Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Do you expect me to make him rich?

A friend of mine had a boss who found it very difficult to pay his subcontractors – specifically the subcontractors involved in blue collar activity. He’d look at the bills and try and knock off $50 here and there and then remark, “I don’t want to make him rich, the bugger is trying to get rich off me.” At the very same time, he had the same ability to be very generous with people in “white collar” professions. When a lawyer he worked with sent a bill of a few thousand, he actually remarked, “Wah, his bill so cheap ah,” and then told the lawyer to charge more.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated example of a strange disease that people in air conditioned offices seem to have. Nor am I proud to say that I’ve always been immune from it. Far from it in fact. I once had to hire a plumber to fix a leak in Daddy’s Soho flat and I couldn’t understand how the flat blob of a character could justify charging me 400 quid when all he did was to rip up my bathroom, play with a blow torch and tell me to avoid showering for a week.

We, in the “professional” class have a peculiar inability to recognize that people who work blue collar jobs actually do something called work and that they should get paid for it. This disease is such that white-collar professionals tend to begrudge every penny that the “working class” make.

While this disease isn’t exactly limited to Singapore, its particularly ridiculous when it comes to this little island that I call home. The reason is simple – our tropical weather. The guys doing “brain” jobs spend their days in front of a computer in an air conditioned office. When they go for lunch, it’s usually in a swish cafĂ© where there’s plenty of air conditioned and it’s filled with beautiful people (one of the perks of working in the business district here is – eye candy). By contrast, the guys who do manual jobs are usually out in the sun and the time when the sun is the least kind and even when they’re relaxed or supposed to be relaxing, it’s usually in a pretty crappy place

Image result for Cushy CEO at work

Do we seriously believe he struggles

When you’re faced with such a juxtaposition, its hard to understand how the guys sitting in the air conditioned offices get the idea that they’re the ones who have it tough while the guys toiling away in the midday sun are having a picnic.

Image result for Labour in hot sun

While she has it easy......

The usual line of reasoning is – “Mental Work is more taxing.” I don’t disagree that using your brain can be tough. The brain, like the rest of the body does get tired and if overused without rest can screw you up badly. I also don’t disagree with the fact that you should get paid for the value that you create. 

In the construction industry nobody begrudges the architect his pay even if he sits and creates drawings instead of slogging it out with the guys on the work site for the simple reason that the architect’s drawings are the reason for everyone’s existence. You can replace muscle with robots. Theoretically you cannot replace the human brain with a robot (even if we live in the age of AI). I think of the chap who consistently justifies the stress of the guy in a brain job over that of the guy in the muscle job by consistently saying, “The mind is stronger than the body.”

Well, that isn’t exactly quite accurate. Anybody who moves more than five metres-a-day will be able to tell you that the mind isn’t as strong as it claims to be, especially when the body is struggling. The sterotype of the weedy but clever nerd winning one over against the buffy jock isn’t accurate. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example is both well built and highly intelligent. The reason is simple, people who exercise and develop their bodies have to develop strong minds – the mind has to tell the body to keep going when the body cries for a rest.

Then there’s the issue of work. Yes, while I agree that brain work creates more value and should be rewarded accordingly, we need to remember that nothing moves without the muscles actually moving. The brain can send all the signals that it wants to send but if the muscles don’t work, nothing moves – any stroke patient will tell you that it’s a shitty experience to have all sorts of wonderful thoughts spinning through your brain but the body refuses to move then all your beautiful thoughts remain just that.

There needs to be a basic respect between those in brain jobs and muscle jobs. Both parties need to respect the fact that the other chap is actually doing something called work and no party should begrudge things like fair payment to the other party.

I go back to the feelings I had about paying my plumber – bastard earned 400 quid for less than 2 hours work. Every time I look at paying that bill (admittedly I was using Daddy’s money rather than my earned money), I think I studied the wrong course. Then again, I have my step-nephew to thank for setting me straight. He reminded me that plumbers spend their day crawling through shit and the question I ask is how much money would I accept for doing that.

