Woke up to the sounds of my kid jumping on the bed, yelling, “WAKE UP!” at 7.30am. Today’s (Saturday) not a day for work, and when the chance to sleep in was being denied by the young early riser, the mood inevitably got a little low. But well, all was fine the moment I saw how a happy kid my 2-year-old is. A wish of every father.
Got my ass out of bed soon enough, after I realised that I couldn’t keep him in the same place anymore, even with my phone. Brushed my teeth, had a cup of coffee and sat down in front of my computer, trying to catch some news from a wonderful news website called Facebook. Oh, kid was sitting by himself on the bed catching his daily dose of Pinggu the Penguin.
Scrolling down and staring into the feeds full of selfies and status updates, until one that caught my eye. Clicking on it linked me to another Facebook page, called the “SAF Confessions”. For non-Singaporean readers who do not know what SAF is, it stands for Singapore Armed Forces, the military arm of the Singapore Defence Force.
SAF Confessions started as a page for national servicemen who wanted to – but couldn’t because of various military’s disciplinary reasons – to confess what they had done under the light, how they feel about the conscription, and what happened during their time spending 2 years serving the nation. And this very particular post – by the way, I don’t subscribe to SAF Confessions because the posters are mainly guys who complain instead of appreciating the finer sides of life – caught my attention. While I do not know if it was a troll post, or a genuine one, I know that this is something that I can write about. The post goes like this (I understand that there are going to be some words and abbreviations that may cause confusion. I’ll address them in bold along the way):
“Hello people, I would like to share may PES (PES: Physical Employment Status. Used in SAF to grade individual’s combat fitness for their potential role in the military. Range from A [physically fit] to F [physically unfit and eligible to be exempted from National Service]) F story.
Before I start, here is to the people who say people who chao keng (Chao Keng: Feigning sickness or injury; pretend to be unwell to avoid participating in certain activities.) are pussies, hum ji (Hum Ji: term for cowards), ball-less, etc. Not everyone is suited for the military. Not everyone is made for getting shouted at by sadistic superiors. For my case, I decided that NS (NS: National Service) pay of $480 was not going to cover my housing rent, my car installment, my food and my other expenses. I was not going to give up my freedom for a national duty.
Here is my story. I enlisted directly into HRI(Human Resource Institute. Self explanatory) as PES E9L9(E9L9: One of the grades of the PES status, essentially the last PES status before further downgrade would lead to exemption from National Service) due to ‘depression’ (as diagnosed by IMH). I first started going to IMH(Institute of Mental Health) a year before enlistment to build up a case to get a down pes (Downgrading of PES status). True enough, I got downgraded to E9L9 from A. As I only have a private diploma and O levels, being PES A will definitely make me a chiong sua man (Chiong sua man: Combatant). To me, my business and career is more important than NS. We can leave the NS to those who aim just to be a mediocre person in life.
On the day of enlistment, I knew I had to shave my head. Thus I managed to get a memo from the IMH psychiatrist to request an excuse from cutting hair. A bald head would just make taking MCs from hospitals harder. Despite the memo, the commanders were adamant about cutting hair. I then acted up, curled into a ball, clutched my head and start sobbing as loud as I could. Immediately, the OC (OC: Office Commanding. Highest in command in company level) told me it will be fine and asked me to get it cut myself outside. He then asked me to go see my doctor and I went to IMH. I only spent 1 hour in camp throughout my entire NS life. After walking out of the camp, I immediately went to IMH a&e (A&E: Accident and Emergency) department and got myself a 4 day MC (MC: Medical Certificate. Proof of absence for work).
As the 4 day MC came to an end, I realized I could not go back to camp as I could not leave my work (that would result in me having no money). I then started a spree of MCs from hospital A&Es and polyclinics (Polyclinics: Government Clinics). These ranged from 1-5 day MCs. Although there is a directive that MCs more than 3 days must be endorsed, I just said I was too sick to leave the house and there was nothing they could do. I believe, somewhere along the line, they instructed hospitals to stop giving me MCs as the MCs started to dwindle to 1 day in duration. I then began to impersonate officers, pilots and even had friends dress up as my superiors wheel me in on wheelchairs to the A&E. Let’s just say luckily the hospitals can’t verify this.
