In the wake of the U.S. election, many of us on the other side of the boarder are both proud to be Canadian, and happy to finally see an end to the political mud-slinging. It is time to end the constant focus on power-games and turn our attention to the real purpose of politics: public service. If this sounds rather idealistic to you, you’re not alone. After being dragged through the last year and a half of the election, it is difficult to see politics as public service. Perhaps we’ve even forgotten what the word ‘service’ really means.
In our Western consumer culture, the word ‘service’ is often used to denote the service-sector, with its client-relations, and customer-service concerns central to how we conduct ourselves in everyday life. ‘Service’ has become the thing we do in order to make companies more money. We have forgotten the true nature of service. On this Remembrance Day, I want us to recall what it really means to serve, learning from the example displayed by Canadian veterans and our dedicated citizens who have maintained the sacredness of this day.
Unlike Canada, the U.S Veterans Day has been taken over by consumer culture. A simple Google search on ‘Veterans Day sales’ yields countless hits on this “early black Friday.” The CEO of Starbucks even criticized the treatment of Veterans on this day, stating that Veterans Day “has been turned into a weekend sale.” He adds: “We have to ask ourselves, what kind of nation are we? What kind of nation do we want to be?”
In Canada, this is not the case. We refuse to allow the sacredness of this day to be overshadowed by market interests. This has been particularly evident in the backlash against Christmas decorations before Remembrance Day. Also, in 2010 a U.S retailer started a week-long Remembrance Day sale that was met with protests from Veterans and civilians alike. Lastly, do a Google search using the phrase ‘remembrance day sale’ and you will be met with a very different result. Top hits include news about the record-breaking poppy sales and more talk about how a “US Retailer Advertises Tacky ‘Remembrance Day Sale’ For Canadian Affiliates.”
As a nation, we’ve maintained the integrity of our sacred day for Veterans. On this day, we remember the true meaning of ‘service’. In an age jam-packed with emphasis on ‘customer service,’ we reserve a space to reflect on the highest form of civil service.
Core principals of military service include duty, loyalty, integrity, and courage. In an age where the ‘call of duty’ has turned into a videogame, and ‘loyalty’ has been replaced by ‘brand loyalty’, we remember that ‘service’ means commitment to a larger moral/ collective cause, rather than what customer-service representatives do for the purpose of increasing corporate profits. We remember that loyalty is more than brand commitment.
We remember, not for the sole purpose of just remembering – as some people go to church just for the sake of going. We remember because their sacrifices demonstrate an ideal model of ‘service’; a form of service we can’t live without.