Culture is the new Maltese swearword


Culture is one of those words everyone has their own definition for. Yet, this abundance of definitions would still have a few broader characteristics in common: it is an opportunity to break from an individual isolation, to experience the world outside of self and to unite with others in a deeper, more sincere way than that of kitsch nationalism.

If a couple of years ago, culture was generally free from any negative connotations for me, now it sounds almost like an insult for it being a convenient façade for all kind of individual and institutionalised cynicism in present-day Malta. The meaning of the word began to deteriorate a while ago after I had become acquainted with a number of cultured specimen, involved in the process of making Malta a more cultured place (whatever it means). Without pointing fingers at anyone in particular, a follower of Maltese cultural events can easily picture the kind of specimen I am referring to: those who imagine themselves in the role of Prometheus (albeit not sharing his punishment), proud to carry the light of culture to the dark uncultured masses. They wear the titles of the events they organized and attended like medals on their chests and act as though they deserve canonization. The cultured specimen say they loooove Caravaggio (mainly for his ties to Malta) and do so with such self-pleased facial expression as though they stood beside Caravaggio advising him on composition. Be it for the vociferous calls for recognition from smug culture protagonists or the attempts to martyrdom by sub-culture frontmen, in Malta, culture might cause an allergic reaction if brought up in conversations with the genuinely interested in this human phenomenon, in its cleaner sense.

However, it’s not the Maltese culture protagonists that have turned it into a new swearword. The number of news articles announcing yet another cultural achievement by the establishment that poured onto our heads recently, suggests a strong link between culture, material gain and cynicism. The (great) news of Picasso exhibition for Valletta 2018, for example,  was wrapped in comments like “his [Picasso’s] works fetch the highest prices at auction houses”. Read: the works cost a fortune therefore they are not rubbish. The final step in the making culture an insult was announced in the Times of Malta article from the 26th September 2016. Apparently, according to the Office of Prime Minister, “the upcoming high-rise projects in Mrieħel and Tigné would each contribute €50,000 to a new artistic fund”. Glorious! Considering that the Malta’s independent-minded bohemians actively oppose these developments, the unmasked cynicism of this piece of news stinks unbearably much.

But hey, putting the new swearword into good use is certainly more fun than blunt bitching about its origins. Here are a few possible combinations with culture instead of more conventional obscenities:

  • go fuck culture yourself! (an exclamation expressing anger or contempt for, or rejection of, someone);
  • fuck culture off! (go away)
  • what the fuck culture are you doing?! (said to express incredulity at someone’s behavior)
  • are you totally fucked cultured-up?! (to a person who has a tendency to make a mess of things).

Although they haven’t made it to the Oxford Dictionary yet, these new combinations have a potential to express disagreement with the status quo in many ways. Enjoy!


4 thoughts on “Culture is the new Maltese swearword

  1. You are ‘cultured’ only if you comply.

    Compliance means Political Correctness—no more, no less.
    If not PC you are an uncultured boorish oaf, no matter how many great works you read whilst listening to the greatest of musicians and surrounded by the finest works of art and gobbling the most artistic foods with the finest wines and immersed in the most witty and intelligent conversationalists.

    I New Zealand I stand alone as uncultured.
    I’d be accepted if I learned how to celebrate hairy oafs fighting over egg-shaped balls in seas of mud, or to wear a grass skirt and shout “Ugga boo! Ugga Boo!” whilst grimacing and stamping my feet. I’d be cultured, I suppose, were I to cover the ol’ face with tatts, or to use previously naughty (ok … foul) words in my everyday conversation.

    I think the modern meaning of the word ‘culture’ is ‘Lowest Common Denominator’. (Is a cultured woman, then an LCDenominatrix?) (No … modern culture recognises no distinctions between genders (oops) between sexes. Lowest is unarguable, progress being downwards, common certainly nails it: so LCD puts culture easily within reach of us all.

    Beam me up, Scotty …

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