About a month into the MC spree, they had sent Mps (MP: Military Police) to my house multiple times and claimed I wasn’t home (I was at work obviously). Some bastard officer then threatened to charge me for not being at home when on MC. I immediately replied and yelled at him in a maniac voice that I was indeed at home and had just taken sleeping pills issued by the doctor. Why am I not allowed to rest when on MC? Need I be awake just for their stupid house visits?. I then threatened to go see my MP (MP: In this sentence, it means the Member of Parliament) and talk to the press about them harassing me when I was trying to rest and this young punk officer immediately backed off.
The finale and PES F came when one day, they tried to get the police to breach my door down while I was on MC. Luckily I was at home and opened the door to the surprise of the police officers. I then conveyed my intent that I was sick and wanted to rest without being disturbed. They then left without protest.
Knowing that they would soon do more unscrupulous things, I checked myself into IMH for a 2 day resort stay (a way to describe the comfortable stay in hospital) fully paid for by our dear Mindef (Mindef: Ministry of Defence. Ministry overseeing the defence needs of Singapore). The psychiatrist then asked if I would like to continue NS and I replied that I do not want to see people in army uniform as I wish to kill them. Immediately upon my discharge, they scheduled me to see an SAF psychiatrist and he gave me the most Honourable award the SAF can issue, a PES F as well as a 2 month MC to cover me from returning to camp while the PES F processes.
Two weeks later, a call from my camp informed me that my IC (IC: Identification Card. To be exchanged into another type during National Service) could be collected back. I went down, took my IC and walked out a free man, free of any reservist (Reservist: 10 year cycle of military training and operational readiness after completion of the 2 year full time service) obligations, duty to obtain exit permits. I was and am elated.
In total, I was enlisted for a total of one month and two weeks, out of which, I spent only an hour in camp. On average, I spend one hour for each day MC making me effectively serve NS for one hour per day. Given the monthly allowance of $480 and given that I spend 5 hours a week taking MC, I am roughly paid $24 per hour to take MCs, making me the highest paid NSFs (NSF: National Service Full-Time. A term for servicemen under the mandatory 2 years’ conscription.) in service.
So to all PES F hopefuls, I want to encourage you to take this path. It is a path more exclusive than OCS (OCS: Officer Cadet School. Military school of SAF that trains officer cadets), as only a select few can actually attain this highest honour. Don’t be fooled by what some people say about PES F people being unable to be hired. The world is your oyster. Even if no one wants to hire you (very unlikely as people in the private sector don’t give a fuck about NS and would be happier if you had no NS obligations), start a business or carve your own career. Don’t let the negativity of people who verbally abuse ‘chao kengsters'(Chao Kengsters: Literally translated as “smelly people who chao keng”. An unrefined way used to describe people who malinger) affect you. Majority of this people have the ‘just suck it up attitude’ and are happy with a mediocre life. I’m not and I am sure you are not. I want to excel and succeed and challenge the impossible.
They said it was impossible to PES F and avoid hair cuts, but I did it nonetheless.
So go out and get your PES F and let the world see.
A PES F-ed Recruit.
I read the post with the screen going from my left to right, then from my right to left. I almost thought I was having some issues with reading, until I realised that I had been – and not stopping even when I had finished – shaking my head with every alphabet going into my brain through my eyes. I read on further into the comments section, where people showed how they felt about this guy who feels proud being a “chao kengster”.
You may not be part of the group of the 2 guys who had shown their disgust, and you may argue that for people like the poster, who are insistent into not making a compromise (and usually, there are many more that we expect to see who agree on what this guy did), this guy has shown how determined he was, when he was finding a way out of National Service. Surely, you may think, his level of determination and sense of knowing what he wants are just what it’ll take to make a man successful. (This kid is going places!)
But I saw at the other end of the see-saw here.
“Before I start, here is to the people who say people who chao keng are pussies, hum ji, ball-less, etc”
I’ve seen many cases of people whom chao keng their way during my time in the Army, and many times, they were more “brave” than anyone of us.
Stare at him? He’ll punch your eyes out of the socket before you know it.
