(A picture with a classmate before graduation. I often humorously call her Teacher Thao, a typical fictional character in Vietnamese sex jokes)
The Protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism (chapter 33)
I have a brilliant friend studied at Da Nang University of Technology. One time, him and I met when he visited me in Saigon after his graduation, he said:
– You students of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH) bear great responsibility. To destroy a nation (Vietnam in this case), the enemy just need to blow up your school.
Days went by, and I realized my friend is right. USSH is a top school, setting in motion all the goodness and the vice in the society. I will tell you a painful story. To protect the identities of the persons in the story, their names will be confidential.
One day, we studied a subject about foreign literature (the exact name of the subject is confidential since there was only one lecturer in charge of it). The lecturer asked groups to present about the classic works assigned to each group two weeks ago. Then came a group of students working in the school’s youth union. Before the presentation, they went online to look for materials, copy the main ideas, changed the writing style a little bit and submit the summary to the lecturer. After the presentation, the lecturer scolded them in the middle of the class. The materials they copied is from her research paper. As a result, the group received an F.
The group returned to their seats at the back of the class. Being angry for the F, the group insulted the lecturer. The insult could be heard clearly though I was two rows away from their desks:
– Fuck you for giving us an F.
Many of my classmates heard their insult. The person who said such words was indeed a youth union secretary. “He is a nice kid at home”, I thought. So why did those students say such heathen words to the lecturer. Let’s find out the reasons behind their behaviors.
Firstly, those students grew up in the Southeast region (minor provinces) and came to Saigon for higher education. They joined the youth union to help their parents with tuition. (I do not presume all students working in the youth union for money). The foreign literature subject took up 3 credits, approximately 1 million VND at the time. Their insults after receiving an F was a normal reaction in a costly society. Many lecturers liked me because of my public criticism (sometimes they were quite heavy) and solid arguments. Those who does not speak up are a potential danger to the society. Say that “great” personality becomes a director of an education department, I will let my fellow readers imagine the consequences.
Secondly, education in the time of the lecturer and her students was different. During her days, the government covered tuition, students just needed to go to school. At my time, tuition was no longer covered by the state, we had to pay for expenses such as electricity, rent, tuition and lunch. Poverty prevented us to buy books nor have time for reading classic works. As a result, copying research about classic works on the Internet was a solution.
Thirdly, unlike the University of Technology (UoT), if USSH students fails a subject, they have to wait next year to study it again. For example, at UoT, if one fails Strength of Materials in the 1st semester, he could restudy it in the 2nd or summer semester. USSH students have to wait to next year for the subjects to be reopened. Therefore, it is understandable why did the group said “Fuck you” to the lecturer.
What happened to our poor generation of students suits the famous saying:
Let me be neither poor nor rich.
Let me have enough food to live through the days.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say: “Who is Jehovah”?
If the poor still burden me, the name of Jesus Christ shall be disgraced by the theft I do.
I heard that the student who insulted the lecturer is now a civil servant in his hometown or a content marketer. In case he is a content marketer, he could make 2,000 USD depending on his capacity. Poverty made him insult his own teacher. Having offended his lecturer though he was obviously wrong, meaning he indirectly insulted Jesus Christ. He is the example of Proverbs 30:8-9.
That is why capitalism invests so much in students. As I have mentioned earlier, the Saigon University of Literature was a top school in the country. In the UK, there was a time that students of public management only read Homer’s works, but they could still govern the vast British Empire spanning from Europe to India. Many have studied abroad in the UK and graduated from schools of economics, engineering, business, etc., but no one have graduated from the school of literature. Only whose mother tongue is English could be able to complete the school. The same goes to Vietnamese literature. No foreign students could complete the program.
The situation in the University of Natural Science is similar. The program of Mathematics forces students to take in too much knowledge. In Ukraine, students do not have to study much in their first year. What they do is coming to class, chatting, talking about sexual matters and then going home. Their real study begins in second year. In Vietnam, students have to do tons of homework though they do not know about postulates, laws, theorems or the nature of binary. As a result, many have dropped out of school. They did not get enough “warm-up” before entering the “study arena”, making them feel shock. Even if they graduated, their creativity could be diminished. Ukraine higher education focuses on creativity.
The above things happen because our country does not have “capital accumulation”. Great business skills cannot compare with large capital. There is an old saying: “Poverty leads to the vice in society”. Since we lack capital accumulation, Minister of Education Phung Xuan Nha made a draft that expelling female students after being caught working as prostitutes for the fourth time. To make a student focus on his study, a 400-USD allowance should be granted not threats. The same applies for the police. A policeman could not afford a house with low salary. Only by corruption could they make a living. A terrible society. A country with no freedom of publication. This begs the question of when a bachelor of literature could afford his marriage. My friends in lower school years often say that Mr. Phi could not afford a wife.
To this point, one will ask: Where could we get a 400-allowance for each student every month. The answer is simple. We could call on capitalists to buy bonds of universities and colleges, and the students will work in those companies after graduation. During their study, school could use the money from selling and take care of its students. This method works greatly in Australia, a member of the Commonwealth. In general, one should not ask where could we get the money. One should ask oneself if he really want to do it. When there is a will there is a way. All members of the Literature class, except those working in the youth union, agree to shift to capitalism. Only shifting to capitalism and Confucianism 2.0 could this country escape the culture of “Do you know who I am?” and come back to the “Five Virtues”. The most subversive person of the Literature Department is not the big brother of class 11a3 of Nghen High School but the old dean. He proposed to remove political subjects to let students have more time to research on literature.
My friend who sat behind me became a teacher at High School for the Gifted of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Natural Science after graduation. She earns 3 million VND each month and saves that money for the master degree. Of course she still needs to rely on her parents. Raising a bachelor of literature costs 30 million VND a month (according to my vice dean). A course book costs 1 million VND already, and my friend has to read five books a month. If I were a big shot at the University of Natural Science, I would figure out some solutions to give that money for the students. Capitalist countries make great investments in human resources since those investments always bring profit.
Le Minh Ton
Saigon, August 4th, 2021
Note on the picture: My friend and I took this picture randomly at the foot of the Vietnam navy statue in 2018. I heard that the girl is now married. The picture became a legend in our school, and nothing has surpassed it until now. The top right corner is the logo of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities of which name in the colonial period was the Saigon University of Literature.