Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Useless Snails: Irritating Economists




‘Asking an economist how we can gain economic growth is totally like asking a butcher how to raise pigs on meat, (because) both of them will not have the answer.’

(Honestly speaking, I believe economists have the answer for every question of yours, but it will take you a long time before you can catch what they mean, it will take them a long time explaining things to you and finally driving you mad).


I should like to quote  one more piece from “Repentant Motherland”. Forgive me quoting a good deal from this book as if it were my bible; actually I share with the writer a lot of points.



‘A major part of economists work on limited issues, say the upheavals in the consumption of a product line, the upheavals in its prices and production quantity, changes in a specific sector and reasons behind these changes, changes in consumers’ spendings, etc. All of these researches require an inside-out understanding on the subject, intricate observations, and sometimes complex mathematical tools, especially statistics. However, we just can consider economists as people with large knowledge, or those who act to have large knowledge, about national economic performances, including domestic gross products, the current money, inflation rate, unemployment rate, etc. In other words, knowledge about political economics is required, but it is both scarce and easy.’


‘The little experience I have gained in economics allows me to assert that IT IS EASY.  An ordinary person, high-school graduate and over, with little self-confidence and determination, can grasp all basic knowledge of economics within one year. For sure, a good book or good teacher is also in need.’


Unlike the writer of Repentant Motherland, I can’t stress that economics is easy in capital letter. But I believe that in the progess (and even the decay) of a nation, economists do not make any contribution. To support this conclusion, I should like to raise just one question in brief: Assume that the US is wealthier than France, with a higher proportion of high-income people. Is it because US economists do their job better than their French workmates?


And a lot more questions: Where did the economists stay centuries before when different civilizations flourished and decayed?  Where were they when different economies underwent climaxes and crises?


And where do all the economists go today after they graduate from colleges and universities? Most of my classmates at FTU become office workers, some (very few) run their own small-scale business, and it is fortunate enough for us that none of us work as government economic adviser. On a larger scale, I think an office building is often the place where economists get. The rests, among them are some well-known faces of Le Dang Doanh, Pham Chi Lan, etc., become advisers for high-rank officials in the government, which probably is the reason why Vietnam is still among the world’s least developed countries.


Coming back to the first and foremost question I’ve raised above: Assume that the US is wealthier than France, with a higher proportion of high-income people. Is it because US economists are better at their work than their French workmates? I think the answer is clear that economists, and more broadly speaking, economic policies, do not contribute to a nation’s wealthy. As for me, development and progess is the Child of Father National Characteristics (or National Psychology), Mother National Politics, and Step-Mother Culture.


National Characteristics (or National Psychology)

+

National Politics

+

National Culture (including National Religion[s]) 


=

Development, growth, and progress


In other words, development is the matter of national psychology, politics, and culture, in which economics plays no role.

Monday, August 28, 2006

On Economists, or the Useless Snails




As from early 1990s when Vietnam adopted its open economic (or foreign) policy, the role that economics plays in a society’s progress has been reviewed and uplifted. Economics colleges began to attract the ‘elite’ students from high-quality schools, and the entrance examination became a tough competition. Economic students therefore have good reasons to be proud. They take proud in being chosen by the college, being incorporated into an academic group called ‘economists’, and being able to make contribution to the nation’s growth.


I was fortunate enough to win a seat at Hanoi Foreign Trade University. Since then I have noticed a common characteristic in almost all students who major in economics, that is, they tend to act as scholars and make themselves incomprehensible. Talking with you, they can easily threaten you with such academic language as


‘We need, or to be more precisely, we must accept the (necessary) exchange between inflation and unemployment,’


‘Accept it or not, you have to admit that unemployment is the price we have to pay for a low inflation rate.’


‘The ignorance of the mass leads them to act like a herd of sheep,’


‘The invisible hand of the market will bring us all to a general equilibrium,’


‘The hot issue Vietnam is now confronting is how to upscale export while keeping import at an acceptable level,’


etc.


The mass, and the ‘would-be’ economists themselves, have a tendency to consider them as the only group entitled to talk about the nation’s future and strategy. Economists, and of course, the ‘would-be’ economists as well, have the legitimate right to work out the development plan of the national economy.



