24 February 2013

Road Trips, Ballads and Armchair Generals

Retail therapy for cyclists is a coordinated suit
As the calendar turns, Christmas has drawn on towards Chinese New Year. I have been clocking on the miles with the Elantra. As I normally drive Ethan back after he has bussed his way up, it appears that with each trip, I get stuck on a new ballad or pop song.
For Christmas it was Maroon Five's One More Night. A sudden trip to meet up with old buddies had me listening to REM's Losing My Religion on the repeat loop. Then when sending Ethan back after Chinese New Year, it was Billy Joel's Vienna. I have nobody to annoy, and my OCD can have me repeating the track till I get the lyrics corrected, or at least in as far as in-car-audio will allow me to.
The Fuji tethered at the watering trough while I go to the saloon for a..coffee
But digressions aside, for the past 3 months I have been rather indulgent with retail therapy over my little vices. Being jobless begs an escape from  sheer boredom, and not to denounce Kerteh, but even in a place as Spartan as this, I have managed to run up the bills. They were, though, in my defense, healthy indulgences, such as cycling jerseys and other knick-knacks for the new Fuji.
The EC225 and her stablemate Sikorsky 76
However, the honeymoon cannot last forever, and it appears to be coming to its end not a day too soon. Three of us pure EC225 copilots who have had no previous experience on the other stablemates of the company have just completed 3 days of ground school for the Super Puma L2. Next will be the type technical exam at DCA, followed by the C of T. Soon after I should be operational for offshore flying. Eurocopter has said that the EC225 will be flying by April, but have not come out of the closet with the cause of the May and October ditchings of 2012, and Exxon has been firm about not allowing their clients to board the EC225 till full disclosure and rectification, of the root cause is seen to. This stalemate means that we EC225 fellows will have to convert to the predecessor in  order to not go to rot, and thereby make ourselves worthy of our monthly salt.
As an idle pilot, apart from my cash-absorbent but wholly therapeutic indulgences, I loiter at political blogs. I do not take this as a means of knowing the truth, because judging from the content of the articles in the "alternative media", these websites are no more journalistic than any other form of the mainstream, but they do provide what we all seek: an alternative to controlled media. To be fair, it is not so much the journalists that I abhor, as to be real journalists, they merely report what occurs as fairly as their flavours allow. It is the commentors though who are a completely mired kettle of fish.
Virtually every single one of them wants to forward a conspiracy theory. Were these logically and intelligently drafted, they would at least make for a good bowel-moving read. What gets published instead of the desirous writings is a bloodletting and condemnation of all the institutions of government in vainglorious attempt at pseudo-intellectuality, basking in the afterglow of a Pyrrhic victory. And none more do they like to take a swipe at than the military. Which rouses my ire instantly.
Air-chauffering the 3-star on a visit to all the anti-piracy radar sites on the east coast of Sabah
The recent incursion at Lahad Datu is a case in point. The alternative media did spill it out in teasing doses with the effect that the general public came back spewing outrage with a passion that leaves the Ms Bhavani's Listen Listen Listen episode dumbfoundingly eclipsed.
Most of these baying mongrels cannot tell the difference between a policeman and a soldier, let alone demarcate their varying jurisdiction and channels of authority. There was universal condemning of all purchased military hardware and serving men and women as having slept on the job after consuming a salary coming from the taxes that they pay. One would be so convinced that these armchair Generals had paid our soldiers, sailors and airmen personally at the frontline out of their own pockets.

Serving the country by way of operations over Sabah
Really, guys, you do not know exactly where your tax ringgit have gone, and whatever goes into a soldier's salary does not come close to justifying lives that are on the line beyond the proportion that any salary can compensate. In all reality taxes paying the soldiers' salary is the cleanest manner of disbursing your tax ringgit compared to all else that transpires.
Formation flight over the wetlands of Bongawan
Remarks such as these only serve to give the picture that they are conceived by a generation of spoilt brats who have either grown up on the ill-paid labours of maids, or paid maids to do a job that they would not, and therefore surmise that money can buy a person's will, pay for human life and even substitute good character. The fact that all soldiers also pay taxes eludes them, and they have grossly overlooked the fact that you cannot exhort someone to 'do the job and don't makan gaji buta' when you do not know what their job is, are not qualified to lead them and even less, do not share their training, qualifications and wordless obedience to directives no matter how they feel about their orders coming from the ruling government.
Low level flight from SiAmil to Semporna, 30 feet from sea level at 120 knots
The intricacies of Sabah's mysterious background is a result of centuries of watermanship along very porous coastlines. Having flown over these areas at heights so low only a fisherman would have spotted me at speeds that would have made him jump out of his skin, I know as well as anyone else who works these borders how easily penetrable they are. There just isn't enough hardware and skilled personnel to cover the miles of coast, and this is compounded by the state's, nay, the country's extensive coastline as an immense littoral state. Incursions into the east coast especially, have been taking place for as far back as when I was a schoolkid in KK anytime the Moros needed to outsource their recruitment. These exercises are nothing new, but pseudo-Generals express outrage as if this were a problem that the army was not already contending with.
Nose down for a towering take-off
In the late 90's when the 5th Infantry Brigade mooted redeployment away from the coastal islands, the village heads pleaded with the Field Commander not to as the infantry dug into the islands served as the only buffer against the frequency of pirates raiding the villages. Well, I did sit in at the lunches and listened to them entreat the Field Commander, as I was flying him on the tour. Yes, the army brass relented. No withdrawal took place and the status quo reigned till the Moros decided to elevate their enterprise to the international level in 2001 with the abduction at Padanan-Sipadan to the embarassment of the local cops. Now the military is used as reinforcement of the police in Ops PASIR ( Padanan-Sipadan Island Resort), but one must bear in mind that the military does not lead the neutralisation of domestic threat. They have other primary duties. You just cannot militarise a civilian area unless a declaration of hostilities has taken place, when civil law then is superceded by wartime rules of engagement.
Moi, doing a troop changeover at Seliku
The comments section on the alternative media, apart from slurring the security forces, called for a cessation to negotiations and that the splinter troops be shot dead. Brilliant aren't they? This is neither Hollywood nor is it a situation where we can take the High Noon posture of gunboat diplomacy that Globocop would prescribe. So much water has passed beneath this bridge that we cannot take the option of burning it behind us. And as sullied hands are at work, resolutions are a delicate affair. Assigning blame at this juncture is a fool's paradisical relish, for some of us inherit a mess not of our making yet we have to unravel it for everybody's sake.
To the armchair Generals, I would say, let those who are yoked with the job, do what they must, unfettered. If you feel you can do it better, sign your name where it matters and take up a gun. Either way, your rants do not inspire confidence that you would know which way to get seated on a commode let alone resolve this country's myriad and intricate crises.