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Total Defence Day 2020


Murmurs arise within the classrooms about the latest news on the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, almost indistinguishable from the candid conversations that typically fill such classrooms in the mornings. I usually arrive in school under the cover of darkness, but a mysterious shroud now hides the future to come. Times of uncertainty indeed, I would think to myself. Above the constantly weary eye bags that the students would normally don, lie fearful and ruminative eyes, reflecting the gravity of the situation through them. Yet, life must go on. It has to ... even though a lingering threat hovers in the air, so surreal. 

Soon, students are standing in straight lines in classrooms, singing the anthem, taking the pledge, all in neat rows. Then, thermometers will beep, temperature will be taken and the form teacher records dutifully before the day begins. A new strategy, a new way of life, a defensive hallmark of society’s resilience. Life goes on indeed, life in the time of novel coronavirus. Who will know what will come next?   

Today, my teacher tells me to reflect on how Total Defence matters in this crisis. Personally, I can see why social media should not be used recklessly in such times to stoke fear and fuel the flame of misinformation. Words surely can have a butterfly effect. I would tell my peers and younger schoolmates and charges to pay close attention and be extra mindful of what they say online. Psychological, social, digital defence … they all come into play. 

Neo Jia Ming 4E1  

‘Wake up!’ the clock screams. I open my eyes. It is already morning and I drag myself out of bed. Into the bathroom I go. ‘Splash,’ the water says. I change and it is time to head to school. I arrive. I sit. Maybe I will wipe the table, get rid of the germs … hmm. A squirt of hand sanitiser and the waiting begins. Classmates stream in, some wearing masks. Hmm, should I do that too? The teacher enters. ‘Take your thermometers out,’ he says, and we listen. Temperature taken, I have no fever. Oh, yes … there is wipe-down time at the table after we eat at recess. The day wears on and there is another temperature-taking session before lunch. Before I know it, the bell goes. Time to go off. Be careful not to touch your face ... wash your hands … I remember all the advice. Out of school … people, people everywhere. I sigh. You do not want to get the virus, do you? I make my way home, wondering about this new normal. 

How does Total Defence apply in this new normal? Avoid discrimination. Stay calm and resilient. Let’s not racialise the spread of Covid-19. The virus does not discriminate, it is people who do. Everyone must help each other to overcome this challenge. 

Tan Kye Shean 4E1   

In this crisis, I believe social and psychological defence are even more essential. People need to help each other. Some tend to associate the virus with the Chinese, despite the lack of a physical connection other than place of origin. In Singapore, this is where social defence plays a part – the different races (and religions) here must cooperate and not stigmatise one another. Support rather than discrimination is crucial for us to overcome this crisis. Without a social defence mind-set and awareness, unnecessary tensions can arise from discriminatory words and actions. 

Psychological defence requires us to be resilient in such times. Singaporeans can be ‘kiasu’. When the DORSCON level was raised to Orange, there was some panic. People cleared out stocks of essential goods and supplies, buying more than they needed. We need to remind ourselves to stay calm and be responsible – there is enough to sustain the country’s needs and for everyone to get through the crisis. We can overcome this together. 

Quek Xin Hui 4E1