Finding New Aches and Pains: Sacrificing the Ultimate Sacrifice

Taiwan pop sensation Jay Chou is being investigated on suspicion of faking a spinal ailment to avoid serving his obligatory two years of military service, a prosecutor said on Friday. If convicted of faking a health report to avoid military service, Chou could face a maximum five years in jail. (See Xiahuanet News, 2006).

With the military might of China drooling saliva all over your naked body, youíd want to grab whatever you could to defend yourself Ė no matter how futile.

Taiwan does it with a conscripted army which is half a million strong, some five percent of the male population.

A spell in the army traditionally marked the passage from boyhood into manhood.

I did two years military service (but its getting shorter now). People of my generation think military service is a moral obligation. We have been educated to believe that due to the sacrifices others have made, we have been able to lead a peaceful happy life. Therefore, when the time comes, we should make a sacrifice too. The older Taiwanese generations think a spell in the armed forces is a good chance to turn a boy into a man. When you're in the military you meet many people from different backgrounds and with different personalities. You have to learn to cope with all this. You live independently and you have to learn to get help from your friends. Finally, you often get bored, so you have a lot of time to think about your future.

Like weather to the English, oneís army experience is a conversational starter for Taiwanese Ďmení.

Most people who did military didnít enjoy it but they always talk about 'their time in the army'. It helps start conversations. Itís a common link. For those that didnít serve - they would feel slightly embarrassed because it would imply they had some kind of disability. Whilst itís not such an issue these days, in the old days companies would review your CV to see if you had served in the army to see if you had a disability.

However, with a move from the more traditional and honour based culture to a culture based on consumerism and fast living, its only Ďsuckersí who end up in the army. Army means two years down the drain.

The younger generation want to avoid going into the army, because they want to spend more time earning money.

I'm not happy that I spent two years of my life in the Taiwanese army. It was a waste of my time doing something that I donít like to do. I couldnít play music.

I play basketball with a group of friends every Sunday. Eighty percent of us are not in the army - we have all tried to find a problem stopping us from going in. Itís not just us. These days, parents donít want their children going into the army because they see it as a waste of two years. When you go into the army you do administrative and simple manual tasks - maybe only five percent will actually receive any kind of military training. The problem with my generation is that they donít think they'll receive a decent experience. If I could get two years real military experience where I could learn to protect myself, for example, I would go.

James Johnson - December 2006

The Taiwanese - a people set adrift

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