Xin Chào from central Việt Nam,
The recent shocking discovery of 39 young Việtnamese nationals, dead in the back of a lorry near Essex, weighs on my mind more than the average tragedy. It’s not merely because I’m living here in Việt Nam, close enough to know the imperative. The more you get to know these people, the more such a story impinges on the sensibilities. It’s not just that poignant photograph – released by her grieving family in the immediate aftermath – of the young woman whose dying text messages told her family how much she loved them. It’s more to do with the inhumanity of the traffickers: the greed; the deceit; the indifference to their fellow humans. It’s that avarice juxtaposed against the beautiful simplicity of a people who value harmony over conflict.
Việt Nam is not a Third World country, as such a story of desperation might imply. These unfortunate victims of hate were from rural areas of central Việt Nam, where some bad seasons, horrendous natural disasters and overfishing give the people a sense of being left behind in their nation’s prosperity.
The UK is not El Dorado.
Spurred by that universal desire of parents to want better for their offspring, many families are risking everything in the mistaken view that the United Kingdom is El Dorado. Even the ones who survive the harrowing journey end up working as slaves in illegal marijuana plantations or nail bars. These are the modern slaves of Great Britain, which abolished slavery two centuries ago. These are the victims of a new imperialism, where cheap labour is exploited through deception and aspiration. The fact that these families – even if their young ones survive the trip – end up worse off than before, is the ultimate tragedy.
In a globalising world in which we wantonly mistake innocence for naïveté, optimism for stupidity and simplicity for backwardness, the bodies in the truck and the photo of the girl with a flower in her hair should jolt us out of our torpor. These beautiful people are being sold a bitter lemon.
In a world where we jettison simplicity and complicate things until we are sadder, lonelier than ever before, the comparison between simple decency and fraught civilisation has never been starker. Globalisation may have lifted millions out of abject poverty but it’s bringing abject misery to millions by the same mechanism. The bodies in the lorry are more than a tragedy for 39 families. Touch one, touch all.
Hẹn gặp lại from Tam Kỳ, central Việt Nam
Power and greed, and corruptible seed
Seem to be all that there is.Bob Dylan “Blind Willie McTell“