As a generation or two – a lot of us in the UK haven’t been through the experience of war and the subsequent consequences. We’re a lucky generation – spoilt perhaps. Blessed.
However we’re a generation that’s going through a pandemic. Historically others have been through a pandemic. But this is a pandemic where we have daily updates, global information, 21st Century medical care and big data. Some consider this pandemic our generation’s version of a war. Is it?
We don’t have rations – although we did struggle to get those online supermarket slots and were limited from stockpiling. We don’t have gas masks and hard hats – although we have Face Shields and Face Coverings and hand sanitiser at hand.
Speaking to people from the generation who lived through a war – this pandemic experience is different. The biggest gripe is the loss of personal freedom. I think we can all empathise with that.
With war the pain was sharp. The terror as the alarms went, the fear as the planes flew over, the anticipation of bombs exploding. Then the quiet afterwards. Emerging from shelter – the experience was physical. You could see, hear and smell the results. My childrens’ great-grandmother recounted the morning after a bombing in Sheffield. She and her best friend walked miles and saw the destruction, the smouldering embers and her Uncle’s haberdashery shop – destroyed. Everything gone. The impact of war was in your face – you woke up and saw it day to day. But – you had your personal freedom. The alarms warned you, the planes scared you, the bombs shook you – yes they took away your personal freedom. But the next morning – if you were alive, you could go and see and feel the damage. If you were lucky to be alive the next morning – you had some personal freedom (until the next raid).
With this pandemic – things aren’t as sharp or acute. The physical manifestation of this war with Covid-19 is hidden to many of us. It’s being fought in the hospitals, care homes and laboratories or at home if you’ve got it. Away from our eyes and our senses. Without this – we rely on the news, our social media feeds and whatsapp groups to experience this war. The terror, fear and anticipation – we can’t hear or see it physically. For many of us – there’s no morning after where we emerge thankful we’re alive whilst taking in the consequences. We can’t visualise this enemy who is taking away our personal freedom. It’s a sustained period constricting our personal freedom. Much of this war is a mental battle. Much of this war is virtually experienced rather than physically experienced. I’m thankful I’ve not had to make life/death decisions like the healthcare and social care workers. I’ve not had to deal with that in addition to the mental battle we are all facing.
We’re also starting to see consequences of the pandemic with Long-Covid and research into this area. ME and Long-Covid share a lot of the same symptoms. (Thank goodness NICE is cautioning against GET (Graded Exercise Therapy) for those suffering with Long-Covid / Post-Covid – ironically it’s taken a pandemic for NICE to caution against GET vs. years of campaigning by those suffering with ME/CFS).
With the war we had front-line workers, key workers – fighting the war. Off they went – some never returned. Others returned – damaged. You could see the physical scars (although the mental scars remained hidden).
With this pandemic we have front-line workers, key workers – fighting the pandemic. But most of them day in, day out return home. Life continues – the fear, despair, anticipation. Less physical scars (but with potential mental scars hidden).
With the war – afterwards we looked after and paid respect to those front-line workers. Those who went into batlle.
With this pandemic – how will we act to look after and pay respect to those front-line workers who have been at the coal face?
With the war – we have the Royal British Legion. The poppies synonymous with remembering and fundraising for the front line workers.
With this pandemic – what will we have? The rainbows? Will we remember?
What will be the legacy for the NHS and the front-line workers?
Yes – Every Poppy Counts. But will you remember to make Every Rainbow Count, the NHS and our Front Line workers in the future when we emerge?