Monday, March 1, 2010

Extracts from an interview with Jeremy Boissevain in Malta Today*

"...the Maltese view the family as the centre of everything. He describes this extreme family centredness as "amoral familism", a belief that any behaviour is justified if it furthers the interest of the family.
"This can lead to corruption and tax evasion. Such an attitude leaves little sense of loyalty to the community or the state," Prof. Boissevain explains.
Recalling the protests against the proposed Siggiewi cement plant two years ago, Prof. Boissevain says that residents came out against the project because it threatened their health. "They protested purely out of self interest not because of any particular regard for the environment," he claims. "Look at the Hilton project, only a few people had opposed it. The Maltese need egoistic motivations to be moved on environmental issues."
He insists that the country's shabbiness is a consequence of the family-first mentality, which values the house and the family territory above anything else. "People adorn their house and take care of it but show a complete disregard for the outdoors. Public space is viewed as no-man's land," he says."

Is this true? Surely one must take into consideration the lack of well designed public spaces, and the emphasis placed on streets before public spaces in planning. But perhaps that is also a symptom of the above observation that public space is a no-man's land - the planning authority is made of Maltese people too... Perhaps we are caught in one big vicious circle?

The challenge is to give value to public space, and to give a community the same sense of pride in public spaces that a family has in their house.


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