I bring the matter back to the topic of workers who slog it out in the sun. I remember my colleagues in the insolvency firm I work for getting worked up that I was giving away money to help Indian and Bangladeshi workers that the firm had to fire from a construction firm we took over. The legal process denies them money due to them and I put my hand in my pocket to help out a few strangers. 

I’ve pointed out to my colleagues that for me to make the money, I just stay in an office that is for the most part quite comfy. Those guys are out in hot building sites and go back to cramped dormitories.
Life generally sucks and every profession has its stresses. Some of us are better at somethings than others and so when we need to get things done, we look for people who can do what we can’t. When they render a service, they should be rewarded accordingly. Society is like the human body – the brains and muscle need to work together. While the brain should generally be calling the shots, it should never begrudge the muscle what is due to the muscle.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea if stroke patients had to have a say in policy making and HR policies. It would help people in brain jobs remember that nothing gets done unless the muscles move. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Friends, Friends – Not a Single soul when I’m In Need

Bloomberg has just issued a report entitled “Saudi Prince Who Wooed West Finds Few Friends in Tough Times” which is a report about how Prince Alwaleed, the billionaire investor who is the single largest shareholder in Citigroup, is now finding himself without friends, now that he’s been arrested on charges of corruption. The Bloomberg report can be read at:

What makes this report interesting is the fact that if the Saudi Royal Family has a hero in the Western world, it’s Prince Alwaleed. While the Prince did not get start with nothing, he is the only Saudi Prince who has been known to have made something of his stipend through his own brains and industry. He took the risk of investing in what was then known as Citicorp when its shares were at an all time low. The investment in Citicorp has grown more than ten times since the company merged with Travelers to become Citigroup and that’s not all. The Prince has also made successful investments in companies like Twitter and Lyft among others.

As well as being a successful investor, the Prince is also as close as the West has to someone who shares their values in Saudi Arabia. Women who work at Kingdom Holdings were known to have been allowed to go without a veil in the office and he most famously hired a female pilot in a country where women have only just been given the right to drive.

When you think of everything that Prince Alwaleed has achieved, you have to wonder why not many people have uttered a sound at his sudden imprisonment on 4 November 2017.

The simple reason is this; Prince Alwaleed got onto the wrong side of his cousin, the current Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, better know by his initials MBS. While Alwaleed may have been the darling of the Western media and the western business community, MBS had something far more valuable – controls of the levers of real power. While the rise of MBS has been sudden, nobody doubts that MBS will the first king from the grandchildren of Saudi Arabia’s founding father, King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahmad Al Saud.

Simply put – power trumps money. While having money often brings one great power (for example nobody screws with Li-Ka-Shing in Hong Kong), the two are in actual fact separate items. I should know, I’m from an ethnic group living in a part of the world where people of my ethnic group have money but live fear from the people with power. The people with the power can always get hold of the power while the people with the money don’t always have the power. I live in Singapore where one doesn’t mess with the family of Lee Kuan Yew because this is the family with the power. By contrast, I can afford to be less polite about Wee Chow Yaw, the former head of UOB Bank. The reason is simple, the late Mr. Lee and his family have influence on the government and thus over just about everything in Singapore that I need for my basic survival. While Mr. Wee has power due to his vast wealth, he doesn’t affect my life if I don’t work for him.

Furthermore, friendships in business tend to be dominated by self-interest. When you need someone, you tend to be nice to them and helping them out often depends on self-interest. When someone with greater influence comes along, you tend to find that the people whom you thought were your friends, start jumping ship.

I think of Susan Lim case, which I helped out on. Dr. Lim was a star surgeon to the rich and famous. She’s married to Deepak Sharma, the former Chairman of Citi’s Private Bank. Between them, they had more money than most could dream about and the rich and powerful clamoured to be their friends. Then, it all broke down. The powerful no longer came knocking at their door. The reason was simple. The Singapore Government was given a choice between her and Mr. Sharma and the Sultan of Brunei. The government chose the Sultan of Brunei.

