November 12, 2011

Remembrance, Children and Optimism

WARNING - This blog post is introspective and sincere. For those who prefer edge, snark and inappropriate humour with their blog post, might I recommend the Professor Brothers' take on Bible History - classic.

I attended the Bruce Park service this past Remembrance Day and watched my father stand at attention with his fellow 402 Squadron members. Memories of services from my childhood - on bases and schools across the country - came back all through the programme. Afterwards, I realized I had never actually thanked my father for his service. That's been fixed now.

In the invocation, Major Brian Slous included these words.

"What we value is preserved by a very thin line. Many standing here have stood on that line. Many have died on that line. Some bear the wounds of having stood on that line. It is a place we are all called to stand. If we fail to stand on that line - to preserve what is good and right - their sacrifice is in vain."

The St. James Cenotaph in Bruce Park

Earlier in the week, Marc Reid from Canada's History Magazine spoke to my CreComm class about Canadian history (shocking, I know). Among other things, he reminded us that in World War I over 600,000 Canadians served and one tenth of that number (over 60,000) died. He painted a picture of trench warfare where, at the sound of a whistle, troops would climb out of the safety of their trenches/holes and make a run at enemy lines - enemy lines defended by machine guns. Seven out of ten soldiers, he said, would be gunned down in the first few seconds. They'd retreat and try again. And again. And again.

Marc spoke about how this sacrifice made Canada a nation: we gained respect from other world powers, took pride in our own fighting forces and found a sense of accomplishment as a people. Which is all very true.

But it doesn't change how stupid, wasteful and monstrous it all was. 60,000 dead, never mind the wounded, the shell shocked. And that was just one country in one war...


Which leads me to the subject of children.

The wife and I have been chatting about future plans - what we'll do when I get out of school, home renovations, etc. And children have come up as a debatable subject. Because she is all for them and I am not. I think they're loud, messy, time-consuming, schedule-wrecking, expensive, disease riddled. (Actually I started a blog with WJT Artistic Producer Michael Nathanson last year, debating the merits back and forth - the blog went kaput due to both of our busy schedules, but you're welcome to read Kids Versus Cats).

The subject came up over tea at Cousin's on Remembrance Day evening. My wife pointed out that all of my 'cons' have equal and opposite 'pros' - kids can be inventive, funny, inspirational, problem-solving, cute, generous wonders.

What finally emerged was a discussion of our attitudes. I am a pessimist. A depressed, artistic pessimist who thinks people are born selfish. I don't have a lot of hope we'll solve global warming or recent economic troubles - not when people in power have an interest in maintaining the status quo. And 60,000 young men died for one country in one war. Why would I want to bring anyone into a world like ours?

My wife asked me to watch the video below for her response. She's clever like that - and very, very patient with me. I've watched it a few times now. It's convincing, though I'm not sure I'm convinced...

Major Slous' words are also weighing on me. Is it my duty to be optimistic?



  1. I'm kind of a pessimist too, but I don't think people are born selfish. A strange part of me that I don't quite understand yet believes that people are naturally good, and that our experiences and society can often bring out the worst in us.

  2. I guess the question then is, "where does that selfish come from?" If it's learned behaviour, who started it?

    The First Jerk. I smell a creative writing exercise :)