Vazha-Pshavela, Led Zeppelin, Europe and Me
Tuesday, May 13
When else should one remember Vazha-Pshavela – the greatest Georgian-European - if not on the Europe Day? Personal freedom is the greatest European value. It is the foundation of the Free World where Europe belongs. A person must be an active, full-fledged member of society, and at the same time, the society must not oppress personal freedoms. Vazha-Pshavela is the greatest Georgian and the greatest European among Georgians. Either you are a European or you are not. One cannot learn to become a European. Vazha, who comes from a poor family in the mountains of Pshavi, was born a European and a passionate patriot. His life and work proves that Georgia and Europe can melt together in great ways. If not for the obvious difficulty of translating exact meanings from Georgian into other languages, only a few works of European classic literature can match the greatness of Vazha-Pshavela’s “Aluda Qetelauri” or “Stumar-Maspindzeli” in terms of love towards humanity and superiority of personal freedom vis-a-vis society.
Exactly 30 years ago something very important happened to me. On my birthday I got hold of a Led Zeppelin record. I remember that it said “Led Zeppelin 75’ – Physical Graffiti” on the tape. Once my birthday party was over, I put the record on very quietly in order not to disturb my parents and my sister. With my ear glued to the “mono” – a single speaker tape recorder - I started listening to the music. First “Custard Pie”, then the other tracks... I heard a lot of strange noises, but immediately felt the originality and the greatness of the music. Later I listened to other albums “Led Zeppelin I”, “Led Zeppelin II” – and it all became clear. It was a completely different world, something very unlike where I am now. With time I started to understand very clearly that this kind of music can be created only in a place where a person is free, where a person is not limited by strange cliches and stereotypes, where a person believes in oneself... To put it simply: in the Free World. For me, European (or one could say Western) values were expressed in Led Zeppelin. It was so different from anything that one could come across in the USSR, it was brilliant, and so distant to make me understand that the world where it exists, the world of which we could become part of only in our wildest dreams, was ten times better than my world.
Europe is not some kind of an alternative. It doesn’t matter how dissatisfied you are with pointless disappointment of invaluable evaluation of your actions; how strange the Europe-Russia relations seem at times; how strongly you wish for Europe to settle all your problems; how much you fear novelty; how much you get irritated by the actions of those who claim to be greater Europeans than yourself... In any case, there is no alternative to being Europe. You either are a European or you are not. For me Europe is freedom, equality, compassion, participation, respect of history and responsibility for the present and the future, and of course respect towards one’s own and others’ work.
I believe in Europe. At the most difficult times, Europe took the most pragmatic and clever decisions. Let’s remember how Europe consolidated itself after the two World Wars. The enemies of yesterday became the partners of today. They built a new continent together. They established joint economic and military-political organisations, accomplishing a lot in partnership with the United States as part of the Marshall Plan. This became the foundation of the honorable and safe life of the Europeans, the foundation of welfare and development. I want Europe. There is no alternative for our children.
Me – Koki Ionatamishvili, 8 May 2014