This recent controversy (if we can even call it that) with AWARE about NS men getting more privileges is just absurd. It is yet another example of the confusion that has arisen from an obsession and worship of “equality” above all else. People these days seem to view equality as something that is relevant in every and any area of society. Moreover, it is viewed as a reducing to the common denominator such that if I don’t get it, no one else should.
But what exactly is equality? Are all humans equal? Most would say yes. But tell me, is a child equal to an adult? Is a man truly equal to a woman? Yes, in a very basic sense because all are human. But beyond that, we cannot really justify any claim of equality. A child is less developed mentally, physically, and emotionally than an adult. A man is almost entirely different from a woman genetically speaking. These differences in nature would of course lead to further differences in life, which are vast but do not make things unfair or discriminatory. (Discrimination being defined as any sort of differentiation that is based on an irrelevant premise. For example, she is woman, therefore she cannot be a musician.) For instance, disallowing a child to drink alcohol is not being unequal or unfair because a child does not have the mental capacity to exercise self-control, nor the physical capacity to tolerate alcohol. In the same way, making NS compulsory for males and not females is not unfair because males are genetically built to be physically stronger, and they have the physical capacity to go through the training required. I don’t hear AWARE complaining about this. This idea is extended into society in almost all areas., especially a capitalist society. Now it sounds odd to bring economics into this, but AWARE is expressing concern over the government provision, and is driving for equality in this area. If it sounds just slightly socialist, that is because it is. A capitalist society is essentially run by incentives. You work, you get pay. You want people to do more work, you increase the pay, or you employ supply-side policies like raising work-incentives/benefits or cutting tax. Is it then unfair that a clerk gets a lower salary than a manager? Of course not – they are doing different levels of work, we cannot compare the two on the same plane. (Of course, with regards to the size of the income gap, there is room for debate over income inequality, but it is indisputable that the manager ought to earn more.) This is not only to motivate people to work, but it is to motivate them to higher levels of efficiency in their work. So although NS is mandatory, the high levels of discontent and the general perception of a lack of recognition among the men would naturally lead to lower efficiency in their work. That is why there are phrases like “go through motion”, “serve and f off”, and “man-mode”. Admittedly, I do not know how much difference a few privileges would make, but it is a step. To say then that by offering these privileges the government is being unfair to women is absurd. We are comparing two different groups of people who are not equal, especially in the area of serving in the military. The counterpoints raised regarding the Pioneer Generation Package and the benefits for single mothers are relevant and AWARE cannot brush them aside. The fact remains that men do undergo something that women do not have to. And I really do not think that women want to be given the opportunity to be brought up to the same plane in this regard. NS is not just another part of life that can be smoothed over. It is an additional burden that men carry, one that requires sacrifice of time and energy, often against our will. Does it not warrant some sort of reward or recognition?
AWARE says that there are other areas of Total Defence that women can partake of, suggesting that this can be their National Service. Well, are they willing to be randomly drafted into any area to serve for two years in what might probably be totally unrelated to their future career choice? Are they willing not to work in a typical work environment but be subjected to high levels of top-down management and rigid standards of discipline and regimentation? Are they willing to be kept away from their family, in confinement, stay-in work, and overseas projects against their will? No, it is not the same. And the question here to ask would be: how much incentives would they need if they are to be convinced to go through all this? (Rant: Other areas of Total Defence, seriously. If we had the choice I am sure we would all choose economic defence and just start working.)
Not only is AWARE’s stance trying to compare apples with bricks, but it is promoting an equality that requires a reduction to the lowest denominator. It is similar to the recent outrage over elite schools having better facilities. If you extend such a view (and such extension is necessary to its own validity) to every aspect of life, then everyone would be as bad as the worst off, and the overall state of utility/happiness/productivity would be lowered dramatically, and there would be no incentive for work that requires a higher level of training, or skill, or diligence.
In a word, AWARE’s stance is one that is rather incoherent and absurd, and cannot really be justified. I feel like they are just jumping on any thing and spinning inequality out of it.