English Composition


Disclaimer and warning: This was written at the age of 16, for a specific cause, and in one afternoon, so I make no guarantee as to the quality of the content or the English :)


Referring to this, Ms Low Seng Eng, my English teacher, proclaimed, "If you want to read something funny, read Gabriel's essay" and she said to me, "you'd think they all come out in a body bag or straitjacket".


GCE Cambridge O Levels
English Paper 1 - November 1998

2. All young people, both male and female, should undertake a period of military or community service.

Some people say that all young people, both male and female, should undertake a period of military or community service. I agree with this to a certain extent.

Nowadays, young people suffer and experience little. They are safe in their own protected worlds, their comfort zones. Some say that requiring them to undertake a period of military or community service would be good for them, hardening them and building up their character. I believe that that is a good thing to do, but that young people should undertake community service and not military service.

Why is military service undesirable?

Military service is when a person is conscripted to serve in the country’s armed forces for a period of a few years. During military service, people learn how to handle weapons and also learn unarmed combat. Often, it also entails reservist training, in which people who have completed the military service have to return to train regularly.

Military service is very rigorous, to mould the recruit into a good soldier. It often has drill sergeants shouting and punishing the recruits, often unfairly. Recruits undergo a lot of stress and a result of military "training", some people have become traumatised for life, some waking up every night in cold sweat to memories of being treated ruthlessly and abused. Their lives have been ruined, making them psychologically and emotionally unstable. The damage caused is irreversible. In addition, many know previously peaceable people who, after undergoing military service, have irrevocably changed. From happy, likeable people, they have become ruthless, rough and gruff individuals. They have become obsessed with abusing their underlings and have had their character and outlook on the world radically changed. Some may say that this is unlikely, but it has happened and will happen again. When it does happen, it is often covered up by the authorities.

In the military, the recruit is subjected to many influences that might affect him. Away from the counselling and support of family and friends, some people might be influenced by others, for example, religious fanatics. Tired and bedraggled, they would be susceptible and convert, becoming another religious fanatic.

Initial military training is designed to break people, so that the military may remake a soldier out of the broken parts. Though many survive, some don’t. Their self-esteem and free will is lost and their mental state is damaged. They come out lifeless husks of people.

In addition to destroying peoples’ lives, military service is also bad for the country involved. As military service usually lasts for at least a year, economically productive people can no longer contribute to the economy. As a result of tormented employees, productivity goes drastically down. As military service trains soldiers to be unthinking and obedient, following orders, employees would be uncreative and have few new ideas. The competitivity of the country would decrease drastically. The cost of military service to the country is uncountable. If those countries that presently practice conscription stop the practice, we would probably see great improvements.

A person might spend anytime between one and five years of his life in military service. This is a great waste of his time. Years of perhaps the best time of his or her life will be wasted, gone forevermore. He loses time he could have put to good use studying in a university, or cannot work to support his ailing mother. Those of his friends who are not subject to military service would move on, possibly depriving him of some of his friends.

Many countries rely on young conscripts to defend the country. However, as they have been forced into service, many of the soldiers are unwilling to fight and fight half-heartedly or even desert. The armed force’s military position is significantly weakened. As can be seen, military service not only harms the individual and the economy, but also compromises national security. Though it has not yet happened, it must be remembered that relatively few wars have broken out this century.

Military service would be enforced on everyone, regardless of their characters. As such, a fertile breeding ground for criminals would be established. Being in the army gives potential criminals a new source of firearms, other weapons and combat training. With trained and armed criminals running around, the crime rate would be much higher and the ability of the police force to stop such crimes would be severely weakened. Besides giving potential criminals an opportunity to steal arms, military service also creates new criminals. As mentioned above, military training changes a person’s character. Though some emerge unscathed by the attempts to change their personality, many emerge brutal, rough and uncaring, traditional hallmarks of the petty criminal. Screening the recruits would be tedious in the extreme and unfeasible.

Lastly, military service is also a threat to world peace. With large reserves of militarily trained citizens, many governments might be tempted to declare war on other nations for their own purposes, in the hope that their large army would win the war.

As can be seen, military service is bad. Now, we shall see why community service and beneficial and benign.

Community service gives good results for little time spent. It influences people for the better. Community service can take several forms, from visiting old peoples’ homes to cleaning the streets to clearing the beaches of rubbish.

Doing community service, a person can learn many things. Through his service, he can learn patience, diligence and the value of hard work. By helping others, he can learn to care for them genuinely. If he is looking after older persons, he can learn from their wealth of life experiences, learn what cannot be taught and is not in books. Going beyond the classroom and into the community to help others, he can build his character and become a better person.

By seeing how less fortunate people live, a person can learn to be grateful for what he has. Seeing how poor others are, he will help them more willingly and generously. Helping others, a person can come down from his pedestal to reality.

Civic consciousness, an invaluable trait, is easily learnt through community service. By taking care of the society and community, a person can learn to care for them. He gets a sense of ownership and responsibility about the community and will want to protect and help it.

Besides being beneficial to the persons involved, having young people undertake community service also gives the beneficial result of helping the community. The community is changed for the better in many ways, thanks to the young peoples’ work. Having young people do community service can also help offset the shortage of social workers.

Community service helps bring joy to peoples’ lives. Poor, wretched people get a ray of light in their lives with the young people doing social work. By doing good deeds, young people will have a higher self-esteem and feel good about themselves. By bringing joy to other’s lives, they will also be happy. Doing community service, young people can give back to the society some of what the society has given them, as is only right.

Is it fair to subject the young to brainwashing and torture? Do we really want our children, brothers and sisters to be subjected to the cruelty of a militant culture? Having young people undertake military service is harmful and having them do community service is beneficial for all parties involved.


Compare with: 2001 essay