Likewise, for Prince Alwaleed. The boardrooms of the West would salivate at the thought of an investment from Prince Alwaleed. But when given a choice between Alwaleed who had money and some princely influence and MBS who has the power of the entire Saudi Government and its influence in the Muslim world (Saudi Arabia is Custodian of the Holy Mosque of Islam), the cold-hard-power calculations point towards not risking the prospect of offending MBS.

What are the lessons to be learnt? I guess the key is to recognize where the power lies and understand what your friends will or will not do for you. There is such a thing as not asking your friends to stick out their necks for you so that they do remain your friends.

Then there’s the importance of cementing your relationships to something stronger than money. If a relationship is based merely on money, you’ll find the party running when a better offer is made. It’s especially common when you see Westerners finding love with much younger Asian girls. The Westerner really believes that the girl loves him for him. Suddenly, when a better offer appears she dumps him and he’s heart broken. I’m not casting aspersions on West-East relationships but it’s a common site in this part of the world where you see normally intelligent Westerners losing themselves to girls who are obviously in the business.

Prince Alwaleed has found this out the hard way. He has lots of money and now he’s found his friends in the West have found someone who has something more desirable.
You need money to get things moving. You need friends to do things. Its often said that the two go hand in hand. However, if money is all there is to a friendship, you may find yourself losing a friendship when the money is not longer there. It’s a basic fact that many of us forget until it is too late.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Humanity as an Asset

It’s my 43rd Birthday today and although I’ve reached the age where birthdays are nothing more than just another day, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by two-people, whom I seem to have given up hope on. One is my favourite pet charity and the other is my perpetual damsel-in-distress. Both these ladies have thrived on my weakness for vulnerable puppies. Whenever they need something, all they have to do is to look sad and something in me compels me not to want either of these ladies to be sad.
Well, just when I least expected it, the pet charity struck had a small windfall from the lottery and her first reaction was to rush over to my work place, pay off a debt and she bought the cake and insisted that my restaurant crew end up ushering the birthday with her.

Around 13-hours later perpetual damsel-in-distress made special arrangements for me to have a birthday lunch including a cake. She actually had everything down to a fine point – all I had to do was to sit here, she took care of everything.

Both these ladies have reminded me of one of the main points in life that I’ve always tried to practice – remembering the humanity in people. I’ve not been perfect at this but whenever I deal with people, I try to see people as people rather than what they can offer me.

Practicing this can be tough. Human beings are quite often sods of the highest level, who, if given a chance would try and screw you for being nice to them.

However, I’ve found that for every time I’ve been screwed by an ungrateful sod, I’ve been rewarded more often by decent people, in particular the people who used to be somebody.

What am I referring to? I am talking about people who once held powerful positions in the government and corporate sector, who suddenly lose their jobs. It’s at this point where they realise who their friends are, the people who cared about them rather than the position they held. It’s at this point in their careers where they become willing to do things for their friends rather than dealing with the people who clamored to them because they were deemed useful.

I think of a business partner who was in many ways my first boss. This partner ran a small advertising and PR firm that had run into financial issues. I remember when he was going down.  Nobody wanted to touch him with a barge pole. Suppliers and former employees were pissed off and clients wouldn’t touch him because, well everyone was pissed off.

For some reason, I kept in touch and we went out for drinks and before you knew it, I was back at work. Somehow, when I joined him, he managed to build himself back up and managed to pass me enough pocket change to get by.

I also think of a former editor-in-chief, who I had written for. I remained in touch with him and before I knew it, I had the privilege of working at BANG PR and the Public Utilities Board account, which involved an aspect of PR that I would not have touched on my own. I got to know Singapore’s water policy and became one of the spokespeople for the government’s water plans.

I even look at my current situation. I’ve now been working on a corporate job for the last four-years, after a history of not being employed for more than eight-months, because I was willing to work for a boss with a decent enough heart for his friends. I didn’t have projects on the horizon coming in and he was on the verge of building up his business from scratch after a particularly nasty fall. As ironies would have it, I’ve found employment longevity in an industry where I’ve had the least qualifications for.

