The theme of respect for human life features regularly in local debates about abortion, IVF, euthanasia and other issues that concern either the beginning or the end of human life. Quoting Pope Francis we believe that it is reductive not to widen the topic of respect for human life to include: ‘the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly … the victims of human trafficking’ (GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE)
These words fit aptly the situation we are currently experiencing. Lack of respect for human life is evident in many phenomena like poverty and social exclusion, widespread racism and misogyny, and the incessant devastation of our environment and open and public spaces which are necessary to lead a good quality of life.
The extent to which life is being devalued is concerning with a number of reported homicides and the drive-by shooting on immigrant Lassibe Soulaymane in Hal Far. Another worrying phenomenon is the frequent death of people at their places of work, especially in the construction industry. These seem to indicate failure by those in charge of particular projects as well as by authorities to enforce rules and laws, and to abide by EU-standards concerning safety. Mainstream institutions and individuals who influence public discussion and debate do not seem to be taking coercive action seriously enough. Any lack of respect for human life is being normalized. Apart from that as a society we are not talking enough on the causes of this moral degeneration.
Moral degradation could be the result of so many reasons namely the incipient otherworldly perceived norms that people emulate, sliding social mores, the debasing of values, interests, beliefs and ethics and religious, community and political leaders that leave all wanting, just to name a few. Lifestyle and wellbeing have been rapidly changing since the 90s and we are facing a sea of change that may be related to generational and perceptual changes. Economic wealth seem to have come at a cost in terms of life-style and well-being; the widespread ethos based on the notion of ‘success’, wherein making it exponentially big is the only and ultimate value, no regard is given to the ways in which one achieves success, and the notions of control and restraint are thought to be fundamentally deficient; the fact that this economy and ethos have induced many to consider other human beings as primarily competitors, commodities or mere means to achieve personal glory; the shrinking spaces wherein we live our more and more hectic lives, with the inevitable tension that this causes; the fact that the achievement of inclusion and equality has in many cases been superficial, leading to obliviousness and insensibility towards those individuals or groups who are being de facto marginalized and side-lined, or who simply fail to succeed; the fact that we are implicitly or explicitly wired into conceiving of authority in terms that do not involve respect, obligation and attending; failure by formal and informal education to tackle any of these, or indeed making people implicitly accept these features as obvious or natural characteristics of human life.
We take this opportunity to call for serious reflection on the situation, and invite government, institutions and civil society to make the drastic changes required to make our society more humane and caring to anyone living on our islands. Here, as academics, we are taking a stance that throughout our endeavours we commit ourselves to the preservation of human dignity and promulgation of the democratic ideals and principles of inclusion.
Dr Colin Calleja, Dean elect and Head of Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning, Faculty of Education
Prof. Andrew Azzopardi, Office of the Dean, Faculty for Social Wellbeing