Category Archives: history

Korean War Memorial


bloom county war
Cartoon by Berke Breathed (Bloom County Babylon: Five Years of Basic Naughtiness)

The cartoon kinda sums up my confused state of mind.    When I was a wee lad, I grew up  on a diet of television series like “Combat”, movies like Chuck Norris’ “Missing in Action” and Commando War Comics. All of which tended to give a glorified and sanitized portrayal of war, in that, the bad guys are usually clearly viciously bad and deserve to be killed by the virtuous good guy heroes who almost always just get flesh wounds.

Slide1

And so, I grew up playing soldier and even cowboys and Indians.  Only later did I begin to understand that war is almost never clear cut black and white and it’s not just the bad guys that get killed.  I learned about “collateral damage”, “civilian casualties”, “killing fields” and “genocide”. I began to see that war wasn’t cool.

Today, I consider myself to be firmly in the peace-loving, pacifist, flower-power camp.  Or at least, that’s who I grew up to be.  And yet, I confess that I was excited to have the opportunity, with my brother,  to visit the Korean War Memorial and their open air collection of war machines.  Please forgive this relapsing war-junkie as I guiltily present some photos from that visit.

IMG_2793
Enter Korean War Memorial (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2754
The front of the Monument showing the brave and valiant fighters (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2755
The rear of the Monument showing perhaps the suffering of the people (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2763
F86L Sabre (Photo by LGS’ brother)
IMG_2769
F-51D Mustang (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2772
The opposing MIG 19 (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2776
LGS valiantly defending against air attack (Photo by LGS’ brother)
IMG_2787
The Hardware of War (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2768
American Tanks (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2780
Cool-looking attack boat (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2781
This Patrol Boat actually took place in the Second Battle of Yeonpyeong and still carries the scars of the battle to repel a North Korean naval incursion in 2002 in which 6 South Koreans lost their lives. The red holes are battle damage. (Photo by LGS)
Advertisements

The Good Ol’ Days


Ah, the good ol’ days.  Will we, in Malaysia, ever see the likes of those heady days again?

The year was 1980.  The nation was not that wealthy but we were rich in natural resources, bolstered by a burning hope for a brighter future and rich because we enjoyed a very special and unique heritage of multiculturalism in which there was much mutual respect and appreciation between the main cultural groups of Malays, Chinese and Indians and also amongst the other minority groups.

It was a Malaysia that many of us were proud of.  And perhaps rather emblematic of the nation’s psyche and indeed the state of the nation at that time, was our national soccer (or football) team.  1980 represented the pinnacle of achievement for Malaysian football.  It was the year that our ragtag team of part-timers shrugged off a couple of years of middling performance, rallied under a new coach, forged a strong sense of identity and defeated the much feared and favoured South Korean powerhouse in dramatic fashion.  They scored the winning goal in the last 5 minutes of the match to win 2-1 and it meant we qualified for the Moscow Olympics.  We even beat Arsenal and held other visiting professional clubs to a draw.

Unfortunately, the team did not get a chance to play at the Olympics as Malaysia joined the U.S. led boycott of the games in protest over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.  Yet, despite the disappointment, it did not seem to matter cause the country was filled with optimism that better days and greater achievements lay ahead for soccer team and for the country.

As it turned out, Malaysia’s fortunes in the beautiful game declined steadily since then.  Our FIFA world ranking fell from a high of 75th position to 174th position; placing us in the same group as countries like Timor Leste which doesn’t even have any proper soccer facilities.  Critics refer to the end of meritocracy, the rise of racism and political interference as well as corruption as the causes of the decline of the national team.  Sadly, this seems to have mirrored what has happened to the country in general.

This year, a movie was released called Ola Bola which its director claims is “inspired” by the true story of our national team’s glorious march to Olympic qualification in 1980.  In fact, much of the movie seems entirely true to the actual historical events.  The three main heroes of the movie were Tauke, Ahmad Ali and Muthu who were quite clearly based on Soh Chin Aun, Hassan Sani and Arumugum – the real three Malaysian football heroes who also happen to be Chinese, Malay and Indian respectively.  Many Malaysians enjoyed the movie because it reminded many of a better time when racial harmony was not only stronger but in fact held up as an example internationally.

