On May 9th, 2016, the Hungarian PEN Club organized a prestigious roundtable debate in the historic building of the Petöfi Literary Museum in Budapest. The talks were attended by writers from Central European countries such as Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, including Slovakia represented by Jozef Banáš. The debate was led by Mátyás Sárközi, a BBC moderator from London.
At the end of the talks, the writers signed an appeal addressed to the citizens of the European Union which stated among other things:
“We have to say a clear NO to any attempts aiming at the elimination or transformation of European values. We are convinced that Europe will emerge stronger from the current crisis.”
At the same time, the debate´s participants invited their colleagues – writers from Middle Eastern countries – to join in a dialogue about the future of both civilizations. The following were Jozef Banáš´s opening words which met with a positive response from the audience:
My European dream
Currently I am writing a novel about the happiest country in the world – about the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas which I have had the honour to visit recently. Since my visit I have been writing and dreaming.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once had his dream of the United States, I now have a dream of Europe inspired by Bhutan.
I have a dream that one day Europe will become a place filled with happy people who care more for the riches in their hearts than those in their hands, who try to love their next more than themselves, who unconditionally respect God´s law: whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
I have a dream that one day people in Europe will stop their never-ending chase after a growing Gross Domestic Product; a chase ensuring that we can pay interest to the insatiable banks; a chase for which we destroy the environment and the future of our children mercilessly.
I have a dream that one day people in Europe will not just drag themselves to work and make a living but will do their jobs with happy hearts; that they will create a society of free and coequal individuals and not a mass of manipulated beings forced into line whose only task is to consume and produce and to raise new consumers and workers.
I have a dream that one day people in Europe will not be steamrolled by consumption; that a two-hour-long TV film will really last two hours and not four due to commercials; that people will socialize after work in their local pub, drink a glass of wine and sing songs together.
I have a dream that one day people in Europe will eat eggs from hens running on grass and not dying in cages; that they will drink milk which will not get mouldy the next day but sour as it used to in former times.
I have a dream that one day the nations of Europe will enrich themselves by exchanging the fruits of their culture and education instead of homogenizing into one grey, dead and globalised crowd; that one day culture will not be regarded as a product governed by the rules of free commerce and that cinemas will not show only films made in Hollywood but also by such renowned directors as Wajda, Tarkovsky, Bergmann, Fassbinder, Jancsó, Menzel, Szabó or Nemesz; that one day the nations will respect each other based on the strength of their genius instead of their cannons.
I have a dream of a Europe where not farmers, but still local husbandmen cultivate their land, where we honour national traditions and not the traditions of Halloweens and Valentine Days, where people sitting in a train communicate and do not just gaze at each other with headphones on, where we enjoy the presence of friends in a coffee place instead of texting to friends who are not present, where neighbours know and even greet each other, where people show solidarity and help each other, where we welcome a foreigner with open arms, because we have invited him and not where a foreigner forces his way to our house and claims our beds.
I have a dream that one day politicians in Europe will stop frightening us with terror so they can “protect” and monitor us; that they will find the courage and ask loudly who and why has been bombarding the houses of millions of poor people who are forced to leave their homeland; that they finally will stop the continuous discussions on how to distribute the water leaking through the holes in the bathtub and instead make sure that no more holes are drilled.
I have a dream of a Europe led by true leaders and not by administration employees willing to serve obediently in exchange for a good-paying job, of a Europe where the words journalist and politician arouse respect and not contempt, I have a dream of media informing and not manipulating us, searching for truth instead of lies.
I have a dream that one day the Frenchman will hold hands with the Englishman, the Englishman with the German and the German with the Russian man in the interest of stability, prosperity and peace. I believe that one day European countries will find the courage exemplified by Bhutan and will permanently incorporate the Gross National Happiness indicator replacing the Gross Domestic Product into their constitutions.
I believe in a Europe where the fish will not stink but smell nicely from the head down, where political elites will stand out as moral examples.
I have a dream that one day the courageous Europeans will put Brussels´ fossils on ice as they did with those from Moscow. Men sowing a storm shall also reap a storm, because that is God´s law. One can escape earthly justice but never the divine one.
I have a dream that one day personal growth of each individual living in Europe will not be measured by his or her effort to be better than other people but everyone will try to be better than he or she was the day before. I have a dream that we will stop looking for the speck in our brother's eye and take the planks out of our own eyes.