Aware missed an opportunity to engage

Aware missed an opportunity to engage
Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Minister of State for Defence and National Development, talking to some of the NSF commandos during his visit to the Commando Battalion.

This much is true: Singaporean men love to criticise the army. But what we love to hate are those who we think have not earned the stripes to disparage the military.

So when a deejay called our men fair-weather soldiers for not training through the episode of haze earlier this year, netizens pounced on her online post and flamed her.

Then, in August, the National Geographic Channel's publicity stunt for its TV series on the army - featuring hired actors in military attire responding to drill commands from the lunchtime crowd in Raffles Place - rubbed the men the wrong way. Commanding soldiers, even pretend ones, is a privilege civilians shouldn't get to experience, sniffed those who had served.

Now, we have Aware's petition to eliminate obscene lyrics referring to rape from the army marching song Purple Light. Those angered by what they see as the women's organisation meddling are asking: Why should outsiders tell the armed forces what is appropriate behaviour?

While citizen soldiers have turned moaning about the army into an art form, every time there is a perceived slight on the SAF from other quarters, suddenly it's all about pride and honour and the sacred call of duty.

Perhaps there is a fear that the conscript's sacrifice is somehow diminished when those who haven't walked a mile in our boots question what we do.

This attitude is personified in the film A Few Good Men, when the marine colonel played by Jack Nicholson snarls at Tom Cruise's lawyer character to pick up a weapon and stand a post before presuming he is entitled to answers about how the colonel runs his military base.

In short, "don't comment if you haven't served" is something many who have put on the uniform believe.

Aware's persistence in pursuing the matter is understandable, given its position against sexism and offensive attitudes to women.

I believe Aware had a point in raising the issue. But I also feel Aware bungled by rushing to condemn because by doing so, its message was lost completely on soldiers baffled by the sudden attention to song lyrics most don't dwell on, much less take seriously.

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