Transitions

It’s not original at this time of year to be musing on change. But there you have it—Buffalo Surf is musing on change.


The Western New Year is behind us and Vietnam is transitioning into spring and its own Lunar New Year (Tet), the Year of the Snake (good omen!).


Vietnam has made the transition to a lower middle income country, as defined by the World Bank, and now ponders the vast social development that was left behind in the rush to integrate with the global economy. The prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung took some time to ponder his political future. The general secretary of the Central Committee took Mr Dung to task for his personal connections to the scandal-plagued Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), the country’s biggest private-owned bank, and at the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry (Vinashin), which mislaid $4.5 billion. Executives from both companies are under investigation or have been jailed for corruption. However, when the 14-member Politburo concluded their chat with Mr Dung, they issued a statementsaying they “seriously criticised themselves and honestly admitted their mistakes.”


Buffalo Surf also pondered its career (happily minus the fraud) and I am happy to report a job transition is under way.

A remarkable transition was shot in 1977 by American husband and wife filmmaking team, Jon Alpert and Keiko Tsuno. They were the first American television crew allowed back into Vietnam after the US withdrawal in 1975. The end result is “Vietnam: Picking Up the Pieces.” The access the filmmakers were given is extraordinary given the authoritarian paranoia that blights the government today. Alpert and Tsuno travel through North and South Vietnam, filming the new postwar transition to Reunification: prostitution; food shortages; drug addiction; ruined hospitals; overflowing orphanages.

A very random, beer-addled query among friends turned up no known Vietnamese proverbs on change, which given this country’s long historical tumult, seems surprising. However, a close approximation offered up was “có nhiều thay đổi mang lại nhiều sự khôn ngoan,” meaning something along the lines of “many changes brought much wisdom.”


As so with all change and transition the Buddha noted it is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.

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