Vietnam's lost generationgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Vietnamese American Society : One Thread
BY ANDREW LAM
HO CHI MINH CITY -- Not long ago, Tuan Tran, a 22-year-old honda om (motorcycle taxi) driver in Saigon, told me that to go out late at night was impossible because of the 10 o'clock curfew. Not long ago, children had to recite Ho Chi Minh's famous slogans like parrots and no one dared question authorities aloud without risking arrest as ``anti-revolutionary'' or ``reactionary.'' And not long ago, Vietnam's narrative of itself was that it managed to do the impossible: It defeated the super-powerful French and American imperialists, something all of Uncle Ho's nationalistic nephews and nieces were supposed to be uniquely proud of.
But Tuan is quick to acknowledge that his ``not long ago'' might as well belong to the ancient past. For in this post-Cold War era of free markets, quickly shifting values and porous borders, teenagers recite American songs they learn from karaoke machines. Curfews are non-existent, and everyone, young and old, can stay out all night if they want to.
Most ironic, Ho Chi Minh's most famous slogan ``nothing more precious than independence and freedom,'' once intended to spur his followers to sacrifice their lives in a bloody war to liberate Vietnam from foreign dominance, has been conveniently reinterpreted by the young as encouragement for individual desire and ambition.
To show me his new world, Tuan drove us downtown and we immediately merged with a river of teenagers and 20-somethings on motorbikes and bicycles. It was Saturday at dusk, and the brightly lit billboards above us flashed images from dozens of companies that have recently made their homes here -- Sanyo, Tiger Beers, Toyota, Heineken, Kodak, National, Honda, Pepsi, British Petroleum, Coca-Cola, Marlboro, Sam Sung, 555 . . . their iridescent lights cast a seductive sheen over the young and hopeful faces of Vietnam.
Twenty-three years after the Vietnam War ended, the country has become the land of the restless young. Sixty percent of Vietnam's 75 million people are under 25 years old. And this new generation is growing up with no memory of the war. ``The war belongs to history books,'' declared one teenager matter-of-factly.
They are cynical because many have grown distrustful of the state. ``All the indoctrinating slogans have been taken away so that the billboards can take their space,'' Tuan remarked, laughing. ``So now I know that everything `anti-revolutionary' and `bourgeois' and `decadent' is here to stay.''
But then Tuan added wistfully, his mood quickly shifting: ``We've been tricked, brother. Before, I knew communism was wrong when I had to memorize Marxist doctrines in school, but I didn't know why. Only after Vietnam opened up and I watched on TV and read in the magazines that I realized how rich other countries were, how amazing their movies, how beautiful their people. Then I thought of Vietnam and I felt real sad. Vietnam is a poor country compared to Thailand, Korea and Malaysia, let alone America. We have nothing to offer, just a nation of ignorant and malnourished people.''
Indeed, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Vietnam's main backer during the Cold War, the ideology Ho Chi Minh once elevated to the level of religion fell quickly into the gutter. In order to save its own skin, the Communist Party rewrote its constitution to allow ``private capitalism,'' and reinstalled doi moi (a Vietnamese version of perestroika) to encourage economic reform. As a result, the party's grip on society loosened considerably. Gone are the days when everyone had to report to local authorities for weekly Marxist-Leninist indoctrination sessions. Gone are domestic travel permit requirements and the ration tickets, once issued by the state for citizens to buy rice and sugar from state-owned stores as a way to control people's movements and stomachs.
Duong Thu Huong is author of the internationally acclaimed ``Paradise of the Blind,'' a novel that examines and criticizes the errors of Vietnamese communism. He recently observed, ``Vietnamese youths are no longer idealistic. Today they are revolting as if to avenge the prior generations for their deceptions.''
This new revolution comes with its own vocabulary:
Di quay: To go wild, to get drunk, to stir up trouble.
Song voi: To live fast, to hurry life and spend it away.
Dut lot: To grease the machine, to give money to a corrupt person in power so as to improve one's lot.
Dua doi: To be competitive, to be greedy, to keep up with the Joneses.
Van hoa toc do: Speed culture; culture that moves along at high speed.
For Cuong Tran, 21, a well-groomed and handsome young man who works as a hair stylist, to song voi was to pay the equivalent of 40 U.S. dollars for a concert ticket when Sting came to town a few years ago. Cuong makes less than $100 a month, but he borrowed money for the concert anyway. ``I couldn't afford the ticket, but I figure, how many times in my lifetime will Sting visit Vietnam? I was in debt for a year but it was worth it.''
Like Tuan, Cuong had dropped out of high school when he was 15. His teachers had demanded extra money for lessons not given in class. ``In Vietnam you have to pay the teachers extra or they would hold the key lessons from you,'' Cuong said. ``Without the key lessons, you don't pass the tests. Every one is corrupted, including the teachers.''
