And now we come to the month of September. A month of tension and a month where the 14th came so very close to its breaking point.
As we were pushed and pushed, the ‘Stress and Strain’ of training began to show its effects upon our morale; the cracks so previously highlighted widened and threatened to swallow us whole.
As we were pushed, we began to push back; we lashed out, at each other and at the instructors. One of the darker months of our time in training, and we barely halfway.
And yet, if we squinted and stared, a light could be seen at the end of the tunnel.
5th September – 11th September
Qn: EMPTY WEEK (NO QUESTIONS WERE GIVEN)
Since no question was allocated for this week, please read this bonus reflection we were instructed to write regarding the SCDF Values of Pride and Care.
Pride and Care
Of all the words that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), could use as its motto, the embodiment of its spirit, we have chosen to use these three. And in truth, there is something striking about the simplicity of it.
Pride is the very thing that puts the steel in our spines and quicksilver in our blood; without it, how could we stand against the overwhelming odds we face in the line of duty? To take pride in something means to go above and beyond the minimum; we push not only ourselves, but the people around us as well, to the very limits that we once thought unattainable.
When we are proud of something, nothing will hold us back from making it better. Nothing will stop us from making ourselves better.
But what is Pride without Care? Arrogance. Ego. Without Care, our Pride is brittle and easily damaged; a little insult and a little teasing and the very thing which had brought us up, will bring us crashing to the floor. And when it is broken, our Pride will regrow. But it will be a shallow twisted thing, easily broken over and over again.
That is where Care must come in. When we care, not only for ourselves but for others as well, we realise that there is so much more in this life more important than our own personal Prides. And every time our pride is damaged and hurt, the care we all share for one another will soften the impact, heal the wound. For no matter how badly bruised our Pride may be, a little Care will always make it better.
Perhaps the most important thing to learn from our motto lies not in the individual values it aims to nurture in the people who uphold this organisation; rather it is in the way they complement each other. Pride without Care has already been established as being weak, and Care without Pride would likely be ineffective as well. Together, however, they seem to cover for each others’ weaknesses, making the whole motto more than just the sum of its individual parts.
Perhaps, put simply, there is so much more to emulate in the motto than just the motto itself.
12th September – 18th September
Qn: Why is it important to maintain discipline? Is there a relationship between discipline and complacency?
Discipline has been a concept I have pondered for a long time. It’s no surprise really; even as a child I’d had plenty of experience with Discipline Masters and other assorted adults who made it their business to impress upon me a set of rules and regulations meant to guide, and ultimately restrict, how I behave.
Over time, my perceptions on its uses and necessities fluctuates; at times, I wholeheartedly support it, while at others, I reject them completely. On an instinctual level, I disagree with it. The idea that I should live my life according to what other people say or think disgusts me. If we do not believe in the same things, or have different moral compasses, how could I discipline myself after their example?
However, it has also become clear that living in such an anarchic way would lead to alienation; the key can only be found through compromise.
In time, I would discover the concept of self-discipline. This firm of discipline offered my life order, without the expense of sacrificing my ideals. It made me control myself, follow a regime or ideology and ultimately offered a higher level of focus otherwise unattainable.
But it did not come without cost; it highlighted the differences between people. Not everyone is disciplined in the same way and the benefits of standardisation were lost. But for a long time, this form of discipline was the most effective.
Now in NS, I find myself facing the more general type of discipline. It can be abrasive at times, but I can understand its importance. When it comes to life and death, Stringent Protocols, Standardisation and Discipline play an important part.
However, it should be noted that the point of discipline is to ultimately improve performance. An excessive amount of discipline would only seek to promote the very thing discipline was meant to counter; complacency. If disciplinary actions ultimately cause an unacceptable level of productivity loss, one must consider if it is more important to improve effectiveness or to improve standardisation.
Ultimately, discipline is mostly a voluntary action; there is only so much that a commander can do to enforce it before it becomes virtually useless. Though it restricts our freedom, it is a worthy sacrifice to better perform in our duty.
(Spoiler Alert: Oh boy, if you know me well enough, you’d know that I was hitting the very limits of my patience at this point.
From the overly detailed run-on sentence of the first paragraph and the vaguely snarky comments of the second last paragraph, one could kind of infer how I had become more and more unhappy with how the course was being run.
Combined with the choice of question itself (Discipline, out of all things) one could tell that even the instructors were not happy with us either.
This slowly brewing, slowly simmering, slowly boiling cauldron of malcontent would eventually cause the events of the next week to finally occur.)
19th September – 25th September
Qn: In the past week, tension has been rising between the instructors and 14th RCC. What is it that you think is making them feel this way, and how can you, as an individual or as a whole/team do to remedy this situation?
For every reflection I have done, I write a short introduction; it acts as a sort of warning of what happens in the rest of the short essay. For this one, I preface my reflection with a simple reminder that I will be as frank as possible. My candour and honesty is a part of me and I will not mince words. All the same, please do not take what I have to say to heart as I am but one man and one man’s thoughts do not reflect the thoughts of the whole. Especially when that man is me, and I have one of the strangest thought processes of anyone I know.
Firstly, I hate drama. I’ve always hated drama. How something so small can be blown out of proportion is beyond me; a little ego, a little insult, have often been the catalyst for many a war. All it takes is for one side to start the ball rolling, and for the other to continue, and suddenly it becomes a full fledged pissing contest (again I apologise for my language, drama really pisses me off). It doesn’t matter who starts it; both sides are to blame for letting it escalate. Often, both sides are as wrong as they are right for choosing their stand. Doesn’t change the fact that they are both still wrong though.
Our situation is no different. I can’t tell you how it started; I have never picked up the skill of pinpointing blame and I’m not sure I want to. Yet suddenly, a widening split was clear. One slight mistake we commit is then punished without impunity. One slight miscommunication between us and the instructors is then discussed extensively in our admin time. In such a short time, it became clear that either side was unwilling to back down. As much a horrified spectator as an unwilling participant, I knew things would get worse before they got better.
I would like to believe that most of that is behind us, but the paranoid part of me can’t shake the feeling that we’re in the eye of the storm; any misstep would bring this stability to a sudden and destructive end.
As OCTs in a hierarchic organisation, it would be logical that we would be expected to take the first step. Perhaps by a change in attitude and some effort on our part to mend the burnt bridges, we can atone for our part in this conflict. After all, as trainees, we have an expectation to uphold.
But no bridge can rebuilt when only one side is willing to have it built.
I know my reflection is not one you would probably have expected to read, but I’ve learnt a long time ago that kind words rarely address the heart of a problem; mature and objective ones do. We’re wrong and I will never deny that. We’re just not the only ones.
Also, please do not punish everyone for my words. If this is what pushes us back over the brink again, let me take the fall. It is only fair.
Your words are inspiring, and we’re not here to make life miserable but to do what’s necessary, so that you can move on with the next phase of life.
(Spoiler Alert: I’m not sure what else I can add, even in hindsight.
This was one of the few examples of a reflection where I held nothing back. Contrary to popular belief, I do actually have a filter to the words I say.
One of biggest things I believe in is to speak the Truth, as far as possible. And yet, as I grow up, I realise that people all have different levels of “Truth tolerance”. Different levels of tolerance for hearing things as they are instead of as they want to hear them.
And I have decided that, if you cannot take the Truth, then you don’t deserve it.
This reflection demonstrated one of those moments where I was just so, SO frustrated that I thought, “To hell with tolerance, this reflection is for me and me alone. I will not be silenced just because some people cannot take the Truth from my mouth.”
And here, we have pure, unadulterated Taha. Unfiltered and pure.)