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.