Tuesday, November 10, 2015


This pipe, pictured left, is a MEDICO CHEMIN DE FER IMPORTED BRIAR.  On the roughly textured chocolate brown bowl is an embossed golden diamond, and the stem is jet black and smooth.  It had belonged to the late lettered and intrepid, derring-do William Martin, a military engineer in the Canadian Army.  William’s pipe was also the cover of my blog entry, THE PHILOSOPHER’S PIPE:  WHEN A FELLER NEEDS A FRIEND (June 29th, 2013).

William was a scout that went ahead and located targets.  He would then calculate the distance and determine the angle for the cannons that were located miles behind.  If a target was missed, William would re-calculate, correct for wind and angle. William saw a lot of things blow up.  He even had a binder of before-and-after photos that he used while reckoning the targets. 

Serving in the live theatre of the Korean War, William, in one particular battle, had a near-death experience.  As an army paratrooper and geo-trig surveyor scout, he was one of only two survivors after his platoon had been ambushed.  An enemy soldier had stabbed him with a bayonet, and then shot him in the shoulder.  As William’s enemy was about to thrust again with his bayonet, the final coup de grace, William was reduced to being on his knees in agony and pain, and bleeding. Miraculously, William heard the blast of a shot gun, and was stunned to see his assailant fall dead in front of him. William’s army buddy, the last standing other survivor of the ambushed platoon, had pulled the trigger that saved his life.

“Have you ever killed someone?” asked his nephew, Ricky, after listening to one of William’s stories.

“Yes, many,” replied the stager William.

Cool stuff to listen to when you are a kid.

I’ve also blogged about Remembrance Day before … LEST WE FORGET:  A POPPY DAY ESSAY ON SKINNY EXPRESSIONS (November 11th, 2011).
The feller who gave me the pipe is my close buddy, Ricky, and the feller that gave it to him was his Uncle Billy … aka William Martin.

I received this pipe as a parting gift, and here is what I knew about pipes at that time.  Mark Twain smoked a piped and lived until he was 75.  Albert Einstein puffed on a pipe and lived to 76.  Sherlock Holmes was a pipe smoke and he is immortal.  Rose, the great grandmother of my colleague, Dawne, smoked a pipe until she was 109.  Last, my grandpa, Sid, smoked a pipe.

This pipe in the picture belonged to Ricky’s Uncle Billy.  Not so strangely, Uncle Billy could personify anyone going to war.  Uncle Billy could represent my father, Jack Child, who joined the Royal Canadian Navy during World War Two, and was assigned to several destroyers on the North Atlantic, chasing German submarines for five years.  Uncle Billy could represent my grandfather, George Child, who fought in the English army during World War One.  George was armed with a rifle and rode a horse.  Uncle Billy could represent my uncle, Emile Hebert, a fighter pilot in the Second War.  Like I said, Uncle Billy could represent anyone who went to war.

War.  Cool stories as a kid; as an adult not so much ...

Factoid:  There is an American military presence in 156 countries (Hugh d’Andrade and Bob Wing 2002 map). 

Factoid:  There are American military bases in 63 different countries.

Factoid:  There are over 250,000 military personnel deployed worldwide.

Factoid: On any given day 8,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces (of a possible 24,000) are preparing for or engaging for or returning from a military mission.

Factoid:  Canada, at present, has no permanent overseas military bases, though in recent years there has been talk of setting up a Canadian military presence in Senegal, South Korea, Kenya, Singapore, Kuwait, Germany, and Jamaica.

A military presence means just one thing … posturing for war.  Having a military presence means a readiness to fight.  And why are we are so ready for a fight?  Violence is part of our nature.  Doing battle is in our blood.  Warring is a defining trait of being human.  It’s likely, according to evolutionary theory, that in our beginnings we fought for food, for sex, for sheer survival. 

Sadly, as a human collective, we’ve not yet the ability to transcend our base and primal might is right mentality.  Ask any martial artist what it feels like to fight.  Fighting makes one feel alive; whereas, scrivening in a small cubicle makes one feel next to dead.  Moving from the feelings of an individual citizen to marching for patriotism and jingoism really is not a big step.  Ask not of what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country (John F. Kennedy). 

Conflicts between countries are caused by ideological change (usually religious fanaticism), self-determination (Tunisia 2010, rest of Arab world 2011), national control (Canada War Measures Act 1970)), resources (the Mideast), territory (America frontier), control of another country (Israel invasion of Gaza 2014).   

The skinny of conflict:  Nations go to war to gain access to new lands (Russian annexation of Crimea 2014) or to defend against perceived threats (American invasion of Iraq 2003).

In all these conflicts there seem to be no good guys – a matter of opinion, of course.  This brings to mind another factoid: Countries which allow greater religious freedoms are generally more peaceful than countries with few religious freedoms.

Methinks if going to war is really just an extension of individual human traits, then sea-changing our individual notions will help the dissolution of warring between nations.  In the pursuit of peace, as citizens we should certainly educate ourselves on the international issues (and not necessarily believe EVERYTHING our leaders deliver).  In the pursuit of peace, as citizens  we should be generous with our donations, both monetary and thoughtfully, to Third World nations. Crushing poverty creates terrorism. In the pursuit of peace, as citizens we should develop closer relationships to the Islam world.  The War on Terrorism is NOT the war on Muslims.  In the pursuit of peace, as citizens we should publicly oppose racial profiling.  In the pursuit of peace, as citizens we should publicly oppose the backlash against immigration.  (Our new Prime Minister has promised, on his winning campaign platform, to allow 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada by the end of 2015.  Bravo, Justin Trudeau!  Personally, I think we should step up that number to … whatever number is necessary and pragmatic to save others on the planet.)  In the pursuit of peace, as citizens we should promote dialogues amongst diverse cultures – we need to share planet Earth institutions and debate and promote cures for all earthling ails.  Friendliness among nations is imperative for planetary peace.  Friends do fight one another but … friends don’t kill one another.

I’m not naive.  Unfamiliarity makes not for fellowship.  We earthlings are not all friends.  Every November 11th we are reminded of this.  Uncle Billy is still going to war. 


My complicated friend, Robin, just texted me her REMEMBRANCE DAY poem.  Along with her poppy, she plans to leave her poem at the cenotaph.

Others (not soldiers) marching in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE this week: 


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