‘Platform to Platform’ update

This entry is more about my feelings than most posts on this blog.

This weekend I listened to all of Lorna Lloyd’s World War 2 diary entries recorded by Bethany Ray and the team for the Platform to Platform project I’m leading, after reading through a colleague’s nearly-finished PhD thesis. I’m wryly amused that after each recording ended, iTunes started playing songs from The Chemical Brothers’ Surrender or The Clash’s Combat Rock. From horribleness in the early twentieth century to either (sometimes brooding) dance music or depictions of the Vietnam War, U.S. foreign policy, and American society in moral decline. What would Joe Strummer make of today?

The diary entry that hit me most was written by Lorna Lloyd on Sunday 7th 1940, about the war between Russia and Finland. Here’s the part that had me emitting floods of swear-words:

What won’t get into the history books is the story of a bundle of letters found in the pocket of a dead Russian. They were the loving outpourings of his half-literate wife, in which she told him how unhappy she was, and what a miserable day she had spent on the last festival day. But most of the letter was concerned with little Ljonja who wanted to know when his Daddy was coming home, and asked that if Daddy came home in the night, might he be wakened up so that he could see him.

“Daddy” is dead, frozen stiff in a Finnish wood, because Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler have determined to walk the way of senseless ambition.

Huge catastrophes have no power over me, but these small tragedies, which mean so little to demagogues’ and tyrants who demand them, have power to make me think and feel violently.

I can’t get out of my mind what I read about a child in the sinking of the “Simon Bolivar” crying “Save me Jesus” and little Ljonja without a father, and thousands like him: English, German, Finnish, French, Polish, Czech, and Russian.

I think this would have got me anyway – I’m so often embarrassed to be a member of homo sapiens. (‘sapiens’ – what the hell[1]?) Although I am no Christian, nor do I agree with Lorna that the British and French Empires are ‘bastions of European civilisation’ (15 May 1940), I can understand her anguish that ‘the lesser evil is war’ (9 October 1939). Were anyone to propose to assassinate Putin – and just him – I would be hard-pushed to disagree. What stops me from agreeing is the belief that while he (and others) may well deserve to die (perhaps in screaming agony – or perhaps living in it for eternity), no-one has the right to inflict death on anyone. And assassinating anyone, especially heads of states, just gives precedents. If there was a non-fatal way of kidnapping Mr Putin to bring him before a court, I’d be volunteering right now.

Just as I was about to share the results of my work with my project-mentor, I learnt that my colleague and his family have all now contracted COVID. Bah!

[1] This is of course a massive euphemism. Why do we use words for sex, which should be at least vaguely pleasant, for such violent feelings and actions?


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