Man up, serve your NS and don’t be a baby


Here’s Singapore’s worst kept secret – nobody likes National Service. Nobody likes to be plucked away from family, friends, social life, studies and work to be thrown into two and a half years of physical activity, jungles, mosquitos, pain and bruised egos.

Nobody likes to “wait to rush and rush to wait”. Nobody likes combat rations, camouflage paint and extra duties. Nobody likes failing IPPT, nobody likes to attend compulsory RT and certainly nobody likes regimentally conducted physical training on threat of fines and detention.

But you know what – it is a duty and we shut up and deal with it. It is a duty we owe, not to the government, but to our friends, our families, our wives and our children. We owe it to them to be physically fit, we owe it to them to know how to fight, to be willing to fight and to be mentally resilient against all the shit that National Service throws at us.

You know what it means to be a man? It means that you’re strong enough to take the worst that life has to give you and still stand up and return the punches. When push comes to shove, you know how to fight and stand your ground.

If you’re not strong enough to do this, you’re not strong enough to handle nastier things in life.

Today, there’s an axe attack in Germany. Yesterday, it was a truck attack in France. Before that, it was a grenade attack in Malaysia, a bomb attack in Indonesia and another in Taiwan. There are some articles and comments on the internet bitching about National Service and how it wastes their time. But I ask you this: if your girlfriend, daughter or mother got killed on the MRT by a terrorist with an axe, will you not ask for your rifle to go out and hunt the rest of the cell down?

NS and NS liabilities disrupts our lives you say. Of course it bloody disrupts our lives, what did you expect? You don’t throw punches at someone without getting a few in return – that’s life, that’s fighting. Put it in a business context, you don’t make money without losing some.

Whether or not this country is going to be at war, or is going to win a war is irrelevant. National Service reveal who are the men and who are the kittens. You can tell from the way the soldier’s attitude towards their liabilities. Do they take their duties like a man? Or do they whimper and whine their way through it?



About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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  • Yes. Most NSFs and NSmen suck it up and do our NS liabilities (2-2.5 years full-time NS plus 10 years ORNS/”reservist” liabilities). But your article is somewhat naive to equate manhood with sucking it up in a system that is inherently discriminatory against male citizens. I.e. Male citizens have to serve the long NS liability with the real risk of death from training accidents.

    Many countries do not have conscription but yet can find the ways to defend themselves against domestic and foreign threats using a fully professional military/police as well as volunteers. I wonder why till this day, given that our beloved country outspends most of our regional neighbours in terms of defence spending as a % of GDP, why we are unable to transit to a fully volunteer force?

    So if your article is to shame whiners and people who try to “geng” their way out of duty, honour and country, it is most effective.

    But to equate serving NS without complaining or whining as “manhood” perpetuates the stereotype that you can be a man by serving your country in military/civil defence/police. There are so many ways one can serve their country and not have to be in the three imposed categories by the state.

    • Cos we’re a small country…its already very hard for a person to leave their family to be conscripted. How many are willing to volunteer?

    • No one gets out of life alive… some people like to push their limits, most don’t. There’re still benefits even if you’re forced to learn.

    • 1) Singapore’s population is not enough to create a professional army that can even deter potential agressors let alone put up a fight.

      2) We outspend our neighbours to make up for that loss of manpower despite having a conscript force.

      3) No one would volunteer. Who would disrupt their studies or choose the lousy allowance given over decent pay at a normal job? Will you?

      4)I hate NS as much as you do but armies require manpower. A sizeable army to fight our neighbours is around 750k to 1 million soldiers and thats 1/5 to 1/6 of our population. That number is just scrapping the barrel. Can you assure me that 1/6 of singapore will sign on? Will there be a volunteers after that?

      Stop thinking of just the problem. We all know its a problem and there is nothing much we can do about it. Unless we have robot soliders to replace the loss of manpower. Think critically and find a solution as well. Just complaiming makes you look like a whiner and suggesting such thing does not seem smart.

      You can’t own what you can’t protect. Look at crimea and palestine. The world just watched. The same could happen to us.

  • True, people shouldn’t shy away from their duties as a Singaporean male citizen, but i doubt the true whining is caused by the outfields, waiting endlessly for instructions or what not. The thing that makes serving NS hard to embrace is the vocations in which NSFs are posted to. Nobody can choose their vocations and their only choice is to serve, but not every vocation is mentally stimulating or challenging for every NSF. Imagine being thrown to some vocation (i don’t want to name any) that you find does not give you any motivation or allow you to learn anything useful for the remainder of your NS life…

  • I’m not sure what amazing piece of literature this is. I hope you’re not espousing some sort of gender stereotype here – ‘you know what it means to be a man?’ – everyone has their own subjective standard of what ‘someone should be’. Do enough of that and you’re stifling progress.

    I sure hope university treated you well.

  • I dont wish to impose on your article , but its got alot of aggravating material and i want to say im really sensitive to it. “WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A MAN?”
    Great question really.
    But lets talk about what i agree with u first.
    We do need national service . As many have mentioned above we have too small of a population to depend on the generosity of the gungho and their numbers to solely provide the defence to our country. T3ch isnt at the state yet to make up for our stifling numbers.

    We need the men( and only the men ) to disrupt their studies and their aspirations to learn about their responsibilities and how to execute them.

    But as Rod put it pretty and quaintly, i dont think aiming to attack everyone u feel that isnvexed abt their current situation needs more NS-style masculinity archetype perpetuation.
    You are right to educate them on the obvious necessity of it and perhaps if everyone understood the importance of it CMPB might operate a little more efficiently and regulars would have gotten back the call from their career managers( oh wait i dont think there are any nsfs there). Sorry i digress. In any case, though it is our duty to serve NS, Ns cld do some to serve us as well. Some are looking to see wether they can serve the nation and themselves a little better by doing a job that is pertinent to their life’s trajectory ( this part is personal , very personal and so its biased. so what huh ? )
    True that not everyone can enjoy what their doin while doin it ns ( given the fact that getting laid during service is rarer than the chance to get a nights off on teckong)but wldnt all or just the guy reading this agree, it wld make NS slightly more effective( cuz NS is alr so perfect ).
    Thank u

  • I could not disagree with you more, neither could my parents who foolishly gave up opportunities upon opportunities to emigrate from Singapore for good in the 70s and 80s. I mean they were educated, had skills and qualifications and many offers in the west, which typically of their generation, they spurned, “believing” in the PAP and the Singapore. dream. After seeing the horrors of national service and my personal and our family’s pain and suffering, they woke up and emigrated in the early 90s when borders and doors were open (but closing very slowly). I too left Singapore 3 days after ROD, NEVER TO RETURN. I am an overseas citizen and my children will NOT suffer like me and other Singaporean males.

    Now borders are shutting down in the west and few can emigrate there, but enough are fleeing to Thailand and other Asian countries, cos THEY HAVE HAD ENOUGH. We have all had enough!

    I am a PROUD QUITTER, just like the inventor of the word (Goh Chok Tong’s) daughter, who is comfortably settled in the UK.

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