This will most likely be one of my more timid blog entries, largely due to the fact that most of my anger has been dissipated whilst writing a complaint to Arriva. A complaint regarding my 72 Euro savers card that only had a two day lifespan. What antagonised my problem was the bus drivers (two different bus drivers on two different buses) Ponctius Pilate , hands in the air and dusting off the problem, attitude towards the situation. It wasn’t helpful. Additional to this, I had previously missed two other buses by just a few seconds, this was my own fault though as I had been moving between bus stops in an attempt to catch them. Instead I had either moved to the wrong stop or just hadn’t gotten to the stop in time. At any rate the entire bus episode left a bitter taste in my mouth and I just need to spit it out.
Whilst Arriva haven’t technically stolen my money [yet] there are other people who have. This kind of experience ranges from shop keepers and grocers who charge fictitious prices – often referred to and legitimised under the classification of “tourist prices” but always and everytime correctly categorically termed “theft” – to bus drivers who don’t give change because they forget immediately, even comically, how much change you gave them. Incredible as it is, the existence of such characters persists and they are real as the pixels that form these words.
Whilst in many cases it is impossible to check the prices of things, where it is possible to take a receipt one should take one. Count the number of items on the receipt against the number you have in your shopping bag, check the totals and the gross title for consistency. If its not on the receipt don’t pay it. Obviously, though when buying bread, cheese, or vegetables from the back of a car you can’t check the prices. In which case you can only apply comparative logic to your purchases. If it sounds like too much then it probably is, don’t buy it, it is ok to change your mind.
Unfortunately Malta adopts this strange mentality that suggests that it is ok to be xenophobic and it is ok to treat “tourists” or the “non-Maltese” to different standards. Of course this is unacceptable but, as with many social standards, Malta is notably behind the moral’s and ethics of many other countries in the EU. Equally as with other developing EU countries the presence of religion within what seems to be state law creates bizarre situations where the law acts to oppress the rights of the individual to free speech or expression. These little nooks in the law system are illogical at best but they impact the way that people will act greatly and of course this appears within the stories that the Maltese might tell you. For example, a few years ago the council funded a group of Spanish street performers to perform in Valletta. The performance period was littered with incidents wherein performers were arrested by the police for appearing as a public nuisance. Whilst this isn’t anything to do with religion, it does say something about conservatism and what constitutes social etiquette.
The double standards that seem to be prevalent in Maltese society are only comparable to experiences that I have from the Istanbuli markets and street sellers. But such a comparison is dangerous and would likely offend the arrogant pride of the islanders here because, of course, Turkey (and perhaps much of the “Eastern” world) is below them.
There is one more experience that I wished to share with you. On the 12th of January I needed to go shopping and in particular I wanted onions. There is a place in Valletta called Ta Jimmy’s and I have shopped there once before. That first time the shopping list demanded dried beans. Because I am new to Valletta I haven’t committed myself to shopping at any one place, instead I spread my shopping around to create more educational excursions. Now I have to make it clear that the attitude expressed here isn’t universal despite what I have all ready said, to some extent I am being very judgemental, and it is not the precedent attitude either. However it is common enough to be of significance and to be overtly noticeable in everyday society.
I followed a black woman into the shop and as it is such a narrow shop there was no way to move past her. As we entered the shop keeper came and and with the words “out, please, go out please,” and a pointed wave of his hand, he ushered the woman out. Consequent to this, I too was ushered out. Of course she couldn’t shop here. What struck me most was the curious tone of the shopkeeper’s voice, it were as if the human being he was addressing were an animal, a dog. Directed to a human being I don’t think I have ever heard such a tone used like this.
The shopkeeper’s ignorance and xenophobia is saddening and such racism should be socially intolerable. I don’t mean to be setting an example, I can’t wish harm physically or economically upon him, but of course he leaves me no choice but to boycott his shop.
Apart from all of this, things go on and I suppose that I have to appreciate the fact that my own Maltese friends are increasingly akin to rare jewels for the way that they act and think. For a penultimate sentence these words are quite soppy however I don’t intend for them to be retracted.