Today will mark 75 years since Victory in Europe (VE) Day – when after six years of devastating conflict, which killed an estimated 70–85 million worldwide and 384,000 soldiers and 70.000 civilians in the UK alone, allied forces finally declared victory over the forces of Nazi Germany.
Yet this will be a commemoration unlike any other in the history or the UK.
Street parties are planned and bunting will deck houses and lampposts, but there will be no trestle tables to sit around, no mingling or dancing with friends and neighbours and no concerts or gatherings in town squares or on village greens. This will be a celebration under lockdown.
Participants will celebrate from the distance of their own driveways, balconies or windows. Neighbours will consume their own food and drinks on their own property and listen to music from a distance – observing the ongoing rules of ‘social distancing’ due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has overtaken all other considerations in the fields of medical, economic and social policy.
For this reason there is a profound dissonance between the manner in which this historical event will be celebrated and the deeper meaning of the event itself.
VE day celebrated the overthrow of tyranny, at the cost if great suffering and loss, and the hope that this sacrifice would lead to a better world and the building of a ‘Post War Dream’ or a ‘Nation Fit for Heroes’, where freedom, equity and the Rule of Law would be the defining values of the nation.
What then would those who fought and died for these values think of us now?
What would they think of a society that, in the face of a public health issue which presents a questionable threat to society at large, accepts the quarantine of the healthy and passing of draconian legislation restricting movement and costing the jobs and freedom of millions of citizens?
And what what would they think of the attempts to silence those who question the scientific justification and efficacy of these measures?
I freely admit that I have always been suspicious of the celebration of military victories and of exhortations to ‘Support Our Troops’ in current conflicts. These commemorations always seem to be instrumentalised in an attempt at creating a false unity and to overlook the reasons for the conflict, just as calls to ‘Support Our Troops’ are always essentially a call to ‘Support Our Policy’ – however illegal and unethical it might be.
At this time would it not be better to commemorate the sacrifice of those who died fighting fascism and totalitarianism, by engaging in an ongoing struggle to uphold the values that they fought for?
Rather than engaging in celebrations under enforced conditions of physical separation, would it not be better to ensure that fascism and totalitarianism are not permitted to return here and now?
This alone would be a fitting tribute to the fallen and would honour their struggle in a way that no amount of bunting and forced jollity ever could, especially under such bizarre conditions as those that currently exist.
So raise a glass and toast your neighbours from a distance if you must, but it would be better to raise your hands and voices and ask whether the future that some seem to have planned for us is what the fallen of WWII died for.
Then maybe we can achieve a victory for the world and for the millions who suffer from the policies of those who are now claiming to care about the value of human life in relation to a single virus, but show no evidence of valuing it in any other context.
Ian J is an independent researcher and former organiser of the Merthyr Rising Festival
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