Vũ Đức Khanh & Lê Quốc Tuấn – Fear and the Yearning for Change in Vietnam

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Vietnamese Original Text: Ls.Vũ Đức Khanh & Lê Quốc Tuấn
English Version: TM1111




Vũ Đức Khanh & Lê Quốc Tuấn – Fear and the Yearning for Change in Vietnam

From X-cafevn.org

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Presently in Vietnam, power does not lie in the hands of the government but in the hands of the people. In the past it was the fear for one’s own safety by the majority of the Vietnamese people that helped prolong the power of the communist government in the country. However, reality has shown that the Vietnamese people are gradually stepping out of their fear to take back the right to determine their own destiny.

There is a fear that is present in the political sphere in Vietnam. The fear lies squarely between the government and the people and is becoming a decisive factor in determining the future of the country. One needs not wait to hear from Chairman Trương Tấn Sang, who stated that, “We feel it is our fault that the people and the cadres are in fear…” to know that for a long time the communists had set up a structure of governing based on fear. Constantly strengthening their power and maintaining fear has been the principles by which the Vietnamese government and the Communist Party rule the people. It can be said that until now, the Vietnamese communist government has been pretty successful in the art of ruling by spreading fear.

However, although it may sound paradoxical, in reality the government is now more afraid of the people than the people are of the government, as the people are increasingly demanding more than what the communist leaders can provide.

Although the economic boom in Vietnam during the first decade of the 21st century brought certain improvement in the standards of living for the people, the government’s poor management created even worse problems. The gap between the rich and the poor widened; corruption persisted to the point beyond control, and morals deteriorated. Additionally, pressure from “Big Brother China” on border disputes and unfair economic dealings put the Vietnamese government in an increasingly difficult situation. All this led to a different and bigger fear from the government: that the people lost faith in the government and want to take back the right to determine the country’s destiny.

Facing approximately 60% of the population under thirty years of age, who grew up during the economic boom and are using the internet to acquire knowledge about the world around them, the aging communist leaders are seeing themselves representing only the generation of people who are on their last legs.

Partly because suppression is inherent with the government, and partly because it is the only tool in hand, the more the government is afraid of the people, the more it tries to suppress them. The result is that increasing suppression from the government pushed the people’s desire for change to the point it turned into a powder keg. And whether the government or the people want it or not, this powder keg will certainly explode at some point in time. What does this mean? It means that we do not know what it will entail, what shape it will take, but we know for certain that change is coming.



Change is Imperative

While the Vietnamese government is still the main obstacle to political reform, another obstacle to a more democratic country, however, comes from the people themselves, in the form of their uncertainty about change and what it will bring, and the fear for their own safety. During the past years, at times powerful, at times heroic but tragic, waves of those minded of the common good for the country have stood up to challenge the government, but they were only a small minority among the patient mass resigned to their own fate. Although a large number of people understood and shared the views of the fighters for democracy, they did not want to be imprisoned or to sacrifice their own safety or that of their loved ones.

Bullies who harass those weaker than themselves cannot do so if no one is afraid of them. In other words, it is the weak kids resigned to harassment that empower the bullies. The fear of the people toward a totalitarian government is no different. It is the people’s resignation to power that allows power to exist. A government’s authority survives on being accepted by the people. As long as the people obey the government’s power, the government will keep its power, and there will not be change. However, if a substantial number of the people see through the government’s impotence and ineffectiveness, and recognize that it can no longer serve their physical or mental needs, and decide to demand change, then the government’s power will substantially weaken. A nation’s strength lies in the popular mass. A government can only act with the people’s permission. Once the majority of the people no longer accept the government’s order or imposition, the government becomes an “emperor without clothes”.

It’s a shame that such simple truth has long been buried deep beneath layers of totalitarian politics. Controlling the media, directing education, and deftly manipulating propaganda, the Vietnamese Communist Party was successful in producing generations ingrained with fear and unfamiliar with concepts of freedom and democracy. Even as progress in information and technology opened people’s minds, the government, though hopelessly, continues to interfere and set up barriers…

Resignation does have its excuses. There are arguments that even though the government made countless mistakes, it still serves the basic needs of the people. A single-party government, even with its shortcomings due to trying protect its power, would not lead the country to poverty or isolation. There are even arguments that democracy and pluralism are not guaranteed to be the magic pill… And there is no guarantee that, if this government is rejected in favor of another one, things would indeed be better.

