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Journal Politics Việt Nam

Saigon Stories – Thoughts of the day – Communism and Capitalism

When I was a kid, there were times when explanations were given that just didn’t make much sense. At that time I simply thought I was not smart enough to understand. However, as I have gotten older and traveled, I’ve found that many adults have an answer but really do not have a good understanding of the answer. They simply repeat what they have been told and take it as truth.

Today, I was thinking about discussions with Westerners on Communism and Capitalism and how most westerners would have an innate fear of Communism. In an earlier blog, I wrote about Communism as simply a word, then an economic theory and then the fear it instills in westerners. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Communism of the Soviet Union and China were simply poor models of the Communism Marx was talking about.

Throughout my childhood, I too was afraid of Communism. Then I met Europeans who have a much deeper understanding of this theory and most treat it as simply another economic model. Therefore, I had to ask myself, why did I fear it in the first place?

I now live in Vietnam and I feel very comfortable here. I do not feel like my rights are being trampled in any way or oppressed and feel that the natives do not feel this way either. I used to believe that most of the population could not leave a Communist country because of the government. But speaking with a Chinese in Japan, I found that it is the other way around. Chinese (and Vietnamese) are free to leave the country but it is the rich nations that will not let them in!!!! The reason is that much of the population is poor and a big influx of people from poor countries would cause political problems for the rich countries governments in the form of these new immigrants taking jobs away from the rich county’s population since they would work for way less.

But back to why I feared communism. The only conclusion I can come to is a form of “brainwashing” or to put in a less negative way, those in the west simply believe that their form of government is better so that is what they teach. Yet, if we make comparisons there are a lot of similarities.

In Communist countries we often refer to “propoganda.” In the West the same thing is called “Public Relations,” or “Marketing.” The goal is to get the public to believe something and governments in both the West and Communist countries engage in this practice to a high degree.

In Communist countries we often refer to “corruption.” In the west we also have corruption but also an elevated form of corruption called “lobbying.” In both cases, groups influence the government and the ones with the most money usually have the biggest effect. If a Communist country’s groups paid officials to obtain something, Westerners would call it corruption. But in the west, these same groups influence their leaders by paying for their campaigns, giving them gifts, or free trips, etc.

Therefore, when I was young and I failed to see the difference between the two, I would have assumed that I was simply not smart enough. But now, through my studies of language and my travels, I’ve found that simply changing the name of a weed to a flower, does not change what it actually is. We have simply given the item, theory or practice a different name to make the public see it as we would like them to.

Categories
Journal Politics Việt Nam

The Meanings of Words – What is Colonialism, Communism

Understanding words.

What exactly happens when we learn a word? The most basic explanation is that a verbal sound is applied to an object or idea which represents the object or idea in question. Therefore, as children when we are first learning language, we must first visually see a chair and then we learn how to call this object in question by making a vocal sound. As time progresses we learn which words we should apply to emotions and feelings which we cannot see or touch, but have a presence none the less. As we grow even older, we string together or vocabulary and are eventually able to comprehend abstract ideas to which we must also apply a vocal sound or “word.” These ideas can be Democracy, Socialism and so on.

Now it is relatively easy to see a chair and call it a chair. Not much brain activity is needed. However, for the more abstract and that which is not so easily understood as a chair, the comprehension of the idea may be misunderstood or not understood enough, even though we know which vocal sound ‘word’ to apply to it.

The two words I’m thinking of at the moment are Colony and Communism. As many of you know I have lived abroad for four years and what really keeps me motivated is the amount of learning I acquire.

Now, sticking with our focus of these two words I’d like to explain a little about the progression of my understanding of these ideas.

1. Colony

Ask anyone what a colony is and they will most likely be able to define it in loose terms. If I think back to my previous understanding I would have said “Host Country sends nationals to a foreign land with the hopes of obtaining settlement there under governance of the host country.” The dictionary defines colony as:

“A body of people who settle far from home but maintain ties with their homeland; inhabitants remain nationals of their home state but are not literally under the home state’s system of government.”

Wow I was close!

Before, when thinking of this word, I would have conjured up images of the English Pilgrims in their blue hats settling in America and sharing food with the Native Americans even though it is now popular to understand that they shared more bullets (in firing them at the Natives) than food.

This is the same naive concept of colony when people are asked to describe it.
However, living in Vietnam I’ve come to understand the much darker side of this word or concept called “Colony.”

