Thursday, November 11, 2004

Letter to a Son

Dear Son,

Soon, you will begin National Service.

You will pack your bags and report to a camp ringed by high wire fences and guarded round the clock by armed sentries. To keep intruders out, or to keep you in, I wonder?

You will leave the security and comfort of home to spartan barracks where you will have to live by a clock that is not yours, to a regimen of brutal training designed to break individuals into automatons who will jump to any order unquestioningly, no matter how stupid or physically dangerous.

The slogan that is shouted at you will be that you are being turned from 'boys to men' but the reality is that the training is designed to turn 'kids to killers'. You will learn dozens of ways to kill human beings. From shooting them with a rifle to bayoneting them in the chest, to a quick, silent slash with a commando knife.

During your training, you will probably learn most of the vices that you never knew as a kid. To drink, because beer will be almost as cheap as mineral water. To smoke, because that is what everybody else does. And to find release from hellish camp conditions in paid sex, when you and your platoon mates are let off once in a while. It is all part of the pseudo macho culture of camp life. You will probably learn to swear, too, because swear words are the lingua franca in camps.

You will develop a hardening of the spirit, a carelessness to life; the opposite of the sensitising influence that all your previous education instilled in you. The refinements of Shakespeare will seem far away in the coarse barracks. It will seem another world, another time.

After your 6 months of BMT, you will gradually wind down. Most of your time will be spent in aimlessness, like area cleaning, sleeping and just hanging around. You will waste 2 to 2 1/2 years of your life thus.

That is, if you are lucky. If you are unlucky, you could be shipped to 'peacekeeping operations' in a nearby country. Where you run the real risk of being killed or injured. If you have not been killed or injured in camp training.

You see, our Government is far too ambitious. Not knowing the limitations of itself, its intelligence and its men in uniform, it has a textbook approach to its geopolitical ambitions. It has military aspirations far beyond what is sensible, which may result in your possible death and the deaths of many more of your mates.

Attacking and capturing Johor to secure our water supply is probably justifiable in a crisis, if our Government is stupid enough to let it develop into a crisis, but all other military adventures are totally unjustifiable. Especially when all our neighbours know that we have atom bombs and can deliver them to their major cities. That is deterrence enough to preclude any military intentions towards us.

But no, we go on to overkill. In order to develop a powerful offensive capability, we are spending US$4 billion a year. That is enough to build several hospitals offering totally free hospital care with even airconditioned C Class wards; build several new MRT lines; pay 50% of the last-drawn salaries of all retrenched workers until they find new jobs; build all schools into single session schools, airconditioned and with the best computer and science labs; in short, even to achieve the most generous social and living benefits equalling the Scandinavian countries.

But at the rate we are going, it is we who will entertain and engage in geopolitical games and military adventures. For example, if Indonesia breaks up and descends into turmoil for several years, our politicians and generals, often one and the same, may decide to provoke an excuse to annexe say, Sumatra (if they think big enough) or at least, nearby Batam, Bintan and some Riau Islands because they are near and easily defended.

Of course, the same can be done if Malaysia descends into, say, racial turmoil. We would annexe up to the planned Segamat Line and the largely Chinese Malaysians within this territory will make it easy to consolidate.

Many lives will be needed for these adventures. Perhaps even yours.

It will not only break my heart but will incense me because I always believed that no one should be forced to fight and die for something he does not believe in. If you are a volunteer and you choose to join the army, that is fine but as a NS man, you have no choice. You are conscripted and ordered to fight and perhaps die.

I know that there are those who argue that the Government is 'elected' and therefore, once elected, it governs without further reference to us or our wishes. And that therefore, we should obey even if it means dying.

But in Singapore, the voters have no real choice. Because of the way the PAP rigs the General Election and opposition politics, the voters never had a choice of Government. Therefore, we did not choose the PAP willingly. Thus, we never gave them the mandate to order us into wars, especially wars not directly threatening our security.

Nobody should have to die for something he does not believe in. In Singapore, many, many Singaporeans have stopped believing in the PAP. You only have to visit the local websites to find the depth of feeling against the PAP. Even PAP members find no pride in being a member. It is like some dreadful, shameful secret they don't want others to know.

The GE will be upon us soon. If given the chance to vote, that is, if our constituency is contested, I shall vote Opposition, no matter who. It is a pity that you have no vote. Like they say, you are old enough to die for the country but you are not old enough to vote.

Make no mistake about it. The PAP has lost its moral authority. It is now even gagging the Internet, a futile exercise that indicates its desperation in trying to silence the vocal public. It is now engaged in a virtual war against even its own people. But it will lose. And I believe it will begin its losing in the coming General Election.

