National service at a tender age of 18 is surely a huge amount of responsibility for the young minds that are still beginning to come to grips with the whiplashes of human relationships, gradual realisation of the many undercurrents moving the world. Not only are they forced to grow up quickly, they also learn inter-personal skills, such as back-stabbing, avoiding extra work through various antics, and a penchant for the ultimate escape from reality: sleep.
But is 18 years old a mature enough age for a teenager to bear arms?
I asked all these at the same time as I witnessed a 5-tonner truck reversed into my Company Sergeant Major's car.
The tonner, already filled to the brim with passengers, was about to leave the camp. The driver put the vehicle in reverse gear, and forgetting about the Toyota in the blind spot, must have stomped upon the accelerator, since everybody could hear the engine roar from the sudden rev. This was followed by a sickening sound of metal striking metal, and the screeching sound of protesting metal.
The impact caused the relatively new Toyota to be dragged a few metres, with its bonnet totally crushed in.
Now, cars in Singapore are extremely expensive black-holes for money. To secure one, a person first needs to bid for a certificate of entitlement from the government, of which the price floats around SGD$30, 000 (Around US$17, 000), before being eligible to purchase a car. To make things worse, these little pieces of paper only last 10 years, after which it must be renewed at the prevailing price. Can you even begin to imagine the mental anguish?
The spectators cheered, either at the the prospect of having another gambling inspiration from the car's licence plate, or they must hate the encik (a malay word which commonly used to refer to Company Sergeant Major) very much.
This, coming from the people who bear arms, and drive heavy-load vehicles. The wielders of lethal force.