(more on this tomorrow)


 

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.


 

Friday, August 25, 2006

Chasing Liberty: a look back on history




For years, teachers, or more broadly speaking, Vietnam education, has tried to cram into students’ mind the idea that a good child must be studious and obedient to parents and teachers. None of the teachings (and preaching) ever refers to an active, stormy, even imaginative student as “good”.


Put aside the story about Vietnam edution system, take a look back on history, and you will see that Vietnamese psycho has never celebrated freedom of thoughts, or liberty. As a nation’s thoughts and philosophies are shown best in its historical records, we should look up ours in Vietnam’s most famous history books, among them is “The Complete History Book of Dai Viet” by Ngo Si Lien. I feel sure that in his works, Ngo Si Lien the great historian did not write any word of “freedom”, “liberty”, or “creativity” (definitely not). With lots of efforts I have skimmed his work. I felt I can understand why they say young generations are bad at what they call “national history”.  It is because nothing is so boring as the so-called “national history” as it has so far been told in every history book of ours. The writing style is boring, the facts are scattered and often exaggerated, the presentation in short is unacceptably poor. More significant to me, I find all these books contain just emotionless letters and words. They fail to show any  link between young readers of our age with “our glorious ancients”. They fail to show us the beauty of time or the priceless lessons of history.  A history book written by a western historian would be all the different. You know, one of my favourite books is “The Lessons of History”. If anyone of you should like to know what western history books are like, just try them once and you will get the answer.


In the case of “The Complete History Book of Dai Viet” by Ngo Si Lien, it leaves us in confusion, wondering what are the highest values of life in a nation like Vietnam. These values don’t include either “freedom”, “liberty”, or  “creativity”. They are not what I want. (I don’t know about others, perhaps some will appreciate traditional values). 


If history may be viewed as the mirror that reflects a nation’s soul, we can see now that deep in our inner feelings, for ages, we Vietnamese have never given freedom and creativity a worthy prominence.  We don’t really know what true freedom is, and we can hardly imagine a nation or society with freedom. Many will wonder if freedom means instability, or rebellion, or  chaos. Vietnam has never seen any thinker or philosopher, let alone world-famous works on arts or thoughts or politics. Those who we call respectfully as “thinkers” were just poets and historians, like Nguyen Trai, Nguyen Du, Ngo Si Lien, Le Van Huu, and at such level they could not be survived by any world-famous works. Their famous works, if anything, merely revolve around things like a citizen's duties, patriotism and, above all, loyality towards the court. None of them thought of issues which forever are of concern to mankind, such as leadership, cult and religion, politics, development, etc. Take religion and sociology as an example. None of our "thinkers" ever questioned why people had to pay worship to some supernatural force called "ancestors" or "Buddha". None of them ever asked why man should be superior to woman, and why the Vietnamese should honour a stranger from the north, Confucius.


I believe  that all such concepts as “freedom”, “liberty”, “equality”, “creativity” must have come into Vietnam no sooner than when the French conquered this land.  Westerners - we should highly appreciate them in this case - are the ones who bring such values to us.


Oh, respectful Ngo Si Lien, you gave freedom a bad name!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Chasing Liberty: The Story of Mit Dac and Biet Tuot




I am true to say that the Vietnamese are not strong in creative thinking. But it’s certainly not our fault, because one of the conditions upon which creativity grows is freedom, or liberty as some philosopher put it. It sounds silly, but I believe you don’t need to do anything to become creative; just sit and think freely. Ah, of course you may also lay on bed, or stand, or walk around and think. No matter what you do, your mind must move freely to no bound at all. Don’t ever think ‘Am I going crazy?’, ‘That’s unachievable. No one has ever done it before,’ ‘Everyone has thought of it and has done that all, who I am to think I can do better than them?’, ‘OK, I shall think of new ideas later when I get all this done, now I have to pay priority to finishing it first,’ and so on. Do I sound like a “chicken soup” writer? Probably, but that’s what I think and say on my own, not what I borrow from a chicken soup paperback. In fact I have never read a paperback of that kind of book.

People can set barriers and therefore impose limitations for themselves in creative thinking. But more obstructive is the environment surrounding them. Even the bravest and coldest person dare not think differently if their community or society does not encourage them to do. Sadly, Vietnam can be an example.

