Whispers from the heart

Ocassional conversations with my heart. Never heart-wrenching and heart-breaking. Always light-hearted and hearty. Ever thankful for your heart-felt support.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

National service is the mother of all problems ....

Singapore has a penchant to be hubs for all things ....

Unintentionally, we are also becoming a PROBLEM hub. We have no babies, no talents, no customer service skills, no smiles and no money (except a few of us wearing white).

Luckily, our government is very talented. The solution, it seems, to all these problems is to import immigrants. Yep, all these problems will disappear when immigrants arrive by the truckloads.

Fortunately, old fogey discovered the mother of all problems while listening to Mr Brown's podcast on Pluto's downgrading. No, it's not Pluto's fault that we have problems but National Service for Singapore males.

OK, don't fret for those of you who die, die want to die for the country. I am not advocating to abolish National Service. Even though this is one important aspect where many singaporeans feel they have been disadvantaged as citizens against immigrants.

C'mon, get real. Where would all those regulars work if there is no MINDEF? Outsourced them to Iran and Lebanon? I respect those who believe in dying for their country. How romantic! Dying for love of a country, for fellow men and family (actually, I prefer my son alive but that's not the point).

In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with Dr Huang for his big-hearted proposal to welcome our immigrants. So, why is National Service the mother of all problems?

Listen to the podcast for those who had never served in the army, had no brothers in the family who served NS and if you're a white horse (or is it white knights?). Did you hear the atrocious, non-standard English used ever so freely by our esteemed army officers?! My god, they are supposed to be stewards of discipline and male bonding functions for our impressionable young men of 18 or more.

I spent much money and time in enrolling my son in 'branded' schools, attending Julia Gabriel classes with native speaking teachers and holidaying only in Europe and the States. Imagine, all these efforts will go to waste when he reports to the army in few years' time. Because, day in day out, his army officers will teach him an expanded vocabulary of 'chow keng','gen' and many other forms of non-standard English.

From the State's perspective, this is seriously detrimental to MOE's initiative to bring in more Native Speakers to teach our children. What's the point of teaching from young, to be corrupted just when they are ready to join the work force?

Remember, having a population of standard English speakers is very critical for our economy because the tourists and investors may not come if they don't understand us. Without money and economic growth, all other problems will pop up. The lack of money is the root of all evil, some say. (Evil is the fruit of having too much money?).

National Service is the problem. Yep. I urge the Minister for Defence (who's he hah?) to give this mother of all problems a serious thought. Maybe, we could ask those foreigners and immigrants to perform National Service as well. Spend some time in the army barracks to mingle and socialise with the local soldiers. They need not wear green, blue will do as a Mr Ng Ya Ken had suggested in Today (this chap suggested naming our citizens by the colour of the rainbow to forge cohesiveness).

Maybe, we could also adopt MOE's policy as well. Employ some native speakers to become army officers. Who knows, they might want to die for our country too, one day.



  • At 8:07 PM, Blogger sÞ¡ηηєє said…

    hahaah good thought-invoking post you have here.

    it's hard to believe how many young men had die in the midst of serving National Slavery, i mean, Service, but yeah, there are really a huge number. just that it wasn't reported.

    What I understand those FT imported need not to do National Slavery, darts, I mean SERVICE.
    I'm sure singaporean men will feel unprivileged to be a citizen here. I've seen many men screaming for retrenchment for this instance. but oh well, our whites wanna suck money from FT yet they can't allow them to do NS 'cuz it's afterall, they may 'endanger' our country by leaking information about us and probably another osama will come & bomb us? shrug...

    Oh well, if the FT stays and become the citizen and get married with kids, their descendants will have to go through it. I guess that's what they say, son paying for father's debt? O_O....

  • At 9:03 PM, Blogger Whispers from the heart said…

    FTs are very talented ....

    I know of many who left their sons in their home country.

    When some singapore males told me that NS will make a man out of them, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

    In the past, I rather date a goat than such a wimp!

