By Gerrard Lai
THANKS to this digital age of ubiquitous smartphones and social media, the unfortunate young man in the photograph on the right has attained infamy overnight.
Dressed in Singapore Armed Forces fatigues, the man was trailed by a woman carrying what is presumably his fieldpack. The picture made its rounds on Facebook before being posted on citizen-journalism website Stomp on Sunday.
It has since gone viral and sparked off a heated debate on whether soldiers today are too pampered.
|Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: STOMP, ST, Mindef)|
Most netizens poked fun at the man's apparent inability to carry his own fieldpack and labelled him "gu niang", a colloquial term meaning "ladylike".
Such labelling reeks of sexism. I'm reminded of a female platoon-mate from the Officer Cadet School (OCS) who I respect.
For the record, like the rest of the about 60 male cadets, the now Lieutenant Low went through a gruelling jungle-survival course in the jungles of Brunei, and is now an infantry officer.
She certainly is as capable as any man I know.
So, no, I don't think the young man is "ladylike", but it is worrying that this full-time national serviceman was happy to let someone - likely his maid - carry his fieldpack while he was probably texting on his cellphone.
It might have been forgiveable if he had other things to carry, and it certainly raises the question: Is there a maid behind "every Singaporean Son"?
Judging from his attire and equipment, it does not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that he must be a Gen Y Tekong recruit who was recently enlisted.
One netizen queried on StraitsTimes.com: "If that boy cannot even carry his backpack, how is he going to carry his pack, rifle and other equipment in the field? Is he going to take his maid along to dig his trench, pitch his tent and clean his rifle for him, too?"
Let's just say that this photo only adds fuel to a brewing perception, especially among older NSmen, that the third-generation SAF produces "soft" and spoilt soldiers who are quite a far cry from their predecessors.
Speaking as someone who had just completed his full-time national service as an infantry platoon commander in December, I'll admit that I have seen about, say, two out of 10 NSF who fit the stereotype.
But, really, the debate that SAF's more relaxed standards have bred mollycoddled soldiers misses the point.