The Virtue of Genuine Gratitude

digger IIA 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

11 thoughts on “The Virtue of Genuine Gratitude

  • Peter OBrien says:

    As a veteran I thank you, Dave, for your sentiments and I do not view the Virgin proposal as a marketing plo. You are quite right it can be both genuine and at the same time promote a certain self interest. However, I am uncomfortable with the i8dea. I certainly agree that veterans should be honoured and recognised and that, where necessary, they should be compensated and assisted in relation to injuries and trauma sustained in the defence of our country. But the legion of veterans who are now returning from active service are all professional soldiers essentially doing their job. We already have ample recognition, particularly on ANZAC Day. Proposals such as this run the risk of fostering the notion that a person’s defining characteristic is his status as a veteran. It smacks, ever so slightly, of identity politics. I would never avail myself of such an opportunity and would think very little of any veteran who did.

  • mburke@pcug.org.au says:

    Well, I am a “veteran” by Act of Parliament (and TPI) despite never having seen or heard a shot fired in anger, and I agree with Peter. As a guest of my genuine frequent flyer son, I have enjoyed the privilege of preferential boarding on a Virgin international flight, so I know what it entails, ie nothing much. I also know that there is a vast difference between the conditions under which members of our modern professional armed forces serve and those of previous generations. The term “veteran” has previously been reserved for those who were “returned from active service”, ie those who have been sent by our government into harm’s way and who have, fortunately, survived the experience. Now, as seems to be the case in all levels of society, people seem to have come to feel that mere sufficiency is no longer enough.

    Quite frankly, I find the whole idea repulsive that members and former members of what are now our well-compensated and highly professional armed Services are, or ought to be, granted additional special privileges simply because they spent some time, often minimal, doing what is, as Peter says, nothing more than their job. Even accepting that the companies are acting with the best of motives, the whole concept is offensive and, like Peter, I would be ashamed to accept such patronising sentimental nonsense.

  • lloveday says:

    I fail to see how boarding first is an advantage let alone a privilege – you have an assigned seat, being first isn’t going to get you a better one, and the aircraft isn’t going anywhere without you, but it does mean you will spend more time in the plane, more time seated, and depending on your seat, you may be subjected to getting up to let window and middle seat passengers sit, or have them squeeze past you.

    The only reason I’ve heard that made any sense to me for getting on first related to securing an overhead locker spot near to your seat, which is not a problem unless you have large carry-on baggage, and even then only rarely.

    Even when I used to travel Business, I would ignore the early boarding invitation and wait until last or thereabouts to board.

  • jabdata@bigpond.com says:

    Respect our fallen. It seems obvious to me that this is another snipe by anarchists to upset us all. By even commenting on such garbage I feel ashamed. AlanIO

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Len,you make some good points. I am an RSL official – honorary secretary of my local sub-branch. I believe ANZAC Day is, and should remain our pre-Einstein’s day for honouring all our war dead and veterans but, like you, I am dismayed by these PC iusions and I do y best to resiist them, such as demands that we sing an aboriginal verse of the National Anthem – which does’t exist. Unfortunately RSL officials are drawn from the same general populace that includes bleeding hearts I.e. it includes a fair proportion of dickheads. Nonetheless we have huge crowds at ANZAC Day and we just have to persist in fighting off the mindless PC demands.

  • Bushranger71 says:

    I am 81 with a long family military lineage. 3 lost in WW1 and another badly gassed and decorated. One captured at the fall of Singapore and POW for 3.5 years. A brother Army in Malaya. Me Air Force flying – Confrontation and Vietnam x 3. 2 nephews served at Swanbourne and my wife was a RAAF Nursing Sister. This lifelong connection sustained a continuing interest in military history and emerging long overdue revision of some fallacies that had very significant consequences on the Australian nation.

