Two days ago, I wrote about the ongoing discussions about National Service and foreign talents at Mr Wang Bakes Good Karma: Rethinking NS - Part 1. I said that I was surprised that after 35 years, the resentment against NS has not changed much. I also said that I did not want to participate in the discussion because I sensed that the generation gap was too big.
Meantime, the discussion at Mr Wang’s site rages on. Last time I checked, there was a whopping 90 comments posted. This being such an important topic, close to the hearts of young Singaporeans, I think it is simply wrong for older Singaporeans like me, who have gone through the entire NS experience, not to share our thoughts. I hope some of the other ‘lau pengs’ like Chris, Victor, Frannxis and Peter will say something too.
Firstly, I want to tell these young men I understand your feelings of resentment, frustration and even sense of betrayal. When I was in the university, surrounded by Malaysians, I felt exactly the same. While my friends were charging up Peng Kang Hill, feeding the mosquitoes in the jungles of Mandai, and going through all the extra drills and change parades, these guys were enjoying the privileges that have been provided through our parents’ hard work and sacrifice. Before long, they will graduate and take away our choicest jobs, and when we finally join the working world, they will become our bosses. Plus they are taking away our girls too! (which was why I decided to take back one of theirs by marrying a Malaysian girl .. .. Haha .. just kidding lah). So criticizing our government was a favourite past time in those days; and the situation was not helped by the presence of some very persuasive and eloquent student activists like Tan Wah Piow. But strangely, I felt very angry when I hear my Malaysian friends criticize our government.
But that was 35 years ago. I thought that things would have changed by now. Today’s NS enlistees are children of first generation NS men themselves. How come so many of them still do not accept NS? How come there is still all this foolish talk about engaging foreigners to defend our country? Maybe there is a weakness in our national education. But to be honest, I think the problem lies with the parents. I think we fathers have the duty to explain to our sons the meaning of NS. Maybe we should all follow the example of Yue Fei’s mother and tattoo the words Duty, Honour, Country on the backs of our sons, because this is what the whole issue is all about.
It has nothing to do with the foreign talents, or the shabby way in which our government appears to be treating us, while pandering to the foreigners. It has to do with the relationship between you and your country. Yes, you may feel angry that our government has cheapened this country by making Singapore citizenship so easily available to foreigners who do not share the same love you have for it; but it is still your country. You were born here, you grew up here, your girl friends live here and your parents will grow old and die here.
So first ask yourself this question. Is Singapore your country?
If it is, then whose duty is it to defend Singapore?
Finally, do you love your country? If you do, then it is not an obligation, or a ‘necessary evil’, but an honour to defend it. Somebody has to defend it; if not you, who? And that involves sacrifice. It has to cost you something doesn’t it?
And how can you defend it if you are not trained? Do you think that with 3 months of NS without live bullets, like what our friends in Malaysia are doing, you can acquire sufficient skill to keep yourself alive during a war, let alone drive away attackers?
Let me end by sharing a story my pastor once told us. He was a medical doctor, and he had a Jewish friend who was a brilliant and very successful doctor in the United States. Once he met this Jewish doctor at an annual conference in New York. He told my pastor that he would not be attending the following year’s conference.
Why? Because he was migrating.
Where to? ……Israel.
My NS Stories
A Jog Down Memory Lane
What Melvyn Missed
The Dangers of NS
Pay Correct Sir
The Dangers of Kenging
I Remember Gillman Camp
Ideas@Work: Tapping Employee Ideas for higher Productivity - My book on Staff Suggestions Systems Ideas@Work: Tapping Employee Ideas for Higher Productivity (165 pages, 6” x 9”, perfect bound) is now available in Sin...