The Unstoppable: Understanding The 1980’s (Encore)

Yesterday I linked to a couple of songs to illustrate the paranoia of the Cold War 1980s.  The first was Genesis with “Land Of Confusion” (1986).   The second was Frankie Goes To Hollywood with “Two Tribes” (1984).

This sent me down a memory hole and I can’t help but post three links suggested by readers.  Both Men at Work with It’s a Mistake (1983) and Rush with Distant Early Warning (1984) bludgeon us with fears of mutually assured destruction.  (Meh, not Rush’s best and Men At Work only impressed me when the song included Vegemite.)

Then Nena comes in with the kill with the utterly beautiful and poetic 99 Red Balloons (1984).  I posted the lyrics to 99 Red Balloons because I think they capture the feeling and merit a quick read.  Happy little voice…dark German sentiment.

There, I’ve posted five songs from Britain, Canada, Australia, and Germany from 1983 to 1986.  See the pattern?  All are about the same fear; someone pressing the button and getting us all killed for no good reason.  It’s not rocket science and these were not concerns of just a few coddled yahoos in Hollywood.  Everyone was wondering when some dipshit would pull the ripcord and send us back to the stone age. You don’t need to stare at climate models and identify with glaciers to worry about getting vaporized by an ICBM.  That was the whole point of 1980’s geopolitics.

This delays the part II post…but it’s my blog and I can do what I damn well please.

Lyrics from 99 Red Balloons (English):

You and I, and a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we've got
Set them free at the break of dawn
'Til one by one, they were gone

Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message, "Some thing's out there"
Floating in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic lads, it's a red alert
There's something here from somewhere else

The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine Decision Street
Ninety-nine ministers meet
To worry, worry, super-scurry
Call the troops out in a hurry

This is what we've waiting for
This is it boys, this is war
The President is on the line
As ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine knights of the air
Riding super high-tech jet fighters
Everyone's a super hero
Everyone's a Captain Kirk

With orders to identify, to clarify and classify
Scrambling in the summer sky
As ninety-nine red balloons go by
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine dreams I have had
Every one a red balloon
Now it's all over and I'm standin' pretty
In this dust that was a city

If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go



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0 Responses to The Unstoppable: Understanding The 1980’s (Encore)

  1. acairfearann says:

    I agree with you that the threat of MAD concentrated the socio-political/media’s interest and made people uninterested in other threats, be they perceived or real.

    But, it would be entirely incorrect to suggest that the scientists weren’t studying climate change in the 1980’s; but it wasn’t labelled as a ‘problem’. It hadn’t been co-opted and corrupted by a bored media that needed an apocalyptic threat (one could also consider that the modern media was largely formed and developed as a response to apocalyptic threats: prior to WWI, what we consider the media didn’t really exist; that media’s raison d’etre is the apocalypse might be an interesting argument).

    One of the problems with the study of the climate, and why the media warping is so damaging, is that it is a very young science. It was only in the late 1980’s that there was sufficient computing power available, even from the US government, to begin to accurately model how a glacier moves, never mind the even larger fluid masses of jet streams and the like. Ironically, the study began as a direct result of the Cold War and the desperate need to map radiation plumes in the atmosphere. The science honestly doesn’t know what all the variables are yet, let alone how they interact with each other. We know the climate shifts, we even know some of the variables that cause the shifts, and maybe even which are the most important ones.

    If we take just a single mountain glacier…We know some things snowball in an exponential manner: a melting glacier tends to move faster, thereby increasing its friction, thereby increasing its rate of melt, thereby increasing its rate of movement. But what about the other factors? How does air temp/humidity/wind really affect it, how much warming comes from surface particulates from air pollution, or volcanoes, or dust storms from the drought half a continent away, are more snow layers good or bad? How does the shape of the valley and surrounding mountain affect it? The list is nearly infinite.

    We know the climate changes. We theorize that human activity can impact the climate. The problem is that, perforce, we are studying it from within the problem, there is no control model of the climate or climate change without post-industrial human activity as a variable nor is there a complete model of the climate.

    • Phil B says:

      Or. as Churchill described it “After the first Atom bomb, the rest are just rubble bouncers”.

      You’d have to be a Brit to remember “Stop The Cavalry” by Jona Lewis – on You Tube here

  2. cspschofield says:

    Just a thought;

    To my mind the signature of the Left as regards MAD with the USSR was that they found it impossible (for a wide variety of reasons) to admit that Stalin was a bigger monster than a certain Austrian corporal , and that his successors were little, if any, improvement. This meant that they projected their fears of the USSR (and they did know, at least on some level, how bad it was) on the U.S..

    Not all the entertainers who fell for this were Lefty Intellectual twits, but the twits formed a major part of the social matrix in which the entertainers lived.

    If you look at it that way, a lot becomes much clearer.

    • This effect has never gone away. It never will.

      The twits that couldn’t call bullshit on Stalin in his day have led to twits who love Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro now.

      • cspschofield says:

        The self-selected elite that is the Western Intellectual Twits loves to play Radical Chic games. It distracts them from the observable fact that the vast majority of them have no talent for scholarship, and live vapid lives of noisy desperation. The mystery writer Peter Bowen wrote that if they had any guts they would deal drugs or find something interesting to do. He was about right.

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