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An essay

I Europe. Greek myth as metaphor.

Europe, the daughter of a Phoenician ruler, is so young and beautiful. In her purple dress embroidered in gold, without a care, she frolics by the sea. The fields are profuse with flowers. Narcissi and lilies. Violets and crocuses. An idyll. Portrayed by the writers of antiquity and, over time, converted into an impersonal myth. Europe is wonderful. Everything is splendid.

But then, one night Europe has a bad dream. Europe dreams that Asia, who has raised her, is at war with a country across the sea from her. The battle is over Europe. Asia loses. The young Phoenician does not find out what happens next because she wakes. The lovely cheek of Europe grows troubled. Her thoughts are preoccupied with the meaning of the dream she has seen. What could this dreadful dream augur? She should ask one of the Sibyls, query one of the oracles. Try to think herself. But there is no time to think. An Event is approaching. Europe has never been able to think anything through to the end. There are always Events that interfere with contemplation.

Then, Europe is abducted. The Great ruler of the Olympus, in the guise of a bull, sweeps Europe off her feet. The breath of the beast smells as sweet as ambrosia. Europe embraces the bull’s head and kisses his golden fur. Zeus, in the guise of a bull, releases Europe’s hidden instincts, and carries her away on his back. To steal her virginity. Take her by force to be his wife. He rapes her. But Europe is intoxicated with the sweet smell of ambrosia. The breath of her violator. Europe has kissed the golden fur of the bull. Her violator’s fur. The deep ties between the victim and the rapist are lost in the dark. An exchange? A collaboration? A symbiosis?

The myth does say that nothing has happened but is always happening.  The semantics of a myth are always unclear. Like the bad dream of Europe. A myth poses riddles.

The only thing that can be said for certain is that a myth repeats itself. Repeats itself again and again. In the Greek myth, Europe is raped by a white bull. As time passes, the bull – totalitarian power – assumes different colours. In the 20th century – brown and red. Trampled under the hooves of the bull – the ideals of humanity, culture and reason. The bull has gold horns. On his forehead – a red star. On his forehead – a swastika. There is a desire to idealise abducted Europe. So young. So beautiful. Narcissi and lilies. Violets and crocuses. The world before it fell into sin. Yes, what Latvia was before occupation.

During fifty years under the communist regime, the Baltic nations yearned for the abducted Europe. They, themselves, were a part of this abducted, Europe. The part not raped is behind a wall. There, everything is as good as it was – Europe frolics in her splendid dress.  By the sea. In a field profuse with flowers. The bad dream? The captivating breath of the bull? There is no time for contemplation.

There is time, however, for idealisation. Of abducted Europe. A yearning for a humane existence, freedom and respect for the individual. For a Europe inside oneself. For a Europe – the one behind the wall. There is a fervent desire to belong to it. To an orderly, harmonious world. To deeply internalise the classical heritage of Europe. Shakespeare. Cervantes. Goethe. Moliere. Hugo… Spirituality, humanism, civilisation, democracy – the splendid garb of Europe. Lack of air experienced in a Communist reality makes one take deep breaths of this idealised Europe. Distilled, extracted, clean. The main Event is spiritual survival. With an oxygen mask. With Europe as a means of anaesthesia. There is no time to think. To know is not possible.

It is better not to know that European leftist intellectuals sang odes to the Soviet Union. As, in the gulag, millions were slaughtered. It is better not to know the significant contribution of European intellectuals in the destruction of the peoples and cultures of the Soviet Empire. Of the 200 nationalities in the USSR territory, less than a half succeeded in retaining their language, culture and lifestyle. No one calls this genocide. Rare species of plants and animals – that is a totally different thing.  Europe does concern itself with these.  The intoxicating smell of the ambrosia of the bull? The experience of suffering and violence, the energy generated by resistance creates a forceful cultural energy field, assigns depth to art and a wide public resonance. It is good not to know. Not to know yet the marginalization and neuroticism of the culture of Europe. Better not to see the intercourse of Europe and the bull. It is better to dream an obscure dream. Not to think thoughts through to the end.

II The Cross and the Sword.

“The Chronicle of Henricus” (Indriķa hronika) is a historic document dating from the 13th century, describing the Crusades proclaimed by Pope Innocent III in 1199 against Livonia, now Latvia and Estonia. “The Chronicle of Henricus” is also a rock opera based on this historical document, produced by the National Theatre of Latvia, which has enjoyed several seasons of success.  The music is by Jānis Lūsēns; the libretto and the text are by the author of this essay.

The Christianization of Livonia. The Baltics become a component of the Christian cultural milieu of the West. The boundaries drawn between Rome and Byzantium at that time have been retained to this day. Latvia’s accession to the European Union is a balancing act on the same boundaries. On its crevasses. Wounds. Problems.

The cross and the sword are quite similar as geometric shapes. The vertical of the cross. The vertical of the sword. The horizontal line of the cross is longer than the characteristic horizontal line of the hilt of a sword. The vertical is masculine. God. Father. Global market. The horizontal is feminine. Mother. Language. Earth. Homeland.

In Germany, the concept “homeland” has fallen into disuse. It is discredited and no longer politically correct. In Germany, the word gets caught in the throat. Germany has gorged herself on the word. The small, oppressed nations have not had enough of the word. They are starving for it. For homeland, mother tongue, for an identity – that totalitarianism, both brown and red, has stolen from them. For small nations it is their daily bread – their sustenance. They suffer from a lack of the horizontal. They see the sword. Not the cross. They remember that “New Europe” is a term first used by the Nazis.

Too simple? Too complicated. Events. Events. No time to think. Harmonisation of legislation. Standardisation. Unification. The same laws for those who have lived in surfeit as for those who are starving.

