Monday, May 14, 2007


Eurovision is a funny old thing, viewed by most intellectual people as camp fest of horrible pop music it exerts a fascination for innumerable reasons. Not least the chance to get to look into the weird psyche of Europe, to see the pop culture melange that come from countries most people haven’t heard of. Although usually the songs follow pretty much the same mould, ballards with hint of native folk, power pop with native folk via some Wagnarian vision of Hollywood, power camp and music so utterly odd it deserves its own genre, just because there is nothing quite so weird as seeing Danish undertakers rapping about house prices or former eastern block countries getting transvestites to dance about as snowmen.
Which brings me to the real reason for writing about eurovision, namely the dominance of eastern Europe and specifically the fragmented pieces of the old Yugoslavia. What makes it incredibly interesting is that last nights winner Serbia, the most hated nation in Europe for the last fifteen years picked up most of its votes from its neighbours, the very same people who were the victims (and in some cases fellow perpetrators of) ethnic cleansing during the civil wars of the 1990’s. Why should it be that these countries vote for their neighbours regardless of the fact they clearly still hate each other, most Balkan music is still intensely nationalistic, sebia itself is more nationalistic than ever, though that is obviously more due to the fact the west is still happy to chip bits of Serbia and to routinely hold it in contempt. Germany in the 1920’s shows what happens when you do that.
The only reason I can think of why the Balkans would vote so heavily for each other against the grain of recent history is simply the context of the tournament. While it would be tempting to say its because no one takes Eurovision seriously they clearly do, in Britain you see whole groups of people shouting themselves hoarse at the TV in a manner similar to world cup behaviour.
In fact the football metaphor is the best way to explain it, the whole supporters dynamic whereby people support their home side against the illusory ever changing other. The strange change you get when one moment a Chelsea fan will hate an arsenal fan but when it is England against Germany they will sit together and shout the team on, even though it has players drawn from both clubs. They see no dissonance in this, and the same is true of eurovision. The Balkan counties see the context as being not Serbia against Croatia but the balkans against the rest of Europe, where the loyalty to each other suddenly trumps the historic neighbourly hate. Were the competition a Balkans only event with each nation pitted against each other then there would be bloodshed.
Also interesting to note is the nostalgia many feel for the old Yugoslavia, akin to much of the old eastern block yearning for old school Communism. Though perhaps more understandable in the Balkans as things were perceptively better then, in that there was no internicine bloodletting and there was an economic safety net. The fact most of the Balkans is dominated by various forms of organised crime and poorly regarded by the rest of the world would have anyone harkening back to the times of Tito.
This has an added frission as in the wider context of eastern Europe they see themselves as looked down on and dictated to by the west. For sure they all want to be part of the EU and NATO and the other fruits of western cooperation but no country wants to be treated like a junior partner and the truth is western Europe treats the east like a backwards child. The east itself is also enjoying a renaissance, both in terms of economics and in of self confidence that makes it chafe against this.
Interesting to note is that the top fifteen in Eurovision were all ex eastern block apart from turkey who is likewise treated in the same supercilious way by the west, as if its somehow not good enough and that its just a young country in need of care, regardless of its thousand odd year history of culture and civilisation.
Therefore it is perhaps the best method of national reconciliation is, rather than having an expensive commission and getting politicians involed I think when the American leave iraq the best way to get peace is to have a middle eastern eurovision, where iraq enters a single candidate from each warring group against egypt, Saudi and the rest.
Voila, instant campy pop peace. Maybe.