15 February 2017:
In defence of defence.Today is Total Defence Day. On 15 Feb, 1942, the first day of the Lunar New Year, Singapore was surrendered by the British to the Japanese, thus commencing the Japanese Occupation for the next 1,305 days.
The concept of Total Defence began in 1984, comprising of the following defences: military, social, economic, civil and psychological.
I don’t have flowery theses to offer, no defence policies to put forth. But on this day, I would like to justify the need for defence, especially military defence.
Apart from the official narrative of NS, I would say that the general sentiment towards it is negative. Many would rather not serve, especially JC and poly males that creep closer to enlistment every day.
I would say that’s rather understandable. I mean, if one could choose, who would want to use two years of their lives being put into physical and mental turmoil? But of course, one cannot choose not to serve NS.
At this point I’d like to give a disclaimer: no, I was not too thrilled by NS as well, but neither did I hate it. So while I didn’t excitedly look forward to it, I didn’t enter Pulau Tekong hating everyone and everything in green.
But, I strongly disagreed with those that termed NS as a ‘waste of time’, that they had ‘better things to do’. Maybe you may call me brainwashed, but I truly believed: ‘If not us, then who?’
I mean, let’s face it, Singapore is small. You don’t need much propaganda to be convinced; just look at the map (if we can even be seen). In terms of conventional warfare, this means we sorely lack strategic depth.
We don’t have Siberia, or the Rhineland, to sacrifice to the enemy, whilst we prepare our defence. Yet, we still need to defend our country. Those who say that we are living in peacetime are hopelessly dreaming.
Traditionally, the imagined enemy has always been Malaysia or Indonesia. I think this is pretty much an open secret – our frenemy relationship with them, especially as our closest neighbours.
But, there are new threats. Terrorism is one scary one that will not go away anytime soon, and who knows when Singapore will be attacked. Also, China. It’s too early to tell, but we can never be sure China will never turn against us.
Of course, as an aside, I will concede that given these new threats, their forms of aggression may not even be conventional force, but sophisticated ones like cyber-attacks or even economic wars.
Yet, we can never assume that conventional warfare has expired, as long as there are still soldiers being trained in countries around the world. The possibility is lower, but low doesn’t equal to zero.
Really cheesy and cliché, and SPF please forgive me for appropriating your anti-crime slogan.
Back to how NS is not a waste of time. Yes, it’s true that two years of every male is being used up, but I would say that it doesn’t come without its benefits as well. There are many skills you can learn within the two years, apart from soldiering.
For instance, I worked in an office environment for the most part of my NS, and from there I learnt about office politics by being thrown into it from the get-go. Other soldiers will learn even more important skills, such as survival (literally).
Also, not every minute of NS is being taken up, actually. For most people, we do get to book-out on weekends. True, that may not be a lot of time (especially with late book-out / early book-in), but it’s better than confinement.
I have seen people pick up languages / skills during NS, or even re-sat their exams. Hence, I truly believe that for most things, it’s really a matter of motivation, despite the reduced time available.
And let’s just assume that yes, one can learn completely nothing apart from soldiering, which is not applicable in daily life (unless one signs on). But, it may precisely be these soldering skills that are required in times of war.
Would you still say that it is useless and a waste of time? To me, it’s a bit like insurance – most people don’t need it, you never know when you will need it, but it’s always good to have.
In the short term, therefore, yes it does seem useless. But again, if really one day Singapore needs to defend itself, who can we depend on? Yes we have our foreign defence alliances, but what if one day we are left alone?
Hence, I have never accepted that NS is a waste of time, even though like many others I don’t particularly enjoy it. Yet, I know that it is like a bitter pill, and so, like many others, suck thumb carry on.
Another ‘argument’ against NS that I hear is that how Singapore cannot survive any attack against it given its small size, hence why bother? Seemingly, it makes sense. I would say it’s pretty easy to destroy us.
But then, if you were a house owner, would you remove the gates and locks from your house? I mean, there are always burglars around and they are pretty skilful in breaking in, so why bother?
