National Service isn’t slavery

I read a blog through The Online Citizen just now, and the blog is talking about National Service and how it stands for slavery. For more details, here’s a link to the blog.

Basically I disagree with the author. Why do we call National Service slavery? In a skewed way, yes perhaps it does seem like slavery. You spend 2 years of your life having sweat and tears grinded out of you and you get paid miserably for each hour spent in camp. But however, if we recognize the basic intention of national service, perhaps it is a sacrifice that is worth it?

The purpose of National Service cannot be summarized in a single sentence. National Service, primarily, is for conscripting soldiers for the citizen army, in such a way that when there is a time of need, we are able to fight and defend ourselves. Critics argue that a bomb can destroy Singapore and there is no hope in defending. But I ask, should you ever give up without a fight? Or give up totally because you feel the odds are against you? Or are we a nation of sissies that are so cynical that we assume the worst will happen?

The author seems to hint that National Service is slavery, but titled in a nice way called “National Defence”. He asks “How is buying coffee and breakfast for the Company Sergeant Major or Regimental Sergeant Major considered national purpose or even national security. How is being called names like cheese pie and kuniang and f**ers considered good for defence?”. However, let’s not kid ourselves. How many of us actually bought coffee and breakfast for the CSM / RSM? Most of the people who end up doing the job are those who have medical problems. They are either those that truly have some problems, or those asshole keng-sters who want an easy life out of NS. The rest of us toil and sweat in our training for purposes that are intended for defence.

What i’m trying to say is that we should not generalize. Perhaps it is the way in one unit, but it isn’t in the other units.

I think the author of that post is seriously bias. He fails to consider alternative viewpoints, but launch into attacks of the system with no strong support. He only talks about parts like area cleaning and gardening (???) as if that is all we do in National Service. I believe even at home, we do our own area cleaning. How can we live in a place that is dirty? Without area cleaning, can we have a better and more hygenic place to live in? If we don’t even take care of our own camp, can we blame mosquitos from biting us?

The truth about National Service is that there are many different people inside holding different jobs with different viewpoints. National Service is intended to be for the defense of the nation and the author fails to show how it has not succeeded in its aim.

The author laments about the possibility of getting charged within one day, but how many people actually get charged within one day? Unless the offense is serious enough, most of the time we just end up with extras. Anyway, what is the point of bringing up Mas Selamat anyway? Appeal to fear?

I don’t deny that there are some parts of the SAF that is screwed up. The recent incident of a blog post about this guy who is ending up half blind because of the SAF. Assuming it is authentic and true in all his words, then the SAF has to revise its own system on how they treat their manpower.

However, from the 2 years that I have served in the Army, I think that it is not so bad after all, at least in my camp.

The author says “I believe conscription is increasingly a tool for the State to emasculate the male citizenry, to impose its will to develop a compliant male population who is ever so quick to kowtow to authority figures all in the name of duty, honour and country.”

But is it? It seems to be more of an assumption. The SAF now is different from the SAF in the past. There is less vulgarities. I do admit, there are vulgarities, and I am at fault for spewing them out of my mouth when I was angry with my men, but those are just part and parcel of army life. Am I compliant? I don’t seem to have changed. I think by myself and I know when something seems wrong or right. Just note that we do not kowtow to authority figures in the name of duty, honour and country. In the name of duty, honour and country, we fight, but not to kowtow as if worshipping a God. If National Service is intended to force our citizens to be compliant to that extend, I must say it is a total failure. Why then, is an ex NSman so un-compliant?

Let’s just remind ourselves that Singapore is not the only country that conscripts its own male citizens. South Korea is another such country. Why do we keep whining about losing out to the females of our own age? Certainly we wouldn’t be competing everything based on age are we? Besides, many of us have gone through this process and I am going through it now. My female classmates are two years younger than me, but is that such a big deal?

If we consider the possibility that we may end up subject to another country’s rule, then perhaps these two years spent is time worth spending if we could prevent that possibility from happening. Whatever happened to a sense of feeling to our country, regardless of the political party that is governing it? I am asking you to love Singapore, not the PAP.

