I recently picked up Terrace Mutiny, a cooperative project published by the Terrace and District Museum Society. It paints a dramatically different picture of Terrace from what I found a decade ago when we moved to town.
The year of the mutiny was 1944. War was still raging in Europe and Asia, but the aggressors were in retreat, and it was evident to all that Canada was not about to be invaded by hostile troops. Why then should young Canadians put their lives on the line? I can understand why a bunch of young men from Quebec and Prince Edward Island would balk at being sent to fight a war half a world away.
Why indeed. Looking back at the Second World War from today’s perspective, the actual enemies were neither German nor Japanese. The cultures of these two peoples had made, over centuries, immeasurable contributions to humanity. The real enemies were ideologies promoting the idea that some people are superior to others by any number of subjective measures. These “others” were identified as the cause for whatever ailed the superior societies. As enemies they were hated and had to be conquered, removed, and extinguished. The Second World War’s allied forces’ objective was to eradicate ideologies of hate.
The National Resources Mobilization troops in Terrace who protested being drafted for overseas service were young; too young perhaps to realize that ideologies of hate do not need armies, tanks and machine guns to invade other country. Hate has many complex reasons, a significant one is fear; fear of the known as much as of the unknown. Hate grows from fear as weeds grow from uncared patches of dirt. All it takes for weeds to grow is a little sun and water. All it takes for hate to grow are messages that blame an enemy for what we fear.
We learned from the aftermath of the First World War that battlefield victories alone cannot defeat an ideology of hate. The lessons learned advanced projects such as the Marshall Plan and the creation of the United Nations. Both served as foundations for numerous international cooperative ventures aimed at reducing the risk of fear from and hatred of the other.
Humanity is far from perfect, but we have made progress in accepting the other over the past half century. We have also grown comfortable, ravaging the world’s environment to feed our comfort addictions. In doing so we have shifted our focus from long-term to short-term, and we have scaled back our commitment to the other.
We should not be surprised that, in view of the direction we have been heading, fear (of the known and the unknown) is making a comeback. With that, hatred too is making a comeback, driven by messages of enemies to blame for everything we fear. I may be spared the full consequences of climate change and the revenge of the desperate millions we sacrifice to the glory of avarice, but today’s toddlers won’t be.
Fighting avarice and halting further deterioration of the world’s environmental on which life depends – all life, including yours and mine – should be the highest priority for citizens and for the governments we elect. Fighting climate change and avarice is as urgent today as defeating the ideology of hate was seventy years ago. We still can avoid being remembered as the Zombies of the 21st century.