People are funny and I think we all relate to each other in strange ways. I’m a believer in being a decent human being in your dealings with people. It’s a case of never knowing who you’ll need. I’ve been fortunate that those in the position to help have helped whenever I’ve needed it. I also think that those who may not be in the position to do anything for me, might one-day surprise. I think of the two young ladies who have turned this birthday into a surprisingly pleasant one and I like think they won’t be the last people to surprise me in a pleasant way. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Is Race Important to Your Success?

It’s often described as the worst of the “isms” and so, whenever someone prominent appears to practice it, we all get very upset. That “ism” is of course, racism – the concept where people either believe they are superior to others by mere fact that they were born into a particular ethnicity or the feeling that people are awful because of the colour of their skin.

I’m not going to try and discuss the ins and outs of racism but I will make the point that many of us get upset by racism because there’s a bit of a racist in all of us and its one of those things that we don’t realise we are until it actually happens. The little racist in us gets particularly ugly when it comes to explain socio-economics of various societies.

So, you can imagine the storm that took place when the famed investor, Dr. Marc Faber said words to the effect that “America prospered because it was colonized by White People instead of Black People.” At the time of writing Dr. Faber has been unceremoniously booted off various boards and been barred from being a speaker in several conferences. You can follow the story at 

While Dr. Faber’s comments may sound crass, I know off a few people who would agree with him. I know people who would argue that Dr. Faber is being a victim of political correctness. Ironically, many of them are people of colour.

I think of my young Muslim politician from Pasir Ris GRC who likes to drink during Ramadan (AKA Thambi Pundek), who proudly told me of his professor in Monash who told the Asian students (i.e. the ones who study and pay real fees) that the rest of the world should bow down to the White Man for giving prosperity, democracy and so on and so on. Thambi Pundek seems very proud of being told that by the learned professor (note that this is what I was told by Thambi – I didn’t actually hear those words spoken by the professor). Thambi isn’t the only one who thinks this is wisdom. I think of the Trump Campaign, where you had people of colour thanking Trump for shitting on them.
This brigade points out to several facts:

  1. 1.      America was a field of plants and animals until the White Man came along and built cities, factories etc etc and made America the superpower that it is today.

  2. 2.      The White Man has made the world prosperous, while the black man has screwed it up. Since colonialism, the Americans and Europeans have prospered and Africa has become a byword for corruption, war and all sorts of nasty things. They will further point out that the only country that has anything approaching a standard of living is South Africa and even then – the wealth is held by the White Minority. The examples go on – in Western cities, the White Neighborhoods are nice and the black ones are not.

I’m not going to try and argue these points for the simple fact that they are true. America really was a nature reserve until Europeans brought industrialization. I’m also going to stress that I always preferred the idea of living in South Kensington in London to Brixton. I hate to say it but in Soho, London the black community were predominantly pimps or drug dealers while the party goers were white. Now that I live in Singapore, the vagabonds are inevitably Tamil i.e. dark skinned.
So, if you look at everything I’ve just said, you might be forgiven for thinking that Dr. Faber is merely a victim of the dictatorship of political correctness. There are those who would argue that he’s correct – there’s a correlation between the colour of your skin and levels of prosperity and development.

While the argument has an appeal (especially if you’re not dark), its grossly oversimplified. Dr. Faber, for all his brilliance as a financial investor, has seriously failed to understand the secret of success. The key to prosperity is not so much skin colour but culture and our perceptions of what constitutes success and prosperity.

Let’s start with perceptions of success. Yes, it was the European settlers who brought the idea of industrialization to the New World, which became the bedrock of American wealth. However, one could argue that the European settlers probably screwed it up to. The “Red Indians” didn’t have industrialization and money but they had a system that was close to nature and other than the odd tribal skirmish, there were no real wars. European settlers brought wealth but they also brought gross income inequality. The Red Indians may not have had industrial wealth but there was a system where ordinary people had a means of survival (you can always hunt, fish and gather crops).

