This is a special article to acknowledge the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. It does not replace the “N.Z. In Lock Down” diary. It is timed to publish 75 years to the minute that the German surrender took effect in Europe.
World War 2 in Europe ended on 8 May 1945. 5 years and 8 months of the most destructive war known to man had finally come to an end. Millions were dead. Cities, entire countries were wrecked from end to end. Millions more were transient, bombed out of their homes with nowhere to go. Prisoners of war going home to countries they no longer recognized and concentration/death camp survivors wondering how they had survived a special kind of hell, now wondering how to restart their lives.
Europe in May 1945 was also a continent about to undergo massive geopolitical upheaval. The fighting to rid the Germans and their allies from occupied Europe was on a scale perhaps only matched by the stand off between the democratic western bloc and the Communist eastern bloc that then consumed the continent for 46 years and on at least one occasion very nearly brought the world to its nadir.
For a time the international order that was established to prevent World War 3 or any of the atrocities that made World War 2 a particularly horrible war worked relatively well. However, in line with the valedictory speech of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the advent of the military-industrial complex whose needs – and wants – began to feed off each other, the world was introduced to wars that are more about providing an excuse for manufacturing new murder machines.
Just as Adolf Hitler sought lebensraum (living space)in the Middle East, the U.S.S.R. sought it in neighbouring countries. Major industrial powers – and smaller ones, including Australia and New Zealand – sought raw material (in N.Z.’s case phosphate from Nauru to make fertilizer with)to manufacture things with, showing scant (some might say callous) disregard for the third world nations that it was sourced from. Now we wonder why many of those nations have low regard for the western way of doing things.
Now we watch the European powers – France, Spain, Britain, Italy and others – struggle with the devastating effects of COVID19. Tens of thousands of their civilians have died and probably hundreds of thousands more were made sick. For countries that are meant to have some of the best health care in the world, their response was surprisingly poorly organized.
Will COVID19 make the developed world dunk its proverbial head in a bucket of cold water? I do not think so, but it would be nice to think that if one of the most economically destructive things in 100 years has done any good, it will be to make we might not need W.W.3 to destroy ourselves.