During my two months in Ea Kly, I have not seen anyone read a book or even a newspaper. TV watching is not compulsive, and canned music is not a pervasive, nearly nonstop pollution, as it is in much of the world. No one here is rigged to a mind scrambling headphone. Though FaceBook has made inroads, it hasn’t become a serious addiction. With life much less mediated, people derive their knowledge of the world from direct experiences. In Ea Kly, birds twitter, not men. Here, many people raise chickens, ducks, pigs, goats and/or cows, so they still know how to slit a throat, gut an animal.
Though a hundred pound Ea Kly woman can lift her weight, down shots of rice wine and tell an asshole to fuck his own mom, she will also cook heartwarming meals for her husband, children and guests, then do the dishes afterwards. Men have other duties.
Though it took Cúc a decade to build his house, he stuck with it, doing all the brick pointing, cement mixing, plastering and painting himself. As a young man, he shot to kill at some of his current neighbors. Taking me through three Rade villages, Cúc greeted everyone. “I know them all, have worked with them all. I can stop into just about any house, at any time, and be invited for lunch.”
The Rade waved and laughed back at him. At a barebone, dusty store, we had a round of Saigon beer with several of his Rade buddies.
Should war come, these men will fight, against each other if necessary, and not online either. They retain a healthy, measured dose of masculinity. Balls matter. Though notorious for their fierceness and bravery, Rade were grossly outnumbered by Vietnamese, so had to yield. For their part, Viets don’t go on about historical injustices they have suffered, for it’s only natural that everyone leverages his power, whether he’s black, white, Chinese, American or Jewish.
Even if this wasn’t coffee country, there would be cafes all over, like the rest of Vietnam. At Mr. Trang’s, Ngo Quang Truong’s name came up, which gladdened me, for this general on the losing side was still remembered with admiration nearly half a century later. In the US, Truong opened a modest restaurant in Northern Virginia, but it didn’t do too well, for many Vietnamese were embarrassed to be served by a man they held in awe.
At Mr. Trang’s, the men also talked of a Rade leader who had fought ferociously, and was only killed when he was trapped in a cemetery. “He couldn’t be killed with bullets, you know, because he had on this vest. He had to be shot in the head. We sent in an assassin. A guy volunteered.”
Land eaten away, the Rade could only retaliate with isolated acts of revenge, as when they shot a Viet former foe and strung him up. “They dared us to come cut him down. We knew it was a trap, so it took us a while.” Those days are gone. Now, Rade kids go to schools to learn the Vietnamese language and history. Trading with Viets, some Rade have gotten rich. Even herding cows, some are fashionably dressed in baseball caps and hoodies. Tearing down their long houses on stilts, they erect brick and concrete ones. Poor Viets grumble that Rade get housing and educational subsidies. “They’ve gotten smarter too. We used to con them. Now, they con us!”
A middle-aged Viet praises, “Rade never steal, and they never turn on a friend, not even a Vietnamese one! If you can speak their language, even a bit, then they’ll really love you.”
Viets prefer Rade raised chickens since they’re healthier and tastier. Knowing this, some Rade now buy chickens from Vietnamese, to resell to other Vietnamese at a healthy mark up.
At a Viet house the other day, I had chicken that was so tough, it’s a miracle my poorly maintained teeth didn’t all tumble out. It was still a lovely lunch, however, for I was with the sweetest people, nearly all of whom work at our plastic recycling plant.
The home owner, Liên, grew coffee, raised ducks and chickens, and had tilapia in a tiny pond. Though delicious, eels can’t be domesticated, for they’ll just burrow their ways out. In her neighbors’ rice fields, I could see the bright red clumps of snail eggs. In the distance, lanky herons flew.
Full, I claimed the hammock to doze off, as the chattering, laughing women went to sit under a tree, by the pond. Coming to, I had no idea where I was for a few seconds, then realized I was home, so to speak.
Upon leaving, I jested, “Now that I know where you live, sister Liên, I’ll come by often, at any time, even uninvited.”
I’ve only lived in a place this small once before, in Certaldo, Italy, population 16,000, and though I was clearly an outsider, those two years were the happiest of my life, for I felt grounded and was sucked into the community. Not everyone wants that. This week in Ea Kly, there was a neighborhood dinner, to which each household contributed $10.78, though many gave more, to pay for extra beer. If you were a prick during the year, however, you would be excluded from this get together. These year-end dinners are common in Vietnam, especially in rural areas.
The men, women and kids sat at separate tables, though holding a baby and a beer, a woman came over to toast us. We ate roast pork, boiled chicken and fried spring rolls. An already drunk man leaned over, “You always eat at my mother’s banh mi place. You like to take pictures of beautiful things, I know.”
A cafe owner whispered in my ear, “Don’t let him bother you. He’s always talking nonsense.”
A man with a squarish face, like mine, asked, “Are you Chinese?”
“No, no, Vietnamese!”
“I am Chinese.”
