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Why have we come here?

Recently, I was wandering along a back street in the former Vietnamese Imperial capital of Huế, perhaps best known outside Vietnam as the site of one of the bloodier battles of the Vietnam War. This was a street full of the sort of shops that would once been have referred to as a “General Stores” in English: shops full of many goods that are likely to be useful to many people, but that sometimes seem to have a tenuous relation to one another.

In such a store, I stopped and started photographing a colourful display of western trademark violating motorcycle helmets. After I had been doing this for a short while, the shopkeeper came up to me, basically just to say hello. He didn’t mind me photographing his merchandise and was not putting any pressure on me to buy anything, but he clearly didn’t get Westerners wandering into his shop to take photographs every day. Huế is a tourist destination, but despite its easy accessibility (the Americans having built an airport) it is not nearly as big an attraction as places such as the nearby ancient town of Hoi An. One does not have to walk far from the centre of town for the presence of foreigners to be rare.

What happened next was more interesting. He gestured for his son to come over and pose for a photograph. The lad must have been only about two years old, but there was a serious amount of proud father syndrome on display. This gentleman wanted the whole world to see how proud a father he was. So they posed and I took a photo. Alas, the white balance isn’t perfect.

As an added bonus, the father decided that he would pose for the photograph with a cigarette in his mouth.

Of course, this gentleman had no idea how many western taboos he was breaking. If he had, I am sure he would have thought we were all idiots. Quite accurately.

15 comments to Why have we come here?

  • indeed. In fact, it is heartening to see that there is still some sanity left in this crazy world, especially in a place where insanity has taken such a toll in the past.

    The kid is adorable, and looks very much like his dad. I do hope that he does not take up smoking though, all of the above notwithstanding:-)

  • marc in calgary

    We’ve come so far.. other people deciding what we teach our children, where we smoke, what we can sell in a general goods store.

    oh, those stairs leading into the shop, they’re not to building code here, the rise has to be at least 6 or 7 inches and they’re not nearly deep (front to back) enough either.

    probably best to just close the doors until that danger can be rectified. and the wheelchair access? where is it?
    ect…

  • Sunfish

    Marc in Canuckistan raises good points. Are those helmets certified by either DOT or the Snell Foundation?

    And I’d need to see the cash register tapes to make sure that he’s been properly accounting for sales tax collected.

    Cute kid, though.

  • lucklucky

    Perfect.

  • Tedd

    Are those helmets certified by either DOT or the Snell Foundation?

    At the risk of seeming pedantic, I’d like to point out that the Snell foundation is a voluntary, free-market solution to the problem of motor sport head injuries, and I’m definitely in favour of it. Legally mandating Snell-approved helmets is something else altogether, of course. But Snell itself is a good idea.

    It’s also a good example to use when trying to explain why government regulations aren’t necessary, as are other voluntary, free-market regulatory agencies, such as the SAE. They’re good examples because they’re familiar to many people and so successful that we almost forget they exist.

  • RRS

    M J –

    “….me photgraphing …..” Really?

  • David Gillies

    Hue. Interesting place. One of the locales they got approximately right in Full Metal Jacket. One of those places where you got to experience what happened when the contents of your husband’s head was not full of Leftist nonsense, and when your captors considered that was a bad thing. It meant you got to see in detail what your husband’s head actually had been full of when a 7.62×39 to the skull made his face blow up and all his brains fly across the room. And then they killed your children in front of you, and then, maybe, if they were merciful, they killed you.

  • John B

    David. Indeed. We forget all too quickly.
    The awful cost of the arrogant social engineering of our time.
    Or the cost of the elite pursuing its goals to control?
    I have read, and I agree, that the problems of this world arise out of our desire to control.
    Not that control is necessarily bad, but the desire to control. To tell other people what they should think and do.

  • llamas

    Sunfish wrote:

    ‘ . . . .And I’d need to see the cash register tapes to make sure that he’s been properly accounting for sales tax collected.”

    . . . because we all know that the cash register keeps a true and complete record of all transactions and is a reliable audit trail for sales tax purposes.

    From my limited forays into similar places, I would guess that this guy may smoke like a chimney, he may not have an iPad or a CPA to do his taxes, but I’ll wager that he can make a cheap Japanese cash register tell any story he wants it to tell.

    I’ve got a man in China right now (I’ve never been) and he went shopping on the weekend with a native Chinese speaker to assist. He advised that even in large stores in big cities, there’s at least a half-a-dozen prices for any item – the round-eye price, the local price, the credit-card price, the price in yuan, the price and greenback and the price we tell the Gummint.

    Earthy, sleazy, down-and-dirty capitalism – you gotta love it! and, like the grass that pops through the blacktop, the more the Gummint tries to regulate it, the more it finds a way.

    Vote, dammit, Vote! Vote for the idiot, vote for the loser, vote for the hopeless idealist, vote for wheover you like, but Vote.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Laird

    “Vote, dammit, Vote! Vote for the idiot, vote for the loser, vote for the hopeless idealist, vote for wheover you like, but Vote.”

