By Sudo Nyme
I’m writing to refute a Lye Khuen Way’s opinion on why NSmen in uniform should stand in crowded trains. I first saw this on my Facebook wall, and to be very honest, I’d initially thought it was a satirical piece because of how stupid it sounded. As expected, his article drew flak, both from comments on his article directly as well as on social media. Here’s my humble take on his piece (after realizing that it wasn’t satire after all). It’s as much about rebutting him as it is about why it doesn’t make sense at all to discriminate against National Servcemen Full-time (NSFs).
He started his article with: “There were three occasions when I witnessed our Servicemen in their “pixelated un-camouflage” uniform behaving in a disgusting manner on our train.” He then proceeded to equate the act of standing (by servicemen in uniform) to “well-behaving”, and recounted how a RSAF serviceman in uniform “triggered his ‘sabo’ attitude” by sitting down in a train.
I don’t understand why servicemen are expected to stand. Or, to be precise, why servicemen in uniform are expected to behave like superbeings who don’t tire and fatigue. As the author has confessed explicitly in his post title, he believes servicemen in uniform should stand. This gives rise to a couple of issues:
1. Why are servicemen in uniform expected to stand? Why does the very state of being in uniform subject them to this expectation of garangness? Why is it acceptable then (implicitly), for servicemen not in uniform, to sit? What is this quality about a pixelated article of clothing that magically confers superpowers to servicemen so as to justify this expectation of them to stand? It is categorically ridiculous for the same person to be treated differently simply for wearing different outfits.It would be a whole different story if this discrimination-by-clothing affair involves say… ethnic outfits, or racial costumes. Everyone would be outraged and screaming “Racist!” But apply this treatment to our NSFs and everyone is cool. Hmm. It would be minutely less unreasonable if all servicemen (regardless of clothing) are treated equally unfairly – but of course, there’s the issue of identifying them. But in any case, I am staunchly opposed to the idea of this discrimination against NSFs in the first place – regardless of whether they are in uniform.
2. Why are non-servicemen (aka civilians) not subject to this basic code of human decency – to give up their seats to the needy? One possible argument is that servicemen are serving their nation, and making sacrifices is part of the job. But this is tenuous, because it does not recognize the differences between the various forms of sacrifices. Servicemen have already sacrificed two years of their prime, endured arduous training, suffered injustice (most likely) at the hands of their superiors, and more. Most would agree that they have sacrificed enough.In fact, shouldn’t their grueling training make for a more compelling case to allow them to sit on trains? I am not pushing for servicemen to be entitled seats; I’m just hoping that we aren’t – by unwritten social rules – prohibited from doing so.
2. Priority seats… not.
Another thing I’d like to point out is that the servicemen photographed in the post don’t seem to be taking up priority seats. If they are, then… I’d agree that they are inconsiderate beings (especially if there are elderly/pregnant/needy commuters in the vicinity) and deserve the negative spotlight turned on upon them. But if they are occupying regular seats, I don’t think there is anything even remotely wrong about it. This borrows a lot from point #1 about discrimination against uniformed personnel, actually, so I won’t reiterate what I’d just said.
I believe that the system of public transport seating operates in a first-come-first-served basis. Of course, human decency should resolutely come into play above all such “systems” – in the sense that you should always give up your seat to somebody who needs it more than you, regardless of type of seat. But otherwise, there is no justification to expect somebody to give up his/her seat if he/she had sat first, regardless of identity.
3. It’s a conscript military.
Even if you disagree with all my above points and unwaveringly and unreasonably (in my humble opinion) believe that uniformed service personnel should be treated as second-class citizens, kindly bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of uniformed personnel did not choose to be so. They were conscripted against their will to serve the nation. Would it be fair if I were to force an identity on your unwilling self and subject you to the rules and regulations that come with it (to all of you who agree with that article)? I didn’t think so.
People, let’s stop viewing NSFs as different, and let’s be more tolerant. As a NSF myself, I know how it’s like to have that persistent feeling that everyone is judging you – simply for wearing your uniform on a train. It sucks. So stop it. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice so much – and then more, simply because people think we should.
This post was first published at Literally kidding.