February 3, 2005
Written by C.N.
Well-respected Vietnamese American journalist Andrew Lam has a commentary article in the Pacific News Service in which he describes the emerging phenomenon of “stress” in modern-day Viet Nam. As he notes,
Stress is the latest trend to hit Vietnam from America since MTV. At first glance it seems impossible: Vietnam, after all, is a country full of hardworking young people, and rural life is backbreaking for the majority. Generation after generation has known nothing but sweat and toil. But stress is a phenomenon not of simple hard work. It is a kind of symptom associated with young, upwardly mobile urban professionals in peacetime. . .
Vietnam’s upwardly mobile urban young are given to multitasking these days. Next to Huy, Tram is talking on one phone, ordering a drink, conversing with another friend, and, yes, text messaging on another cell phone — all at once. . . A practice among the urban young is to place one’s cell phone on the table upon sitting down at a restaurant. Everyone then proceeds to check out everyone else’s new toy. “I bought a $500 dollar cell phone, and everyone in my circle has one. So I bought a new one for $1,200, and now I’m respected. It’s materialistic, but in my business, you have to do it.”
Quite ironic, isn’t it? Here is Viet Nam, supposedly one of the staunchest communist countries in the world, unable to escape the inevitable global influence of capitalism. It just goes to show just how powerful greed is — greed for money, for status, for materialistic satisfaction.
It would be easy to criticize these young Vietnamese workers as overly selfish and materialistic, concerned more about making money and having the latest symbols of wealth and status, rather than working toward democracy or social equality in their country. But we have to remember that, as Andrew Lam points out in his article, the vast majority of ordinary Vietnamese citizens have known nothing but toil, tedium, and unfullfilled aspirations for almost all of their lives.
I think they deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor. At the same time, I am worried that the encroachment of capitalism will inevitably create an even wider gap between the affluent and the poor. However, maybe capitalism will be a force so irresistable that one day, it will finally be able to topple an entire totalitarian communist regime by itself. Like I said, quite ironic, isn’t it?
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "“Stress” in Viet Nam" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/02/being-stress-in-viet-nam/> ().
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