Cuong' s observation is not far from the truth. The practice of holding key information from daily classes is so common that few families protest anymore. Those who can afford it simply pay for ``private tutorials'' in order for their children to make it to college. Those who can't, and there are many, especially in rural areas, simply let their children drop out of school and work for a living.
From the last available statistics (1993), only 11 percent of Vietnamese children age 15-17 were in upper secondary school, and only 2 percent of young men and women age 18-24 were enrolled in college level courses. Giang The Nguyen, a Communist Party member, blames the state of the education system on a party more obsessed with strengthening its hold on power than with investing in schools. In an open and biting letter he wrote to the party, which was subsequently published abroad a few years back, Giang asked: ``How can national education not degrade when the investment is just a few dollars per student per year, compared to US$100 to US$200 per student in other countries in Southeast Asia? All we have in front of us is a terrifying void in science and education.''
That youths are less educated than previous generations, even those who grew up during the war, is not the main cause for their malaise, however. I suspect this deep-rooted discontent has something to do with the new generation's changing self-perception in the face of the new world order.
One glaring afternoon after Cuong and I searched in vain for Duong Thu Huong's ``Paradise of the Blind'' and Bao Ninh's ``The Sorrow of War,'' he said defeatedly, ``Tell you the truth, brother, I think it's a waste of time to look for books that no one wants to read. Anything worthwhile is all translated materials from overseas.'' This remark, full of self-pity, is echoed by young people in Hanoi and Saigon:
``Vietnam has nothing worthwhile.''
``We are so poor.''
``People from other countries are so rich and beautiful and sophisticated.''
This chorus of voices conveys a profound inferiority complex.
-- Ho chi Minh Dam TAC (vietnamcongsans nuoi Heo nhieu qua'' @yahoo.com), October 14, 2004
Bọn xuyên tạc đáng chết, chúng mày lo xây dựng đất nước của chúng mày đi đă, sao cứ phải bới móc , xuyên tạc cong viẹc nội bộ nước khác? Chúng mày rỗi việc nên nói bậy hay là chúng mày đang kiếm tiền bằng việc nói bậy? Stop now!
-- người Việt Nam (email@example.com), October 14, 2004.
-Ve giup dat nuoc -Tai sao khong gop phan xay dung dat nuoc -Nhan dan trong nuoc dang lo xay dung dat nuoc ----------------------------------
Day la luan dieu rat tam toi cua nhung nguoi khong biet rang neu tuoi bon cho mot cai cay ma re cua no khong co thi khac nao lam mot viec da trang xe cat bien dong, dang nay lai khuyen nuoi nang va do day them cai binh thuoc doc da tuoi toan noc doc len dat Vietnam, pha tan het nhung gia tri van hoa doi doi cua dan toc, huy hoai bao the he bang phi nhan tinh biet bao su gia doi, ngu toi, lua loc, bat cong, de nen nhan pham con nguoi khien dat nuoc ngay nay la mot bai rac khong lo cua su doi tra va xau xa. KHONG VACH TRAN, KHAM CHO RA BENH Thi LAM SAO CHUA DUOC BENH. Ma cu dong den su that thi BON MAT DAY NO SE NOI: PHAN DONG...
OI SAO LAI CO MOT CHE DO DAY CHO CON NGUOI TU CHOC DUI MAT MINH NHU VAY. HO UONG PHAI MOT LOAI THUOC GOI LA THUOC ME MUOI, THO O va ICH KY khong the tuong tuong duoc...nen ho KE CHO 80% dan ho kho so, con ho se chi thay ban than ho va nhung gioi quan chuc duoc bon CS no nuoi lam binh phong cho no, va nhung nguoi duoc song bang vien tro lam an buon ban, mot thieu so rat nho trong ca nuoc ma thoi.
Thanh ra co le COI NHU KHONG CO HO THI TOT HON. So day khong lam duoc cai gi khi ma THOI, CO cua TO QUOC DEN. Chung se tu ma tieu!!!
-- thanh pham (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 14, 2004.
MOI XEM HINH ANH O http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2004/9/1/51972.html
-- Bon CS VN tham hiem khac nao Tau (email@example.com), October 14, 2004.
