It is the mark of a civilised society that its components exercise tolerance with the differences between themselves. This is such a statement of the obvious in 2010 that it need hardly be made but, sadly, it does.

It's sometimes by their reactions that you can measure the extent to which people subscribe to the virtues of tolerance and compassion, even if these reactions are overtly understandable.

Let me illustrate with an example of recent vintage. A champion of the gay world who lives in a less illiberal country than this - or so they say, though some manifestations of attitudes towards other races give this the lie - wrote about a book about homosexuality and his Mediterranean roots, speculating about the sexuality of various prominent people, among them St Ġorġ Preca.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, provided that no one vulnerable is put in harm's way, the sexuality of anyone, alive or dead, prominent or non-entity, male or female, moves me not at all, so Dr Joseph Chetcuti's speculations are of supreme irrelevance to me. I haven't read his book and nor do I intend to, though I don't exclude picking it up and having a browse, much in the manner of a seeker after gossip, if I were to find it lying in my general vicinity.

My failure to peruse the oeuvre having been signified, I will risk ire and opprobrium by speculating aloud that it strikes me as one of those shrill, "only gay in the village" efforts that can safely be allowed to reside outside the "books that I've read" list.

Which leads to the question, put with all due respect: Why did the Bishop of Gozo feel the need to do a fire-and-brimstone all over it? I don't recall such irritation being shown, say, about racist or otherwise unacceptable manifestations of opinion, so why did this particular exercise of freedom of expression have a target painted all over it?

I won't insult your intelligence by taking these thoughts to their logical terminus: draw your own conclusions.

Last Saturday, I was having a pretty decent Indian meal in Gozo, no mean feat when you consider that there isn't an Indian restaurant on the island. The barkeep-cum-maitre d', being of the sedentary persuasion, was not quite able to measure up to the standards of service one has come to expect up north but his deficiencies were more than made up for, much in the way 'Er Indoors does that little thing in my respect when we're entertaining.

During our meal, the conversation wended its way towards the manner in which the gay community was treated. In my usual (that is, undiplomatic) manner, I expressed the thought that having LGBT movements was a bit OTT in this day and age, people of intelligence being blind to sexual orientation.

I was gently made aware of the fundamental error of my position. Being on the outside of the gay community looking in, as it were, I was oblivious to the fact that, in truth, tolerance and compassion remain lacking in Christian Malta, to the extent that the risk of ghettoising is overridden by the benefits of sensitising society to these deficiencies.

Language is a minefield, indeed, because even my use of the word "compassion", to a degree, betrays my somewhat patronising attitude that gays (I almost wrote "these people", which would have made things worse) need compassion, for all my tolerant liberalism.

I can't win, I suppose, which is not a feeling with which I am unfamiliar. If you want proof of this, take a look at a couple of comments beneath my blog. By the time you read this, inspiration might have struck me and allowed me to unleash a later helping of wit and genius, so you want to look at the one titled Mouthing Off.

Out of a blog some 1,000 words in length, two knights in shining armour picked out one single - and short - paragraph and charged to the defence of their heroine, Astrid Vella.

The blog wasn't concerned with Ms Vella, except for the little sting in the tail, which I thought would be both apposite and amusing, designed to keep the lady concerned interested in life and all that.

This did not stop the two gents from jumping on me from what I have no doubt they imagine is a great height, accusing me of having wasted so much of my precious time in designing a blog simply to get at La Vella and stick up for Lou Bondì.

Honestly, and then people say I have an agenda. Now I'm going to watch Chelsea play Pompey, so I'll bid you farewell.

imbocca@gmail.com

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