"What is the difference between being a fool and a hero? .....Timing"
- TV Serial , Tour of Duty, 1987-1990.
When I was young, I loved this TV series called Tour Of Duty. It was about the adventures of a platoon in the Vietnam War. You do learn a few things about loyalty, heroism, comaradarie and patriotism watching it. In one of the episodes, an entertainment unit (something like our own Music Drama Company) came over to entertain them. After the show, one of the entertainers came over to talk to the guys in the platoon. He was disappointed that he got drafted to army to perform in a band, he wanted to serve his country by fighting and had requested for a combat posting. He was full of idealism and patriotism. As soon as he left, the guys started laughing at him and calling him a fool. Here was a guy surrounded by pretty girls everyday living the good life singing his favorite songs and he wanted risk his life to join them in the jungle fighting vietcongs....oh what an idiot.
A week later the entertainer turned up at the platoon to the dismay of the everyone - of all the platoons in Vietnam, he got posted to this one. They all find his patriotism and idealism difficult to accept. Is this guy delusional or what? Driven by his beliefs, he did everything with pride and honor and that was seen by his platoon mates as something foolish. One day there a few vietcongs were spotted near the camp and the platoon was sent on a mission to hunt them down. Everyone in the platoon except the entertainer was cursing their bad luck. The entertainer as usual performed his duty enthusiastically - that really got on the nerve of everyone who by then had developed a dislike for him. The platoon set off on their mission, trudging through mud and haunted by gunshots fired in all directions. The ghostly enemy was again toying with their minds and causing them to be fearful. The gunshots stopped for while and the platoon found a spot to take a 5 minute break. While sitting around, the vietcongs lobbed grenade right in front of them. They looked at each other in the next few seconds - you can tell from their eyes ..."this is it guys...our turn to go". The entertainer dived onto the live grenade using his body as a shield. The grenade went off killing the entertainer but everyone else was saved. It was only at that moment that everyone realised he was a hero. It was only when he sacrificed himself for them that they understood that his beliefs, ideals and patriotism actually mattered.
While Tan Kin Lian stepped forward when he was badly needed in the minibond saga, Chee started his fight when we were all looking forward to the Swiss standard of living in the 90s. While we were all busy shopping for fondue pots, his message that change was much needed fell on deaf ears. People are just not very receptive when they have the money to eat at restaurants, shop along Orchard and decide which FullHD TV to buy. They can't see the importance of the ideals of justice and equality when their incomes are increasing. It is only when they lose their jobs and can only find one that pays $1000 a month that they realise the importance of a minimum wage. It is only when they cannot afford their utilities and have it cut off tha they see the importance of helping the poor. It is only when they need that expensive cancer drug or have a newborn with congenital disease that is not covered by their insurance policy that they understand the inherent weakness of medical care based on insurance. The wool over the people's eyes can be especially thick when the govt can manage the information in the newspapers and tell everyone what they want them to hear.
If they can make a man who is driven by nothing but his ideals and his belief that we deserve our freedom and equality out to be a fool, they can also turn their broken policies into masterpieces. In the show, the sergent was asked by his men, how did they ever make this mistake of calling a real hero a fool. The sergent replied it was all timing. People will not see the value of your sacrifice until they need it. Tan Kin Lian took a great risk to step forward in a big way - in the past he did take on smaller issues like Income's bonus policies etc - but only when he was needed...people call him a hero and rightfully so because he made a big sacrifice. In some ways, the current financial crisis is like the grenade that went off in the show, times have changed and perceptions will change. People will come to undertand the importance of democracy, justice and equality. Sacrifices that were made in the past... people will come understand. When JBJ passed away, the PM called him a man who tried to "destroy the system"....but the people....they are all beginning to see that he was trying to improve the system. Where is the delusion? It is high up in the ivory tower our elites have build for themselves and their ridiculous salaries. The real fools among us are the people who lost more than $18B of tax payers money mis-investing in troubled western banks and those who lost millions of TC money. They are the ones who should be answering questions, not Chee and his supporters who were hauled into court for wearing T-shirts.