Then, there’s the fact that the Europeans who went to America were not ordinary people from Europe. They were the people who were driven out of their homelands a special set of circumstances, rather like the Mexicans and Latin Americans today. Life couldn’t work for them in their so-called home lands and so they left and had no choice but to make the new place work. They were people with a certain amount of hunger to achieve things. Just as it is today, Americans and Europeans back then were different.

America has had the good fortune of being the place to go to for people who need to leave their homes and are forced to make it work in the place that they move to. These people were initially European but they’re no longer only ones. Today’s America is the place to go to for the hungry from Asia and Latin America, who are all doing their bit to drive America forward. Another investment guru, Jim Rodgers says that if given a chance, he’d hire the Cubans who risk life and limb to cross the Caribbean Sea just to get into America because these are the people with the drive to make things work.

The guys who wrote the Declaration of Independence were White and did do things like own slaves who happened to be black. However, their ideas, when put into practice helped people off all colours and creeds to prosper.

What were these ideas? The groundwork for American success has been the idea that everyone, if given the same chance, can succeed if they put in enough work. There’s also the concept that nobody is above the law. As much as my American friends might complain about there being too many lawyers, America prospered because it was founded on the idea of the “Rule of Law.” Circumstances more important than race.

I live in a part of the world where this could not be clearer. In Southeast Asia, the Chinese have shown a magical ability to build prosperous communities. By contrast, the Chinese in China have only started to enjoy prosperity in the last 40-years. The people in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are the same skin tone as the people from the People’s Republic of China but how did the first lot prosper so much while the later didn’t. The answer was the system -there was rule of law in Singapore and Hong Kong but not in China.  

Then there’s a question of openness. China remained closed to the world for more than half a century. Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan were open for business. We dealt with the world and learnt from the world. We prospered as a result. By contrast, China built a Great Wall and refused to trade with the world until they were forced to. It was only in 1979, when Deng Xia Peng took over, did the PRC open up. It was only then, when the country started to prosper.

Closed societies inevitably screw themselves. Until recently, most African countries were hell for foreign investors and they traded with nobody. Hence, they rotted away. It wasn’t because they were filled with black people.  

Dr. Faber is free to speak his mind but in this instance, he’s shown that he doesn’t get it. America prospered because it had the right people and the right ideas – the fact that they happened to be White is beside the point. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan prospered because we had the right people and the right ideas. The People’s Republic and India only started to prosper when it got the ideas – this was never clearer when the two Asian Giants were stuffed with poor people going nowhere but the rest of the world had plenty of prosperous Indian and Chinese communities.

Don’t invest in black or white – invest in the rule of law, in open societies and people with hunger. The returns are better. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

How Much More Education Do We Need?

I couldn’t agree more with Chia Kee Seng’s letter “Singapore should aim to be smoke-free, not just smoke-lite,” (5 October 2017). Smoking is a vile habit that is not only socially unacceptable but has fatal consequences. Even the tobacco companies no longer deny the fact that their products kill. Governments around the world are right to make life exceedingly difficult for the tobacco companies.

Having said that, I believe the Dr. Chia’s approach may not necessarily work in the way that he hopes. The strict “parent-knows-best” approach has the potential to make an unpleasant habit “cool” or “edgy” with the youth. Bans, while popular with politicians needing to look tough, have a way of making things more encouraging for smugglers. As for the suggestion of increasing public awareness, the point remains – the danger caused by smoking is a well-known fact that has been drilled into the public throughout the years and the literature on the ill effects of smoking is more readily available than ever. The question is “what else can you tell people” remains a prominent one.

Just as it’s been popular to talk about being “tough on crime and the causes of crime,” perhaps the time is right to look at being the same on smoking. Governments around the world are tough on smoking but are they tough on the causes of smoking? Surely the answer to reduce rates of smoking is to look at why people smoke and offer them alternatives. In a modern economy, the most obvious answer to a social ill is to offer alternatives.

