A Writer’s Satisfaction

I must admit, researching and writing interviews is not my favorite form of writing. Of course, I do love the opportunity to meet new people and discover different modes of expression, not to mention taking part in the artistic local scene, since most of the interviews I conduct usually center around either artists or cultural events. However, some part of me still feels that this is not the sort of writing I’m meant to focus on.

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Still, it brings me great pleasure to see how my interviews are so very well-received.

My two latest interviews were totally different in nature. Both resulted in quite different, yet very pleasant results. The first such article, published on The Sunday Times of Malta, which is a leading weekly local newspaper, centered around a Japanese Cultural event in Malta and included an interview with the Secretary General of the Japanese Association. As a result of it being published, the Ambassador of Japan to Malta contacted me personally, asking for a soft copy of the article, in order for it to be shared and distributed among various Japanese cultural associations, as its fervor would further promote the communication between our two countries. I was really flattered about this! Imagine Japanese organisations, Ministries, and many other people in Japan will be reading my article! 

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The other interview which was published a couple of days ago concerns a local painter and was published on EVE magazine. The artist in question is not very well known, yet he was so pleased with the interview that he left the following comment on EVE’s website, which I really appreciate:

‘I’d like to thank Melisande Aquilina, for this fantastic article about my love towards art. She has done a really excellent job. I feel tremendously grateful towards her talent as a writer. Melisande is giving a great contribution towards persons like me, whose work is hardly known. This is a great day for me, thanks to you Melisande.’

Thank YOU!

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The article in question can be found here – http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/12/04/benny-brimmer-painting-in-light-and-shadow/

The interview which was published on The Sunday Times is unfortunately not available online as a whole.

Things like these are what really make my day!

 

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The World’s perception of Malta

Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of posts on social media criticizing and denigrating tourists and ‘outsiders’ who comment negatively about something which they didn’t like during their visit to Malta. The comments by foreigners are actually nothing we haven’t all heard before from the Maltese themselves. However, while it seems to be okay for the natives to criticize or attack an issue within their borders, it seems to be taboo for outsiders to give their two cents.

How dare a non-Maltese person complain about congested traffic! How dare someone who doesn’t live here write about our fast diminishing countryside! How dare such people talk about the well-apparent littering present on our shores, the obnoxious parkers, or the over-priced food?

Suddenly, it’s like we’ve never heard anyone complain about these issues before. Every Maltese and Gozitan person within shouting distance of a computer rolls up his sleeves, gets out his broken English and even more hideous Maltese orthographic skills, and starts haranguing said tourist to hell and back. Because if you don’t like it here, morru lura min fejn ġejtu (go back where you came from).

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Taking the optimistic approach, it’s somewhat quaint to see how the Maltese mentality works. Jien ngħid li rrid fuq pajjiżi (I’ll say what I like about my country), but as soon as an outsider opens his mouth, we all chum up against him, because our islands are perfect, and no Brit, Italian, American, or Korean tourist has the right to state his opinion, if that opinion is expressing negativity about Malta. And God forbid if the person is of a darker complexion!

Of course, every country has its troubles and nowhere is perfect. However, that doesn’t mean that one can’t express an opinion or point any fingers towards anyone else… does it?

Curious about this state of affairs, I actually surfed the net, read blogs and reviews from tourists, students and even business people who came to Malta. There were both positive and negative comments. I was actually proud to see how many people loved our countryside, our helpful attitude, and our own individuality as a country. On the other hand, I felt kind of ashamed at other issues which came to light. After all, no one can really and truly perceive inconsistencies and flaws more than someone whose perspective isn’t coloured by their love, history, and patriotic feelings towards their country.

Here are some points I noticed which many blogs and comments about the islands had in common:

Tourists love our food – Our special combination of Italian cuisine, meaty recipes and traditional concoctions, not to mention our very fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, are a total hit.