    I don't know much about young girls now ... I only have a son :0

  • At 7:08 AM, Blogger nofearSingapore said…

    Thanks for the mention.
    On my first day in NS ( many moons ago), I was totally shocked at the "French" and other non-parliamentary language.
    Well, what better way for new and old citizens to gel than through "standard NS " jargon!
    If you want to link to my post, you may want to paste this onto your link.
    Your present link is not working
    Best wishes

  • At 2:27 PM, Blogger AhHUAT-Eh? said…

    Whispers.. you are soooo funny. I like reading your blog.
    NS was many many years ago, and yes it's a waste of time.. no choice.
    Luckily my children has choice.
    They are not going to do it.

    Ah Huat

  • At 4:53 PM, Blogger Whispers from the heart said…

    Thanks, Doc!

    I still learning leh ... and refuse to ask my son to teach. "I did it my way" sort of thing.

    Old fogeys still have that spunk, huh?!

    Now, getting my grey cells wobbling with annimation ....

  • At 6:03 PM, Blogger Sunflower said…

    Personally I feel that NS do get some ppl mature. But for the period of 2.5 years are too long!

  • At 6:19 PM, Blogger sÞ¡ηηєє said…

    it's not that duration sucks.

    probably the recalling for reservists SUCK too.

    esp for those who are at the lower end of the army...

    (dun talk about clerks, officers etc. they are just wasting taxpayers)

  • At 10:03 PM, Blogger Whispers from the heart said…

    If men need to be enlisted at 18 to mature, there's really something wrong with the system!

    How about girls, then? we never mature?

    Maturity is subjective, anyway. I prefer my hubby a little immature, at times :0

  • At 9:55 AM, Blogger Paddy Tan said…

    I serious hope that after NS, they can just let us go or at least not a high key reservist every freaking years.

    Mine goes a minimum 22 days and this is my 6th years, since I was out on year 2000. At least gimme time to build my own business.

  • At 4:14 PM, Blogger Whispers from the heart said…


    I know how you feel. My hubby don't know why, always kenna called when he needs to do important projects or the 3rd day of Chinese New Year!

    We used to laugh that Big Brother must be buay song him ...

  • At 2:43 AM, Blogger Paddy Tan said…

    Yeah lor, really painful to go back every year...

    Anyway, I really enjoy this entry and submitted to Tomorrow.sg to share with others too. Hope it gets published. :)

  • At 3:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Seriously when I read this post, it really gives me an impression that u are a bimboo mother.

    Despite what u believe about NS giving back influence to ur son. Many NS nationals has also managed to finish their NS and avoid using those rather rough language when they get back to "civilisation".

    As for ur so-called "respect" for those pple who believe in dying for country, I feel that u might as well leave it out of ur post if u are going to be so sarcastic about it.

    As for pple who believe that they can catch the 1st plane out of singapore in times of war. I applause ur optimistic abt ur situation in foreign countries after singapore is shot down. Probably u can pass urself off as a local in China OR Malaysia (provided the war is not with Malaysia) OR India.
    But mostly u will only be a war refugee in these countries. And ur son is probably going to some 2nd or 3rd or 4th class citizen. Worst still, he is a low class citizen branded with no guts (which despise what most singaporeans like to believe, many foreigners do hold that in high regards and they really look down upon cowards)

    Probably u believe that it is not important for pple to live with dignity, but just to be alive

  • At 5:21 PM, Blogger Whispers from the heart said…

    I had explained that I am not intelligent. Nor I am going to diseminate gospel truths about anything!

    But, I think you should not insult yourself nor the others who had read my entries.

    It is very rude and unbecoming of someone like you. If you are proud of whatever you are, don't resort to personal attacks. It will cheapen what you stand for.

    I respect your views so I leave it here.

  • At 10:39 AM, Blogger AcidJazZ said…

    I enjoy your blog. It speaks with depth and humour. I serve my NS days with my best attitude and I am in high key reservist training every year and I enjoy it.

    When I started work after Uni, my CTO is a FT who is the same age as me. Now, I already caught up with him. It's the mindset, not the system.

