Tea and sympathy


Oops, I did it again. Got lazy with my personal life, that is. I think it’s ridiculous, but I’d happily push away thoughts of family and friends when I get into a busy spell with ‘work’. But that’s a terrible excuse.

If it’s any recompense, I’d like to share two things:

  • A documentarian, Sean Langan, had his freedom taken from him by the Taliban three months ago, and was only released last week. His story is a compelling one, with some startling revelations of how twisted things really are. For example:

    He was horrified that, when the first accusations of espionage emerged, Mr C demanded his children’s names.

    “I began to sob,” he said. “I was in this dark place and had missed my son’s fourth birthday, and he was bringing my innocent child into this place.

    “I refused to give him the names. My fixer was saying you’ve got to, otherwise they will kill us. He was pleading.”

    Langan appealed to Mr C, saying that to demand details of his family was un-Islamic. “I was crying and then Mr C was crying, and the guards were crying. Later, Mr C brought a phone and showed me some images.

    “The first was [of] a child of about nine with a bomb strapped to him being prepared for a suicide mission. The next image was the bomb going off with some American soldiers.

    “It was like he was showing me that he could see this was wrong [demanding his children’s names] and saying he was empathising [with his child’s innocence] by showing me this child suicide bomber. As if they were comparable.”

  • At one point, Langan says of his cell, “We were in this room for 12 weeks,” he said. “There was a hole, three inches by five, which was my only view of the outside world. I could see a couple of branches of an apricot tree. I could see two apricots grow and develop and butterflies and fields beyond. It kept me going, thinking about the outside world and English values that could be lost, like tea and sympathy and tolerance and basic humanity.” (Emphasis mine.)

    Not exclusively English values, one would think, but point taken. “Civilisation” is perhaps what he’s hinting at, though the interviewer takes pains to point out that Langan was not exactly in a frame of mind for subtleties after his release. It got me wondering what would be Singaporean values that could be yearned for and/or taken away (presence defined by advent of absence?).

    “I try to tell the younger generation that and they say the old man is playing the same record, we’ve heard it all before. I happen to know how we got here and I know how we can unscramble it.” From a recent public appearance by MM Lee — is it obvious that it’s him? I thought the last line was kinda haunting, and not a little ominous.

    I don’t think Singapore post-LKY will be in as much trouble as Apple post-Jobs, but I think it’s worthwhile paying heed to another bit of doomsaying by him: “When you’re Singapore and your existence depends on performance — extraordinary performance, better than your competitors — when that performance disappears because the system on which it’s been based becomes eroded, then you’ve lost everything.”

    Back to that bit about me overindulging in work — I realise that in some way pride comes into it. Not just personal or professional pride, but national pride. Even though, with the advantage of distance, I am more able to look upon my country with clear-eyed perspective rather than misty-eyed romanticisation, I don’t think I can bear to feel that I’ve besmirched its name in any way. And I will despise anyone who is insecure enough to cast aspersions on us without facts, figures or any virtue to boast of in his/her own territory.

I’m afraid this post has got all ranty and sad. So I shall leave you with The Happy Song (“D, A and G, those three chords, they equal something … happy”).


One thought on “Tea and sympathy

  1. As an aside, I wonder on the actions of the man. He who had consciously entered into the situation and who is totally aware of the consequences of his actions, has he been “fair” to his family and friends who must have been worried sick about him. Although i will think that it all doesn’t matter. He had already decided what road he wanted to take. Regardless of what others think.

    Just some ramblings….

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