David Friggieri | Sunday, 08 February 2009

The island that banned kitsch

Last night I dreamt about the island that banned kitsch.
A revolution had swept through the land, headed by a charismatic leader who had since installed himself as the first Anti-Kitsch President of the rocky outcrop.
“We are bathing in kitsch”, he had told a handful of apostles in his first public meeting. “We must put an end to these saccharine lies before they erode our lives like the bacteria lingering in our gums!”
K’s manifesto was brutally clear – there was little room for interpretation by smart anthropologists who had a habit of fiddling around with concepts while facts stared them in the face.
Kitsch was bad, it had gnawed at the nation’s soul and would have to be eliminated. Perpetrators of the kitsch ethos – known as “kitsch menschen” – would be spared summary execution but would be silenced and given a revitalising aesthetic education. They would only be released after undergoing two months of purifying solitary confinement.
K had gathered a small clique of genial rogues around him who were resolute in their ideas and determined to banish this terrible curse forever. He convinced them that the revolution must start where the nation’s heart was deteriorating most rapidly: the entertainment industry, replete as it was with loud, arrogant, glaring bad taste.
The first blitz involved the pasting of apocalyptic “The End of Kitsch is Nigh” posters over billboards advertising cheesy events and all over the walls of buildings where the kitsch men gathered.
Soon the rebels were staging happenings wherever the kitsch menschen could be heard conning their gullible, brain-dead public: television studios, music halls and political party HQs. The lights would mysteriously go out and the kitsch man (or woman) in question would be kidnapped for a brief encounter with his captors. He would be stripped of his kitsch clothes, told to wipe that smug kitsch look off his face, given a decent haircut and warned that kitsch was finished, finito, kaput. Good taste would rule the land from now on. The victim would later be released to face his audience for one last time before being whisked away to a re-education establishment. He would then face his public wearing nothing but his watch (or his glasses).
These guerrilla attacks became increasingly common and, it must be said, increasingly popular. No kitsch man was safe from the anti-kitsch police. Hoarse television presenters, viola-playing, nylon-clad Eurovision hopefuls and minor politicians were the first victims of La Revolución.
Initially the public was shocked by the attacks and several articles appeared in the local papers condemning the perpetrators’ “serious attack on democracy”. But soon people welcomed this injection of excitement into their lives.
It was only later that the man in the street started to grasp the real significance of these events. They realised, for instance, that it was only a certain type of singer, or presenter, or politician, or preacher, or radio DJ who was targeted by the anti-kitsch rebels.
The majority of the islands’ public entertainers, to be sure. But not all of them.
This was the point in time when K stepped up his rhetoric, calling for a total ban on kitsch. K’s new manifesto was based on five cardinal principles:
1) Kitsch is an attitude. It is the attitude of the kitsch man; 2) Kitsch is our greatest enemy, it operates like an anaesthetic; 3) Organised religion tends towards kitsch; 4) Propaganda and kitsch are closely linked, and; 5) Opera is the symbol of kitsch: it shall be outlawed.
The institutions which had propped up the kitsch ethos would come crumbling down within a year, K had predicted. Prophetically, as it turned out.
I was enjoying this dream. It was funny, absurd but somehow real.
It was a hot summer night and people had gathered in the village square. But there was an eerie silence. Where had the fireworks gone? The stalls selling ‘qubbajt’ and hard rock had disappeared. The statue of ‘Guditta b’Ras Holofernes’ was nowhere to be seen.
I woke up in a panic: the anti-kitsch police had banned my beloved ‘festa tar-rahal’!

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