A photo of a maid carrying the fieldpack of an NSman raises questions about the mentality of Singapore’s youth and their parents.
Contributed By Ricky Chee
On March 27, a Facebook photo that went viral caused a public uproar. It was a back shot of a National Serviceman walking ahead of his foreign domestic helper as she carried his fieldpack measuring more than half her height.
Within hours the photo appeared on the online portal Stomp, causing outrage along with mirth. A day later, Lee Kin Mun, a.k.a. blogger mrbrown posted not only the photo but hilarious “posters” designed by creative Singaporeans inspired by the Ministry of Defence’s latest campaign, “Our Loved Ones, Our Army.”
One witty take showed the by-now infamous photo with the tagline “My Maid, Our Army.” Another one featured a rank of maids with backpacks at the National Day Parade.
If there was ever a hot topic, this was it.
A large group of Singaporeans felt that this photo reflected badly on the Singapore Armed Forces’ men, depicting them as weak and spoilt. Some felt that the NSF’s actions exposed his lack of discipline. Others quipped that he might also bring his domestic worker with him if he had to go to war.
Another NSF who wanted to be known only as Kaiser said that he does not have a maid at home, but whether he did or not, he felt that it is not right for anyone to carry his army fieldpack. “The fieldpack is an NSF’s pride and he should be responsible for it.”
“For me, army was where I grew up. We were forced to be independent, wash our own clothes, iron and stuff. Youth these days tend to be more pampered when they are at home. It’s their chance to get some TLC, to unwind,” commented former police NS man, Lucas Chia, 23. “This guy was not a good example for other NSFs—once you are in uniform, you must be conscious of your surroundings. You represent the army. Then again, I also think this guy was also suay (unlucky) that he got caught. It’s his first time offence, cut him some slack.”
Another, albeit much smaller, group showed some empathy. One foreign domestic worker who wanted to be known simply as Chris said, “If I am still working for my employers when their son goes to army, I will carry his backpack for him, because I love him.”
The story has been featured in all the local papers and was picked up by BBC World News on April 5, which reported that “the soldier in question was undergoing physical training before starting a nine-week Basic Military Training course.” Defence official Colonel Desmond Tan told the press that the young man has identified himself to his commander, showed remorse and has been counseled.”
NSman Bryan Lee, 21, commented, “I think he might have, for a brief moment, forgotten the consequences on the SAF, but I felt it was brace of him to own up to his actions. It showed his integrity as a soldier.”
The errant NSF has said his sorries, but one question remains: Why did he do it in the first place? Are his parents to blame?
Bernard Lim, 48, a trainer, has a 20-year-old son in National Service. “Every morning I see the schoolmates of my youngest child given the ‘royal’ treatment, having their bags carried by their parents or maids. Is it any wonder why our kids expect this treatment way into their NS days? The outsourcing mentality is deeply ingrained in the minds of our young: you don’t have to take personal responsibility because someone else will do the work or clean up the mess. We may have raised up a generation with this entitlement or outsourcing mentality from birth!
“On the bright side,” he quips, “this may inspire more wealthy foreigners to consider citizenship for their sons: NS without tears!”