Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Every Now and Then I get a Little ...bye bye

It’s been a fairly useless and unproductive but an enjoyable day. I managed to spend Monday night in the Conrad Hotel thanks to a good friend of mine who had booked it for some fun and then passed the room to me. Love sleeping in good hotels. Managed to get a wonderful shower, or rather two good showers and slept in a big fluffy bed. Also managed to get my fill of cable TV, something I've not really watched since Dad moved off to Thailand and the family unit went its separate ways. - Was kind of anti-climatic - was trying to watch rugby but had to settle for a French movie about a nymphomaniac without the interesting details of being a nymphomaniac.

After get-up time, the day was spent with Han Li, who had just come back from Vietnam. She's looking really good and we got to have lunch together. We talked and I took her on a short shopping trip - mainly groceries. Talked a bit and I guess I really have to cobble together the money to go to Vietnam.

Highlight of the day was speaking to Thui. Felt really good. I have not spoken to the little tyke for quite a while and had been surviving on watching silly videos I had shot of her on my phone. HL tells me that she asks about me and when I'm coming over to Vietnam. OK, I guess its my turn to make the return journey, this was something we had talked about a while back and I just got to get out of my way and do it.

Besides, I'm told that Vietnam is very up and coming. This is SEA's second largest population with 76 million people and if Han Li is anything to go by - they are hungry to go places and they have an incredible sense of optimism about the future. I think its rightly pointed out that the Vietnamese are the people who held of the French, Americans and Mainland Chinese in major military conflicts and yet today, the Vietnamese have welcomed all their former enemies with open arms (well, not quite with the Chinese).

My mother and Aunt do worry about my relationship with Han Li. To quote my mother, "Your Aunt has lived in Vietnam and she knows the people, they're all survivors and ruthless." Funnily enough, I know HL is a tough cookie and a hustler of the highest order, but that's what I like best about her. If HL is representative of the Vietnamese people, I think we should all find a way to invest in the place. Give the Vietnamese (particularly those with Chinese Blood - as I think HL has) a piece of shit and they'll turn it into a thriving business. Give a Singaporean with ten times the education and the working capital the same piece of shit and they'll whine allot about it, bitch about the government being mean to them and then expect someone in the government to plan their destiny for them.

Meet two guys from New Zealand over dinner. Talked about rugby - All Blacks are great and Singapore TV channels are royally screwing people who enjoy a good game by not showing any games on TV. Mentioned I was part of a batch that was meant to go out to New Zealand to do live firing and one of the guys actually remembered Exercise Swift Lion. He was in the NZ Army and knew where the accident happened.

It's been ten-years since Ronnie and Yin Tit were killed when their FH2000 blew-up. It's amazing how time has passed. I think I've gotten used to the idea that someone I was close to and knew to be as good a person as you can get was robbed of his life. I mean, for the most part, most of us have moved on. We don't visit Ronnie's grave to commemorate his death (9 March, 1997) the way we used to. For the most part, the living have continued to live. Every time I run into an army colleague, they're already married and on their second child. I like to think that the two guys who were killed in that incident would want us to carry on living our lives.

But for me, at least, that incident said allot about the institution I was serving. For those of us who were close to the guys who were killed, we managed to pull together in our time of grief. For the powers that be, you got to see those who genuinely cared about the welfare of their soldiers and those who paid lip-service to idea of welfare for the troops but were in actual fact more interested in gaining political capital out of the tragedy.

A decade after the incident, I’m now catching glimpses of the society that I live in. For Singaporeans, Swift Lion has passed into the pages of the classified documents to be shelved away by some mindless bureaucrat. It’s an incident that mentally scared kids don’t want to talk about but we know what happened. These days, if you ask certain people about the incident, they’ll be quick to tell you that it wasn’t the fault of Singapore made technology – it was guess what – shoddy Mainland Chinese manufacturing that some careless American firm had, unbeknown to the Singapore arms industry, outsourced the manufacturing. (This is why I say, all credit to Mattel owning-up to their stupidity after blaming their subcontractors.).

I mean for crying out loud – two guys were killed in the line of duty and all that the institution seems to remember is – “It wasn’t our fault.” Seriously, human lives were lost and we don’t talk about it because – it does not reflect well on the institution and the nation and so on and so on and besides, it’s not our fault because someone else used a shoddy subcontractor!

New Zealanders are very different from us. You mention to a New Zealander that you were in the Singapore Artillery and they’ll remember an incident where two people died and they will express regret that two people died. That touches me. New Zealanders have no reason to care about two foreign troopers who died and yet those who know of the incident can somehow express the tragedy of the whole situation whilst Singaporeans are so self-absorbed they would rather blame everyone else for the incident.

It really doesn’t say very much about the nation when it encourages and supports a culture that denies accountability who give their lives to the nation.

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