It was intriguing, albeit somewhat dispiriting to watch history replay itself on my recent visit to Vienna, culminating in the debacle of May 18th.* I found myself reflecting how, almost three quarters of a century ago, we collectively imagined a world where the peoples of Europe would learn to put behind us those things like race, nationality, culture and language which divide us and move forward into a new realm of co-operation with mutual respect and appreciation.
One might have hoped as well that the narrow-mindedness could be overcome whereby envy at the relative economic and other successes and influence of a particular nationality or culture congeals into prejudice and is used to justify the perpetration of injustices against its representatives for no other reason than their being seen as such.
Sadly I was to be disappointed as I watched events unfold on that fateful Saturday evening, after returning to my hotel following my afternoon coffee in the Volksgarten Pavilion having been disturbed by the noisy chanting of angry demonstrators outside the Chancellor’s Office across the street, demanding his resignation. Much regret has been expressed in recent years about the faltering of the great European project and the unwillingness in many quarters to celebrate the diversity of the European continent, and instead to put greater store by the familiar and the parochial. And true to from, as I watched events develop on my hotel TV screen, the great opportunity for the peoples of Europe to unite around that once-in-a-year shared cultural event, the Eurovision Song Contest, was again squandered as factionalism raised its ugly head at the voting stage and the British entry was once more trashed and given “nul points” by virtually every other viewing audience across Europe.
Our compere Graham Norton, as has become his custom, did his best to put a brave face on things, with his faux surprise when Belarus and Russia offered each other maximum points and the same for Greece and Cyprus. But even his witty commentary could not take the bad taste away that almost without exception the peoples of Europe had been unable to resist the temptation to express the resentment flowing from their perception of the assumed cultural superiority that comes from a single nation having originated the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and even Oasis. The fact most performers had to sing in English for anything more than a fraction of the listening audience to understand the lyric certainly did not help. Such resentment even a reprise of last year’s human banana could not wash away.
Perhaps in the light of this recurrent national humiliation it is time for the British to come to our senses and conclude finally that enough is enough. Negotiation could then be initiated on a Withdrawal Agreement facilitating the UK’s permanent exit from the Eurovision Song Contest. Hopefully if we do, it will not be too many more years that we have to endure this annual humiliation at the hands of the Eurovision Organising Committee; and they will not either rate the cost of losing us and access to our star talent like Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift at too many billions of euros.
*Editor’s note: May 18th 2019 was the day protests started in Vienna against Heinz-Christian Strache, the country’s vice-chancellor following secret footage obtained in a sting operation. They led to his resignation shortly after.