Tuesday, 1 March 2011

UEFA, Eurovision and Unemployed Paedos

What is Europe? For some, it's a rich and exciting mish-mash of cultures, proving how people from very different backgrounds can cooperate and thrive. For others, it's a place to go bright pink every summer with the opportunity to chuck up over a balcony. But which countries really count as Europe? For the most part there's no difficulty, but Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are tricky. They appear in a few lists of European countries, but not most. To include their capitals would add 3,000 kilometres to the second year of my ride, which is already the longest by far. I'd also have to change the name to UniCycle53, which just looks a bit shit.

Do Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan really belong to Europe? Fortunately, someone recently posed this exact question at About.com. Unfortunately, it quickly descended into a racially motivated bloodbath, with those of European descent abusing those of Asian descent and vice versa and lots of people being called "fucking idiots".

Still, the discussion may have included some useful information and so we kick off with Basilio: "There is no question Armenia is European. To the jokers who claim Armenia is Asian it is just a stunt. Armenia's religion is Christian, its people are white, its culture is definitively European, it is a democratic country." But if all it takes to qualify for Europe is a white Christian democracy, then Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States are all in Europe. That can't be right. Bloody hell, discovering the truth this way could add light years to my ride.

And despite his beautiful name Vartan Mamigonian was no help whatsoever. In fact, he seemed to be in the wrong discussion entirely: "Turkey does not belong in Europe until it acknowledges the Armenian Genocide." Eh? How does 800,000 square kilometres of dusty lithosphere recognize a massacre? Can Kilimanjaro accept a compromise? Can the Thames Estuary appreciate a toasted sandwich? I'm not sure they can.

It soon became clear that what we needed was a definition for Europe. Ben Williams creates one of his own: "If Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia join in Eurovision then surely they belong to Europe? Does anyone else agree?" Well, to be honest, probably not, because singing "Boom Bang-a-Bang" in a squeaky voice surely can't define one's geographic location. Besides, the Vatican City never enters a song and it's unquestionably a part of Europe. That said, if they wanted to be represented in future contests by a like-minded artist, Gary Glitter's not doing much at the moment.

The conversation continued and P James chipped in with a warning against lazy, black and white thinking: "Everything in this world can't always be neatly pigeon-holed." But then he spoils it all by offering his own lazy, black and white, pigeon-holing definition: "However, the three countries are all members of UEFA and football is perhaps one of the most significant pillars of culture and the highest expression of nationality in the modern world." Wayne Rooney as Pavarotti. Interesting. But anyway, Israel and Kazakhstan are also in UEFA and their capitals would add a further eight thousand kilometres to my ride. Oh, this is hopeless.

David introduced yet another complication through the medium of excessive exclamation mark usage: "Georgia doesn’t have any similarity with Azerbaijan or Armenia! For me Georgia looks like Ukraine, Moldova and other European countries!!! As ethnography proves real Georgian man is white with bright hair and green eyes which is completely European!" So perhaps one of 'em is European but not the other two. Ah, bugger! But now I didn't care whether or not Georgia was European. I just wanted to go there and see those blokes with bright hair.

But in the end the wisest and calmest response came from Emil R. Pernsteiner: "There obviously is no correct answer other than by definition. And then it becomes 'whose definition'?" So it's up to me. I can decide who belongs to Europe. Sorry, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, but you're not in my gang. And if the next time you're at the Eurovision, a dodgy bloke in a silver suit asks if you want to be in his gang, I'd recommend you decline.

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