At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of every year, the free world pauses to remember something important. We remember those who paid for what we have. Freedom (of a sort). Peace (of a sort). Liberty (to a degree).
What we have today is very far from perfect, but it is still priceless, because the alternative would be unthinkable.
Across the Commonwealth countries, and in some other countries also, 11 November, or the closest Sunday to it is set aside as Remembrance Sunday to commemorate the end of World War 1 and remember those who fought and died from then until now.
Why do we commemorate the end of a war from more than a century ago?
- We commemorate it because ending war is noble beyond comparison. To make peace is a lesson that we must always remind ourselves of. A lesson to teach our children.
- We commemorate because civilization needs heroes. Heroes are yardsticks against which to judge our current standards. They are models to whose example we can aspire. They are examples from which we can learn and improve ourselves. If we forget our heroes, we will fail our tests when in order to endure we will have to be brave ourselves.
- We commemorate because the dead are not truly dead until they are no longer remembered. The millions of sons, brothers, fathers, daughters, sisters and mothers who died were people whose memory is sacred. We owe it to them, to ourselves and to our children to ensure that their names are not forgotten and their service is remembered. We read their names every year.
- We commemorate because we remind ourselves that in the never-ending struggle between good and evil, it is the side of good that we must always choose.
- We commemorate because we must constantly teach ourselves an attitude of gratitude. Grateful people are happy people. The liberties that we have now have been purchased at a price that is immeasurably great. It is a gift for which we can never be thankful enough. Gratitude is both a state of mind and a state of heart – and a state that must be shaped by means of constant remembrance.
- We commemorate so that we can see the future. Mankind has the constant habit of repeating past actions. If we can always see and remember what we typically do in certain situations, we stand a chance of changing our own behaviour the next time round.
- We commemorate so that our children can know and understand the cost of war – and so that when they become the decision-makers, policy-makers and value-setters of the future, they can make decisions that will not result in more war.
- We commemorate because we observe the traditions of our fathers, which are noble and inspiring.
- We commemorate because it is an honour and a privilege. To be at a commemoration ceremony is a once in a year experience – and in most cases – it is unforgettable.
- We commemorate because those who have fought, and are still alive, are heroes too. Some among us were servicemen. And they must be remembered. Appreciated. Honoured. And when they become feeble with age – they must be steadied at the elbow by those of us who still have strength.
Remembrance Sunday will be observed in all cities and most significant towns across South Africa this year. In Durban the commemoration service will be held this coming Sunday, 10th November 2019, starting at 10:30 at the Cenotaph in Dorothy Nyembede (formerly Gardiner) Street.
This is one day on which ex-servicemen, the general public, and children in particular, should make an effort to attend an event that is one of the most meaningful in the calendar of our nation – and you can join us for refreshments in the City Hall afterwards, hosted by our new Metro Mayor, Cllr Kaunda.