I have been listening to a lot of Achtung Baby era U2 recently. It all started back when U2 played Glastonbury in the summer, and I sat on my sofa (slightly drunk) watching the set on the BBC. No doubt as a way to plug the masses of re-releases in honour of the 20th anniversary of that album, the band played a number of their Achtung Baby songs, much in the same way they played them back during their massive Zoo TV tour. That triggered me to start listening again to Achtung Baby, as well as the related albums I had - including Zoo Europa, an excellent bootleg from their 1993 Zoo TV concert in Dublin.
Over the past few weeks, U2 has released a number of different versions and cover versions of the songs of Achtung Baby. Today, I sat around listening to the "Kindergarten" versions of all the songs on the album, plus a version of covers of the songs on the album called "(Ǎhk-to͝ong Bay-bi) Covered."
Image from Wikipedia
Recently, though, I have turned off the music and on the TV so I can watch the coverage of the austerity measure debate in Italy. This is expected to trigger the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister, who has held the office for 9 years over three separate periods.
Berlusconi's leaving office is just the latest in the ongoing financial crisis that is gripping the Eurozone, the larger EU and the world as a whole. The European Union and Eurozone is attempting to resolve these issues and save the Euro and the currency union, but more and more commentaries are saying that at least some of the Eurozone members will have to leave the currency union. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, has said any members leaving could lead to the complete disintegration of the European Union as a whole. Germany, as the strongest economy in the Eurozone, is being pressed to put in trillions of Euros to save the entire project. Germany, however, is balking at pouring too much money into saving the Mediterranean economies.
Uncertainty is about the only certainty at this point, but some change in the EU and the Eurozone seems likely. No one would be surprised to see some significant changes in the Eurozone or EU borders over the next year, and a shrinking of the Eurozone seems highly possible.
It is a very different picture that I had when I first got here. Just three years ago, despite the economic troubles which were gripping the banks at the time, I was quite excited about the continuing integration in Europe. In a blog entry at the time, I wrote:
I will admit that one of the reasons I moved out of Canada was to be part of something larger. I wanted to be part of the international community, be part of something that was happening. Europe seemed to be that place.
As I left North America, Canada and the USA seem to be closing themselves off, fortifying themselves against the outside world and even dividing themselves into smaller bits internally - red vs. blue states, north vs. south, Quebec vs. the rest of Canada, east vs. west, Northern Ontario vs. Southern Ontario.
Europe is coming together. The European Union is growing, the coming together of nations to form a larger community, an international meeting place. Despite setback with the recent Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty to give the EU more powers, proponents of the EU want to continue to build the union, stronger and larger.
Ummm... Then again, perhaps not.
Three years, and all change. Now it appears Europe is slowly rending itself apart, and while it doesn't appear that things have changed in the USA, Canada's economy is strong and it, among other emerging economies like China, India and Brazil, were asked if they would lend additional support to the Eurozone. Canada, along with the others, offered "support," but no clear new money.
Achtung Baby was recorded (in part) in October 1990 in Berlin. The band had gone to Berlin to find some sort of inspiration on the eve of German reunification. The European Economic Community morphed into the European Union just a few years later, and in 1999 the Euro entered the financial markets.
I remember going to buy Achtung Baby in 1991. At the time I was in university, and had remembered watching the European wall fall, the reunification ceremonies for Germany on TV and the ongoing "end of history" events as Europe - formerly a continent torn in two by political divisions - was coming together. Achtung Baby formed the soundtrack of my watching the ongoing European integration from afar, as they signed the Maastricht Treaty and became a more integrated union.
Now, 20 years later, its re-release is forming the soundtrack of my watching Europe potentially fall apart, this time from much closer than my university in Canada. I watch now not just as someone interested in world politics, but someone whose job depends in part on the ability for companies within Europe to buy my services.
It is strange and beautiful music for strange, strange times.