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The sun and heat are terrible – Most people are acclimatised to colder climates than our own, which is why almost all of them feel that they can’t cope with the hot weather on a permanent basis. Honestly, I can’t say I blame them. But Ħeq… x’tagħmel, hux? (What can you do, eh?)

The littering – Most tourists, and especially students, love to enjoy our beautiful beaches. Keeping in mind that most of them live on huge (sometimes landlocked) land masses, this is not surprising. So the amount of littering and the relatively dispassionate and unappreciativelaissez-faire attitude of plenty of locals naturally astounds them. Having seen many such instances myself time and time again, this kind of attitude really gets to me. It’s all very well and good for the authorities to promote cleanliness and environment awareness, but if we, as a people, do not change our attitude, these kind of bad habits will never change either.

Smoking – Malta was the second country within the European Union to introduce the smoking ban. But is this regulation actually enforced? Now be honest, how many pubs, clubs and restaurants have you been to where many people don’t bother going out to smoke and do it right there anyways? Hmm…

Safe Streets – Compared to other countries, Malta is a very safe place. There are minimal levels of crime, and most of these tend to be petty and/or relate to personal issues. That being said, I don’t know if it’s my impression or not, but things seem to be getting pretty heated in Paceville. Previously, many tourists and students used to visit Malta for the nightlife, however in many blogs I’ve perused, these same tourists are now warning people off Paceville, saying that it’s a rowdy place where young aggressive teenagers congregate to get drunk. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of Paceville nights and there’s nothing wrong with having a drink with friends. The rub however is that certain PV-people (let’s call them that) seem to believe that every foreigner is fair game, and won’t take no for an answer, even when said foreigner is accompanied by a partner. The high rise of many Gentlemen’s Clubs isn’t helping the ambience of the place either.

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I chose to mention these five points in particular, but there are many more issues, both good and bad, highlighted in travel blogs and comments about the Maltese Islands. As already said, no country is perfect, and these issues definitely exist in other places too. However as a Maltese native, it is my country which interests me and which I want to shine, which is why I don’t like reading negative comments – both by locals and non-residents – about Malta. Most of all, I hate the fact that these comments are based on truth. So, instead of going into a tirade against these foreigners who criticize our island, wouldn’t it be better to actually do something to improve our standards instead?

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This article of mine was published on EVE.COM at http://www.eve.com.mt/2016/09/27/the-worlds-perception-of-malta/ 

Eating my own Words!!

So, last January (on the 19th to be precise) I wrote a blog post on this page reiterating again and again that I would never, ever publish my own FB page on online media. Obviously, I ate my own words this week, since my professional freelance writing FB page went up yesterday. lol

You can find it here btw, if you want to like and follow – https://www.facebook.com/MelisandeMoonsong1/

Be my guest haha.

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Whatever. No one’s infallible.

Thing is, I was browsing along a couple of Freelance-promoting websites, and they all said the same thing – if you want to promote yourself and your writing acumen, you’ve got to have an online portfolio. 

This spate of interest on my part came after the CEO of a particular new local Maltese publishing company contacted me through (surprise, surprise) Facebook, and asked to see my blog. Yes THIS blog. Which, to say the least, is hardly professional, since I mainly use it to vent my own personal idiosyncratic irritations. And then it hit me – apart from my actual work, these poor people looking for a language-wise writer have no means of actually finding said gem. Unless of course, s/he is pointed out to them by ‘common friends’, or the like. 

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Thing is, I had never actually thought of freelance writing as a ‘career’. Not consciously at least. It just… well, happened. I like to write. Some people knew that and contacted me asking for a sample. They liked it, and were willing to pay for more. Time passed, and more people read my stuff and liked it. They contacted me, wanted a sample… and bla bla, there you have it! I never really set out to actually earn MONEY from it, if you know what I mean, but now that I’m on this cruise, which I actually like and enjoy, I may as well learn how to steer the boat, right?

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My primary job, as well as mode of income, is still my day-time qualified job. However earning that something extra by doing something which I enjoy doing, is of course, awesome.

