Stories > Any Harm Done?

2012 • Issue 2

Any Harm Done?

“During National Service, I was posted to Pulau Tekong for Basic Military Training. We recruits were transported around the island by 3-tonners: fat military trucks driven by skinny military drivers.

In my time, the roads in Pulau Tekong were like a bad marriage: bumpy and never-ending. So it was inevitable  that  one  night  as  we  were  returning from live firing exercises, a mishap occurred. A convoy of 3-tonners were bouncing along at speed. The tailboard of the front 3-tonner, which hadn’t been properly secured, sprang open when the truck hit a bump. The sleepy soldier leaning against that tailboard (which happened to be me) fell out. Bouncing like a camouflaged beach ball, I rolled into the path of the convoy.

As it turns out, that particular driver was not half- asleep (an oddity among army drivers) and he managed to stop his vehicle before it ran over me. My life was saved.

I expected people to be shouting. I expected tears and recrimination. After all, I almost died.

But there  was  nothing  of  the  sort. They  dusted me, chucked me back on the 3-tonner, fixed the tailboard, and carried on.

I wanted to raise a hue and cry. The tailboard was broken. My driver was reckless. The roads were awful. There was a complete disregard for safety. Shouldn’t there have been an inquiry? Or at least some yelling? But nothing happened. Everyone was tired and they just wanted to go home.

At that point it dawned on me that the correct response to any problem is: ‘Any harm done?’ A million bizarre things happen every day. People make  mistakes  probably  more  often  than  they make good decisions. If we were to focus on every problem we encounter, we’d never go home. Each time something goes wrong, we should ask: ‘Any harm done?’ If the answer is ‘none’, then we should just focus on getting back in the truck and going home.

Oddly enough, I find that’s how the law works too. People may do the most outrageously silly things, but if no one is hurt, then by and large the law isn’t interested. Any time someone kicks up a fuss, it’s always fair to ask: ‘Any harm done?’”

- Adrian Tan, Lawyer and Author


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