Perhaps some of you might know the biblical story of the adoration of the golden calf, but for those who do not, I will give you a short summary of it.
Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mt. Sinai and leaves the Israelites for forty days. In the meantime the Israelites feared he wouldn’t return and made an idol of a calf made of melted gold, they declared it to be their new god and worshipped it.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and we are in a not so different situation than the Israelites were, with the only difference being that our golden calf is the neoliberal ideology, which has become our de facto state-sponsored religion.
Malta, a traditionally Catholic nation, was brought up to believe that there was no salvation outside the Church; you will find sublime Baroque churches all over the country, churches which are so dear to us Maltese. In place of Catholicism today we have the market, which has become our version of the biblical golden calf. Without the market, there is no salvation. Instead of spiritual sacrifices today people make economic sacrifices for the glory of the market, and instead of beautifully constructed churches, we have cathedrals of concrete being erected at an astonishing rate. Simply put, economic growth has taken the place of God and the holy city has become the city that is most cosmopolitan and has the most skyscrapers. Whereas Christianity teaches restraint from material goods dominating your life, the neoliberal religion tells you to do the utmost to satisfy your material needs for pleasure whilst dumping your soul in the nearest bin.
The nation-state as we know it is not compatible with the neoliberal golden calf, as borders would have to be dissolved as they are now. We constantly hear politicians preach to us how important population growth is as it is imperative for the economy to grow. In 10 years since 2010, Malta`s population has grown by almost a staggering 100,000 and is just 7,000 digits away from reaching the half a million mark. The heretics of our days are those people who complain about uncontrolled immigration and stand up for the defence of our national values and local workers, they are made fun of and cast aside, and labelled primitive racists at best. All this is done with the blessing of the high priests of neoliberalism which we elect every 5 years.
The cultural and moral objectives of neoliberalism are no different to those of the old Eastern bloc communist regimes, that is a mistrust of private life and a dislike of a lasting marriage, promotion of easy divorce and abortion. This brings to mind a statue of Pavlik Morozov, a 13-year-old soviet child who betrayed his parents` values to those of the state and actually turned his own father into the secret police. Children at the time were taught to worship Pavlik as an inspiration. It is fashionable today for youths to abandon the values endowed to them by their parents, and replace them with the values (or lack thereof) promoted by the state, although this time it is more subtle than the way the old Soviet system did it, which is what makes it more dangerous.
Pardon me for forgetting to give you the ending of the story of the golden calf, basically, it ends with Moses burning the idol in a fire, grounding it to powder, scattering it on water, and forcing the Israelites to drink it. Everything flows from what you worship, and what the highest value in life is. In our case, the highest value has become the neoliberal golden calf.
Written by: Jake Muscat
(This article was originally posted on civilsocietymt.com)