If Service Leads To Citizenship, Apply It To Everyone

When I am faced with sudden irrational violence, I am fearful. I want to protect myself and be secured against violence.

The second thing that comes to mind is gratefulness for my military training. Not that I am a great full-time soldier or suddenly an Übermensch. But I am grateful for some measure of power that I can hold within me. It makes me feel more safe and secure.

First, it reassures me that self-improvement is possible. It is possible to start on the path of improvement and empowerment. Not to absolve structural biases, but to give myself real security through power that is personally held. (What is power in the everyday? The ability to fight injustice, to defend yourself, to be assured to enact positive change, to resist calls for discrimination - not just by saying no but by being able to enforce saying no through physical and material strength. Muscles and guns, really.)

Second, because I know I am just another mundane person, it lifts me up that everyone else could possibly be just as equipped. I was just a clueless boy but even I could be trained in a matter of months. Even I can aim down the sights of a rifle.

I am not trying to glorify war. But emphasise that empowerment to the most base level, that is brute power, is possible. Short of just fighting it out with brute punches.

And if people can secure brute power - by being equipped and trained, then I see a better prospect of political power being secured. Not only that, but they may be more involved citizenry. They may be more engaged with the project we call the state.

Again, not to glorify the state; but instead find a way for people to be engaged enough to construct the environment they want. Apathy may be staved off. Fearfulness and helplessness may be actively fought through this empowerment.

Thus, it has made not much sense to me to see a clear bifurcation between the people and the state. The state is made up of the people living inside it - not just votes for politicians or the civil service. But they are also entirely the same thing. If not, then something has gone wrong.

Perhaps I can only take this stance from the perspective of a citizen's army. And I think I do advocate for it. By being part of the state's force, you are part of the fundamental power of the state. Not only does this empower you to resist possible everyday evil, but also authoritarian evil. This also empowers you to engage with the political project of the state instead of being helpless.

Casting policy and government as the world of the 'other' has always sounded peculiar to me. Perhaps it is just apathy that makes no sense to me. Surely, if you live off the largesse of someone else sacrificing their time (if not their life), then you are in a position of great debt? How can apathy be possible? Otherwise, there is just an imbalanced transaction going on between the ignorant layperson and those that would die for you.

This point is probably what causes so much anguish among male-only conscription. It actively divides the people. Socially, people are of different fundamental experiences; economically, those conscripted are losing time comparatively; morally, a state of second-class citizenship is created.

I might be relying too much on enlightened people. Why would I demand everyone be perfect? It sounds nice to have praetorian citizen-philosophers. But that will never happen. Neither does it sounds like a nice place to live in anyway.

The goal that I've been skirting around is to create a better place to live in. The point is those that who do not serve are not good citizens. They may contribute, but the baseline is different. They inspire no loyalty. Their engagement in the project of nationhood is suspect. Even those that have no loyalty who served, can always claim a sacrifice. This difference makes co-operation near impossible.

It is hard for me to respect those that have not served. Not that serving is great. But because the conditions for retaining citizenship are simply different. Those of us conscripted are immediately second-class.

Who are these people? Women and other native citizens who are not compelled. Why are they placed higher? On what basis have they been elevated? I can think of none. Then cue the consistent anecdotes of those who are ungrateful, who get a headstart but loathe their country of birth, who loathe their peers compelled to serve. This is not a claim that everyone is like this. But that the mere existence of the fact of a difference in treatment lends so much emotive force to the above perception.

Can you not see the backlash would be so strong? You cannot compare different types of injustices. So it is easy to dismiss any other new problems on part of those that did not serve. And vice versa.

At this point, how can nationhood be maintained? It seems there are many fractures and splits among the people.

An inspection of those that are foreign born and naturalised, who have not yet served, bears the same arguments. Xenophobia is not justified but can be easily understood from this lens. To dismiss these claims is to ignore the emotive strength of the above arguments. Is it right to be blindly hateful? Never. But we are talking about understanding what is really going on.

So expanding the 'franchise' of national service (ie conscription) could lead to a more cohesive society. Engagement in policy issues could be heightened. Ownership over citizenship could be realised. Apathy may be slowly washed away. Political change may be more possible with everyone more engaged.

What is interesting is that in other states you would think of this model being a recipe for totalitarianism. And that is true when no one is being concsripted. But where half the population is already being conscripted - we are in a different ballgame. This is where the above is coming from. The differences and discrimination? It is already applied to men.

It this a guarantee? No. But to say nothing, to think nothing, on the basis of 'caution' is just blind idiocy and fear.

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