I have met hardly any Vietnamese people who appreciate creativity. As I mentioned in a previous essay about “idols in Vietnam”, in most cases, people revere someone because they confuse between being “good” and being “talented”, or “creative” in my words; they revere someone because they think that one has good knowlegde ‘of everything’. More than once I’ve heard my friends say they admire someone because that one has “thorough knowledge of everything”. Oh my friends, don’t you think that the more knowledge one has, the more likely they will get enslaved by their own knowledge? Only creativity can make the world move on. Only creativity is king, knowledge is merely slave. After all, only creative people are worthy of praise. God is worshiped because He creates the world. (Ah, I don’t believe in God since I can’t think of such a creative creature. I said ‘creature’ because I can’t tell why we call God “Him”).

Creativity requires freedom in thinking, or to borrow the words of a philosopher, “freedom of thought”. And children are the strongest in thinking freely. But almost all adults identify creative thinking and imagination with day-dreaming. I remember watching a Soviet film about Mit Dac (Know-Nothing) and Biet Tuot (Know-Everything). The two kids are different in many ways, and the biggest difference is that Mit Dac is lazy, neglecting his studies and spending time fooling around, playing games, etc., while Biet Tuot “knows everything”. Biet Tuot is a hard-working and good-mannered student and loved by parents and teachers and friends, while Mit Dac is too stubborn to obey parents and teachers, and is isolated.

As you may guess, there was a hidden struggle between Mit Dac and Biet Tuot, with victory coming to Biet Tuot at last. Mit Dac cried repentantly in the arms of friends, and promised he would change for the better. Well… I don’t remember exactly if things really went on this way or not, but I remember clearly my father saying to me, ‘Mit Dac is not really bad. He is imaginative.’

Although I was in the third-grade, meaning only 9 when I watched that film, I understood what my father said. In fact, I did not feel satisfied with the ‘happy ending’ of the film. It was a classical ending, typical of any film of that kind for children, with lazy Mit Dac being the loser and hard working Biet Tuot the winner. I dislike that ending, because I hate to see lovely Mit Dac lose to stupid Biet Tuot who represents all obedient and studious friends of mine. (Actually they always won teachers’ heart, while I was considered an unintelligent and stubborn child; oh, how I envied with them).

Anyway, it takes me too long a time, 20 years or so, till I began to think that imagination is not something terribly bad as people (or growns-up to be exact) often say to children. Daydreaming is not utopian thinking, and even when it is, being utopian is not something to criticize.

Monday, August 21, 2006

On Creativity 2: two stories of mine

Think of it, and you will have every reason to say the Vietnamese are not strong in creative thinking. I have dozens of stories to show you how our uncreative mind works.


I've been to Hue twice. A small city at the heart of Vietnam, Hue is quiet,  beautiful and melancholy, and, as people often put it, it's a dreamland situated on the dreamy side of Huong River. 'And quiet flows the Huong', I like this saying, which originates from 'And quiet flows the Don'. I also bear in mind quite a lot of verses celebrating the sorrowful beauty of Hue, among them are:


“Rainy days in Hue - how I find them sad

and how long they last”


“Why don’t you come to Vi Da

watching sunshine in the leaves…?” (unable to translate)


With such thinking in mind, I, as a child of 15 then, came to Hue in eagerness, and thought to myself that I was going to see a splendid pearl on the Huong river.  The result was on the contrary as anyone may guess when they reads this line, and I won’t write it all down here because that will be a time-consuming process. However, what disappoints me is Hue’s people. I did not expect them to be so bad looking (hoo hoo…). The point is that their bad appearance is not really by nature, instead I think it comes from their poverty, or something like hard conditions of living. I found in Hue an ocean of sorrow, but the sorrow was not as romantic and dreamy as described by romantic poets. Rather it was also originated from a hard life.


