Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader, who played the most important role in leading and inspiring Vietnamese civilians to fight for an united Vietnam, once said: “Our resistance will be long and painful, but whatever the sacrifices, however long the struggle, we shall fight to the end, until Vietnam is fully independent and reunified. ” One might wonder about the strength and endurance from such a small and insignificant nation as Vietnam.
Undergoing 1000 years of Chinese dominance, 80 years of French colonization and 20 years of division with a second Vietnam created in the South and supported by the US, since the US wanted to control the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia . The answer lies in the ideas about the rise of nationalism and national consciousness, in addition to the question arises “Why people were ready to die for their nation?
Benedict Anderson’s theory about nationalism in Imagined Community is significant in understanding the process of forming and reinforcing a nation’s identity, which had reflected solidly in the reunification of Vietnam and other relevant events throughout its history. The definition of a nation In order to understand the deep root underlying the concept of love and sacrificing for the nation, it is important to fathom the idea of “nation”. In his book Imagines Communities, Anderson tried to offer “some tentative suggestions” to the abstract concept of “nation, nationality, and nationalism.
Nation, according to Anderson, is defined as “an imagined political community […] both inherently limited and sovereign. ” A nation is imagined because all members cannot know about the existence of each other, but there is still something that connects their minds and souls together. Take Vietnam, for example. Vietnam, 1000 years ago was a small and insignificant country. It was the anthem that they sung before every match or to begin a week at school (it is happening happens in Vietnam today that K-12 students in Vietnam sing the national anthem together before going to classes) that made Vietnamese civilians feel proud and belonged.
It was also the language – the most secret and effective way of communicating in a community that connected the people verbally. As Anderson has claimed, there are three characteristics that describe a nation: “limited, sovereign and community” . Vietnam also exemplifies well how these three characteristics applied to a practical example. Vietnam, a country of 331,688 square kilometers by 1985 , is limited to its own land and territorial water. Geographically, Vietnam shares its borders with Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and China.
Even the country that shares 20% of the world population like China , or the one that makes up only 1. 27% of the world population like Vietnam , are both limited in a sense that a nation, no matter its size and population, cannot encompass all mankind. Vietnam also epitomizes the second characteristic that defined a nation: sovereignty. Having 1000 years under Chinese dominance and assimilation, Vietnam managed well to keep emerging and forming its national identity despite Chinese influence, and declaring its sovereignty.
The notion had developed very soon among civilians after each successful fight. There is a famous Vietnamese poem that illuminates this idea very well. Nam qu? c son ha (Mountains and Rivers of the Southern Country) was written during the 10th century, and considered as “Vietnamese’s First declaration of Independence”. Even though under the Chinese ruling government, the passion for independence and the patriotism for a peaceful country had always remained in every civilian’s heart and soul. The Emperor of the South rules over the rivers and mountains of the southern country.
This destiny has been indelibly registered in the Celestial Book. How dare you, rebellious salves, come violate it? You shall undoubtedly witness your own and complete defeat. The passion was also the essence for the success later on when Vietnam went on to gain independence from powerful countries such as France, Japan, and the United States. The last characteristic and also the most important that direct us to the answer to the question raised at the beginning of the essay “Why people were ready to sacrifice for their nation? ” is the notion of brotherhood in a community.
North Vietnam gained dependence in 1954 after the Geneva Accords, while South Vietnam was building a new country called Republic of Vietnam with significant U. S. involvement . The feeling of reunification, with an imagined community was the impetus that urged thousands of troops from the North to fight for a unified Vietnam. The North Vietnamese didn’t know all of the South Vietnamese, but always in their hearts, and minds, existed that familiar feelings of family, of reunification with their own brothers – their fresh and blood.
Therefore, the troops from the North weren’t scrupulous at all to come to the South for their brothers. As we basically have talked about What is a nation? , it is remarkable to note that these definitions by Anderson are extremely relevant and important, and therefore will be mentioned throughout the essay in order to integrating and evaluating the process of defining a country (Vietnam) and having its own identity as a nation, with regard to its most important event in Vietnam’s history – the reunification. The importance of print language as a medium of communication
As stated previously, language is one of the three characteristics that give people the sense of community and the feeling of being connected, even in their hearts and souls. According to Anderson, “print had changed the appearance and state of the world” . Therefore, it’s worth going back to the history of print-capitalism to understand how this concept had contributed to the rise of national consciousness. For the first time, literature was available to everyone in the society. In Germany, in the two decades 1520-1540, there were three times as many books were published in German as in the period 1500-1520 .
Taking advantage of “cheap popular editions”, mass readership quickly became a movement back then, which had laid the bases for national consciousness in three different ways: creating “unified fields of exchange and communication”, helping to “build the image central to the idea of the nation” and creating the “language of power”, which was totally different from the older administrative vernaculars. Soon after realizing the importance of literacy in strengthening the national consciousness, Ho Chi Minh and his party ran a literacy campaign with mainly focused on mass education.
By 1945, 90 to 95 percent of the Vietnamese population was illiterate. Many literacy classes were established with such slogans “Each mass education class is a propaganda cell for the resistance” and “Each mass education teacher is a member of the resistance’s propaganda committee. ” The civilians were taught with new vocabulary about the news and the soldiers, the support for them, the victories at different locations. “Whenever the mass education movement was strong, the resistance’s propaganda work was also pushed further.
The example has illustrated how language, and especial print-capitalism aroused patriotism and solidarity in every person. People in the country have their own way of communicating through their personal and secret language. People started to know more about others in their society also because of prints, and language. If there were in Vietnam who didn’t know about the war ongoing in the South Vietnam, they could easily read news and listen to the radio. That was how they were all connected, how they fighted for one common cause – all through language, their special medium of communication.
Patriotism is natural Having looked at different aspects to find an answer to the question at the beginning, now we can directly find out that answer. Why people are ready to die for their nation? It is love for their nation that comes with self-sacrificing, patriotism and solidarity. There is something that one cannot choose about skin-color, gender, birth era, as well as nationality. As Anderson suggested, when those qualities cannot be chosen, they have with them “a halo of disinterestness” – which is a candid attitude.
Their love for the nation is an instinct, tangibility, somewhat similar to the way people love their own fresh and blood. Where people are born determined patriotism, and therefore there is a close tie between the person and the nation, like the two soul mates are connected. Hadn’t it been for the self-sacrifice that each person had towards their community, 666,000 Vietnamese troops and 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians would never be ready to die to build a peaceful society for their imagined brothers in the South, whom they had never met.