Some wine-swirling, pretentious, and probably French philosopher (is there any other kind?) once famously said that you can judge a society by looking at how it treats those locked up in its prisons. Well, if that’s true, then The Netherlands is pretty a-okay, because as long as they stay indoors, our inmates can have all the PlayStations, ping-pong tables, and alcohol-free beers they want. Of course this is a cheap, moral judgment; it’s supposed to pretend like there is an easy way to measure a nation’s moral development. But can we twist this little turd of a thought-terminating cliché, and turn it into a cultural question? What if we put Het Koningslied (“King’s Song”) at the center of our anthropological investigation?

Of course, I’m not really going to talk about the out-lash that followed this weekend’s release of Het Koningslied, a crowd-sourced musical travesty that is best described as AIDS translated into soundwaves. Yes, someone somewhere gave a bag of money to an ‘artist’ and told him to write a song for the upcoming abdication of Queen Beatrix and it was predictably awful in every conceivable way. The artist made two minor mistakes: 1) the best song in the history of ever about becoming a king was already made nineteen years ago, 2) it involved every C-rated Dutch artist who refused to die in the last thirty-or-so years. In addition, he also made one major mistake: M) it’s an absolute clusterfuck of brain-farts. When I said the song is a crowd-sourced travesty, I meant that its lyrics (and I’m using that term ever so loosely here) were put together from thousands of suggestions send in by Dutch inhabitants. The result is equal parts comedy and tragedy. The music is like-wise: a confused mix of pop, rap (because of course there is rap), and something vaguely reminiscent of a church choir singing “the forbidden music” while the choirmaster is out of the classroom for a moment. To top it off, the song’s overall tone has been likened to cheesy Christian worship songs (case in point), which is a bit unfair, because in the Christian moral world, at least you have eternal damnation to look forward to. Needless to say, this Frankensteinian approach to music of piecing together spare parts didn’t quite work out and eventually sort-of killed its creator, who withdraw the song after nearly drowning in hate-mail for three days straight.

But why should I talk about that? It’s not like anyone outside of the Netherlands and beyond this week would give a rat’s ass about it, right? It’s not like this news is going to be read on foreign, respected news sites, right? Wrong! Dead wrong: after the people of The Netherlands collectively lost their shit over the King’s Song, people overseas decided to join in on the shame-by-proxy. So here is how we can measure societies today: by how they respond to acts of creativity. And the signs are both good and dreadful: this very Sunday, the eight o’clock news spend almost ten minutes analyzing this event to death; even bringing in linguistics and sociologists to shed their academic light on this phenomenon. What does this say about our society? That we are blessed to have the opportunity to care so much about so little. Truly, we are living in the holiday of history: after all the bullshit and the tragedies of the 20th century, with its trench warfare, nuclear bombings, genocides, and Cold War, we can now finally spend our days happy, merry, and fat. Gone are the great ideological struggles, gone is the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over a world divided by an Iron Curtain, gone is the Great Depression, and gone is the overall lack of free Internet porn. All that is left for us is to sit back and take the piss on whatever song or movie we choose to love-hate.

Welcome to a Brave New World.

 

UPDATE: Despite the overwhelmingly negative and satirical responses and the decision of the author to retract the song, the committee responsible for the inauguration of the king has decided to stick with it. Hell, because if you want to go retard, you better go full retard.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Nice article Frank! Jezus what a clustefuck that song was. Mixing rap and christian hymes.. That's like listening to Sabaton or something (ehheh Bint).

  2. Dear Frank,
    For someone with a background in psychology and philosophy you don't show much understanding for this phenomenon at all.

    Q (…)we are living in the holiday of history: after all the bullshit and the tragedies of the 20th century, with its trench warfare, nuclear bombings, genocides, and Cold War, we can now finally spend our days happy, merry, and fat. e/Q
    Q (…) gone is the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over a world divided by an Iron Curtain, gone is the Great Depression (…) e/Q.

    The world has never been more chaotic and depressed since our capitalist and communist societies emerged and since we had gone through the so-called ‘enlightenment’. The economic and political arena has never been scarier – and for the simple people in the street, there is nothing they can do about it.
    We all worry about the consequences of our footprints for the safety and security of our planet, but we have hardly any influence. We worry about the depletion of our resources, the health of our children, the safety of our food and any demonstration is shaken off like an irritant insect.
    There are crazy people leading unstable countries, who now have a finger on a nuclear trigger – and we don’t know what to expect of them and if someone will be able to contain them. There is more terrorism than there ever was, on a far bigger scale.
    Big shots and politicians have gambled away our savings, our pensions, our houses, our jobs; people have been evicted, proclaimed broke and made redundant; worst of all the elite dares to say that all of us just partied along and thought the sky was the limit. Not so for most of the common people.

    And you think we are just fat and lazy? Man, we are scared to death, but we must go on. We vote in new faces, which turn out to be just as impotent as the previous ones. We try to live healthy and we are lied to be the producers, who couldn’t care less about our health and safety as long as they make money. We take our medicines, which turn out to do more damage than the ailments we suffered from and we find out that the producers knew of the side-effecst but never told us.

    I could go on for a very long time, but this should say enough about our frame of mind. This ‘little diddy’ is nothing, it’s meaningless, it’s a non-sense item, but it is another slap in the face and small enough to actually do something about. It may be unfair to the producers of this unimportant interlude in Dutch politics, but they put oil on the fire the moment they proclaimed the Dutch citizens vulgar simpletons, who had no clue, no taste and who were so undeserving of positive attention. And wasn’t that what politicians, bankers and big CEO’s already had told and shown us? And here was a similar crowd literally trying to make us sing and dance to their tune like stupid puppets on strings.

    Emotions run deep, Frank, and they can surface in the most unexpected circumstances. It is not for nothing that many of the ‘song-activists’ are starting to think about this type of action towards real politics. If you do not read the signs as being a rumbling volcano waiting to burst than I don’t think you know much about psycho-sociological phenomena. Check the last days of civilizations of old in the archaeological and historical records and shudder.

    I wish you much compassion and a really open mind with the understanding that ‘weird’ phenomena can be signs for real troubling defects, damaging the very fabric of our societies.

    Regards
    Amiche

  3. Amiche,

    Fear over basic rights and access to basic needs are not bound to any time or place. The fact that the majority often feels powerless is nothing new, what I argue is that – compared to the 20th century – I think we are clearly better of. Quality of life, both expressed in Human Development Index and in self-reports, show progress, and as Steven Pinker shows, our modern world is actually far less violent than the world of the past. I'll give you that anxiety is still rampant, but it's the contrast with the previously century and those before it that I am concerned with. The victory of liberal democracy and the "flattening of the world" of the Information Age has empowered the individual and while all this freedom may also give rise to anxiety (quick reference to Nietzsche and Kundera…), I think that all this leisure is reflected by the banality of many of our daily concerns.
    I'll agree with you that, with Freud and Nietzsche, we can see underlying tensions in such irrational behavior, but I do not agree with your pessimistic outlook, and I certainly do not think that these are signs of the coming collapse of our society.

    Thanks for the feedback,
    -Frank

  4. Haha nice.. I was thinking about writing something about the King's Song, but I made up my mind, because a) it's getting boring b) I cannot comment about it from an "Art point of view" because I don't consider it Art (not even without a capital A). Moreover, I think your analysis is quite spot-on 🙂

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