As a side-note, I’ve learnt that this type of freelance writer is called a ‘Moonlighter’. A ‘Moonlighter’ is ‘ a professional with a primary, traditional job who also moonlights doing freelance work. For example, a corporate- employed web developer who also does projects for non-profits in the evening.’ Neat right?

Got that from THIS website btw – https://benrmatthews.com/definition-freelancing-changed-meet-new-5-types-freelancers/

Anyways, I’m going to paste this again JUST IN CASE you did not bother to click and visit the page the first time round. THIS IS MY OWN PAGE – PLEASE FOLLOW! https://www.facebook.com/MelisandeMoonsong1/

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Cheers!!

 

Facebook ‘Pages’ – Do you have this Virus?

There is currently a trend of everyone to create their own ‘Facebook page’ lately. Facebook pages are usually a way for artists or businessmen to market either their talent or their products. Restaurants have Facebook pages, as do shops and designers. Painters, singers, writers and dancers have pages. Many people, from VIPs to actual nobodies (who nonetheless wish they were ‘popular’ apparently) are all the time sending an ‘invitation’ for ‘likes’ to all and sundry, as though the more ‘likes’ you had from the people out there, the more you valued yourself.

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Well, I am a published writer. I write for a local magazine, a local newspaper, and a Russian historical website, and even though (unfortunately) writing is not my main job, it is a very special part of my life. Writing has always been my passion and I always wanted to become a writer of books. For now, I have merely contented myself with selling articles freelance, but the best is yet to come ;p

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Anyways, some time ago a friend asked me how come I did not have a Facebook page, when even people who did not provide any product, information, or service had one, merely to appear ‘hip’.

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I provided a product and could market my talent through my Facebook page – so why didn’t I create one? Simple – I DON’T WANT TO!

Personally as a writer and as an individual, I feel that I have many facets to my personality. One or another of these facets may appear in one article or the other, or they may not. The point is that I am not just that. I am not just a writer who writes articles about relationships. I am not just a writer who writes about historical castles and battles. I am not just a world-traveller with a travelling features column on a weekly newspaper. I do not want to be defined by these things because I am much more than that. Also, I put too much stuff about me online as it is!

Don’t get me wrong – I like posting pictures on Instagram, comments on Facebook and (sometimes) an extra informal article, like this one, on a blog, HOWEVER I feel that there are also hidden depths to my consciousness which are impossible to define, and therefore ‘collecting’ all of me on a ‘page’ is not possible and makes me feel uncomfortable. Kind of like giving presents to one’s stalker. (And believe me I’ve had stalkers in the past and I know what I’m talking about).

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So, no i DO NOT, and will never have a ‘Facebook page’. That is, unless I publish a gazillion books and my manager and PR decide to upload one for my fans… but that’s another story ;-p

 

The National Book Fair Sucks… sorry. This is my opinion.

People I hardly know tag me on book-related stuff on Facebook (and I love it). Friends have ceased to ask me why I always have books in my handbag. People who hardly know me identify me because unless I’m talking to someone, there’s always an open book in front of me.

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Let’s face it, everyone knows that I’m a Book-addict/Bookaholic/Bibliophile/Nerd/Bookworm/etc. I think books, breathe books and live in books in my mind most of the time. For me, the characters I’m reading about at that moment in time are more real than ‘real life’, and even though I try to rein it in to ‘appear like a normal human being’ on the surface, it just seeps through.

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So, I’m guessing with the opening of the National Malta Book Fair this afternoon, I am ‘expected’ to go into an orgiastic frenzy and tear everything in my path until I’m standing right there buying everything in sight. I admit, that was the case once. But unfortunately, things change.

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I’m going to come out and say it, and I don’t care who takes offence, because it is my right as a person to say what I think. THIS YEAR I AM NOT GOING TO THE BOOKFAIR BECAUSE IT SUCKS!