    There's always 2 sides to how you look at things; Problems or Opportunity? :)

  • At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just a desperate Mom who don't know what to do. My son has left Singapore since age 8. We tried to get deferment for NS so as to complete his Undergraduate program in USA. Mindef turned it down because they said that every male should be treated fairly (after the Meryvn Tan's case). After much deliberation, my son decided to renounce his citizenship and be free to pursue his own dreams. To my horror, Mindef did not approved on the grounds that renunciation of citizenship cannot be made till one is 21 years old. They are enforcing him to serve and then renounce. Most countries have their right to vote at 18. I wonder Singapore's legal age remains at 18 so that every male alive born in Singapore must serve not matter what - no choice- even when they have been transformed into another type of being, after staying overseas from a young age. The pursuit of happiness and freedom becomes a birth right and my son could not make sense out of what's happening to him. Do you have any inspirational thoughts about this injustice?

  • At 10:34 AM, Anonymous alex said…

    In reply to anonymous.

    No i dont have any inspirational thoughts. Unfortunately, that's the country we live in. I'm really sorry about your son. Looks like he has some tough choices to make.

    I understand that if you apply to change his citizenship by age 14 then he doesnt have to serve. But that's spilt milk.

    I wish him all the best. If he leaves singapore, he would've chosen a path that a braver me might've taken.


    To Whispers of the heart:

    Love your blog.. its absolutely hilarious.

    Having said that,I daresay that NS does make a difference to a guy's maturity level, having done it myself. (And we (sg guys)are all somewhat more marriageable than goats I hope... though that might explain the sub replacement rate in children nowadays...)

    That is, especially for us sheltered little crabs meandering out from the fuzzy warmth of the JC education system. What about girls? Girls never mature? haha. Nah. I daresay girls are more mature to begin with. Besides. Women have pregnancy, which is far tougher. Heh.

  • At 8:43 AM, Anonymous 40+ Singaporean said…

    Another great post from Whispers.

    To the anonymous mum, I am afraid your son has very few options open. The Singapore government's stand on NS is very clear and rigid. No exceptions, no flexibility. There is no one in MINDEF dealing with this issue with any heart. They are just 'robots' who takes the MINDEF policies as words cast in stone, bigger than the Ten Commandments and certainly not to be disobeyed.

    My son had lots of problems in NS. To keep a long story short, they (officers in MINDEF and all parts of the SAF, including doctors) essentially are prepared to see him die than even entertain any thoughts of discharging him from service. One of the doctor even told him and me that if he takes his own life (when he is of unsound mind), that he is solely responsible for his own action. This came from a psychiatrist in the SAF.

    The government goes to great extent to attract FT to Singapore, not requiring them to serve NS (a sacred cow to the PAP government) but do not treasure one of our own citizen.

    If you read the SAF Act, you will understand there is 'no escape'. We are a nation built on 'efficiency' and with each amendments of any acts, we close all loop-holes. Our nation is not grounded in any principles relating to humanity, hence we produce humanity 'scholars' such as Wee SM. Contrast this to the US constitution, written in the 18 century. The people who drafted it were wise enough to recognise that they do not know what will happen in the future and how things will change, hence their fifth amendment.

    Singapore could do well in relooking at the core values and principles that should be the bedrocks of our constitution.

  • At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm the same Mom from USA. I thank 40+ for telling the truth about Singaporean's NS. Many Singaporean friends gave a positive view that I should not worry and that NS is made much easier. Therefore, I should just let my son return alone. I feel that it is the injustice that I stand against, and not the type of training (that is another issue). Even average Singaporeans seemed to want to enforce the strict rule, they never understand the psychological difference when children grew up in a totally different culture, they just cannot accept it and it breaks their human spirit to be treated that way.

    So I have witnessed those who are in the same boat. They choose to be absent without permission and remain a fugitive all their life. More than the standard of morally right or wrong, they protected their own happiness instead of choosing to obey the rules of a country who does not care for them. I hope Singaporeans will not condemn such kids who did not serve NS.They were not treated justly in the first place.

  • At 1:52 AM, Anonymous 40+ Singaporean said…

    TTo the anonymous Mom from the USA - this is how it is. If you have children liable for NS and for any reasons, they cannot go through with it, you are in for a very difficult time.

    Tough choices lie ahead. I suggest you have a good chat with your son and be absolutely certain he can go through with it. Otherwise, think again.

