Abstract: While we were in London having our lunch at Leicester Square, I posed this question to the kids. “Who do you think are the more virtuous of the two? The man who begets a hundred bastards or the man who kills a thousand people?” Let’s see how they answer.
I collect a library of quotes, anecdotes, parables, poetries, short and inspirational stories that reflect upon the essence and philosophy of life. And I love to narrate them to my three children. This I felt would be the greater part of their education process, instead of rote learning in school. I want to engage them on some level of intellectual and critical thinking.
This is one episode we had when they were young.
We were in London on vacation with the 3 kids and My Excellency in the mid-90s.
Marilyna, my eldest daughter then was about 13 years. The other two boys were 11 and 9.
We visited St Paul’s Cathedral, which sat on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London. I was a great fan of World War II, so I knew a fair bit of history of this imposing church. As we moved along, I gave them a dramatic narrative on the London Blitz and what happened at St Paul’s during WWII.
The Nazi German High Command used a cipher-encoded equipment, called The Enigma Machine, as a wartime communication code in all branches of its military. They believed it was so secured that top-secret messages were sent through the Enigma. Unbeknown to them, British Intelligence had already broken the code earlier.
On the night of 29 December 1940, British Intelligence had intercepted the code that there would be an air raid by the German Luftwaffe bombers on St Paul’s Cathedral. Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, refused to evacuate the inhabitants staying around St Paul’s. Rather than compromise a decisive source of intelligence, Winston Churchill left St Paul’s to the mercies of the German Luftwaffe bombers.
Hundreds of lives were lost and thousands were seriously injured. Almost all the buildings around St Paul’s were burnt to the ground. Perhaps by some divine intervention, St Paul’s still stood its ground, though there were extensive damages. Its dome was pierced by one of the incendiary bombs.
By keeping its intelligence sources secret, it was for the greater good for Britain to survive the war. Civilians’ casualties and collateral damages were inevitable.
I had a real captive audience. The kids were all ears.
When we exit the cathedral, there was a bomb threat. The Bobbies were everywhere, directing people to evacuate. The situation was orderly. There was no panic to rush to the door and get out. Guess Londoners were quite used to bomb scarce and false alarm.
“Let’s go kids!” I said calmly. It did not terrify me. I knew enough that the IRA would give prior warning for civilians to evacuate if they wanted to Semtex out a public place. Also, an authenticated code would be sent to the BBC, to give warning that this was not a drill if IRA did plant a bomb.
Anyway, it was a false alarm.
We took the Underground to Leicester Square for dim-sum lunch. Then an idea came to me. When we were traveling, I always posed some challenges to the kids to make them think. It may be an anecdote, a puzzle or some historical account of that particular place we were visiting. It did not matter whether they were of age to ponder on a question way beyond their education level. To me, learning was never too early, nor too late.
“Now listen up. I want you to think over two questions and give me your best answer.” I said.
The kids were always keen to accept challenges from me. They waited patiently for my opening statement.
“What do you think of the decision of Winston Churchill not to evacuate St Paul’s? He knew earlier that St Paul’s was the target of the Luftwaffe bombers that night.
St Paul’s is also an iconic historical building that showcases the British might. He has blood on his hand. And this blood is his own people of London.” I continued.
The kids discussed animatedly among themselves. None offered any answers.
Then Calvin threw the ball back to me, “Dad, what about you? What do you think of the decision of Winston Churchill?”
“Huh! Some British historians are still arguing about it to this day. And many bloggers write their opinion pieces too” I said wickedly.
They broke out laughing.
Then I gave them the second question. There was some relevance to the first question.
“Who do you think are the more virtuous of the two? The man who begets a hundred bastards or the man who kills a thousand people?”
Ah! My Excellency was quite aghast at this question. What on earth was I doing posing this type of question to the kids?
William, the youngest son, was the reticent one. He always kept himself in the shadow of his elder brother, Calvin.
Calvin was pondering aloud. “The man who begets a hundred bastards. How will he feed, house and educate them? On the other hand, the man who kills a thousand people, that is extreme cruelty. This is a tough question to answer.”
Then, Marilyna said, “Dad! I think there is something wrong with your question.”
“What?” I said, more out of amusement than surprise.
“The two deeds by these two men are evil. But you used the word virtuous to compare them. Don’t you think you should say who is the more evil of the two?” She expressed a gesture, her palms opened up in supplication. Her facial expression had the countenance of plain juvenile innocence.
“Excellent!” I smiled at her. She spotted the anomaly of using the wrong comparative words. She had this uncanny habit of thinking quickly on her feet.
“At times, the answer to a question is in the question itself.” I spoke again, waging my right forefinger to emphasis the point.
Thus, I rest my case. I didn’t need to elaborate any further.
We continued with our lunch. Another jolly day spent in London for us.
By the way, Marilyna had this ideal of becoming a lawyer when she grew up. However, when she was 18, she landed in New York City (NYC), USA to do her Graduate Gemologist (GG) at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
Currently, she is a diamond dealer. She runs our family diamond business at the Big Apple, New York City.
Perhaps one day she might just be a straight-talking lawyer.
Pictures acknowledgement: wikipedia