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It wasn’t always like this. Up until around four/five years ago, it was great. One of the most anticipated weeks of the year (for me), but all that slowly ground to a halt as I realised that the fair was becoming more and more crappy each year. What happened?

Well, first of all people go to a fair to find bargains. It’s the truth. We rush there hoping we’ll ‘find’ something we couldn’t normally purchase, or that we find something cheaper than usual, which is why we’d be especially waiting for the fair to buy it. In the past, this applied to the bookfair as there were many bargains depending on the different stalls. Many of them offered a ‘buy two books, get one free’ deal, while others offered paperbacks for very cheap and worthwhile prices.

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Nowadays, the prices are the same as those found within regular stores, and sometimes more expensive than the prices of books bought online – so in that case, why bother?

In relation to the books themselves, I used to go ‘hunting’ for books which one does not normally find in stores too. Like old editions of fairytales for example, or novels written by obscure authors I had never heard of, but which were brilliant nonetheless. Today this is no longer possible, simply because ADULT NOVELS in ENGLISH are only a very small portion of the books on offer during the fair. This is because the fair has mostly become a publicity stunt to show how our society is trying to promote reading for children. This is not a mistake at all per se, as it is obviously important for the powers that be to provide opportunities for new readers, however the bad thing is that by doing so, they are NEGLECTING already developed readers. By focusing only on children’s books, the bookfair is neglecting adults who like to read!!

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Another thing is the overly obvious promotion of books in the Maltese language. Personally I do not like to read in Maltese, preferring English as this complements my state of mind more. This does not mean that other people don’t love to read in Maltese, obviously. I also understand the importance of promoting and creating opportunities for writers of Maltese, as well as books about Malta, to take a prominent role within the National BookFair. It is a matter of course. What I DO NOT get is why lately, the bookfair is offering only:

  1. Books for children
  2. Novels and other books in Maltese
  3. Historical books about Malta

WHERE are the novels/books in the English language for adults??

I don’t mean to say there aren’t any, but there are VERY FEW on offer, and these are quite mainstream and found in shops all year round, not to mention online. So, why on earth should I need to go to the bookfair to get a hold of them?

Considering that in Malta, both the Maltese and the English language are ‘official languages’, one should be as important as the other!

Last year, I asked the relevant Facebook page pertaining to the bookfair whether there would be a good assortment of literature in English. The answer I got was that there would be books in English, just as there would be books in Italian and French. For shame! English is one of the two official languages of Malta, why is it being relegated to a ‘third language’ status?
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I’m sure many will not agree with me and that is not a problem. However, these are the reasons why I personally, will not be going to the National Bookfair this year. I simply know I will not find anything that will interest me there. As I didn’t find anything (except boredom and wasted time that is) last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. Thank you very much for nothing, I will continue buying my non-mainstream and new, yet inexpensive books online.

End of rant. You may like to start kindling your fires and sharpening your pitchforks now.

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Sacked for a Facebook Status!

Is it fair to be sacked for a status one posts on his personal Facebook account? What if this status hurts someone? What if this person works in local media? Then again, where is freedom of speech? Or is it all just a political game?

Here are the facts:

Last Sunday, many people attended a local charity motor show. During this event, unfortunately, a speeding Porshe (this was part of the show) lost control (let’s not go into why, I’m not a car expert) and ended up injuring 26 people, 5 of whom in a life-threatening critical way. This caused an uproar as many of the families, friends and acquaintances of those injured were obviously concerned. In a small country like ours, cases like this are quite rare, and touch everybody. Everyone was worried, however help was close and the Malta Police Force as well as Health Force, coordinated a manoeuvre which caused the injured people to be cared for quickly. Roads were closed as needed and Maltese media gave updates of the situation as they took place.

