MUMMY, D’YOU KNOW YOU’RE NOT CLEVER?

I’m a bad, bad mother. And the modern technology keeps punishing me. A few years back when my technology-savvy-thanks-to-his-school little son played with his car on the floor, next to where I was lost in my writing world, we occasionally threw each other absent-minded smiles. In my mind, and my heart, I was so blessed to have such an adorable, beautiful sweetheart keeping me company. But the absentmindedness was apparently only on my part. The little imp took advantage of my writerly state of mind. I was unaware that he kept coming back to my phone, on the re-charger, his back to me.

Did I say he was very technology savvy? They had this sophisticated interactive whiteboard that could perform magic in his classroom. Many concepts could be explained very clearly, making learning an easy process. My son had even shown me many useful tips on my laptop, such that editing and reviewing a novel were no longer painful like what I’d had to suffer when writing during high school.

Yet I didn’t know he also knew more about smart phones than me. At the end of the month I received a bill of over $860 for zombie brains.

“Brains? Zombie brains?” I fumed, flabbergasted. “What on earth are they???”

“I downloaded Zombie Farm, Mummy. It’s a FREE game!”

But to play with his many zombies, he must give them many sets of brains, which cost $10.99 a click, otherwise they wouldn’t move! (Yes Patrick Freivald, that’s another reason why I’m not a fan of zombies 🙁 )

“Imagine how much chocolates you can buy with that kind of money! Or how many times you can go to see your favourite movies on the big screen. Or how many boxes of expensive Lego you can buy. You can even buy an iPad or a new computer. Or pay a child airfare for your overseas holiday. Blah blah blah…”

He looked at me with wide, innocent eyes. Uugh! Beauty sure was a survival tool.

I ended up reducing his weekly pocket money. I also ended up in my then 13-year-old daughter’s blog: “It’s fun to watch my parents struggling with technology.” Duh! And that was another thing. She had over 6000 blog followers, while I knew nothing at all about social media and felt scared when an Amazon’s adviser said authors had to go out and be loud.

A few years on, I have moved on. I’ve found that I can easily write on my phone if inspiration strikes when I am not near a computer. (Computer! During my uni time, we only used it for numerical computation. And during uni, I always carried my drawing pen to the mountains to write down my inspiration, because drawing ink didn’t smear in the rain.) I’ve also learned that the social media have wonderful tools to connect me with many wonderful authors. The writers’ world is one world. Together it’s very easy to ask for help, to exchange tips, to commiserate, to celebrate – even when my son felt a serious concern over my activities that he told my long-time friend over the phone, “Tante, you better come often. Mummy has to many fake friends on her screen!” Fake? Fake? I strongly disagree.

However, no matter how much I’ve learned, it seems there’s no way I could keep up with my little son in technology. Last month he set up my phone to have a nicer ring tone. And this month the phone company slaps me an extra fee for using a service that they did not provide, which was called Premium SMS. How much? An extra $6.60 for the beautiful sound each time I received an SMS!!!!!! (That,  David Wallace Fleming,  is the impact of technology on my telephone bill 🙁 )

Yeah. I am now remembering what my eldest son once asked me. This one, I was hospitalised for many months before he was born to prevent losing the baby, and then I had to be pushed to the surgery theatre for an emergency C-section because I was dying, and at five-year old he looked at me with perplexed eyes, “Mummy, d’you know you’re not clever?”

WARRIOR CULTURE: Killing and Its Consequences

 

Some writers glorify the killing in the war while others, writers and readers, regard wars “entertaining”. Thoughts regarding this kind of death have been swirling in my head since the recent memorial day in the US as I remember some past friends.

Once upon a memory a thousand drums beat upon a massive stadium, and a friend from my marching band fell in love with an army dude who played saxophone. He proved to be  really helpful and became a good friend. I moved away, and several years later I bumped into my old friend when I returned to my high-school city during a holiday. “Where’s your boyfriend?” I asked her. “Come with me,” she replied. And she drove me to a… graveyard of the fallen.

