Saturday, September 09, 2006

Brainstorm about National Service on Mr. Wang’s blog

Hi Friends,

The internet is an amazing medium which allows all of us to participate in useful discourse from wherever we are. Those of us who have a passion for what is happening around us can participate in what I see as an experiment in grass-root democracy (well, sort of anyway).

For this we must thank pioneers like Mr. Wang of Mr.Wang Bakes Good Karma whom I read everyday as his brain seems to ooze out posts and ideas effortlessly. I suspect that he must be a scion of some rich tycoon, and hence does not really need to work and can afford to spend his time blogging 24/7.

I do not wish to steal the thunder from Mr. Wang and I will immediately get to the point about this post. Mr. Wang in his inimitable way blogged about National Service and why it is time to have a relook at this once “sacred cow”. Before the conservatives amongst you “switch off” and mumble to yourselves, “Here we go again, same old sh*t again about NS slavery blah blah…”, let me assure you in Mr. Wang’s own words, “It has never been my intention to argue that NS is not necessary.” ( see.. he even reads minds!).

He is seeking feedback about how National Service can be a more worthwhile experience ( or as someone said, a less worthless one). To set the tone for Part 2 of the post, he assures the skeptics thus (in a comment):

"1. Is NS necessary? It has never been my intention to argue that NS is not necessary.

2. Forcing 1st Gen FTs to do NS.No, that is not my idea.

3. Forcing 2nd Gen FTs to do NS.If they are citizens, they would have to serve. But no, it is not my idea to force anyone to take up citizenship.

4. Professional armyNo, it was not my intention to argue that we can replace our conscript army with a professional army. Although I think hiring another 10,000 Gurkhas would be useful. Foreign talent is good, remember?”

My aim here is to rechannel more eyeballs to his post. The comments from netizens ( last count 94 comments) are just as important ( if not more important than the actual post itself). The majority of the comments are serious and well thought-out. Doubtlessly, there are some wisecracks but if the government wants sincere feedback and constructive ideas, Mindef should look no further.

My limited experience with my blog confirms that bloggers are generally responsible and constructive. In fact, I have already disabled the “moderation” function of my comments page as there had been no need to censor any comments for any defamatory or distasteful comments for there were none.

I would suggest that perhaps Mr. Wang should collate these comments ( in some sort of order) and forward them to Mindef. Let us see how the authorities respond to such sincere and constructive suggestions.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

PS: In case you are wondering... no, Mr. Wang did not ask me to do this. In fact I don't even know who he is.

Below is the post and links...

Rethinking NS - Part 1 (from Mr. Wang Bakes Good Karma)
Recently, I had lunch with a lawyer. A foreigner who has been working for some years in Singapore. He has PR status now and has been offered citizenship a few times. He also has a very young son, about three years old. During lunch, he asked me point-blank to explain the NS system and how he could avoid his son having to do NS (read on...)

Addendum: Rethinking NS- Part 2 ( hot off the press)


Anthony said...

When asked why he had not served in Vietnam, Dick Cheney replied; ‘I had other priorities’. George W. Bush was drafted but never showed up in Indo-china, pulling influential strings to avoid the Asian blood orgy. And now, these are the very people sending young Americans to Iraq and Afghanistan, to kill, rape and destroy, or be killed.

The mighty of this world somehow find ways and means of avoiding the shit that they themselves create, while for the rest of us the shit is always hitting the fan. Are we really to believe that National Service is about defence and security? And that it is not a thinly disguised attempt at social engineering, to mould and reshape young minds into pliable citizens? A nation of Manchurian candidates?

And why do we need an army for anyway? The modern way of waging war seems to be the cowardly one of dropping “smart” bombs from the sky, killing innocent civilians, and then displaying the results like a sort of video game for the home audience to gawk at. Do we need National Service for that? Most countries get along just fine without NS, the two notable exceptions being Singapore and Switzerland. Are we so different from the rest of the world?

Of course, the basic argument is that NS is to discourage or ward off a foreign threat. I may be stirring up a hornet’s nest here but I think this is nonsense. Singapore, like Switzerland, is simply too important for anyone to mess around with. During two bloody world wars, as Europeans were merrily slaughtering one another, Switzerland, right in the middle, was virtually untouched and unscathed. Isn’t that strange? One has to be extremely naïve to think that Hitler and Mussolini were intimidated by the Swiss mountains. The reason is a lot more simple; Switzerland is just too important, as is Singapore, for the powers that run this world. No one will dare touch either of these two nations. (The bombastic rhetoric that is occasionally bandied across the causeway between Singapore and Malaysia is harmless “wayang” for public consumption that keeps both populations wary of each other.) The idea that NS is necessary as a means of protection against a foreign power is a laughable one.

This is the 21st.century, folks; let us reason like 21st. century citizens. The State’s most important asset is its people. But people can be unpredictable; you never know what they’ll do next. And so they have to be manipulated and controlled. And for that we have television, Hollywood, the newspapers, etc. which do a wonderful job of keeping us in our proper place. But there are two exceptions, Singapore and Switzerland, where stability and a docile population is vital to the interests of the powers that be. And so another powerful manipulating tool was brought into play. National Service.

Do I sound like a crazed conspiracy theorist? Maybe I am. But, still, food for thought.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Tony,
If I had my choice, I wish there was no NS too.
But that's not gonna happen right?
I consider myself a pragmatic idealist.
We might as well try to lobby for a shorter and less disruptive NS.

sporescores said...

"Switzerland is just too important, as is Singapore, for the powers that run this world."

No need for NS because Singapore is just too important? That's hilarious.

Anthony said...

You missed my point sporescores. I said that Singapore is under no threat because no will dare to mess around with it, thus making NS superfluous.

sporescores said...

"Singapore is under no threat because no will dare to mess around with it." For real? That's hilarious.

Anthony said...

Nice to know that I was the cause of your hilarity! I am not that worthless after all…

visceral said...

It serves as a backdoor to impose marital law on members of the civilian population who play a role in the army, without interference from external agencies abroad. You might glean more from pages 165 & 170 of Ross Worthington's Governance in Singapore
`Lee may have considered the strategy, but the generals would have been far from united on such an initiative`

visceral said...

sporescores. I'd have to agree with you. there is a need for a strong deterrent force. Thats why we employed the gurkhas
`Not being influenced by the local scene is part of their concept in Singapore. They just don't get emotionally involved in anything they may get caught up in` Bruce Niven`