3 Things National Service Will Actually Teach You

I don’t hide my disdain for Singapore’s 2 years mandatory military conscription am quite vocal about the topic. As I’ve noted in my first post that I have about five months left in my service. And I look back on the two years and keep thinking of all the positive things people said I would learn from this experience and have come to one undeniable conclusion. I’ve learnt none of that crap. Here’s what two years of life in the army will actually teach.

1: Money gets you everything

I’m a clerk. I’m not combat fit because of my bipolar disorder (among other problems) so I mostly saw the background of operations in our little army. Sure, I went through the standard 3 month Basic Military Training (BMT) that everyone is familiar with and got down and (not so) dirty, but after that, most of the time I spend in the office, which is where I learn this. The guys from rich families, like sons of bankers and doctors, can practically skate through their years if they choose to. That’s right, I said choose. This people will start out like every other average Joe, but once things get stuff, they have this ‘get out of jail free’ card where they’ll suddenly develop some incurable condition that required them to be placed in less strenuous jobs and position, or be ‘randomly picked’ to be transferred to some heavenly administrative place where they can go home everyday.

And this isn’t something that I just made up with no reference or basis. I had a major depressive episode in camp a few months back where I had another suicidal moment (8 in a year record!). When I reported it, I wasn’t given a temporal PES Status (the measurement used to determine fitness level) or given any kind of treatment or appointment date with any specialists. I was, in fact, put on hold for a month.

On the other hand, when one of these rich white horses reported they had suicidal thoughts (thoughts, not actions), he was immediately given a month worth of medical leave. There’s even a story of how a rich banker’s son bribed his was for off-in-lieu from out warrant officers with discounts and coupons, and how another was given the privilege to leave camp earlier every Friday for treating his superiors to dinner. So yeah, money really does make the world goes round. Who knew?

2. You don’t mature, but learn to stereotype and justify being horrible

When you’re drawing your talent pool from the entire nation, regardless or race, language, religion or beliefs, you’re bound to have cliques of differing personalities. One of the main platform for the advertisements of the Singapore Armed Forces and its National Service lies in merging of all these different people for one common goal and to endure hardships together, making everyone more understanding and mature individuals…buahaha! That totally doesn’t happen. At least, not to everyone. Most will end up learning how to judge each and every living person by their looks, background, race, religion and competency.

A guy who stammers while he talks is a source of mockery and laughter. A fat like myself will be the constant butt of “Why are you so unhealthy?” fake pity. Malays are still not allowed to be tank drivers, Chinese are all boot-lickers, Caucasians are rich snobs, and Indians are power hungry maniacs. Female population will also never understand the pain of the 2 years sacrifice. Of course, asshole schoolyard bullies will continue to be asshole schoolyard bullies. Actually, those assholes will be even more intolerable. Given the number of people in service, it is completely possible that some of them will become sergeants or officers; positions of power.

And like any schoolyard bullies, they’d have their own cliques, grouping together with like-minded people. So now these better-than-thou people have power and numbers. And with ranks and the power that comes with it, they can totally justify their actions as better! All they have to do is make up some regimentation and discipline mumbo jumbo and BAM! There goes your weekend. Because really, what better way is there to negate class inequality and racial prejudice than to grant a select few with the power to make others life completely and utterly miserable?

3: Time quality vs. quantity

The biggest downside to getting conscripted is the waste of two years of our youths. I have female friends of the same age who are graduating from universities this year. Other have started their own company or have gotten high-paying jobs. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worst than that lost of two years. But on a day to day basis, you find yourself making extremely tough time-based decisions. Like, do I want to take a cab home?

I’m not kidding. This has become such a big dilemma for me when I’m going back home without a ride or am outside on a dispatch job where I’m allowed to go for a nights out when I’m done. Do I want to spend $20 to get home in 15 minutes so I can rest for 3 hours before taking a 2 hour train ride back? Or do I want to go cheap and take a 2 hour train ride back home to rest for 1 hour and taking a 2 hour train ride back? Or taxi rides to-and-fro for $40 and 4 1/2 hours of rest? Or do I just go straight back to camp and sleep and not waste money or effort and catch more Zs?

It’s a real problem! I’m not kidding! Especially for a guy with BD like me, quality rest is extremely fucking important. You learn to choose between quality and quantity and make a lot of sacrifice that you’d otherwise only have to make once in a blue moon as a civilian. Do you want to spend the weekend with your friends or family or to play games alone? Can you save enough money for university while making sure that depression doesn’t overwhelm and kill you? Do you want to eat crappy army food for dinner for free or spend $10 for a decent meal outside? Let me tell you, as a civilian, you will never face problems like this unless you’ve been swamped with work. Otherwise, you can always find a few minutes to get a decent meal or some time to chat and drink with friends. You’ll go home every night too.

So be grateful everyone! We’re giving up 2 years of our lives for shoddy reasons so the rich people won’t have to!

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