Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Folly or Glory

5 young Singapore men died in Cambodia this past week in their attempt to bring glory to their country and to themselves. It was war of a another sort - competitive dragon-boat racing, to be exact. Ironically, their boat capsized while trying to dock after their race. Of the 22 men on board, 5 did not resurface from the waters. They were found dead (apparently from drowning) some days later. My sympathies go out to their loved ones. They were such young men with so much promise ahead of them.

But frankly, I was disturbed that the team chose not to wear life vests. Their reason was that it would impede their movements, and thereby slow down their rowing. Well, I have only ever rowed competitively once in a dragon boat race, and as is Singapore's rules, wore a life vest. From that solitary dragon boat competition, I am in no position to judge whether a life vest would or would not impede one's performance. Some experienced boaters are adamant that it would not. My life vest didn't come in useful on that occasion, but it certainly was a load off my mind when and if the boat should capsize.

I was once in a sampan off the coast of Penang which capsized many years ago and a friend of mine in the same boat nearly died because (1) both of us didn't have life vest on and (2) he didn't know how to swim. I hauled him up from the water and got him to hold onto the overturned sampan as I tugged the boat back to shore with the help of another boat.

I think people must get their priorities right. Between Cup glory and life, which should you choose? I thought it would be a no-brainer, but competitive spirit, or folly, would rather risk life over a piece of metalic or plastic object which, when placed in the cabinet, serves only to remind of past glory. But without a life, what glory is there to reminisce? I would rather row my best and be safe. Should glory come to the team, at least I can live to enjoy the fruits of my labour. As it is, the dragon boaters' reach for glory has only brought extreme grief to loved ones. When we are young, we think we can live forever but death can snatch us in the prime of our lives without nary a warning.

Life and glory - choose life - all the time.


mr.udders said...

Can you all just let people die in peace or not?

Die already still want to say 'I told you so'.

For what, you tell me?

william said...

His just trying to tell us be aware of our lives than competitive spirit

definately not what u are trying to imply

Lam Chun See said...

I think this type of decision should not be left to the rowers. The organisers should have a ruling that all rowers must put up life jackets. It's not a simply a decision of glory vs safety. As a rower, you'd probably think that since the organisers do not insist on life jackets, and other teams are not using it either, it must be reasonably safe.

I regularly attend dragon boating competitons by the schools. Here, if any member does not have a life jacket on, the team is immediately disqualified. And our competitions and held in the calm waters of the Bedok Reservoir.

Epilogos said...

You are right Chun See. If I were in their shoes, and there was a decision not to put on life vests, then I probably would have followed, however unwise that decision could have turned out to be. The folly is to assume that waters in Tonle Sap is anything like the super-calm waters of the Bedok Reservoir or Kallang.

The team never really 'tested the waters' enough to make an informed decision. That decision was probably made out of a sense of bravado. A fatal decision, as it turned out.