Remembrance Day: At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh month, we gather to remember those who fell in war, that we may be free to live as we choose here in the West. For 364.25 days we forget not the service of those who fell, nor the service of those who gave their sweat, blood, and pain in our service, but why.
Duty: duty (n.)
late 13c., from Anglo-French duete, from Old French deu “due, owed; proper, just,” from Vulgar Latin *debutus, from Latin debitus, past participle of debere “to owe” (see debt).
It is the particular arrogance of our age that we choose to look at the sacrifice of those who chose to serve, while enjoying our rights not to. Prior to the 1960’s, stretching back to our pagan past, the acceptance of our duty to the nation of our birth was a given.
President John F Kennedy is remembered for this quote that summed up the understanding of his time when he said :
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johnfkenn109213.html
Our politicians make much of those few promises, so seldom honoured beyond the sound byte of their announcement, of the gratitude of the nation for those service men and women who have done this noble thing of serving their country. This is a lie. This is the most deliberate self serving lie, one that our press, our educators, our politicians willingly and knowing ly feed. It is not the soldiers who are owed, it is the nation. It is only the soldiers who have paid.
Duty: What is owed. Soldiers are the only citizens who have paid what is owed. Of our tens of millions who hold the vote, it is but tens of thousands who have earned it. All others do so on credit, credit that is in default.
Our ancestors understood their duty to their nation was a sacred thing, a holy thing. No more potent bond was there than the bond between a free man and his people. This bond was a debt that he incurred with his birth, education, and training. To repay this debt he was required to train his mind and body to the service of the state, to its guidance and advancement in peace, to its defense and victory in war.
As an English speaking nation, our roots are Germanic, and our cultural is a blend of these traditions and those of the Greco-Roman cutures of the south. Tacitus tells us that for our Germanic ancestors, this was the very root of citizenship. Indeed, no man had standing to speak until vested with arms by his family, in acknowledgement that he had the necessary strength, training, and understanding of duty to wield them for his tribe, and the glory of his family name. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/tacitus1.html
The Greeks and Roman’s also acknowledged the necessity for this preparation of all free youth to bear arms for the state. Socrates spoke of the duty to undertake this training,
“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.
Socrates (469 – 399 BC)” https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/607547-no-man-has-the-right-to-be-an-amateur-in
We turn now to the law to defend us from our obligations as citizens. Indeed, the reaction to conscription, to mandatory service has been one of protest, both through legal action and anarchist rebellion. What was the understanding of the great legal scholars of antiquity? Marcus Tullius Cicero writes:
“We are not born, we do not live for ourselves alone; our country, our friends, have a share in us. (We are not born for ourselves alone.) (Latin: non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici) (I, 22)”
A Roman legal and moral philosopher whose works were so respected in antiquity that although a Roman pagan philosopher of the Stoic school, Cicero’s works were accepted by St Ambrose as accepted by the Chruch in 390CE as the foundation for Western Christian morality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Officiis.
I hear time and again, that it is because of morality that a person chooses not to serve, that because they do not agree with the decisions of the state, that they will not serve it under arms. Service under arms, paying taxes, voting, these are all part of your duty as a citizen. Your freedoms, your rights, are purchased with these coins. Your right to dissent is paid for by this service, and indeed without this service your right to that dissent is indeed morally suspect. Did the clash between personal morality and the decisions of the state never come up in antiquity? Indeed, human beings and politics being little changed in their fundamentals since first we learned speech, it has always been thus.
How was it answered by those who understood their duty, who understood morality as a philosophical ideal, rather than a legal fiction? One could ask Socrates, who waited to face execution for his role in educating the dread tyrant Critias of Athens. When asked to flee his city to one of those in which his philosophies were esteemed, and his name praised, rather than await the message of the city courts of his pending sentence he answered thus.
“Strange, indeed, would be my conduct, O men of Athens, if I who, when I was ordered by the generals whom you chose to command me at Potidaea and Amphipolis and Delium, remained where they placed me, like any other man, facing death — if now, when, as I conceive and imagine, God orders me to fulfil the philosopher’s mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the existence of the gods, if I disobeyed the oracle because I was afraid of death, fancying that I was wise when I was not wise. For the fear of death is indeed the pretence of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretence of knowing the unknown; and no one knows whether death, which men in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.”
The understanding that we may indeed be asked to set aside our rights and privilidges, and indeed potentially our lives, to fulfil our duty to the state was indeed a part of the modern understanding of citizenship, and foundation of our modern democracy of universal sufferage. Philosophers such as John Stuart Mill described that understanding of the cost of citizenship, and who is paying that cost.
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”
— John Stuart Mill http://explorations.chasrmartin.com/2008/10/01/john-stuart-mill-on-war/
When you hear you see a politician in his thousand dollar suit, or protester in his mask; the former explaining how promises made in times of war to call citizens to take up arms need not be honoured in times of peace and fiscal restraint, the latter refusing to accept the laws or decisions of the state whose benefits they accept, but whose rule and duty they do not acknowledge, these are the miserable creatures who are only free because other, better, men and women paid their price.
When you see the names of the dead, the scars physical and mental of the survivors, know that the price they paid, the price the survivors pay until death, is paid for you. Your life and freedom were paid for by another. When next the media, politicians, or protestors begin to speak of their rights, turn to look at the cenotaph, look at the 23% of homeless who are veterans (http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/veterans.html) due to the cost of their service, and ask yourself if you are worthy of the cost paid for the rights you hold so dear. If you do not like the answer, then become worthy of the price already paid for you.
Cpl John T MaIner, retired.
V ictory Father receive those who have fallen, Wise Counsellor aid those who returned, that they may know the fruits of the freedom for which they have already paid.