I hope this Blog finds all its readers safe and well, as we continue to live and work through these times.
There are numerous writers and broadcasters who have made the timely, and expedient, connection between the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the current Covid-19 situation. This may appear contrived in some ways, or even exploitative – of our history, or the current times we face, or both. However, there are clearly ways in which we can look at our own experience today and then apply that lens to observe wartime Britain.
A nation subject to restrictions on movement, concerns over supply of essential goods and even the rationing of them is a common factor then and now. Daily governmental briefings, global updates, and speeches of victory, collective support, and expressions of admiration for those that work to protect us are all abundant now as they were throughout the wartime years.
I am in no way attempting to compare scale of suffering or sacrifice, however. Clearly, these are very different times in as many ways as they are similar.
What I choose to highlight here is an essential sense of ‘goodness’ that we will commemorate tomorrow for VE Day and how that same goodness is still found in abundance today. We know that during the war there were black marketeers and spivs, there were those who flouted blackout restrictions and engaged in “careless talk” which did indeed “cost lives.” But the overwhelming majority of the population would “keep calm and carry on” with stoic fortitude and kindness to others, for example by “digging for victory”, taking in an evacuee, or housing a family ‘bombed out’ of their home during a raid. They did this not through compulsion or fear of consequence, but because it was the right thing to do.
Similarly, we read stories today of those who fall short and flout restrictions – the fly-tippers, the panic-buyers, the Covid-inspired internet scammers, and the irresponsible socialisers. But again, we know that the overwhelming majority of people now, as then, are driven by kindness, compassion, and a sense of collective duty to support each other as best they can.
CS Lewis wrote that “integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” Peter Hitchens defined “conscience” in the same sentiment. In our school communities, it would be naïve (and we know for a fact that it would also be untrue) to claim that every single child is working hard to fulfil their potential, to learn and grow, and that every parent and adult is doing all they can to support them. However, we also know – for a fact – that almost all of our children, their parents, and other adults are carrying on: working hard, learning and growing, and supporting each other. Like the citizens of 1940s Britain, they do so because it is the right thing to do today – and that there will be a dividend on this investment tomorrow.
So, as we continue through our time of restrictions I want to thank all our children and adults who are working so hard, being so supportive to each other, and so kind. We serve amazing communities who are resilient and courageous, and also full of goodness. When we return to full provision in our schools, and in the wider community, let us all do more than hope that these admirable traits persist and strengthen – let’s work to make certain they do.
Thanks for reading. Take care, and stay safe.