From my opinion column written for the Egremont 2Day newspaper.
I’m writing this on Remembrance Sunday having stood in the pouring rain watching my children take part as cadets in the Whitehaven parade. While I’m trying to warm up I’ve been thinking about how the parade brought to mind the meaning of principles.
First I’m going to go a little ‘left field’ and mention Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – bear with me while I do. I don’t know what I think about the man yet and this is not going to be a rant either for or against him, but I was intrigued to see a comment on a debating group I occasionally take part in on Facebook.
The group is made up of intelligent and reasonably mature British men and women with a diverse range of views. The context was Corbyn’s well-known stance against ‘bending the knee’ before the Queen. What surprised me was one participant who said this in reference to Corbyn’s determination to keep his legs unbent:
“I’m worried this man will put his principles before country”
There you go: principles.
I never thought I would see the day where the idea of sticking to your principles would be seen as a negative thing. I thought it was one of the great British attributes that we each have our principles which guide our lives and how we engage with others. We don’t force our view on others – we stick to our principles and that is enough.
When I see the cadets marching, despite the downpour, to honour those who died in the armed services doing their duty, I find myself proud of their principles. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pro or anti-war or ‘our boys’ going into Syria or if they should have gone into Iraq or whether you’re a red poppy, white poppy or even no poppy person – it’s surely undeniable that these men and women died honourably in the ultimate test of their principles.
I like principles as much as I hate their fake counterpart – systems. For me, systems in all forms – Government, business, schools and so on – get things horribly the wrong way round. They are supposed to be in place for the benefit of the people but, more often than not, they become a rod to the back – and these days to the front and sides too! Systems try to force ‘principles’ on people and by doing so immediately miss the point: we make our own principles, not blindly obey those of others.
I’m proud of anyone who sticks to their own principles when it would be easier simply to acquiesce, and would very much like it if no one had to die to prove such convictions in the future. Alas, that day is far off but until then I refuse to believe anyone holding true to their principles can be seen as damaging to their country. If only more people had principles, we could throw off the shackles of a nanny state which seems determined to tell us what we should be thinking. Such a free country would be worth fighting for.