Killer Instinct

 My Grandfather came to Canada from the Ukraine with nothing. He was 18 and had $12 in his pocket.

     My father and his 8 brothers and sisters helped their parents build the homestead. They worked hard. (How else can I really say it?) They worked as if they would starve next winter if they didn’t, which was true.
     Reality…. My Gen X grew up with some of it but not too much. We generally weren’t starving or really lacking any necessities. The coffee shop generation. So many great ideas and so much time on our hands. We never really got around to most of them but we had margin that our parents didn’t have and we enjoyed it.
     I worry that in 4 generations we in Canada (and probably the States) have lost our ability to make decisions. Real decisions.
     When the survival of your children is in doubt and only a few months away, you have a killer instinct. Winter is coming! Get it together! You survive. You say “No!” to all the non essential options and work like a slave with only one thought in mind “I must make this work. I must make this work. I must…” In fact you never even think about it. You don’t have time to and you can’t.
     You trim the fat and it becomes a habit, then a way of thinking. Everything else comes in second place because it has to. There is simply no other way to survive.
     You increase your capacity as far as you have to. You don’t have the right to call a time-out or take stress leave. Failure is the death of someone and that is not an option. You can’t fail so you don’t fail. You reinvent yourself and your economics and become….Flexible with an iron core. You make hard decisions not because you can, but because you simply have to.
     A stronger or more talented person in a different and softer environment you not only outperform every time, you run amok through their natural advantages because you possess something they have never had to: strength of WILL.
     I can’t even pretend what it would feel like to watch my daughter starve, but it would DO something inside of me. It would change me. It would harden me to some ruthless and brutal. My grandfather and his brothers fled the Ukraine because they were starving and being conscripted into Russia’s wars which their Dutch Mennonite beliefs could not stand for.
     There’s a story of their town being in the crossfire of the Red and White armies. The women and girls spent nights hiding outside from the soldiers. Growing up we heard that soldiers came into my great grandfather’s home and demanded he take off a new pair of boots he had and hand them over. Something snapped inside of him and he said “If you want them, come and get them!”
     We don’t even like the word ruthless anymore. It’s a bad word. We’re soft and opinionated and are hardly doing justice to the freedom we have that was gained for us by our ruthless and tireless forefathers.
     I don’t really have solutions to offer, and maybe I’m out to lunch altogether, but my observations are alarming me and I’m trying to put my finger on why…
This is maybe not the ending you were looking for, but I think the way we can tell we’ve lost the killer instinct is this:
     We don’t say “No” to non essentials because we really can’t anymore.
     We treat every opportunity with the same weight.
     Important things like relationships we trade daily for “opportunities”.
     Our families are falling apart because we’ve forgotten how to survive the long winter of the soul together.
 We ask “Why?” only when everything else has failed and it’s too late to save anything.

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