Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Leave No One Behind

The military ethos that true patriots uphold has nothing to do with macho posturing or jingoistic flag-waving. What matters is dedication to one simple motto: leave no one behind.

There is no greater test of the love of our country than being ready to defend our fellow citizens when they are under threat from forces, which would otherwise overrun them. This solidarity transcends all other differences. Only cowards and bigots would say ‘I’m alright, Jack’, and leave others behind just because they are women (or men), gay (or straight), black (or white), secular (or religious), poor (or rich). In the face of danger, we are all equal.

And as those who have been in the military know, it is not just an enemy’s bullet or bomb that can hurt us. Safe and effective transportation, decent living quarters, provision of healthy food and medical care are all needed to keep people fit and safe.

But is the ethos of solidarity only relevant on the battlefield? Are we to suppose that before any threat to our common safety is in sight, we should each look only to oneself and care nothing for others? And similarly, as soon as the fight is over, are we to forget the maxim of watching one another’s back? There is undoubtedly some who would like nothing more than everyone else rallying to protect them when they feel endangered but care nothing for others at other times. Yet the majority of us recognise standing together means no opting out.

In the UK, for example, after the Second World War, voters decided the threats of disease, squalor, ignorance, idleness and want could not be overcome without collective efforts to protect one and all. Despite the national debt as % of GDP being 3 times that of the debt level created by the 2008 banking crisis, the country pulled together to build security for all. Social housing, the NHS, inclusive education, police and military defence, benefits for those unable to work or temporarily without a job, combined to give all citizens the protection they need. It in turn fuelled a vibrant economy.

Regrettably, some of those who profited from prosperous times since then have decided to withdraw behind their moats and pull up the drawbridge. They no longer want to contribute to the collective good, and want those less fortunate to suffer on their own. They will pay themselves more while make others redundant. Anyone who cannot get a job; earn enough money; are sick, disabled or too old; they will without a second thought jettison. They will even claim that they are the custodians of their country’s interest.

But real patriots will not put up with anyone hijacking the flag of our nation, or demeaning our democratic fellowship. We know we are at our strongest when we refuse to be divided. So let us recover our common protection, and ensure that however adverse the circumstances, we shall as one nation leave no one behind.