Friday, July 08, 2005

SloMosVille: Rushing to Wait, Waiting to Rush

Reservist training is finally over. Emerging from a long-drawn out battle (what else, against the system surely!) in SloMosVille (coded for: army camp), I couldn’t be happier. We rush to wait, and then, yet, we wait to rush. Singaporean boys would know that I am bitching to a familiar refrain. As usual, the powers-that-be that run the army have little capacity for cognition. This charge is piled up on top of others like ill-coordinated efforts, resulting in messed up organization and timetables. We wake up or book in extremely early so that we may wait hours for the next thing to happen. We sleep hours on end on some days, and rush non-stop on others, like fall in at 0500h to go to range. I may be (slow and run) on Italian time (which is so la dolce vita, by the way), but the army runs on army time. I haven’t figured out amazing solutions for such pandemonium but I suggest they privatize the army and bring in the mercenaries and experts whose notion of efficiency is probably closer to that of the civilian world.

Despite the above charges, the experience of the soldier who returns could be construed and viewed in a more positive fashion.

Powered by sociological thought, I’ve ceased to believe that I am an arts-humanities student enabled solely in languages and social theory—extracting myself from the pigeonhole (hoisted in there by psychologists, of course, thank you very much), I’ve adopted a new and positive attitude towards learning skills in the field of technology. This school of non-essentialist and category-defying thought goes like this: no one is particularly abled in one field or the other (science or humanities). Such categories are, after all, constructions; language giving form to some sort of ‘tangible reality’. Taking a heightened level of interest in the high-tech machines that I came in touch with during the training, and feeling like I could master them, was very, very liberating indeed.

Similarly, range has proved to be fun—it’s not just a preoccupation of military-mad boys, but could also add some color to footloose urbanites like myself. Playing around with M16s to the beat of Firers, watch your front, I saw the beauty of the experience; 5 other mates and I worked together to gun down 6 targets that appeared in various different lanes—the sheer unpredictability of the targets’ appearance made the experience feel so live (and in the real world). Furthermore, under new test regulations, firers are required to correct any sort of firing problems (say, rounds stuck in the chamber) on their own without any assistance.

Finally, there’s the nights-off experience revisited. Going to Ang Mo Kio for dinner (spectacular chicken chops, cutlets and fish and chips heartlander-style) at S11 with my army mates was a trip down memory lane, absolutely dripping with nostalgia. It was like 2000/2001 again: pigging out at S11 food centre, after-dinner drinks (bubble tea, so fashionable then and yet so cheesy now) at the, for lack of a better word, piazza (or place or plaza), and then movies (War of the Worlds; to me, a projection of the American psyche and zeitgeist more than anything else: terrorism and fear of the Other/Arabs as embodied in the invasion by the oddball tripods; and so worth my S$7 for the fact that the cast went through so many puke-worthy moments caked in grime!). So down-to-earth was the night out it that it’s a great respite from many urban moments steeped in excesses.

In an abrupt about-turn, I’d choose not to return for reservist training—ever.


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