CITY DIARY

Argument in Vietnam: Think before you type

Stivi Cooke

Updated : 09/03/2015 10:09 GMT + 7

We often overlook the obvious for the sensational. It’s human nature to look up when something out of the ordinary hits our radar. We react with humor, commentary and sarcasm, displaying our personality flaws more than we realize. You’ll never hear a football fan at a game say, “Hang on a moment, let’s take a balanced and objective view and quietly discuss that foul.” 

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Recent online debates regarding seemingly important yet somehow trivial events in Vietnam have plagued our computer screens for quite a time. Certainly it brings out the idioms, ‘Storm in a tea cup’, ‘bite off more than you can chew’ or ‘fat hits the fire’ and ‘go haywire’. 

It’s a spectator sport on Facebook to observe and comment on disputes totally unrelated to us – much the same as we do at a football match. We drag out our hidden collection of memes and photo jokes. Posters bark at each other like suspicious dogs across a fence and everyone voices an opinion – it’s like a Vietnamese crowd joining in the argument between two stall owners over whose chairs are in the other’s territory.

Among the recent sparkling Internet feuds have been accusations of not paying staff, the Vietnamese pavilion at the Milan food expo 2015 and the poor northern Son La province that proposed building a US$64 million statue of late Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh.  

The Milan expo complaints and excuses were my personal favorites. With the difficulties getting Vietnamese fruit supplied, perhaps the organizers should have contacted a well-known Vietnamese restaurant in Milan (yes, there really is one) and as for not being able to cook Pho in an expo that featured full-sized restaurants... well, next time, kidnap an old lady selling Pho with her cooking stand on wheels.

It’s fun to watch and read the comments which seem to upset everyone without getting to the heart of the problems. Petty squabbles about unpaid salaries? Simple: pay the salary yourself and then go to the restaurant and have a meal without paying. Run an expo – easy: hire the people who did the Cambodian rice and Khmer cultural displays. By all reports it has excellent reviews. And statues of the late Vietnamese president – we can’t get enough of them: let a rich benefactor donate a big car to the cost.

We miss the real point sometimes that the event is not the problem – it’s the lack of clear thinking and planning that seems to plague so many aspects of life in my beloved Vietnam. Snapping at each other on the Internet does sometimes raise awareness but rarely provides real-world progress. 

It’s similar to complaining about the Internet eating shark; why do we blame the one who can’t speak for themselves when the real fault lies elsewhere? Sharks don’t post sarcastic replies.

Education is part of the answer, however many of the more trivial issues we confront or argue about – either for fun or genuine concern on the Internet – are better solved by voicing the more controversial issues such as poor leadership skills in tourism, accepting the realities of paying even if you don’t want to or highlighting the plight of the poor in Son La.

I’m just as bad as others. I love to post a funny or sarcastic post sometimes but I prefer to let my typing cool the flames or turn the mood back to fun. So I have to blame myself sometimes when the topics get ‘out of hand’. It’s human nature but that can be tamed and used to change minds and hearts. I won’t stop commenting myself and its ‘popcorn’ fun to tease people yet I think you get my point.

And another thing... think before you type.