Viet Nam

physiology vs. sociology

Xin Chào from Cam Ranh,

“It’s disappointing to see so many people catching the buggies.”

This is Linda, staying in 5-star luxury for her last week in Viết Nam, overlooking the resort from the 12th floor balcony, watching the rich locals moving around the massive resort, where there are ten swimming pools, a long beach, a cinema, several restaurants, a bar, a convention centre, mini golf, a splash park, football field and an archery range, and at least 800 accommodation sites. It’s a big site; a ten minute walk to the beach even though we are right on the sand. 

how one generation squanders the bounty

   This is not Linda’s version of “Some people just can’t rough it, can they?”. This is a sociological observation of how one generation loses what the previous one busts a gut for.

Whilst the era of colonisation had the effect of hollowing out the middle, creating unequal societies, we think we are seeing it again, in a different guise, with different agents of change, and different beneficiaries. The era of globalisation is just as insidious.

one legacy of French colonisation

French colonialism in Viết Nam reduced the majority to landless peasantry. Figures from the French colonisers themselves show that by 1939, more than 80% of Viếtnamese were illiterate, compared to pre-colonial days when almost everyone possessed some degree of literacy. The gap between rich and poor had been accentuated in the six decades since the French arrived.

Since independence, the gap has been reduced enormously. The current era of globalisation is hollowing out the middle again, creating a big cohort of landless workers, in passive servitude to the urban rich, including at places like this resort.

Cam Ranh beach

It’s a dispiriting development but there are positive signs that things are heading in the right direction. There are signs of the power of wealth redistribution, beyond even the deliberate levers of government. Inter-generational lassitude – not peculiar of course to one specific country – eventually but inexorably brings some entitled cads back to the pack. It’s happening here before our eyes – and this is what Linda is rejoicing in.

Just as the holders of vast English estates find it too costly today to maintain their aging infrastructure, with no slave labour or timid tenants of the manor to keep paying rent and tithes. Inter-generational sloth serves the same purpose.

one of 12 pools to choose from

International schools are also incubators of these inter-generational collapses. Corpulent second generations might inherit the thriving businesses and streams of revenue, but they don’t often possess the business acumen necessary to sustain them. Because brains famously don’t accompany money, the wealth built by the father is bound to be lost by the cosseted son, at least in sufficient frequency to be hopeful.

salaries above the national average

Here on the beach belt of central Viết Nam, the urban wealth is being shared around via salubrious hotels. Yes, the owner of this particular one (an Israeli) will be taking the biggest return on the investment, but the workers are paid a salary a long way above the average in Viết Nam. The inflated prices for everything purchased by the timeshare owners are at least partially flowing to the workforce, most of whom hail from nearby Cam Ranh. There’s some hope of income redistribution simply by the rich people spending their money.

view from the resort

A colleague of ours at International School Hồ Chì Minh City, came from rural Viết Nam (we visited her childhood farm last week). She knows what motivates someone towards success. As a schoolgirl, she rode a bicycle 25 kilometres on dirt roads to school every day – and back. She now has two degrees and is working on a third. She muses out loud about the link between adversity and motivation, having lived the experience herself.

Added to this, throughout rural Viết Nam, the local school is always the biggest building on the horizon. Education is universal, if not yet completely free. Education gives poor kids a chance.

bloated harbingers of their own downfall

These spoilt kids at the resort have no idea how they fit into the scheme of things. They enjoy the room service, the food laid on, and the pre-packaged entertainment. In fact, they are taught to expect such service as their birthright. But they are the bloated harbingers of their own downfalls. And it’s a good thing because it means that redistribution of wealth is happening, organically rather than by governmental decree, which will always meet resistance from the losers.

So, when Linda remarks, “There’s a lot of fat kids here,” she’s not just talking physiologically, but sociologically too. 

Hẹn gặp lại from Cam Ranh,


Other photos from hereabouts

Cam Ranh beach
Cam Ranh Beach

2 replies on “physiology vs. sociology”

This is interesting, reminds me of my trips to Mui Ne when I would look on one side of the road and see 5 star resorts and then look on the other and see a poor family with a tiny house and business.

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