Indeed, many urged Malaysians today to take up the message that Malaysia would be stronger if we were united despite our different backgrounds and not divided along racial lines.

A powerful message indeed and one really worth heeding but sadly, there is also a point of controversy.  The movie changed the winning score of that game with South Korea from 2-1 to 3-2; perhaps for the sake of greater drama. But the movie also changed the identity of the person who scored the game winning goal. If the movie were to be true to history, then the character Eric (who is based on the real life Malaysian soccer hero, James Wong) should have scored the last goal.  Instead, in the movie, Ali is the game winner; leading some to wonder if that decision was made so that a certain segment of Malaysian society would be more willing to watch the movie – which seems to compromise the anti-racist message of the movie.

Ah, Malaysia…..if only we could go back to that simpler, happier and more hopeful time.  I miss it so.

ola bola players
Comparing the actual players and their respective movie characters from Ola Bola
james wong hassan santokh soh chin aun
Some of the Real Heroes today :- (L-R)  Hassan Sani, Soh Chin Aun, winning goal scorer James Wong and Santokh Singh

Another Century And We Are Still At It


Two ants were sitting on an a mound up on a hill overlooking a battlefield.  From there, they could see men from two armies fighting viciously with guns, tanks and shells.  All over there were dead and dying from both sides.

The first ant said, “This is great!  Let the humans fight their crazy wars and when they have finished killing each other to the last man, then ANTS will rule the world! Bwahahaha!”

“Bwahahaha!” echoed the second ant. “Hooray! Ants will rule the world!”

After a short pause to think, the second ant asked the first ant, “Black ants or Red ants?”

 

And so, this is war.  Don’t know how or when humankind started sacrificing on the altar of war but it doesn’t seem we will stop.

This week in Europe, various ceremonies are being held to commemorate 100 years since the start of World War I.   Some 16 million people perished in 5 long years of fighting.  it was the war that marked the start of the industrialization of killing.  It had been called the “war to end all wars”.  Yet just two decades later, the world plunged into World War II and more than 60 million killed.  We were just getting more effective in killing.

800px-Cemetery_of_World_War_I_in_Auce,_Latvia(Photo by Simka)

And so, far from moving towards enlightenment, understanding, fraternity and peace, conflicts continue to plague us since.

Some (from atheist and humanist circles) claim that religion is the main cause of war and certainly there have been many wars fought that use religion to draw the battle lines.   But I believe that mostly that hides other motivations – usually, political, ideological and/or economic ………. and in some cases, just base pack mentality of “us” and “them”.

Just consider some of these non-religious dictators and the damage they inflicted on mankind (estimated killed);

 

I really believe that the root of it all is the desire “to want what others have and to deny others from getting what we have”.

Did you know that back in the 1930’s USA prepared a series of contingency war plans and the first one they came up with was codenamed, “War Plan Red” – the invasion of Canada?!?!?!

It was part of a plan to address the problem of the British Empire being an economic and global rival to America’s aspirations.

Sigh……………..

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ”

Let us pray for the peacemakers where ever they are and in whichever conflict they are trying to bring to an end.  Let’s not let the ants take over and rule the world.

 

Name Game


Be prepared for another rambling post.  It’s a mystery where the post will end up.  Let’s start……

Here is my Chinese name ………

chi leongMy very wise parents chose this name for me and I am often told either that the name suits me or that I have lived up to the name given me.  It is pronounced “ci liang” and means “kind and good”.

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be named “rich and famous” but I  guess that is not a bad thing to have a name like “kind and good”.

One has to be careful with Chinese names because characters with similar sounds can mean something totally different.  For example, my brother’s name actually means “kind dragon” (which I think is really cool to be called a ‘dragon’, don’t cha think?).  However, with just a slightly wrong pronunciation and accent, such as might be said by a Westerner with no experience with the Chinese language , then “kind dragon” will suddenly be transformed into “pig sty”.

