Remembrance Day trumps Monopoly in crucial game of life

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, November 9, 2011

The operative value that drives Monopoly players to trounce their opponents in this popular board game of self-interest is unbridled greed – “I alone win, too bad about you.”

In marked contrast, the virtue of valour exhibited by our military personnel is all about self-sacrifice for the sake of the larger community.

The Monopoly mentality, from an economic perspective, parallels the life-threatening blood clots in the human circulatory system about which I wrote last week.

That column received many insightful responses. Here’s just a sample:

“An excellent article with a great metaphor,” wrote dentist Ralph Dubienski, of Springbank. “It gives us all lots to think about. Not to mention the concepts of blood banks and transfusions.”

(I can’t pass up this opportunity to add that my older son was honoured by the Canadian Blood Services this past May for his 500th blood donation. Good on ya, Reg!)

From Texas, longtime Alberta coffee companion Francis Fast saw a connection with his PhD studies of Cicero. Francis noted that the ancient Roman statesman and philosopher believed that, “while people should be allowed to control their own property, it was dishonourable not to share your wealth with those in need.”

The challenge for us today, he added, “seems to be this: building a culture of generosity, so that wealth is understood not primarily as something that we have a right to keep, but rather, as something that provides an opportunity to give. This way the ‘flow of blood’ that you write about would actually unify the body it was feeding.”

British Columbia intercultural relations advocate Darryl Klassen looked behind wealth to something more fundamental.

“Redistribution of wealth is not the answer,” he wrote. “Instead, we need to put the best minds to work to figure out how everyone . . . gets an opportunity to succeed. Redistribute opportunity.”

Independent economist James Perras, of Cochrane, is not so optimistic. What’s required is something quite different, he says.

“Right now the blood is being drained from the average individual, on the one hand, while the same individual is being given a transfusion, on the other. Nothing is being done to stop the bleeding, which is where the real problem lies. The system needs a complete makeover. . . .

“Our system is based upon greed, consumption, political naivety, exploitation, destruction of the environment and competition that pits humans against humans for the most basic of necessities.”

This brings me back to the Monopoly mentality with which I take such exception. But the solution is not to be found in the players, you and me, lowering ourselves to mediocrity. By no means! Rather, we are to pursue the highest standards of excellence of which we are capable, but for a higher purpose than emerging as the sole – and very lonely – winner in the game of life.

I learned a valuable lesson about this higher purpose many years ago from successful Alberta commercial builder Rocky Forest and his equally successful wife, Senator Jean Forest, both retired now and living on Vancouver Island. (See my column of Sept. 1, 2004.) Their philosophy of personal excellence goes like this:

“Do the very best you are capable of, not out of selfish ambition, but for the sake of community.”

Which brings me to the virtue of valour as one of the reasons why we celebrate Remembrance Day.

This virtue was brought into sharp focus for me by Royal Canadian Air Force veteran Sandy McLeod. (See my column for Nov. 10, 2010.)

Reflecting on this selfless quality that has been so much part of our Canadian military heritage, Sandy sent me a heartfelt e-mail recently.

“Valour is much more than just courage,” he said. “Valour is God's grace in action.

“Valour is instantaneous in most cases and does not involve the person themselves, and yet it does, most forcefully.

“Facing certain death, instantly not caring for yourself, but giving all for others without them asking or even knowing that person and yet out of nowhere, instantaneously will do it for them, giving of one’s life without questioning the reason why it has to be done, just to do it in total, one hundred percent unselfishness, in an instant of thought and call to action in defence of others.”

For more on this word that speaks more eloquently than all the wealth in the world, check out my Toronto writer/editor son James’ Word Tasting Notes at

Yes, valour trumps the Monopoly mentality of self-interest any day, in my book. Thank you, members of the military, past and present, for your shining example.


© 2011 Warren Harbeck

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