A question of


love and honour


WATCHING the war drama epic War Horse at the cinema with five of my 11 grandchildren I wondered about many of the themes which the movie evoked – the spiritual bonding between a horse and his master, the devotion of a woman to her family, the unshakeable pride of a man, the honour of war and the patriotism of the military. The most poignant of all must surely be the belief and faith in oneself and the sacrifices one makes to this end.

True to his reputation as a movie maker, Steven Spielberg has produced another classic in the tradition of the old-world movies so dearly missed by the baby boomers, septuagenarians and octogenarians among us. The movies we watched as youngsters had simple story lines of undying love, profound loyalty or devastating betrayal. Stark white virtues such as honesty, commitment and integrity were pitted against charcoal black vices such as deceit, injustice and dishonour. But good always triumphed over evil.

Thus, seeing through the piercing eyes of the war horse Joey and feeling through the young man Albert’s bleeding heart, my grandchildren and I watched the plot unfolding. The financial problems of the Narracott family caused mainly by Ted’s pride and drinking lead to his son’s perseverance in teaching his horse to plough the family’s ravaged land. All to no avail as war breaks out and Joey is recruited into the cavalry to endure its extreme dangers and hardships. But as fate sometimes makes up for its cruel beginnings, Joey the war horse and Albert the soldier are later reunited amid much rejoicing in a military hospital.

A simple enough tale readers may say, so why my self-indulgence?

What struck me most about the movie and what Spielberg was able to convey through the protagonists, were the attachments that humans form as they plough through life’s vicissitudes. Inherent in the human spirit is the need to bond with something or someone, and for that feeling to be reciprocated. We need to feel appreciated for our efforts no matter how menial the tasks are. In congenial, familiar and family settings we need to feel loved as much as we give and show love – unconditionally sometimes.

For some, a pet animal’s responses which they painstakingly bring out demonstrate this special bond. We witness this reciprocity of emotional and even spiritual and mental bonding between Joey and Albert. Horse and young man seem devoted to and protective of each other.

For parents, what greater fulfilment than to see your children manifest all that you’ve taught them in their personality and character, and of course in their worldly achievements. As parents we strive to bring up our children with the values that we ourselves believe in. These are the family values that were nurtured in our own upbringing – influenced by our customs and traditions, strengthened by our faiths and belief systems, and consolidated by our education and training.

However much against our will, we have to admit that the world beyond the home with its numerous challenges has a way of overtaking us. Peer pressure, work requirements, corporate and social ambitions impact our basic values and sometimes change us drastically.

It is necessary for the most impeccable among us to take a step back ever so often to remind ourselves of our raison d’etre – the most important reason or purpose for our existence. Here, I shall not even attempt to be holier than thou by breaking out into a religious sermon but focus on pragmatic matters.

In day-to-day living, at home or at work, we have to be sure of our objectives. Whether we want to ensure our children have the best education or the best career prospects, we have to remind them and ourselves that these are worldly attachments to be pursued without compromising our integrity.

It’s a personal challenge not to think that work and career achievements are the end-all and be-all of our existence, especially when we are faced with a barrage of affirmations on the national transformation plans. Outstanding are the pronouncements on economic development, financial and fiscal management.

Every day there are schemes and programmes being announced to give financial aid to deserving Malaysians for them to eke out a decent living from these government incentives. It seems as though their every need is being addressed and managed.

But it seems as though there is no comprehensive transformation plan for the moral and ethical development of the nation and its rakyat. Corporate governance here, integrity pledges there, declaration of assets and regulations on political funding. They are all coming together it seems.

How can we convince Malaysians that the attachments sealed by economic and material advancements are ephemeral while those inspired by love and human bonding, and kindled by honour and integrity are the most enduring? How can we tell Malaysians that these values are worth every sacrifice?


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