strong as an ox


I am back to the land where people work animals into daily speech:

– strong as an ox

– wrinkle as a monkey

– dumb as a cow.

Everything gets used more than once (recycled): plastic bags, banana leaves. In Understanding Vietnam ( through literature) published by Berkeley Press, the author, after surveying many well-known pieces, came to see that the tension between “Hieu” and “Tinh” is key to understand Vietnam.

I would posit that this tension gets new expressions and variations in today’s context. For instance, the “Hieu” (loyalty to parents and extended families) could easily evolve to loyalty to a team or support system (women group).

Meanwhile “Tinh” gets complicated with the introduction of Western understanding of sexuality (even homosexuality).

I can understand why Asian young struggling with changes challenges.

PBS has a piece on this subject. A Chinese peasant girl went to the city for work (garment). She saved up enough for the annual trip back home on the train. Upon arrival, her independence came to a head- on with traditional mores.

Bang! Conflict. Collision. Compromise.

Changes in morality, changes in the tools we use and changes due to the influx of FDI and foreign influences (smoking or non-smoking?).

Web sites are discussing a country bride who was set up to marry a Korean man through a matchmaking service, only to die a week after her arrival to the new country.  Groom wasn’t well in the head and did not take his medicine, or so they said.

Infrastructure need FDI. People need Foreign Aid even without “Tinh”, as long as the “Hieu” gets taken care of (building country houses with modern electricity and plumbing for parents).

This tension intensifies with each new element gets added-on into the old system.

So the parents of the dead bride now experience the most extreme of unintended consequences.

This leads me back to the bamboo as a symbol of strength, but a quiet one.

Bend with the wind. Unbreakable. Resilient.

I would rather use plants to describe strength, than animals (the Zodiac leads first with the Rat, yew!).

Western world, on the other hand, works machine, instead of plants or animals, into their daily figure of speech: robust, retooling, reboot.  Whatever the dominant factor at the time in that society becomes the mental construct of the day.

With 90% back then, and 60% today, Vietnam can’t help using the buffalo to describe strength (Buffalo Boy vs Cowboy). Everyone can relate to the usefulness and stamina of an ox, a traditional symbol of strength in Vietnamese literature. After all, it has been around helping to cultivate the field for thousand of years. (Similar to Wolf Totem in Mongolia).

But it’s bamboo that helped mobilize Quang Trung‘s troop to traverse the entire expanse of the country, during New Year, to defeat the invading army. Two soldiers carry the one who rests. Very much like Spain during World cup. They were unselfish. They stayed with their triangular formation.

They claimed victory, rightfully. History (rewritten one) always favors the strong. But the strong have known this for  some time: strength alone doesn’t assure victory. Just go to the museum of Natural Sciences and see now-extinct dinosaurs for yourself.

 

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