Dr. Chia has argued that alternative smoking products like e-cigarettes are just as bad as actual tobacco products and applauds banning them. I believe that the better approach is to challenge the tobacco industry to prove that the alternative products are better. Philip Morris, the world’s largest tobacco firm talks about a “Smoke-Free Future” and surely the best way to deal with the likes of Philip Morris is to challenge them to be as good as their word. They should be made to prove that the products are not dangerous. If the alternative tobacco products are as bad as the actual tobacco, challenge them to develop a product that isn’t so. This will encourage more R&D, which means high paying jobs. The idea is to get the tobacco companies to use their “ill-gotten gains” to do some good for the wider social scene.

Another alternative is to look at encouraging more physical/outdoor activities. There is enough science to show that exercise reduces the harmful effects of smoking. Earlier this year, the Independent Newspaper in the UK reported that Iceland had found a way to reduce teenage drinking, smoking and substance abuse by making physical activity more available – i.e getting kids to go for the “natural high” from physical activity. This is something worth doing and the government should look into increasing opportunities for the youth to do more exercise.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Drawing the Line Somewhere.

Life has been a little strange to be me because I usually have more sympathy for migrants than I do for the native-born. You could say that I was privileged to live the “expat” lifestyle in places like Spain, Germany and England, so I had a very coloured view of being a foreigner in someone else’s land.  Even when I started boarding at the age of 15, I was to all intents a “privileged” person.

Even when I lost the privileges of the “expat” background and Daddy’s backing (also known as growing up in the real world), I remained sympathetic to migrants, especially the Muslim variety. I grew up in England, where I ended up sympathizing with the South Asian chaps over the Anglo-Saxons. I grew up with jokes like “Why did the Romans build straight roads? – The stop the Paki’s from building corner shops.” Jokes like this came from a truism – Paki Muslim migrants built corner shops while the locals collected the dole.” When I returned to Singapore, it was the Indians and the Arab Muslims who gave me big breaks, while my own people wondered why I wasn’t good enough to become a servant of the government or a multinational run out of New York or London.

With all this being said of my background, you could say that it’s no surprise that my internal reactions towards the likes of Trump, Le Pen and the other right-wing populist popping up all over the world, are intrinsically violent. I look at someone like Donald Trump and his rhetoric against Mexicans and Muslims and his half-hearted condemnation of Neo-Nazi’s and I see the enemy of the people who cared for me. If Donald Trump were in Asia, he’d be the typical overbearing White Executive who can’t help beating the natives about how their livelihoods depend on his benevolence. For me, I’ve been fortunate to never run into that type because the alternative to dealing with such a person is to resign or get fired before you do violence to that thing.

I know a few people who’ve suggested that my intrinsic hatred for the “anti-immigrant” overwhelming white supremacist might have something to do with the fact that I’ve lived a “sheltered” life. For example, I’ve never had “cheaper” labour from elsewhere displace me. Just as I realise that it’s my good fortune to be born with the mentality not to go to government whenever I’m down, it also my good fortune to be born with the ability to imagine that whatever my misfortunes, it never occurred to me to think of it as the fault of someone else born elsewhere.

So, am I unusual and confined to an “ivory tower” when I am physically unable to sympathise with the call of far-right populist? I like to think not and I was recently relieved to find out that its actually natural to think of right-wing populist as disgusting, when I spoke to Thomas, my step-dad during the German elections.

Image result for ghetto
However bad this may look.......

Unlike me, Thomas has deals with the worst stereotype of the struggling Muslim migrant. For past two decades or more, he’s worked in a hospital that serves the lowest of the low. He once mentioned that the joy of delivering a baby is often ruined with the realization that the baby is bound to grow up with a shit life because the parents are often shit (drug using louts etc).

Amongst his worst clients are usually members of Germany’s Muslim migrants. These are the type that come to Germany and the only word of German they understand is the word for the “welfare office.” In short, his clients are living and breeding off the taxes that he pays. He also deals with incidents of women who are victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence (often but always at the hands of family members).

