Think before you ink...

It’s not what you ‘do’ that counts… it’s the little trivialities that seem to miraculously deflect everyone’s attention from what you’re doing. Those are the things that really matter; and Joseph Muscat knows this so well, he even had it tattooed on his flipping forearm, for all to (partially) see...

They never learn do they these Labour politicians? Why, it was only two years ago that Investments Minister Chris Cardona was (allegedly) identified at a German brothel by means of a Che Guevara tattoo on his left shoulder: with such catastrophic consequences for his political career, that… um… he’s still Investments Minister today.

Honestly, you’d think Labour would have got the message by now. In life, it’s not what you ‘do’ that matters… it’s whether (and how) you get caught.

That’s the thing with ink, you know. It leaves a trail. The permanence of a tattoo can (and often does) return to haunt the bearer in later life. Which incidentally explains why I have never had any ink done myself. It’s not that I dislike the sight of tattoos on other people, or anything like that; it’s just that… well, I wouldn’t want to be so easily identifiable in a possible future police identification parade, that’s all. (Why, you mean there are other reasons not to get yourself tattooed?)

In any case: now it transpires that the Prime Minister, no less, also sports a tattoo. And judging by the fuss some people made about it, anyone would think he’d gone and tattooed a Swastika right in the middle of his forehead. Or, even worse, Justin Bieber’s face on his left buttock. Or – calamity of calamities – that he didn’t get a tattoo at all, but pierced both his nipples…

Aaaargh! Sorry, that kind of gave me the heebie-jeebies, too. Won’t happen again, I promise…

But see what I mean? It’s not what you ‘do’ that counts… it’s the little trivialities that seem to miraculously deflect everyone’s attention from what you’re doing. Those are the things that really matter; and Joseph Muscat knows this so well, he even had it tattooed on his flipping forearm, for all to (partially) see...

Ah, but what did he have tattooed, you ask? Hard to say, actually. On closer inspection, the only visible letters are ‘INV…’, with the rest fading into obscurity beneath his T-shirt sleeve.

And there you have it: it’s not what you tattoo that counts; it’s the fact that you have a tattoo, in and of itself. So much so, that people (myself included) are still discussing its significance a week later, even though none of us has actually seen this particular specimen of body-art in its entirety.

But back to those letters. Off the bat, I can think of any number of three-character combinations that would have been a whole lot more ‘scandalous’ to see tattooed on your prime minister’s right forearm.

Like ‘666’, for instance. Or ‘KKK’. Or ‘ABZ’... (come to think of it, wouldn’t at all surprise me if that is indeed the other mysterious tattoo he keeps going on about…)

But ‘INV’? What the heck is that that even supposed to stand for, anyway? Wait, don’t tell me… I love this sort of thing. Let’s see now… “I’m No Virgin”? Nah, too obvious. “I’ll Nuke Venezuela”? Nah, that’s Donald Trump’s tattoo: you know, same hair-colour, different countries…

I know what you’re thinking, though: while the letters ‘INV’ are all we have to play with – and I could have fun with that all day: ‘Iva, Niehu Viagra!’, etc. – it is clear from the images that what we are dealing with is an unfinished word or sentence.

Trying to fill in the missing blanks is therefore a little like playing ‘Hangman’… a game we all love, naturally, because it is so… um… perfectly pointless. So everyone and his dog just had to have a go and cracking it for themselves.

For what it’s worth, these were my guesses. At first, I thought it might be: ‘INVEST IN THE FUTURE, PLANT A TREE TODAY!’

But then I took a look at what’s happening all around me, and figured… Nah….

Then I considered: ‘INVENTION IS THE MOTHER OF NECESSITY’. And it kind of fits, too. Apart from being precisely the sort of gibberish most people get tattooed with anyway, it also ties in beautifully with Muscat’s cherished principle of ‘induced demand’: the way his government ‘invents’ things like the Central Link project, to create an artificial demand for more cars to clog up the wider space… thus also creating a ‘necessity’ to widen roads further, and so on, and so forth, and so fifth…

But it also occurred to me that, whatever it is, it would have to be short enough for the last part not to be visible running down the Prime Minister’s left bicep, too. And as we all saw in the pics, there’s no ‘…ITY!’ to be seen there, or anywhere else.

