I have learnt lately:
#1. That Ukrainians are brave and patriotic folks. They are willing to defend their homeland, no matter the price.
#2. That NS Men are now getting a reasonable wage upon ORD, instead of being treated like slaves.
I did feel like a slave during my NS years, and certainly wasn’t fairly compensated for it. But even doing so now, it only changes my perception that NS conveniently used me as worthless labour, to being a detestable occupation. I would have resented it less, but it still wouldn’t have made me anywhere close to being as fervent about defending my homeland as the Ukrainians did.
#3. That Ireland has no means of asserting itself should the Russians conduct naval exercises, let alone attack.
This is scary.
#4. That it is foolhardy to expect any other country to come to your rescue, no matter how good/strong/fair (insert your own adjective) Big Brother might be.
As I grew older, I understood Singapore’s rationale for its armed forces. Hope and relying on others isn’t a strategy. After all, nations put their self interests before others. Singapore’s logical calculation isn’t unsound in terms of its defence, but while my head can rationalise why I had to serve, but my heart certainly isn’t aligned with it.
#5. That a sense of worth is what leads to patriotism.
In order to fight for something, you first need to have a sense that it is worth fighting for. When NS treated me like a serf, there wasn’t even a sense of worth as a person, let alone consideration for your fellow men.
In the army, we were told that commissioned officers were issued with sidearms, and it was supposed to be used against soldiers for desertion. But I have also heard plenty of talk among us men, that in times of war, we would turn our M-16 at our commanders and finish them first.
Those were idle talks of bravado in the minds of our youthful foolishness, but the impressions weren’t just vacuous thoughts. Those were the feelings and morale of the people trained to defend the country. But there were moments when I did have a few commanders who treated people fairly and justly, that I would have at least felt that it’s worth fighting alongside with if it had really became a reality.
It was my then-impression that the career NCOs were the worst bunch of people, followed by some power-drunk newly minted 2nd-Lieutenants who had decided that their sole meaning during their uniformed service was to lord over others who were collectively burdened with our national service.
Whatever I went through, was a dark time. But that pales in comparison with what’s happening in Ukraine at this moment. I can only hope that this doesn’t spiral even further into an irredeemable catastrophe.
#6. That the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is a badass that doesn’t just fight a war, but also blazes on the dance floor.
I do hope he and the Ukrainian people survive this utterly senseless onslaught.