Sunday, March 27, 2011

Overheard in Vietnam: A question of what is believed to be disbelieved?

Below was found when looking at the blog one of my new Twitter followers, @QuynhGiao - and it illuminates the idea that to suspend one's disbelief, one must first believe in something. What do Vietnamese youth believe in? What they are being taught, or the life they are living?

Some days ago, they again mentioned Socialism. A girl said, "It's not Socialist. It's about Communism." That's what I'm pretty preoccupied with. Is what Dr Long Le*** argues, that most young Vietnamese are apolitical, true? Vietnamese youth are fed up with political education to the extent that they've ignored politics altogether? Or are they enjoying so many Western values that they'll fight against anything Vietnamese whatsoever? Or are they, like me, not sure if they're loyal kids or dissidents?

It has been said that when a tourist lands at the airport here in Ho Chi Minh City, that he will instantly look out at the beautiful new building and acres of neon advertising outside and immediately surmise that "America has finally won the war". Walking around either here in Saigon or in Hanoi, but much less so in the smaller cities of Hue or Hoi An or Dalat I am continually impressed by the suspension of disbelief with which the government continues promotion of a doctrine and ideal that seems, well, very 1960s to a foreign national. But it is interesting to see that the urban young Vietnamese national feels precisely the same way. All that government teaching lead you to Prada? Even fake Prada. It's all the same.

The language of brands has taken over the conversation and it's communicating loud and clear. And the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a brand - a brand badly in need of a makeover. It's almost as if the government and the people are of two different imaginary ideations. The government believing that they are running a socialist utopia, whilst living in a shopping mall with a string of new motorbike dealers outside, and the people believing that they are living in a shopping mall whilst plaster busts of past leaders and banners proclaiming dated symbolism beg for their compliance. Each group suspends disbelief in the other's belief because that's what's necessary to maintain harmony.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
Find me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Read my previous blog: The Wild Wild East Dailies.