They Talk About Conscription As A Democratic Institution. Yes; So Is A Cemetery.

Meyer London said that. So does anyone out there have a positive view of conscription? I can’t seem to find any positive quotes about it!
Round about the time when the apartheid laws were abolished, conscription went along with all of it. What used to happen was that South African men between the ages of 18 and 24 (I think it was 24 years old) had to spend a mandatory two years doing their national service in the defense force- either in the army, navy or air force. I think they were allowed to postpone for a time if they were studying- but eventually they had to go.
I have always said (and you know how often conscription comes up in conversation) that I thought it was fabulous to get guys out of the house and teach them to live independently for a while- especially the guys who had no idea what they wanted to do with their lives. For the most part, after two years the guys came out as adults, free of mommy’s apron strings and confident in their abilities to handle just about anything life threw at them.* I mean- how can one not feel empowered in life if you have fired a massive canon mounted on a tank… for example.
Overall I think it’s a marvelous idea! And it seems I’m not alone… our very own
Labour Minister, Membathisi Mdladlana also thinks so. And before he gets fired for speaking so radically, I suggest you read the articles for all the details. Basically he thinks conscription and national service would be a solution to all the young people turning to crime for an income! I dunno if it would have a huge impact on crime… but I do think some direction would be fabulous for most of the young people in our country. They would no longer be unemployed for one thing!
Honestly- if conscription were brought back to South Africa- I may very well consider sending Damien. And if I could I’d make sure it was somewhere far away.

*Obviously conscription and national service didn’t work for everyone, there are always exceptions… and I must re-iterate, the only people I know well who did national service are my dad and some cousins, so I’m working on hearsay here

5 thoughts on “They Talk About Conscription As A Democratic Institution. Yes; So Is A Cemetery.

  1. In Germany all the guys have to go in the military for one year after they turn 18. They can choose the branch and if they have a good enough reason not to go they do whats called a civic year where they help out in jobs like ambulance drivers, nursing homes, hospitals and so forth – doing good in the community. I think its a great way for the males to be independant.

  2. I just had to comment on this one. Just about all the guys I knew went to the army and although when it was my boyfriend, it broke my heart, I still maintain it was the best thing to happen to South African men. In hindsight perhaps I was looking through rose-coloured glasses because South African women weren’t really privy to all the details and a lot of SA men have baggage to carry around with them as a result. Still, I think it’s a great idea and the minister may well have hit on something there.

  3. I’ve had a couple of boyfriends in my adult life and all, except for Flyboy, went to the army under conscription. There is a very marked difference between the products of military training and the ones that didn’t go to the military.

    Having said that, I don’t agree with wars and forcing guys to becoming something they aren’t – soldiers. But I do think the discipline and guidance the training gives does make more confident, more rounded men.

    A good thought provoking entry, Angel.

  4. The problem of course is those people (like me) who would be against going to the army because they just don’t want to be forced into anything they don’t agree with – like me.

    But I do see what you say about how it could provide a lot of focus to many men – many of whom run around like a bunch of hooligans in this country. Perhaps what should happen is that an army career be made a far more illustrious option, like the Americans do. In SA, there is nothing romantic about the army… whereas in America I think they are successful to a degree in making it look good.

    Personally, my parents were seriously considering emigrating because they did not want me to do national service. and if they didn’t emigrate, I really would have left South Africa on my own accord.

  5. Although I went to high school in S Africa, I was exempt from military service as I was a foreigner. To me, that was great as I was very anti the political situation and the S A Army was very much a tool of the apartheid government rather than just an ordinary defence force. But, having said that, friend of mine who did go to the army, even those who were very anti the government policies and the fact that there was quite a big divide at times between Afrikaaners and English in the defence force, loved their two years there. Not only was it great fun (most of the time) but it taught them how to become an adult fast.

    As a parent who has a kid in the army, I think the biggest worry comes from when armies are actually engaged in war. In the UK where the army has largely had minor peace-keeping roles around the world and where Northern Ireland was the worst (it could be very bad too) it got involved in, parents were happy to have their kids there. Iraq has changed that a lot simply because so many people disagree with the war and kids are dying for a lost cause.

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