marriage, now needs to be countersigned by her home country’s consulate in Malta ( I WASN’T told about this in advance), and the marriage registry won’t release it into our care, even temporarily, so we have to try and get this done using a photocopy and hope the consul doesn’t turn his nose up at it.

There may be a fallback option, which is to use a web-based service in my partner’s home country that promises to obtain birth certificates and get them authenticated (apostilled) by the government before sending them anywhere in the world by courier. So we’ll probably do that as well in case and I’m currently waiting for a quote from them. But it looks like this process needs us to obtain a special power of attorney (from the consul in Malta) and courier it to them first. More delays, when we have only 4 weeks to get this sorted before our wedding date becomes invalid and our relatives have to start cancelling flights.

Anxiety score: the needle broke.

I’m trying to think of a moral to this sorry tale to round things off, but to be honest there’s no clear message – not a realistic one anyway. But maybe some nuggets of advice, born of painful experience:

Nugget 1: If you marry someone and you’re female, hold on to your maiden name.

Nugget 2: If you aren’t 110% sure of someone, don’t marry them.

Nugget 3: If you need to deal with the Maltese government, get a valium prescription first.

Nugget 4: If you’re an EU citizen and thinking of living in Malta, check out some other places first.

Nugget 5: I’m running out of nuggets. Looking back at all this stress and torment, I honestly don’t see how we could have done anything differently given the circumstances. I’m just really, really angry that marrying someone takes 6 years and over €5000, just because one person has been married before and the two of us come from different countries. It shouldn’t be this way. We should be welcoming each new day of our life together, not approaching it with trepidation, waiting for the next official to tell us we did something wrong and something extra is needed.

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Goodnight Europe

And so the UK has sleep-walked its way into what is probably the worst political, economic and constitutional crisis since crises were invented.

If you voted leave, here’s what you voted for:

  • A devalued pound
  • Devalued pensions
  • Interest rate hike
  • The destruction of the NHS
  • Elimination of European options for work and study
  • Probably no change in immigration
  • More expensive holidays in Europe
  • Less choice of flights into Europe
  • Environmental laws at risk
  • Low roaming cost laws at risk
  • Human rights laws at risk
  • Holiday entitlements at risk
  • The break-up of the UK into its constituent countries
  • Peace between the UK and European nations at risk
  • New limits on cross-border commerce
  • Expat healthcare at risk
  • Likelihood of long term recession
  • The prospect of Wurzel Gummidge Boris Johnson as premier
  • The admiration of far-right extremists and fascists everywhere
  • A weakening of democracy (the EU is more democratic than the UK)
  • Likelihood of higher unemployment

But there must be some good to come out of this, right?



Still thinking…

Nope, can’t think of anything.

Still feeling proud to be British?

I guess one thing we’ve learned from this is that Britain contains at least 17.1 million idiots. And if you voted leave, you’re one of them.

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Freedom of expression in Malta, part 2

The ugly truth about censorship in Malta has been thrown into the spotlight again, as noted by this article from the Times of Malta website:

PBS blacks out politician shoe-hurling satire

The bit that really interested me was not the fact that the TV show described in the article was censored, but the reason why. Here’s a quote from the article:

The Press Act says that whoever uses “defamatory, insulting or disparaging words, acts or gestures” in contempt of the President would be committing a criminal offence liable to a jail term of up to three months or a fine.

There are so many things wrong with laws like this, it’s hard to know where to begin.

First of all, is the president so thin-skinned that we all have to tiptoe around him? Aw, diddums, did the widdle pwesident get his feelings hurt? There there, Mummy will put the nasty man in jail…

Secondly, regimes that seek to prevent public criticism of them (because that’s what’s going on here) are usually only too aware that they have taken, or are likely to take, actions that justify, or at least are likely to cause, such criticism.

Thirdly, as noted in the article by a spokesperson from the Maltese Front Kontra ċ-Ċensura (Front Against Censorship), preventing freedom of expression in the form of political satire is actually unhealthy in a modern democracy, as it stops people from challenging sacred cows and the cult of personality (which is very strong in Malta).

Fourthly, a regime that prevents criticism of its president would probably be less hesitant to prevent all criticism of itself and its policies – the first step has been taken, after all. After that it’s a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: freedom of expression must be absolute in order to be safeguarded without erosion.

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