Make him do something that he doesn’t like? He’ll chao keng out of doing it, while putting himself on the edge between “being charged with malingering if caught” and “you don’t have to do it if you were not caught”. If he (he, because only males get conscripted. Female soldiers joined voluntarily, and chao-keng would not be in their agenda when they signed on the dotted line at the bottom of the contract.) was ball-less, he’ll not even dare to attempt anything. After all, ball-less and hum ji are descriptions of cowards.
So I don’t think people like him are ball-less. But, I think they’re pussies.
They find easy ways to “do” things they don’t like to do, and that include feigning illnesses, madness and many unthinkable ways, just in order to do avoid what they don’t want, or don’t like. Come on…they’d have done it if they liked it. They don’t. Period.
And that’s worrying.
How many things in life do we like? Do we like the way the government is governing us? Do we like the way the country is being run? Do we like it when our parents told us to sleep early? Do we like it when our bosses told us that we needed to close sales or face termination? Do we like it when our wives nag at us? No, we don’t like them at all.
But that’s life.
There are many, if not countless, of things in life that we will not like. But that doesn’t give us the excuse to find ways to not do them, in order to incentives ourselves for calming our tits when the dislikes come face to face with us. Seriously, being parents, we don’t like the feeling when we have to wake up in the middle of the night to change the diapers or feed our kids, but we have no other options. We have to do it, because if we don’t, they’ll starve. And being parents, we don’t starve our kids because we love them. And it is the love we have for them that makes us do what we don’t like.
Neither your kid nor your wife is going to buy the excuse of you having headache and asking for “excuse mid-night duty”.
I do not see it as whether someone wants to be a soldier, or a soldier likes what he is doing; it’s about the person, or the soldier’s sense of integrity and his performance as an individual in the face of adversities. (yeah, some pussies call NS part of their life’s adversities). If you love the people around you, then you should be always ready to endure any hardships that’ll come with protecting them.
“I was not going to give up my freedom for a national duty.”
Freedom is not granted; it’s earned. Think about the last time we have to worry about freedom. If you were a business person having businesses in imports and exports, you’ll appreciate the security in the waters as your containers docked safely. These are not coincidences; they’re because of the strong military presence that deters pirates from taking your cargos and asking you to pay to get them back. Question is, how many people understand this?
You may have the biggest car, you may own the biggest company and you may be earning the most money. You may live in a house big enough to die in without anyone noticing, but they’ll not be possible without the security of the nation you reside in. Bring your business sense into war-torn Somalia, and show the world how you don’t need national security in making it a success. Guess who’s making security happen?
National Service comes in many forms, and the bulk of it in Singapore comes in the way of serving the Army. Many may argue that Singapore will be useless against threats, given the size of our country and the size of operational readiness of the SAF, while others will debate on the number of countries who will lend us a helping hand when it comes to drawing our swords. I have friends who once said to me, “There’re no resources in Singapore for war to happen” and another that said, “We have USA backing us.”
But WWII did happen, and Singapore was occupied for 3 years and more.
Konfrontasi took place in Singapore, and 3 citizens were killed.
Racial riots that took place in Singapore in the 1960s involved the presence of troops to ease the tensions. My dad was even involved then as he was already enlisted.
And no, we can’t count on anyone unless they really make good on their promises.
We may think that other countries’ armies are stronger, and they are richer in resources, but what we do not know is the struggles that they may face. Similarly, as we face the repulsion of many men in Singapore when it comes to serving the nation, our army is strong enough to deter potential threats, and protect the sovereignty of Singapore, in the eyes of the world. Only when the threats have won and sovereignty has lost, then will we realize that our freedom was nothing.
“We can leave the NS to those who aim just to be a mediocre person in life.”
No. People who serve NS are not mediocre. People who don’t serve NS are.
We are not accepting NS because we have no way out. We are accepting because we know that the country, if not the world, operates as with many mechanisms working together. Very much like a car that needs mechanical, electrical, and electronic parts, the defence pillar will only be working if there is National Service to ensure the stability. That’ll have to be so in order to have the economical and social wing of the society performing to their best.
