Directly after Armistice, there was a proposal to create the Duncan Cenotaph. (Citizen file)

Directly after Armistice, there was a proposal to create the Duncan Cenotaph. (Citizen file)

Editorial: Nov. 11 a time to take stock

Have we learned anything?

Have we learned anything?

On this Remembrance Day 2021, as we prepare to once again observe a moment of silence for those who have given their lives for Canada and the world, it’s a question worth pondering. It’s also worth pondering the follow-up question: what have we learned?

For one, we should remember not to take our good fortune for granted. The death and destruction of the First and Second World Wars is almost unimaginable to us today, safe at home in Canada. Unless you have been to one of the world’s current war zones, it is almost unfathomable to consider the toll such conflicts had. There was scarcely a person in the Cowichan Valley who was not in some way touched by the deaths overseas, whether they lost a brother, cousin, uncle, father or friend. Nobody was left unscathed, no family wholly untouched. The names on the Duncan Cenotaph, this year 100 years old, were once living, breathing people, whose deaths were an ending for those who loved them. Even those who returned home were irreversibly changed.

We remember, every year on the 11th hour of the 11 day of the 11th month, to honour the fallen, yes, but also so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

A world war today would be catastrophic on an extinction level. Even if all the countries of the world were to forgo the use of nuclear weapons (unlikely) our current level of technology is such that we can far too easily flatten cities and decimate whole populations. We cannot ever allow such a conflict to come to pass — the world would not survive it.

But we are also reminded on this day that some things are worth fighting for.

One needs only to look at present-day Afghanistan to see how quickly a society can collapse.

And we have only to look at Germany in the first half of the 1900s to see how insidiously a nation can be led and misled into becoming a monster devouring all in its path.

The number of current leaders of countries who fit the autocratic mould and would clearly like nothing more than to declare themselves emperor should scare us all.

We must guard against not just outside forces, but becoming such ourselves.

So take a moment this Nov. 11, stop and look at our hundred year old monuments to our war dead, and take stock of where we are today. Remember that Duncan’s monument was once much smaller in size, a whole base having been added to accommodate the carnage of the Second World War, so soon after the First.

We don’t want to have to add more names to these memorials.

EditorialsRemembrance Day