Now let’s take the dictionary definition of “Colonialism,” a derivative of Colony.
“Exploitation by a stronger country of weaker one; the use of the weaker country’s resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country.”

If you ask people about France and Vietnam most will say Vietnam was a colony of the French and leave it at that. Some French nationals comprehension of the word is that it was basically good since it tried to make Vietnam “Civilized.” Yet, through my reading of history and I have learned the facts. One good site is the Ho Chi Minh Archives which offers amazing insight.

A colony is more often than not a barbaric subjugation of the native people where the wealth and resources are exploited for the economic gain of the host country. Therefore, there is a drastic difference between the concept most people hold when hearing the world colony and what it really is. The colonialism of the old European superpowers was one full of murder, greed and power grabbing. However, I’m sure nationals of those countries were not taught about the horrors of what actually happend. Therefore, if I read about Colonialism in France, Spain, England (and the USA) I will hear about how these colonies benefited their respective host countries and enslaved their people.
Yet, one cannot only read one side and know the truth. There are always too sides to every story and one must also read the literature of those that have been colonzied. And every major country has ventured into colonalism at one point or another.
Examples:

1. Britian – Subjugated the Indians with terror and torture.
2. USA – Wiped out the Native Americans under “Manifest Destiny” – Like “Colony” the definition of “Manifest Destiny” also changes depending on who you ask.
3. France – Exploited the Vietnamese along with countless other nationals of other countries.
4. Japan – Korean sex slaves, Vietnam famine.
Thus, we have to ask ourselves how well we understand our own language. Do we have a full and complete concept of what words actually mean and everything they entail or do are we content with a simple dictionary definition?

2. Communism

I learned this word in the United States of America. When I asked what Communism was, every single definition I received was that communism was basically a bad idea and something to be feared.

If I asked the reason for the Vietnam war, it was simply “To stop communism” as though communism was some 10000 pound Godzilla that was coming to enslave us all and should be feared. If you ask most of the population of America they will have a negative image of this form of government.

It wasn’t until I began to read for myself about Communism that I understood exactly what it was. I started to read Marx and was shocked that his manifesto wasn’t about enslaving people and depriving freedoms but was a dry and boring as any old economic textbook. It spoke about markets, money, and a way where everyone could have a chance to make something of themselves.

I then read history and about the Industrial Revolution. I was shocked to learn that most workers were treated much like slaves and could not save a shilling while the barons horded all the wealth. I was also appalled that this lasted much into the 1920’s America with the Strike Breakers who would put down worker protests while on horses and smashing in people’s skulls. I read about the horrible working conditions and how the people really did not have a chance to better their lives.

I also read an article stating that Capitalism was bad way back in the 1920’s but Communism underestimated Capitalism’s ability to evolve, gain better working conditions and labor laws etc. Yet, it seems to me that the author of this statment has engrained in his skull the very same naive concept of communism that most of the American public hold. That it is bad and something to be feared. How is it that only Capitalism has the capacity to change and adapt but Communism does not?

Marx defined Communism as simply the path to socialism and not a permanent form of government. Therefore, it evolves and can evolve for the better. Yet, this argument is wasted on those who have suffered years of propaganda and even the word “Communism” puts them on the defensive and in fear.

They will cite examples of Stalin and his atrocities and of Communist China who do not have a very good human rights record. Yet, what the Americans have not been taught is that the USA has engaged in unimaginable atrocities in foreign lands to fight this concept called Communism.

And here it is. The American public have been so brainwashed into believing that Communism is some monster that will come upon it’s shores if not stopped that they look the other way when horrible atrocities have been committed like in Vietnam. Communism is not a horrible monster but one that would come from the people if they are suffering economically and have no chance to better their condition. They equate an economic concept “Capitalism” with freedom and “Communism” with slavery which is completely absurd. They are simply two economic models that would be better debated in terms of markets and currency movements by certified Economists.

Yet, the super elite know th
at if communism were to take hold then they would lose all or most of their wealth. Therefore, they strike at it anywhere in the world in hopes of preventing it while brainwashing the populace to believe it is simply a horrible monster. Millions of poor peasants in Vietnam were slaughtered who do not know the difference between Capitalim and Potatoes. The Vietnamese have really had it rough for the past century. They had to deal with the Colonalist French who exploited the country and enslaved many for their own economic benefit. Then this guy named Ho Chi Minh comes along and says “Hey, this is not right!” He tried to free his people from these oppressive French in many ways but do you think he got support from other western countries? Nothing! The only support he could get was from the Communists (Even in France) and therefore, by adopting communism it was his only way to free himself from the French.

