1970s JUNGLE WARFARE TRAINING SAS STYLE
There’s a great Taliban saying from Afghanistan: “You have the watches, but we have the time,” and just how true that’s proved to be.
The West always seems to try to achieve things with unrealistic and compressed time windows, especially within their foreign and military policies.
When I was a junior NCO in the SAS, I was spending some time with a local Iban tribesman in the jungles of Borneo. It was the late 1970s, yes there was still jungle around back then.
We were sat by a small upper reaches fast flowing river, I had a pot of water on the boil to make a brew, and he was fixing the binding of his parang sheath with some freshly cut sliced ratan…I used to love spending time with this man, as he made everything look so easy.
As I poured the boiling water into my mug, I glanced down at my watch. He asked me why I was looking at the time. I said what do you mean? He said that we (Western people) are always looking at our watches, and that we are obsessed by time limits. He said that in the jungle there is only jungle time. No need for watches…the animals, birds and fish don’t have watches, and they live from day to day just fine.
I pointed out that he too is wearing a watch. He said that he’s wearing a watch to adhere to the Western people’s time, not for jungle time. He said that he wakes with the jungle time and goes to sleep with the jungle time. His “jungle watch” comes with sounds, smells, light and darkness.
I would go on to work with this great individual for almost 20 years. The man meant the world to me. He taught me so much about thinking outside of the Western box. About how to survive in arguably the greatest theatre on the planet. About how to respect nature, and how that same nature will respect you in return. And most importantly, about time…and just how living in the jungle world does not require a watch…ever.
This morning I was sitting in my garden, with my brew, cleaning my parang (that I now only use for gardening), and thinking of our times together in the theatre of dreams…and not once did I look at my watch.
Here’s to you Louio, my Iban friend, thank you. x