‘Tales from the Land of Serenity’ came into being shortly after the horrific assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta on 16th October 2017. A well-known investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia was blown up by a car bomb, minutes away from her home in Bidnija. The title of these stories derives from words spoken by the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, a few days after her murder: ‘When the MEPs visit Malta, they will do so with a sense of serenity…’
On the island of Serenity where the streets have no name, in the water of this Malta where the cows go bong and the monkeys all say boo, a celebration was getting underway with a lavish feast being prepared and no expenses spared, no matter where the coffers came from, whether on this shore or off. Impressive banners were being hung out to dry on every balcony, with skeletons in every dusty cupboard being aired.
For ever since the humble citizens of this land of sweet serenity had timidly taken their first taste of that forbidden fruit, their thirsty appetite for knowledge was left unquenched as they shovelled apricots and bananas and tinned pomegranate down their parched throats, not to mention apples which had never fallen far from the one remaining tree in Malta which, despite belonging to their neighbours, didn’t deter anyone from scavenging the benefits of Mother Nature’s womb.
Nature, like knowledge, is sacrosanct on the island of serenity, and the ivory towers of tranquility would never throw away their key.
There were sounds of jubilation as the rumours began to surface. There were tiny ripples of handclaps which crescendoed into mass applause. This, yes, this, on the isle of peace and justice, this, yes, this is what we’ve been hoping for.
The academics, tripping over the swathes of black cloth of their moth-bitten gowns, ventured into the town to check if the news they’d heard was true. Unused to the harsh sunlight and the vexing vision of what, to their learned minds, could only be construed as uneducated people engaging in the activities of labour they’d merely read about in books, the intellectuals veritably felt like fish deprived of water, uncontextualised, deconstructed and discarded to the wolves.
Shielding their eyes from a social realm they’d carefully scrutinised in published papers, indecipherable with the hieorglyphics of hyphens and obscure new-fangled terms, they picked up their gowns and scuttled hurriedly back through the hollow hallways of scholastic tomes and yellowing manuscripts, retained for posterity because you never know when something that should have been thrown out years ago might suddenly come in handy.
The protectors of knowledge, of astute critical thinking, the defenders of rigour, objectivity and ground-breaking theoretical breakthroughs backed up by empirical research whereby no-one’s hands got dirty were perturbed as they gathered together in their dimly-lit senate but, after several hours of failing to reach a consensus due to digressions into discursive alleyways that always lead to nowhere, the Rector finally and falteringly rose to his feet.
The rattle in his throat echoed round the hallowed chamber and was heard by all those present, save for those whose heads had rolled back and their eyes were closed in sleep.
‘Our leaders,’ he rasped, coughing phlegm into a parchment that he plucked from a shelf. ‘Our leaders,’ he continued, brushing dust off from his gown. ‘Our leaders,’ he said, and repetition made him stronger, ‘are plotting and scheming to infiltrate our noble ranks.’
‘My job is being threatened,’ he shouted, realising in that instant just how shaky was his ground.
In the middle of the night in the Land of Serenity, the greatest minds in Malta were beginning to question their previous compliance and trembled at the possibility that those who they’d made in their very own likeness, those entrusted with passing the beacon of enlightenment from one generation to the next – nay, the pampered spoonfed students themselves – might meekly accept the newly established order as long as their stipends were unaffected and their high grades guaranteed.
‘Our leaders want to undermine OUR powers?’ the academics gasped as the gravity of the situation finally sank in.
One man, sometimes regarded as the black sheep in the coterie, turned his mind towards the dissidents, horrified at his own inability to take rational control of his thoughts. He gazed out of the window into the darkness before relapsing back into the critical mass in which his safety, he was certain, was assured.
Some of these stories have been made into podcasts. They are read and produced by Pia Zammit and are available on manueldelia.com