Monday, March 09, 2009

Moving On

In a minuites time the 9th of March will go by and I will through the 12th anniversary of the accident that killed two good friends in New Zealand. What the Singapore Armed Forces called Excercise Swift Lion was probably a dinfining moment in the lives of myself and the men who were the 23rd Battalion Singapore Artillery's 7th Mono-Intake. I can't speak for the rest of the group and although I didn't see the accident, I try to write about it on a regular enough basis. As the groups most prolific writer, I guess that's what I have to do to ensure that the event does not fade into obscurity. 

On the most superficial level, the pain of that incident is fadding. Tweleve Years on, nearly every army colleague I run into is busy getting on with life. People are getting married, having children and making life go on as it should. As the group's perpetual misfit, I spent the better part of the day in the company of a woman I obviously cannot be with but so obviously feel a connection for and with. The time I spent in her company will probably have consequences, but the happiness I had will be worth it. 

So, as you can see, even the misfit is able to find a moment of happiness on  a day that was darkest in a carefree youth.

How can one define moments like Swift Lion? Yes, I can aknowledge that the dead have long been burried and the living move on. It's the way that life should be. Then again, moving on is not moving on until you realise the significance of the moment.

For me, I think Swift Lion was one of those moments that wakes you up. As physically demanding as National Service is, it is by and large a game and when you look back on many of the incidents in National Service, it's fun. I mean, I'm not a gun person but thanks to National Service, I learnt how to shoot and just as many can brag about how "My First Car was a Porche," I can boast that "My First Riffle was an M16," - and if you look at the history on the M16 that's something to be proud of.

So, you go through National Service and you sort of learn how to live the rest of your life - you bitch and moan but in actual fact you cannot imagine yourself doing anything else. Even the lessons in "leadership" seem quite fun. All the talk about "sacrifice," and "life" are just that - talk - cause it doesn't affect you.

Then, one day, out of the blue, one of your good friends comes home in a casket and Ronnie's case it was "Open Casket," which meant you saw how a caring and loving human being was turned into what can be politely called a wax work dummy. The damage done to him by that exploding shell was so great, I hate to think of what the embalmers had to do to make him vaguely recognisable. 

Suddenly, you realise that it's no longer a game and life ends just like that...with an explosion of a shell. I mean, its one thing to watch a horrific war movie's quite another when you have to attend a funeral of a close friend and hear the sobbing and blind rage of a mother who has just lost her only son. I think, it made us, a group of young punks, realise that what were doing had a human cost to it. 

It's like this...much of what we do in life is pretty routine, you might say just plain dull. For those of us working for someone else, we might just be going through the motions. As one retiering school teacher said, "Every day I spend hear is another dollar in my pocket." He was right, much of the world is about going through motions and collecting your paycheck at the end of everyday.

I don't think most of us stop to think about the human cost to what we do. Back in the days of National Service, we certainly didn't. I mean, wasn't the objective of National Service to count down to your ORD (Opperationally Ready Date)? Then your friend comes home in a casket and then you realise that what you do has a human cost to it. 

In the few in camps I went to until my back got injured, I would be told..."You know that incident in New Zealand...this is what the comittee found." There you have it, the committee spoke and that is that. I can't help but feel that its a little too convenient. Perhaps I've become cynical with age but fact finding committes sound like a way of removing blame from vested interest. 

Why can't we do something more serious like teach people in the defense procurement industry that they're actions or lack of them have a human cost? I suppose that would involve serious investment in time and it would hinder the powers that be from the real business of making money. 

Life is like that I suppose. People on the top come up with all sorts of grand visions. In our "Top-Down" society, we're always waiting for the wise men on the top to come up with some grand vision. I suppose it works. The people at the top just dream and get well paid for it and the people at the bottom enjoy it because they're spared the harsh task of thinking. It's too bad nobody actually thinks about the human cost. I mean if the bottom actually considered the things they'd have to pay in human actions, they may actually take a bit more interest in trying to shape their own destiny. Too bad, the human cost seems to convenient to ignore.  

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