Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die
– Alfred Lord Tennyson, The Charge of the Light Brigade
What was being taught to this child was about to change. A few months before my sixth birthday, I started grade 1 at King Edward Park public school in Edmonton, Canada. In 1950, each day at school was started with us standing, and doing some sort of pledge of allegiance to our flag and our king. Looking down at us as we did this was a picture of King George VI. I can’t remember if our teacher ever pointed to old George and said something like “that’s King George, our king”. But somehow I knew it. And then a couple of years later his picture was taken down and replaced with that of his daughter, Elizabeth, and now we had a queen. That and my memory of her visiting us in Edmonton a few months earlier as a princess was all more like a fairy tale unfolding than something real.
Something happened in my education in this period that has Dr. Edlund say, “we have her (or him) for life” We’ve moved the context for our learning from concrete objects like dog or apple into abstractions, like country or monarch. A new set of rules are needed now, rules calling for skills like critical thinking and concept formation. We are now in a realm of thinking and knowledge expansion that calls for questioning, for testing, for connecting what we’re about to learn against everything that we’ve been taught so far. With everything we learn, we’re checking to make sure that this new idea that we’re discovering doesn’t contradict anything else that we’ve learned.
But this level of learning requires a more sophisticated and developed mind than is possessed by a seven or eight-year-old. You and I in grade one aren’t ready for God, king and country. You and I are still miracles, but that tabula rasa must be filled in correctly. “Correctly” means one thing if the adult is trying to educate a child to grow up to be some form of serf for some form of ruler. If this is what we want to be, serfs, then being indoctrinated into a belief system that maintains the idea that we need rulers is perfect.
But “correctly” means something totally different if the adult is trying to educate a child to be a creative and productive person, filled with a life that is to be held as a miracle and not merely as some bit of cannon fodder for the King. If this is the aim, then the education must be designed to bring into being a rational and autonomous human. Once language and numbers are mastered, the focus of teaching must be on reason and critical thinking. Unfortunately you and I were indoctrinated into valuing the ruler and not taught to value our brilliant mind and miraculous self. We now face the challenge of unlearning the errors and mastering as best we can how to think critically.
But that heady challenge lies outside the scope of what we’re building together here, in A World of Honour. Here what we’re building is the possibility of a future that is consistent with being an equal and rational person. To attempt to live in any other way will only lead to some future with very yucky consequences, like finding yourself in Afghanistan killing someone’s grandparents and children and damaging your soul forever.
Here we are at the crossroads. Our belief that the monarch has divine rights to rule each of us was challenged by the Declaration of Independence. We have a monarch with divine rights versus you and me with inalienable rights. One of these notions must go. We are faced with a choice. But to reach and understand this conclusion takes reasoning and tools of logic that we do not possess because they weren’t taught to us, weren’t taught to our teachers, our leaders, our bank tellers, our CEO’s, our parents.
Either the idea of divine king must go or the idea of miraculous you must go. To frame this in the context of A Code of Honour, either Tennyson’s “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die” must go or “Do no harm” must go. There is no middle ground, no greater good, no higher principle, no “yes, but…” There is nothing to rely on to create and maintain a civilised world but the three “laws” of A Code of Honour. Never has been, never will be. We either live with chronic mayhem and fear of each other or we accept that we must depend on each and every one of us to be worthy of trust and respect.
You are lord and master and ruler of your life right now. You always were, you always will be. Yours was always to reason why; it was never to simply do and die. At this moment of your life, you chose to give the time to contemplating what I have to say in A World of Honour. You rightly assumed that “permission” to read this blog post was solely up to you. Taken to the next step, I’m inviting you to take on the three principles of A Code of Honour as the guiding principles of your life. You will unilaterally take this on or not. Of course by doing so unilaterally implies that you are already playing A Code of Honour but that’s not as easy to see.
Are there times when it’s appropriate to ask permission to do something? Of course there are, many times. If you are an employee of someone, it’s not right to unilaterally decide to take a day off because you feel like it. You and your employer have an agreement, the second principle of A Code of Honour. You are bound by your word, the third principle of A Code of Honour, to keep that agreement so you go to your manager and ask if it works for you to take tomorrow off.
I can’t stress this enough. You and I are already playing by the rules of A Code of Honour and always have been. But you and I never declared this to the world. We can and must change that now. Who says that you can and must change this? Guess.
That’s right, you say so. You first say this to yourself and then to others. That’s what I had to do. I had to declare to myself that I was going to abide by the rules of A Code of Honour. Then I decided to write up what I was discovering and begin telling my story to others. And that brought you into the picture. If you don’t know me personally, then my story has gone public. If things work out the way I would like them to, this will go viral. We shall see.