The Australian government has just announced WWII hero, Teddy Sheean, will (poshumously) receive the Victoria Cross for valour in combat. His story is amazing. Having been commanded to abandon ship after being torpedoed by Japanese bombers and coming under fire from fighter jets, he returned to his anti-aircraft gun in an effort to protect his crewmates who were in the water, strafed by the fighter planes. Teddy went down with his ship, only 18 years old.
At the time Teddy was not awarded the Victoria Cross, and had been denied again in 2019, but seeing that the Australian government has fumbled the Coronavirus response and needs something new for the news cycles, Teddy is now making headlines as the newest recipient recommended for a VC.
Reading about Teddy while looking at my sleeping son, I reflect on how it seems we truly don’t appreciate how fortunate we are until we’ve lost something. In Australia, the area we have been living in have suffered droughts, incomprehensibly catastrophic bushfires, a global pandemic, and now flooding. And still, this country continues to pillage, granting coal mining rights under Sydney’s water reservoirs, post-bushfire logging, giving approvals to blow up 46,000 year old cultural sites of inestimable value to humanity. The idea of war is especially barbaric to me now that I am a mother. Wars waged against people and wars waged against our environment… both are incredibly destructive, but the second may worst. As we continue to drain the Earth of resources to quench our insatiable thirst for consumption, the options for future generations are becoming increasingly limited. I look at my baby and wonder what the world will look like for him in only a decade or two.
North American indigenous culture examines an individual’s capacity to affect 7 generations behind them, and 7 generations ahead. The Iroquois made decisions thinking of the world 7 generations ahead of them. Our leaders could not be further from this kind of thinking now, even when we have more than ever at risk. Individuals are still voting in governments which destroy natural wonders for short term gains in investment portfolios that they intend to pass down to their children and grandchildren. But what use is money when their world is gone? And these are the lucky ones… we don’t speak of what will happen to people in places like Bangladesh, or speak of climate refugees with no protection and no options. While this coming generation has incredible capacity to change the ways of our society, we need to stop stacking the deck against them.