I certainly hope a majority of people wouldn’t agree to that. In the same way, a country should always strive to defend itself, no matter how futile it may be. Also, is it really all that futile?
Consider if we had zero defence. Simplifying things, an air attack may obliterate us. But what if we had at least some surface-to-air missiles? The air attack may still work, but at 50% success.
Wouldn’t it be better if we could save one more town or city from destruction? They could hold your family, relatives or friends. Or even, you yourself. So unless you envision waiting to die during an attack, this wouldn’t work out.
I am not against the abolishment of conscription, but if only there can be a convincing alternative. I know that there are many negatives arising from conscription, but so does a lack of conscription.
Unless there are enough people signing on every year such that we have a sizable regular armed force, sorry but conscription is the way to go. The system may not be perfect (especially vocational assignment), but this doesn’t mean it should go.
I once read on Facebook a comment about how NS is useless, since there are nuclear weapons in this day and age. Wow. As condescending as it may sound, I sure hope he doesn’t work in MINDEF. (Or that he’s trolling.)
Because: really? Singapore’s response is going to be a nuclear strike towards any sort of conflict? I wonder where that will bring us. Even if we do destroy whichever enemy, who is to say we won’t suffer?
Don’t forget, nuclear radiation is invisible and transmissible. Remember how people were advised to avoid food from Japan after the Fukushima incident? Exactly. Given Singapore’s hyper-connectedness, it may come back to haunt us.
I have always felt that those who blast NS as a waste of time are either short-sighted or self-entitled. Either they cannot recognise the long-term benefit (or negation of harm), or they only think about themselves.
I have heard people lamenting about how they could’ve achieved such-and-such in the two years, but then NS. Yes, it may all be true, I don’t doubt that. But, if during this period of time Singapore gets attacked, will you be able to defend your country?
Or, are you going to say that ‘other people will do it’, because if so, you may want to check out the bystander effect. Everybody says that, until no one actually does it. So nope, not a good idea.
Also, even if there are others who will contribute, who are you to expect them to help you instead? If others are willing to sacrifice their two years for military defence, who gave you permission to be just a selfish bastard enjoying their service?
Another point about why some people say that there shouldn’t be NS: because it takes away personal freedom. This argument, to me, is only valid with the assumption that freedom is absolute and superior.
And yes, I will admit that a military lifestyle is rather regimented. Eating / sleeping / waking times are controlled, all the more so during the Basic Military Training phase. To most people living with freedom, this does indeed result in a ‘culture shock’.
But have you considered why the need for such regimentation and discipline? Simply put, in battle, discipline is crucial (along with other factors) to victory. Discipline is doing things right, and not cutting corners.
Discipline is cleaning your rifle even though it’s damn tiring and irritating when the charcoal just wouldn’t come off (and your sergeant doesn’t let you off). But without discipline, unclean rifles will be used in the battlefield.
What follows is IA, IA, safe tilt check. Just what the enemy needs – more time wasted. Discipline is doing force prep even though what follows is lots of pumping every time something is not up to standard.
Because without force prep and standardisation, if one guy is down, his buddy cannot simply take over his equipment without first familiarising himself to the layout. Just what the enemy needs – more time wasted.
Why regimentation? Why do we suck thumb and follow orders from above? Because in war, when the order is given, there is no time for ‘But sir . . .’, it’s just go as per planned, with muscle memory kicking in.
I will acknowledge that, of course, such decision-making is not always fool-proof. A platoon commander (or even platoon sergeant) is not always the most knowledgeable. However, as a system, they are trained to be so. Hence, ideally, that’s why the men are trained to follow orders and not question them. Because the underlying assumption is that these commanders possess more intelligence (as in information, not cleverness) that is used to assess the situation and subsequently lay down an order. Again, this assumption is not always true – sometimes men are the ones who have better ideas than their commanders. Yet, at the end of the day, one cannot have troops constantly questioning itself. Any such questioning should be done during peacetime training, to synergise the platoon, where mistakes can be made. Such that, during war, the ideal of ‘Yes sir’ can take place smoothly.
