Browsing the archives for the European culture(s) category.

Not amused

Culture, European culture(s), International Politics, Politics
Sweatshirt I bought @ Target, writes Flickr user Eshm (photo used under CC license)

"Sweatshirt I bought @ Target," Flickr user Eshm (photo used under CC license)

Living in the Netherlands, ca. 1998, meant increasingly being confronted, not just with that ubiquitous icon of wannabe rebel teenager identity, the drearily mass produced Che tee, but training jackets and the like saying DDR, or CCCP. Not because there was any suddenly resurging affinity for the former Eastern Bloc regimes, but because those were the thing to have for any self-respecting ironic hipster.

It went with, say, nodding your head to the latest abstract beats, or dancing to the soundtrack of a soft lesbo porn movie from the seventies with a knowing smile. Aren’t we being cool!

I never got it. Stunned at the baffling lack of … awareness, I suppose. Even if I knew that no disrespect was intended toward, say, the victims of communism — all was tongue-in-cheek, after all! The postmodern game being played out transformed me, instantly, into an old crank. It did so right at the moment that I refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of that irony; the moment I failed to think, “oh that’s OK then”.

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Being European

Culture, European culture(s)
Sarkozy: no postmortem welcome in Bucharest. (Image from Flickr user oaspetele_de_piatra under CC license.)

Sarkozy: no postmortem welcome in Bucharest. (Image under CC license: Flickr user oaspetele_de_piatra.)

My colleague told me she’d called one of the people in our network today, a personal friend of hers too.

He happened to be in Romania, for some meeting or conference. He’s French, works in Brussels, and was quite surprised to stroll into a park in this Romanian town that was named after Charles de Gaulle.

Flippantly, he asked the taxi driver whom he hailed to take him back, so … what? In thirty years, will you have a Sarkozy Park?

The cabbie didnt skip a beat answering, a little brusquely: No — he’s Hungarian.

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The tragic mystery of the Redskins, or: No socialism in our time

Culture, European culture(s)

One way in which this age of Google and Wikipedia is different from that of decades past is that even the most obscure names live on forever, remaining forever a mouseclick away. How many times haven’t you thought, “hey, I wonder whatever happened to..”: fill in the name of an old acquaintance, a long-forgotten band, a football star of yore? In previous eras, you’d spend that wistful thought on it, and then by necessity shrug it off. Who knows?

Well, now you too can know. That obscure new wave band? The singer writes songs for TV shows now; the bassist works as a market salesman. That ridiculous Eurovision Songfestival contestant? He’s online now, editing his own Wikipedia entry and touting the brilliancy of his performance on specialist web forums. And a surprising number of tragic endings… one moment you’re listening to a song by The Sound that happened to pass by on last.fm, the next you’re looking up their bio and find out that the singer committed suicide, and his band mate died of AIDS.

So who remembers the Redskins? They were a punk band in the early eighties, and they were as political as could be. Committed to the revolution, they played every benefit gig, in support of the miners’ strike, against racism, against apartheid, you name it. They were Billy Bragg’s little skinhead brothers. They threw in pop and soul too if that enabled them to reach a wider audience with their message: “think the Jam, the Clash, the Specials, Dexy’s, the Fall and the Supremes all rolled into one,” as a retrospective review put it.

Their second single, Lean On Me, was dubbed “a love song to workers solidarity” and “a modern soul classic” by the NME. They even had some minor top 50 hits. Keep On Keepin’ On! reached #43 in the UK charts in 1984; Bring It Down (This Insane Thing) reached #33 the year after. The Redskins, concludes fan Dave T. on the unofficial band website redskins.co.uk, “were the first band to bring revolutionary socialism to the dancefloor.”

But when you wonder whatever happened with them, the story you find is rather tragic, and something of an allegory for an entire political culture which they, in their way, represented.

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Fictional minority again declared unwelcome by Hungarians

Culture, European culture(s)

The Hungarian TÁRKI Social Research Institute conducts an annual survey on xenophobia. As part of the survey, the sociologists asks respondents whether they would accept or refuse refugees from a list of specific ethnic backgrounds. Standard fare, so far.

Except as control group, they slip in a fictional group: the Pirezians.

Hungarian press agency MTI reports that once again, Hungarians blithely dismissed entry for these obviously no-good Pirezian refugees:

Somewhere there is Piresia, the editors of Uncylopedia helpfully note

"Somewhere there is Piresia", the editors of Uncylopedia helpfully note

Sociologists divide Hungarians into three groups – 25-33 percent who would hermetically seal the country’s borders to all foreigners, 10 percent who would accept everyone with open arms, and the middle group of about 58 percent, who would pick and choose whom to accept, wrote [..] Nepszabadsag, citing a recent survey.

Sociologist Endre Sik pointed out that a key point in the survey [..] concerns the “Pirezians,” a non-existent ethnic group included in the survey as a reality-check. The two extremes on the scale for the pick-and-choose group are Arabs (rejected by 83 percent) and Russians (rejected by 76 percent) on the one side and ethnic Hungarians from neighbouring countries (rejected by 7 percent) on the other. The Pirezians were rejected by 66 percent of the mid-group, down slightly from last year’s 68 percent rejection figure, and up a bit from 59 percent in 2006.

The TARKI data reveal (Hungarian) that the middle, “pick-and-choose” group itself shrunk, while the xenophobic group that would hermetically seal the country’s borders to all foreigners grew in the past two years from 24% to 32%. So the group that would dismiss all foreigners, including those poor Pirezians, grew — and in addition, a larger part of the middle group looked askance at them as well. All in all, then, 70% of Hungarians want none of them Pirezians (Piresians?), against 65% two years ago.

Then again, other foreign peoples should be so lucky… It’s not just the Arabs and Russians that are even more undesired.

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