I did not expect my rant last week on our National Service (NS) system to trigger such a strong reaction.
By NS, I am referring to the entire package of two years compulsory full time service, annual ICT and IPPT/RT/IPT for ten work years and the constant threat of military law. I am not referring to just the two years compulsory service alone.
The post has garnered over 100,000 page views over one weekend, with over 6,000 facebook shares and still spreading like wildfire.
For regular readers of my blog, you will know that I have always been unhappy with our unfair NS system. I am unabashed about this and am used to Rambo-types calling me all sorts of names because of this.
I read through all the comments, it seems to be a 70-30 split with majority support for a review of the NS system.
NS is a very big discussion topic.
Some of the comments seem to be going off-tangent while others are delving too deep into specific experiences for any meaningful discussion.
I would like to make some clarifications in response to where I stand on the whole NS debate:
1. I do no advocate compulsory two years NS for women or foreigners. Yes, it will make everyone equally miserable, but it will not make me any better off than I was before.
I just want our government to review the whole system thoroughly and improve on it to make Singapore men less worse off.
An eye for an eye will only make the whole world go blind – Ghandi.
2. I do not have the perfect answer to how the system can be improved. It is the job of the full time staff in MINDEF and SAF to look into it. This does not mean I am not qualified to complain. If you are served a piece of rotten chicken at KFC, do you need to be able to show the kitchen staff how to cook the chicken before you can say anything?
Please don’t give me crap about “constructive criticism”. It is my most hated two words which are ironically, oxymoron. They are convenient replies to cull off any meaning debates by forcing people to come up with solutions before they can even raise any problem.
3. Yes, the issue of foreigners influx is closely linked to the unfairness of the NS system. However, I am not against foreigners.
I do not blame foreigners for coming in and compete with us for jobs. In fact, I applaud and respect them for having the courage to seize the opportunity when they see it.
Everyone is in search of a better life and if I were in their shoes, I would have done the same. Our government policies allow it to be this way.
4. While my main grouse is with the unfairness of the system, I won’t deny I am also partially looking out for my own self interest and comfort when ranting off against the current NS system. What is wrong with that? Nation before self? Come on… let’s get real.
If you found a loaf of bread during a famine and you know your wife and son as well as the soldiers defending your land are starving to death, would you give the bread to the soldiers because you believe in nation before self? Let yourself, your wife and son starve to death because the nation is more important? Seriously?
I can be altruistic and giving up to a certain level. At some stage, you have to fend for yourself, your family and your loved ones. Unless you are an extraordinary martyr of sort like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela, which I am not.
Even our Ministers justified their high salaries with the same self-serving logic. Why can’t I do the same as an ordinary Singaporean?
5. I won’t say I have gained nothing during my two and a half years as a full-time serviceman or during my annual ICTs. I made many lifelong friends to keep and the shared camaraderie was priceless.
However, these experiences have nothing to do with criticism of the NS system as a whole. I do not understand why some pro-NS types keep harping on these as rationale to keep the NS system the way it is.
6. I am very against the restriction of freedom to live life the way I want it, even after I have completed two and a half-year of full-time service. It is not so much about the specifics of having to cut my hair short or attending RT/IPTs or applying for exit permits. It is not having the free option to do otherwise that pisses me off.
Some people are more free-spirited than others. I do not like regimentation. I can tolerate it in the short term (two years), but having it imposed on me for more than half of my entire lifespan is really hard to bear.
NS (reservist) is a part-time job with full-time commitment, subjected to a unique set of military laws where you can get jailed for minor stuff like forgetting to take your IPPT. Fair?
Isn’t this akin to modern slavery?
7. For those who keep asking me to AWOL, migrate or get out of Singapore if I am unhappy with the system, I am very sorry your worldview is so narrow you cannot even accept difference in opinions.
I never said I am not proud of my country or what we have achieved. However, I believe we can do better.
8. Seriously, it is time to review the whole NS and reservist system.