Then the USA comes along and fights Communism because as most Americans would put it “Communism is Bad, or now Evil.” So the USA supports an extremely repressive and awful “Diem” regieme which carries out an untold number of political assissinations. Meanwhile the Americans spray chemicals on the peasants villages since they cannot control them from the Communists. So these poor peasants just got out from under the yoke of the French to then have Chemical warfare sprayed upon them. Now ask yourself, if you were born in a peasant village and had been exploited by the French and then driven from your village by the Americans, whos side would you be on? Actually these poor people got caught in the middle of an ideological war and could give a damn for whatever side wins, but just want to live in peace!

If we look at the political side of things, it is easy to denounce the Soviet Union and China for their form of Communism. You say the wrong thing, you get put in jail. However, why do we have to look at these countries models of communism as the only ones? In many democratic countries there are things that cannot be said and if you cross the wrong leader landing in jail is easy. Communism has one political party and the United States has two which is simply a difference of one! Also, Communism picks their next leader in a way that many Americans would feel “undemocratic.” Yet in the USA we now have a son of a former president! We say that he was picked by the people when the truth is that the people could not have been taken further out of the political process. Both parties are funded by the same powerful interest groups and it really doesn’t matter who wins.

Americans say that the people in Communist societies live in a state of fear. What is going on in America right now? They have scared the wits out of the population with this terrorist nonsense and then wage war without trying to fix the underlying problems which promote terrorism in the first place!

Do we honestly think that a “terrorist” wakes up one day and says “Hey, I want to be a bad guy, so I think I’ll become a terrorist!” Now the word “Terrorist” has taken the same level of fear that the word “Communist” used to instill. Perhaps we think that “terrorists” are just not right in the head and want to strap bombs to themselves and them blow themselves up?? What could possibly drive a person to kill themselves like that? Perhaps if we look at the injustice some of the USA policies have created we will understand that these destitue, poverty-stricken people have no other choice!
But again, this argument is wasted on most Americans since the simple utterance of the words “Terrorist or Communist” have instilled such fear.

For them they will have this reaction:

1. Terrorist – Bad man, must be killed or stopped in any way possible.
2. Communism – Slavery, Fear

The images they conjure up when hearing these words are as naive as a two year old.
Finally if Americans do read this post, they will not like me one bit. So much for being able to say what you want in America even today. Their defensive stance is that I have just railed against everything they have ever been taught and most Americans have been taught in America as far as I know. Therefore, most of the information they have will paint America in a good light.

It is as simple as one child being taught potatoes are poison then add volumes of information and details supporting this position that no one could possibly read in a lifetime. Then another being taught that potatoes are healthy with another library full of materials supporting this stance. If I say potatoes are healthy to one who has been taught they are poison, the child who believes they are poison will empty all their knowledge is defending the stance that potatoes are poison.

Another aspect is the concept of team. Americans are on one team and define themselves as such in international affairs. Better not say anything bad about the team. So this post is like going into a New York Yankee stadium wearing a Red Socks Jersey. The Red Socks fan could have piles of information about how the Red Socks are better but it will simply fall on deaf ears.

Finally back to my original theme about our understanding of the meanings of words. What images do we conjure up when we hear them and are they correct? I guess it just depends on which school you’ve been attending and the information you’ve received. Steven Hawking says that humans are capable of understanding only a tiny fraction of all the information out there and therefore, one should not choose all their books from the same library.

Categories
Culture Japan - 日本 Politics Việt Nam

Reply to Comment on Tokyo Metblogs

— This post (albeit very long) is in reply to a comment left on my post (Life in Tokyo vs. Life in Saigon) on Tokyo Metblogs.

Reply to Carl’s Jr.

Your reply sounds suspiciously like something my dad would say. I’m half tempted to try and trace the post and see if it doesn’t originate from the Buckeye State. You’re suspect!! 🙂
And like many of my dad’s statements yours also gave me something to think about. You are right in that sometimes there is no comparison. But I think that would be a better answer if we were having a chat and comparing cities over coffee with no plans of actually moving to these places. For me, a comparison is necessary (even though my original post was extremely simplified) since it ultimately determines where I will live.

