Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Meanwhile, in Saigon

In Saigon -- nobody outside the government calls it Ho Chi Minh City -- capitalism is roaring back:
The apartment building where evacuees clambered up an outdoor staircase to board a C.I.A. helicopter in a chaotic rooftop operation, a scene captured in an iconic photograph, is now at the heart of a neighborhood filled with luxury shops selling $1,000 Rimowa suitcases and $2,000 Burberry suits. . . . A statue of Ho Chi Minh, the Communist revolutionary leader, is sandwiched between a luxury hotel and a refurbished French colonial building that will soon house a Brooks Brothers store.
And of course, lots of stories like this:
Ms. Thuy Truong, the tech entrepreneur, did not have electricity in her home until she was 7. She now develops smartphone apps and commutes between Mountain View, Calif., and Ho Chi Minh City. She recently sold her software firm to Weeby, an American company, for more than a million dollars. (She will not say exactly how much.) She turns 30 in December.
We've all read stories like this one from each country that gets caught up in the firestorm of the new global economy -- first Taiwan and Korea, then China and Thailand, now Vietnam. These pieces are profoundly one-sided, based on what reporters see in the happening neighborhoods of thriving cities. A few miles away are villages where  peasants toil in the traditional way; sweatshops and slums may be just around the corner. And yet there is an energy about this process that is undeniable. Young people in Saigon are excited about the global future, sure that their lives will be better than their parents'. Materially, they certainly will be.

The new economy is radically unfair, but it does throw up opportunities by the thousand for the ambitious to grasp at. It excites people in the way that Revolution and Socialism once did, and it doesn't require throwing bombs or shooting the bourgeoisie. Instead of angry slogans, global capitalism gives us high-tech gadgets, nice suits, cools jobs in booming cities. To jaded old leftists it seems like a scam, but what else is there? This, right now, is what the world has to offer.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

It spooks me, sometimes, looking at Asia these days and seeing developments that seem like elements torn straight out of old fashioned cyberpunk.