I read with interest Jolene's account of her life at the Malaysian National Service (NS) training camp. Believe it or not, growing record-breaking armpit hair, camp trainers chasing away 'evil spirits', kissing your used sanitary pads as a form of punishment (wtf?) - its all part and parcel of being an NS trainee.
When I first heard that Malaysia is about to implement the NS regime, I was very supportive of it. I believe that so long as it's for a just cause, improving our national security and instilling patriotism in our youths is always a good thing.
I wouldn't mind being part of the NS program myself
because I heard girls think men in uniforms are sexy and I wanted to wear one. I've had plenty of friends from Singapore and Taiwan who ranted and raved about what a life-changing experience NS was for them and how they came out in the end a better person.
For many, NS is a rite of passage where the clueless becomes disciplined, the weak becomes strong, the boys become men.
Unfortunately, as more details emerge, I started to grow skepticism.
For one, the program is only going to benefit 20% of the country's 17-year-olds (money not enough). Then I learnt that duration of the NS is not 2 years, not even 1 year, but just 3 months (money not enough). THREE PATHETIC MONTHS! Many people have said it - three months ain't National Service to train boys into men. Three months is summer camp for kids.
How the heck are you going to instill patriotism in just 3 months? These things don't just grow on trees overnight. Patriotism is something that require the victims to be subjected to lies and deception and propaganda over a long long period of time one, you know?
I reckon the only way they're able to effectively instill patriotism in the minds of our youths is by using some bizzare mind-control technique.
Jolene wrote about having to attend racial integration classes. Its fun and nice and all, but in a way, its also quite sad to see that the country has to resort to programs like these to promote racial harmony among the Chinese, Indians and Malays. I'm no expert, but I do know that forcing cross-cultural interaction in a formal classroom-like environment is about as effective as forcing a chicken and a duck to talk about the latest EPL soccer news.
Its only gonna work during supervised sessions. As soon as that's over, the Chinese is gonna stick with their Chinese friends and likewise for the other major races. Most of them anyway. For many, a comfortable common language is still a barrier for interaction to take place.
But hey, at least they're trying.
The biggest joke of all is that the Malaysian National Service isn't providing any military training at all. Heck, the trainees aren't even given the chance to handle weapons! All that pretty army uniforms and they don't even get to hold a gun. What the hell, right? I wonder why the Ministry of Defence is running the program 'cos all these "racial integration" and "character building" exercises seem more like the Education Ministry's job.
There are military drills. Its just that at most, the trainees are taught to climb ropes, do monkey bars, and run. But geez, what are these kids gonna do if Malaysia came under attack? Throw sticks at them?
Yes, I feel very safe.
(Just in case there's any government people reading this who thinks I'm criticising Malaysia's NS program, I'm not lah ok? I think Malaysia is good, and I agree Badawi is the best thing since Elvis. Yeah, baby.)