Truoc tien la khong nen doc va nghe nhung bai bao rac ruoi cua bon vong ban con chau cua tan quan nguy SG nhu may thang nay lam cai gi cho phi thoi gian va neuron than kinh cua ban. Lu nguoi nay la bon hoan toan uprooted roi nen chung nhin ve VN chi voi con mat han hoc va da kich chui rua thoi (Boi vi cai han mat MN nhuc nha nam 75 cua chung no den gio nay van con dau rat lam, chua the nguoi ngoai duoc!). Tom lai la cai lu nguoi nay la mot bon dregs, la do bo, la second, third citizens ca o cac nuoc ngoai noi chung no song cung nhu neu chang may tui no van con roi rot lai o VN thi so phan cua chung no con khon nan hon nua! Cho nen tui nay la tui nen xep vao loai garbage unaccounted for trong tien trinh phat trien chinh tri-kinh te- xa hoi cua VN duong dai. Cu coi cac to chuc hoi doan tum lum bat nhao cua chung no chui boi can xe nhau o Hai ngoai thi ro, khoi can ban cai nhieu!
Nhung o trong nuoc VN hien nay thi tinh hinh kinh te xa hoi cung roi nhu canh he vi nhung te nan tham nhung hoi lo tran lan. Cho nen de hieu la rat nhieu thanh nien trong nuoc cung khong he co ly tuong hoac gia tri dao ly tinh than gi cao ca de theo duoi ca-tat ca chi goi gon trong viec lam the nao de kiem duoc that nhieu tien trong thoi gian ngan nhat. Do do neu may man thuoc vao thanh phan COCC thi khong chiu hoc hanh phan dau gi ca chi an choi trac tang roi cung duoc cac "job thom" nhu truong hop cua Mai Thanh Hai con Mai Van Dau vua roi...va con hang chuc ngan truong hop nhu vay nua chua duoc khui ra! Khi co vi tri thuan loi roi thi ca bo ca con ca ho hang hang hoc ra suc vo vet cua cong, chat chem den muc toi da lam giau cho ban than... Do la hinh thuc "an cap kieu qui toc". Con dai bo phan thanh nien la con cai cua "nhan dan anh hung" thi neu ai co dau oc mot chut thi cung phai lao vao vong "Cty TNHH" ma lam an-tom lai truoc sau cung lai lao vao vong dut lot hoi lo cua cac quan mafia CS...neu chang may ma do be thi neu khong bi "dua cot" cung de vao nha da "boc lich" dai han chu khong phai nhu tui COCC truoc sau cung duoc phe nhom cua bo me chu bac lo lot cho "ha canh an toan"...nhung thanh phan thanh nien trong nuoc thieu tri thuc nhung co san mau "VN anh hung" thi se de dang di vao con duong buon ma tuy, buon lau, tran lot cuop cua giet nguoi...cung khong ngoai muc dich "lam giau xoi"...va voi ly tuong "mot xanh co hai do ...dola". Do la thuc trang dang buon cua nguoi VN ca o trong va ngoai nuoc hien nay.
-- Hai Ben Deu Thoi Ca ! (Canhaiben@...anbaicuttrau.andauthanghui.com), October 14, 2004.
Ngay nay chui cong san chinh la nguoi tren toan cai the gioi nay, nguoi Viet trong nuoc cang phai chui rua CS. Neu ai khong chui cong san thi nguoi do khong co nhan tinh, khong phai la nguoi.
Chi co 2 ben: mot la muon con nguoi LAM NGUOI va ben thu 2 la muon nguoi lam ke ban nuoc, an chao dai bat, song tren dat cua To Tien hy sinh ca doi, suot nghin nam de giu nuoc cho con chau con co cho ma o, the ma THO O DUNG TUNG DONG LOA, NGAM NGAM TAY SAI CHO TAU DE NO TRU YEM TOAN DIEN CA PHAN CHIM PHAN NOI CUA DAT NUOC VIET
KHONG CO MOT BIEN HO NAO KHAC. THAY NUOC MAT VAO TAY TAU MA CHUP GIUT, THO O, DO LA SU DIEU LINH CUA DAN VIET NAM TRONG NUOC HIEN NAY. THAY THANG NHA NUOC NO BUNG BIT THI CUNG CO TINH CAM DIEC KO LO MA TIM HIEU SU THAT.
NHO CO 3 trieu nguoi VIET CON SONG SOT MA RA DEN NUOC NGOAI MOI CON CO LINH HON DAN TOC. DO NGU!!!! THU HOI NEU DI DUOC THI CO MAY CHUC TRIEU NGUOI VIET SE DI NGAY DE TRON CHAY CAI NGU CAI GIA DOI CAI HEN HA NGHEO DOI DO CS MANG TANG LAI CHO DAT NUOC NAY???
-- nguyen (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 14, 2004.
Sắp sửa 'lost' ...thôi !?? C̣n lao động tốt thế này đây ! Sao khồng là rường cột của nưóc nhà được ! Cứ lao động là sẽ ưu việt ...tất yếu...x́u !!! hehe...
-- Uống để nghe cay cay ! (email@example.com), October 14, 2004.