On pussycats, tigers, basket cases and bad examplesPosted: October 9, 2012
I recently found myself spending the day in the nearby countryside and as part of that experience I interviewed a teacher. I asked her about the kids she taught.
Not so long ago they would all have left school as young as possible and ended up working in the fields. Now, an increasing number aspire to university. They would have been married as soon as it was legally allowed, but now 25 to 30 is the norm. They want to travel.
The nearby airport was in the same province and must have had an effect on the young girl who told me that while her father wanted her to be a doctor, she wanted to be a stewardess and see the world. Her father grew rice.
Life was getting better. Not just financially but also in terms of the freedom they had to choose their own paths. I’d become used to the doom and gloom coverage of Vietnam but this was uniformly positive. How can this not be reflected, even in some tiny way, in the news?
The hardest part of writing the column is always being upbeat. I figure that there would be nothing worse than reading expat whines month in month out. (cue favourite expat column link ever).
But then again my contrary nature does tend to push me that way. There is too much doom and gloom around right now. The daily predictions of bursting bubbles and financial meltdowns would be worrying if it wasn’t for the fact that I’ve been reading the same predictions every week since returning. For the most part I believe it probably is coming, but what makes me question the assertions is just how gleefully they’re made. It’s a suggestion they’re more hopeful than objective.
It’s all narrative – the next step from the “Capitalist Commies” line that visiting journalists used to be relied upon to rehash on every visit. Vietnam is now a basket case and a bad example to developing economies.
A year ago I sat listening to a speech by a senior member of a development organisation who said everywhere she went, people from other countries wanted to know what they could learn from Vietnam. How had they managed such a remarkable change for the better? What could they teach us?
The narrative has now changed. From Tiger to Pussycat apparently.
A journalist I know on Twitter says they always have to put Communist in the intro because otherwise people don’t know. Just as people need their reds identified, it also seems they can’t see shades of grey. Good guys or bad guys. Economy up or down. Nowhere is that simple.
Not least ever-complicated Vietnam.