Now here’s the issue – one particular person, to be precise, a DJ who works for a radio station belonging to one of the two major political parties in Malta, in his usual satirical way, posted a couple of Facebook statuses about the accident. The statuses were not, as such, particularly violent, they did not accuse anybody or point at anyone, however personally I feel that, so close to the fact and with people still hurt and in danger of their lives – they were superfluous. More than that, they were hurtful to the families of those fighting for their lives, and those who had been at the event and had been frightened, as the huge vehicle speeded up and crashed into the crowd next to them. Satire and sarcasm are all well and good HOWEVER one must also be careful where and when to say certain stuff. When in doubt, better keep silent instead of blabbering to all and sundry.

That being said, there was an uproar. This person was lynched, sent hate messages, and blatantly shredded to pieces by everybody. And that was ‘fine’, since, let’s face it, he made a mistake.

Then he was sacked.

And I’m still not sure why. The reason would seem pretty straight forward, but is it? Here are some issues which should be taken into account:

  1. The Political Aspect – keep in mind that in Malta, almost everything has a political aspect. Or, let us say that many people give a political aspect to everything. Be that as it may, in this case the DJ in question worked at the major radio station held by a specific political party. Since in Malta most people can’t seem to differentiate between a private individual and his opinions, and a political party and it’s opinions, equating the opinions of one to the other, many people seemed ready and happy to point fingers and say that since this guy was deriding hurt people, his party was insensitive. Which is why his political party, in a bid to disassociate itself from the guy, promptly sacked him – maintaining that they were shocked at his behavior and lack of values and that they themselves thought nothing of the kind since they were good Christians and people and respected other people’s sorrow… yada yada yada So, in other words, he was sacked because of politics… or was he?
  2. The Media Aspect – one must remember that it is quite one thing to say something as an individual, and another to say something as a member of the media. The guy in question has, it is known, a kind of ‘image’ as a sarcastic and sharp critic of society, therefore I assume he wanted to shock and attention-seek, which is why he posted said statuses. This was a mistake. Particularly so close to the event. If he had, perhaps, waited a couple of months and slowly introduced the idea, coupling it to the lack of security at the event, that would have been one thing. However, when one works in the media industry one must be doubly and triply aware of how one places words, since that person would be not just speaking for himself, but representing his radio station too.

slide13. The Freedom of Speech Aspect – And here we have it – here is the crux of the argument – WHERE OH WHERE IS FREEDOM OF SPEECH? Yes this guy was an insensitive ass. He spoke without thinking about an issue which is very delicate and deserves respect. BUT isn’t that what Freedom of Speech is all about? Don’t people have the right to say and write what they think? Keep in mind that Malta is a country where censoring movies and theater productions is the order of the day, not to mention lyrics within popular events like the Gozo Carnival (I remember when around five years ago, a number of songs were scratched out from the programme because of the lyrics), as well as Carnival costumes. So, it seems that as a country we still have yet to define that elusive line between freedom of speech and, well, shall I call it dictatorship? Censorship? Or respect? Hmm. In this case, where is one to draw that line?

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Again, I do not condone what he said in any way and that is not the issue I am writing about.

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Point is, was this guy sacked because of politics, because of media-related reasons, or just because his opinion and mode of expression was not a ‘conventional’ one and one shared by others? And by the way, these were just Facebook statuses posted on his personal space for Pete’s sake – why all the fuss?

Me – Invited as a Guest Speaker on a local Radio Program!

Yes! That is the surprise news of the day! Are you astonished? Me too!!

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This morning I received a private message from a local radio producer on Facebook. Apparently, he read some of my articles and liked the material, so he invited me as a guest speaker for his radio program this week. The one-hour long talk will be presided over by a presenter and various members of a panel, including a psychologist, a gynie, and various professionals… oh and me!

Thank all the gods, existent and non, that it is a radio program and not a T.V one. I guess if it were, I’d just decline as I’m too shy. As it is, I’m taking part, even though I kind of feel out of place since I’ve never done this kind of thing before. However I also feel flattered and pleased that someone like that wants to hear my opinion on the subject.

