Tuesday, January 10

 
Australia Considers National Service

The Misfit

In one of the more controversial news this week...the Australian Labor Party is contemplatin the reintroduction of
National Service for all Year 12 (or high school) graduates...

The last time conscription was introduced in the early 1960s to support the American effort in Vietnam...massive riots were sparked all across Australia...to say that Australians in the past and today arent used to the idea of forced military service would be a complete understatement...

National Service in Australia...if reintroduced...would not necassarily mean military service...but volunteerin for charity groups and helpin organisations such as old folks homes...

That's National Service? Riiiiight...i just cant see National Service any other way apart from being a sad, pathetic life in military life...i would know...

At almost 27 years of age...it wasnt too long ago when i gave up 2 years of my life for National Service...you see a 2 year conscription (followed by a 15 year reserve) is compulsory for all male Singaporeans...and is considered a rite of passage for men...families are involved in the child's assimilation into military life...and are encouraged to support and assist for the duration of the consciption...

To be honest National Service was...still and always will be a foreign blip on my radar...the idea of havin to give up 2 years of ya life when ya in the prime of ya youth is still an issue im contentious with and i downright despise that...the 1960s footages and interviews of young Australians' impressions and thoughts on National Service were similar to how many Singaporean males think...we all hate doin it...fuck it's a waste of time...how bout our education? Our families? Our girlfriends? Our jobs? Does the government honestly care? Nada...everythin we had was stripped from us...a job? Give it up...families and girlfriends? You'll be lucky to see them once a week...

It's funny how Australia is usin National Service as an 'excuse' for young Aussies to 'give back' to the community...afterall they've graduated from Year 12 in a relatively safe and clean country...they're healthy and have a lovin family...yet somehow i feel that returnin their 'gratitude' through National Service is rather trite...better yet...hackneyed...

National Service will never change the behaviour and thinkin of youths (in the light of the
Cronulla riots) because they are only being forced to be disciplined at a military camp...let's not forget that they're not goin there on their own free will...to instill patriotism and discipline by takin away 2 years (or X number of months in Australia's case) of one's life is not the way...in fact National Service had an opposite effect on me...i began to despise and hate everythin that Singapore (not that i was lovin the country to start with) and all her ideals represent...

The idea of National Service is alien to many countries...Australian's laid back 'beer and beach' lifestyle will never amalgamate fully with the rigidness and discipline of a military life...

However...in hindsight (especially in the aftermath of the aforementioned riots in Sydney and all the talk of underlyin racism in the Australian society)...i honestly believe that National Service will do some good...

For every reason that i hated National Service in Singapore...i also loved the military trainin...it wasnt bungee jumpin or sex with Kate Beckinsale...but how often do you experience jungle survival...learn how to operate a M-16...lob a live grenade...not showerin for a week?...it's all very exhaustin...but some of my best memories of National Service were of military trainin...jungle survival and weapon handlin is a really useful skill to possess...and even if you might never ever use them in the future...you'll know that you'd never watch a war movie or attempt a jungle trek the same way again...

Military trainin aside...there's also the prospect of keepin up appearances i.e sheddin them pounds...let's face it...military life aint a walk in the park...a day starts at 5am...and before you know it ya runnin miles...climbin hills...pushin up...pullin up...twistin and turnin...discoverin parts of ya body that you never knew needed warmin up...i left civilianhood a scrawny 160 pounds (bout 72 kilos)...and put on 10 pounds of muscle upon graduatin from military school...

Most importantly...Australians should realise that National Service provides youths with essential skills in life...not only will Aussies learn more bout their own country...it'll also build self-confidence and co-operation with people...especially with people of other ethnic backgrounds...

One of the reasons Australia will never fully integrate its diverse groups of nationalities is the lack of understandin and promotion of other cultures...National Service throws people of all races...color and religion together...workin as a team...as a unit...for those who attend exclusive private or secular schools and seldom mix with other races...National Service provides them the opportunity to mingle around with 'other' people...

Ive only been in Melbourne for just over 11 months...but it was easy for me to notice a distinct lack of discipline...courtesy and civic consciousness in many young Australians...i suppose im only lookin at things from a 'foreigner' point of view...i havnt lived here enough to assume...but havin experienced and survived National Service...i can dissect and discuss it objectively even if im completely biased and prejudiced against it...

National Service in Australia will not take off and be the successful model the government will hope to be if young Aussies are given a choice to volunteer...when presented with a choice...your Average 20yo Joe will be jugglin a casual job at Hungry Jack's...datin 3 girls...spendin more time with his friends than his family...doin drugs and potentially university...

Now tell me...when you've so much goin on in ya life...why would you give it all up for National Service?

If the government truly hopes to improve racial relations (or instil some sort of discipline in youths) between the largely maligned and misunderstood Middle Eastern community and mostly non-racist White Australians...it has to understand that love and respect for the other race cannot be forged with just a program...it cannot be drilled and told through mass advertisements...pacified with increased police patrol
or quelled by John Howard's 'We are not racists' speech...

It can however be taught at a young age...families have to embrace neighbours of different cultures...attend an Indian weddin...exchange greetings at a Muslim gatherin...swop recipes with a Sudanese couple...learn some Croatian...go for a soccer game with your Serbian friend...encourage ya kids to play with kids of other 'colors'...they're no different from us just because they're of a different skin color...learn to appreciate things around you and step out of your comfort zone for once...perhaps just once you may discover somethin bout yaself...

That...along with National Service...is the key to a harmonious and trouble-free Australia...

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