“Where are you from?”
“Lang Son,” a province bordering China, “but I was born here in Dak Lak.” When Vietnamese speak of home, they often mean where their ancestors are from.
The gas station owner sought me out, “You lived in America, I know. I haven’t been there, but I’ve traveled a bit in Asia. We like to drink more than they do. In Indonesia and Malaysia, they hardly drink.”
“But even in Thailand, they’d only drink a couple of beers, and that’s enough, and they don’t get loud, like we do. In Cambodia, they drink like us, and in China too.”
“I’ve never been to China.”
“You know, their cities there are very impressive, but their rural areas are hardly better than ours. If they’re ten, we’re nine!”
We had to shout to be heard over the karaoke singing. The drunk man was dancing alone. Those who think that group behaviors have no roots in genetics should watch, just for a minute, a typical Vietnamese dancing. He’s thinking too much and can’t let himself go. Instead of freeing his legs or pelvis, he’s wrestling with his brain. Under incredible stress, the Oriental face often becomes impassive, but it’s not because he has no emotions, as often interpreted by whites, but because he has lots of self-control, at times too much. An overabundance of spontaneity, though, can get you jailed.
Though my neighbors have come from many places, they’re bonding here, for it’s only natural, and pleasant to them, to do so. As one explains, “To be neighborly is the Vietnamese way. You come to me, I come to you, we’re here for each other.” It’s also the traditional way, everywhere, though many have come to consider this arrangement confining or insufferable.
A table for one, please, and a bedroom, bathroom, karaoke parlor, bowling alley and football stadium for one, too. Shunning all that’s nearest to me, I just want to be constantly plugged to my social programming. From cradle to grave, I need to be socially engineered nonstop, like all of my Republican, Democratic or Antifa friends.
Speaking of cultural collapse, Dmitry Orlov points out that if random folks, thrown together in public, don’t converse spontaneously but become aloof and fearful, and if children fear strangers instead of seeing them as surrogate family, and if people can’t maintain a soft, gracious or respectful tone when conversing, but are loud, shrill, rude, foul mouthed and “fly into a rage at the slightest provocation,” then that culture is pretty much fucked. Sounds familiar?
Those born into Asshola may balk, “How can it be otherwise? It’s all good.” I’m old enough to remember when the goofy Gong Show was the rudest program on American television, so the USA hasn’t always been this toxic, and there are many other ways to exist.
In The World, The World, Norman Lewis describes being taken by a Burmese into his parents’ rural home, where all six inhabitants slept on one bed. Lewis was given his own camp bed in a separate room, however, but “it was a solution the dear old mother completely failed to understand and she complained at length at the family’s affront to good manners, and the decadence of the times.” The father also got Lewis some moonshine. “The drinking of alcohol came close to a deadly sin in such an environment, but the old man trudged down to the nearest stall-owner’s house and came back with a pint of country spirits. ‘For your friend, who has now become my son,’ he said to Tin Maung, handing it over.”
The main aim of modernism was to wrench you from your context, as in family, village and nation, and with those mostly accomplished, postmodernism’s purpose is to divorce you from yourself even, so as you wake up with another boner staring up wistfully at your stubble, you can forlornly squeak in your freshly minted genderfluid voice, “I wish I could be a side of beef in a white bandage dress, just like Caitlyn Jenner.”
The centuries-long war against reality began as a campaign against the lower body, where nature is most frank, gaping and unruly, but as the browbeaten masses are gang pressed into an increasingly antiseptic, hypocritical and unreal universe, perverts lowjack the farting, fornicating and cuddly lower body. This colonization must be reversed.
The war against reality and nature has also targeted rural places, for they are most resistant to progress, as implemented, sometimes most violently, by a centralized and distant power. Just think of all those peasants whose lives were utterly destroyed by cosmopolitan Marxist zealots, yet this zeal persists, for it’s sustained by new generations of rootless hypocrites.
If a saner world is to be recovered, it will be built on the foundation of places like Certaldo and Ea Kly. Here, men haven’t gotten the latest global bulletin about the obsolescence of race, borders, nation or gender assignment at birth. “What the crippled cunt are you talking about?” they would snap, these deplorable, salt of the earth hicks.
It is, again, dawn, and I’m at the corner cafe, hunched over, bouncing my legs and rubbing my arms, like the rest of them, with only my hand warm, palming a cup of tea. Jovial as usual, the owner shouts at an arriving regular, “We’re out of coffee!”
When an old man shows up on a bike that belongs in a First World junk yard, she laughingly yells, “You can park that here, and if you lose it, you won’t have to ride it again!”
Several of my table mates have been here since about three to offer rides to bus passengers, coming home for Tet. As a thin one with short hair disembarks, a man asks the rest of us, “Is that a boy or a girl?” He doesn’t know how to address hir to make his pitch.
“You can’t always tell these days,” I conclude without judgement, as the stick figure trudges down the dusty road, pulling, with much effort, hirs luggage.