I. MEDITERRANEAN PERIPLUS
In Search of Orpheus
Chronicle 1. THE UNIVERSAL MEDITERRANEAN
THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA HAS CAST A SPELL ON US ALL for far too many reasons. If the ancient Hellenes have done great, they mainly owe it to this sea rather than the mainland. That goes for the Phoenicians, too, as well as every other Mediterranean people that have left their mark on the history of mare nostrum. The same is also true, more or less, for all coastal peoples. We are primarily Mediterranean natives, and only secondarily European, Asian, African, Balkan, Levantine, or else. And yet, very few have Mediterranean consciousness. The sea that once brought us together – even during our military confrontations – now seems as if keeping us apart.
The importance of this small and landlocked sea is far greater than what we can imagine; the Mediterranean has been the most crucial crucible of civilizations in the world, because it connects the three most important continents: Africa, where man was allegedly born; Asia, where he was civilized; and Europe, where he was liberated – on Grecian soil, as is well known. Thus, it was quite natural for the Mediterranean aura to penetrate deep into the territory of these continents and its historical space to greatly exceed its narrow geographic boundaries.
The Mediterranean has been the most crucial crucible of civilizations. Its historical space has greatly exceeded its narrow geographic boundaries.
Geographically, the Mediterranean is clearly delineated. Besides, it was given this name because it is surrounded by these three continents and looks like a huge lagoon, having only one natural outlet, leading to the Atlantic Ocean: the Strait of Gibraltar through the legendary Pillars of Heracles. However, as a historical space, it is far broader. Human communities, as a rule, have regarded no natural obstacles as eternally insurmountable. After a while, the growth of civilization, of technology, and the courage of some daring individuals, always led to barriers overcome, creating wider entities of exchange and cooperation.
That far broader sea, the “universal” Mediterranean, is the one we’re voyaging around: from the Atlantic coast of Iberia and the Maghreb, as far as the Indian subcontinent and the Chinese border area in Central Asia, often crossing some complementary seas, such as the Black and the Caspian Seas, the Red Sea and the Gulf. We also sail out into the Indian Ocean, due to the extensive Afro-Asian exchange, we caravan through the Sahara, for even the desert was not able to obstruct a cultural osmosis, bearing rich fruit to the northern coast of the Black Continent, without excluding crossings of the Atlantic, mainly destined for Latin, Iberian America, but also for several parts in the North of the New World, where the Mediterranean culture is still omnipresent.
This area is certainly so immense that no one is willingly ready to accept there are common features. Skepticism, nevertheless, starts dwindling away when one is reminded of the diverse exchange since age-old times between the two most remote peninsulas at the extreme ends of this integrated historical space: the Indian and the Iberian. These contacts were later strengthened with the Arab conquest of Iberia and, even more, with the arrival of the Indian Gypsies (Roma) at the peninsula.
It goes without saying, of course, that in this area, where the Hellenic presence was once very strong, apart from a minimum common denominator, there is such a plethora of sounds and art forms that it would be quite foolishly risky for anyone to try to “square” in an alleged attempt of some sort of classification.
The challenge amidst all those myriads of local idioms and aesthetic standards is unity within diversity, rejecting any form of uniformity.
The challenge amidst all those myriads of local idioms and aesthetic standards, both folk and erudite, is unity within diversity. This unity should be cherished and safeguarded at all costs in the current period of galloping homogenization, which launches instead a certain “unity” through uniformity – i.e. something that must be imposed on man, for it is against human nature.
Sound-diversity, just like biodiversity – diversity in every form – is the absolutely necessary condition not only for the survival, but also for the development of mankind and human civilization. However, beware: the response to the so-called “globalization” is not entrenchment but openness to the outside world instead, expanding exchange and cooperation on equal terms, honesty and tolerance. All those who trust themselves adopt an “open doors” policy.
“And those who do not consent?”, you may wonder. “What shall be done with all those who constantly undermine unity having non-Mediterranean big powers backing them? Is it possible at this moment for the perpetrators and the victims to coexist, such as the Israeli Jews and the Palestinians? Are we day-dreaming?”
“Each people deserve those who govern them”. (Plato)
“Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite”.
(Joseph de Maistre)
IT IS TRUE that whatever differentiation we may figure out between citizens and politicians, the people are also to blame since, as a well-known saying goes, “each people deserve those who govern them” (Plato), or, if you like, “toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite” (Joseph de Maistre), i.e. every nation gets the government it deserves.
The degradation of a citizen to the status of a subject definitely makes things worse, especially now that the intelligentsia is mostly sold-out and has no role to play anymore. The identification of cultured people with states or parties is no longer conceivable, for it has been proven beyond any doubt that it constitutes the worst service to the arts and letters – to culture as a whole, to humanity.
If we accept that mankind is able to create a world of peace and co-operation in the interest of all peoples, we can say: all those who do not consent are de facto excluded from any efforts to forge a Mediterranean unity. That is why honesty precedes tolerance – where, of course, there are limits. We are not diplomats. In the final analysis, has diplomacy ever promoted culture?