Malta is, supposedly, a democratic country. We allegedly enjoy the fundamental freedoms such democracy brings along with it – of choice, expression and movement amongst others. However we are also a country of extremes. Whilst we portray ourselves as an uber-religious country and celebrate religious feasts with a certain degree of fanaticism and dedication, we also allow ourselves or others to get seriously inebriated during such feasts, and shout out obscenities and offending others during the process. The majority of us all go to church on a Sunday, however some of the same people who attend mass are the same people who do not speak to their family due to inheritance troubles. Yes, I will help a particular charity but I also want to make sure that my neighbour knows all about it, and how! And of course if I meet up with a group of friends, I have to share in the latest piece of gossip I have heard – whether it is true or not is irrelevant, and all this without the slightest concern about whom it will hurt or affect.
But mind you, we are a Catholic nation. Our religion is what defines us.
I have just viewed this video on a local media’s website. The story, for those who have not followed this latest twisted chapter in Malta’s double-faced identity, is regarding the legal action taken against a writer and an editor of a Maltese University paper, for writing and publishing an article in the same paper, wherein a man is narrating his treatment of women, albeit in a non-flattering way. The video link I have published has been shown in foreign countries, who get to see this portrayal of our country and our close-mindedness. I was cringing for the entire 25 minutes and sincerely could not wait for it to be over.
And not because of the content of the article Alex Vella Gera wrote and Mark Camilleri published. But because of the hi-ho mighty attitude of certain people who appeared in the video. Of their holier-than-thou attitude and their statements that the contents of the articles offended them as Christians and made them ashamed to be Maltese. Some saints also appear to tell Mark Camilleri “Thank God there don’t exist many people like yourself”. Yes, the lady-saint actually uttered those words in a televised appearance. Luckily enough for us Maltese, Al Jazeera TV were there to film the words and provide an English translation.
Malta is portrayed in similar light as a third-world country would be. Where the rights of its’ citizens are dictated by the deep-rooted beliefs on the chosen few. Where the laws are not necessarily those which are written down and encoded, but also include religious beliefs and notions. Where the country’s youth and open-minded population have to let themselves be ridiculed and criticized by the saintly elders and superiors, simply to allow their words and thoughts be, if not respected, at least known. I thought we were a secularised country, but have long come to realize that we are anything but. For that reason, up to a couple of years ago, adultery was still a criminal offence. Yes, that’s right.
I am definitely sure very few would agree with the contents of this now infamous article. After all it is said to be obscene and violent in nature. But it is not the contents which should be put into discussion. It is the option that we, citizens of a democracy, should have in choosing what we want to read, what we want to see and what we want to do. I have not read the article because I know that I may find it offending. I knowingly opted not to read it. However I can not make that decision for others. I have to respect the intelligence of fellow citizens into deciding for themselves whether to read the article or not. If they read it and felt offended, they can not start hounding and prosecuting the writer and editor for it. We live with the consequences our choices and actions bring about.
Both writer and publisher were acquitted of all charges brought against them, which were of publishing pornographic and obscene material. Rightly so, the courts stated that the persons involved had exercised their fundamental right of expression through a literary work.
But the saga does not end here, because our Attorney General appealed against this acquittal.
These are words he actually included in his appeal:
“And there’s God above everything and above everyone, and God is certainly bigger than the biggest of egos of even more famous writers.”
These words enrage me. Once again, we are dictated by moral laws and not the written law as is because of our Christian faith. Doesn’t the Attorney General know that I can look up and read pornographic material online? That I can pop into a book-shop and buy magazines with pictures of naked pictures in them? That I can listen to music containing unholy lyrics and chants? That I can watch films and plays which go against the religious beliefs of the mainstream?
Oh wait, we had the ban of Stitching as well, didn’t we? Hmmm…..
To conclude my mad ranting this morning, and I am indeed mad at the moment, I am thinking that these individuals could face imprisonment and hefty fines for a literary piece they advocated, and which some people who think they are entitled to make decisions for you and me, think is unsuitable and morally wrong to make its’ appearance in our saintly Malta. Their life could be affected in an unfair manner, all because they chose to write, publish and defend a group of words and ideas. And I think that for a modern, European country in the 21st century, that is truly sad and disappointing.