MALTA, FIREWORKS & PROTECTING LIFE

I must say that I have waited a few days to write this blog. I thought it would be respectful to let the dust settle and have a good think about things. Over the weekend, here in Malta, it happened again. Another explosion at a fireworks factory resulting in another tragic loss of life. So, so, very sad. First of all our thoughts must go out to the family of the deceased and all those affected by this tragedy.

Getting on to my reason for writing this article. There have been several incidents of a similar nature which have occurred over the past years. In fact there is a pretty long list of such incidents. Fireworks, here in Malta, is a big thing. I understand that. It is a traditional part of each villages feast, and it has symbolic religious meaning. All this, I get.

However, when does the balance between respecting local tradition and needless loss of life reach a point when we must say no more? Have we reached it yet? In my opinion we probably reached it some time ago. A 2007 report claimed that Malta had experienced over 100 fireworks related deaths in the previous 100 years.  And I recently read a report from 2010, post Gharb tragedy, which stated, in that very year Malta was second on the international list of Firework related deaths. Second only to China. For me that tells a pretty big story.

Now let me clarify something. I was not brought up in Malta. I was not exposed in my youth to the joys of what is the traditional local feast. When I arrived in Malta in 1992, I obviously had the chance to rectify that. And spent a few years going to local feasts to try and absorb in the atmosphere. Honestly, after these few years, I didn’t see the big deal. Kind of fun, but much rather spend my time elsewhere. I put that down to my culturally different upbringing and the fact that I am not what you would call a religious man.

I also tend to find fireworks during the feast annoying and borderline intrusive. Sure, they are pretty when you get a chance to sit back with a cold one and watch the show. But, to be abruptly awoken on a Saturday morning, confused as to whether you are in your bed, or dreaming of a jungle in Vietnam during the 1960’s, seems a bit over the top. Or, to have your house, vibrating like you’ve just been hit by a moderate earthquake. Hmmm. And then there is the obvious psychological damaged caused to your pets who clearly have no idea what’s going on. As I said, intrusive to say the least.

However, for the record, I understand why the Maltese, and the religiously devout, find it a special time of year. Now, getting back to the fireworks situation, do we all believe that these are an absolutely necessary part of our Maltese festa, considering what seems to be the regular cost? I understand that there is the  religious connection to it, but surely God, not to be presumptuous or anything, would prefer to preserve life, rather then put on a show? Maybe I am wrong, you tell me.

I just find it truly unnecessary that we are losing lives this way. I know accidents happen, but when you are losing, on average, a life a year due to fireworks factory explosions, I get a feeling that its time to reevaluate. Can you imagine the devastating affect these tragedies have on those close to the lost and injured? Is even the loss of one life justified in the name of entertainment?

The way I see it, there is only two possible ways to change things. Number 1, centralise all production of fireworks to one factory. This factory would need to meet the highest levels of procedure and safety, and only the most highly educated on pyrotechnics would control this. This one central factory would then work as a manufacturing, storage and distribution of all fireworks on the Maltese islands. Yes, it’s true, this would take away the competative edge between villages, but would surely save lives.

Option 1 would be my preferred choice, but there is an option 2. And that is the total banning of fireworks altogether. This seems a little harsh, but would obviously save lives.

Some of you may read this and come to the conclusion that I am totally ignorant on the subject. You may think that I have no understanding or respect of local traditions. Well, you couldn’t be further from the truth. However, I ALWAYS draw the line at the unnecessary loss of human life. Call it a personal hang up of sorts, but I would rather have someone live, even a stranger, than stare at pretty fireworks.

Finally, I understand that some people may have a passion for fireworks or pyrotechnics. That may be true. But I am a big believer that sometimes humans, and humanity needs to be saved from itself.

 

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