Right in the Centre - Vision and Wisdom


By Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

Thousands of Canadians died for our freedom in the three major wars of the 20th century. Many Canadian troops risked their lives, and often with fatal results in more recent conflicts. They were defending our freedom, our right to choose.

The desire for freedom of choice is something that has been built into us by God our Creator. Man has always had the desire to choose and in many cases, the freedom to choose. God built that desire into our very being, many have died that we might exercise that choice.

Exercising choice is a process that needs to be revisited. From the earliest days of European settlement in Canada, the aboriginal people of Canada had a choice. They could kill off the Europeans or they could trade with them. Largely, they chose to trade. There was a perceived benefit in trading furs and food for guns, traps, blankets, steel tools, and, oh yes, sometimes booze.

I am often attracted to how the Aboriginal People say they want to return to the wisdom of their elders. It’s a great idea. We should all lean on the wisdom of our elders. There isn’t a wise person alive who hasn’t asked themselves, when faced with a problem, “How would dad or grandma handle this?” What is amazing is how many times obvious wisdom wasn’t applied by people in the past.

Let’s start with the aboriginal people. When trading parties ran into European traders, they usually made the choice to trade versus kill. They traded furs and food and got  tools or other stuff. They could see an immediate benefit. That’s the sign of a good trade. The ones who chose to buy booze had certain results as well. The morning after, the aboriginals that chose booze had a much smaller pile of furs and a much larger headache. There wasn’t much wisdom in that situation as many came back and did it all over again the next season. You see, just because it is our elders, doesn’t mean it is wisdom.

Similarly, other groups of people haven’t always stood on the wisdom factor. For decades, if not centuries, European wars were fought by way of periodic skirmishes. In the Bible it says, “In the spring, when kings go out to war…” But battles were fought by solders lining up face to face and advancing close enough to shoot arrows, throw rocks or spears or to fire their guns. How wise was that? Successful kings and countries chose trade over war. Line-ups of troops doing battle pretty much ended with WWI as the generals finally realized, after millions of deaths, that this wasn’t working out so well. It took a long time for wisdom to kick in.

Up until WWI, countries were pretty much ruled by dictators, monarchies, benevolent despots and occasionally by democracy. Seizing the opportunity in Russia, afforded by the revolution in 1917, the communists took over. This was a new way of doing things. To many observers it was a very stupid system but the theory was good according to some people. The government would run everything. Everyone would be treated equally and no one would ever go hungry. There would be a  “power to the people” process like the world had never known before. It didn’t work out so well but strangely, 97 years later, we still have people clinging to communism and it’s very close cousin, socialism, not just in Russia, but in every country in the world. Not much wisdom in that.

I knew many WWI veterans, I know many WWII veterans. My family was full of them. My brother was a Korean War vet and we all know some of our more recent veterans. For the most part, they were, or are, practical, pragmatic people who only want the best for their families, their neighbours and their country. They served, and their compatriots died, so we can have freedom. And they were largely successful. In Canada, we do have freedom. So what’s holding us back. I believe it’s a lack of wisdom and vision. We make choices that don’t work out. Booze was a bad choice for aboriginal people, it’s a bad choice for anyone. Drugs, same thing. Then there’s all kinds of things we waste our time and money on and yet we fail to ask ourselves, “how wise was that”? 

Vision and wisdom have advanced societies. Lack of it kills societies.

I think that all those who fought and died that we might have choices would like us to use our choices with wisdom and vision. Our failure to do so is less than honouring of their service and memory.