So yes, if you accept that military defence is necessary, even as insurance, then I hope you will further accept that regimentation and discipline is essential. And as a sacrifice, then, freedom cannot be desired for.
Secondly, if there is no military defence during an attack and Singapore falls into the enemy’s hands (like during the Japanese Occupation), do you still think there’s freedom to ask for?
I’ve read and watched TV shows about the Japanese Occupation – I think it’s safe to say that people then had way less freedom than even in NS. At the very least, we cannot be summarily killed or beaten up, unlike back then.
Hence, to put it into perspective, yes freedom is suppressed, but for the greater good of freedom for the rest of Singapore. Otherwise, the entire Singapore may not enjoy any freedom at all.
So, there’s that. At the end of the day, I think that
- defence is essential for Singapore’s survival;
- amongst the concept of Total Defence, military defence may be the most important of them all in times of war;
- every Singaporean male should contribute through NS, even though it may serve as nothing more than insurance;
- NS is tough, but there are many things to learn from it;
- you are selfish if you expect others to defend your country while you go and get your degree or earn big bucks;
- your freedom is non-existent in the hands of the enemy;
- NS is shit, but it’s shit for everyone – just in different ways.
It is true that all of what I say may come across as propaganda, since some of it does sound similar. Maybe I have been brainwashed. But I do welcome any constructive rebuttal.
As long as anyone can come up with a viable alternative to NS, I’m all ears. But please, no nuclear options.
14 February 2017:
Thoughts about the local YouTube scene.For someone with ‘no life’, I have been watching YouTube for at least 7 years now. I started off with channels like Ryan Higa, KevJumba, Shane Dawson etc. As for British channels, I also watched Jack Harrer, Caspar Lee, etc.
Back then, the local (i.e. Singaporean) YouTube scene was pretty dormant. Compared to the American and British ones, we really didn’t have many channels created by Singaporeans, for Singaporeans.
Then, I’m not sure exactly when, a few channels started to pop out. I remember those like Noah Yap, Dee Kosh. I also watched (and quite liked) Terence Tan, under the channel ‘Terencetch’.
Slight digression: I went back to check but it seems like Terence removed all his videos, though the channel is still there. Not sure why but oh well. Maybe he decided to lead a ‘private’ life.
Slowly but surely, throughout the years, many more channels popped up. Currently, there are so many channels out there. They mostly do humorous short clips, sponsored by various brands.
But recently, it seems like a war has broken out between two ‘factions’ of the local YouTube scene. I don’t really know what happened / what caused it, except that there’s a lot of conflict going on.
What I know is that Night Owl Cinematics, Dee Kosh and Jianhao Tan collaborated to do a trio of videos (one per channel) that they termed #ShadySunday. I’ve watched two (I think?) of these videos so far.
In it, they mention various local YouTubers and criticise them (‘throw shade’), whether it’s their hair or their ethics. The video, of course, gained its fair share of praise and criticism. All three have developed a sizable fan base by now.
Again, I don’t exactly know what transpired, but it seems like the grudge’s pretty strong. I really wonder what happened, for them to do this so publicly. Usually, people tend to give subtle hints, but this is full-blown animosity.
I will say that I have watched NOC videos from time to time, and generally liked it. Some were in fact very well-produced, in my opinion. No doubt, of course, that they are seen as the industry 老大 by many.
But then, I’m not sure if they have crossed the line with what they’ve done. I guess strictly speaking, there’s nothing wrong about it. Yet, I think their latest move is a bit mean-spirited, especially coming from a 老大.
This reminds me of campaigning in local elections, funnily enough. I always remember how in every election I’ve seen thus far, I always face-palmed at PAP’s strategy, or lack of.
Basically, along the way, someone would take a jibe at the opposing party. Not about their policies or ideas, but at a personal level. There will always be backlash, but of differing consequences.
Which, as I have wondered time and again, if they’re really that good, why can’t they just promote themselves? Why must they try to tarnish the opposition? Surely, voters are clever enough to discern.
