I failed in my duty to post last week so I thought I’d better get in early for this one. All I had for “heightened” anyway was yet another rumination on my obsession with the tallness of the Dutch, and I’m not sure I’ve got any new material on the matter.
Duty of course makes me think of the army, which brings to mind a conversation I had at boot camp the other day (fitness boot camp, not active duty boot camp). Apropos of something, one of my fellow exercisers declared that she hates “that” back in Australia, “how people just bludge on the dole”.
Discussions of dole-bludging are par for the course in Australia, and normally I’d just back away quietly with a bad taste in my mouth. But the way she raised it had a freshness, the freshness of a practice now foreign and remembered with disdain. Because no one bludges on the dole in Singapore. It’s something she remembers people doing back home. So I failed to tune out. Within less than a minute all Australians present (self-excepted) had concurred that anyone on the dole for more than six months should be put into the army. This was still quite fresh and astonishing to me, because with all my inner-west living friends I only heard such talk coming out of a television or radio. So again, I failed to tune out. And when the time came for me to say something, I didn’t respond with anything I might have expected to, such as the lack of empathy this stance suggested, the difficulty of finding employment. I just said that I didn’t think I would make a very good soldier, and nor would quite a lot of people I knew. I would be of much more use to my country in some kind of office job.
This pragmatic response was accepted, and it was pointed out that national service wouldn’t have to mean active duty (the discussion had moved on from dole-bludgers to encompass the idea that everyone might do a year of national service after high school), and at my prompting it was reluctantly but fully acknowledged that society had pressing non-military needs, such as support for mental health, childcare and other community services.
No policies were developed, and no action was taken, but I left the conversation feeling more aligned with my bludger-hating compatriots than before, and wondering if more of our problems could be sidled up to and scooted around on practical hobbit feet. Asylum-seeking springs to mind.