Archive for the hives

Tick, Tick, Boom (or, A Swedish Rock Band and the End of Europe)

Posted in culture, music, news, other with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2010 by Jonathan

A few years ago, the Swedish garage-rock band The Hives released a song called “Tick Tick Boom.” Like most bands of the genre, they weren’t concerned about being deep, or even understandable, with a chorus that went:

It’s too late
It’s too soon
Or is it tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, boom?

Again: garage rock, not the stuff normally written about beyond the pages of Rolling Stone. But with the specter of the demise of the euro, and the specter of the demise of the European Union not far beyond that, and the specter of the demise of Europe itself not far beyond that, these lyrics, from a band best known for its black and white wardrobe, take on a more prescient tone. Is it too soon to sound the warning bell for Europe, as doom-and-gloomers like Mark Steyn have been doing on a regular basis? Or is it too late, and we are indeed witness to the final tick, tick, ticks of Europe’s doomsday clock?

In the Sixties, if you were to tell people that the Berlin Wall would come down two decades later, you’d have been met with laughter. Everyone knew that the Berlin Wall, like the Soviet Union, was always going to be there. But then it wasn’t. Similarly, the EU, many erudite men and women on both sides of the Atlantic put forth, is always going to be there, centralizing a continent that for centuries refused to be centralized. But given the fact that Germany may no longer want to be the go-to nation that bails out a bunch of less-industrious neighbors who can’t handle their money, and that France may not want to be the next go-to nation should Germany pull out, one day the EU too might not be there. Soon after, we’ll be treated to footage of the various MEPs leaving Brussels as they’re sent back to countries where euros are being traded for lire or deutschmarks or pesos. Not as exciting as footage of reunited Berliners tearing down the Wall, but still significant.

Forget for now the euro and the EU. Even if these two are kaput, surely the secular-progressive, post-Christian Europe of today will always be there, exporting its sophisticated politics and worldview to the gun and liberty-drunk cowboys in the United States? Well, no, not where the trends are headed now – trends that have to make those who’ve steadfastly promoted the European model as the ideal more than a little nervous. The main trend in the news is the economy – turns out that the lavish welfare state that lets you retire in your fifties or early sixties isn’t the easiest thing to prop up – but the real trend, the one being talked about behind closed doors in desperate tones, is the population. The religious are more likely to populate than the non-religious. Thus, we have the present phenomenon of secular Europeans dwindling to make room in the future for the children of pious Muslims. If the Muhammads begin, or in some cases continue, to outnumber the Jacques or the Williams in cradles across the continent, then the advocates of today’s Europe are one-third right: Europe will remain post-Christian. It just won’t be secular or progressive.

But if these are the last ticks, what will the boom look like? Will it be civil war between Muslims and non-Muslims? Partitioning? A resort to tribalism, as is seen with the rise of parties such as Hungary’s Jobbik? Or will it be complacency – a population too sedate with benefits, too glued to the latest issue of Vespa Digest, to deal with the falling apart of their world? Different countries will most likely resort to different things – Italy, say, will be more open to partitioning than the Netherlands or France. Spain might return to the days of civil war. No one will notice Belgium.

The music video that accompanies The Hives’ song takes place in the Liljevalchs Konsthall museum in Sweden. The band is depicted as an art exhibit; at one point the musicians break free and, this being rock and roll, go about destroying the various galleries in anarchic exuberance. It ends with a scene outdoors: a mother and her two daughters smiling and waving at a home movie camera, a happy moment, when the museum behind them suddenly blows up – the final boom of the song. (Mom and children are thrown to the ground from the explosion.) Perhaps a decade or two from now we’ll see reenactments of this across Europe, with citizens smiling and waving at their own home videos as the background goes up in flames. Or perhaps it will be a slow, steady crumble, not as dramatic but still destructive. Either way…