Last evening Her Majesty the Queen reminded us that although times are now dark, we shall indeed meet again. She first recited these words during World War II when the dark storm of fascism was gathering throughout Europe and the British people were forced to send their children to the countryside to protect them from the bombings in major cities. The sadness of human isolation and rationing of food is something the British people know very well.
As I listened to the Queen recall the fears of many years ago, I paused to think about what is creating such anxiety and fear for me and so many others during our time of struggle. Perhaps it is the lack of previous communal struggle we have yet to experience. For example, during World War I and World War II, both in Europe and the United States, there was a communal commitment to working together to overcome the pall of disapointment, fear and anxiety. During the polio epidemic of the nineteen forties and fifties there was a sense of trust in our government officials to work together with the scientists and medical authorities to find a way through that storm and keep us safe. Finally, and most recently, following the frightening attacks by terrorists during September 11, 2001 there was a strong sense of individuals and communities doing whatever it would take to enable our government leaders to provide increased security for all.
Like mighty rivers, I believe now is the time for a renewed communal commitment by individuals and communities working together to trust our scientists, support our public health officials and objectively scrutinise our elected representatives to help us come together and create a mighty oceanic change. This oceanic wave that will be generated by our communal efforts and trust will, I hope with all my heart, bring us together in order to not only slow the number of infections and deaths caused by Covid 19, but also to find a way forward through the discovery and successful testing of an effective vaccine.
Therefore, the words that Dame Vera Lynn sang so passionately to our troops and citizens during World War II and were quoted this week by our Queen have for me a special resonance right now.
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day .
The question indeed still remains of when, how and where shall we meet in the future? I do not know the answer. However, having studied for nearly fifty years, the motivations of individuals and groups who attend private and public events, I do have several hypotheses that I wish to propose.
First, from the beginning of homeosapien existence there has always been present an innate desire for humans to come together to, as the Scottish cultural anthropologist Victor Turner stated, to “share their joys, their sorrows and triumphs.” This shall continue.
Secondly, no government advice nor regulation shall ever prevent humans from finding safe and secure ways to assemble together. As Shona McCarthy, chief executive of The Edinburgh Festival Fringe recently stated upon announcing the cancellation of the 2020 Fringe Festival “The Fringe and its sister festivals are working together to find new ways of uniting people under a Fringe umbrella.”
Thirdly, how these future gatherings take place may indeed change in terms of location, size and length to conform with the new norms and expectations of society as informed by this recent pandemic.
However, as sure as I am that the sun shall rise each new day, I am also confident that we will find ordinary and even extraordinary ways to reunite as a human family in many new ways to learn, to experience, to trade, to celebrate and to grow from strength to strength.