Saturday, April 11, 2020

It's not war

It's only natural to compare the new with the old, to compare new situations with those we've seen before. It gives a sense of perspective, bestowing some comfort and perhaps even a sense of optimism. But there's a limit. Comparing the current pandemic to the war exceeds that limit. For a start 'the war' - by which we mean WWII is now cultural history, a dim memory for an ever-diminishing group of people. Life in wartime, as represented in books and films, allows us to make our own sense of it.  It's easy to romanticise it. But however serious the threat, however great the human suffering this is quite different from wartime. Our enemy is not another nation to be manouevered into defeat or surrender. And our strategy should not evoke jingoistic hubris. Violence will not be involved. That cataclysmic European conflict earned its status as a
'world' war because it spread across continents but any reading of Covid-19 shows that it is truly global in scale. There are important differences. Unlike WWII it demands a global response. This is not about defeating a brutal racist regime but about managing and then outwitting an invasive virus - an organism on the borderland of life. This will be achieved through human collaboration not human conflict. The comparison between this situation and wartime should be swiftly quarantined before popular nationalism infects us once again.

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