What does MH370 and the Korean ferry tragedy have in common?

April 18, 2014

Travelling by air, sea and even driving can all appear seemingly safe. In reality, they’re all highly dangerous. That may not seem so as technology has successfully lulled us into a false sense of security. We travel at breakneck speed through thirty seven thousand feet in a pressurised cabin – where the only thing that separates us from certain death is a thin veneer of aluminium and insulation without ever once contemplating how small and fragile we really are.

We sail through the peaks and valleys of the seven seas often oblivious to death as technology makes it possible for us to feel as if we just walking around a giant air conditioned mall…and often we drive without even realising that the only thing that separates us from the finality of death is a few feet of crumple zone – as automobile designers have successfully sold us the idea with cup holders and vanity mirrors that light up automatically, our cars are nothing more than extensions of our living room…..but make no mistake….we are in dangerous territory.

And when something goes wrong….we….as humans….never ever say to ourselves…yes, we are indeed fragile….and living is dangerous…instead, we look for someone to blame.

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‘Recently I read there was a Singaporean intellectual (I had no idea there was such a thing actually). A thinker! I am not kidding. I sumpah! If I bluff you all, I undertake to run three times around the padang with my ass painted fire engine red. The sight will be a success….not so sure about the smell though – anyway this ‘intellectual’ wrote recently that if there is a war, Singaporeans will fight to the death because they all believe in this fuzzy idea of the Singaporean spirit.

Well all I can say is this chap is either babbling while puffing on his ganja pipe or maybe he has never ever in his life had to lug a 60kg backpack thru the jungle before. I doubt he even knows what it’s like to sleep in your boots after a hard day’s trek as you’re so beat that you can even sleep hanging upside down like a bat. Because that is what the jungle can do to you…..it (the jungle) can literally turn your whole life upside down and shake you so long and hard till there’s nothing left that you can really call your own….your beliefs can all crumble into a heap of dust…you can even betray yourself and everything that you stand for given enough time.

Spending time in the jungle to me is like interrogation. You only think. You even believe you can hold out – but understand this! You cannot! You think its mind over matter, but you are so wrong. I’ve seen this happen so many times, to even good men. Men who I respect and don’t even mind sharing a quart of brandy with the evening as the sun goes down in the verandah… but put them in a jungle long enough and the combination of damp, lousy food, skin rashes and what I can only describe as the scouring litany brought forth by having to function day to day in the jungle can just turn perfectly well adjusted and reasonable men into animals, that’s because the jungle is a very dangerous place and our mind’s, bodies and spirit will always be weak.

To me there is no shame in admitting this reality. Because when you accept the idea our bodies, mind and spirit is inherently fragile, that’s really when you come to terms with your real strength and weaknesses….and most importantly you discover humility and that is the skeleton key that allows you to cultivate a deep respect for jungle, mountain, sea or just a stretch of road…you give it the respect it deserves because it can kill you dead!

That’s the defining difference between the man who knows a thing from the inside out and a man who only knows how to string empty words that all add up to nothing.

I reckon, I’ve led enough expeditions to know deep down what really works and will endure from what only sounds good and doesn’t even have the stamina to last 24 hours….but I am going to keep it all to myself…because if there is ever a war, I want to kill as many as I can….I will even keep score…I want to place the cold cinder of fear into their hearts of the enemy….make him sweat blood, breathe in needles and turn his brain into jelly…above all, I want all my men to return home safely to their families….so I’ll keep it all to myself, the reason why men will fight on. There are some things I dont mind sharing, but then again, there are always other things I much prefer to keep to myself…..as these things will always be very dangerous in a seemingly safe and care free world.’

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