Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

T's History Lesson

Our Vietnamese guide, T, joined us at the border. He was a strange fish, more comfortable out of his clothes than in (once we got to Halong Bay and the boat, he walked around most of the time in his boxers). His history lessons were interesting. Although he didn't leave anything out, he didn't necessarily tell us everything, or that was the impression I got. What I think I mean is that he told us the events without colouring it too much with the way people felt about it all.

The Irish think they got it bad in the colonial stakes (and they did), but the Vietnamese, a once truly powerful nation, were colonised by a whole range of invaders, first the Chinese. Fighting their way to independence, they battled off many other invaders, incorporating some, such as the Champa. Then the French came along. You don't think too much about the French when it comes to colonialism. The English, sure, the Belgians, of course, but the French? The reality is they created the terrible legacy of 20th Century Indochina. From the middle 19th Century to the 1950's, they oppressed the Vietnamese people despite so many rebellions, it makes the Irish look like potato farmers. In the end the French brought in Japanese (right after WWII!!!!) and British forces to help them cling on to power. And then when they did pull out, because they couldn't afford to carry on their regime, they bring in the Americans to really wreak havoc.

The less said about the Americans the better. Some Americans (and I have heard some Irish who fought in the Vietnam War with the US) still think that war was justified. Just come here. Look at these wonderful people and consider what was inflicted on them, by a foreign power that supported an unjust (rightwing) regime. I won't make any great claims for the Communists, but there is a very real affection for Ho Chi Minh here and it is with good reason. Even people who have problems with the Party talk of Uncle Ho with respect. Again I am sure the communists were no saints, but they had been the only real resistance to the French for nearly half a century and did have a lot of popular support. Anyhow poeple more qualified to talk of this subject are out there, I can only give my impressions.


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