CUCKOO was both delighted with EAGLE’S progress, and concerned.
EAGLE was merely a symbolic token of American power so CUCKOO was not quite sure what he could do.
He was, after all, an eagle, and not a human, and given the paranoia that had existed in EAGLE-LAND since 9/11, CUCKOO shuddered to think what might happen if EAGLE casually flew in to give the president advice, or tried to gatecrash Congress.
He was likely to encounter a Stinger missile flying the other way at high speed. COOKOO wasn’t at all sure how the Americans would feel about losing such a missile; or what EAGLE might do if provoked. He wasn’t your average raptor.
For his part, EAGLE, for so long almost completely focused on the American continent, had suddenly decided to research internationally; and he had recruited a flock of his buddies to help in the process. Eagles, big and small, fat and tall – hundreds of them, intelligence their common denominator - had flown everywhere in the world anything was happening; and were busy jotting down their findings on their iPads and sending the data to some high security eyrie EAGLE had set up in Colorado. CUCKOO had the suspicion that EAGLE had probably tapped into NORAD’s computers. As EAGLE liked to joke: “I have a talon for that sort of thing.”
CUCKOO had had no idea that EAGLE was so connected, but there it was; and he had recruited a slew of what he called his ‘Royal Family’ as well.
One even called himself ‘The Napoleonic Eagle’ and took himself very seriously. He was an ‘enarques’ of course – a graduate from one of France’s elite graduate schools – so what else could you expect. He wore an acute accent over the ‘e.’ He thought it made him look very dashing.
Enarques were very bright, very few in number, and generally considered to be brilliant. They formed the backbone of both the French government and its civil service; and ran many of its businesses.
Dominique Strauss Kahn had tried to become one, but, though exceptionally bright, had failed.
EAGLE hadn’t doubted CUCKOO, but since CUCKOO was so identified with CUCKOO-LAND, or Europe, as humans called it, he thought he should ‘trust but verify.’
It turned out that CUCKOO had been advising him entirely accurately, but had, if anything, been excessively tactful. The situation, based upon EAGLE’s intelligence initiative, was, if anything even more serious than the one COOKOO had portrayed. But, above all, EAGLE knew that his gigabytes of raw intelligence needed interpreting.
“CUCKOO,” he said, “I’m sorry if I seemed to doubt you, but you practically scared me out of my feathers so I thought I’d better develop a few independent sources,” he said.
“Good idea,” said CUCKOO, “though I’m not sure you needed to mount an invasion of CUCKOO-LAND.”
EAGLE smiled apologetically. “There was a lot of ground to cover. Europe is bigger than most of us think. Actually, it’s bigger than EAGLE-LAND though that includes some counties that aren’t in the EU. ”
“Yes,” said CUCKOO. “And I wonder how many Americans know that? When I’m here, I hear nothing of criticism of Europe, but damn few Americans know much about us – let alone bother to learn from us; or from anywhere else, for that matter.”
EAGLE looked embarrassed. He was very proud of EAGLE-LAND, but he had to admit that CUCKOO was no more than telling the truth. On top of doing badly, many Americans were arrogant as well as ignorant. Well, ‘uniformed’ might be a better way of putting it. They had done marvelous things for Europe in WW I and WW II, but those events had been a long time ago. And killing your nation’s enemies was not the same as looking after your own people in peacetime. The latter was a whole lot harder. It seemed to bring out the worst in people. It was akin to a family fight.
“My apologies,” said CUCKOO; “I’m being rude. I’m not here to be critical. I’m here to help. I love EAGLE-LAND as much as you do. It is just that I get so frustrated by America’s inability, or unwillingness, to solve problems that have been solved elsewhere.”
“I’m beginning to feel the same way,” said EAGLE. “Do you know that the typical worker in CUCKOO-LAND has free health-care, long paid vacations, free K-12 education for his kids, free or nearly free third level education, a pension, unemployment pay, a slew of worker rights, can’t be dismissed without compensation and due process – and yet Europe still manufactures things and is competitive in world markets? If they can do it,why can’t we?”
“Perhaps they all live uncomfortable lives in little houses,” said CUCKOO, who still wasn’t quite over his little outburst. ‘That’s what American media likes to say.”
“They live a little differently,” said EAGLE, “but I’d say, if anything, they live better than us. They are much more secure financially, their food is better, they have excellent public transport, their educational system is superior – up to third level anyway – and if something goes wrong, they have a social safety net. Vastly less stress all round. And, as a matter of interest, they use half the energy we do. Oil and stuff.”
He cocked his head to one side. He was thinking. “But, in other ways, perhaps they use twice the energy Americans do. They walk a lot.”
“But are they as free?” said CUCKOO.
EAGLE suddenly looked really angry – though more with the issues he was dealing with than with CUCKOO. “Of course they bloody well are,” he said. “It’s just that we’ve been brainwashed to think we have a monopoly of freedom. And it isn’t true.”
CUCKOO nodded in satisfaction. EAGLE was learning. Though it was early days yet.
CUCKOO groaned internally. Everyone gave cuckoos cuckoo-clocks; even cuckoos. Personally, he’d have preferred a Swatch.
EAGLE pressed a button, and the clocks door’s opened, and a cuckoo popped out. Only it wasn’t a cuckoo. It was a flask of excellent brandy, and the weights were made from bottles of wine. The ‘cuckoo-clock’ was a gift pack. Brandy snifters were included.
“Have a ‘clocktail,’” said EAGLE, vastly pleased with himself. EAGLE’S jokes could be impressively awful.
“Ingenious people, the Swiss,” said CUCKOO. He was very touched. “Thank you, EAGLE.”