Some Red Balloon Thinking

Whilst listening to the radio I heard an old favourite, one that made me think a little deeper about many of today’s worrying realities. It was also kind of prophetic that, despite the tune having been originally release thirty plus years ago, the lyrics were once again becoming indicative and representative of today.

It’s not just the specific topic or even the lyrics (German or English) that make it worryingly prophetic no, it’s also the fact that it provides more evidence to quantify our modern-day fake-news phenomenon (see later). So-called fake-news or as some would say ‘alternate’ facts, is something that many world leaders say is increasingly more common now… thanks mostly to the internet. But is that really so? I would tend to disagree. Hasn’t ‘fake-news’ and manipulation or massaging of our history (aka propaganda or misinformation and disinformation) always been the case? The ‘new’ is in our connected world driven by social-media, and how easy those facts can be manipulated and quickly feed to an unsuspecting greedily consuming populous.

Many would say so, especially the conspiracy theorists amongst us after all; ‘information is power’ isn’t it? So, if you can influence, control or manipulate the information that is available for mass consumption, it’s likely to result in a positive impact upon the levels of power you hold over those masses… the people that you seek to control lead. Clearly a very useful tool to have in your megalomaniac toolbox, or even if you merely hold some mild narcissistic aspirational tendencies. How easily some of our past pathological egotistical world leadership would have faired is almost beyond comprehension.

Some recent world-leaders (and many before them) are more than happy to use this tool, but their not so enamoured if/when it is used against them. But hey, it’s probably only “alternate facts” so we shouldn’t be concerned… should we? When you’ve carefully manipulated facts to gain public approval and popularity, and you’ve promised to make your nation “great again” you can bet your bottom dollar, you’re gonna have to pull out all the tools you have at your disposal, ethical or not so squeaky clean is mostly immaterial.

I can sympathise in  part, it can’t be an easy job trying to propel a nation of limited historic status towards grandeur. Especially one built on the back of its immigrants to get where it was/is today… whilst trying to keep it quiet about its own downtrodden indigenous population. Greatness can be measured by many things, your personal bank account or the monetary wealth of your nation shouldn’t be one of those matrices. Neither should physical geographic makeup or the size of an individual’s mouth. Shouting more often and more loudly than someone else doesn’t make you bigger, better or right… something some in the Western world would do well to remember!

But the internet has kind of promoted and aided proliferation of so many of these grotesquely grandiose beliefs that are held by many.  When you enter ‘99 Red Balloons‘ in Google, the result suggest that the song is by Goldfinger, “an American Punk Rock band that formed in 1994.” You have to read on some before finding any mention of Nena or 1983.

It’s kind of ironic that even the simple task of researching a song can throw up information that is incorrect, or even promotes ‘facts’ that are simply untrue. The fact that Google is the most widely used internet search engine in the world (and an American company), with algorithms that place priority on popularity of ‘fact’ it’s hardly surprising that information, ‘facts’ (genuine or alternate) or even ‘fake-news’ gets skewed in their favour a lot of the time… Information is Power!

As an aside I have to say, I actually prefer the original original version of the song – Neunundneunzig Luftballons. It’s not that I’m fluent in German, my command of the German Language is basic and much worse than it used to be. No, it’s the fact that when originally written and probably due to the songsmiths’ close proximity to the Iron Curtain during the (original) Cold War years, the song was possibly even a little more poignant.

Thinking about media influences on world events, history and important social issues and resulting impacts, I was also reminded of the satirical and some would say controversial Charlie Chaplin speech in The Great Dictator (see below).

Hope… I’m sorry but I don’t want to be an Emperor — that’s not my business — I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that.

We all want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls — has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say “Do not despair”.

The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish…

Soldiers — don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you — who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder.

Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate — only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers — don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty.

In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written ” the kingdom of God is within man ” — not one man, nor a group of men — but in all men — in you, the people.

You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power — let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers — in the name of democracy, let us all unite!

Look up! Look up! The clouds are lifting — the sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world. A kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality.

The soul of man has been given wings — and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow — into the light of hope — into the future, that glorious future that belongs to you, to me and to all of us. Look up. Look up.

Note: it’s worth remembering, assuming you weren’t already aware that, Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, KBE (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame during the era of silent film… another ‘American immigrant’ but certainly not an American!

It should also be noted that I’m not anti-American per se, nor do I believe America is all bad. Neither am suggesting that the UK is without blemish or doesn’t have black marks across history, far from it. I’m just making observations.

I am however a little concerned about the current safety of our world. Especially when considering the latest egotistical maniac tasked with keeping us all safe, is someone who owes much of his support from the heartlands of a nation I had previously come to love (see here). I can only assume that perceived ‘support’ must also have been some of those ‘alternate’ facts?

What I am even more concerned about is the probable outcomes and impacts on our society as a whole, resulting from the current levels of divisive rhetoric and crass actions coming from that source… despite the wars and imperialism of the past, which should have taught us all the folly of their ways. Actions which were and sadly still are in many respects, fuelled by the constant pursuit of wealth and self-importance amongst power-crazed individuals. Often the kind of people who generally have very few concerns about the collateral damage usually caused to the rest of us!

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