19 May 2006

Musical talent crushed

Mr Wang explores the hindsight of National Service for one young musical prodigy:
Now Mr Wang will predict the most probable outcome of this matter. Of course I hope I am wrong, but this is what I predict will happen:

1. Some cowardly high-ranking MINDEF officer will make the cover-ass, stupid but eminently defensible decision to not allow Ike's NS deferment.

2. (".... National Service is very important. It is the duty of every male Singaporean to serve NS. We must be fair and impartial. National Service is a character-building experience that makes our boys men ... ") [take the Defence Minister's last SAF Day speech & cut & paste miscellaneous other blah blah blah statements.]

3. Unthinking Singaporeans will nod their heads approvingly.

4. Ike See will do his NS and become another perfectly mediocre, ordinary, faceless corporal or sergeant out of 20,000 other perfectly mediocre, ordinary, faceless NSF corporals and sergeants in the SAF.

5. Upon ORD, he will do a desperate rush to make up for the precious lost years in his musical training. He will realise that to do this, he can't afford to stay in Singapore any longer (this will be the only valuable lesson he will learn from his NS years - but it will be an immensely valuable lesson).

6. He leaves Singapore. For good.

7. In time, some future PAP Minister for the Arts who had never known or will have forgotten Ike See will say, "Oh, Singapore must aspire to be a world-class hub for the arts. Singaporeans lack creativity and talent but we must encourage what we have, and create alternative avenues of success in our society."

Meanwhile MINDEF will continue to grant NS deferments to male PSC Overseas Merit Scholars. Year after year after year, as schools like RJC and NJC and VJC continue to manufacture, by the hundreds, perfectly straight-A students who have memorised their way to great success in standardised exam formats. While the really rare, special ones - like Ike See - will continue to be overlooked, and will continue to languish.

- Read full article..

As they say, the sky is the limit for artists and musicians in Singapore. But this understandably poses a great dilemma and paradox. Because the entire idea of National Service is founded on the basis that every male has his patriotic and equal duty to serve and defend his country, regardless of religion, race, or sexual orientation. Even the Jahovah's Witness have to compromise their own religious values to be considered 'Singaporean'. By granting deferment to some individuals, one could start to get the impression that equality in the Singaporean military's context doesn't exactly come without its fine print. What defines the boundaries of making one worthy of NS deferment? Why do these 'elitists' retain the right to call themselves Singaporean while others dedicate 2 - 3 years of the better part of their youth?

It may be for such reasons to prevent opening the floodgates of ethical discussion, that Ike See (the gifted musician in question) will have to do NS. All this at the expense of one boy's future. And Mr Wang has realistically noted the great sense of irony that this boy may one day come to realise. Everything that was done in the name of "character-building" has worked against his own future. In the end, he will become simply another patriot lost, and a talent wasted, while Singapore scratches its head wondering where the talent went.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Let's place a bet. This chap will get NS deferment and go for his music scholarship. Pap is just milking maximum publicity out of this episode. Soon we'll hear that a pap MP helps the boy to achieve his dream by persuading the Defence Minister to listen to her/him. But if the boy resides in PP or Hougang, well...
Imagine (if the biy doesn't go) what lhl has to reply to Bushie in a chance meeting in some world seminar.
Bushie: "Hey, what's yer name...Ah.. Loong, Long, Ching, Chong whatderfxxkever! Why did you stop the boy from studying music in ma country, man?"
lhl:"Daddy...Er...Er..."
So the boy will go.

Anonymous said...

This is why I am not going back to Singapore for the future of my kids.

Anonymous said...

Ike See, I am afraid to say, is another rope a dope.
At his age of seventeen he should already have begun to make the worlds concert stages.
Firstly, he began playing the piano fxar too late. Most of todays leading pianists have begun playing at the age of four.
Ike has missed the boat.
He is using a possible talent as a way of avaoiding national service until he feels he is ready.
Secondly, an American music college. Do you mind.
If he had wan a scolarship for the Guildhall school of Music in London, sor the Paris Conservatoir, I would be impressed.
Anyway after two years of mindless national service, with the mindless half blind lads sof this country, he does not stand a chance of retrieving his old skills.As for playing the piano min nthe army, his sgt will make the poor bastards life a misery, cleaning out shit houses with a tooth brush or square bashing. dftyer

Matilah_Singapura said...

Two things of concern here, and they both involve the state.

1 Conscription: That should go. I support any parent who can afford it to get their sons out of NS, anyway they can.

2 State interference in the arts. That should go to.

Everyone could to with a less state interference. However, those with "special gifts" need to be free of the state - completely. They can go anywhere in the world...

"“Great artists have no country.” - Alfred De Musset

Anonymous said...

The state will not tolerate any deviation from its doctrine. Being founded on the basic principle of blind obedience, it will fight any action that is simply "different" from its rigid vision. As such, we cannot expect it to change over time, because those in power have been indoctrinated and will perpetuate its power only to the indoctrinated. They will forever put the state/party interests above those of its citizens. History has shown us that the only ways for totalitarian systems to fall from power are revolution and complete destruction, not by a facile relaxation of rules by despots nor farcical elections.

Disclaimer: Before I am accused of having ill designs on the nation, I would like to politely point out that I did not mention which state I was referring to.

