When I was ten or eleven, I had a favourite teacher who had been a small child in London during World War II. Each year, Remembrance Day was a time when she would share her stories of the Blitz, of air raids, of losing her father. She told her stories vividly and with the hope that we would understand “Never Again” and “Lest We Forget.” I am glad I know her stories now, but they frightened me into a white silent panic, the panic that tainted my Cold War childhood, a childhood in the time of Mutually Assured Destruction.
This child and the teenager is now an adult, entering my fifth decade. I know there are no grownups here. But in adulthood I can see more clearly how powerful fear is. I can feel how hard it is to integrate uncertainty and contradictions, be brave, and have peace (on the smallest and largest scales). I have learned to manage anxiety. As an entrepreneur I am quite comfortable with risk, and almost never experience panic. I try to put anger and worry to work, keeping it healthy, motivating for change.
On Remembrance Day, I remember the war dead, their tragic loss, our tragic loss of them. I imagine their heroic efforts for something they believed in, hopefully. But I also see the propaganda and manipulation that happens in wars and continues to this day. I see the horror of militarism and its bloody trail of destruction. I see an imperative to DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY. On a global scale, to create peace and work together on global issues, we have to embrace uncertainty and contradictions: political, cultural, economic. Can we do that?
On Remembrance Day, I would love to give a gift of integrity, personal agency, clarity of thought and purpose...to whom? The war dead can’t use it, and I cannot give away what I can only claim for myself. So my gift is a promise and a vow, to keep thinking, learning, and acting for peace and fairness, with all the integrity and stamina and creative force I can muster. Will you join me? None of us are “grown-ups,” in control of the incontrollable. But we are adults, and together, we are in charge.