And what annoyed me the most was poor business activities in Hue. The second time I visited Hue, I had to run around Dong Ba market (the largest marketplace in Hue it is, I believe) to look for just a little phial of spicy salt. It was a sunny day and I perspired a lot. And angry as I was, I found surprising enough that in just a small market like Dong Ba, they have hundreds of booths selling the same things - stuffs called ‘symbols of Hue’, including woman hats, papyrus slippers, shrimp sauce, some Hue’s foods, etc. All the booths and stalls, or kiosques, were located one by one, and they all sold almost the same things, while none of them sold just a little phial of spicy salt. ‘Damn you, guys,’ I swore them under breath, ‘Stupid enough not to diversify what you sell. Why don’t any of you think of another thing to sell? Is it because you don’t have enough money to set a new category, a new line of product/service?’ That was an unanswered question.


I also visited a couple of trade villages in the north of Vietnam. In my opinion, I have no reason to deny  the advantages of specializing in some product lines, and the benefits trade villages bring to a community. However, I find it unacceptable when almost all traders in a market commit to selling the same products. What about buyers? Don’t they have other things in need? Where can they buy them?


Half of what I said might be meaningless. But I say it just to reveal that we the Vietnamese minds are uncreative ones.  Why it leads us to being uncreative is another matter. I will come back to this later.


 

Saturday, August 19, 2006

On Creativity

"In northern Vietnam's rural areas, farmers, oxen and buffaloes work on farm with a wonder called 'plough'. It should be made of a tall and big tree so that it is also big and terribly heavy. One must be a musculous navvy to take the plough to fields. The ploughshare is round-shaped at the lower part, pointed at the upper part, and hardly bites the earth that buffaloes have to carry it ploddingly. Even a strong buffalo just can plough 3 Vietnamese acres per day. Despite that all, from time immemorial, none has ever thought of improving that 'abnormal' tool of production... It's just a little stuff but no Vietnamese can change it. (Because) The Vietnamese can quickly imatate on seeing something of interest, but innovation and creation is actually not with us."


"There are a great number of well-educated and high-level Vietnamese people, but scarcely any of them have suggested any new idea, introduced a unique book, invented a new thing, or coined a new theorem. I was fortunate enought to know some inventors, but they make an insignificant minority. The result is we are learners. Good learners are always good learners."


"As good learners, we learn quickly, and can make some modifications. And that is all, our mind stays and gets stuck there."


(excerpt from 'Repentant Motherland')

 

The lack of a creative mind is always our tragedy, me included.


 

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Breakdown of Idols 2: On Creativity

I have met quite a few people devoted to spreading the reputation of others. ‘Uhu, uhu, that man (or woman), you will see, is a real talent, yeh… a prominent person who everyone should be glad to be with…huh… What he (or she) has done is really great, yeh, really great,’ they say so with a mysterious face and their index finger pointing upwards. The funny thing is whenever I ask, ‘What has he (or she) really done and did that matter?,’ the reply is always a mysterious smile and some slight shakes of their head. Sometimes the answer I get might be more than that with a few words repeating that that man (or woman) has done a lot of great things. And that is all I get, at best.


I am convinced that there is a big chasm between being “good” and being “talented”. “Good” means  “efficient”. You are efficient when you are intelligent and able to fulfill your job. You are intelligent when you command a large amount of useful knowledge, learn quickly, have good memory, prove to be a professional in your work, and can react quickly whenever required. But “good” I think is too far from “talented”, the quality I set my own standards to assess. Being “talented” requires you to be 1, creative, and 2, able to give strength to others.


By that I mean I have seen scores of intelligent people around me, but found almost none of them talented.


(More on this later)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Breakdown of Idols

It's not just "the twilight of idols", it's "the breakdown of idols" to be exact.

Below is a paragraph I translated from my favourite book "Repentant Motherland":

"Of all articles about Nguyn Mnh Tường I have read so far, none did not refer to his two doctor degrees, and that was all what matters. Apprently, that he won two doctor degrees was the most important thing about him to many people, and that was enough for them to conclude he was a genius and all what he said was sublime.

