I like this part "Conditioning assumes that a person’s behaviour is controlled by the environmental stimuli, so to control a person; they just have to manipulate the stimuli around the person. On a sidenote, conditioning does not distinguish the difference between animal and human behaviour, so essentially conditioning a human is like training a dog." Woof woof.
Sorry for the late post, a lot of stuff to do.
Today I will discuss about a subject that invokes either admiration or hatred from the male population of Singapore. My friend who recently enlisted in NS and is currently supposed to be training in Pulau Tekong. He recently told the medical officer that he seriously can’t take it anymore, so, the medical officer directed to a SAF counsellor in MMI (Military Medicine Institute). The counsellor interviewed him and said he is fine and can continue on with the training, but, when I saw him, I saw bloodshot eyes, dark bags around his eyes that indicate insomnia and twitchiness. If these don’t indicate that something’s wrong, I don’t know what will. Inside my mind I just said: “That counsellor is a fucking moron”.
My friend is showing quite a lot of signs that he is suffering from depression, and from my experience, disregarding it and still forcing the person to go back to the harsh training is a recipe for disaster. In all likelihood, this can be followed by suicide or the trainee snapping and turning his gun on the superiors, and mind you, this has happened before.
The SAF military training employ conditioning to enforce obedience to their troops. In fact, most countries employ this kind of training, not just Singapore. Conditioning comes in two subfields, Classical and Operant. I won’t bore you with a lengthy explanation about what those two but I will give two links that explains what they are.
This is what the “normal” process the recruit will go through: The recruit will first arrive on Pulau Tekong with all the other recruits and go through the motion of doing the “pledge” and later distributed to their respective companies. They will have their heads shaved and dressed in the same way to ensure uniformity to enforce obedience. This is also an important element on shaping the mind of the recruit; some Social psychologists will call it conformity.
The recruit will realise that he will be alienated from the group if he does not do the same thing they do. Humans are social creatures, they need to socialise, and they can’t stand being alone (especially in a “hostile” environment like BMT). The people who put this training together know this fact very well; so they utilised it to its fullest potential. Uniformity is one of the methods to force the individual to conform along with the rest the of the other recruits. Everyone must look the same, walk the same, wear the same clothes and think in tandem with each other. It’s like line dancing; everyone must face the same direction and execute the dance steps at the same time; anything out of place stands out like a sore thumb. Like military marching, it also requires people do things in sync. Another method is social pressure, if the particular recruit does not conform and obey like the others; the superiors will punish everyone. In turn the recruits will pressure the offender into conforming eg: blanket parties, ostracising the person or generally making his life more difficult. Another form of social pressure is telling the recruit “Everyone can do it, why can’t you?” or making comparisons with other “more capable people” to “coax” the recruit into working harder in conforming to the group. The “ideal” end result of this training is that when the person is released from service; he is a compliant person that will obey authority figures without complaint or protest.
During the course of the training, the recruit will soon realise that his freedom has been taken away. What was once his right is now merely a privilege that is given whenever his superiors see fit. This is where conditioning comes in. The recruit will realise that to get back his freedom, he has to obey his oppressors in order to get it back even if that freedom is only temporary. That’s why during the course of the training, rewards are book outs or anything that resembles normal life like trips to the canteen or shops while punishment is not giving back that freedom like solitary confinements. The process is extremely simple, you obey and you get a treat. You don’t obey, you get a punishment. That’s how conditioning normally works. Conditioning assumes that a person’s behaviour is controlled by the environmental stimuli, so to control a person; they just have to manipulate the stimuli around the person. On a sidenote, conditioning does not distinguish the difference between animal and human behaviour, so essentially conditioning a human is like training a dog.
Conditioning is one of the only psychology disciplines that most governments only bother to learn. Why? It is simple really, it’s extremely easy to understand and utilise on the masses. We are subject to conditioning practically in our everyday lives. It is so subtle and common that even the most self-aware person can be potentially vulnerable to external control. Anyone can use it on you: you’re parents, your friends, your teachers and the list goes on. Conditioning is already there way before even Pavlov performed his experiments on his dogs; he just simply gave the process a name.
The “ideal” end result of conditioning in military training is that disobeying authority equals a negative consequence, so the person will learn to fear authority.
How one responds to the training is a matter of ideals, a person who can’t conform and obey will feel that NS is a completely unnecessary torture session that waste away two precious years of their life, they might respond negatively like going into depression or worse. A person who feels that the SAF is a good thing and considers it a potential career choice will respond well with the training.
Now people who are regulars or like the training might call my friend and I “gu niang (Chinese for lady)” or “chao keng (malingering)”, well; like I said, it’s a matter of ideals. My right can be your wrong. We see the same things with the same pair of eyes but interpret the information in a different way unique to the individual. To me, everyone is entitled their opinions but they must not force them upon others.