If we ourselves cannot put in our part to defend the nation, then who can? Our country is already flooded with foreign “talents”. Can we trust them in times of need? If we can’t even put in our own effort, then this country is doomed.

After my two years of National Service, I emerged a much better person overall. I made friends and gained many brothers. I have brothers that gone through thick and thin with me, something that I can never gain if I had not gone in for the two years. I must say I have gotten plenty of work experience, just that my work experience is in terms of building relationships with my own men. I also emerged physically fitter. The gains are there, but it is up to us to face it. We can always deny and shrug it off, but the truth remains.

Whether we end up as good men or not, it is up to us. National Service is merely a process where we all grow up. It is Singapore’s identity and culture and should not be abolished. It is also not slavery. If we criticize National Service, then can we give a viable and better alternative? After all, criticism is just talk and no action. What’s the difference between this and calling someone a f***er in the army? It’s just talk.

My ex PS is a regular. Now I have his MSN and I keep in contact with him. His latest nick says that “There is no greater honour than serving the nation”. He has his beliefs, we have ours. But let us respect him for the path he chosen. The SAF may have its faults, but it has its uses.

Basically, I am supportive of National Service and I think it should continue. Perhaps it should be improved upon, but it should continue. I had some of the better times in life in there, with my friends at 1 Guards. 1 Guards taught me never to give up, to challenge myself and give my best. My brothers also supported me through my NS. NS is a great chance, and it depends on how you make use of it.

On a lighter note, I find it ironic that the author is so angry with the army, but uses it to maintain a blog about the army.

6 thoughts on “National Service isn’t slavery

  1. I see now that you have deleted my comments as well as your reply, you have indicated you no longer wish to continue this discussion. Fine with me. I just want to take issue with something you wrote in your reply, namely that I was engaging in a personal attack.

    Anyone who has read my reply would notice, first of all that much of it is NOT a personal attack. It attempts to refute a longstanding argument often invoked by draft proponents. To obtain this information I actually did the research first-hand on Wikipedia which really took me some time.

    It is surprising then, that in your reply you did not even bother addressing the arguments I put forward outlining why I believe NS disadvantages Singaporeans and should be abolished. Instead, you claimed I was interested only in attacking you personally. Fine with me. This is your blog and I have no say over its content. I would take this opportunity to point out that in criticising the author of the blog in your original post, you likewise failed to address his arguments or have even misinterpreted them. You have done likewise for my reply.

    Again, this is your blog and you are free to delete comments should you deem fit. But let it not be said that the sole purpose of my reply was to lambast your personally for the sake of 15 mins of fame, as you have characterised it. My reply was admittedly sardonic, that I agree, but like you I was angered (read: pissed off) by your original post where you suggested NSFs in non-combatant roles do not contribute to national defence, your unsubstantiated insinuation NS is a period of “maturation” implies that draft evaders are necessarily immature, and the various inane arguments often trotted out by the government in support of NS, a few of which I addressed but which you have chosen to ignore in my reply.

    That’s it then. This shall be my final reply to you. It appears you are completely uninterested in debating and discussing about whether NS should be abolished, as you have deleted my comments, and later reply and the comments by others that followed. I respect your decision to do so; I have no say. You may also rest assured I would not bring up this matter in your blog again, since you do not wish to engage in serious discussion.

  2. Thanks for the comments. I beg to disagree. Having a stand that NS has been beneficial to me doesn’t mean I have to do it full time. I see no point in running up knolls and digging shellscrapes full time. 🙂

  3. So wait let me get this straight,
    You see “no point in running up knolls and digging shellscrapes full time”, but you do see a point in doing it part-time.

    And again to clarify,
    Running up knolls and digging shellscrapes constitute …how do we put this.. “training for purposes that are intended for defence.” Indeed 740 guards must be doing great there…oh wait Guards don’t dig shellscrapes do they?

    And of course this ‘training’ is only useful when when its done part-time….So I guess its mighty useful to yank middle-aged men from their workplaces every year to dig shellscrapes, since there are only doing it part-time.


