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A fresh set of eyes

by Dave Adsett

The day my daughter Chloe presented me with this picture, below, out of a colouring book, she would have been around four years old. It was one of those work-with-dad days. All these years later it remains in the same spot on the wall in my office, just to the left of my computer monitor.

2018 11 09 Colouring

Always within my periphery, it serves as a reminder of how differently a child sees the world. The initial temptation to correct her choice of colours was quickly abandoned, realizing that she and her contemporaries are not plagued with stereotypes or knowledge of what adults see as right or wrong. A heart on the helmet and a pink strap speaks to an innocence and kind spirit that’s enough to melt a dad’s heart.

This Remembrance Day, 100 years after the armistice was signed ending the First World War, Canadians enjoy a standard of living admired around the world. The Great War, roundly applauded as the war to end all wars, was followed a generation later by World War II and dozens of conflicts have flared up around the globe since 1918.

Unfortunately, blind ambition and greed are traits humans can’t seem to shed. Each generation seems to find new ways to rationalize the domination of others. Any time countries galvanize around one extreme or the other, perilous times face humanity.

On the world stage today, there are numerous dictatorships founded on distorted religious beliefs, dogmatic politics and even populism, which left unchecked can morph into something not intended. Regrettably, time is the only real judge of goodness and progress. In the interim, as movements take root and democracy stumbles, any great degree of disruption is written off casually with Machiavelli’s oft-quoted excuse that the end justifies the means. Whether those disruptions include callous treatment of adversaries or disregard for the disadvantaged and vulnerable, swings in policy that don’t include citizen consultation often end up in casualties. In other words, those in power during these shifts dominate the populace, which is anathema to what the free world cherishes – or at least should.

Complacency and apathy are indicators of a democracy in decline, just as conformity and fear are hallmarks of societies with little in the way of choices. Getting the right balance is the challenge.

When this publication encouraged people to get out and vote a few weeks back, we referenced a recent trip to Berlin, where that city’s history gave real-world examples of why voting is so important. Less than half of eligible voters took advantage of their chance to vote.

Knowing that Remembrance Day was close at hand, we saved a few other observances from that trip for this week’s column. A holocaust memorial in the city and bronze pin marks along the sidewalks honouring people taken from their homes, really drove home what is at stake should the collective memory of society forget or ignore history’s most tragic lessons.

The swing from democracy to fascism to communism and back to democracy was quite a journey to undertake at the museum of German history. The uniforms and propaganda on exhibit demonstrated how forceful tyranny hijacked the soul of its people. Jargon and costumes supplanted humanity, which perhaps explains the great difficulty for societies today in identifying pivotal moments where a government or its agents go too far. Alarmists drawing premature parallels make the task even harder and eventually, when those claims repeatedly fail to come to pass, people become numb to the potential for ugliness that still lurks in some hearts.

This Remembrance Day let’s honour veterans who gave so much, in some cases their lives, and this great gift which is democracy.

 

November 9, 2018

 
 

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