I had a chance to meet Nguyn Mnh Tường at the home of one of my friends. Our talk was long, and I confess now that I found nothing interesting. He said many right things to which I had no reason to object, but all of which were just normal things. "

"I have (also) read a lot of articles about Trn Đc Tho, and all these articles referred to him as Doctor of Philosophy, PhD. Some of them went farther to say he would dispute with Jean-Paul Sartre once or twice. However, all the writers failed to tell what he argued about and what he said. It seems all of them just revered his PhD degree, and his debate with Sartre was quoted as an example to illustrate his “level”. I also read an article written by Hoàng Khoa Khôi, a self-taught worker and my beloved revolutionist, who argued untolerably with Trn Đc Tho and showed no prejudice biased the PhD. Trn Đc Tho’s PhD thesis was about phenomenology, but abstract thinking is never of my interest, so I did not read any of his works. I just read a short book, or more precisely, a long essay by him, titled “Un itméraire” (French for “An Itinerary”), in which he described in brief his itinerary of thoughts through years. Admittedly I felt it was a mediocre meal, even a sub-mediocre one. However, the fact that Trn Đc Tho was Doctor of Philosophy was enough for many to guarantee the values of what was written by him."

I like the way the writer broke down the two big monuments in the so-called Vietnamese philosophy.

I’ve been thought to have a mutinous soul since I was a little child. Possibly it is because I am not accustomed to setting an idol for myself to revere, and it’s not like me to join any teenage trend in idol adoring. I was born with such haughtiness. Mother said haughtiness made me “one colossal solitary mass”. When small I was in real misery with such thinking, blaming myself why I could be so arrogant. On growing up, however, over time I’ve discovered an evil way of thinking which I call a “malignant tumour” or an “inborn defect” inside Vietnamese psycho. We Vietnamese all are born to hold reverence for someone or something without asking why he or she or it should be revered.

A writer told me, ‘In my life I just venerate three women. The first is Thu Uyên, the second is Ta Bich Loan, and the third is my mother.’ Two of the three, the two formers, are TV stars, or ‘talents’ in television terms, although they may not be talents in fact. Many people I met also show high respect for Uyen and Loan. Well, I find it to be a normal sensation to respect someone. The only thing that matters to me is I don’t know why Uyen and Loan are so highly respected. Is it because they are really talented? What did they do and win? People say Uyen was a talented world news editor at Vietnam Television in 1990s, she built up a good TV program on world politics, she is beautiful and dynamic, with a good command of French and Russian, etc. With a terrible taste of beauty as mine, I must accept that Uyen is a beautiful and attractive woman. But a TV program on world politics has nothing to do with such qualities in a woman editor. Moreover, its contents came not from her mind, instead she took it freely from the air, meaning from TV stations elsewhere in the world. What she did was to “add values” to the orginal products imported from abroad, and the values themselves were not always high - her Vietnamese language must be too bad for an editor. I must say so without any grain of envy; in fact, why should I envy with her? And why could I?

Then Uyen moved from Vietnam Television to VietNamNet, the then-VASCorient, where she worked as managing editor. Once more, she was a good example showing me how vanity and vainglory works in Vietnam. Everyday she made young editors at VnExpress (my office then) burst into laughing with naïve articles she called “letters from Hanoi”. I did not join the laughing, I just wondered why she spent time on doing that (meditations on leaderships, hahahaha…). My workmates made jokes very often about Uyen and her “letters”, even about the long and tongue twister “VASC-orient” that VietNamNet then adopted. And I kept meditating on leadership and how people can be called “talents”.

The case of Ta Bich Loan is not much different. She is known to many as a really talented woman with a PhD degree in communication, she builds up a popular TV talkshow called “The Contemporary Figures”, she is intelligent and charming. I believe that the latter is right - Loan is intelligent and charming. I also am sure that she has a PhD degree. However, that she builds up the TV show is not enough to describe her as “talented”. I would agree to most people on her talent if Vietnam Television is a television mighty power where ideas originate from. In fact, nearly all of the ideas those “talents” suggest come from big heads in the west. Is there anything special about “The Contemporary Figures” except the wrongly named title? Its idea was copied, or euphamistically speaking, imported from some US televion shows, its contents were the result of a time-consuming process of team work, its quality is so-so. For sure, the show is very popular with the Vietnamese audiences, who are familiar with living in a closed country. Most importantly, it is popular because it has no rivals at all.

