Military Sociology

Remembering ‘Service’

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.

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  1. I cannot agree more! America is not a nation of people, but a nation of consumers. Every holiday, from MLK Day to New Years involves sales. Used to be only a 1-day or a weekend sale. Then a week-long sale, now it encompasses month-long shopping! The commercials advertising the purchase of an auto is the perfect Christmas gift! Really, a $45,000 gift? Many Americans don’t even make $45,000 a year! It’s disgusting. I haven’t watched the news regularly since the Gulf War, though I check in occasionally and usually find them “reporting” on the lives of Reality TV ‘Stars’. Consumerism is the religion in the US. My grandmother, who was born in 1895, would say we were going to hell in a handbasket. I didn’t agree with her when I was a kid, but I do now. People have lost much of what makes us human. It’s really no wonder Trump got elected.

  2. I have hardly ever viewed politics as public service—whether at the federal, state/provincial or local level. Running for office is more of a job interview, with aspirations of tenure-for-life. At least in America, constituents just seem to become pawns, once the election is over.

    Yes, everything is commercialized down here; but, only if you let it. I stopped watching the local news some years ago; because, I see no reason in watching some poor slobs lining-up to get into stores—which are open 362 days a year—just because there were excess ads in the paper. Me, I’ll just stay home, finish dinner, maybe watch TV or, more often, enjoy time with the family.

    I am not a flag-waver; but, I did enlist and served my time, back in Vietnam. As somewhat of a student of history—and military history—all of America’s post-WWII wars have been unnecessary. Generals won additional stars, old men profited handsomely, and young men, and now women. shed blood and die.

    In fact, even the military in America has been outsourced. It is no longer a public duty, it is left to those who “volunteer:. Sure, there are some RA types, but many enlistees today are jobless and, perhaps, have families to support. And hey, those skills you will learn—sniper, demo expert or foxhole inspector—will sure look good on that resume, upon you return. But, only one percent has any skin in the games. Just wave the flag, and pass the beer!

  3. Yep, politicians haven’t been ‘public servants’ here in America for ages. That’s part of the reason this election went sideways, people are just fed up with the self serving attitude, but like you pointed out, that self serving attitude is now ingrained in our culture, nothing is sacred but ‘I’… Sad really, hopefully the next generation realizes the mistakes we’ve made and changes their ways.


  4. This might be the best place to have my comments here, for sake of lack of redundancy. Sorry (and that’s a Canadian word with at least 12 definitions), if I have caused you more moderation to do. 😉 .

    Steve, you have written a very good article about the differences between American (U.S.) and Canadian (Canada) observances of Veterans’ and Remembrance Day. Please continue to write about this important topic. And, on a more personal note, thanks for reading my blog article ‘Lest We Forget’, World Première.

  5. This. Twice.
    Shared on Facebook.
    Thank you for articulating my own thoughts. As a UK serviceman, I am utterly appalled at the way we have become mini-America. That said, we hold Remembrance Day sacred, above commercial consumerist culture. Indeed, even Black Friday has been withdrawn in many stores here (it’s only 3 years old in UK anyway).

  6. I agree with your sentiment whole heartedly. The failure of our “Veterans Day” to serve it’s intended purpose, the ridiculousness of our political system and it’s complete lack of connection with the needs of the people are just small, pitiful examples of the issues that are plaguing our country. The almighty dollar outweights decency and decorum. Thank you for your well put blog.

  7. Here in southeastern Massachusetts I was lucky enough to campaign for two young guys running for the state legislature, one for the house, one for the senate. They’re 26 and 30, respectively, and each already has several years of public service under his belt. I use that word intentionally because that’s the way they see it and it’s one reason I campaigned for them. They both won. I’m taking a lot of encouragement from that in this grim time. I’m paying attention to things on the ground that often can’t be seen or recognized from the air.

  8. In this country, USA, the almighty dollar rules everything. Regardless of the day or if the world will come to an end through global warming, Americans will probably be selling something right to the bitter end. Such is the nature of the greed of this country.

  9. Thank you for the reminder. Hopefully it does not fall on deaf ears or careless hearts. It has been a terrible week for us in the US and what it says about us as a people. Keep speaking, some of us are listening. Hopefully our numbers will grow.

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