Take care, son.


Actually the above letter goes wildly out of point at some point after the first third and the writer starts to rave incoherently towards the end.

I think it's meant to be a spoof of the "letter" that was in "Shoulder To Shoulder - Our National Service Journal".


Anonymous said...

what can i say?


Anonymous said...

All a bunch of namby pamby sissies!

Anonymous said...

NS hardens the spirit but it certainly isn't a violation of human rights or debasing of fine education, as so ineloquently written by the letter writer.

It does however, make many a mummy's boy more independent, toughen the resolve of many a wussy pansy who couldn't even make their own beds at home, expose many sheltered so-called 'top schoolers' to the lesser seen strata of Singapore society and thus rendering them more worldly-wise and street-wise, instead of being cloistered in a parochial coterie of academic strata and remaining ignorant for life.

Many NS men actually profess a nostalgic longing and quixotic fondness for their NS days though they have spent a large part of it griping when they were serving.

It forges close bonds between buddies, makes fit many guys who never knew that they could be that fit and exposes many 19 year old boys to adventures that they would otherwise NEVER experience if they never had to serve, like handling a rifle, riding a motorcycle, experiencing the eye-opening and breathtaking Taiwanese countryside, throwing a grenade, etc.

And there are actually men who see the value and merit of soldiering. Which explains the presence of professional soldiers. Despite the popular and widely disseminated belief that most professional soldiers are so because they couldn't eke out a decent living in the corporate world (probably the warrant officers *sniggers*), most decently educated Singaporeans concede that there ARE capable and sterling youths who see the larger meaning and merit of soldiering, which includes the good (defence) of society and the knowledge that people trust you with their lives, which is the biggest trust of all kinds conceivable.

It's all about making the best out of something thrust to you and the clever and wise know that. Whining like a wishy-washy, chicken livered pansy and trying to picket against the establishment makes one the real loser.

Agagooga said...

"Arbeit Macht Frei"

If slavery is really so beneficial and exciting, it wouldn't have to be made compulsory, with no choice of alternative service for conscientious objectors and others.

If it really builds so many character traits, we would be sending our women for it, just like the League of German Maidens. And we wouldn't have so many suicide attempts, or traumatised people being seen by SAF psychiatrists, their minds ruined wrecks.

If it has so many beneficial side effects, why not find alternative, less dehumanizing activities that do the job at a lower cost and in a shorter time period?

Many old people long for the good old days when a bowl of noodles cost a cent, but they forget that back then they earned 30 cents a month, and the noodles had cockroaches swimming in them. People tend to forget the bad memories and remember only the good ones. Besides which, there are some people who are nostalgic for jail.

As for those who sign on, almost all fall into 4 categories:
1) Scholars
2) Sadists
3) Greedy for the money
4) Incapable of finding jobs outside

Most who have been slaves know that these 4 categories encompass 99% of regulars, if not more.

Trying to make people live up to society's archaic expectations of what real "men" should be like is a recipe for disaster, and continuing meek acceptance of unjust fates would have resulted in Singapore being a British colony today, South Africa still practising apartheid and fascists ruling the world.

Anonymous said...

If SAF were so bad, why would scholars take up the scholarship?

-current NJC student

Agagooga said...

See my reply in another thread:

Anonymous said...

Nothing is totally good or bad, and NS is certainly neither. There are always good times as well as bad. Just as the letter highlighted all the bad things, the subsequent comments highlighted the good things about it.

I look back on my NS with fondness, but i certainly do not want to go through it all over again. How about you?

- Toons

the.biatch said...

well...lets say if something really happens.theoretical situation. malaysia turns commie. or Indons get a brainless stupid leader like Bush. what would you do? run? run to where? you know what other countries do nowadays to people seeking asylum. lock them up until they can be shipped back. perhaps u have stakes here. a family. would you fight for your family? If all your buddies.. the army buddies whom you went thru thick and thin with are going to fight... wouldn you follow? wouldn you fight for them? We're are intelligent beings. We think. many of us are idealistic. PEACE. no war. PEACE always. but not everybody thinks as coherently as you.

like what all veterans always say, its never about the politics. It always about the man next to you.

jinx said...

its not a commando knife you pathetic piece of shit. its called a stiletto. u must have been a loser in the army, seeing the sarcasm in ur entries. must have been a trouble maker for your platoon.

ranger2006 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ranger2006 said...

This guy is confirmed 100% a sissy clerk or storeman! CONFIRMED!

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