Thursday, November 13, 2008

Last Post to the First Amongst Us

It's been a rather hectic 72 hours, where I should probably be dropping like a fly, half drunk on cheap brandy. Had to facilitate a client interview on Tuesday before rushing up to KL for an event at Vinod's. Was a good adventure to ride up to KL and discover a bit of Malaysia. Thanks to Vinod, I actually got spend a bit more time in KL than planned, but ended up rushing down to facilitate another interview with Bloomberg at quite an early hour. Everything went well, but I've decided, for some strange reason to stay up.

It's a fairly significant three days. On Tuesday, the 11th of November, it was Armristice Day, the day that officially ended World War One, which is in many ways one of the worst wars in history but one that tends to get burried by World War Two. I've become less observant of this day since I moved back. I think it has something to do with the fact that in this part of the world, we weren't really touched by it - a case of this being an affair of our colonial masters in Europe. World War Two is a little different - Singapore became a Japanese colony and I think that brought the reality of the wars back home to us in the colonies.

But I think, having once served in uniform, even if it was for an army that will thankfully never see combat, and having attened the funerals of two colleagues while in uniform, I believe its worth the effort to remember the soldiers who end up getting killed in wars. Soliders often get a bad rep in the halls of universities and in movies. That's a shame and its a demonstration of the shit that fills the minds of our young in places where they're supposed to learn. If you look at countries with armies that actually fight wars, you'll find that it's those who have been in the military that are the least blood thirsty. Look at the Bush Administration - an Administration that claims to have fought wars to make people safe. The only decent person who understood that war was not a game was Colin Powel, former Secratery of State and a full general. He alone saw combat and did not support the war in Iraq (though he did try to sell it to the UN) and as a result was removed from an adminstration filled with callous cowards.

War, as the good war poets have often reminded us, is a game played with the lives of young men by old men. Contrary to what film producers may light to tell you, war is for the most part a brutal experience that brings out the worst in humanity. Look at Africa, a continent that continues to see most of the world's wars and other nasties like poverty, disease and malnutrition. What's noticeable is that Africa is also the continent with most of the world's precious resources like diamonds, forrest, gold, oil and so on. The men ontop simply cannot resist the lure of trying to grab hold of the goodies and they're not terribly bothered by who they screw up in the process.

Let's face it, lives get lost during any armed conflict and those that live usually end up getting scared by the experience. As such, it beats me why anyone with intellegence and up bringing can support armed conflict when there are other alternatives to resolve disputes. Look at World War One, millions died in what was essentially a family squable between the Royal Families of Europe. What did the men who sacrificed their lives in places like the Somme get - a world order that would lead to another war that killed even more people

So, let's give the Europeans some credit. The experience of World War Two so shocked them that they created the EU, a super national institution that has become a by word for peace and prosperity. OK, the EU is not perfect - there are genuine cases of corruption amongst the Eurotocracy and there are riddiculous bureacratic rules that get imposed on ordinary people with no purpose. The EU also looks powerless and irrelevant when you think of its lack of military muscle against the USA. However, when you think of the original aims of the EU, namely to eliminate the possibility of war on the continent, it's succeed brilliantly. Within 50-years, we can now speak of a Franco-German alliance as a force of good rather than a worry of conflict (European history is a long story of Franco-German conflict). States that once suffered under the terror of Communism can now find a source of security and prosperity under the EU. It's something worth thinking about.

But it's taken a million lives, lives that never got a chance to live their full potential to get the developed world to a stage where the young have a luxury of worrying about the latest handphone trends instead of getting blown to bits in a family squable before their 25th birthday.

Sure, there are times when it is necessary to fight. If the nation state is invaded, it is only natural for the citizens to take up arms. But there is utterly no excuse for wars of agression or wars that are fought incompetently. A President or Prime Minister who sends the troops in without a clear objective or objectives based on greed is sacrificing human life for the sake of it and does not deserve office - although it's not often wise to advocate military coups, I think the miltary is entitled to remove a head of state or government if that head of state or government sends the military into a situation with no clear objectives. I'm with General Danton, the British Army's Chief of Staff when he says that soldiers who are willing to take the Queen's shilling should be ready to go where Her Majesty sends them.

However, I believe that leadership cannot expect loyalty without being loyal in return. A leader cannot expect people to sacrifice their lives for him or her if he or she is unable to show they care for the lives of their troops and will ask the troops to make that sacrifice unless necessary. A leader who sends the troops into combat for the fun of it is traitor and just as we expect the harshest of penalties when the troops break that trust, we should apply the same to the top when they betray that trust - Bush and the neoCONS come to mind! Seriously, the President of the USA has to defend the nation against "Enemies both forign and domestic," not "Be the enemy." - If you do not call sending young men and women to die in a war based on lies and deception as treason, what else can you call it?

For the most part, we live a good life, but that's only because the people before us have fought for it. It's a fact worth remembering and worth paying tribute to. Call me wierd but one of the things that pisses me off about Young Brits is how they've become obsessed "Cool Britania" and have no time for a moment of silence on Armristice Day. It's like the Australian Song "And the Band Played Waltzin Matilda" (not to be confused with Waltzin Matila) - the old troopers are dying off and the young ask what they're marching for. Between a politician who plans and a soldier who gives his life, I salute the soldier and despise the politician. Colin Powel tells a story of how one of his commanding generals made all the officers about face and salute their soldiers.

And so, there you have it. All that is good in our lives today came as a result of someone's sacrifice. I'm all for moving on and living life but its always important to remember that people have given their lives for us. At the very least - be greatful that it was not you who died.

For me, I was privilleged this week to speak to Thui. It was her birthday today (13 November). She was having a party with her friends and took the time out to tell me that she was fine and she misses me. It felt good to speak to her on her birthday and I'm greatful to Han Li for allowing me the small mercy of being able to speak to the little girl.

I have to accept that it's not my destiny to play a more significant role in her life. All I can be is thankful for the small moments when she's able to touch my rather dreary existence. Funny how a little child holds so much power in her to remind me that its actually a joy to have something more in life than yourself.





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