You may feel that we can leave NS to people who wish to serve, and leave those who don’t want to alone. But you failed to see the picture here – it is about being collective, because that’s how every nation works. It’s not about what we want, but what we can do to ensure our survivability in terms of employment, economy and security of our future generations and ourselves.
In a way, yes, we accept NS because we have no way out. We have no other ways to make our country prosperous, other than with strong military defence, civil defence, economic defence, social defence and psychological defence. The country is like a roof, and these are the pillars that are going to make Singapore on top of the world. And no, leaving either one out is not possible if you know about the defence strategy of countries like Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.
If you think that the country will still work without you, then you’re part of the bigger problem, and that is complacency.
“Don’t be fooled by what some people say about PES F people being unable to be hired.”
Here’s where you are wrong, kid. Doesn’t matter if this post was a troll or not, you’re an asshole to say this. Let’s talk about it.
If the post was real
You obviously did not realize that, for Singapore, all males are subject to conscription. Unless you are a business owner, – either way you’ll die. I’ll tell you why – seeking employment requires you to be naked to your interviewer. By naked, I mean your employment history, and that includes your performance during National Service. Your last job, reason for leaving, goals in life, and what you expect to get from this job that you are interviewing for will be the few out of many questions in the mind of the interviewer.
Have I mention that you’ll need to state your NS history? Your vocation, your service duration and the testimonials from your superiors from whatever force you were in will affect your employability. Every men, unless for people with PES F status or had sex change done, have to serve NS, and you are no exception. An interviewer’s curiousity will come when he or she realised that you didn’t have to serve. And that’ll bring few questions in their head. Either:
a) You are mentally unsound
b) You are a chao kengster
Either group that you’re in will cause you the job. Because the interviewer – trust me when I say this; I was an interviewing manager before – will either deem you mentally unfit for the job or he/she will not appreciate the presence of a chao kengster in his organization.
You’re a business owner? Great.
Then be prepared to be an outcast when you try to network your ass for your business.
Remember this – every Singaporean man has to serve National Service. It is, as much as you hate it to be, going to be the main topic to talk about when 2 or more guys get together. We share; we joke, and we laugh over the tough days of NS, and it can – trust me – lead to hours of laughter’s and chats that’ll bring in…I don’t know, deals? You obviously haven’t thought this through when you say you’re a “businessman”.
If the post was a troll
If you were trolling, then you are without doubt an asshole to influence gullible people to think that it’s going to be okay to feign mental illness.
And private sectors do give a fuck about NS.
“I want to excel and succeed and challenge the impossible.”
You won’t, and you may consider challenging it.
I’m not looking down on you, neither am I envying you for what you have done. The fact remains that excelling in what you want is going to entail striving through the tough times that you’ll encounter in your life and career. And all of them are not going to be pleasant.
What makes you think your mindset will shift when the going gets tough?
Your character, from what you have done, shows that you are a person who is not going to be ready to face difficulties. And in your attempts to avoid the difficulties, you were prepared to go through a hell of a hassle to get your ass out of SAF. So I am sure that when it comes to your “business”, you’re also ready to go through many hassles in escaping situations that you don’t like.
But it’s not about you. It’s about the people around you.
Your parents will be ashamed, and your “employees” need you to soldier on if the path gets rocky. But given your irresponsible self and mental state of mind, the people who needs you will be greatly disappointed by your decisions and actions, and even though they will not like it, I believe that you’ll go on and be nonchalant about your stupidity. In a nutshell, you have portrayed your lack of responsibility to the people around you through your actions when you malingered your way of out National Service. The world is your oyster, only when you have the qualities to make the oyster yours.
Yes, you have challenged the impossible, and you have made it impossible for the people around you to love you as a person.
Andy Lawson is the average man on the street that you’ll not even trouble yourself looking at him if he passes by you. He’s sensitive to bullshit, and he hates mediocrity in most people. He is the author of his self-published book: Facts and Fiction of Fengshui: Facts that Masters are NOT Telling You. He doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter, because he hates to be associated with people who tend to be passive-aggressive online, but he does have a very limited set of vocabularies, terrible grammar, a twisted mind that makes himself God in his own twisted world and an ability to communicate with people who wish to be his friend.