I must be arrogant to think of Thu Uyen and Ta Bich Loan in such way. But why do I have to respect them when I don’t even know what they have done to deserve their reputation? Because they are TV editors and talents, their work is to produce good TV programs and present them to the audience. So if they, to some extent, create good programs, audiences have no reason to pay respect or gratitude to them. At best we just can say they are good staff. But there is a big chasm between being “good” and being “talented”. Anyone with a few good skills working in their position can do the same, even better than they have done. It should be ridiculous to describe Uyen and Loan as two talented TV stars who make huge contributions to the nation.

The inborn defect inside Vietnamese psycho is not characterized by just the case of Uyên and Loan, of course. There are many more examples to make us know that each Vietnamese person is born with a slavish mind. Too easily we accept what the majority says. Too easily we worship someone or something without any wondering why they should be so. We probably often confuse “good” for “talented”. A good leader/artist/scholar/scientist/employee, etc. just means an efficient leader/artist/scholar/scientist/employee, etc. who fulfills his job. But he is not necessarily a talented one.

Finally, haven't we the right to doubt when we have not yet seen the grounds to believe?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Just to practise writing English

It is roughly 10 years since the last time I wrote in English. What I wrote then was something about a "lost generation" in Vietnam, and it was ridiculous to me now that I included myself in that "lost generation" although I did not quite understand the concept.

For long time I've had the habit of talking to people and, while doing so, grading them into specific categories set by me myself. Although I am not a socialable person, the number of people I've met is sufficient at least for my categorization.

"There are places I remember
all my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone, and some remain.

All the places had their moments
with lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I love them all...

Though I know I will never lose affection
for people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more."

These verses can best describe what I often do with much interest: meeting, thinking of people and grading them into diversified categories. (Eh, there must be a lot of mistakes here in my English writing, right?). I never lose impression (not just affection) on those I met, and I know I will often stop and think about them.

At least there must be 10 different groups I've known.

I call the first group "Vietnamese westerners". This group, or community, includes those of my age, meaning born in 1970s or so, who have spent at least 02 years' time learning abroad and are therefore infected with western living style. Poor them, what they absorb from the west is not always suited to Vietnam, so they are isolated to some extent. In most people's eyes, they seem to come from another world, the world of elite and "first-class" citizens. I can't say that there is not a hint of envy in what other people think of this group. A tinge of envy is always mixed with a little arrogance, and this reaction emits the feeling of hatred. So Vietnamese westerners are often hated and isolated, no matter how intelligent or skillful they are.

For my part, I don't have any prejudice biased or against these Vietnamese westerners though it can't be denied that I don't appreciate them or what they absorb from the elite countries. The only thing I hate about them is the habit of embellishing their mother tongue with a lot of American (or English) words. Thanks God, they don't streamline Vietnamese, instead they make the two languages a real mess.

Not all Vietnamese people change to "Vietnamese westerners" after coming back from a western country. Actually I've met less than a dozen of them. A. must be a very good example. He reads a lot of books, never speaks a word without carefully thinking, and thinks of himself as a visionary man full of new ideas. These ideas often go far beyond his age and, of course, far ahead of other people, which he thinks gets him out of the place.

When I first talked to A., I had to spend time trying to figure out "avant-garde" is a term of arts. Phew... in his eyes I must be a backward child and stupid and blind enough to say 'we Vietnamese don't need theories.' Admittedly I didn't know what "theory" means, if there is any theory for Vietnam, if he suggested any theory for Vietnam, whether or not what he said is theoretical. I must confess here that all what he said was beyond my grasp.

Anyway I seem to be going far from the main subject. More will come later on other groups I've classified.

Back to the main subject, "Just to practise writing English", I would say that writing in English used to be one of my hobbies, and I did it quite often when I was around 20. I found much pleasure in doing so, and I felt (or I hoped) it could help to improve creativity. Strictly speaking, it helped to identify whether we are creative or not. That means I was quite disappointed to know that I am not creative. You can't be creative when you are obsessed by just some ideas. I remember I was obsessed a lot by some images, say, velvet green fields with white cotton clouds high above, glorious light at a white christmas night, and the soughing of crickets, and the croaking sound of frogs in the night-time when a harsh rain has gone. I was so strongly obsessed by such images that it took me a terribly long time to banish them from my mind to think of new things. I am not sure now if my mind is clear of such obsessions.

However, writing in English is still a good thing to do. At least this is right for me.