Opinion
Modern Vietnam?
  • | dtinews.vn | April 08, 2011 08:35 AM

So Vietnam is becoming a modern country. This will continue, no matter what I write, no matter what anybody does.

It’s an unstoppable train.

There are many names for this: Developing Country, Emerging Market, etc...

Anyway, there is not denying the benefits of modern life; airplanes, washing machines, antibiotics.

But to a certain extent, technology, which is supposed to help us, also grabs hold of us, taking over large portions of our lives.

I will give you an example. (I’m a bit old and slow.) The first time I got a cell phone was in Vietnam. This was about 3 years ago. I got a mobile out of necessity, not because I wanted to.

In fact, my friends in Los Angeles had called me crazy for years because I didn’t own a mobile.

Now, I ask myself, if my life was better before or after I got this phone?

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The mobile phone is one of the great achievements, conveniences - what have you - of modern life. As is the Internet, automobile and all the rest.

But when i think back to the time before I had a mobile, besides the jokes from my friends, I think my life was a bit simpler.

Before, when somebody wanted to call me, they would dial my number. The phone would ring at my house. If I wasn’t there, then they would try back later.

“No worries,” as the Australians say.

But now it’s a different story. My phone comes with me, everywhere.

I actually have dreams about my cell phone ringing. I wake up in the middle of the night. I am afraid to turn it off. I’ve tried, but that little screen stares at me, saying, “You wouldn’t dare.”

And I don’t.

Samsung has even penetrated my dreams. My phone intimidates me.

Is this a good thing?

Yes, I can call Tuan or Jane at any time, but they can also call me! And you know what else? They know that I know they’ve called. So if I don’t return the call, there’s a problem.

Technology is supposed to help us in our lives. Yes my phone helps me, but it’s also a burden.

You could call me some kind of romantic, or naive, because I have the luxury of criticizing, such things, coming from the U.S.

And of course there are people who remember the times of bicycles, of quiet. Naive? Romantic? Whatever.

Okay, but bicycles have been replaced by motorbikes. And now you don’t have to pedal. You don’t have to exert so much energy.

But the effect is pollution.

Oh, I forgot about traffic.

I have not done a survey, but i would bet anybody VND1million that if a survey was done, asking about the 5 biggest problems facing Hanoi and HCMC right now, that traffic would be in 90% of the answers.

Technology has made our lives better, but it has also made our lives worse.

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I’m anticipating your responses. You might say, because I come from a “developed” country, that I cannot comment about the old ways, here or in the West.

So I will leave with a quote. This is from an old, dead, British scientist, from a long time ago. His name was Havelock Ellis. He said this when England was (arguablly) less developed than Vietnam is now.

“What we call progress is an exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.”

I’m not standing in front of the “train of progress”. No way. It’s not healthy to stand in front of trains.

Yet I agree.

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