Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hypothetical story

It's been several months since I've joined them. I know they've been observing me. But I've been used to that all my life. I've been looking for opportunities to prove myself, and I think I've been doing pretty well. A few days ago, one of the senior members who knows who I am asked me to come for a meeting today. I think they noticed my hard work. Looks like I'll have a chance to go on to bigger projects, and move one step closer to my dream.

These were my thoughts as I opened the door of the meeting room. And behind the door, was he. His greatness himself. Seated comfortably on the sofa chair, he turned to look at me. With the slightest hint of a smile, he said "come sit down, son". Barely able to compose myself, I struggled to hide my nervousness, and sat down in the seat opposite of the great man.

He looked me in the eye. The wrinkles around his eye seem to make his gaze look more authoritative. "This discussion we're about to have is considered closed-door. You're a smart kid, you know what that means right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Son, can you tell me, what is the most important principle of governance?"

"Um...keeping the people happy?"

His mouth showed a trace of a grin. "It's survival", he said. "If your people are not alive, or if there is no land for your people to live, then they cannot possibly be happy can't they?"

"Yes....I agree, sir"

"Let me tell you how we govern, son. Let me remind you, this is very sensitive information. It's sensitive not because we're doing something wrong and we have something to hide, but rather it's sensitive because the people, are not able to handle such information, and should they know about it, they will only bring harm to themselves."

I nodded, and kept quiet. I didn't speak again the rest of the meeting.

"We are a small nation. With no natural resources. With neighbours who aren't always friendly. But in politics, there is no such thing as "always friendly" anyways. You heard all of this before. It's all true. Not only that. We're doing good now. But what about the future, when our neighbours start to step up the competition? How about we look further up north beyond other immediate neighbours? The future is uncertain, son. Our survival, is not something you can take for granted."

"Look at all the nations around you. With all their natural resources, why do you think that they are behind us? The answer is simple. From the very start, we've focused on survival, and we didn't let ourselves to be distracted by anything else. While others are bickering with each other about fairness, justice and freedom, we focused on what are the ways we can develop and plan for the future, so that we continue to survive."

"But time has passed. People seem to have forgotten the past where the possibility of not surviving was real to everyone. Now, people take our survival for granted. They just assume we will be there, and the future is bright just because it has always been so. They become complacent. But son, the threat of not surviving has never left. We have managed to keep ahead, but for how long? When our neighbours become more powerful, what will happen to us? Survival is still on the foremost on our minds."

"The people don't realize this. They think, they have a roof over their heads now, some money in their pockets now, they take it for granted. They assume it will be there tomorrow. Then, they want liberties. They want the freedom to make more decisions. They want us to do this, do that, for them. They think they deserve it. They think by virtue of some theory of morality or justice, such and such liberties should and must be granted unto them."

"But we see it differently. We do what is necessary for them to survive. Their theories of morality and justice cannot guarantee that somebody will not invade us tomorrow, that there will still be a roof over our heads tomorrow, but our careful planning and decision making can prevent that from happening. Maybe even we can't prevent that from happening. Can you deny that the careful planning and decision making by the top thinkers and talents in the nation is the best bet we have?"

"And that is the way things are now. A young man like you, might criticize that we seem to be robbing people of certain rights. We might be taking away some freedom which is their right. But you see, you say that because you believe in some theory of right and wrong. That it is right to provide freedom and liberty for the people, it is wrong to deny them that freedom. However, unlike more powerful nations, we do not have the luxury to be concerned with survival as well as ideology. You think people agree with the ideals of powerful nations because they are morally correct, or the because the nation is powerful? Might truly makes right. There is only one theory for us: 'Do what it takes to survive'. Every nation for itself. That's a sad fact of life, but it's a true fact."

"And because it's true, you need leaders who are capable do such careful planning and make such calculated decisions. The worst thing that can happen to this nation, is for someone with the inappropriate ideals, with personal ideologies to fulfill, to take control of this nation. So we need a system, where the very best of our people, the brightest and most capable, become the leaders. And that each and every leader understand very carefully what we do."

"You do see why we have to keep this behind closed doors. If the people know that we are intentionally keeping liberties from them, they will be unhappy. They will forget all the careful planning and decision making it takes to keep a small, resource scare nation alive. They will think that we deceived them because we want to hold on to power. That we are corrupt. They will revolt, and someone who promises them liberties will take over. Then what happens? Will we then survive in the global arena in such uncertain times?"

"Many will criticize what we do. But what we do is really for the nation's survival. And there is nothing of greater concern to the nation than survival. And therefore, the people's best interest is the nation's best interest, which is survival. Even when the people themselves don't think so. And that, my son, is the mark of a real leader. He may not always do what is popular, but he does what is required. For a young man like you, you may think that I am asking you to sacrifice your ideals, but think it not as a sacrifice, think it as a greater calling. You are choosing to let go of your personal ideals, to serve the people, for the purpose of the survival of the nation. What could be more noble than that?"

Long after the conversation ended. I thought long and hard about what he said, trying to sort out my mixed feelings. On one hand, I felt like something was robbed of me. Disillusionment. This was turning out to be something not quite I expected. I realized I was naive. Yet, I couldn't stop thinking about what he said about sacrifices, and a greater calling. I'm among the best at what I do. I know it. They know it, that's why they picked me out. Maybe it is my calling after all. Maybe I'm meant to sacrifice my dreams and ideals. Maybe it's been replaced with a far greater responsibility. A far greater challenge. And perhaps, like he said, something far more....noble.

ok, end of story. first things first ah. in case you cannot read the post title, this story is HYPOTHETICAL. it is 100% fictional, and all characters mentioned in this story, if resembles anybody in real life is 100% coincidental. also ah, i assure you hor, me is not (god forbid) pro-MIW. (don't flame me!!!) just some food for thought only lah.

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