However, it has been proven that giving up and resigning to current circumstances will only make the situation worse, because the more tolerant the people are of the government, the more corrupt and infested the government will be allowed to be, inside out. There will be no thorough reform, only patched-up changes. Since 1975, there have been eight party national conferences, seven party general secretaries, numerous major changes in economic reform, national defense policies instituted, but the result is a country heading to decline, economic bankruptcy, moral deterioration, and failure in border and national territory defense.



The Yearning for Change and the Power of the People

Bitterly disappointed with an impotent government, the Vietnamese people are looking beyond the leadership of the communist party and the government that has shaped the destiny of the country over the last 80 years. Shocked when the government hastily closed up the opportunity to listen to the people’s opinions related to the revision of the constitution, and especially at the the leader of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s refusal to espouse democracy, improve human rights, as well as his opposition to political pluralism, numerous people are waking up and calling on each other to step out of their persistent fear to take back the right to determine their own destiny.

The Vietnamese have long wanted more for themselves, but did not know how to achieve their dreams. And even though some have talked about the need to remove the communist party in order to attain democracy, in reality there has been no unified agreement for a definite road to that goal. However, yearning for justice and for what is right, the Vietnamese people are now actively sharing information and knowledge about human rights, democracy, and freedom. They are eager for change.

Recognizing the power of the mass, the Vietnamese government is actively increasing terror, harassment, and oppression on those freedom fighters who have the potential to gather the mass. Wave after wave, those who spread ideas for democracy and freedom and raised their voice against the totalitarian rule of the Vietnamese Communist Party have been imprisoned under the crime of “spreading propaganda against the government”. Democratic movements were forced to operate in isolation and in secrecy. This resulted in a large crowd being suppressed but lacking a leader who can gather them together. They cannot grow into a force significant enough to bring about major political transformations.

Obviously, the quiet majority are waiting for their leader. However, the people should not just wait for someone who will stand up and call out, “Follow me!” The Vietnamese should not passively take increasing oppression and injustice from an impotent government who does not truly serve them. On the contrary, they should not wait any longer, but become leaders themselves among the smallest possible groups such as families, circles of friends, neighbors, and tell each other, “Enough is enough!” This is not a call for violence but a call for civil disobedience, like Mahatma Gandhi’s call for non-cooperation with the British Raj regime.

Obviously it would be easy for the government to suppress a few isolated individuals, but not so when it has to deal with movements that spring up all over the country. If a significant part of the population participates in civil disobedience, how would the government handle it?

Let’s take a look at Vietnamese demographics today. If only half of the 60% of the people under 30 years of age participate in civil disobedience – out of the total population of 89 million – that would be 26.7 million standing up against the government. There would not be enough police force to make arrest, nor enough prisons to house those 26.7 million. Furthermore, would the police force go ahead and arrest their families and their neighbors?

Regardless of which path the Vietnamese people or the government select, change is inevitable. In this year or in ten years, peacefully or violently, for better or for worse, Vietnam will have to change, because the country cannot continue in the current path. Recent developments seem to indicate that the government has used up its options and no longer has any ace up its sleeve. It has become arrogant and at the same time it is lost, not knowing how to respond to the rightful wishes of the people. Power is gradually shifting towards the oppressed masses. Any fear that exists in Vietnam nowadays is no longer fear from the people; on the contrary, it is the government’s fear against the people’s desire for change.

Moe than four thousand people, and more to come, claiming themselves to be “free citizens”, are declaring the people’s rightful demands. More than seven thousand are responding to the Petition for the Revision of the 1992 Constitution.

Let’s think of five thousand, ten thousand such people, all of one mind.

And let’s think of a day when thousands of free citizens occupy the streets from all walks of life.

Such is the power of the people, the power from the desire for change, growing daily.

Attys Vũ Đức Khanh & Lê Quốc Tuấn

Tâm Như gửi hôm Chủ Nhật, 10/03/2013
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