It is precisely because of all these mispronunciations of my name when I studied in the United Kingdom that I decided to adopt an Anglicized name.

I chose “Calvin”.  I like “Calvin”. However, in retrospect, it was not the wisest of choices.

If you were to look up the meaning of the name “Calvin”, it has only one unfortunate meaning…………”bald”.

BALD!!!!

Oh, yea.  Good choice there squirrel.  Can you imagine a bald squirrel?  No bushy tail?  Not a pretty sight, I think.

Many years ago, I went to Geneva, Switzerland and got to see a statue representing a rather famous “Calvin”……………John Calvin – a key historical figure of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.  The statue is part of a series of Protestant figures in what is called the “Reformation Wall“.

Photo by LGS
Photo by LGS

 

Calvin is the second from the left.  Now, I am not 100% sure, but don’t they all look bald to you?

Apart from being an important church figure, they also named a beer after him called Calvinus Beer.  I tried it.  It’s okay but not great……certainly won’t put hair on your head.

Strangely, there aren’t a lot of famous ‘Calvin”s.   The 30th President of the United States was a ‘Calvin” but he is mostly known for being a bit strange and being a man of few words. The story is told that a matron, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” He replied, “You lose.”   Another tale relates  that upon learning that Calvin Coolidge had died, Dorothy Parker reportedly remarked, “How can they tell?”

The only other ‘Calvin” that people seem to have in their consciousness is “Calvin and Hobbes”.

A Boy and His Tiger (comics by Bill Watterson)
A Boy and His Tiger (comics by Bill Watterson)

 

Now I don’t mind that association cause Calvin is kinda cool but it gets a little tiresome when people keep asking me “Where’s Hobbes?’

Anyway, what does your name mean and are you happy with it?

Squirrel’s Secret Spot 16 : United Nations Memorial Cemetery


In the middle of the bustling city of Busan, South Korea’s second largest city, lies a 14 hectare oasis of tranquility.  It is the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, the only one in the world honoring those that have fallen while serving the UN cause.  Twenty-one nations sent men and women to serve in the Korean War and 11 of those countries are represented with plots in the cemetery.

However, it is still relatively unknown to many people.  When I made enquiry about it to a couple of local Korean tourist guides, they expressed surprise that I would be interested in visiting the place.  However, one of them came with me and left with a different and much more appreciative attitude.  She promised that she would recommend it to other visitors in the future.

The Korean War was the costliest conflict involving troops serving under the United Nations flag with about 41,000 killed or missing.  Among the casualties were not just soldiers but medical and aid personnel.  The United States lost 36,600 service personnel with another103,300 injured.    Last weekend, was Memorial Day in the U.S. which was the spur for this post.

When visiting a war memorial cemetery like this, one cannot help but ponder about the young men and women who served and died for a people and a place that they did not know and are now interred forever away from home.

There are 2,300 lie buried here including 4 known only to God.

The place is beautiful and serene.  The Commission for the United Nations Memorial Cemetery (CUNMCK) has  done a wonderful job and the Korean soldiers that stand watch over the place give honor to those that died in service for their nation.

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man?

Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly

Before they’re forever banned?

(Bob Dylan)

IMG_2653
(Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2656
Memorial Chapel (photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2658
Flowers for the UN Fallen (Photo by LGS)
IMG_2655
The Gardens (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2666
For each of the countries that answered the call. (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2663
Those That Are Buried at the Cemetery (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2665
The Layout of the Cemetery (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2671
The Rows of the Fallen (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2677
The Stones Tell a Story (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2679
A Soldier’s Kit (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2674
Memorial to the British Soldiers (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2675
The New Zealand Memorial with Mauri Motif (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2680
Thailand – one of the many that contributed to the UN forces (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2682
To the Unknown Heroes (Photo by LGS)

 

IMG_2685
Canada’s Memorial remembers the sacrifice of the servicemen and their families (Photo by LGS)

Black Days


I first listened to Gordon Lightfoot when I was about 17 and I liked what I heard.  It was the song, “Sundown“.  It had been released some 5 years earlier but in them pre-internet, pre-YouTube and pre-iTunes days, the latest music took some time to filter its way to Malaysia.  When I was growing up, for many years, there was only one music store in my home city of Kuala Lumpur.

