Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

In 2007, before the economic downturn, I taught English to the children of the elite in Hanoi, and was impressed by their brash attitudes and Western savvy. It was like observing my '60s era American high school: the sense of priviledge, the casual assumption of wealth and entitlement. I'm thinking that these people are going to be pushing for more of the same as they get older.

They are truly global citizens, and lacking the heavy Internet censorship of China, their little tabula rasas are filling up with all kinds of Western (as well as Japanese and Korean) pop culture confections, and more. They seem to share a participation in a global zeitgeist, having seen over the garden wall of Vietnam's harsh past of war and famine--in fact, free of historical memory and lacking any evidence of party indoctrination.

They love Obama, for example. They know cool when they see it. In a school performance I directed one class in singing old Beatles songs. Their parents--bankers, architects and NGO adminstrators--loved it. Hanoi, right? Singing "Hey Jude," and break dancing to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," in flawless English.

I don't believe that this generation will be going back into a box. There is no "back," and no box, really, except in the minds of the old guys in pith helmets who gave me frosty glares on the street.

Crossette's article is about the darker side of doings beyond my area of exposure. I hope that my account lightens up the overall picture a bit.

John Denton

Portland, OR

Jan 13 2009 - 4:28am

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.