Having spent the last three months travelling to the far east I have been astonished by the good will that abounds amongst ordinary citizens. Without exception everyone seems to be fed up with their political leaders be they Australians, Vietnamese, Amirican or indeed British.
This is an astounding contrast that even in the less developed world there remains a distrust of the political classes be they totalitarian socialist or liberal democrats. Despite the rule, of who are in effect dictators, such as Erdogan, Putin or Xi the distrust remains at most levels of society. Where ever we look we see the seeds of distrust even where there is relatively a low level of corruption. The world seems to be dividing into populism or totalitarianism.
The European experiment to augment and nurture liberal democracy is teetering on the brink of collapse not only because of Brexit, but because of the national tribal desire to return to the nation state which is alive and kicking in at least ten member states. This is an expression of populism that panders to the right wing and is precisely the opposite of the European dream.
Vietnam, now ruled with a rod of flexible iron by the single party, so called, socialist democracy is a merger of 50 + tribes from North and Southern Vietnam unified by the redoubtable Ho Chi Min. Ho Chi Min, now seen as the avuncular unifier of the republic, was without doubt an obsessive man of almost unbelievable strength of will. Not avuncular in his lifetime in any way except his undying idea of a unified Vietnam. Here is a microcosm of the struggle of all nation states; leadership.
Now the General Secretary of the politburo Nguyen Phu Trong rules the country as the secretive and complex government stutters away from Marxism/Leninism towards a Social democracy. Inevitably those close to the Government do well and those who ever opposed the thinking or purpose of Ho Chi Min are kept in their place. Usually, a poor place. Confusion and angst are becoming more tangible, Saigon (HCMC) still is more prosperous than Hanoi, and is a hot bed of resentment. Six million scooters and half a million luxury cars just about sum up the distribution of wealth. The Politburo has a tough task ahead keeping the lid on economic change and wealth distribution.
In a way the EU and Vietnam have a good deal in common. Jacques Delors and Ho Chi Min dreamed great dreams but the implementation of those dreams are poles apart. Perhaps Europe is a hundred years ahead of Vietnam, but the same dilemmas exist. Progress, prosperity and peace, how to bring this about without polarising power to the few and avoiding populism and corruption on the way.
What seems unavoidable is that capitalism and liberal democracies are facing enormous challenges, maybe they may merge toward social democracies. The choices are stark but the solutions as yet unresolved.
How to hear the voices of all the lovely people, that is the question.