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.