    All of our military involvements have resulted from us being subject to British and American hegemonies. WW1 and WW2 were especially momentous in this regard and the horrendous casualties that resulted were largely a consequence of our blind allegiance to British follies. ANZAC is a prime example; but many are probably unaware that Prime Minister Bob Menzies pleaded with Winston Churchill after the Battle of Britain to accept a generous German peace offer, which most European nations favoured, before the conflict escalated to world scale. Churchill stubbornly refused and Menzies deemed him a menace. Had there been a sensible peace settlement at that stage, tens of millions of lives would have been saved and Europe not decimated.

    I feel the 2 World Wars warrant separate commemorative consideration due to the magnitude of their consequences than subsequent campaigns. Growing up in an era where working age men were mostly absent fighting, living off ration coupons for food/clothing and catching rabbits and fish to supplement, gas producers on vehicles and many other wartime privations was a whole lot different than for dependents in later conflicts when their loved ones might only be absent for months instead of years; if lucky to return at all uninjured.

    Remembrance events were solemnly performed with dignity, which is the way most veterans desired it to be with the overwhelming majority preferring to quietly get on with their lives, allowing awful memories to dilute with the passage of time. Government and media aggrandaising of military commemorative occasions is in my view more counter-productive than beneficial for veterans.

    Sadly; we are a young and increasingly fragmented nation with an arguably failed federation model. Due to rampant unfettered immigration in recent decades, the Australia of old will have virtually faded within 20 or so years and our old sense of values will no longer prevail.

    I have travelled the world broadly and have lived largely throughout British hegemony, which made me cringe. That we are now succumbing to the whims of the US in similar fashion is galling.

    I just have to quietly cope with the legacy that I directly caused waste of human life. All of the grandstanding regarding the veteran fraternity is repugnant and the majority would prefer that governments generally provide more genuine assistance after deserving military experiences.

  • Len says:

    Bushranger, I can understand your apparent cynicism especially in view of your family’s military background. My own family’s very limited military background is that the only brother of my mother and her eight sisters died in WW1. Their parents both died in the same week as a result of WW2 related Spanish flu pandemic. The sisters were raised by their eldest sister. I had another uncle who was a cavalryman and he would never speak of his service.

    I was born in England and was less than one year old when WW2 started, but there are a number of things I remember from an early age: air raid sirens and being put under a concrete shelf in the brick pantry for protection – we lived just a few miles from a large munitions factory; blackout curtains and air-raid wardens; busloads of frightened refugee children fleeing the London blitz and looking for shelter; the dire news reports on the war and the food and clothing rationing.

    My father did not serve in the military. He was a coal miner which had been declared a reserved occupation because of the importance of coal to the war effort – how times have changed! He missed the bus one morning and was unable to get to work. Later that day he learned that there had been an explosion at the coal face where he would have been and several of his workmates had been killed. Some time later he was buried by a roof fall and had to be dragged underground before being taken to hospital. Much of the medical resources and personnel had been diverted overseas and he was told he was only bruised and sent home. Two days later the family doctor sent him back to hospital for X-rays; it was found that his spine had three fractures.

    I migrated here in 1953 and was not selected in the Vietnam War draft; some of my workmates were not so fortunate.

    Menzies and Churchill quite properly had their different responsibilities and loyalties to their own people and it is understandable that their views differed. For all his faults Churchill was revered among the people I knew and many more. His refusal of any peace offering would have reflected the attitude of the British more generally.

    As to involvement in WW1, I understand that Australia was an early supporter of involvement and those who participated were volunteers. If so, that is not surprising as at that time many would have been British migrants or the sons and grandsons of British migrants and there would have been other loyalties. I also understand that at least in Victoria many people who did not volunteer were ostracised by the population more broadly and some were sent white feathers.

    It should be clear from what I have said that my respect for veterans and servicemen and women and my interest in commemorations such as ANZAC Day do not derive from personal or family involvement. Rather, it is because I think people generally should be grateful for the sacrifices that the servicemen and women and their families have all made for the benefit of all of us.

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