Joy is not one of the great virtues but it ought to be. It’s ruled out as such because its essence and manifestation do not entail demonstrating high moral standards. But something that arises from surprise, anticipation rewarded or expectation fulfilled, leading to delight and pleasure, and bringing happiness and exhilaration, is surely no bad thing.
“Bring me joy!” urged the news editor of this publication at the weekly story-planning meeting, an exhortation that was spot on. The news monster gathers up stories of death and disaster, cruelty and robbery and chicanery, chews them up, digests and spits them out on front pages, in headlines, as top-of-the-news-bulletin items on radio and television. There’s little joy in constantly producing such stuff and even less at the receiving end of this harsh charge sheet of humans acting badly. So, the news editor showed wisdom, sagacity and sensitivity to the human condition, which is not always miserable.
Of course, sport is an exception – if you happen to be on the winning side. The sheer eruption of ecstasy on the part of Liverpool Football Club supporters when their team won the 2019 Uefa Champions League brought all the shades of meaning, all the synonyms of joy, into play. Watching the delirium of players and fans, what came to mind were, among others: bliss, ecstasy, elation, euphoria, exhilaration, exultation, gladness, glee, jubilation, triumph, rapture and rejoicing.
This was a media story impossible to render miserable, although reporting on its obverse – the gloom that descended on the supporters of the losing team, Tottenham Hotspur – would most certainly have been filled with sombre adjectives and gloomy epithets and more than a hint of end-of-the-worldism. At celebratory occasions like this, the notion grows that it would certainly help if the media were suddenly to begin dishing up great dollops of joyful news in a secular version of the evangelion, the “good news” that makes up the Christian gospels.
There is much such joyfulness in the world. And there are many moments in human history when unfettered joy has broken out: oppressive regimes overthrown, good people freed from unwarranted captivity, terrible military conflicts ended.
This year, 6 June marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the military operation that began the recapture of Western Europe from the Nazis. Rightfully celebrated as loosening the German grip on Occupied Europe, the day is also – wrongly – deemed to be the single biggest factor in the winning of World War II. Instead, Operation Overlord – the D-Day landings – was possible only because of the resistance that the Soviet Union had mounted against the German invasion of Russia.
Far from the blitzkrieg victory that Hitler had anticipated on the Eastern Front, the German armies got bogged down – literally too, in mud and snow – and succumbed to the sheer numbers of soldiers and civilians that Stalin was prepared to sacrifice to defend Mother Russia.
It is estimated that at least 20 million Soviet people died in World War II. They did so not only to protect their motherland but also to draw men, munitions and machines away from Western Europe, thereby making it feasible for the Allies to begin thinking about an invasion by sea.
When the British, Canadian and American forces landed on the five D-Day beaches on 6 June 1944, they were faced with fewer of the enemy and his weaponry because of the enormous sacrifice of the Soviet Union and its people.
Liberation followed in both hemispheres of Europe. And joy accompanied the freeing of each village, town and city. The photograph that accompanies this piece shows the joy and relief of Soviet peasants at the expulsion from their area of the occupying German army.
As the best pictures do, it tells a thousand words, and as such there is no “text message” to this Text Message other than one word: joy.