Concerning the “rut.” It is possible to fall into this situation in any city, in any profession. However, I think it is important to ask yourself which location is it easiest to get out of. For example if I was in a town where the industry collapsed due to intl. trade should I stay there and try to get out of the rut or go to where there is work? The older generation was only able to look as far as neighboring towns. Slightly younger to other states. But it is just begining that people are now able to look across the world for adventageous locations,, a concept which the older generations cannot comprehend.

The markets of Europe and America are already established and the competition is extremely difficult. The rich have made their wealth and this structure of wealthy vs. others is for the most part set in place. The business environment is simply booming here (look at China in the past 10 years) and Vietnam, once they join the WTO, will grow dramatically. The country is starting completely over and the market as well as who will grow wealthy and who will not is now being created.

Since this is on Tokyo Metblogs lets use Japan as an example of the wealthy retaining their riches and keeping the middle class “middle class.” The group that now control the wealth of Japan have done so for centuries. Names like Mitsubishi, Asahi, Sumitomo, Fujiwara, ect. are actually families who’s names can be found far back in the history books. Mitsubishi for one built much of the war machinery for Imperial Japan and what happened after American occupation? They simply switched to other industries and continue their huge influence over affairs in Japan. The same goes with America although through new industries and opportunity many more have made mountains of wealth. But the majority of the population simply work for these oligarchs. It’s true that many can become wealthy if they reach the top posts especially in corporations but for the most part, the old families or “old money” still hold incredible sway especially in Japan.

So I asked myself, where in the world is it most probable that I could start my own business if I choose and make contacts with the leaders of tomorrow while still young and not have to scratch and claw my way up until I’m around 45 – 50 years old? The answer lies in which countries have shaken the system and are starting anew. In Vietnam everything is new and if you ask most investment strategists, Vietnam holds very little risk when starting new businesses because there simply isn’t much competition. Also, which economy is most likely to grow by leaps and bounds? Also Vietnam.

I did think much about your comment “the fire to compete.” Well, I asked myself which arena would be the most likely in which I would win and win quickly. So I don’t like to think of it as big pond or small pond but simply in which pond I can catch the most fish. And the Vietnam pond is going to grow tremendously so I’m catching fish while it’s still small in the form of contacts with the future leaders of this place. And if we continue with this metaphor, the fishermen in the States and Japan have huge nets on trawlers while I, still being young, have to make do with a paddleboat and one fishing pole. Much better to compete with others in paddle boats in small pond with a lot of fish and wait until this pond joins all the others through the canal of WTO by which time I will know all the other fishermen in the Vietnam pond. Ok, this has gotten ridiculous.

Further, living here has exposed me to so much I would otherwise not have experienced. Since HCMC is small and I work in an esteemed club I can meet very easily the top heads of many international companies, diplomats and so on. In the west it would just be a hello and then goodbye. Here, I drink beers and dance with these people’s wives. During happy hour or at business events, I learn how these companies actually work, what is going on behind the scenes, and how companies actually do business. I can now answer questions about politics concerning oil reserves in remote islands that affect international affairs. What is meant by treaties concerning “joint exploration” of an oil rich area and what is most likely to happen. I learn how they bend rules and what they actually tell the public. If I decide I want to move to Europe, I can speak directly with Counsel generals and sometimes Ambassadors of various European countries on how to best obtain a visa or passport. Also, if I’m drinking with these people they get to know me and we become like friends since we are all ex-pats in a very tight ex-pat community. Also, the generation gap is not as pronounced as it is in the west so I do not feel it odd to be partying with a 60 year old and look at them just as I would any other peer.

Further, this experience works for me in other ways such as giving me a sense of freedom. I know know how to live, work and adapt (or how to get the info) in any country I choose. Most people are stuck in one location, or country since they simply do not know how to leave if the environment happened to be better somewhere else. It is best not to be bound by national borders, nationality, culture and language. Here I learn how to make contacts, who to talk with to get what I want, and how to navigate bureaucracy. This information is gold.

To illustrate this point, after graduation when I wanted to work abroad I asked three people:

1. The head of a large company.
– I asked how soon could I possibly sent abroad if I worked for them. He said it’s most likely not possible until I learned the business and then maybe after 5 years or so they might send me somewhere.