    Don't count on MINDEF or any other part of the government to do the right thing by him, should he not be able to go through it. They will insist he complete his liabilities. The only consistent response you will get is 'This is the law, this is the rule and this is the policy'. It doesn't matter how senior the officer is who deal with the case, no one is prepared to make a professional or 'command decision' (as they prefer to call it in the army) and stick his/her neck out for an exception, however strong or valid it may be. For reasons unknown to me (as a rule, they never tell you any reasons for any of their decisions), the life of a soldier in peace time is a reasonable sacrifice if it is to maintain a 'no-exception, no-alternative' policy for serving NS.

    It is completely lost on MINDEF and the SAF the undisputable fact that great armies in history are led by leaders who are keenly aware that if the hearts of the soldiers are not with them, they have no hope of winning a war. I have served my NS and my reservist, discharging my duties in an exemplary manner and I am still liable to be called up to fight for my country for a few more years. I can tell you now that I will only take up arms to defend my family. For any other military duties, I rather go to jail instead. I will leave the smart scholars, who are responsible for the policies and the very senior officers whose only decision making capabilities and judgmental abilities are contained in some SAF manuals, to go figure if they have won my family members' hearts to serve.

    The SAF has vastly improved its PR skills, quality of equipment and facilities in general but I am afraid, not much else have, from the time I served in the late 70s. Most male who go through NS will survive and some will learn something from the experience but mostly, it is a waste of time. For those who have good reasons not to be able to serve, they will be 'sacrificed'. There is no choice in this matter.

    You will have to assess your son's situation and act accordingly, in his interest.

  • At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    From the same Mom from USA, I thank 40 + singaporean for his care and concern to explain the situation so clearly to me. It warmed my heart to know of Singaporeans like him -listen and expresses empathy. I have blunt remarks like "ask your son to get a SAF scholarship","you are not the only one", which is rubbing salt in my wound. While in USA, my friends whether there are whites or from mainland Chinese sees the situation differently and that my child's interest is personal to me and he is differentiated in that ,he grew up in USA. They value individuals as unique and deserving attention. Singapore is becoming cold.

  • At 6:25 PM, Anonymous 40+ Singaporean said…

    To Mom from the USA - I hope I had helped you in some ways.

    Your son and you will have to make the final decision if he should be a 'fugitive' of Singapore for the rest of his life.

    In many of our hearts, we are Singaporean and call this tiny island home but there are things the government does which makes it difficult for some to continue to do. Labels such as 'quitters' only go to show that they expect each and every one to live by their rules and their rules only. I have no doubts there are those who are ingrates and only take advantage of the system but generalisations such as this label only go to shows that our system cannot and do not make provisions for any exceptions.

    Individuals are exceptions, never identical.

    Good luck!

  • At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To 40+, I thank you again for making the decision so clear to me. Humanly speaking, I'm wavering because when my son renewed his passport at age 11, my siblings were guarantors, the bond had been very specific in the kind of "liabilities" against my son not returning to serve NS. I cannot repay their kindness by doing something as being irresponsible to act according to what is promised. That I think is morally wrong to hurt two persons that close to me. My son is not enlisted yet and is turning 16, end of this year. He is now junior in the High School and will apply for University, in his senior year which is end of next year. From Mindef website, I read that ITE students can defer till they finish diploma in polytechnic, meaning that they will be way past the age of 18 when they serve NS, in fact, they will likely be about 20/21. Because the American system is flexible, my son will enter Uni versity before his 18th birthday. With some credit waiver on some of the advanced classes he is currently taking in the High School, he is likely to finish college by his 21st birthday or another 6 months more.Harry frankfurt,a Princeton Professor, rightfully arrest this issue in his Doctrine of Sufficiency: "What is important from the moral point of view is not that everyone should have the same but that each should have enough". In this context , ITE students are given the chance to pursue almost their highest educational limit before serving NS. Medical students will be disrupted after 6 months of NS and the rest of the duties defer to their completion fo medical school. In comparison, my son has been made worse off. If he returns after High School, he is only 171/2. Mindef said that he can serve earlier but not later. On the grounds of equality that they have kept telling me time and again, they are just lip service. How do they formulate policies based on equality? Apparently, the equality is rigid. Just as you have wanted me to know the truth, I wish you get a clearer picture on what's happening to cases like this. I will update on how my son's case eventually work out. If I'm silent, you know what's the verdict. In the meantime, I hope your son will endure the training and discipline on the assurance that there is a wonderful family waiting for his return. I wish him all the best!

