On the Eurovision contest and insecurity and identity issues in the former soviet republics

I remember when I was a kid in school. In some countries, children are meant to wear school uniforms until their late teens. But in Spain, we were lucky enough to see off what we considered an infantile obligation by the end of primary school. I don’t really know what the custom is now, and with the raise of the market economy and affluent societies, probably the tradition has faded away with the raise and raise of the Homo Economicus.

We were told by our parents that it was better to keep our clothing “safe” of pens, mud, and playground rips. We learnt with time that the reason behind was to avoid comparing our outfits with more fortunate classmates and feel inferior or plain poor, raising questions that no parent wanted to face.

So many years complaining about having to wear the same boring overall coat (grey stripes with dark lapel and belt for boys and pink or blue Amersham/Gingham checks for girls) that my individualism was limited to purposely ripping the elbows so that my mother had to fix them until the only solution was cutting them and I would get a short sleeve overall coat. The only short sleeve overall coat in the school.

Still today my mother thinks I was just a mischievous and clumsy little school boy.

But eventually, one day we discovered that we were free. We could hang the school uniform forever. We were on our mid teens and we were free to portrait our identity to the world. Skinhead, punk, hippy, geek, you name it. All of a sudden, after years of complaining about the lack of freedom of choice, we finally had it, we just had to choose what urban tribe we wanted to belong to.

But we were overwhelmed by choice and over time we naturally decided to regress to the mean, and unassumingly but somehow privately consciously we fell into the fashion trend trap.

It was easier to just follow what celebrities wore and magazines and TV programs showed us than to try to recreate our own personality through our own personal and eccentric attire. You just wanted to fit in. He who is not a young revolutionary has no heart. He who is an old revolutionary has no brains.

So the 2008 Eurovision contest came, and went. As sad as it may be spending a rainy Saturday night watching a Serbian production, as usual, voting patterns let the worse geography student pinpoint the results. The Balkan countries voted each other. The Scandinavians gave each other a hand (not even the Swedish spokesman couldn’t avoid taking the mick of the points awarded by his own country), and the immigrant communities in Ireland (Latvia), Spain (Romania), Andorra (Portugal) Israel (Russia) and Germany (Turkey) showed the reality of intra-EU’s workforce mobility –although it is true that I expected more points for UK from Eastern European countries, in the end the BNP’s stand might hold some water.

Unsurprisingly, Russia swept the contest, and with 272 points became the host of the 2009 Eurovision contest. No offense, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sharp blades of pro ice-skater turned hamster-in-cage Evgeni Plushenko every time he got close to the singer’s bare toes, so I’m afraid that I don’t really know what or how he was singing.

As with school uniforms, the former soviet republics dreamed of their self-determination, their sovereignty, their freedom. In 1991, just a year after declaring itself independent, the dying Soviet military attempted to crack down Lithuanian independence. The same year, Latvia and Estonia followed suit, and after the Union dissolved, the rest of republics became independent.

Almost 20 years from then, and of the nine ex-republics present in the music contest, six of them gave maximum points to Russia (12). Moldova went for ten and from Tbilisi Georgia dared to give Russia “only” eight points.

I used “Calvin’s Eurovision Political Dependency rate” (CEPDr) to work out how long was the Russian shadow in the former Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) members. Unsurprisingly, we find some interesting but predictable results (please, for higher realism, please read the results with Serbian-French accent):

-Hungary, Romania and Serbia gave to Russia dix points (10)
-Montenegro, huit points (8)
-Czech Republic, Slovenia and (East) Germany, sept points (7)
-Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Poland, six points (6)
-And the daring Bosnia-Herzegovina, just quatre points (4)

Growing up is a tough venture. I wonder why Greece, Cyprus and Armenia gave nil points to Turkey, do they absolutely hate pop-rock? Or are they yet a bit grudged after invasions, wars, threats and genocides?

I wish we could all be as objective as San Marino, who rained points around the European spectrum like a fragmentation land-mine: Greece (12), Israel (10), Armenia (8), Norway (7), United Kingdom (6), Portugal (5), Turkey (4), Albania (3), Denmark (2) and Romania (1). But with just under 20,000 Sanmarineses between the ages of 15 and 65, I wonder how many dared to call and vote. If any.

.Calvin

PS. And of course, no surprises with Spain.

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