It is Remembrance Day. Many people in Canada are wearing a poppy to honour those who have fallen in war.
And so I must ask: what do I fight?
Canadians fought the Germans, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Chinese. Some became friends and trading partners, some became enemies again, but then they were friends again.
In "The War on Terror" we are told to seek out and punish the terrorists. Some people who were Muslim attacked us or plotted to kill us, but not all Muslims. My brother has served twice in Afghanistan and has seen some Afghans attack and kill Canadian soldiers, but not all Afghans. I read about a senior Canadian officer who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. I read about torture and abuse in US military prisons. But most Canadian and US servicemen are good people as well trying to do the best they can. Some people tell me that everyone in a uniform is a hero. Some people tell me that everyone in a uniform is a villain. It's all so confusing.
Wait a minute – I know.
In 1973 I was 13 years old. My dad was transferred to a Canadian military base in West Germany as part of Canada's NATO commitment. Growing up in a military family that relocated every 2 or 3 years, I had grown accustomed to a transient lifestyle.
A week after we arrived in Lahr, my family went for a drive through the local countryside. It was a beautiful sunny day and I brought my camera.
We stopped the car and we walked down a lane way that ran beside a German cemetery. The flowers were beautiful and the grass was nicely clipped. My mother commented how much she admired the way Germans tended their graveyards (we had lived in Europe 10 years before.) We wandered on a little further and came to a hillside. The gravestones were in disrepair, many were overgrown by grass and weeds. I remember Mom expressing her surprise.
In rusty German, Mom asked a boy in a nearby field why this graveyard was so badly tended.
He answered briefly.
Mom looked at us, "It's a Jewish graveyard."
I believe that Real Human Being Inc started at that moment.
Humans have a tendency to act out of narrow self-interest. (RHB's know this as First Gear Behaviour) My client companies see first gear manifested among their employees as entitlement, not-my-job-ism and behavioral silos. Societies see first gear exhibited as racism, bullying, homophobia and ageism.
A key aspect of first gear is the need to seek out an enemy. eg Sales hates marketing. Marketing hates Finance. Finance hates HR. And everyone hates Corporate.
"Everyone going faster than me is a maniac, everyone going slower than me is a moron" said George Carlin.
When Adolph Hitler wanted to create pride in his country, he had to identify an enemy. And so, 40 years later, my family came across a graveyard with no one left to love and remember and care for the graves of their relatives.
Perhaps we should stop assigning first gear (narrow self interest) behavior to a tribe or a nationality or a religion or a political party.
There were Germans who were good guys/amazing women and there were Germans who believed in racial superiority.
There are Muslims who are good guys/amazing women and there are Muslims in first gear who use their religion to justify oppression of people.
There are people on the left and people on the right who are good guys/amazing women and there are members of political parties who have to ridicule other parties or their leaders to make them feel better about themselves.
And there are people in every division of every company and every sector of every community who are in third gear and there are those who are in first gear.
A Canadian veteran who is a third gear good guy has more in common with Afghan woman who is an amazing woman than he does with a veteran who only think about themselves and tells racist jokes.
So what do I fight?
I fight the attribute of long-term, entrenched first gear behavior.
People can stay in their tribe and continue to be proud of their company, family, religion or political party. But their third gear character ensures they respect the beliefs and values of other RHBs. Their reward is being accepted into a company of heroes. And you don't need to wear a uniform to be a hero.
That's why RHB Nation was founded on a summer's day in 1973: to unite the people who heroically try to do the right thing.
So wear a poppy and, if you must fight something, fight the racism, sexism, intolerance, arrogance or any of the other 1st gear behaviors that plague us all.
(and here's the end of the story. When we returned a week later, the grass in the graveyard had been neatly clipped. Please see the photo. Sometimes just asking the question can make a difference.)