Fake furs are a manmade excuse for the poor to envy their betters.
‘There are times when the mind processes of these mortals beggar belief.’ Artemis jabbed a delicate finger at the sheet of newsprint spread across the glass coffee-table to protect it from the bright emerald varnish she was applying to her nails.
‘Do many of them have minds that they actually do use? Zeus raised a quizzical bushy eyebrow. His own thoughts – dulled to a complacent hedonism by the 21st century comforts of a luxury penthouse flat in Marina Bay – seldom stretched beyond the menu of his next meal, and constant amusement at the antics of the humans who were now his neighbours on the Rock – neither of which required mental effort.
‘You’re probably right… but what are they up to this time?’ asked Hera looking up from the Kindle, which had replaced the stack of recipe books and cookery guides gathered over the months since the Olympian gods had arrived in Gibraltar.
Artemis held up the newsprint. ‘FAKE FUR FURY!’ a heavy black headline announced.
‘They’re protesting because some clothing manufacturers are using real animal fur, while claiming it to be fake. Yet, not all that long ago, the same people were complaining that imitation furs made from polyester or polypropylene – whatever that is – were being sold as the genuine article culled from real living animals… well, actually no longer living by the time the fur was removed.
‘It’s all so illogical and contradictory. Not long ago they found a new piety in wearing leopard-skin coats and crocodile leather boots made from factory material instead of taken from the real animals.’
‘But surely those fakes were created in response to protests by the anti-hunting campaigners,’ said Hebe, busy with the ‘Find-a-Job’ website she had Googled as part of her daily routine since being made redundant by the bank. (In a post-Brexit world, no longer would there be French, Spanish, German or Italian wines on which she could give her valued investment advice, said the Friday email announcing her redundancy and bluntly adding: ‘Don’t bother to come in on Monday’).
‘You must remember,’ she continued. ‘You were furious when you heard about those first attempts in Britain to have fox-hunting banned. You had just come back from hunting Kris-Kris in the Peloponnese. Olympus shuddered under your anger.’
Artemis blushed. Her passion for the chase – with spear, or bow and golden arrows – had been legendary, and early mortals had worshipped her as Goddess of the Hunt. Even temples had been dedicated to her, but as mortal faith in the Olympian pantheon was diluted by time and rational philosophy, all that had changed and, by the time the gods moved from Olympus to the Rock, her followers could have been counted on the fingers of one hand.
Anyway, in mainland Greece few wild creatures still foraged the dwindling forests or grazed what small stretches of grassland that remained. There had been little to hunt after decades of economic deprivation, and with the later influx of refugees, most edible prey had ended in the pot.
On the Rock there had been even fewer opportunities to enjoy bow or spear. The apes were a nuisance but were neither edible nor a challenge to the huntress’ skill. And the seagulls, though a constant irritant, didn’t merit her attention. So, like many mortals before her, she had discovered a new passion, a cause – the Women’s Liberation Movement, which Dionysus mockingly described as ‘the burn the bra brigade.’
And hunting, or the slaughter of any animals whether for fur or food, was an immutable NO-NO among the Sisters – as grievous an error as it would be to express a liking for Donald Trump. Almost certainly it would be grounds for expulsion from the Sisterhood. So she lived with a niggling fear that someone might uncover her past, and thanked that goddess of all gods, Gaia, that members of the movement were more concerned with racism, sexism, and global inequalities than with the Classical past.
‘We all have made mistakes, and some of the things mortals found acceptable a few centuries ago are no longer considered valid,’ Artemis replied primly to her sister. ‘I’m sure we can all still remember when, through the Fates and the Furies, we could – and often did – intervene in the affairs of mortals. That would be quite inappropriate today. There’s a new morality, a belief in the ethics of right and wrong.’
‘Codswallop and poppycock and gobbledygook,’ rumbled Zeus who had followed the conversation desultorily. ‘It has nothing to do with killing animals or wearing plastic imitations… it all boils down to an envy prompted by the rise through human society of the second rate individual – that and the fact that mortals believe what they want to, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. It’s happened all the way down mankind’s history. For countless centuries they endowed us with celestial powers, surrounded us with legends which they wanted to believe but had little to do with fact or truth.
‘That idiot Jason who went off chasing for a non-existent Golden Fleece – a ‘fake fur’ if ever there was one – is a typical example of man’s envy and stupidity – something concocted by one Greek king to make another envious. Actually, it was only the woollen side of a ram’s skin which the gold miners of Sparta used to collect the gold dust which they washed from their diggings. Nothing magic about it, but it provoked massive envy.
‘Same thing with real and fake furs. For millennia men hunted and killed creatures for their food – and their skins, which kept them warm and dry. Furs were the friend of the common man – whether a Neanderthal or the human we know today. It was only when new forms of clothing came to be worn and fine furs were rarer, that ermine and mink and sable became valuable commodities which only the rich could afford. So the poor envied them their symbols of wealth.’
Hera, Hebe and Artemis listened to the Father of the Gods with growing astonishment. Instead of his brief and usually irrelevant comments, Zeus was actually talking as though he gave some thought to what he was saying. And he hadn’t finished.
‘And gradually the envious poor have found a voice, directing their envy into action… opposing fox-hunting, fussing about wearing furs… then accepting fake furs as something they could afford, and disguising their actions and reactions as “social concerns”. They’re always looking for something to complain about…something or someone to resent. That’s human nature. It’s always been human nature. And, mark my words, nothing’s going to change it.’
And Zeus stomped off to collect a handful of small thunderbolts to use on the hunt for wild boar in the Alcornocales, to which a Spanish MP had invited him. Now that he was beginning to feel his age, he thought a walking stick with a wild boar’s tusk as a handle would be suitable on one of his infrequent progresses down Main Street.