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Of responsibilities, Tun Dr. Mahathir and Ike

June 13, 2011

I’m back in JB. Left KL at about 6 pm earlier today. I was naturally expecting the worst traffic-wise due to the end of the 2-week long school holidays today. I was pleasantly surprised that traffic was fine considering my earlier expectations, which was good. What’s not so good was that I missed the MotoGP race from Silverstone. Since moving to JB, I’ve only been able to watch the races on Monday, when Star Sports have a repeat on. Only being able to watch the race after knowing the results is never a good thing. Takes away all the sense of anticipation from it all. Anyway, the news of today’s race would definitely be Colin Edwards getting 3rd place while racing with a broken collarbone. I tell you these guys have b***s of steel. They’re all superheroes without the shadow of a doubt. If I were to break my collarbone (I hope I never do) I probably wouldn’t come close to doing any sort of physical activity for a minimum of two weeks. Mr. Edwards sustained the injury 8 days ago and rode in a race today. Kudos and congratulations are in order to Colin Edwards! You have my undying respect Sir.

Moving swiftly on. We all have responsibilities. Some big, some small. In any case, we are all responsible for something. In my view, as soon as we know how to think and are aware of ourselves, we are at the very least responsible for taking care of ourselves. Obviously, as we grow, the level of responsibility adds on (or rather piles up). A student would be responsible to ensure his/her grades are good. And also to ensure he/she lives the lifestyle needed to be in the best possible condition in order to perform well in his/her studies. That kind of thing.

As an adult, the sphere of duties and responsibilities takes a totally new dimension. What more if we are married. As a man, I am entrusted with the general well-being, welfare and to a certain extent, the lives of my family members. At work, I am responsible to protect my employer from any legal risks and to ensure, all transactions move smoothly, at least from the legal point of view (which at times may not be easy). And I also have to do everything within my power to watch over the welfare of the staff who report to me. Finally, I have to keep myself healthy for me to be able to perform all the said duties. My point is, I honestly believe that I have a lot on my plate. I think I’m at the point of being overloaded with responsibilities and I feel it’s a huge weight on my rather puny shoulders.

You know, that got me thinking. Everyday we hear stories of extraordinary people. People who thumbed their nose at adversity and difficulty and made it through. And also people who dare to be different. Took risks and stood in front of others who doubted them. Or people who came back from huge disadvantage and succeeded, becoming individuals they never thought they could be. These are the truly great ones and we aspire to be like them. Not exactly like them, but in our own way of course.

An example of an individual who belongs in the above select group is our very own Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. From a medical student who wrote articles in the Singapore Straits Times, he overcame adversity to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia. This is a guy who was expelled from the Malay-majority party, the party from which Prime Ministers came from. He came back, stronger than ever and ended up showing Malaysia the way. Now that’s a comeback story for you. I honestly believe we will never be where we are now without his genius. A truly great person whose ideas have revolutionised the way a country is run, the way Malays think and do things and a host of other things. I for one, hope this great statesman lives forever. Which is impossible. Well, maybe in our hearts and minds.

The other day, I watched a movie on Cinemax. It was about General (Five Star) Dwight D. Eisenhower (affectionately known as “Ike”). He was the allied Supreme Commander during World War 2. He orchestrated the landing of Allied forces on the coast of Normandy on 6 June 1944, which is commonly known now as D-Day. The landing was a pre-cursor to the liberation of France from Nazi rule and the eventual overthrow of the Reich. The thing that caught my attention was at the planning stage of the operation, Ike was informed that due to violent weather conditions, the casualty rate of the paratroopers of the 6th Airborne Division who would be dropped on the east of River Orne would be close to 75%. I cannot imagine the level of trepidation in his heart and mind at the thought of sacrificing that many men, young men at that.

After doing lots of research and keeping up to date with hourly weather forecasts, Ike decided to go for it, while at the same time getting a lot of stick from one of his fellow Allied colleague, Air Chief Marshall Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory from the United Kingdom. Ike stuck to his guns and the rest as they say, is history. During the operation, Ike received a message from Leigh Mallory, apologising for doubting him (which spoke volumes about Leigh-Mallory’s character). Later, Ike entered politics and became the US’ 34th President from 1953 to 1961.

Now, as a matter of comparison, how would I be able to rank the above 2 individuals’ compared to what I am “burdened” with at this time? I would just be nowhere. Tun Dr. Mahathir made judgment calls on policies affecting the future of a country (a country where my family and I are citizens). A mistake would be catastrophic. As I said, the quality of the man is reflected on the relative quality of life we are all experiencing at the moment (well some experience more quality than others of course). As for Ike, it’s literally about considering, “how many guys do I send to their deaths today?”. That’s as crazy as a responsibility can get. Yet he did it and interestingly, on the day, the casualty rate was only 20% as opposed to 75% as was earlier expected.

Ike and Tun Dr. Mahathir respectively define the terms guts and responsibility. These are the type of guys we should all aspire to be like. Certain facets of them at least. As for me, I guess it’s about doing the best of my ability at what I am entrusted with now. And if I chip hard enough at the blocks, I may just get to be probably 5% to 10% of the above guys and I’d be happy.

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