Duty is not a concept we discuss much these days. With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II of England this week, her example of duty to god and country has been widely honored, and seen as the passing of an era. Did the concept of duty pass with her?
Duty was what got her generation through a great depression and World War II. They committed to the common good against outside forces intent on destroying civilization as they knew it. When she became queen she took on the duty to lead the empire and the church of England.
We grew up with duty through The Pledge of Allegiance, When you become a lawyer or take a political office you pledge allegiance to the US Constitution. As children we learned the boy and girl scout pledges. When you marry, you pledge to be faithful and responsible to your spouse.
Today, we use phrases like take responsibility, keep commitments, be accountable. That generation would have said do your duty. Is it the same thing? I’m not so sure. Duty came from societal norms. We all agreed to follow “the rules”. And by doing so, we would be rewarded for being a good person, and society would be better for it. There was not much tolerance for doing things outside the rules which were dictated to you by tradition, religion and society.
We have come well past the rigidity demanded in those times which is good. We have also accepted a lot of bad behavior in the spirit of doing ones own thing. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine reminds us that we cannot assume the world order will just keep humming along. As much as we don’t like the idea, duty to our fellows and saving the planet will require sacrifice. Elizabeth understood this and leaned into the challenge. It was a life well lived.
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image courtesy of usmagazine.com