Looking at the recent NS45 ads reminds me of United Colors of Benetton, which is famous for ads featuring people of different races. We, the racially-varied people of Singapore, are supposed to be one big family, proud to serve NS and defend Singapore.
Ask those serving full-time NS if they feel it can be a waste of time and if they have to do a lot of stupid things. I’m confident many will say ‘yes’ to both questions. When I was an NSF, I always had doubts about the idea of defending Singapore. ‘Defending’ Singapore is not as simple as it sounds. If I were to ask -
Who is willing to fight for Singapore?
I guess many people would raise their hands. If you have a family, some property here, and a little bit of national pride, you would fight for Singapore.
Who is willing to die for Singapore?
Fewer people would – not due to cowardice, but because to them, Singapore is not worth dying for.
Who is willing to kill for Singapore?
Because defending Singapore really means killing our enemies.
Or can I ask a very situation-specific question – Who is willing to kill Malaysians for Singapore?
The SAF does its own surveys to find out. I cannot say for sure that people answer honestly. If Singapore has a large number of unwilling soldiers, the idea of getting every Singaporean son to participate in NS simply creates an illusion of military strength.
And speaking of illusions, I must come back to the Benetton ads. Do they represent a race-blind ideal, or are they meant to perpetuate an officially approved illusion?