Humans have used statues for millennia as material manifestations of our love of ideals and other people. We build them and tear them down according to the love/hate switch of public opinion. They all decay over time due to the elements and neglect, but also from losing meaning, purpose, in the public’s mind.
We have statues that are attended once per year in fading memory of The Fallen, so statues to entire groups are not novel. I propose a plethora of statues to a single group, to be placed all through Europe to act as a reminder to future generations of the incredible work achieved by this group. Enduring expressions of artistic applause that show our eternal gratitude to one single generation: The War Baby Generation.
From the blood, fire and rubble of post war Europe rose a generation the likes of which I fear we will never see again. These children from broken homes, both literal and figurative, now in their 70s and 80s, rebuilt Europe and did so for a unified reason: the future.
Not only did they sweep away the rubble and rebuild the houses and factories but they also swept away much of the previous injustice and built a more efficient social system. From full National Health to decent State Pensions via the right to affordable housing. From true Workers’ Rights to real Human Rights. These were the statues to human dignity that this fantastic generation built. A brighter peaceful future was their Dream and community activity was the rational method of achieving it.
No counselling or art therapy for them as they emerged bruised and battered from bombed out homes to start rebuilding. No Celebrity Status, no “My War Hell” media ego-trips. They simply got on with The Dream. The desired pay? Beyond a decent pension, good health care and a comfortable house when retired, this generation made no demands for praise or prize. Their legacy was to be those wonderful statues of civilized humanity for future European generations.
The proposed new statues to that generation could have names such as “Europe’s Builders”, “Dedicated to those who made something from war’s remains” or “Generation Phoenix”.
How sick they must feel now in their twilight years. The bombs are still falling on others. The powers that be have eroded their statue of National Health with part privatisation deals, wards closings and underpaid staff. The last 20 years have seen the demolition of their Workers’ Rights statue with part-time and temporary contracts, unpaid leave and profit over people. Then, just as they thought about retirement, they noticed the Pension statue had been stripped of promise.
And we did it. We either actively took a hammer to these wonderful creations or we failed to stop the blows. Guilty either way. As testimony to the character of Europe’s War Generation, those that built all we foolishly took for granted are not complaining. They never did. They were busy building a Collective Dream.
The names of statues to that generation could also include: “The Final Community” and “Dedicated to those who endured for us”. Or simply, “Sorry”.