So instead – or should I say, ‘invece’ - I came up with: ‘INVIDIA RADIX MALORUM EST’. And… yes, I can see that working as a tattoo. Heck, I might even have started a whole new biker-gang body-art trend there… the Latin equivalent of ‘STUFF YOUR JEALOUSY’… or ‘EAT MY DUST!’… or ‘NO RIDEAM, QUOD FILIA TUUM HIC IACEST!’, (which is Latin for… well, you can work it out for yourselves.)

But then again: who on earth could possibly be ‘envious’ of the Prime Minister’s right bicep, anyway? I mean, come on, Joseph Muscat may be many things… but Sly Stallone he certainly is not.

Besides: it wasn’t long before we were reminded that ‘a Latinist’ is another of the many things Muscat isn’t, either. I guess that leaves us with only three languages – English, Maltese and Italian – and in all three, there is almost no limit whatsoever to the possible permutations of sentences beginning with the letters ‘INV’.

For all we know, it could even be a paid, planted subliminal advert for ‘INVERNIZZI’: the popular brand of Italian cheese (Remember that maddeningly catchy jingle from TV? - ‘La-a-a-a Mozzarella! Il formaggio piu’ fresco che c’e’…!’ – There, that’s my subliminal advertising done for today. I’ll send the INV-oice later…)

But we cannot say for sure, because the rest of this mysterious tattoo remains INV-isible to this day. All of which raises an IN-e-V-itable question…

How can I put this? A whole bunch of journalists saw that our Prime Minister has something sinister on one arm (that vaguely resembles a ‘barcode’, from a distance); and so – even in the interest of ensuring that he isn’t an android planted by the Russians, or a hybrid clone mass-produced in Dubai, or whatever – why didn’t it occur to anyone at that press conference to just ask Joseph Muscat to roll up his right sleeve a little, so we could all take a closer look?

I mean... It can’t be that difficult, can it? Just tell him the sleeve is ‘interfering with the audio on our headphones’… and that, if he would only be good enough to pull it all the way up… maybe we’d all get actually get to hear a word he’s saying.

(You never know: prime ministers are known to fall for stuff like that.)

And if it fails, you can always follow it up with the old classic: ‘Hey, wasn’t that an Asian Tiger Mosquito [or, even better, a Chinese Hornet] I just saw flying up your sleeve towards your right armpit?’ Trust me, works every time…

But it doesn’t really matter in the end – It NeVer does – because, as if by a sudden stroke of common nationwide intuition, everyone and his dog just pole-vaulted to the most natural conclusion in the universe.

There was only one word, in any language, Joseph Muscat could possibly have tattooed on his bicep: ‘INVICTUS’… Latin for ‘Undefeated’.

And even then, there could only be one possible motivation: it is a direct allusion to the title of a commemorative book published in honour of Daphne Caruana Galizia, entitled ‘INVICTA’.

So inevitably – or should I say ‘INVARIABLY’ – Joseph Muscat’s tattoo signifies that he is ‘gloating’ over Daphne’s murder… still waging war on a dead adversary, two years (almost to the day) after her murder… still ‘obsessing’ over her in death, as he had in life…

Whoah, steady... and there I was, thinking my guesses were slightly off the rails. For even if it’s true that our hidden word really is ‘INVICTUS’… and it’s a distinct possibility, though we can’t be sure… well, it also happens to be true.

Electorally speaking, Joseph Muscat can really claim to have never lost a battle throughout his career: from his first MEP election, to the PL leadership battle in 2008, to all the general, local, and European elections ever since. Unless there was an early defeat I can’t remember, he did emerge from all that undefeated.

Admittedly, it remains debatable whether having that fact emblazoned on your body, for all the world like a trophy, is the most tasteful and magnanimous thing an undefeated prime minister could possibly choose to do.

Personally speaking, I see no difference between ‘INVICTUS’, and ‘EAT MY DUST’… or ‘NO RIDEAM QUOD, etc.’ Or ‘IVA, NIEHU VIAGRA’… or even just plain old ‘NYA-NYA-NYA-NYAAA-NYAH!...’

But then again… it could have nothing to do with those electoral victories at all. It could just as easily be a reference to the 2009 movie about Nelson Mandela: directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Morgan Freeman, etc.

After all, that film only came out a year after Muscat’s first became Labour leader… when he was still ‘INVICTUS’, if for a shorter while.

And for Joseph Muscat to look up to Nelson Mandela, as a political icon, even to the extent of getting ink done in tribute… what’s so unusual about that?

Chris Cardona looked up to Che Guevara, didn’t he? And just look where it got him today…