2. My university study abroad coordinator.
– She said I could apply for a teaching program in another country but it is very competitive.

3. Various contacts
– They simply said it was too difficult.

Yet, I did it by myself without the support of some institution. The knowledge is there and anything can be done, it’s simply finding the door that is key. So if I want to work in some appealing company, I can simply meet the head of the organization here, make friends and find out the shortest path to a possible position.

What really appeals to me here is the contacts I’m making for the future. These people will be the next leaders of Vietnam and have their own business. So in the future if I’m in some other country in a trade related business, I already will have constructed a way in. Also, the experience of having lived here, and having a contact list will be extremely valuable in the very near future. Most people around the world have the wrong image of Vietnam but just give them 5 short years and they will be amazed at what happens to this country and how is grows economically. There already is much hype about China and for good reason. One would also be wise to consider China’s neighbors and most savvy investors adopt the China plus one strategy which is simply to not put all one’s eggs in the China basket.

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E-mails Politics

E-mail to Ron 4.29.2004

Dude,

Just got a chance to read your essay.  Can I post it on the website “think”
by the way?

As for my input, I think it’s a great idea for the idealist.  Unfortunately
Capitalism runs on greed and without greed the system fails.  I think it’s
impossible to tell the people to stop being greedy,,,(unless they are
Japanese).  If people have the means to buy the biggest, most polluting,
shiny car out there then they will.  If you take away that option they will
have a fit, and so will the manufactures, and oil companies.  These people
want to make money and are too powerful to stop.  But I see this as the
beginning of the end for America.  It is in decline and America will become
like Europe in about 200-300 years or so I’m guessing,, unless we blow
ourselves up first which is a real possibility given the tremendous greed of
the current elite.  I propose a huge marketing campaign that says hey FAT
AMERICA QUIT BEING FAT GREEDY SLOBS, and see how many responses you get.
Well, I’m sure most of them won’t be able to get out of their sofa or don’t
want to miss any “reality” that is on T.V.so maybe there won’t be riots.
But I’ve given up all hope for America.  I felt icky for a long time (while
I lived there) due to the materialism and it’s only accelerating.

As for my second point, I think taking money away from the terrorist
countries would make terrorism worse.  These people need jobs and money so
they can think about going to the club, buying a TV, or taking their
sweetheart out on a date, instead of having no money and being lured into
terrorism by the baddies and thinking about killing themselves along with a
bunch of others.  I think Islam (the bad kind) and especially Christianity
preys on the ignorant, poor and generally stupid.  The dumb are what fill
their ranks and they would lose power if everyone had the chance to be
smart.  So I think it would be best to: get them jobs, get them some
entertainment so they can go somewhere else besides the mosque, and silence
as much as possible the radical nut-balls.  Of course we have only done two
out of three in our own country.  We still have the Christian Right, Mel
Gibson, and a whole hoard of fat country people that will vote for the
“Christian” president.

Finally, Dammit is spelled “Damnit.”

Yours,
Mateo

Categories
E-mails Japan - 日本 Politics

E-mail to Dad 3.19.2004

Just got home and saw in the news that Taiwan’s President got shot before the election.  You know, the guy that wants Taiwan to be independent.  The world just keeps getting better and better.  You know how quickly the situation could deteriorate right.  Gosh, it’s a good thing we’re in Iraq and don’t want to fight China and they don’t want to fight us. 

 

Oh, also just wanted to share a few things on why I cannot be an optimist… (just yet)
 
Courtesy of the Japanese (English) news. 
 
1.  Japan’s Chief Secretary still says “WMD will be found.  It’s impossible they don’t have them.”  (Can lie to the Japanese forever)
2.  “Japan is bolstering security at the train stations due to the Spain bombing and the government is taking the appropriate steps to combat this threat.”  Yea right, anyone could walk in there with a friggin missle tied to their back and nobody would notice.  I just like how the politicians bs. the public on a daily basis. 
3.  The Japanese “Self Defense” force should be able to attack foreign military bases as part of the missile defense shield.  Yet, there is no intention at all of attacking a foreign country.   Huh????  (they are forming an army as I know you know, but the entire population of Japan doesn’t.)
 
I ask you, has the public always been this stupid or is there just a virus of mass stupidity going around? 
 
I almost had to cry when I read these articles today.  
 
Mateo