Gary's Gems for November - The Remembrance Issue

Gary’s November Quote Gems – War and Remembrance Day Issue

I have had a love/hate relationship with the month of November.  Daylight is rationed.  The trees are shedding the last of their colours and now tremble as they wait for their snowy coats. The weather reflects the grey solemness of Remembrance Day.

The lights of Christmas seem a long way off as we are reminded of the dark clouds of war. November 11th became Armistice Day after the signing of the armistice on that date in 1918. It was renamed Remembrance Day in the forties when it became clear the First World War would not be “the war to end war” as H.G. Wells optimistically wrote at its start.

I’m a pacifist. I have always been opposed to war and violence except in the case of self-defence.  I was a ‘child of the sixties’, (a very young child, I add) “Make love, not war” was the mantra of my generation and in spite of now being a “child in my sixties”, I feel the same way.

Poppies on stone

I proudly wear a red poppy every Remembrance Day. I do it to honour the unfathomable sacrifices made by our families who have served and continue to serve for ours and the world’s freedom and security. Among them was my paternal grandfather who served in the First World War, and two uncles who served in the Second World War.

Canada has been involved in international skirmishes since the Second World War such as in Korea (not a declared war), The Persian Gulf, Kosovo and Afghanistan. However, we made our mark on the world stage as peacekeepers.

Lester Pearson was our foreign affairs minister in 1957 when he won a Nobel peace prize for his leadership in the 1956 Suez Crisis and for his role in organizing the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) – under whose flag we continue to travel throughout the world to help stabilize sand secure some of the most volatile conflict zones.

Canadian UN Peacekeepers

Since 1957, Canada self-identified as a peacekeeper nation. Throughout our history, we have shown that compromise, not conflict, is a win-win for all sides.

That my country aligns with my personal values is something I don’t take for granted. It was hard-won in the trenches of Passchendaele (Ypres) in 1917 and on the beaches of Dieppe in 1942.

Whether it was fate, culture, or sheer coincidence, I am happy that my beliefs are aligned with those of the country I call home.

Wind power

During the last ‘not-so-Great Wars’ (WWI & WWII), the citizens of the allied countries came together around the common goal of sacrificing everything to defeat the evils of fascism and dictatorship. Food was rationed, industries switched from nylon stockings to parachutes. Car assembly lines were rejigged to produce tanks and planes. Everyone chipped in for the cause.

Now the world finds itself in an even more comprehensive global war. In this one, there are no neutral states.  Canada has been relatively untouched by wars on our soil, but this war will be fought in the intimacy of our homes, our neighbourhoods, our governments.

The enemy is greed and its weapon is pollution. There are no clearly defined good guys and bad guys in this war.  Everyone and everything on the planet will suffer the consequences of inaction and selfishness.

The time we waste in appeasement and denial is the time not used to develop strategies and weapons.

In the 1930s, it was very easy to identify the enemy. They invaded countries and committed atrocities. Yet, even then, much of the west stood by and made excuses or put their head in the sand “it doesn’t concern me”.

Everyone is conscripted in this war. No “bone spur” or chronic illness will recluse you from the fight. We can’t hide behind being a ‘conscientious objector’ aka ‘climate change denier’.

The thing about reality and facts is that they exist whether we believe or not.

Regardless of who or what we believe is responsible for the unhealthy state of our globe, the truth is, severe weather, burning forests, plastic floating islands, and disappearing flora and fauna exists.

The war can’t be won by one individual, but collective actions by a collective of individuals can win the necessary battles.

The first attack could be as simple as not buying that plastic bottle of water.

It’s overwhelming to think of solving the climate change problem. It’s tempting to give in to despair and fatalism, “What can I do?”.

As Desmond Tutu once wisely said, “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”

In the case of climate change, you plant one tree at a time, recycle one bottle at a time, protect one park at a time.

It won’t be the action of one person that reverses our climate crisis, but the combined individual actions of our local and global neighbours.

“Climate change does not respect borders; it does not respect who you are – rich and poor, small and big. Therefore, this is what we call ‘global challenges,’ which require global solidarity.” – Ban Ki-moon

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In case you missed last month’s Gems, you can check it out here: Your Quotes and Trivia Gems for October – The Meditation Edition

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