I  hadn’t even known there was a war going on about 2000 miles away. The local government had made sure the media could not leak any news. Later, a few years on, I accompanied another friend to make a hospital visit. Little did I know that we were going to visit an army hospital – where the patients were the living proofs of the horrendous war.  If I had not personally come into contact with these two friends, I’d never have heard of this war. Only after I’d left that country I found out the foreign media had freely broadcast the full coverage on what was happening, while the locals remained blissfully unaware.

On memorial days, which we also have in Australia, I can’t help feeling a deep sadness for the perhaps-unnecessary loss of so many lives. How had it been like out there for them? Allan Wilford Howerton, US WW2 veteran, retired federal civil servant and an active author shares his view and memories in this issue of Chapters of Life.

 

WARRIOR CULTURE: Killing and Its Consequences.

By Allan Wilford Howerton, WW II Era Author. (Alexandria, Virginia)

 

 

No war ever really ends for those who fight them. I write from the viewpoint of my experience as a World War II combat infantry veteran who also wrote a memoir of the war as well as a novel about the aftermath. Although the circumstances of Vietnam and Nazi Germany were substantially different in many respects, questions surrounding what it was like are virtually identical. War is war and killing is killing no matter the time, place, or situation.

After many years of thinking and writing, I have concluded that combat in war is so unique that it is impossible to describe what it is like to anyone who has not been there. Deadly combat is often unfathomable, mostly unexplainable.

Beyond these questions, to some, a book on war is a great adventure story, as a lesson about the efficacy of a far off war in a country with a vastly different culture where, in the end, it was proven that we had no vital national security interest, and as a cautionary tale about the consequences of a war waged without adequate citizen support.

I am, however, uncomfortable there is a writer who pleads for more and different training in preparation for the killing that warriors (his word, extensively employed) must perform and justify to their consciences in the interest of mental and emotional well being. Is that really possible? I doubt it. Is it even desirable? I doubt it even more. Can, for example, soldiers, be trained to deliberately kill in good conscience in the morning while returning to bases in the afternoon or evening for at-ease Internet chats with their wives and children without psychosomatic consequences? If so, is that not inhuman? I believe that it is and ought never become an objective of preparation for war. If successful, does such training not set these “warriors” even more apart from the country they defend than is already the case due to the lessening of shared responsibility that results from a professional volunteer Army?

I realize that my view may be quite controversial and outside the mainstream of American thinking about war, particularly relating to terrorism. Maybe I have not found words to express my discomfort as well as I might. Nevertheless, I am deeply troubled.

World War II, on the ground, was fought with a largely conscripted Army. Lots of killing resulted, proportionally more than in the rather different wars of today. Yet I do not recall thinking of killing, per se, as an objective in and of itself. In lectures, I recall instructions (of major interest to young soldiers) about the comparative psychological/sexual mores of American and European women but never about the psychology of killing as a purpose. We got lectures about the broad aims and purposes of the wars with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. We were trained to accomplish missions and to take and hold territory. We fought for towns in order to get out of the cold but never to kill as such. The international law of war, an antidote for its inhumanities, was emphasized. Strategies like mass bombing of cities (planned killing, obviously) stiffened resistance rather than hastening the surrender of Germany and Japan. Will today’s targeted killings, and their unavoidable collateral aspects, have any better results? It seems doubtful. I am also troubled by the term “warrior” in the context of a military culture in which deliberate killing is the intent. It is, I fear, a very slippery slope that ought to be approached, if at all, with utmost caution.

We need to give much more thought than we have to the use and implications of a volunteer military skilled in efficacious killing, whether on the ground in battle or at a faraway computer console directing a drone missile. Again, killing is killing. It happens. But when it does it lessens our humanity. No training as to conscience can, in my view, change that fact.