You would imagine that someone with his experiences might be more inclined to listen to the voice of the far-right xenophobes. Yet, when I spoke to him about the results of the German elections, his only comment on the rise of the far right “Alternative fur Deutschland” (“AfD) was “Simply Disgusting.”
For all that is wrong with the Muslim Migrant community in Germany, my stepfather, is like many good people in Germany – there’s worse – the philosophy of the far right extremist.

Image result for Concentration Camps
This is inevitably worse

You could say that in many ways, we are shaped by the experiences of our parents before us as much as we are shaped by our own. In my stepdad’s case, it was growing up with a father who fought of the Russian front and got scared fighting for a regime that the likes of the AfD seem to romanticize.
As bad as the migrants may be, as bad as a backward version of Islam may be, it should be clear to any level-headed person that the solutions preached by the extreme right are not solutions that any decent people should stand for.

Germany was ruled by the Nazi’s who blamed everything on the Jews. The killed lots of Jews, Gypsies and so on.  Instead of a stronger Germany, there was a weakened Germany that needed the rest of the Western World, particularly the USA, to bail her out with Marshal Aid. The economic dynamo in the centre of Europe that is modern Germany, is because modern Germany became a society that allowed different people to flourish and it was a society that took responsibility for its mistakes. Germany continues to pay for the Holocaust and it will continue to do so. No right-minded person in Germany would be caught dead chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Migrants bring problems as well as benefits and policy makers need to figure out how to minimize the problems while maximizing the benefits. The answer, as history and the state of the current US administration, has shown, is not in being singling out and pinning life’s woes on any particular group of people.  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Oh No – Not Again.

I somehow managed to avoid posting anything about Exercise Swift Lion despite the fact that it was the 20th anniversary of that very dark period my life and the life of everyone I served together with. It was a moment in our youth when we had the horrible, heart-break experience of having to watch our friends come home in a body bag. It’s been 20-years since but I still remember what Ronnie’s face looked like in casket – it didn’t look anything like him. He was a good guy who had his whole life ahead of him and he didn’t deserve to have it cut down because some bureaucrat in defense procurement couldn’t be bothered to their checks properly. For me, it was a moment of being sad, scared and pissed off.

I spend 19-years making sure I had something to say about that incident because I felt and I still feel that if Ronnie and Yin Tit had to die, they shouldn’t have died in vain. It’s the feeling of knowing that you’re not much of the scale of things but you try your best to make sure that no other kids have to go through the same thing that you went through.

Well, I somehow let my usual piece lapse. I paid my respects on the online Facebook forum that was set up for our batch but that was all that I did. In one way, it’s probably a good sign that we’ve finally reached the stage where you’re able to let the dead lie where they are and you think that the sadness, pain and fear that you felt on that day has finally subsided.
Then, the news tells you otherwise – I’m now reading about a boy, who was pretty much like Ronnie (last to book out, first to book in, always helpful to colleagues and his men and never having a bad word to say about anyone) being crushed to death when his armoured vehicle turned sideways and ended up crushing him. The story can be read at -

Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle
The Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle 

When I read about such incidents, my heart sinks a little bit more. You get a little pissed off with whatever divine powers are out there for thinking it’s very funny to knock of the good ones.
Then, there’s a feeling of sadness that someone out there is feeling the same sadness that you once had to experience. In a way, I’m blessed with the fact that the immediate child in my life is a girl, so she won’t have the same army type experience I had (not that girls are easy to deal with) but then again, that’s not true. There was Yooga, son of my ex-girlfriend. I’d be crushed if the little bugger was crushed by an armoured vehicle or blown up in a live firing accident. While I’ve not had these major accidents happen to me directly, having seen it once and having had to live through the aftermath and the grief, I ask myself – why should anyone be forced to live through the grief?

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The Happy Part that the Minister gets to See 

I don’t know why young boys get killed through accidents like these. Only sign of progress since that day 20-years ago is that there’s greater public participation in reporting these incidents. At least we got to know that the late 3SG Gavin Chan was one of the good guys and knowing that should inspire someone out there to try and do something to ensure such incidents don’t happen. I only wish we could have made it known that Ronnie and Yin Tit were part of the good guys and didn’t deserve to get cut down when they were cut down.