  • At 5:33 PM, Anonymous 40+ Singaporean said…

    Your decision is more difficult than I anticipated. You're right to consider your siblings' liabilities as guarantors. I had thought your decision hinges only on your son giving up his citizenship.

    I should have anticipated your situation. If I am not mistaken, male citizens must renounce their citizenship before age 12, if they do not wish to serve NS and don't want to become a fugitive. This is our 'birthrights' while FTs are lured to Singapore and do not have to serve NS.

    That's how our government is. Policies and laws are drafted by 'clever' people but not wise people, who go on to close every possible 'loophole' with each revision. If only we have more people like Whispers responsible for drafting our policies.

    Equality is a myth. We are born unequal but there are things and ways for us to treat people as equal as possible. It is in our pledge that I used to recite as a 7 to 12 years old and beyond when I attended school. '....regardless of race, language or religion....' I recall our MM's graduate mother scheme - so much for equality.

    To the officers in MINDEF, they think they are on moral high grounds, that they are being impartial. The truth is that they are unthinking individuals, who follows orders to the letter and parrot the official stance on such matters regardless of circumstances. No doubts some who read this comment will say I am biased and writing in my son's and my own interest. These words are carefully chosen and fully based on my own experiences over many encounters for a good part of this year. These are not words of a 18 year old, advocating 'kicking some government officers in their balls' because they expressed an opinion of theirs which I do not agree with.

    I can only hope my son survives his NS because I have done virtually everything I can, to help keep him alive.

  • At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To40+ and whipsers from the heart, I'm thankful that a blog like this facilitated sharing of this nature, it does helped me to come to terms with the "injustice" my family faced. On hingsight, to have a choice in NS matters, one has to decide at the onset, whether to have a baby boy in Singapore. I have met Taiwanese ladies, who flew in to USA to give birth. That earns the child a right to choose later on. Having said that, one has to return to Singapore and not take on a Singapore passport. Essentially, the parent must not want the Singapore citizenship. It is this drastic and one must be privileged enough to find such an alternative option. The next milestone is to ensure that the child must leave the country early enough, age 11 is the cut-off limit and must not even continue with the permanent residence and use of re-entry permit. The "loophole" is what I said above. Otherwise, one has to make the painful choice of being a fugitive, which I still do not advocate. As mom, I want character in my child and I do not want him to break the law to justify the means. I am inclined to have my son return to serve. Although, it might sound silly to serve a country that he felt like an alien (after all that has happened), but what is right,it should be done. Psychologically, my son has to develop this strength in character to face all adversaries. When he can succeed in doing so, he is my real man that I desire of him. His education has to take a backseat for 2 years, his a personal preference has to be sacrificed. I fought a good fight, I did not win the race. Yes, it is alright. As long, as I still have love and peace within my own heart, I can live with it. To 40+, if sharing my story can help your son, please do.

  • At 10:05 PM, Anonymous 40+ Singaporean said…

    Thank you, Mom from USA for your offer of sharing your story with my son. His problems are different and I don't think it will help. Nonetheless, thanks.

    I have brought up my children with the intent of putting my boys through NS, just like everyone else. I had viewed it as a necessary evil, advise my son to make the most of it as it is unavoidable. Never did I anticipate the problems he will encounter and the way the system and the entire SAF's responses. There is just no provision for exceptions, I have come to learn.

    In your case, your son may not be an exception, if he accepts that he will have to serve and goes through with it. In which case, he will be fine. It becomes a problem if he cannot or will not for reasons other than what the system will accept and they accept virtually no reasons as valid.

    The lack of provision, to the extent they are prepared to see someone takes his life, as acceptable 'sacrifice' to maintain the system, is what I take issue with.

    Good luck to your son. Start preparing him now and get him to see the few positive aspects of the 2 years he will have to spend in the SAF. His mental attitude is most important, I think, as he has grown up in very different surroundings.


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