by Anh Thu
Richer, but not happier
There is a lot of evidence that increasing prosperity in the nation's urban areas has not been accompanied by an increased sense of well-being.
The increase in violent crimes in all major cities, worker exploitation, noise pollution, air pollution, water pollution and other forms of environmental degradation are all pointers to the fact that things are not hunky dory.
But one of the most telling symptoms of an unhappy society is the high rate of divorce that is prevalent today, and there is no sign that this trend will be reversed.
That this is happening at a time when both men and women are working harder than ever for their families shows that there are many other factors coming into play, including the stressful environments at workplaces.
Judicial officials in HCM City blame the increasing rate of divorce on disappearing traditions. Some judges have expressed the opinion that Viet Nam must work to restore family traditions and educate the youth on love, marriage and family issues.
Ten years ago, in 2002, 19,893 couples applied for divorce to courts in HCM City and more than 18,500 were successful, according to the HCM City People's Court.
Five years earlier, in 1997, just 4,415 couples applied for divorce. "We feel sad seeing people accepting divorce so easily, even though they had children, houses and careers. They show no regret…," said Judge Nguyen Minh Tri of the District 12 People's Court.
In his district, he said, 80 per cent of divorce cases succeeded. He felt increasingly busy lifestyles and adultery were main causes. "Work and study leave almost no time for them (the couples) to take care of each other. Instead, they become angry and withdrawn because of fatigue and stress," he said.
Truong Thi Hoa , a member of the Truong Hoa law firm, seconded Tri, adding, "Impatience and a lack of respect for family values can both impede reconciliation," she said.
She said that people are not sufficiently equipped with knowledge and skills in organising family life, effectively resolving arguments between spouses, parents and children, as well as friction between a wife and her husband's family and vice versa.
The saddest part, she said, is that the worst hit victims of divorce cases are children.
According to the city's Committee for Population, Family and Children (CPFC), more than 29 per cent of juvenile delinquents came from broken homes, and about 55 per cent of children caught up in divorces tend to run away from their home.
"We got richer, but less happy. My parents decided to divorce when I was seven," said 13-year-old Nguyen Thanh Tam, who ran from his home two years ago and joined a group of homeless children who often sleep under the Chu Y Bridge.
Tam lived with his mother after his parents' separation. His mother remarried when Thinh was 12. One year later his mother had a baby. He felt very alone in his own home. He felt he had nothing more to lose in his life and decided to leave home.
Both his parents gave Tam all the material comforts, but not the most important thing he really needed – love.
If contemporary trends in women's fashion had to be captured in one word, it would be: shorter. Skirts, trousers, blouses and hair - the more "modern" a woman, the shorter these adornments seem to get.
It is refreshing then, to meet with Hoang Phuong Lan, a 40-year-old farmer in the northern province of Thai Binh, who has not cut her hair since 1990.
For more than 20 years, she has taken care of her tresses lovingly, and when she lets her hair down, literally, it cascades smooth, straight and shiny for 2.25 metres.
Her busy life requires that she keeps her hair in a bun most of the time, but she is "very comfortable" with it. Her relatives pitch in to make sure her hair remains shiny and healthy. Every month, dutifully and carefully, for more than an hour, they help her wash and dry her hair.
Lan's disinterest in cutting her hair is rooted in an interesting belief and philosophical approach: "I'm in good health. I love to work and live simply. I believe my hair makes my life longer," she said.
She is justifiably proud of her hair, which has become a local attraction that draws in visitors from other localities. To no one's surprise, she has been officially recognised as the woman who has the longest and straightest hair in all of Viet Nam. — VNS