In honour of Remembrance Day, I have decided to come out of my scholarly shell of solitude to share my yearly ritual of condemning the idiocy of war. I do not mourn specific people or even mull on specific conflicts. Instead, I listen to the following songs and cry. I cry for every soldier who died for a cause, because there should be no reason for that to ever happen. If people worldwide would stop being fuckwits who start conflicts that necessitate violent opposition, then there would be no need for violent opposition. This is not going to happen. Someone will always take advantage of the “weaknesses” (like compassion, pacifism, peace, and love) of others. I consider myself an existential humanist and desperately want to love humanity, but humanity rarely deserves my love. Yes, there are always examples of the good that give me hope, but they should be the norm rather than the exception.
I do not ask anyone to follow me in my private ritual (although the Youtube videos are below if you’re interested), but I do propose this challenge to everyone who stumbles upon this post: consciously go out of your way to do something good for someone everyday for the rest of November. Every single day. Hold a door, buy a classmate coffee, find a cause to support, give more compliments than you normally would, spread a positive attitude. Make that poppy you wear a constant reminder to spread kindness—kindness that, were it universal, would have made it unnecessary for that flower to become a symbol of mourning for the dead of war. These little deeds are not going to change the whole world, but they’ll change yours.
Playlist for 11:00 a.m. November 11th
“A Pittance of Time” – Terry Kelly
“Universal Soldier” – Buffy Sainte-Marie
“And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” – John McDermott
November 9th, 2010 at 18:05
Maybe holding a door was a bad example… The good deeds I have in mind involve being constantly vigilant in ways to help others. Holding a door for the person behind you should be automatic already. Look for people who need a door held open for them and open it – even if it’s not a door you’re going through.
Some other possibilities: Leave a positive comment on a Youtube video. Send a short e-mail to a web comic artist or indie band you like to tell them that you appreciate what they’re doing and to keep up the good work. Send a Facebook message to a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time to let them know they’re important to you.
You get the idea.
November can be a depressing month. Let’s try to change that!
November 9th, 2010 at 19:36
i’m a bit more of an individualist in my philosophical outlook (ayn rand, voltaire, and the such). but that means that individuals have to take action for themselves, just as you suggest. ayn rand is often bashed, but one of her main ideas was that people should pursue their highest values, especially one’s own life, freedom, your talents, and those we care about the most (things like lattes and porn come much later). sacrificing any of these things is only advocated by tyrants who seek to benefit. war should only be for self-defense to protect oneself and one’s freedoms from encroaching despotism. individualism isn’t so much about selfishness as it is about responsibility, self-motivation, and valuing
i will listen to your recommendations, and perhaps try to think of a few myself.
November 10th, 2010 at 04:42
john mcdermott’s two pieces are hauntingly beautiful. it reminds me of how pathetically far removed from the war are the civilians, let alone the statesmen who launched the conflict. they are labelled heroes by the nation, but in the depths of all souls there is the unspoken realization that they are cannon-fodder. and i do not mean to be disrespectful. the respect must come from the friends and family of those who give their lives, not from the impersonal government that demands their lives for the purpose of…? …?
women’s studies classes expound on the troublesome gender conflicts throughout history, to past times when women who sacrificed themselves for their husbands and children were deemed heroes (rather than for doing something utterly frivolous like discovering radium or improving nursing practices, ahem). but it was little different for men. men were expected to surrender themselves to the state, that the more undignified their demise the more insipid praises are lavished upon them by their pampered, myopic leaders.
few wars seem to have been fought for anything worthwhile. the preservation of a state that enshrines liberty and individual rights (more or less) is a justifiable reason. and sorry, but going to the other side of the world to reduce countries to rubble which hardly have the military means to attack their neighbours let alone the many millions of us snuggled comfortably in north america is hardly what i would call “protecting our freedoms”.
i recently visited the war memorial of korea in seoul, built to commemorate a time when south korea nearly succumbed to the insatiable barbarism of communism. i think of the faces of my korean friends here, and i shiver and shed a tear at imagining what wretched lives they would be leading if the korean war had ended with communist victory. the whole peninsula would be a starving wasteland where each human is nothing more than a hopeless minion of the soulless kim dynasty. no dreams of a future, no education, no privacy, no freedom, no point in drying anyone’s tears…just endless praises for your fat, giggling, ignorant, deluded tyrant. canada is very fortunate to have never had a genuine military threat since the war of 1812. it is a luxury. in other parts of the world it is a way of life, or a spectre just over the northern border.
November 12th, 2010 at 01:04
Wow! Thanks to all of you who have taken interest in this little project of mine (on Facebook). I was thinking about posting daily good deeds to show that I am keeping up my end of the challenge, but I don’t want it to seem like I am trying to make myself look good. That’s obviously not the point of this. I will still post ideas of things to do as they occur to me though. Thanks again!
November 13th, 2010 at 13:45
E-mail a former teacher/professor (of yours or of your children) to thank them for making a difference.
Post bus schedules at the stops you frequent. Halifax has signs saying not to post things in bus stop shelters, but I am going to try anyway. It will save people from using cellphone minutes to call for the bus times.
Apologise. Even if you feel like it’s too late.
Bake cookies and share them with friends and strangers alike.
Send a snail mail letter or postcard to a friend. Because everyone likes getting real mail!
November 14th, 2010 at 03:19
bake cookies…reminds me of high school when i used to prepare confections (cheesecake, cookies, nipples of venus) at christmastime.
i also try to pay attention to when people seem down or depressed, and reach out to them as soon as possible. never underestimate the gesture of listening to someone’s troubles. if you consider yourself a friend of that person then it’s a part of your job.
good job with your good deeds! i’m a teacher myself, and in my monthly syllabus for all my students i let them know that they can always come to me with any problem or question, as i believe the money they pay per month includes a part of my time and assistance. it’s extremely rare, but it’s always a joy to receive an e-mail from a student asking for some help. i’m never too busy for my students.