Opinion | Sunday, 30 May 2010

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The Barbarian invasion

It annoyed me at first. Actually, it made my blood boil, to the point that I almost found myself catching the next plane to Rome for a good old weekend break of sacking, burning, pillaging, and putting innocent victims to the fire and sword.

But very soon my rage subsided. And as I sat on my bearskins and waited for the freshly applied war-paint to dry on my face, I took a hearty swig of mead from the skull of my recently-beheaded enemy... and I before I knew it, I found myself thinking for a change.

Yes, that’s right: thinking. I had often wondered what that word meant before. When I heard of “things passing through people’s minds”, I always assumed they were talking about swords, spears, arrows or maybe a well-aimed bolt from a crossbow. Never in a million moons did it occur to me that thoughts could do precisely the same thing... and with equally devastating effects, too.

And you know something? Now that a few thoughts have passed through my own mind, I am no longer in quite as much mood for death and dismemberment as I was before. Perhaps you should give it a try every once in a while: you know, unsaddle your warhorse, hang up that chain-mail hauberk, put aside your trusty double-bladed battle-axe (or halberd, or flanged mace, or steel-shafted claymore, or whatever it is you choose to cleave your enemies with these days), and I bet that after a while your life, too, will no longer revolve around loot, plunder and the conquest of distant empires. Within a short while you might start to wonder what that person you disembowelled the other week would have been like to talk to, if he were still alive. And in time, the curiosity you will have developed, to see how the world looks through other people’s eyes, will have become so strong that you might even catch yourself forgetting that your only purpose in life is actually to terrorise people who are more civilised than you... and even then, only so that other people can exploit their fear of your savagery in order to perpetuate their own ill-gotten stranglehold on power.

Well, it was precisely in this newfound state of calm and tranquillity that it finally hit me: Mgr Mario Grech was right, by Krom! I AM a barbarian. And a savage, too... I just never looked at myself that way before, that’s all.
Not only that, but it turns out I was entirely unjustified to react to the Gozo bishop’s remark two weekends ago with such rage and unbridled fury. (Note: for the benefit of those less barbaric than myself, who might have actually tuned to Mgr Grech’s speech on this thing called a ‘radio’, it was all about how Malta’s traditional insularity and provincial mindset was currently under siege by a tireless army of rationalists, secularists and libertarians – to whom he politely referred as ‘barbarians’ – adding that, unless this ‘invasion’ was checked, the entire country would be forced to perform abortions and commit mass-euthanasia, until it ultimately consumed itself in an orgy of primeval abandon, etc.)

Now that I look back on these words with a little more clarity, I almost laugh out loud to think how utterly ballistic I went when I first read them in a newspaper report. Far from being insulted, I now feel well and truly liberated at finally being able to embrace my true, savage nature as a marauding menace from a barbaric age. And I particular love the implication, which was no doubt fully intentional (Mgr Grech being such a wise and cultured man, and all that) that, by inference, anybody who is as traditionalist, conservative and obscurantist as the good Bishop himself, is actually a paragon of civilisation.

Krom be praised, but this is good news indeed. For up until my great moment of revelation this week, I actually thought ‘civilisation’ was something worth aspiring to. I thought it was a good thing to be cultured, and a bad one to be a primitive brute. But now that I finally know what it means to be civilised – thanks only to Mgr Grech, who cleverly explained it using a metaphor even a numbskull like myself can understand – I am finally in a position to see the error of my ways. Taking the above argument to its logical conclusion, ‘civilisation’ evidently means embracing superstition and denying reason; and much worse than that, it also means rejecting rationality and all its manifestations, not out of genuine conviction in one’s own arguments... but rather because reason and logic directly threaten one’s own privileged status in society, which in turn depends on bizarre myths and purely irrational beliefs for its survival.

Bingo! And the beauty of it all is that this remarkable admission comes not from a mindless, monosyllabic barbarian like me (in fact I hadn’t even thought of it, and wouldn’t be able to if I tried), but straight from the mouth of the Gozo bishop himself. And so strong and deep-rooted is his hold on this long-suffering country of ours, that.. yes, Mgr Grech hit the nail bang on the head on this ome, too – it would indeed have to take a full-scale barbarian invasion to dislodge him from the seat of his power.

So here I am: a fully-fledged barbarian, armed to the teeth with a choice of weapons straight of the arsenal of rationalist, secularist and libertarian arguments, and guess what? I’m just dying to try a few of them out on all the walls and towers built by conservative hardliners to defend themselves from reality.
And there’s a whole horde of similar savages out here, just like me – actually some are a good deal scarier, having drawn and quartered many a finely overlaboured argument in their long and murderous, marauding careers – and even as we speak, more are assembling on the horizon and readying themselves for war.

But before the horns of battle rage about us, and everything is lost in the clash of steel and the splintering of bones... allow me once again to thank Mgr Mario Grech for so generously helping a poor, ignorant barbarian like myself to finally rediscover his true vocation.

And now, my fellow Philistines, secular savages and brothers in barbarity... CHARGE!

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