Monday, May 23, 2005

An Old Scar

With time comes injuries. Some never go away. Many form scars. Pressing a finger on the scar brings a memory of the pain that caused it - a phantom of remembered pain if you will.

To Ms Chng and the Straits Times, the recent debacle of portraying Singapore men as wimps has pressed hard on a very old scar. I am willing to give you both the benefit of doubt here. It's not because you've earnt it. It's because I, too, know how difficult it can be to stand up and say something different when authority says otherwise. Even when your life is at risk.

Yet, -even if- I give the benefit of the doubt, the fact that the following quote was used as a defence disturbs me greatly

"I said “they are fine until they enter national service”, in response to a question about whether I find Singapore men whiny. My point was that the only occasions I noticed whining was when they were talking about their national service experiences. When asked what they complained about, I said “minute things” as I did not wish to expatiate on what they had shared."

If indeed, Ms Chng, your version of events is accurate, then I must ask - why was your response about national service? There are a million different ways you could have answered the question posed to you - why national service?

I can certainly empathise with your response. I, too, know female friends who don't care and couldn't care about men who talk incessantly about the million minute things they have to do in NS. They can't understand why, after going through all that and finally being free of it, we still talk about these small things.

It is because NS is too big.

Like blind men trying to describe an elephant, the only recourse we have are to describe the events that one feels. The rope of the elephant's tail. The fan of the elephant's ear. The trunk of the elephant's leg. We describe minute things because the totality is too big, too alien for words to describe.

How does one describe the sense of isolation of being in the army? That your entire existence now consists of something you hate? Something you cannot get away from?

What can you say to inunciate the pain of forcing away your loved ones because your life is now something they don't understand?

What words are there to describe a mortal fear for your life? Or the heartache of watching a comrade waste his life? Or realising that while NS ends, the scars of NS will forever be imprinted in your psyche?

How many forget the heartbreak of their girlfriends walking away because they couldn't share their universe?

How many?

Ms Chng, you are not unique. Like many other well-educated Singaporean females, you believe that your life is your own, your future is within your control, and that there's nothing beyond your grasp. In other words, your experiences have reinforced your Type-A personality.

And because your experiences have reinforced this world-view, you just cannot understand that a Y-Chromosome away lies a universe where our destiny is not our own, where we can find no welcome precisely because of this great and growing divide.

If I find no welcome in Singapore, why shouldn't I break all bonds and leave?

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KwokSiong said...

"How does one describe the sense of isolation of being in the army? That your entire existence now consists of something you hate? Something you cannot get away from?"

hmm, i truly understand that feeling...

Huichieh said...

Eloquent! (Trackbacked)

a friend said...

Thanks for scratching that scar for me.

Anonymous said...

Well said! I too have a scar that may never heal.
I hope Ms Chng Zhenzhi reads this and realize how hurtful her remarks have been.

Mythical said...

The scar was first scratched by Leong Choon Cheong in his most excellent ethnological study Youth In The Army (Federal, 1978, 327pp). But you have added meritorious scratchings too. Paladin-class merit.