Total Defence Day is marked annually on February 15 in Singapore to commemorate the anniversary of the surrender of the British to the Japanese on February 15, 1942, precursoring 3 years and 8 months of Japanese Occupation.
Total Defence Day
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One of the things I miss about studying in primary/secondary school is the Total Defence Day.
I remember there was one year where we even get to go on field trip to learn more about the total defence. Aside from that particular year, the rationing is actually something special we looked forward. The whole idea just seems pretty interesting to us.
However I got to admit that the main message was not brought across. I can only vaguely remember the meaning of the day. That being said, I still miss it sometimes. It is still something that is unique to Singapore, something that brings back many fond memories, be it the free food or the excitement. Personally, I feel that it is one of the events we had in school that can help to bond the students together, and at least that counts for something.
Total Defence Day does carry an important message that we all need to know, on how we have to be ready for any conflict and defend us by our own abilities. However, it is done wrongly, with speeches that stray from the message from total defence day and the same videos and activities being repeated year after year, it has become a monotonous day.
For primary school children, it is not a memory and message to be prepared that they remember for this day, but it is a trouble as the school canteen is closed and they are forced to live on a pack of biscuits or cream crackers, Furthermore, with the number of foreigners in Singapore, I feel that total defence day is losing its meaning as we are being prepared not just to defend ourselves but also these foreigners most of which would take flight at first chance or not lift a finger to help.
The only way people will really bother with this day is if it becomes a day of some real meaning, or a public holiday.
Total Defence Day is one of the days that don't hold as much purpose and regard as they should. I remember it being just a lengthy speech during assembly in schools, where someone reads out some speech by some minister, and everyone else falls asleep.
In my opinion, Total Defence Day just isn't needed. Singaporeans should be practising total defence, whatever it means, everyday of their lives. It shouldn't only be displayed publicly 1 day of the year. Ask anyone on the road, and it is likely that they do not know what the 5 aspects of Total Defence are. Heck, I do not even know when Total Defence Day is.
However, if the government makes it a public holiday...
The concept of Total Defence is extremely important in Singapore, in my opinion, because we are small country and a very important multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan hub of trade. Therefore, we will no doubt be the target of global friction and terrorism. I vaguely recall one minister very aptly putting it across: We can no longer eliminate terrorism. It will come, it's just how prepared we are to tackle it (paraphrased cause I cant remember exact words).
Unfortunately, this is not done enough in Singapore. Total defence day and national education lessons are given to students, but they are too theoretical. Singaporeans cannot put this knowledge to practical use.
For example, an experiment was performed in Singapore whereby a controlled situation of smoke coming out from a van (to stimulate a potential chemical or bomb attack) was placed in a crowded area. Very few people bothered about the smoke, showing a lack of physiological defense.
Total defence is a good concept, but the onus is up to us, as Singaporeans, to put the five pillars into practice. Constant vigilance everyone!
Looking at many of the comments written here, it is not stunning to see how people chose as they did in the by-elections. We recognise the importance of things, and are happy to see certain measures being introduced, but as per always, the implementation sucks.
I do agree that in NS, this day to quite a large amount of people would just be another day in service, a reminder of how they are stuck in NS, and complaining why there was no better way to teach National Education. As a regular myself, I also do attempt to take this day as another chance to remind my soldiers, but not to spoon feed them history.
Although we complain why the day cannot be done better given its importance, I would ask too, why should we need for this information, this history of our own nation to be fed to us? There are plenty of resources available to find out more about our history. People who execute the activities of the day may not have done it properly, but it does not mean that those on the receiving end cannot do anything on their own.
As many have mentioned, this is an important day. Whether it was implemented properly or not, it does not matter as much as how we ourselves see the importance of this day and do more about it on our own. We don't need a teacher to tell us our history, our grand parents or the library would be able to do it too.
As the years go by, Total Defence day seems to have less and less of an effect on me simply because I find it hard to attach any feelings to it. While I do know the need to remember our past, i'll be honest and admit that I find it hard to remember something I have never experienced before.
As all of us young Singaporeans have never lived through a war, much less a surrender, we will never fully understand the true meaning of this day. As such, I do propose more immersive and experiential leaning journeys be incorporated in the commemoration of this day in schools so that the even newer generation of Singaporeans will know its true meaning.
Total defence day is one of the days I look forward to during my secondary school days. Why, you may ask. The sole reason is that WE GET FREE FOOD! I know this is getting really off from the genuine meaning of total defence, but my memory of total defence day comprise of sweet potatoes and green bean soup.
Every year without fail, students will line up in the canteen for their share of green bean soup and sweet potatoes. The students in uniform group will show their patriotism by giving speeches on how we could do our part for Singapore.
Honestly, the only thing I look forward on total defence day is just the free food.
Total Defence Day has always been a day to remind us Singaporeans about the importance of defending Singapore as well as how everyone of us plays a crucial role in the various aspects of protection we can provide our nation.
However, my impression of Total Defence Day have always been a rather peculiar one. Instead of having the notion that I should play a more active role and be more involved in Singapore's progress and status, I found myself inadvertently remembering Total Defence Day as the day we have to eat sweet potatoes and porridge in the canteen.
I know, I often chide and admonish myself for being so "patriotic". I catch the essence of why we have a Total Defence Day, but I'm sure like many others, the enthusiasm in participating in the events on this day is simply lacking.
I guess when we see the same old videos, go through the usual routines to commerate this day, and of course, hear the same words and theories being reiterated, we start to become immune towards this solemn occasion. It's almost synonymous to the attitude we put up when there's a fire drill practice, agree?
Let's just hope there won't be a real fire.
A good concept but botched implementation. The defense of Singapore both militarily and psychologically is important and having a day to commemorate and and drive their importance home to Singaporeans is a great idea.
But what is being done to achieve its goal? Every year, schools organize a few activities to go along with the theme but how much do students really absorb? In army units, it is scoffed at by NSmen who feel its just another propaganda and regular officers are too busy to do anything to change their mindsets.
Overall, Total Defense Day is treated as something of a joke when it should be taken more seriously considering the intrinsic vulnerability of Singapore.
While the ideals and objectives that shape Total Defence Day is indeed sound and realistic, Total Defence Day in Singapore is perhaps another botched attempt to get Singaporeans to notice and start taking things seriously.
From my perspective as a student, Total Defence Day is indeed marked on my school's calendar. However, the implementation really lacks the essence of the special day. For one, though the school did indeed carry out lessons for a few hours without the lights and fans as well as introduce food such as potatoes that were only available during the war period for breaks, the main focus was still on academics. I remember no one taking it seriously, not even the teachers. Their main concern was to rush us off back to class after the drill to protect precious minutes of class. And the official speech was a generic one penned by the MOE without any additional opinion and feedback added in.
Total Defence is of utmost importance to Singapore, a tiny nation situated in a strategic position in a region where the geopolitics are mainly in Asian giants such as China and India. It is time we take it seriously