Matilah_Singapura said...

> Disclaimer: Before I am accused of having ill designs on the nation, I would like to politely point out that I did not mention which state I was referring to.<

Fortunately, or unfortunately I have "authority issues" when it comes to any state attempt to interfere with my life, regardless of the state.

> History has shown us that the only ways for totalitarian systems to fall from power are revolution and complete destruction, not by a facile relaxation of rules by despots nor farcical elections. <

Yep. Athens, Rome, Spain, Germany, USSR... all these societies slipped into statism.

Matilah Singapura!

rench00 said...

Matilah Singapura:
yes, the state should not intefere with your life. in fact, the state should stop interfering with anyone's life.

so the state should stop subsidising education. let everyone pay the full cost! don't have enough money, then don't get educated. why want the state to interfere with your life? don't have enough money to see doctor, too bad la. state's not going to interfere. can't find a job on your own, ain't the state's problem. the state shouldn't interfere with the individual's life.

yep. definitely. the state shouldn't interfere with the individual's life.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Ah. I see you don't like free markets based on free association and individual choice.

I do :)

Anonymous said...

I think there is a very clear line drawn between helping the individual and controlling the individual. If it is not immediately apparent to you, there is always a vast range of literature you can refer to. You can start with Bentham, rench00.

Anonymous said...

"can't find a job on your own, ain't the state's problem. the state shouldn't interfere with the individual's life."

when the minilee made the stupid statement that caused the foreign withdrawals of investments in sg few years back and affected the economy and subsequently to lower all pays even lower than m'sia's lowest pay and some even had to resort to jumping down from flats, this is not the state's problem. then, whose problem, rench00??

Anonymous said...

and then came up with the idea of opening casinos wanting to reap more monies...........can't even catch the illegal loansharks at all. isn't this state's problem??

rench00 said...

yes... there is a clear line between helping and controlling the individual. but both are, in a way, interfering with the individual isn't it?

take the Gahmen out of the equation totally i say! go with Matilah Singapura! leave everything to the free market!

and if people have to starve and die, that's their problem. let's not interfere in their lives by helping them. and it is probably due to their... what's it that Matilah Singapura used? oh... free association and free choice.

yep. definitely. the state should stop ALL forms of interference. the market should reign supreme!

Matilah_Singapura said...

rench00 : there is only one human obligation - that is to leave others alone.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't OFFER to help someone in "need". If you believe that person is worthy of help, and you would like to help because that rates "high" in your value-system, by all means, make the offer.

All I'm saying is that you oughtn't be FORCED to help just because someone is in "need".

Stated another way: "Just because an individual is in 'need of assistance' doesn't give him an automatic claim on my property".

Charity, benevolence, compassion, altruism are "good" human values in most people's minds. However institutionalised altruism - which is what a state does - is a form of slavery.

Real charity comes from the heart, not from the barrel of a gun.

clyde said...

Instead of degenerating this debate over the definition of interference, why not make some real form of critique against (or for) Ike See's NS or NS in general. If you want to get technical, the word 'interfere' is not approriate anyway as it implies hinderance to progress.

The key element here is the freedom of choice. If you don't want to accept subsidised school fees, scholarships, medical care etc, that's your problem and choice. On the other hand, if you want to pursue your dream at some music school and exploit your prodigy talent, you end up shaving your head instead.

Anonymous said...

There is little reason to make a big fuss over this. Anybody can eventually get what he/she wants. What the boy needs to do is to evaluate his priorities and values. Is realizing his full potential more important to him than a nation that insists on taking his freedom? Is he willing to sacrifice everything he has here to pursue his dream? The state has not prevented him from going for it. It has merely made it difficult.

Matilah_Singapura said...

If there is NS, there is no freedom of choice.

Conscription MUST go. It is slavery.

And yes, "rugged" individualism means over coming obstacles - especially "injustice" to realise your "destiny".

Anonymous said...

"and if people have to starve and die, that's their problem."

if everyone in this society and in this world thinks in this way, it truly shows sign of deterioration in human values. It is truly a sad thing. it shows how selfish one is just bec you're young and strong now, holds a job and has stable earnings do not necessarily mean that you will not be faced with any problems in the future. Things could change and nobody could forsee the future in terms of health and calamity. It shows how shallow is in your thinking.
Perhaps ten years later, hope that your thinking will change for the better. God bless you!!

Matilah_Singapura said...

To anonymous masquerading as Mother Theresa:

Well lucky for society, you don't think that way, do you? What a "good" human being you must be. Please, give yourself a pat on the back - from me!

If you are so concerned about "helping others" because ther are "good human values" (what are values unless a human chooses it...), why don't you get off the net, give away your computer, and get out there and HELP the "needy", goddamit!

Lucky for all of us there is no such thing as "society". We are still a bunch of individuals - with freewill.

And at least we still have SOME choice on whether we want to be charitable or not, and WHO we give our charity to.

Anonymous said...

If you are so concerned about "helping others" because ther are "good human values" (what are values unless a human chooses it...), why don't you get off the net, give away your computer, and get out there and HELP the "needy"

It does not mean that one must give away all your valuables before it is considered as HELP the "needy". You help with what you can afford, within your means to do so. But of course, with sincerity and kindness - out of goodwill. Your understanding of help i'm afraid is wrong.