Thoughts on the expression “to be against the state”
According to the Vietnamese dictionary, the word “against” means something solid that leans against another object to help it stay upright, like the walls that support the roof of a house. But the word also has another meaning, which is to oppose a person, an entity, an organization or social realities such as oppression, injustice or lost of national territory.
The party’s newspapers often publish reports about public security, which also belongs to the party, about the arrest of this or that pro-democracy activist on a charge of “being against the state,” of trying to overthrow what they call “the people’s government.” But these newspapers do not say what these activists oppose, nor how they oppose it, or how this opposition harms the people or the Vietnamese nation.
Why are there so many people from so many different backgrounds who are classified in this category by the government? There are secondary school teachers, primary school teachers, war veterans, university students and secondary school students. There are lawyers, artists, doctors and farmers. They are all treated as people who oppose … the state. As there are so many different population categories that oppose, we should try to see from the state’s viewpoint what the reasons for this opposition are.
People oppose in order to reform, in order to improve the form of government. Or people oppose the injustice and oppression created by the government in order to protect territorial integrity and the nation, and to build a better society.
Perhaps the government should thank the people who oppose it day and night, instead of cracking down on them. Take an old dilapidated house, a house covered with vegetation and with holes in its walls. The wooden pillars are eaten away and no longer support the roof properly. The house could collapse at any moment.
You cannot save the house by replacing a single defective room. If the family that lives in this house wants to save it, all of its members must take action, and must call on the services of professionals such as architects, engineers and builders. And sometimes you are better off demolishing the house in order to build another one that is safer, prettier and more comfortable.
The other day, on the 8th of March, I went with the blogger Nguoi Buon Gio (who is known as Wind Vendor) and several businessman, writer and intellectual friends from Hanoi to visit the family of the lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu. We wanted to give his wife, Duong Ha, our best wishes on Women’s Day. We also asked after her husband, who is in prison for … being against the government.
Our first question was about Vu’s detention. We have talked a lot about Vu’s late father, Cu Huy Can, a great writer and poet but also one of the fathers of the current regime, one who gave his entire life to the revolution.
Nonetheless, there was no photo of Can at the New Year ceremonies held by the Poets’ Association. We noticed that Ha icould not hold back her tears because of this. She wondered if it was due to her husband’s activities that her father-in-law no longer has the place he deserves in the collective memory. There is no shortage of ungrateful people in our society nowadays. Nonetheless, while it is true that Huy Can was not mentioned during a day or two of ceremonies, he is still present in the hearts of many people through his moving poems brimming with the ideas of our era.
We have mentioned article 88 of the criminal code under which Vu and so many others have been accused of propaganda against the socialist state. It is really ridiculous to accuse Vu of propaganda. Ha regards the charge as baseless. She hopes that Vu’s trial will allow people to see what “propaganda against the state” really is.
Firstly, Vu is the only son of one of the regime’s founders. There is no reason for the father’s merits not to be recognized any more because of the son’s activities. Secondly, Vu opposes no one in particular, not the regime and still less the socialist state or people. All he did was exercise fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and the state’s laws, not to speak of rights enshrined in international conventions. If Vu, as an intellectual, sees something that is contrary to the general interest, he speaks out, he makes his contribution to the construction of a prosperous, powerful, independent and democratic state.
The stands taken by pro-democracy activists are, in all objectivity, like buttresses for the house that Vietnam forms. They see the cracks, the holes, the foundations that are crumbling and the tiles that have blown away. Every citizen has the right and the duty to be a point of support to prevent the house from collapsing, or else he must try to build a new, more solid house. Those who criticize openly are the pillars supporting the house. The pressure on them is immense. Who in Vietnam would not like to live in a more solid house? Who would not want to live in a prosperous, powerful, beautiful and solid nation? All of this is obvious, so why are these talented architects persecuted?
If people like Vu, who try to rebuild the foundations of a formerly solid house, are imprisoned, imagine the prospects for this house. It is going to collapse, collapse totally, collapse to the very foundations. The house is going to disappear, and the land with it.
To sum up, those who are accused by the authorities of “opposing the state” are in fact the ones who are trying to make a valuable contribution towards repairing the house and building a more solid state. The authorities should thank these people, because they point out the cracks, the holes and the major distortions caused by a political system that is about to collapse. Because people like Vu have seen this and want to prevent a complete collapse of the regime, they have become pillars ready to prop up the house. My God, those who help their neighbours are so badly rewarded!
If a government acts correctly and provides benefits to its people and its country, why would the people go against this government?
Hanoi, 10 March 2011
Paulus Le Son