In the Greek myth, the traditional epithet for Europe is “platace” –  “Polyphonous”. Polymorphous – diverse. National territories are small cultural preserves – sanctuaries for diverse forms of expression and content. The survival of ethnic cultures is a guarantee of diversity. The horizontal. Market economy and globalism shorten the horizontal. They turn the cross into a sword. De-integrate nations as carriers of the diverse cultures of Europe. The masculine vertical fears the feminine horizontal.  Sin. Celibacy. Burning of witches. “Our Father in Heaven” …Our Mother – the Earth. A human child needs both a Father and a Mother. The crucifix. Son of a human. Child of a human. At the point where the vertical and the horizontal of the cross meet – the crux.

In the rock opera “Chronicle of Henricus” (Indriķa hronika), the daughter of the Latvian ruler is expecting a child. It is a child of rape. Born of the seed of the enemy. The King wants to kill the child. But the child is the only possible continuation for the royal line. The King, therefore, reconciles himself to the birth, but he waits for the birth of an avenger. A son. Who will grow up, rule, divide and hate. He will take revenge for all the wrongs that have been suffered. There is a feeling of great disappointment and betrayal when the child is born. It is a girl.

O, for the gentleness of forgiveness. Can forgiveness be given if it has not been asked for? A child, a girl, a new concept. The enemy is no longer external. Now it is internalised, merged. Was it ever external?

III Margaret and Faust

It is true that there is nothing specifically German in the theme and problem of Faust. It is a human drama, wherein Faust represents humanity. Today Goethe again has become actual. Within the context of the development of Europe and the search for a new identity.  Within the context of an exploited and transformed nature. Within the context of an eroding sense of what is human existence. The concept of Faust as a hero has taken a strange detour. Faust is larger than large, a great and true hero. Only Mephistopheles, that nasty Mephistopheles, is bent on ruining everything! The ruler is good; it is the courtiers who do not allow the people to breathe. The general secretary of the party is good; it is only his subordinates who interfere with the realisation of sunny party ideals. Communism as an idea is good – it is only the people implementing it, who have contaminated it. When Goethe created Mephistopheles as Faust’s alter ego, Faust’s shadow, could he have foreseen the surprising emancipation the image of this character would experience as a result of audience perception. An intriguing opportunity to externalise evil.

The image of Faust characterises the essence of Europe. To understand the socio-psychological genesis of Goethe’s hero and its influence, which has remained unchanged to this day, means to understand the great drama of Europe and its tragic delusions that have resulted in two totalitarian regimes. The ambivalent nature of Europe expresses itself in the persona of Faust. Spirituality and the Holy Inquisition. The concepts of freedom and colonialism. Democracy and imperialism. Human rights and the holocaust.

Faustian plans for revamping the world are ones with which the super powers of both the East and the West identify. On the other hand, Gretel – this, seemingly peripheral, limited and naïve figure, as she is in the interpretation of many, is the one with which, unfortunately, small nations, cultures and languages, are able to identify.

In my play “Margaret”, we find Gretel in her prison cell 25 years (perhaps 250 years?) after Goethe (Or Faust? Or Mephistopheles? Or after a choir of angels?). In any case, 25 years have passed, when we again encounter Margaret – a grown-up and fully matured woman, no longer the small, naïve Gretel. The advocate arrives, because finally the trial has begun (!) for this person who from a judicial point of view has only been arrested.  She has been charged with criminal offences. The charges are serious – poisoning of her mother, murder of her child and conspiracy in the death of her brother.  Only slowly it is revealed that the catalyst in all of what has happened is Faust. In the play, all that has occurred is portrayed from the point of view of Margaret. It is, after all, important to give Margaret a say. Margaret speaks. The advocate keeps strictly to the “case materials” – namely, the text of Goethe’s “Faust”. Margaret, in poisoning her mother, has destroyed her past.  In drowning her child, she has robbed herself of a future. In betraying Valentine, her brother – she has destroyed an idealist. What remains? An irrational love of Faust. The bull’s ambrosial breath. Its suggestion of strength. The body of the beast covered in golden fur. Margaret – abducted Europe. Faust –– the bull.

As it turns out, the advocate, offspring of contemporary democracy and civilisation, is the child of Gretel and Faust (No, he did not drown, he has been saved! Yes, a miracle!) A son. A human being. A child. An orphan. The young advocate sees Faust as the source of all evil. Margaret slowly wakes from Faust’s hypnosis. Then, in some nuance, some small gesture, Margaret sees a frightening similarity between her son and his father.  The son hates his father and is not aware of their similarity. He is not aware of the Faust in himself.

Europe’s awareness is not clear. The focus on Margaret is an attempt to revise and cleanse the concept of Europe. The advocate, in interrogating Margaret, asks about the “other”. We sense that he means Mephistopheles. There has been no other, Margaret swears. Faust acted alone. The “other” is a substance that is to be found in our own cells and tissues.

There is no time to think things through. An Event is approaching. The advocate is invited to work for the European Parliament. Globalisation, cultural standardisation and cultural imperialism. A transformation of the world – not included in it, the transformation of awareness, soul and morality – the Faustian discourse. The horizontal? The eternally feminine? In it the wealth of Europe is buried, its diversity of cultures and polyphony of languages. Thus, Europe herself is threatened.

No longer is Europe the young and virginal Phoenician. No longer is she the young and naïve Gretel. Europe is experienced. Europe dreams. In her dream, someone wants to steal one of her languages, one of her cultures. Then another, and yet another. But, it is only a bad dream. What happens next, Europe does not find out. She wakes up.

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