Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In Defense of Defense

My experiences with NS and as a citizen soldier has lead me to question quite a bit about our national policy towards NS. Personally, I do not think it is NS per se that causes resentment among Singaporean males. It is a whole combination of factors.

The heart of the matter is that NS is a massive obligation with few benefits. When I say "benefit" I mean the whole gamut of benefit - financial, social, personal. I think enough has been discussed about financial benefit so I won't go there. What I will focus on is social and personal benefit.

My biggest gripe about NS is that it is viewed nationally not as a necessary sacrifice, but as a "haha-sucker" sort of obligation. Witness Taiwan - I am told merely wearing a uniform there raises your esteem in the eyes of the locals. A similar but more sombre zeitgeist pervades Israel, Finland and Switzerland. Why is this so?

The problem with Singapore is the issue of "us" and "them" isn't so clear cut. The "us" versus "them" mentality is encouraged, even inflammed, by government propaganda. The problem with encouraging this mentality is that this bleeds over to every aspect of life.
  1. "Me" versus "the government", i.e what I can do to get out of NS in the first place?
  2. "Me" versus "everyone else in NS", i.e can I get other people to do my job in NS?
  3. "Me" versus "society" i.e Now that I have (on paper) served NS, what else can I get out of this obligation that ALL taxpayers have to bear?
Note that this mentality spreads even to non-NS serving citizens - i.e women. I've never met a Singaporean woman that gives respect to our men purely because they have to serve NS. It's always a mixture of relief and schadenfreude (that they don't have to serve), combined with just a little bit of "haha-sucker".

In short, what social benefit is there from serving NS? You don't get any respect out of it, you hardly get recognised for hard work, and if you do, in fact, put in hard work out of moral obligation, people laugh at you and call you a sucker.


More on (lack of) personal benefits to NS in another instalment.


Anonymous said...

Ha! Ha! Sucker!

Pendragon said...

I agree fully, Khayce.

Fargoal said...

An additional point. After becoming suckers, we can't help but get pissed when we see others successfully get out of NS. If we suffered, then others must suffer as well.

Hence the anger against the pianist (or was it the violinist) who skipped his NS but only received a nominal fine, a few years back. Also that feeling of angst that foreigners and women do not have to serve.

Well, I sure hope I can pass my IPPT during my next reservist...

PanzerGrenadier said...

The far greater price that we NSmen face is DEATH while serving the country.

To add insult to injury, Mindef recently had to be sued by parents of a NSF who was injured and is now comatose in hospital to pay his medical bills.

Mindef wanted to weasel its way out of paying saying the NSF was not "on duty" even though he was in camp and could not book out when he was injured.

I've encountered 1 case of a regular dying in tank overturn and 1 NSman collapse and die during ICT IPPT. Risk of dying in NS is REAL not some "Oh, it can't happen to ME but to someone else".

Why risk dying for a regime that penalises you for being born with a penis whilst welcoming foreign talons who rip against you in the job market, housing market and for public infrastructure such as MRT, buses, queues for stuff?

Majullah Singapura.

Khayce said...

There's a reason I wrote the title as it is - I am not against NS. I am dead against the way it's been implemented.

Any number of things can be done to make NS a truly worthwhile experience - proper pay for NSMen for one, attachment of certain "premium" rights for another.

The simple fact is that NS has been created on the cheap, and is sustained on the cheap, and knows no other way of going on except on the cheap. Making NS worthwhile involves increasing costs, or reducing the onerousness of the obligations. And like any other system, those with the power to change the system are those who benefit most from the system as it currently is.

apocalyptic wen said...

I never thought I'd see the word schadenfreude used, ever.


Yu Sarn said...

Yep, even after serving my entire NS liability, I still feel resentful at having been made to do it. It's not having to serve one's country - I have no problem with that - it's the stupidity, hypocrisy and plain do-it-for-the-sake-of-doing-it nature of NS that gets to me. Everyone who has done NS knows that it doesn't serve a real purpose. Yet the irony is that we will continue to spend huge amounts of resources on this meaningless and punitive ritual even in a time when we can least afford it.

-ben said...

I see no moral obligation to fight for a regime whose values are anathema to mine. In the case of conscription or drafts in war, I am not against the fragging of officers. They are better off leaving people who have no wish to serve alone.

People I love? People whom I love all have the ability to leave this country.

How about the gahmen hire foreign talents to do the fighting for us?

A nation is a society united by delusions about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbors. (William Ralph Inge)

There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum. (Arthur C. Clarke)

Nature is the only ruler. I shit on flags. (Reinhold Messner)

Anonymous said...

1. NS is not a complete
time-waster. It serves as a
barking dog to keep would-be
intruders at bay.
Surprise! We are the dogs.

2. Love your country, fuck your

3. Ha! Ha! Sucker!