A war of words has erupted around Virgin’s announcement it would give ex-servicemen and women priority boarding and in-flight thanks. Quite surprisingly to many, Australia’s leading corporate virtue-signaller, Qantas, has released a statement saying they “find it difficult to single out a particular group as part of the boarding process.”
Qantas was not reticent in arrogantly singling out the campaign to redefine marriage as worthy of mention on its boarding passes, in in-flight magazines and with an entire plane adorned in rainbows. The airline cavalierly marginalised as anti-equality bigots the 40% of customers and staff disagreeing with a fringe social agenda. Singling out a particular group for special attention would appear to be a well-honed Qantas marketing strategy. Who can say with any real certainty whether the announcement by Virgin is a marketing strategy or a sincere attitude of appreciation for ADF members? Why can’t it be both at the same time?
Perhaps Virgin could have been more practical with its gestures of appreciation. A simple discount, even a modest one, would be putting money where the corporate mouth is. They would still know when veterans were aboard board and could thank them with inflicting the embarrassment of unwelcome attention by doing so by name.
Comments from various sad and cynical identities condemning the move as “tokenistic” and “a marketing ploy” are short-sighted, as I see it, and miss the bigger picture. The fact is it’s important to show our appreciation to the men and women who have served or currently serve in our defence and police forces. To be sure, not one of them serves for public applause, and when thanked many do indeed feel uncomfortable. But maybe it’s not that they need to be thanked as much as we need to be a nation that finds it important to thank them. It’s about who we become by doing so.
We need to be the type of people who communicate our appreciation, because that exercise of humility and gratitude reminds us that what we enjoy and so often take for granted was provided and is preserved at great cost. Edmund Burke observed, “That which we obtain too cheaply, we esteem to lightly.” As a people, we need to remind ourselves that freedom is not free and always under attack.
I’ve made it my personal culture to thank police officers, even while they’re giving me a ticket, for the job they do and the danger they face every day from enemies who don’t wear uniforms. I thank defence members, past and present – and their families – for the sacrifices I know they make throughout their careers. It feels weird to do so, but it’s valuable.
Is it “over the top”? I don’t care if it is. It’s important that I maintain an attitude of gratitude. In the wake of being forced to celebrate a completely unhelpful American import, Halloween, embracing a degree of the respect and patriotism US culture exhibits for its veterans and flag would be a significant gain.
If you’ve ever watched a video recently deployed veterans reunited with spouses, kids, even dogs, upon their safe return on YouTube and then watched another, you know the emotional price Defence members and their families pay for their service. Peter van Onselen may minimise the value of the service of “just” a cook, but I don’t. To all the cooks, clerks and musicians who served: thank you for your service. Thank you all.
The Left’s campaign against the military became incredibly personal during the Vietnam War and was a significant factor in the North Vietnamese victory. We must never allow such national attitudes to be dignified again, and indifference is not a solution. Quiet appreciation is also not enough. While it may be our collective culture to be understated, that doesn’t make it right in every context. The best solution to ingratitude is to display the opposite spirit: public gratitude.
The difference between virtue-signalling and virtue is that one demonstrates your submission to post-truth political correctness, and the other is a commendable quality of character. It’s important to the character of our nation that we express to service men and women the humble gratitude we have for their service at every opportunity.
“Thank you” should never be assumed. It should be said.
Dave Pellowe is a writer and speaker and blogs at PelloweTalk.com