If PAP formulates and articulates a sensible policy, while the opposition scrambles with a flimsy piece of work, will the (majority of) voters really irrationally go for the opposition? (This is excluding hard core opposition voters, of course.)
And even if yes, voters are that irrational (hence emotional), will tarnishing the opposition really help? Since they are emotional, wouldn’t this negative ‘emotion’ do harm to PAP?
I really don’t know; after all I don’t study psychology nor am I a campaign strategist. This is just what I feel, election after election. I think so far the only high-profile PAP politician that hasn’t followed suit is Tharman, yay to him.
I have no intention of making this post about politics. But then I felt that the above description and explanation was relevant to use as an analogy.
Back to YouTubers, in the same vein, why must NOC, DK and JH tarnish their ‘opponents’? I personally don’t think it’s a clever move, honestly. Again, they will have hard core supporters who will support them.
But, is this really what’s best? By publicly criticising other YouTubers, they can (and will) come across as big bullies, especially NOC. They have lost their moral high ground, even if indeed the rest have done them wrong.
And, those being criticised can now do well to play the victim card (not a guaranteed success, of course). They can go on to make indirect videos and 一哭二鬧三上吊, and jolly well win those who were put off by NOC et al.
I don’t deny that NOC is superior to most other channels; they have taken in and groomed their talents, be it crew or casts. I would think that with the income they received, they can afford equipment upgrades.
So, again, why resort to this? If they wanted to prove their dominance, they could’ve done video after video, showing what their worth. And I have no doubt that they will indeed convince people of their standards.
Or, even if they want to do it more crudely, they can just blatantly promote themselves. At best, they are deemed arrogant (but it’s self-promotion), better than being called a bully.
‘Throwing shade’ at other YouTubers, especially on trivial things like their hair (?!), just makes it sound very low-class. Again, there’s nothing illegal or unethical, but I find it’s really rude.
And, of course, there’s always the easy refrain of ‘it’s just a joke!’ It’s certainly easy to say so after that, and anyone that gets upset is labelled as unfunny and unable to take a joke. But where do the boundaries lie?
There’s a colloquial saying, ‘don’t play mother’, meaning not to involve (insult) one’s parents during an argument. Doing so would be crossing the line and evokes a whole new response.
Really wanna find the article about someone who did just that and got beat up very badly but nah, lazy.
What the trio did was nowhere near ‘playing mother’. But really, if all you do is to pick out other YouTubers’ names and talk bad about them, how classy is that? And are people wrong to get upset?
At least if the criticism was constructive, I think it would be much more justified. But no, most of it is just what they 看不順眼 about the other party. And I believe there’s a saying: ‘if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it’.
I wonder what will happen from now on. It seems to me, at least from an outsider POV, that the local YouTube scene is very fragmented into different factions. This is certainly not like before, where it was just one local scene.
I would think that this would be daunting to anyone trying to start a YouTube career at this present time, unless they take sides (wow, just like the Cold War eh). But of course, all this fighting to me is just very regrettable.
I mean, sure, YouTubers don’t have to like all fellow YouTubers. I think it’s perfectly normal, even in an office setting that is the case. But when there is dislike, I really don’t think the subsequent show of dislike needs to be thus.
Another thing I want to mention: somewhere in one of the videos, it was mentioned that this was merely ‘being yourself’. That is, they were merely true to themselves in expressing all this criticism.
I don’t disagree with the fundamental point of being true to oneself, but then I would dispute that this is the best way to do so. Again, no one’s asking them to pretend to like the others.
If they dislike them, they can refuse to collaborate with them, or to be associated with them. But, I still feel, there is no need to publicly criticise them in this manner. Then again, what’s done is done, the war is raging on.
I wonder – back in 2010 (or even 2012), did any of these YouTubers ever envision such a scenario today? How were they living their lives back then?
P.S. Deep down, I’m secretly wishing that this is all one big social experiment. And when it ends, all of them will come together in one big collaboration video to share what they have learnt through this. But I’m wishing.