18 hours ago
After 40 years of watching “real” war, I obviously have strong views about the fight which statesmen and politicians and liars – the three are, of course, interchangeable – regard as their “war” against coronavirus. Both “real” war and viral war (the Covid variety) produce casualties. They produce heroes. They demonstrate human endurance. But they should not be compared.
For a start, such parallels can prove embarrassing. When Matt Hancock first compared Britain’s struggle against Covid-19 with the Blitz, he was grotesquely conflating what was then a mere handful of UK fatalities with the massive Luftwaffe killing of around 40,000 British citizens. But now that the figure of UK virus fatalities stands – including the uncounted dead, of course – at more than 44,000, and perhaps much higher, those Second World War comparisons are beginning to look a bit worrying.
What’s the next historical trick that the Brexiteers will play on us? That the total British dead of the Second World War of more than 66,000 shows what our grandparents endured? But by then, Covid-19 fatalities in the UK may very well outrun even that grisly statistic.
But there’s another far more important difference between the “real” wars and the global viral war. For “real” wars are about conflict, about humans versus humans, and are usually won when the infrastructure of one side – its lands and homes and factories and railways and roads and hospitals, its museums and galleries and its very water supply systems and electricity stations – have been turned to rubble. Survivors emerge from these wars with their countries in ruin. There is no “back to normal” – because normal has been physically destroyed.