I was listening to the news recently and heard Michael Rosen talking about ‘that’ Downing Street cheese and wine party that wasn’t a party. As you might remember, Michael is a poet who was hospitalized with Covid-19 and spent several weeks in intensive care. He compared lockdown to the blitz during World War 2. Here’s the quote that stuck with me:
“Instead of the equivalent of wreaths at the Cenotaph, what we’re getting is ‘oh, we were partying while you were doing that’.”Michael Rosen
It bothered me and I couldn’t work out why. Then I realised that we’ve been hearing this kind of Blitz spirit stuff all the way through lockdown. It’s the people who say you’d never have survived if you’re hoarding toilet rolls or can’t even cope with staying at home. They say that everyone pulled together and no-one was out for themselves. The trouble is, it’s rubbish.
Michael Rosen was right
When Michael Rosen was talking about the Downing Street gathering, he referred to the social trauma that we’ve all been through in the last two years. In that sense, it’s a fair comparison. We’ve been isolated from our loved ones and faced huge uncertainty. We’ve longed to get back to normal (whatever that might mean). There has also been fear. We might not have faced being sent out to a foreign battlefront, but we’ve certainly dealt with the reality that a bomb might drop in viral form.
We don’t know what the long-term impact of Covid-19 will be. The Blitz generation grew up (and grew old) in a world very different from this one. I’m still absolutely certain that comparing our society to that one isn’t helping.
People cheated during the Blitz too
The reason I have a problem with the whole idea of a modern day ‘Blitz spirit’ is that it glosses over historical reality. There’s a nostalgia which imagines that every generation before this one was somehow perfect. We’re fed a wartime image where every neighbourhood pulled together. The trouble is, not everyone did. There were lots of examples of neighbours looking after each other and community groups organising resources and support. But then, as now, there were plenty of people out for themselves too. The blackout provided plenty of opportunities for crime. People behaved badly when they got the chance because they didn’t know when the bombs would drop. Even fundamentally decent people found ways to bend the rules. Which reminds me…
The rules are different this time
Covid-19 brought a set of rules that separated us from our loved ones so we’d all stay safe. In the 1940s my dad didn’t see his parents for months at a time because he was in a ship on the Atlantic. Near the end of his life, he told me that every day had been a bonus since then. He knew that a torpedo could come through at any moment and it would all be over. The difference was that when you got the chance to let off steam, you could do it in a crowd. The party that’s unforgiveable now would have been part of life then. The trauma might be the same but we processed it differently.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because even though no two lives are the same, we’ve all got shared experiences and it’s important to talk about them. You might not think that your personal stories can translate to your business marketing, but they can. If you’d like to find out how, send me an email or book a call and let’s have a chat.