Eroded confidence

Huffington is coming out with a book titled “Third World America”.

As she makes the case for America’s shrinking middle-class, I can’t help notice a striking contrast with Vietnam (Third World which wants to become America), whose nascent credit (system) and (middle) class are almost non-existent.

Yet it made the top list of World Happiness Index despite years of war and post-war hardship.

I reminded myself that I need to learn as much as possible to unlock the secret code.

Ignorance is bliss?

In the absence of plenty, everything tastes sweeter. (Hershey is coming out with a new line of chocolate made of pure cocoa from the Mekong Delta region).

I learned that simple-minded people from the country are content with enough to eat, and spend the rest of their time with and for others (similar findings here in the US purported that beyond $75,000 wage earners aren’t  that much happier, unless they found happiness in giving).

Whatever the joint formula of regional, historical and cultural factors, some possible take-aways are:

– sharing is a must (in the context of extended families and selected circle of friends)

– having  high regards for one’s self (Hanoi xe-om drivers wear a suit in Winter time). This point might seem contradictory to point number 1, but

each Vietnamese thinks he/she is better than the person next to him/her. Sharing enhances their status even more, hence point 1 reinforces point 2.

– working with a simpler definition of joy (similar to “Last Train Home” film about a Chinese country couple trying to get home to visit their children having been working in factory all year), which is relationship-oriented, and not materialistic (60+ percent of Vietnamese population still make their living in agriculture i.e. at the mercy of typhoons etc…).

Here, the US, in the aftermath of 9/11, is still trying to undo the harms done by that hideous act, by over-reacting, hence given itself into the long hand of terror (Ted Koppel‘s article in Washington Post). Meanwhile, immigrants in LA protested a recent shooting near MacArthur Park.

A quote by a Guatemalan lady in the LA Times says it all ” I told them not to come, it’s not as good as it was before, but they still come”.

I hear the Statue of Liberty say one thing (come), and the Guatemalan lady say another (don’t come).

Huffington puts her fingers on the pulse: people put all their hope in the political process back in 2008 with the choice of Obama, who himself admitted at yesterday’s press conference that he was frustrated.

We read news about workers not taking their vacation (either they couldn’t afford time from work, or just want to make sure they hold on tight to their jobs).

Meanwhile, the day I was last in Vietnam happened to be a 4-day holiday. People went sightseeing in drove, and traffic in the city was visibly thinning down.

I realize the trade-off that comes with modernity (comfort and convenience but hefty price tag) . I doubt that “happy” people in the Mekong region will stay happy, once HappyLand is fully operable in Long An, a  HCMC city outskirt. With HappyLand come unintended consequences of modernization. Most damaging is the notion that one can manufacture anything, least of which Happiness and Confidence. The former Vietnam has, the latter, the US lacks.



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