George Santayana was famous for his various aphorisms, but this one in particular hits such a strong chord when one surveys events across the world now – the resurgence of a intolerant right, nationalism being promoted by leaders as a desirable facet of modern democracy, treaties being abandoned and alliances responding with the positioning of arms, nations destabilising others and then crossing borders on slim pretext whilst those observing see the truth.
I have no wish, the day after nations remembered the fallen from so many conflicts, to politicise remembrance or capitalise upon the occasion to use it to make a specific point. To do so would be an insult to those who fell and those who grieve still for them. I would simply ask our leaders as they go about their work this week to not let their acts of remembrance be confined to one single day, but to use the memory of the fallen as a fulcrum for their decision making to ensure they make the very best decisions in the interests of their people. The fallen are not simply names, their deaths not the sole point in our remembrance. They were people, people of many faiths and many nations who followed the directions of their leaders to serve or act; they were their nations people, the very people their governments had cause to protect and yet had a need to use to secure the future of others. The decision to do so should be weighty – any leader decision that has an adverse impact on those who follow must be similarly weighty – and in these decisions leaders have a huge weight of responsibility to ensure they make their decisions for the right reasons.
It is for this reason that I believe leaders of nations should as an absolute duty ensure they attend acts of remembrance at all costs, heads bowed solemnly in the rain – because in attending their thoughts should be centred upon the weight of responsibility they hold and reflecting upon the need for them to understand history so that they do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
I can do no more than implore them to do this – with the moral weight of the faces of those millions who have died in conflict bearing strongly upon the necessity to do so.