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Ah right – the subject. Well, I am NOT going to tell the world WHEN this program will air, nor on which local radio station. This is because the subject is sex – well an aspect of it, and I don’t think I want my work collegues, or my family, to come across me talking about this, as I do not feel comfortable with specifying facts. I have only told my partner and another couple of people, and I hope they will keep it to themselves. I may share more of the experience after the deed is done, since the whole thing will not be available online or even on request, however we shall see how it goes.

Another thing – the program will be aired LIVE. So wish me luck! I really hope I don’t stutter or anything. It WILL be a fun new experience though and I am really excited about it.

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I am aiming at giving generalised comments and not going into any personal details, but in the heat of the discussion… well, who knows?

So, fingers crossed and wish me luck!!

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The Times of Malta vs the Rise of my STRESS levels!

When I was younger, I used to love perusing the magazines which came with one of Malta’s most popular newspapers – The Times of Malta, not to mention the daily comic. As I grew up, I discovered the online website, which presents all current articles in an easy-to-access, friendly structure.

And there, began the trouble.

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The issue as such did not stem from my reading current affairs (although that in itself is enough to turn anyone’s hair white), but in reading the many IGNORANT, NARROW-MINDED and HYPOCRITICAL comments spouted by most of those who, having nothing better to do with their days, spend an inexplicable amount of time not just commenting on each article, but actually bickering and fighting amongst themselves. These people don’t even know each other – most of them use, in fact, a nom de plume, and yet, the same ‘names’ continue cropping up again and again, often voicing not just opinions pertaining to the article itself, but always steering the conversation towards political themes, religious fanaticism, or even personal name-calling.

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Faced with this HUGE evidence of my own country’s stupidity, each time I read an article, I promise myself to NOT EVEN PEEK at the darn comments… since I’m aware that if I do so, I will inevitably start to fume at the ears, not due the fact that I would have a different opinion (everyone is entitled to their own views after all), but because the blatant shortsighted, senseless, and most of the time irrelevant tosh thrown pell-mell all over the place by such ludicrous and mindless individuals, just makes me want to vomit. I don’t know why I sweat it so much, I mean it won’t make any difference to me personally that Cikku tal-pastizzi is a misogynistic asshole, or that Doris tal-haxix is just a bitchy twerp waiting for an excuse to roll her eyes at everyone. I should be resigned to the hopeless fact that unfortunately, most Maltese village-idiots, not to mention wanna-be posh bullshitters, are just like that.

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Except that apparently, no matter how my brain signals to little opinionated me that that is the case, I still hear my unadultarated voice shriek in indignant rage whenever I’m faced with such insurmountable obtuseness.

Because that is the worst I think – not that someone is stupid… after all everyone can learn, but that they DO NOT WANT TO. Most people, if told by their grandmother that the earth is flat, that washing their hair with egg-yolk makes it shinier, and that anyone who doesn’t go to mass three times a week is evil, just take all this clap-trap at face value without ever questioning or even being interested in thinking of the ‘why’.

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Here is an obvious example http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150317/local/mum-who-left-baby-in-car-to-be-charged.560248

This article concerns a woman who left her baby unattended in her car. We have all heard stories of how awful and detrimental this can be to a small child’s health, particularly in hot countries like Malta and Italy. Anyone who leaves their child, or a pet, unattended in such conditions is guilty of massive negligence, and we all agree on that. HOWEVER, just look at those comments! To quote:

‘Unbelievable ! – But as the saying goes … You can take the woman out of Africa, but you can’t take Africa out of the woman.’

‘You can’t take the jungle out of certain people.’

‘single mother huh?’

SERIOUSLY? So you think that just because the person is colored, is not Maltese, and is a single mother, she obviously does not know any better? What about all such other cases which happened in Italy, Britain, and many other countries? Were they all single mothers? OF COURSE NOT! That has nothing to do with it!

Meh… talk about labeling and racial intolerance!!

Now tell me again… how on earth can I keep my stress-levels in check after reading such bs??

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