Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Conscripted




My brother was conscripted yesterday morning, a few days after his 23rd birthday. All my family sent him to the government office where they were called up. I wasn’t there, and was told my mother and my sister cried after watching him walking into the huge glum building.

I didn’t expect that things would be serious like this time. My mother is not an emotional person at all. I can still recall how surprised I was when I saw her tears in my grandpa’s funeral, and that was the only time she shed her tears. I know it’s huge. The only son in my family is called up, and will have to face his new yet unprotected life from now on. But I would really like to say, ‘Come on! He’s in “substitute military service”, not in army or navy or air force! Stop fussing around, he’ll be fine.’

Indeed military service in Taiwan has changed tremendously these decades. It’s not an unpredictable and dreadful experience one would try everything he could to avoid. (Although they still do, such as gaining weight.) The length has been reduced from more than 3 years during the civil war to less than 12 months these days. Also, military is becoming more ‘humane’ in many ways. The soldiers can keep their mobiles can contact their family quite often. And they have much more days off duty than they used to do. For those in the ‘substitute military service’, days are even easier. They are basically office workers, working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and get paid monthly. How nice! Especially in the critical time such as the credit crunch these years.

But I guess it still fretting when any of your family was called up. News about military service is never delighted on TV. Parents and girlfriends went to the temples (or churches) to pray for their loved ones to be safe and sound. In the face of the conscription, both soldiers and their family become superstitious. I heard some funny stories about painting an eye on the hand in order to get the better option in the drawing procedure (in order to decide which part of armed force you would be called up in).

No matter what, military service is part of manhood and the collective memory for male of every generation. They call the military service ‘the second round socialisation’, indicating it’s time when boys become men. Some reckon guys will be strengthened both physically and psychologically in the military service. After all, it’s a place of different rules and regulations to obey. For others, military service is totally a waste of time, a place where people do not use their brain and do ridiculously meaningless things without asking. I know exactly why they thought this way.

According to the constitution, every adult young man after 18 shall be conscripted only if they are students. Therefore it would be quite annoying if they planned to study overseas. Even though the abolition of conscription in Taiwan has been in debates for years, it will survive for the next few generations once the tension between Taiwan and China remains.


All the best to my dearest brother. I love you.
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