Archive for the ‘Army Life’ Category

NS and bureaucratic buzzwording makes my head go in funny directions

May 8, 2012

In another interminable lecture, a dark epiphany coalesces in my mind and squats, inky, black, and brooding. It bleeds and melts and settles, one by one, with the shadows dancing upon the wall of my mind’s cave, indelibly staining everything. I sense myself, and find: a creature grown slowly bitter; a creeping ivy crawls across the spirit, choked off from light and life.

I remember, lit with the fuzzy, golden vagueness that tinges nostalgia, having dreams. Having aspirations, instead of desires. Fulfilling goals instead of needs. Through my fervent daily wish for the workday to end, I glimpse memories of waiting for another day and another chance to chase a glory insignificant enough to be attained.

I have substituted the joy of new days and new climbs for the despondency of routine, and the taste in my mouth is sour. I spit at what I have let myself become. I wish I could bother. Let me eat. Let me sleep. Let me wake and let me wait. Let the waiting be unbearable and the pain intolerable and let me bleed, bled until I am dry and withered and a husk and a pile of ashes, till I look forward to a fiery resurrection.

Malingering and moral judgements: Ethics in the army

February 10, 2012

A tableau:

An NSF officer, let’s call him 2LT Siao On, is in a hospital waiting room. Two rows behind him sit two NSFs in their green uniforms, showing off their conspicuous absence of rank badges. Our good officer can’t help but overhear the two of them (let’s call them PVT Chao and PVT Keng) discussing ways to convince the doctor to grant them additional medical leave. 2LT Siao On is disgusted. He shakes his head, and proceeds to complain on a public domain (say, Facebook) about the state of the SAF, and implicitly suggests that every conscript soldier should be as dedicated to the cause as he is.

What’s wrong with this scene? Is 2LT Siao On justified in his condemnation of PVTs Chao and Keng?

I’ve made some assumptions in analysis; bear with me. For the sake of argument let us assume:

  1. There is no immutable, objective rightness. I.e., 2LT Siao On may believe serving NS is a worthy cause, but he, and any others who share the same belief, may not be any more correct than others who disagree.
  2. PVTs Chao and Keng have valid reasons to believe the SAF is an unworthy cause for their time and effort. (They might believe nationalism and patriotism are outmoded, unnecessary, or downright detrimental to humanity. They might loathe rampant mismanagement they have witnessed first-hand in the service. It could be something else I haven’t thought of. Surely there is no shortage of valid reasons for a conscript soldier to believe his service is for an untenable cause)

In our scene, we have two parties that hold different, possibly opposite views regarding the subject of NS. 2LT Siao On sees it as a glorious sacrifice one should be proud to make, worthy of utmost effort and dedication because it is of utmost importance. PVTs Chao and Keng see NS as service to a cause they cannot and do not believe in or support. 2LT Siao On is a zealot for the cause, while PVTs Chao and Keng are slaves to it; the difference is their subjective evaluation of the worthiness of the cause, and their subsequent willingness to serve.

Turning to the question of moral obligation and justification, I present two possible scenarios:

1. NS is in opposition to the beliefs of PVTs Chao and Keng. Are they morally obliged to sabotage, what is to them, an “evil organization” by malingering and performing poorly, as well as actively working to promote alternatives?  If they are not morally obliged, are they morally justified in doing so?

2. PVTs Chao and Keng are disillusioned with NS. They see no value in their service beyond supporting an ideology they reject. Are they morally justified in abandoning service in pursuit of freedom or personal pleasure? (Noting that there exists a bias against hedonism in favour of traditionally noble values such as patriotism, honour, discipline, and sacrifice?)

If you ask me, it seems clear enough that a moral obligation exists to actively work against a cause that (one believes) is evil, supports evil ideology, or perpetuates misery or suffering. And as a slave for an evil cause, one has a moral obligation to seek freedom; although freedom itself is of no value, there is an obligation to utilise freedom to pursue a causes one considers good and right.

Less clear is the reaction to a cause one rejects, but does not condemn. If a cause is not evil or in opposition to personal beliefs, but only incongruent, there is justification to refuse service to it. But it is not clear if there is justification to pursue freedom for its own sake (although, in our scenario, it is more likely for pleasure’s sake), especially if the rejected cause enjoys widespread support from most other people. And there’s the rub, because the most likely scenario is that PVTs Chao and Keng are looking to slack off  for personal freedom, only to subsequently squander that freedom on personal pleasure instead of any cause they believe in and support, while 2LT Siao On shares a widely held belief that NS is an honourable and good cause.

So, 2LT Siao On condemning the PVTs. Can he or can’t he? What do you think dear reader?

EDIT: Well, that might not have gotten at what I really wanted to ask. Instead of whether or not 2LT Siao On should or shouldn’t be condeming our PVTs, I should be asking when our PVTs have moral justifications for their actions (i.e., keng-ing)


March 19, 2011

What do the Singapore army andJack Bauer have in common? Answer: They can both make 24 hours seem like an eternity. 24 hours spent mostly waitng at a firing range can be trying, 24 hours in the wet, outfield, can seem like unceasing torment, but the army truly shines in this respect when one spends 24 hours confined in camp on a weekend. 24 hours confined is truly forever; if slugging it out during outfield training is a constant stream of wishing for it to end, then staying in bunk on a weekend is a neverending torrent of thinking to yourself “this sucks”.

 But then, perhaps I shouldn’t speak too soon. After all, it’s only BMT, and it’s only 24 hours. For all I know, there is much worse to come. Oh well, POP is on the horizon, and if there is anything the army has taught me so far, it would be Suck It Up and Don’t Get Caught, both in equal measure.

(And if 21 days seems a long time not to update a blog, imagine the vast duration 21 days in camp is)

Minor Technical Difficulties

December 31, 2010

There exist a number of…  difficulties associated with remaining in sufficient touch with pop culture, internet subculture, and rational and clear thinking while being part of the SAF to even maintain this blog as it is, let alone improve it. In no way putting the SAF down, it is the nature of armies and military discipline and regimentation to subsume individuality and independent thought in a rigid framework of command and control. The unfortunate result being that the necessary ends (of maintaining an effective and disciplined military) justify the tragic means (of denying individuals their right to themselves).

So, yes, three weeks in and I think the SAF might be doing strange, possibly unpleasant, things to my identity. Either that, or I might just be still missing being a civilian.

In other news: rock climbing is naice, me wanna go moar