Welcome to my first ever reblog/republished post. Not that I am particularly proud of this ‘achievement’, but the truth is that I am in bit of a slump right now and hence thought it was wise to dig up and refurbish something out of my archives rather than having nothing up on the site at all.
(This post was originally published on this very website on 14th November 2017 and has been mildly ‘polished’ before updating.)
The title of this post, if you haven’t guessed it already, is partly German, literally meaning 99 Air Balloons is a direct reference to a German song which goes by the same name.
(The blog has been written with the presumption that the reader is unaware of the song or the story behind it. So kudos to those who know the song and it’s story! You guys already have a lead!)
Before you ask…. Let me clarify a few points…. aka Disclaimer :–
1. No, I’m not German and nor do I intend to make any comments whatsoever be it in support or against the nation & it’s citizens.
(You might ask – “But why would people think that?!”…. Well… Believe me. They would, if they want to.)
2. No, this blog is not an advertisement/promotion of the song. Not only because of the fact that the song was released about 35 years ago, but also because frankly I would be one of the last people on this planet anybody would come to for such a purpose. After all, let’s face it. According to the latest Alexa ranking, my site, The Pensieve , ranks about 2,300,000th on the global leaderboard.
Now that’s not exactly what you’d define as… ‘Popular’. Right?
That being said, then why am I posting an article by that name? Or based on the song for that matter?
Long story actually….. I’m presuming you have enough time!
I came across this song while downloading a soundtrack of one of my favourite TV shows namely, Scrubs . As I previously said, the song is in German, a language which I barely know. And by barely I mean that it took me 3 full minutes to understand that the song was in German… So you do realize just how ‘barely’.
Anyways, I did like the feel of the song and chose to Google the title purely out of interest. The results were pretty impressive.
It wasn’t the beats or the voice that made the song one of my all time favourites. It was the story of the song and the message which it conveyed. Yet, it took me a few more months to understand it’s possible implications in our real life.
So simple, still so intricate. That’s what inspired this particular piece of work. (Huh…)
Now, for those who haven’t listened to this song or are unaware of what it means, here’s a snapshot of the song and the story which it portrays…
99 Luftballons (German: Neunundneunzig Luftballons) is an anti war protest song by the German band Nena for their 1983 self-titled album. An English language version titled “99 Red Balloons” is not a direct translation of the German origin and contains somewhat different lyrics.
The German Band ‘Nena’
The lyrics of the original German version tell us a story:
The song starts with the singer telling us all that she is about to narrate a story of how innocent 99 balloons brought the world to doom. 99 balloons, which were released into the air went across the international border* and were mistakenly detected as UFOs by the radar of another country, causing a general to send 99 aircrafts to investigate. To their dismay they found nothing but innocent red party balloons. The pilots, however still decide to put on a show and shoot them down. The display of force worries the nations adjacent to the borders and the war ministers on each side bang the drums of conflict to grab power among themselves. In the end a 99 year long war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons, causing devastation on all sides without a victor. At the end, the singer walks through the devastated ruins and lets loose a balloon, watching it fly away, the balloon being the sole reminder of where previously, an entire nation used to thrive.
*(It’s believed that the border in question is the wall which seperated West Germany from East Germany, running right through the heart of Berlin. After all, that is the exact place from where this song drew inspiration.)
Now that we know the story, we are ready to dissect it at a deeper level….
Basically, this song deals with wars as we commonly understand them. Arms and ammunition. Armies and navies. So on and so forth. It points out that how wars are disastrous to both the parties be it either winning or losing. Or the fact that there are no winners in a war. Only devastation. That being said, my personal opinion is that the song is also a reference to some of the basic human fallacies in our daily life and their consequences.
You will perhaps get an inkling of what I’m trying to say by the way the song starts….
‘If you have a little time, please listen to this song of mine. ……
This little song I’ll sing for you. Of 99 hot air balloons. And how they brought the world to doom.’
The story revolves around how the 99 air balloons, whose only intention was to bring joy and happiness resulted in complete chaos. And why? Just because of a paranoid air force general.
There are many things in life which mean nothing else than simply what they seem to. Like the Occam‘s razor, the simplest explaination is often the one which holds true.
All we need to do is to remove our goggles of pride, prejudice and presumptions to really see it. If, however, we make assumptions to the contrary (i.e. without any real basis), we tend to complicate things not only for ourselves, but also for the people in front of us. This can mean nothing good as once this is done, one has reached the point of no return. Like the story in the song, it simply turns into an endless, vicious cycle where one’s every move is judged and criticised by the other, no matter what the intention. And if this is not dealt with in time, the end is inevitable.
It may not be the full-fledged, glorified version as we often see it. Rather, in practically all the scenarios, it’s an excruciatingly slow process. Things may fall apart in bits and pieces and before one is aware of the collateral damage that they have caused, it’s already too late. The irony lies in the fact that many a times even when the realisation dawns, people tend to ignore the results, choosing instead to adapt. But doing that is like having an elephant in the room. Gigantic and ever present. Because believing that ignorance will normalise things is absurd seeing that it’s precisely what has caused the problem in the first place! It’s that ego-fuelled ignorance which leads one to mistake the 99 innocent balloons as UFO’s. And in turn causing the seemingly endless, 99 year long war.
And then what remains, one may ask…..
What remains is this:-
A solitary balloon. The sole witness to what previously used to exist. That and a million ‘what if’s ‘ which would only remind you of how different things could have been if it hadn’t been for that first tile setting off the entire domino.
Wouldn’t it have been better if you hadn’t misread the signs in the first place? But then again, what is life if not a series of adventures, each more vivid than the other.
The point is that at some time or the other all of us play that paranoid air force general who mistakes the 99 air balloons as UFOs. And there’s nothing wrong in it for it’s a basic human tendency to associate something to oneself and be wary of their surroundings. That’s primitive self defense. What’s important is what we do next. Do we send 99 aircrafts into the air simply because we SUSPECT the balloons to be UFOs/ hostile army? Or do we be rational and think about the possible odds of the objects being UFOs?
After all the decision lies with us.
And if we choose wisely, then we could be looking at the 100 air balloons in blissful peace and quiet rather than the lonely balloon in deathly silence……