    Oh and before you accuse me of oversimplifying the critical and important aspects of SAF combat training to just digging shellscrapes (all though actually you insinuated that thats all that regulars do, other than running up knolls of course), let me point out that you engage in such oversimplification yourself

    “Most of the people who end up doing the job are those who have medical problems. They are either those that truly have some problems, or those asshole keng-sters who want an easy life out of NS.”

    Yes… your extensive knowledge of the intricate workings of the SAF has led you to conclude that most of the people doing demeaning tasks in NS are either medically unfit or “asshole kengsters”. Interestingly though, I recall a friend telling me about a certain Ronnie Yip from your intake of 1 GDS who would make the COS or any random man in his company get his morning coffee for him every single time.
    Oh but you’re sure thats only the minority of such cases right. Because in your vast experience, you can simplify these cases to affecting mostly only “medically unfit guys and asshole kengsters”

    Oversimplification is fine there isnt it..oh plus I love the insinuation that “asshole kengsters” deserve demeaning tasks…cos they had the audacity to KENG.. what a terrible sin indeed..oh by the way I was being sarcastic there..just wanted oto point it out.

    1. Hi

      Actually I never thought of accusing you of oversimplification, and I wasn’t expecting such an outburst because your previous comments didn’t seem to raise any of your views.

      I thank you for sharing your opinion, but I see no need to come here and antagonize me. I do appreciate the exchange of ideas, because over time, many people changed my opinion on a variety of matters, but I thought we should do it with civility?

      Let me first explain my comments. I am of the opinion that national defense is vital. In my opinion, I didn’t mind going through ns, because i didn’t want to feel helpless during war time. Seeing the atrocities performed by the japanese who infected the Chinese with diseases, and then proceeded to cut them up in the name of scientific research. It is because of this reason I believed strongly in what I had done for my two years.

      As for the full time part time issue, it is because there are other things I can do for a career, rather than doing it full time. Even if I felt that my ns was meaningful and I believed in it, it does not mean I have to sign on. I mean, there are other dreams which I wan to fulfill, and hence I didn’t want to sign on to be a combat soldier. I might end up signing on as an air force engineer, but that’s besides the point.

      I believed in the important of defense, but I too feel the pain of getting called back for reservist. But since national defence is vital IMO, I have to accept it. I rather have all of us working part time, in your words, than making everyone do it full time. But that’s my own opinion.

      But that’s not the point isn’t it? You came here because you were upset and angry over certain aspects of ns. You didn’t come to happily joke that I should sign on. Then shouldn’t you have just mentioned it earlier and discuss this politely? I do not think I owe you anything to deserve this heated comment.

      You are right. My words are oversimplified and I apologize for that. Please forgive me. Indeed, there are times when people do things that does not contribute to national defense.

      Anyway yes guards do dig shellscrape, but why did you bring that up because it wasn’t your main point?

      Ronnie yip? You seem to know my unit well. Were you from there? Ronnie isn’t exactly a CSM I feel proud of. Hence I am disappointed in him if what you said is true.

      Anyway, I hope you feel happier venting your frustrations out, but I believe I have not done anything to antagonize you. Hence I do not deserve this outburst. I doubt I will get an apology from you for spoiling my afternoon, but I shall forgive you. From now on, if you cannot be civil, please do not leave a comment. If you can be polite, I am willing to talk to you on this blog.

      Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed the idea inflow sans the emotions. I appreciate it. Thank you.

      1. Hi again. I just reread my post, and I thought I should explain. In my unit, I guess only Ronnie yip does that sort of nonsense. For the rest of us we seek o build a fairer system, where people on status will do the rest of the stuff like packing equipment etc. Coffee, in my opinion is no big deal. I think even in the working world, some superiors force it upon their subordinates anyway.

        I did write in my post that I accept that there are bad points about the way ns is carried out. Hence i accept ns’s failure in this aspect. However please recognize the idea I was trying to push. It’s that the concept of ns is important, but how it is carried out might be bad. These are two separate matters. I agree with you that the way ns is carried out might be really sucky and lousy to certain people, but I still believe in it. It’s two different matters to me.

        I seek your understanding that this is a blog hence I write my thoughts. It might not be a wholesome article. In fact it isn’t. I write what I think and hence ideas might not be good and does not flow well. =)

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