Today’s flower ceremony grows out of European experiences, its prejudices. I will tell you about mine and what motivated me to be in and support the Unitarian congregation. Try to replace my personal pronoun and imagine the millions who every day experience versions much worse. I will give you 9 examples
1. Religious Education: I grew up in a practicing Lutheran family. As seven year old I spent time in an exclusively Catholic area. In the school did not know their religious texts, prayers, rituals. I was crying and excused from religious classes. As it was tradition, on an evening before Christmas St. Nikolas knocked his chain against the door to hear my prayer to decide whether I deserved a present. Peers called me the little Protestant Prussian devil. Although a weak boy I got into a fight with their bully, landed a chance hit which drew a tiny bit of blood. From then on I was accepted as one of them. I now appreciate two human value systems, the instinctive and the indoctrinated.
2. Absolute Commitment. I grew up during what was called ‘absolute war’, requiring absolute obedience to authority. Everything was meant to matter for the national survival. We collected herbs for the national economy, plucked mosses in the woods as bedding and wound dressing for a soldiers’ hospital to which our school had been converted.
3. Mind Control: When my mother tried to listen to Radio London to hear the news, my father angrily warned her that we all might end up in prison. The same was the cause of Capek’s arrest. He ended up in Dachau.
4. Intolerance: After the war, I saw the colour labels for people destined for concentration camps – red for these, yellow for others, orange for others again.
5. Prejudice: Racial and ethnical disrespect ran deep. An otherwise good man told me that all Einstein’s theories couldn’t be right because he was of such and such a race.
6. Social Progress: In our teenage years we were indoctrinated by socialism, an ideology understood as ‘secularization of Christianity’. Remember the roots of the NDP were in Christian Socialism,
7. Europe is known for its Edicts of Expulsions – against Protestants, Jews, or politically unreliable persons. My parents were evacuated as politically unreliable. Rifle butts were used to move them. They belonged to a group officially called ‘vermin’, a term taken over from the Nazis. Then a huge wall was built across the land to separate people. 30 years later it had to be taken down.
8. Refugees: My wife, then 10 years old, in the winter, was part of a refugee column escaping the Soviet Army with her mother in a wagon pulled by an old horse and an ox. The horse died en route. They were sleeping wherever people offered them some sort of accommodation and a poor meal.
9. My brother was drafted as 16-year old boy, to shoot at allied bombers, later to fight the huge US Army, ended up in and barely survived an American prisoner camp where others died of starvation, dysentery. As a student he had a job digging graves for victims who had died along the road on what were called death marches’ from one KZ to another.
I was asked what is my philosophy of life?
a. Diversity and Balance: Initially, a kernel of truth and justification is in almost all philosophies and religions –vigilance prevents them from becoming extreme and abusive
b. Use the building blocks available to you for bridges not walls. Walls will collapse, and the longer they last, the more the inevitable will hurt.
c. Long-Term: Consider the consequence of your actions beyond your own life span
Thank you for listening.