This isn’t tolerance, it’s denialPosted: September 11, 2012
This weekend we’d done that thing when you think you’ve discovered a Hanoi getaway only to realise you don’t escape from seven million people without a fair chunk of them following you.
So come Sunday morning breakfast at this exclusive retreat and it’s bedlam. Toddlers kicking off everywhere. Kids using us as shields for their games of cops and robbers. Little fingers in the jam. One mum trying to comfort a crying kid, sits down on the floor literally next to our table – makes very loud coochi coo noises, starts spooning baby food into the child’s mouth before giving her a breadroll to kick around the floor to amuse her.
Now, parenting isn’t easy and for that they have my sympathy but when parents are chatting while their kids are screaming at us and shouting BANG! in our ears then I am allowed to turn around and catch their eyes and give them my best – please can you sort this out look. Not angry, just not amused.
But my wife is mortified. By me.
She gives me the look I get when I lose it in traffic.
Don’t show your emotions.
If I get angry at teenage boy racers I get: Ignore them - they could have a knife, you read about it in the papers all the time.
When there’s noise in the neighbourhood people just tend to keep their head down and ignore it. We could all pretend that we don’t actually notice it, except all that’s happening is tempers are bubbling below the surface. Roughly once a year it all kicks off and there’s shouting, screaming and throwing things.
Yesterday I was on a domestic flight within China. When the captain announced we’d be stuck on the tarmac for the best part of two hours there was genuine anger and indignation. In Vietnam there would have just been quiet disappointment, perhaps even embarrassed laughter.
Those noisy diners in five star hotels (okay so we got a freeby) behave inconsiderately because they’ve paid for it so their family can behave how they like – just like they’ve paid for that breadroll that the kid is kicking around the floor. The guy in the SUV can run you off the road because it’s his car and it’s expensive and bigger, faster and more powerful than your motorbike. The noisy neighbour owns his plot of land and so he can make as much noise as he pleases just so long as he’s on his own plot.
His builders could knock the place down and start rebuilding it at 6am on Sunday morning. If he wants to.
And we keep our heads down and we don’t complain. Effectively we give permission.
Recent events suggest Vietnam doesn’t like whistleblowers. It’s hard to know whether this dislike of complaining came as a result of living with hardship or something people have learnt as survival technique beyond day-to-day living.
But without complaints, improvements are less likely. Without highlighting problems, solutions don’t arise. Bullies will always win if unopposed.