But I liked the laid back folksy, ballad-y, hippie vibe of Gordon Lightfoot.  From young I had always had an affinity to the groovy people of the Flower Power movement.  I was a bit late to the party but if I had been born earlier, I would most likely have lived in a hippie commune.

I also like songs that have a story to tell and have social or historical relevance and there were plenty of those during the Vietnam War era.  Songs like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?“, “Blowing in the Wind” and “Give Peace a Chance“.  Gordon Lightfoot has been called Canada’s greatest songwriter and probably for songs of this ilk.

I recently discovered another Gordon Lightfoot song and it was an eye-opener.  It is entitled, “Black Day in July”.  I had not previously known about the riots in Detroit in July 1967 that led to 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed.  About that time, I remember being taught in my school in Malaysia about how Detroit was the world capitol of the automobile industry and a model for the wonders of industrialisation and modernisation – that everything was chrome plated and shiny.  Obviously it wasn’t.

However, things were not better in Malaysia.  Two tears later, on May 13th 1969, racial riots broke out in Malaysia resulting in  several hundred deaths.  The underlying reason for the riot was probably political and economical but the fighting and killing was along racial lines with the Chinese community suffering the brunt of the attacks.

But in this case, there is no song written or video done to lament the tragedy.  Much too often, it is deemed too sensitive to even mention in public.  However, without truthful and open discourse, it is like a wound that has not healed but is hidden under a bandage and festering.  Without open and truthful discourse, lies and rumors favor the extremists who would even seek to blame the victims.

I wish for no more black days for both Detroit and Malaysia.  For that to happen, the festering disease of hatred and inequity must be exposed to the cleansing light of truth so that real healing can begin.

 

Royal Blood


All through history, dictators have seen it fit to demonstrate their right to rule by showing that they have inherited that right.   Hence more than 300 years after the collapse of the Roman Empire, in the year 800, the Frankish king Charlemange lay claim to his right to rule much of Western Europe by getting the pope to name him emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; thereby asserting his right to rule by associating himself with the Roman Empire.  Hitler’s Nazis linked their divine right to rule and oppress to their being descendents of the superior Aryan race.

As you know, I have been plotting to conquer the world and rule as absolute dictator for sometime now.  However, I still sense some resistance to this idea.  Perhaps it is timely to share with you about my lineage and therefore my inherent right to be king,,,,or emperor ……or supreme leader.

On my mother’s side of the family, we are Peranakan or Baba-Nyonya.  This is the name given to the descendents of Chinese that came to Peninsula Malaya between the 15th and 17th centuries.  At that time, Malaya was an important part of the seafaring trade routes between China and the west.  These Chinese immigrants came and intermarried with the local population and developed a rich and unique culture which was an amalgamation of all the different influences at this cultural crossroads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ladies in the middle are wearing Kebaya and the gentleman Batik – traditional wear of the Peranakan. (Picture by LGS)

Now, the very first wave of Chinese immigrants was in the 15th Century.  At that time, the Kingdom of Melaka was very rich and powerful and controlled the Straits of Melaka which was a vital passage and a natural choke point for the ships plying between China and India.   To strengthen ties and secure the trade route, the Ming Emperor in China sent Princess Hang Li Po to Melaka to be married to the Sultan of Melaka.  Of course, she was accompanied by her royal companions and servants.

Tada! I therefore contend that I must be a descendent of Royal blood – from Princess Hang Li Po or one of her royal companions.

Please ignore my wife who insists that Princess Hang Li Po’s companions were all eunuchs.  It simply can’t be true.

Please also ignore my cousin once removed who claims to have done some family tree research and found that our family is descendent from Chinese pirates from the 17th century .  Now, granted that Johnny Depp has made pirates kinda cool but I still would rather be royalty than rogue.  Once I am in power and in the tradition of great dictators, I shall remove my cousin further.

I hope that you are now totally awed by my right to rule.  I shall share more about the very rich and unique Peranakan culture in future posts.