75 years ago tomorrow, people celebrated the end of the Second World War, a brutal time in which millions of people died because of the ideals of a few, and tomorrow people will celebrate its anniversary but not in the way we’d hoped. The day was going to be marked with parties and celebrations, with street picnics, tables along the road and neighbours gathering together to have fun, sing and maybe even dance, in honour of the street parties people had 75 years ago. We celebrated that way during the 50th anniversary, I was in primary school at the time and the whole school had a ‘street’ party in the playground. But tomorrow, nobody will be doing that, in fact most will not even leave their homes, instead fearing to come together and opting to send messages online or at most, gather at their doors to collectively sing and clap. Though most people will see this as a good way to celebrate, I don’t because I wanted to celebrate by getting together with everyone. In fact I do wonder whether we really honouring all the people who died in the war, who died for our freedom, with what we are doing now?
A secret shared
For the last few weeks I’ve been feeling anxious and afraid, not because of a crazy virus that everyone’s scared of, but afraid and anxious to post what I really think on this blog, to post certain thoughts and opinions because not everyone will agree with what I say. I’ve been afraid to be open and honest with everyone, afraid to truly share something which has been eating away at me, because I don’t know how people will take it, I don’t know if anyone will understand or ridicule what I say. So I stayed silent, tried to sleep well (and failed) and pretend this whole thing wasn’t happening, but with the anniversary of VE day tomorrow, it’s become too much to stay quiet and I want to speak out, even if it means that some of you will choose to unfollow this blog…
The power of a ruler
75 years ago the power of Hitler and the Nazis came to an end. The regime convinced millions of Germans, through its one-sided view that what they were doing was right and just. They made people believe that it was okay to hate Jewish people, because the Jewish people were responsible for the poor ecomomy of their country. They made people want to be socially distant from the Jewish people because the Jewish were dirty and carried diseases. The Nazis wanted to rid the world of everyone that they didn’t like, that they didn’t deem part of their perfect view of race, so they killed Jewish people for countless reasons, they killed the Polish people because they deemed them as an inferior species, and they killed countless others groups of people for just being different and against their ideals, including the disabled, both mentally and physically.
But the Nazis couldn’t kill people just like that, telling the Jews they would be sent to concentration camps to their deaths wouldn’t make them go, even if it was the ultimate goal, so instead they began by taking away some of their civil liberties. At first they stopped them from being able to work in certain jobs, or go to certain places. Soon they had to wear a label that showed they were Jewish, and eventually had to leave their homes in order to live in ghettos, and eventually camps to be worked or slaughtered. The Nazi regime was a horrible and dark one, they managed to get away with so much for so long through lying to their citizens, and even lying to the people they were sending to the camps, telling them they were gong to a nice place, a place where they could get a nice shower to be clean…It was through lies like this that the Nazis managed to take so many people away and do the most henious of things that we still find shocking and unbelievable today.
When the war ended 75 years ago, Poland was supposed to have been liberated but it wasn’t. It instead fell into the hands of the Russian/Soviet government and Poland ended up being a non-free nation for about another 50 years. Most of my family lived in Poland at this time, under the Iron Curtain, with basic freedoms restricted, civil liberties taken away. At a time before my Mum came to England, and before I was born, she recalls how something so simple as crossing the road in the wrong place (not a designated crossing) caused the police to blow their whistle at her. They took her identity papers and made her stand for twenty minutes while they toyed (enjoying every minute of their power) with whether to arrest her or not. At that time there was no freedom of speech, you couldn’t speak out against the government if you disagreed with what they did, and those that did got into trouble. My family, like many others at the time, were part of a sort of Polish resistance movement, spreading newspapers and pamphlets about freedom and listening (illegally) to free radio broadcasting from the West. These things were seen as bad and illegal to the ruling regime (one of my great uncles was tortured by the government for his views on liberty), but if asked whether it was right for the people to have freedom, we’d all agree that they should have.
Poland lived under a police state until the 1990s when it finally became truly free, a country where my grandmother, who had lived through both the Second World War and life behind Iron Curtain, finally felt the freedom so many of us take for granted today. But when the virus struck, news spread and country after country put itself into a lockdown, that freedom was quickly taken away, and it has had a drastic impact for everyone. My grandmother, or ‘Babcia’ as I call her, couldn’t even go for a walk to a bank (to pick up essential money) without being stopped by police. Only a short while ago they yelled at her to go home, and she yelled back to them that she wasn’t going to be under house arrest after being under the occupation of the Nazis and then the Soviet Union for so many years. My grandmother isn’t afraid of catching a virus, even though she’s of the age that would be ‘shielding’ in this country, but she is afraid of living in a country where her civil liberties are taken away. Where her basic human rights to walk the streets and go where she wants are taken away. And she passed on this way of thinking to my Mum who passed it on to me.
