A trip to Viet Nam

I know it’s a loaded question, perhaps a false dichotomy, but my purpose is to get us to think about the vast and fundamental difference between communist and capitalist governments. Some people in China, Russia and Viet Nam certainly enjoy some of what capitalism offers, but the story stops suddenly when it comes to freedom of expression. And the poor saps who grow thinner by the year in North Korea or Cuba know first-hand what total dependence on a centrally planned economy can mean.
Here, in Vietnam, the communists won the war, and in 1975 the Hammer and Sickle were proudly raised over Saigon, now renamed Ho Chi Minh City. To a cacsual observor, things seem OK here. But I read newspapers more carefully than most. Following find two news articles from the July 17, 2012 issue of the English-language Viet Nam News.
Saboteurs get 13 years in jail
Three people were sentenced to a total of |3 years imprisonment by the People’s Court of Bac Gaing, for conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.
According to the indictment, the three had repeatedly lodged complaints to the authorities, and had established contact with other local people who had protested against the State. It was also claimed that they had contacted foreign newspapers and radio stations and provided incorrect information against the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. The three men prepared documents, gave interviews, collected and stored libellous documents that smeared the Party and the State leaders and caused division between the People and the Party. The three were also accused of inciting protests that affected political security, social order, and safety.
National Theater festival begins in Hue.
The 2012 National Theater festival is open to plays related to revolutionary heroism, patiotism, and socio-economic achievements.
Gee, how do I get tickets? I’d better remember to applaud heartily at the end of the show, or I might be charged with causing a division between the People and the Party.
Sure, capitalism isn’t perfect, and the resentment we have over the bailout of Wall Street while the rest of us watch our incomes slide is a perfect example of the flaws built into that system, but capitalism doesn’t enforce complicity with quite the heavy hand that Communism does.
I found I wasn’t enjoying myself or prospering in the States, so I moved across the world to Thailand. I spend my free time online encouraging others in my position to do the same. I don’t fear for my life or property for daring to say what I see and feel. The landowners who faced firing squads commanded by Che, Fidel or Lenin might have once enjoyed my freedom, but they lost it when the Hammer and Sickle replaced their former flag. And the last thing they heard was “ready, aim, fire!”

But the revolution that’s underway now in Viet Nam seems to be of the “a rising tide raises all boats” variety. People are getting richer faster than ever before. The millions of bicycles that crowded the streets ten years ago have been replaced by tense of millions of motorscooters. In five more years, half of them will have turned into automobiles, and then there will be gridlock and the lack of parking will have turned the streets into clogged arteries.

Here in Vietnam, all drivers of any vehicle beep their horn every five seconds. The motorscooter riders drive like fish in a school. Anything and everything is tolerated, cutting across all lanes of traffic, going the wrong way…but it’s all done slowly and smoothly. Here, the center line isn’t even a concept that’s being disregarded.The notion of right of way doesn’t exist. They’re all driving and trying not to hit one another. Period.

Most streets are fronted with broad sidewalks, but you can’t walk on them because they are being used as parking lots for millions of motorbikes.

One of the most visible remnants of our ten year misadventure in Viet Nam lies in the gene pool. Our waitress at lunch looked Caucasian. We asked her if she was Vietnamese. She glared at us and said yes, she was Vietnamese. I figure she was in her early forties. That would make her the probable daughter of a GI involved with a Vietnamese woman. I’m probably the age of her father.

Vietnam has a population of 89 million, yet is the size of Montana, which has a population of just under one million. This is to give an idea of just how crowded Indchinese countries seem to the average American. Over half the populace is under the age of thirty. Just ten percent are over the age of sixty.

Maybe in a few years I’ll visit again, and if I do, it will be interesting to see if my predictions about the horror of future traffic come true.



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