Dec 16, 2020 / 06:41

Vietnamese collectivism during challenging time inspires foreigner

The collectivism that manifests in the cultural surface becomes strong in defeating a common enemy.

A famous international educator has said Vietnamese people’s ability to tap into the collectivism to defeat a common enemy, even an invisible one like Covid-19 has inspired him.

Mark A. Ashwill, Ph.D., Co-Founder & Managing Director, Capstone Vietnam 

Mark A. Ashwill, Ph.D., Co-Founder & Managing Director, Capstone Vietnam was impressed with the way that Vietnamese people response to the pandemic, especially those in Hanoi.

Hanoitimes has the honor to introduce some of his notes on the reflection of collectivisim in the fight against Covid-19. 

One of the traits of the Vietnamese people that inspires me is their optimism during challenging times and their ability to tap into the collectivism that lurks beneath the cultural surface to defeat a common enemy, in this case, an invisible one.

Why can’t this collectivist approach be applied to other urgent and even existential problems such as environmental pollution? A tantalizing possibility to consider in the post-Covid-19 period.

Although the lockdown only lasted only a short time, my memories of the Covid-19 time are already shrouded in nostalgia. One day blended into the next, as we all checked the latest information about infection rates and went about our daily routine. Life was simple and predictable. Leave home only when necessary and always take the usual precautions. Working at home was not a hardship but rather a welcome respite. No need to brave the heavy traffic; more time to think, focus, and be productive in a variety of ways.

Like everyone else, I looked forward to the day when some semblance of normality would return so that we could all enjoy life’s simple pleasures again such as having a drink in a café or enjoying a meal in a favorite restaurant. On my infrequent trips to Hanoi to run some essential errands, I witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. This normally vibrant and bustling city of many millions was like a ghost town. Virtually no traffic and few people on the streets was reassuring because it meant that the coronavirus had no opportunity to spread.

As March edged ever closer to April, I knew that the economic shutdown would soon end. That was our reward for limiting our freedom of movement for the common good. That was the price we – as a collective – paid to protect ourselves and others from this highly contagious and potentially fatal virus.

Those of us who live here, Vietnamese and foreigners alike, can be grateful we live in a country whose leadership took decisive action that showed concern for the health and welfare of the people. Vietnam has rightfully been showered with international praise for the way in which it has handled the coronavirus pandemic – in stark contrast to other much wealthier countries.

Looking back, it wasn’t rocket science just basic science and smart policy implementation that included adherence to preventive measures, contact tracing, quarantine, and restriction on international travel. The result was relatively few confirmed cases of the coronavirus and no cases of community transmission since April 16.

It is said that nothing reveals character, or a lack thereof, like a crisis. Vietnam’s performance during this global pandemic and the results so far speak for themselves.

Mark A. Ashwill has lived and worked in Vietnam since 2005.