    Sorry, llamas, but I hate that meme. If you’re going to vote in favor of more government, or because you always vote the straight party ticket, or simply because you think you should but you can’t be bothered to education yourself on the candidates or issues, do us all a favor and stay home.

    “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – H. L. Mencken

  • llamas

    Laird wrote:

    ‘Sorry, llamas, but I hate that meme. If you’re going to vote in favor of more government, or because you always vote the straight party ticket, or simply because you think you should but you can’t be bothered to education yourself on the candidates or issues, do us all a favor and stay home.’

    In other words, unless you vote, the way Laird thinks you should vote, don’t vote at all.

    HLM also famously defined an election as ‘an advance auction of stolen property’, and one of the filthy, earthy joys of high-participation democracy (like high-participation capitalism) is that if you just get enough people to participate – even the dumb ones, or the under-informed ones, or the idealists, or whatever – it generally muddies the waters enough that no one faction can gain an unhealthy ascendancy.

    In other words, it limits or even reduces the amount of stolen goods. What the US desperately needs right now is a mass of confusion in the legislature. The worst thing in the world would be if the McCain/RINO wing of the Stupid Party were to convincingly recapture the House and Senate, and promptly start a regime of Obama Lite – the current Democratic polcies, only with warm Vaseline.

    Our best chance of getting to that required state of primal confusion is if as many people as possible vote – even the ones who think differently than we.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Laird

    “In other words, unless you vote, the way Laird thinks you should vote, don’t vote at all.”

    Absolutely. You got a problem with that? :-)

    More seriously, though, my objection is not to people voting differently than me, but to people voting merely to have voted. People who can’t be bothered to think about what they’re doing, and who vote simply because someone (like llamas!) told them they have some sort of “obligation” to “democracy” to do so. And that’s total bullsh**. If you can’t be bothered to educate yourself on the people and the issues, you don’t deserve a vote. Stay home, and let those of us who actually care about the outcome decide the election. Because the sad fact is that, given our two-party hegemony, it’s simply not true that even with mass participation by dolts “no one faction can gain an unhealthy ascendancy.” It can, and it does, as we’ve seen all too often. Because the dolts tend to vote for whoever promises them the most bread and circuses.

    Since we’re trading quotations here, how about this one: “The greatest fallacy of democracy is that everyone’s opinion is worth the same.” — Robert A. Heinlein

  • Because the sad fact is that, given our two-party hegemony, it’s simply not true that even with mass participation by dolts “no one faction can gain an unhealthy ascendancy.”

    But Laird, what mass participation are you talking about? The majority don’t bother to vote, at least not until now (what happens today remains to be seen). I think that Llamas has a point, at least as far as this current election is concerned. I could be wrong.

  • llamas

    But the true dolts will not vote anyway.

    Virtually everyone who makes it to the polls, however disinterestedly, has some issues on which they base their vote. I don’t know whether you are in the US but the barrage of political advertisements everywhere you look and listen is impossible to ignore. The number of people with no opinion at all about any political matter that they could express in the form of a vote today is actually remarkably small.

    Are there those who will vote on a very narrow range of issues, maybe just one issue? Sure – quite a few voters are that way, I bet. But their opinions are no less valid just because they don’t have too many of them

    Are there those who will vote strictly based upon their own ideas of their self-interest? panem et circenses? Well, of course – that is how we all mostly vote, if we but had the courage to admit it.

    Are there those who will vote for the candidate whose appearance they prefer? Well, that’s how we got the current President, isn’t it?

    What I said was that no one faction should gain an unhealthy ascendancy, by which I mean an excessive majority in either house. One way to keep that from happening is to encourage all the less-likely voters to go to the polls – those with strong opinions will be there already and I don’t want either one of the major factions to have a dangerous excess of power – the Evils or the Stupids. Plenty of voters with all sorts of diverse motivations means plenty of dilution of power. Hopefully, all parties will be rendered unable to do anything of major impact and the country can get back to the mildly right-centre direction that ensures success and prosperity, unhindered by the tender attention of politicians with the power to enforce their personal vision on the rest of us.

    A messy and uncertain outcome, if you please. It will be bad for the tlaking heads and the TV netowrks that want so badly to have a definitive result. But it will be very good for the rest of us.

    Republican sweep looks very likely in Michigan- truly, the stars are moved in their courses. Thank heaven, no more Democratic governor, and the stranglehold of Detroit on MI politics looks like it may be broken at last.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Laird

    Alisa, the “mass participation” I was talking about was hypothetical, in reference to llamas’ plea to “get enough people to participate – even the dumb ones, or the under-informed ones, or the idealists, or whatever”.

    And llamas, you’re still held in thrall by the “pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance”. The Evils and the Stupids will cancel each other out, right? I guess I’m just not as sanguine about that as you are. I’d rather they all just stay home, and I certainly won’t be encouraging them. But then, I’m no great fan of unfettered democracy. The real solution, of course, is to substantially reduce the power of government, but I don’t need to tell you that.

    Incidentally, I live in South Carolina, proud sponsor of both Jim DeMint and Lindsay Graham. Go figure.