Sunday, August 27, 2006

Chasing Liberty: history repeats itself

For centuries, almost all “thinkers” in Vietnam do not introduce any new idea. Instead they import everything from the “big brother” China. I guess among our ancestors, there must have been someone raising the question ‘why we should follow in the footsteps of China’, but they soon got dim by the incurable defect of the masses’ psycho. The answer I guess would have been, ‘Well, the Chinese are masters in creativeness. They have created everything for us, and what we should do is to imitate them all. It would be unwise to struggle to think of new things, or to suggest new ideas, because we don’t have anything new here indeed - the Chinese have preceded us and have thought of all what we can think of.’

History has repeated itself, I think. Nowadays we Vietnamese are telling ourselves and teling each other, ‘Well, the west (or the U.S.) are masters in creativeness. They have created everything for us, and what we should do is to imitate them all…’

Things go on that way, and the Vietnamese keep following other people in their footsteps, repeating their wrongdoings and adopting their right performance, if anything. None of us looks at ourselves in the mirror to see we, as a nation-state, have lost the ability to think independantly.

No wonder why we keep blaming our children for their lack of critical thinking while we ourselves lack that essential characteristic.

Of course, none is self-confident enough to say Vietnam can stand tall and go our way without any reference to the outside world. The truth is Vietnam has lagged far behind in every sector, and it would be unwise if we try our best to avoid doing what others have done long before us. The point is we have to take imitation and innovation simultaneously. If we fail to pioneer in a line, then think of a new line in which we can be the leader.  This sounds simple, but it’s a golden key for creativity  now when the world has already been full of ideas.

Take media industry as an example. As far as I am concerned TV production thrived in the west in the 1950s or so when Vietnam was still busy with two fierce long wars. But that doesn’t mean we can never have a thriving television industry. What we should do is just to import ideas in the form of “copyrights”, adding values, then introducing them to the audiences. In this process, the sector of “adding values” will be of most importance.

Vietnam Television, with its long-standing monopoly granted by the government, is the pioneer in Vietnam’s media industry. But that does not mean it can never be overcome. As VNN TV and VTC have failed to be the pioneer in TV production for the masses, they can create new lines in which they may become the leader, that is to produce TV programmes for a smaller audience. These lines might be a TV channel for the old, or for women audiences, or for children. There might also be a TV channel specializing in entertainment only, and we know that even entertainment might include as many sectors as music, sports, games, ICT, economics and finance, etc.

Nowadays, television channels in Vietnam are growing in number, and all what they do is “taking short-cuts, catching in front”. In other words, they are repeating what western TVs have done, and that’s all right. We just need to bear in mind that no matter we do, or no matter we imitate, we must add values, finding new ways of doing old things, making innovations, adapting an old thing to the new environment of Vietnam.