Europus or Europa?

I have just released The Voyage of the Kresala, the latest title in my Seven Songs fantasy series, where we start to see more clearly the great divisions taking place across the European continent. The conflict, of course, arises from the question of the moment, currently affecting several countries and it boils down to this: Which do we want? The megastate Europus, uniformly bent to (for want of a word) Germanic aims and standards? Or the beauteous Europa with her myriad and varied delights that Zeus himself could not resist, and so carried off to Crete on his bull-like shoulders?

When I put it like that, I suppose it’s fairly clear which of the two I would rather see. It’s also fairly clear which of the two is preferred by Syriza’s Yanis Varoufakis, the “erratic” Marxist now heading the finance ministry in Athens. For him, the question is not simply one between head and heart, as some might suppose. Varoufakis sees as inevitable that the Europus he dislikes so much, born out of neoliberal economics and politics, will fall apart with the demise of capitalism that Marx predicted. As he says confidently, it carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.

We have a reasonable idea of what Europus represents. Rigour, uniformity, discipline, good housekeeping (to evoke Madame Thatcher) and so on. All that Kafka warned us against, in vain? Equally George Orwell in 1984, a scary vision, in many aspects already a reality: people at the service of the machine, too frightened to be different, and controlled or monitored in their very thoughts. What perhaps we hadn’t realised as we created Europus is that people were dispensable in this great work. As the juggernaut trundled through our once independent little nations, changing all the road signs as it went, people were shovelled to the wayside like snowfall on a motorway. This human wreckage, fruit of austerity, was the “price to be paid.” Not by the bankers, not by the politicians, nor by those with their noses in the trough in Brussels and Strasbourg. No, a price paid by the young, the small traders, the elderly and the vulnerable. Civic values, democratic values, social values, all these were waved aside as the economically correct troika imposed its will on one nation after another, in the process setting up governments that simply toed the line and were given no option to do otherwise. In other words, not representative of their nation’s peoples at all.

Can we say what Europa herself stands for, by way of contrast? Diversity, imagination, creativity, art, elegance, versatility …? And adding to those the relational values of trust and mutual self-awareness, perhaps that offers us a mix that we see in imitation of nature itself. Such a blend would be characteristic of sustainability, the most vital quality that we should be aiming for given the state of the modern world.

Perhaps we can throw light on the difference between Europus and Europa if we think in terms of Henri Bortoft’s authentic and counterfeit wholes. Europus in this schema would be a counterfeit whole par excellence, a monolith to which its parts are in service and even servitude. For, let us be clear, we are only parts in this construction, and therefore are truly dispensable. Just as the giant corporation turns thousands on to the street in its juggling of the books, so Europus’ first instinct is to do the same. The bottom line is made up of numbers, not of human lives.

Europa, though, may be considered as an authentic whole. I do not daydream about perfection here, but it is very noticeable how deeply the values in southern, Mediterranean cultures hold society together at the daily level of life where it really matters. Leaving aside the long history of conflict between powers, there is an underlying social fabric that goes back hundreds of years, and now we find a growing sense in these countries that something precious and meaningful in its own right has been violated. Just as Islamic militants shatter ancient artefacts that are meaningless, even offensive, to them, so also the juggernaut Europus wields the hammer against all that offends economic probity. Well, yes, in some cultures perhaps there has been a lack of care for the morrow, in the interests of living today to the full. Yes, we acknowledge there, too, the hidden workings of those family knots and networks that cut corners in the interests of getting results. And those inexcusably long lunches before getting around to the real business on the agenda … Time wasted? Who is to say? Perhaps this is a more valid way of establishing working relations and outcome, as opposed to alcohol-free profit-making purely for its own sake.

What emerges from Europa’s way of doing things is a continually self-refreshing dynamic, often full of surprises, that actually makes “government” at times irrelevant and certainly of less importance. This is freedom, but for a purpose. The future will manifest these battle lines more and more, I predict, as our century progresses. The smaller political parties that favour Europa are already marshalling support and will grow in strength and number. Their social mission is becoming clearer and clearer.

As mentioned in the opening, I present an imagined future for these developments in my fantasy series, The Seven Songs, where the battle is already over as we enter the first book of the cycle, King Abba. We are in the year 2134 and Europus is in hegemony. Those faithful to Europa have been swept aside in a merciless suppression and are reduced to handfuls of dissidents scattered in places of relative safety. But the monolith must fall through its own internal weakness and all is up for grabs again. Can the freedom fighters unite and regain the initiative? Will deposed King Abba’s children be able to turn the clock back and restore the beauty of Europa?

I watch with interest as events in the real world unfurl, bringing about huge social changes which King Abba himself has foreseen, and in which he will play his part, too, for the eventual salvation that we and Mr Varoufakis all devoutly pray for.

The latest title in The Seven Songs series, The Voyage of the Kresala was released in February.

Prince Gentil’s story: the school of life

The cycle of The Seven Songs moves on to telling Gentil’s story in this new title in the series, The Voyage of the Kresala. On escaping from the destruction of the royal palace (see King Abba), he and his friend Alick had an urge to travel and find adventure, and, my goodness, they certainly encounter it on this epic journey sailing across the Northern Ocean to the distant Winter Isles.

Gentil is the younger brother of Fion, and a very different character. As he himself confesses, he never learned much in class, and was bored in lessons most of the time. But his real learning centre is to be the school of life, and in this adventure story, from the very first page of the book, he is pitched headlong into what you could literally call “hands-on” learning, as the yacht Kresala is hit by an almighty storm.

This scene has a special significance for me, as it describes almost exactly what happened to me on a sailing trip across the Atlantic. I was the one wrestling with the helm as the others tried to restore order in a tangle of spars and breakage. it was an unforgettable experience and I hope I have captured the event when it happens to Gentil, too.

From this point, Gentil doesn’t look back, and is very soon involved in another way with the mysterious “cargo” that Nestor, the skipper, has brought aboard quietly one night. Who is Itxaso and what is the secret mission that takes them all nearer and nearer to danger?

Gentil’s journey across the ocean will change him for life.  Join him on his great voyage of discovery.

CJM February 2015





Richard Dawkins — wizard or ogre?

How does one enter into the mindset of Professor Richard Dawkins? His recent sally against all that is “supernatural”, speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, would have us believe that children must be raised as sceptics, trained in scientific rigour, and that childish things such as fairy tales with their dose of improbability, must be “put away”. He himself successfully achieved this rigour at an early age, he tells us.

Scientists, of course, have always believed in their own brand of magic, and not just because of its older roots in alchemy. Innumerable wizards populate the world of modern IT and we can be sure that the mood at NASA or at CERN when hitting the target can be described as nothing less than magical.

Here Dawkins misses the point, surely. All these highly successful scientists were children once. Where and how did they learn to open their imaginations to visions and dreams soaring high above daily routines, if not in that wondrous hour of storytelling which leads them into sleep?

A prince turning into a frog is too improbable, says the wise professor. Just as improbable as oxygen and hydrogen turning into water? Or iron filings arranging themselves in sonar fields? Plants and organisms tracking the lunar cycle? Surely what matters to the growing child is to learn to open the imagination so that the mind can fly across boundaries, whether on magic carpets or in school laboratories.

To impose what is “correct” for the imagination to play with, and deny what is “incorrect”, is a tyranny that serves no purpose. The expansive dimension of the creative, imaginative mind, proclaims that there are no boundaries. And yes, magic carpets will still get you there.

CJM June 2014

Posted By C J Moore to C J Moore on 6/09/2014 01:11:00 pm