There’s a difference between involvement and commitment.
If we’re merely ‘involved’ in something then we don’t have to give it our all.
If it fails, it’s not the end of the world.
But if we’re ‘committed’ that’s a different matter.
Then it really is do or die.
We’ve got a lot more at stake.
It’s very important to know the difference.
And be honest with ourselves.
There’s a saying in New York about the difference between involvement and commitment.
They said it’s like ham and eggs.
In ham and eggs the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.
Many Americans see that as the problem with Europeans.
They’re only involved, never committed.
So they can’t be relied on.
In 1940 that was a huge problem.
Britain stood alone against Germany and needed American help.
But the Americans saw Britain as weak and about to crumble.
Some people in Britain even wanted to make peace with the Germans.
The USA didn’t see the British as committed enough to make a reliable ally.
But all that changed, during the course of what the French still see as the most shameful act of treachery in Franco-British history.
The French had already surrendered to Germany.
Their main ships were at port in Mers-el-Kebir, in North Africa.
Some of the most modern, most powerful, battleships in the world.
If they fell into German hands, they could be used to cut the Atlantic convoys.
Then Britain would be defeated.
Obviously, Churchill couldn’t allow that.
So he sent a British fleet to Mers-el-Kebir.
They waited outside the port and issued the French fleet with an ultimatum.
This is the gist of it:
“You have 3 choices:
1) You can either sail your ships with us and fight against Germany.
2) We can escort your ships to a neutral port, like the USA, where they must stay for the rest of the war.
3) Or you can scuttle your ships where they are, right now.
You have six hours to decide.”
The French said they would do none of these things.
So, when the six hour deadline was up, the Royal navy sank the French fleet.
Right where they were moored, in the harbour, virtually defenceless.
Killing several thousand French sailors.
The French have never forgiven us.
Churchill said it was the one decision he was most ashamed of.
But the Americans finally decided to give us the aid we needed.
Because it was apparent to everyone.
Now we were no longer just involved.
Now we were committed.
Now there was no going back.
Determination is very important to Americans.
And finally they saw we were determined enough to win.
We had staked everything.
We didn’t hold anything back.
Commitment is a very difficult thing for English people.
It’s uncool for a start.
We’re never supposed to look as if we’re trying too hard.
What if we give everything we’ve got and we still lose?
We won’t have any excuses.
At least if we don’t give everything, we can say we’re not that bothered.
We didn’t really try.
As Ricky Ponting said about cricket.
“When Australia loses we look for things we can change.
When England loses you look for excuses.”
It’s the same with war, with sport, with business, with relationships.
And it’s the same in what we do.
If we commit too much to work, we’re a workaholic.
Almost as if we’ve got a problem.
As if there’s something wrong with actually wanting to work.
When we could be over the pub.
Or at home watching TV.
Or reading, or at the gym, or sleeping.
Or anything, so long as it isn’t work.
Because being involved is okay, but being ‘committed’ is seen as somehow unhealthy.
Funny thing though.
All the people who are really successful aren’t just involved.