I never really feared this virus despite the fact most others have, because I don’t want to live in a state of fear, to live in a world where we fear living life. And to be honest because there are bigger and worse things to fear than getting sick. It doesn’t mean I don’t think we should be cautious, to understand what is going on, to take precautions, but being informed and living life with understanding is a world away than living life in fear. Fear, true fear, like the one people now feel is bad for health and bad for the immune system, it lowers our immunity to the virus, so why when doctors know this, does the news pump us with fear? Why would the government and the news want to keep up its one-sided narrative of fear mongering when they know this makes our immunity worse?
What does make me worry though, and what I do truly fear, is a world in which we seem to be heading, a world that isn’t free, and a world which, strangely, people want to live where their lives are dictated by the government, where freedoms are given up, a world in which we all live apart, separate, alone, scared all the time, where everyone wears a mask despite the dangers to your health in doing so (wearing one restricts your breathing and puts your body into stress/fear mode lowering the immune system again) and and a world in which everyone is ultimately sadder and sicker, where the idea of being outdoors and in the sun is shunned (it’s good for your health to breathe fresh air and be outdoors in the sunlight), but one which everyone seems to want to live in…
The people in the Second World War died for our freedoms. Millions of people died in those henious concentration camps in the most horrible of circumstances, with the hopes that one day our world would be free. So many lives were lost and when the war was finally over we promised that these henious acts would never be forgotten and would never be repeated. But we forgot that our liberties and freedoms are part of that promise too. We forgot how hard those people fought to be free, for us to be free, and not just them but countless people before and since the war.
To be free is a precious thing and we should never sacrifice our civil liberties for anything, no matter what that ‘enemy’ looks like. But the emergency bill introduced into the UK because of the latest threat has caused me to lose sleep and worry (despite dong my best not to). Despite the official lines explaining why these measures have been taken, which make them sound like everything is fine and for our own benefit, it’s only through reading it, truly reading through it (not the short version but the true legislation) that you start to see some truth. And trust me, some of it is very scary, because the wording of that bill, the various changes to legislation here and there (and yes, I have taken the time to read the official legislation – boring and repetitive as it is), even minor changes like the omittance of certain phrases, or clever or weird re-wordings of certain parts which should be irrelevant, allow small but drastic changes to be made to so many aspects of our lives makes for a truly terrifying future in which none of us are free at all.
None of this may matter to you or anyone in the immediate future, because there is something far more scary out there right now that you can’t help but be afraid of. But the part of me I inherited from my grandmother and mother, make me question anything in which our freedoms and rights are taken away. We should never be dictated to and told what to do and we should never be so naive as to accept everything we hear without questioning what is being said. We should always do our research and seek out the truth, because countless people in the history of this planet have died for freedom, and we shouldn’t give it away so freely without retaining some control or at the very least questioning everything we are doing and questioning what we are prepared to give up. I’m not suggesting that our own world is like the past, but the slow errosion of civil liberties is what started a very dark part of our world’s history and we shouldn’t be so ready to give away all of our freedoms because of the fear of getting sick. We need to empower ourselves by controlling our own lives and learn and check things and make informed decisions.
We also shouldn’t paralyze our lives by living in fear, because that’s what fear does, in paralyzes you and stops you being able to think rationally and do anything. Living in fear ruins our immune systems, making is more likely to catch something horrible (another important reason to release fear). So let go of fear, understand, but don’t fear, and then remember the reasons so many people died for 75 years ago, and never forget.
– I hope that those of you who get to the end of this post will now understand why I’ve been so nervous to post this and why I’ve been losing sleep over it. Liberty and freedoms are SO important to my family, to me, and I don’t want them erradicated in a ‘new world’. I don’t want us to forget the world we had before the virus…
How do you feel about civil liberties, freedoms and how important are they to you? Do you think we are giving them away or do you think I’m worried about nothing? Let me know what you think in the comments below (but please let’s keep this conversation kind, regardless of your views) 🙂