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The ‘Serenity’ of Joseph Muscat’s Malta

In Joseph Muscat’s Malta, envy is the inevitable outcome of serenity

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with Henley and Partners Henley president Christian Kalin
Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with Henley and Partners' Christian Kalin

Serenity is an idea to conjure with. Like a slick magician pulling a startled rabbit out of the Police Commissioner’s cap, it’s become the predominant image and repeated catchword in the cynical repertoire enacted from Joseph Muscat’s stage.

Here, ‘serenity’ is a key ideological concept simultaneously used as a voodoo doll to ward off evil in the shape of anyone who dares criticise this self-appointed tranquil state. In a sleight of sophistry, Muscat’s ‘serenity’ breathed itself into being by bestowing itself with the name.

Breath is the centre-point of Buddhism and serenity is pivotal to meditation as the means by which spiritual enlightenment occurs. A condition of calm concentration, serenity is essential to developing insight in a journey culminating in nirvana, or the end of suffering, whereby greed, hate and delusion disappear alongside negative emotions such as doubt, worry, anxiety and fear.

The contrast between the physical landscape of Malta and this described state of concentrated calm is painfully stark. We live on a tiny island crowded out by cranes, the ugly proliferation of tower blocks, the incessant sounds of drills, and the ongoing decimation of trees, not to mention the recent slaughter of all but one of the 18 storks who made the mistake of thinking that their grace, beauty and legendary good luck properties would keep them safe from harm. Arriving in the ‘serenity’ of Malta, these birds were brutally, barbarically and illegally shot down.

Serenity is indeed a word to conjure with and conjuring tricks are the modus operandi of this current political regime. Its exponents are not particularly clever or skilful to any semi-well-trained eye and thus are met by horrified incredulity by members of the European Parliament, cultural representatives in Leeuwarden, veteran journalists like Tim Sebastian and John Sweeney whose epithet ‘The Artful Dodger’ so astutely sums this up.

But the cheeky playfulness of Dickens’ character is absent where Muscat is concerned. What we are dealing with here – and dealing is the operative term – is a rogue without a soul, a thief with a brazen heart of shameless stolen gold. What charm there is to be found emanates from the illusory qualities on which Muscat depends for his survival and these illusory qualities are interwoven with the fabric of ‘serenity’ by which he came to power.

‘Serenity’ was there right at the start of his 2013 pre-election campaign. Although Muscat was initially mocked for this by his opponents, he clung on tightly to a word rarely used in everyday Maltese language and continues to use this notion as a recurrent leitmotif designed to placate the masses like a velvet glove and to send shivers down the spines of those who see right through this overtly transparent veil. To say it’s like witnessing a bad dream is a gross and grotesque understatement.

This bad dream, cloaked in the language of enlightenment, is further darkened by the ever-present spectre of Christian Kalin, chairman of the infamous Henley & Partners who were miraculously granted control of Malta’s dubious cash-for-passports scheme.

A recent report drafted by the UK Parliament House of Commons select committee describes Kalin as ‘the hidden hand’ behind much of SCL Election’s campaigning work. SCL is the parent company of Cambridge Analytica exposed for their interference in the Brexit referendum, Trump’s election campaign, the mining of massive amounts of Facebook data and, according to evidence compiled by the House of Commons select committee, advised the Malta Labour Party for several years before their eventual victory in 2013.

It’s no secret that Kalin sent personal e-mails to “Joseph’”Muscat, “Keith” Schembri and Justice Minister “Owen” Bonnici to sound them out about filing a massive libel suit against assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia through the UK courts.

In an interview for Investment Migration Insider, Kalin openly admits to being “on very good terms with the Maltese Prime Minister” which is “normal, just like any other business”. Further, he asserts that “when you’re successful anywhere, there’s always envy…envy is the scourge of humanity”.

In Muscat’s Malta, envy is the inevitable outcome of serenity because who wouldn’t be jealous of those who have successfully attained enlightenment? Except with true serenity comes insight and liberation from such unwholesome thoughts.

At this point, ‘negativity’ acquires the same insidious connotations as ‘serenity’, used as a stick with which to beat the ‘uninitiated’, failure to achieve ‘serenity’ labelling you a ‘traitor’.

In this perverse ‘spiritual’ newspeak, it’s highly plausible that Kalin owns the copyright for ‘serenity’, coining the term within Pilatus’ mint and bequeathing this ‘gift’ with the same sardonic reverence he shows to Gandhi, whose words he invokes in his own defence:

“First they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win”.

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