opinion

Greatest Generaton vs Snowflakes – Covid 19 edition

For the next time someone tells you, 'we would be screwed if this was WW2'

Over the last few weeks chances are you’ve heard someone say something along the lines of:

‘We’d be screwed if this was World War Two!’ 

or

‘If the snowflakes were the greatest generation, we’d be out of lockdown already!’

Or this great tweet by Lord Ashcroft

LORD ASHCROFT

And lets be real, using the idea that society was way better in the Second World War, to back a half baked idea isn’t new. For example, during the Brexit campaign, my Facebook was awash with people pointing out that under Winston Churchill we weren’t part of the EU and that was the golden age of Britain! Which completely overlooks the idea that both the world economy and society as a whole is er, slightly different now…but I could see where they was coming from, so you know; you do you Aunt Karen and I’ll see you at the next family wedding/funeral.

BUT this new ‘Greatest Generation’ argument is really getting under my skin. Mainly because it is categorically and catastrophically incorrect from the beginning. 

Ok so lets break this down. The main line of the argument is that the country is crumbling because people are breaking lockdown rules, hoarding and generally being very moaney. And that in the Second World War, when faced with huge lifestyle changes everyone just buckled down and did them. Which is why we won that war and are losing this one.

Here’s the thing. That didn’t happen. 

Ok, lets use rationing as our first example. When rationing was announced in January 1940, The Daily Mail immediatly went on the warpath. They did side by sides of British rations vs German rations, bemoaning the amount the British were getting. They even ripped William Morrison, the Minister of Food, a new one, comparing his rationing plans to if: “Dr Goebbels were asked to help-to devise a more harmful piece of propaganda for Great Britain.”

As time went on, the majority of people got behind rationing. It wasn’t fun, but it was necessary. However, there were a minority of people who didn’t, which is why there was a thriving black market. As with breaking lock down rules, there were fines for breaking rationing and going to the black market. But people still did it. So much so that we have gone on to romanticise the black market ‘spiv’ as a loveable rogue (like Private Joe Walker in Dad’s Army) 

joe walker
Private Joe Walker – kind of a dick

Now lets quickly score off some of the other parts of the argument:

In WW2 nobody criticised how the government were doing things like we’re doing now – Sorry to burst your bubble, but people are people… of course they criticised the government! And often they well within their rights to!

For example, in the early stages of the war people were understandably not thrilled that Britain had equipment shortages and machinery that kept breaking. Loudly questioning why the hell the government hadn’t ensured they had stockpiles and a better equipment plan before the bussed a load of boys to the front line.

People were stronger. None of this ‘anxiety’ business! – The idea of the Blitz spirit has really been mythologised. Did those city dwellers living under constant threat of bombing keep on? Of course! But did they just merrily bounce out of bed each day after a night of bombs falling. No.

In 1941 after a series of bombings on Hull, a team of psychiatrists surveyed just over 700 people. They found that under the blitz people were drinking more, as well as experiencing extreme low moods, bouts of crying, and even loss of bladder control. Mental Health was a real issue, but it wasn’t something that was talked about to the level it is today.

Nobody would have broken the government guidelines to take a silly risk – Once again, it was a minority. But yeah no they totally did. For example, Writer Vera Brittain has talked about how young people would go party hopping during air raids, which became known as ‘Playing No Man’s Land’.

Were those who lived during The Second World War amazing people. Oh god yes! But were they perfect? No. We’re they better than todays people? Well they’ve been remembered as better, but not necessarily.

I’d be surprised if history remembers us as failures. It seems more likely this time will remembered much like the greatest generation. For people who kept going, joined together and clapped for the NHS and supported each other however they could.

So next time you see someone say we’d be screwed if this was World War Two. Well, first off, tell them the facts on that! But also remind them that just like World War Two, we’re all in this together. So maybe it’s time to stop trying to score points and instead realise that we need each other to get through this. After all, we’re stronger together.

2 comments

  1. Hi! I really like this article. Could you put some sources on it? The Daily Mail article in particular seems like a thing there could be a link to, even if it’s just an image of the article you read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi. Great point and I have added in more links. Just in case you want to use those for further reading (because who doesn’t love further reading!) I have tried to include links to papers and books, where the sections on each topic are currently free to read online.
      Re. The Daily Mail quote, unfortunately I can’t pop in a picture or link directly to the full article, however, I have linked to Stuart Hylons book on reporting the blitz, which includes the quote (the full chapter is also free to read), I’ve also popped the full quotation below for you:
      ‘Your butter is going to be rationed next month. It would be scarcely possible-even if Dr. Goebbels were asked to help-to devise a more harmful piece of propaganda for Great Britain. Our enemy’s butter ration has just been increased from 3ozs to just under 4ozs. Perhaps because of Goering’s phrase ‘guns or butter’ has given butter a symbolical significance. But mighty Britain, Mistress of the Seas, heart of a great Empire, proud of her wealth and resources? Her citizens are shortly to get just 4ozs of butter a week. There is no good reason to excuse Mr. Morrison, the Minister of Food, for this stupid decision.’

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: