by Ha Nguyen
The parents of a 10th grade student at the Viet-Duc School have an unusual concern about their adolescent son: he appears to have no soul.
Nguyen Viet Chien said his son Bao Long rarely expressed emotion and showed little concern when his parents were involved in a serious accident.
"Last year, my leg was broken," Chien said. "I was facing many daily difficulties but when I asked Long for help, he would often refuse or only reluctantly assist me.
"My wife and I have tried to talk to him about why he is so calm and unconcerned, but he became defensive and said we should leave him alone.
"We find it really difficult to talk to him and want to help him open his soul," Chien said.
Many other parents in Long's class agreed with Chien, saying they could not understand why their children had such soulless attitudes.
Modern living has brought a raft of favourable conditions for people, particularly youngsters who have access to sophisticated technology such as the internet.
"They are often pragmatic, materialistic and individualistic," one of the parents said, adding that the children express little sympathy, sorrow or opposition to social evils.
For example, recently many students looked on with cold indifference as two female friends fought in Bac Giang Province, while the same reaction occurred when a teacher was badly beaten by his pupil in Quang Ninh.
In stead, these students showed their support and encouragement for such evil deeds.
I was on my way to the office recently, when I saw a crowd of people standing around a woman with serious head injuries after she had been hit by a motorbike. The motorbike driver had already run away.
No one made any attempt to help her until I arrived and called an ambulance.
The woman, La Thi Hong from the north-western province of Son La, survived her injuries but still suffers from serious head pains.
Hong expressed sincere thanks to me, saying she would have died if she had not been rescued in time and wondered why no one had helped her sooner.
Priest Lorenso Vu Van Trinh of the Vinh Long Diocese said in his research that the soulless phenomenon among youths was a very complicated occurrence.
There are many causes, but the main factors were young peoples' lifestyles and cursory education from their family, school and society, said the monk.
These young people lack love, affection and compassion – they do not believe in caring for others.
Psychologist Ly Thi Mai of HCM City's Centre for Consultancy of Marriage and Family Planning said a selfish outlook on life was becoming common among young people. Many pursued a lifestyle whereby the only thing that mattered was their own satisfaction and well-being, Mai added.
Meanhwhile, Trieu Hong Nhu of the Ha Noi Centre for Consultancy of Psychology believed the ailment could be caused by families, because family was a cell of society and so directly impacted on its quality.
But in many families, parents give little education to their children on how to sympathise, love, help or forgive people.
"Many parents still do not try to set an example by carrying traditional morals and lifestyles for their children to follow," Nhu said, adding that they did not teach their children how to respect themselves or others.
In addition, many parents have tried to meet all their children's demands without teaching them how to share responsibility or demonstrate concern for their relatives and friends, said Nhu.
She attributed young people's apparent soullessness to the moral decline of schools. Education used to nurture talent and virtue in students who learned to care for their community, but nowadays, a number of schools try to stuff children with knowledge while neglecting to teach them moral standards, she said.
And while there are exceptions, many teachers have becmome lazy, poor examples, teaching children bad words or beating them, said Nhu.
"Traditionally, Vietnamese students often considered their teachers to be second parents and almost of their activities would impact on students, so these soulless teachers are training students to follow in their path," she said.
Family expert Nguyen Thi Minh of the Ha Noi Centre for Consultancy of Psychology said: "There seems to be a modern crisis of belief causing young people to live these soulless existences."
Minh said to help young people become more empathetic, parents, schools and the whole of society should them to better themselves.
She said family plays an important role in helping children develop their personality. "Parents should change their teaching methods to give their children new ways of thinking. They should learn how to listen and share emotion with their children, using this to provide solid guides for their children while encouraging to help others."
Huynh Van Son, head of the HCM City Teachers University's Psychology Department, said school should not only focus on providing knowledge for students but also should place important on training them to become good people. Teachers should be a good example for their students to be followed.
As psychologist Dinh Phuong Duy of the HCM City Teachers University's Psychology Department said: "We should open classes for young people on how to behave, improve their lifestyles, love and fulfil responsibility."
According to the latest survey from Gallup International, Viet Nam ranked 13th among nations displaying the least amount of emotion after Nepal, Ukraine, Russia and Mongolia and several others. — VNS