David Friggieri | Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sex is for randy teenagers

Malta’s liberals are a strange lot. The latest argument to grab my attention went something like this. It started off with the laudable warning to government that it should get a sex education campaign up and running. Teenagers are biologically randy, times have changed and for health purposes the government has an obligation to pull its ostrich-head out of the sand. I agree.
But before you knew it Malta’s adult population was being told that “too much sleeping around makes you used goods (the women) and speaks volumes about your lack of integrity (the men)”.
If I’m not mistaken, the implication here is that once your raging hormonal teenage years are behind you, there’s only one honest way to live your adult life. The underlying notion being that sex is something that you should “get out of your system” in your teens in order to avoid having to deal with hang-ups (and an embarrassing lifestyle) in your adult years.
This functional approach to sex might have something to do with the fact that the Maltese language has no expression for the act of making love, implying that when it comes to life’s ultimate pleasure, we are seriously unrefined. We passionately discuss Values with a capital V, we love to categorize and take great pleasure in reminding the world at large of the myriad prohibitions that loom overhead.
But we are careless when it comes to the nuances of life. As any ‘discussion’ on Maltese blogs will amply show, people are often ‘for’ or ’against’ something or someone, but are very rarely interested in finding common ground, in moving the discussion forward or in exploring new ideas.
Which brings me to Renzo Piano and my own humble suggestion (there have been many and will be countless more). The City Gate Garage, that monument to 50 years of architectural rape and to the squalid side of the Maltese character, will hopefully be a thing of the past. Not much controversy on that point. But what is to be done with the less depressing Opera House ruins? My wish list is quite simple, really, and it doesn’t involve transferring parliament there. It consists in constructing a space which would house a beautiful library, several quality bookshops, a modern theatre and one large comfortable sun-lit courtyard café where people are invited to engage in that quintessentially European pleasure – calmly reading a book over a coffee in a public space.
Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle's Stravinsky Fountain, whose bright red Woman's Lips always fascinated me more than their controversial neighbour – Piano's industrial Centre Pompidou – might provide some eccentric inspiration for the overall design. Fountains and books are often complementary.
We overdose on politics, we can’t get enough of television (tons of politics there too), our artists continue to paint at a formidable rate (still lots of ‘typical Maltese landscapes’, true) and, from what I hear, the music scene is relatively lively.
But we don’t read. Life would be infinitely more pleasant if we did and our democracy would be greatly enhanced in the process.

David Friggieri lives and works in Brussels


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