Sunday, 16 July 2017

What ultimately defines us?

What intrigued me this morning is not so much that a father-in-law was reported to have stabbed his son-in-law in broad daylight (at a coffee shop at the junction of Boon Tat Street and Telok Ayer Street). 
What held my attention however was what he said after he stabbed his son-in-law. 
Mr Tan Nam Seng actually called someone suspectedly dear to him after seeing his son-in-law lying and bleeding from his stab wounds, and said calmly, "I have already stabbed him. Don't cry. I am old already and I am not afraid to go to jail. What is done is done."
Mr Tan even pushed away a passer-by who wanted to help, saying, "That is my son-in-law. Don't help him. Let him die."
Now, here's a little background. 
Mr Tan was described by neighbor to be "a bit quiet and reserved." He founded and owned various firms named after his initials TNS Group holdings and TNS Seacon. 
After his son-in-law ("Spencer") married his daughter, he joined the firm in 2003 and was its chief executive officer and director. 
They moved into the private estate at Sennet lane a few years ago and Spencer lived with seven people in the semi-detached house, namely, his wife, daughters and a son, his mother, a maid and Mr Tan, his 69-yr-old father-in-law.
It is reported that Spencer had a hand in prospering the firm from a turnover of $2m in 2003 to a turnover exceeding $100m in 2014.
He practically told August Man magazine that there was a time when he sold everything he owned when the economic crisis hit in 2008 and the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. 
Spencer said, "I even sold my watches for whatever I could get, just so that I could put it back into the company." 
It reports that Spencer's achievements "earned him a nomination as a finalist for the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award in Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry-DBS Singapore Indian Entrepreneur Awards in 2014." 
In any event, sacrificing all you have to bring your father-in-law's business back from the brink of bankruptcy, and turning it into a multimillion-dollar success over a short period of time ought to have won you accolades not only from the business industry, business associates and friends, but also, if not more so, from loved ones right?
At the very least, the founder of the once-dying company that is, your father-in-law, ought to be singing your praises right, and not attacking you with a knife? 
Am I too naive? 
According to reports, "anonymous family friends" have pointed to "problems in (Spencer's) marriage and money-related disputes with his father-in-law" over the company, TNS Ocean Lines.
And it is also reported that recent registration records for the company "listed a former director as Tan Nam Seng."
One of the neighbours, when interviewed, remarked that Mr Tan's family and his son-in-law "seemed harmonious and happy on the surface."
Lesson? One, and it has nothing to do with the case. I wish Spencer recovers well and my thoughts are with the family, even Mr Tan.
My point however is about the specific phrase used by one of the neighbours, "on the surface." 
I guess on the surface of things, everything always seems all fine and dandy. 
Unsurprising, the neighbours are mostly the last to know what happens in their neighbour's family. Their shocked responses when something unspeakable happens tell it all. 
The smiles, the "hi" and the "bye" along the corridor sometimes cover much of what is seething or boiling inside the walls of one's house or one's heart. 
Search a man's heart and it always tells a different story. His private thoughts and designs can be worlds apart from his public deeds or actions. 
Sometimes, the accolades that the world bestow upon a man or woman only reveal the tip of the iceberg of what is in his/her heart. 
Alas, what pushes a husband to commit adultery? What compels a wife to become obsessed with jealousy and hatred? What causes a father to abandon the family, a son to betray his father, or a good friend to sell out his buddy? 
Things are often more than meets the eye.
Dead calm waters are usually a buddy metaphor for still water runs deep. And what lies beneath is often what drives the current of thoughts, motives and actions of men - not the projected smiles and appearances.
So, what we see everyday of a person whom we thought we knew is often not what he or she is in living colours as he or she struggles with the inner demons (or the grey areas) that rage within. 
As such, decorum, civility and protocols are words that sometimes cover a multitude of sins, not so much love. 
If not dealt with, intentionally unravelled in confidentiality and allowed the moral courage of honesty and resolution to take hold, the undertow deep within will eventually rush out like a tsunamis ravaging the surface of all things visible to the naked eye. 
And the greatest enemy of resolution (or closure) is self-deception. We may even be ignorant (or blissfully unaware) of the grave consequence that awaits us as we persist in our shrink-wrapped bubble world of self-declared invulnerability, or shored-up fortress of self-denial. 
Alas, we always think that our greatest enemy is out there - our rival, our foe, our competitor, or our richer, more famous, or more well-received friends, even loved ones. 
But naivety is no excuse for the impoverishment of imagination. The raw reality, as we all know but simply refuse to admit and confront, is the raging and conflicting desires we secretly harbour, even obtusely nurture, within. 
Our appetites (for fame, wealth and power, for recognition and adulation) can turn the "tame-able" beast within us into an unmitigated "corporeal takeover" raider. 
And if we continue in blindness to feed it, living in self-denial, evolution dictates that it will grow to overcome or overwhelm us. 
For first, we take the drink. Then the drink takes the drink. And in the end, the drink takes us. 
I know this is the least popular of all my postings in the morning. For it attempts to drill in a message we do not want to hear, or do not think it applies to our neat, well-ordered and seemingly sterilised thoughts and life. 
But sometimes, the ugly truth (about ourselves) is the hidden motives/drive we often conveniently or discreetly cold storage in suspended animation because we either overestimate ourselves or underestimate its insidious progression from behind the foreboding shadows of our sub-consciousness.
Let me end with what one witness noticed about the demeanour of Mr Tan after he stabbed his son-in-law. 
She said, "He was very neatly dressed. He was very calm and looked like he was prepared for the police to come and arrest him." 
Well, this is my parting shot:-
"What does it take for a good man to commit uncharacteristic acts that are unmistakably characterised as evil?"
In other words, what would cause a man to lose himself? Would a gentleman turn into a beast if you strip away his wealth, influence, titles and reputation - layer by layer? 
That actually depends on this question: "What ultimately defines him?" Cheerz.

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