Before I begin, let me thank you for this opportunity. During this blog tour, a couple of Author Interviews have posed similar questions – however, none focused solely on this fundamental issue, this post lets me grant the question the answers it deserves.
At age six, I lost my father to a heart attack caused by a surgical blunder. With seven children to care for, circumstances forced my mother to enter the workplace as a self-taught bookkeeper. Though she has never expressed it, I can only imagine how desperate she must have been, and how difficult those times truly were. We had a home, food, hand-me-down clothes, and all the love any child could ever need. For our birthdays and Christmas, we’d receive the necessities – to this day, the Christmas gifts I treasure most are new socks, and plain cotton handkerchiefs. In other words, we were destitute, yet didn’t know. Though I was the fourth child of seven, I never doubted that I was my mother’s favorite middle child. Each of us held a unique variation of the coveted title, “favorite”, and none of us begrudged the others theirs. Hearts are strange things, their capacity for love is limitless, yet every iteration of love is unique.
Shortly after my father’s death, my Godfather assumed the role of father figure, for me. He was a bachelor, never married, and recently forced into early retirement for his political beliefs. He lived in a tiny, one roomed cottage a few miles from our house, and he read a great deal. His love let me escape to the companionable solitude of afternoons spent reading, or talking about all kinds of things. While he never directly mentioned his political views, which I later learnt were of social justice, he always held true to them. Although my Godfather had excellent vision, he was the first truly blind person I met – in a time of widespread discrimination, he never considered people in terms of race, gender, creed, or social status. To him, there were only individuals, their worth determined by nothing save their character. Where you and I look at someone, and see their physical characteristics, I know my Godfather looked at people, and saw their soul. Circumstances shape character – in that crucible, a hard life results in the finest clay. I recall an incident when someone stole the radio out of his car. Outraged anyone could do such a shameful thing to such a decent person, I expounded on how harsher penalties were needed – this was the prevailing thought of the time (it seems to have remained prevalent). My Godfather astonished me by shrugging off the incident, and asking this question, “Who is the guiltier person – the one stealing the radio, or the one who buys the stolen radio?” I was about eight at the time, but I grasped his meaning. He never replaced the radio, and we never missed it, using its silence as an opportunity to talk instead.
When I was around seventeen years old, my Godfather left Rhodesia and moved to southern Spain. This was during the height of the counter-insurgency war wracking that wonderful country. I think only the most unfortunate are capable of seeing their youth as they truly were. I don’t count myself among those deprived of a splendid childhood, so to me Rhodesia was a wonderful place of liberty and dignity for all. In the decade I spent with him, my Godfather took me all over the country – we visited its wonders, and met many of its gentle people. After he left, I completed my matriculation and volunteered for National Service nearly a year ahead of my scheduled conscription. I firmly believing doing so was service to my country, and I held a great fear it would fall to the communist backed insurgents if I waited. Looking back, I feel great remorse – not for serving my country but for the actions of my distant forefathers. Europeans corrupted an honorable, ancient culture. Centuries past, they took their beliefs and imposed them on a spiritual, primitive people who had been entirely self-sufficient. Western values have little place in Africa. Is the right of conquest a right, or an immoral imposition? Yet that happened long before my birth, should I feel shame for the actions of my ancestors’ ancestors? Although my heritage is European, I’m fifth generation African, my soul is of the Dark Continent. This understanding is now a cornerstone of my philosophy – simply because someone holds different beliefs to you, does not make them wrong, it simply makes them different. Without diversity, is doom.
By now, I’m sure you’re wondering what any of this has to do with my series, Malmaxa. The answer is a significant amount. I’ve lived through hard times, held prosperity in my grasp, and seen hard times return. I’ve been a combatant in an insurgency war, witnessed terrible deeds, and done shameful things. I’ve remained silent, when I should have raised vocal objections. I’ve lost a brother to cold-blooded murder, and lived to see the day of his killer’s execution, though not the execution itself. Each of these things, and countless others, most better but some far worse, have shaped me into whom I will become. Of them all, I count the influence of my Godfather and mother highest. They revealed a better world than that in which we dwell. A world where character counts for more than dogma, material wealth, or inherited acclaim.
Beltamar’s War introduces my literal world – a place stripped bare of most all that makes people behave as poorly as we do. Malmaxa, is my metaphor of a world where character counts. Is it a perfect place, inhabited by imperfect people, or a world where insidious evil enslaves the innocent? It might be both of these – venture in, and find out.
Join me in on my continuing journey through Malmaxa, where every deed or misdeed modifies perception, and perception is the ever-changing clay used to mold character. If you’d prefer to travel alongside me in this world, follow me on Twitter, where you can find me as @CGAyling
With children African, English and American, and myself born and raised in a country of five names, I consider myself… a citizen of the world.
My wife and four children think of me simply as a thorny old man – and thus my symbol…
One of the most influential people in my life was my Godfather. A man of absolute integrity, remarkable intellect, and fine character. He taught me tolerance, and intolerance, together. He showed me that every conflict has are two sides, if not more. It was thanks to time spent with him that I developed a guiding principle in my life, namely that the most fundamental sign of intelligence is the ability to change one’s mind. It is to honor him that I use his name as my pseudonym, yet I know my efforts fall far short of what he deserved.
In my memory, C.G.Ayling lives forever. Is that not as close as any man can come to immortality?
Visit his website at www.cgayling.com/malmaxa.