Friday, February 18, 2011


“I dislike the lawless- but I prefer them to the listless.” (from memory)
Kurt Hahn, educator;
He became a prisoner after none of the “good Germans” were willing to back him up on the day when some brown shirts stomped a man to death on the street, the day Hahn publicly responded by saying a line had been crossed. (International pressure got him out to Britain before the war started)

I think society holds together like a two-stroke gasoline-powered generator, one without washers, nuts or threaded screws. Instead the metal pieces were struck through with long smooth pins. These pins, so pieces go with each other, are “willingness.”
Sean Crawford, survivor.


It was two years ago that a man old enough to have been in the Hitler Youth, a friend in my toastmaster club, said of me, “I see you as willing.” The occasion was a special night where we were coming up with descriptors for each other. I’ve had two years to ponder, ‘What the heck is “willing?’” I know a lot more now than I did then.

These days, in my condominium association, there are folks I recognize from being sociable with me, or with others, while, say, walking the dog or out in the parking lot. They are the same ones I see at the Annual General Meetings, year after year. And I suppose the “members” who vandalize are the same ones who won’t go any AGM’s—and they won’t read any of the condo newsletters where vandalism is deplored, either.

It’s as if being willing to read or be neighborly goes with being responsible.

Last week, when work was over for the day, I was among the tired commuters, now free of time pressure, gliding home on the Deerfoot Trail. (The freeway) I watched a tailgating fool who behaved bizarrely three times in a row. I suppose the fool felt entitled to be superior, different from the rest of us normal drivers. Here’s a thought: What if that fool’s brother offered him a free driver’s manual, or a free Defensive Driving course? Here’s my answer: The fool would not be willing to learn to be responsible. It's as if choosing inequality goes with not being willing to learn.

Years ago, back home, next to Asia-town, there used to be the Powell Street Grounds, a park that was half swamp. After some citizens drained it, I attended a ribbon ceremony, followed by an unforgettable weekend of cultural celebrations. They still have yearly one-day festivals. Such nice willingness... Meanwhile a young husband and father, a citizen of the US of A, has said on the web he won’t be involved in any causes, nor in politics, nor in his community. He only cares about his extended family, he said, so don’t knock on his door… I can see this guy as being willing to modify his melody once his little boys get into organized soccer—and find their playing field to be half swamp.

My mind wanders from that US guy to a certain big Asian nation that is family centered, perhaps excessively so, perhaps as a defeatist alternative to being willing to develop their community and democracy. I pity them: How can anyone, in this new century, still believe in communism?

Meanwhile, back in that guy’s homeland, it seems to me that a national government is like a national hockey league: The NHL, in order to exist, requires local rinks, local initiatives and farm teams. If that guy’s local community and nation both have democracy then it is only because others are willing to take local initiative and do that guy’s work for him. I think a guy who helps drain a field for the kids, or who coaches soccer, will also vote in a federal election. But a useless bum will do neither. And a nation of listless people will get the government it deserves. 

Folks who have never tried to drain a swamp truly have no idea how hard it is to face your alligators. Others know all too well: I have never known an experienced leader to be a back seat driver.

Looking down my back trail, down the years, my favorite people, including my favorite local leaders, have always been the ones who were “willing…” This includes, come to think of it, a willingness to humbly admit they were wrong and to change… I suppose if you’ve never been humbled you’ve never tried hard enough.

Two years ago, when that old friend said I was “willing,” he gave me one of the finest compliments I will ever receive.

Sean Crawford
Next to a little statue of Saint Maximilian Kolbe,
February 2011

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