Trust, Robbery and Development

By , 27 March 2010

Trust, Robbery and Development

I arrived in Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City on Monday. It's now Friday, so that means I have been robbed twice in less than a week. Earlier this week about AUD 80 mysteriously went missing from my wallet, and tonight I was robbed on the way home from the grocery store by a motorbike rider. At least the second time round I had learnt my lesson about carrying money, so I only lost about AUD 10. In fact, it was almost worth the money just for the thrill of trying to chase him down and getting cheered on by the locals. But despite all that triathlon training I still can't chase down a motorbike in busy traffic. Sheesh.

Being robbed is helping me understand Vietnam. I came here to try to figure out why the GDP is so low, when all of my Vietnamese friends are so smart and proactive. Online forums offer a few suggestions: the government misreport GDP; it is calculated wrongly; citizens do not report their earnings, etc etc. What I'm discovering is that Vietnamese people definitely ARE smart and proactive. The missing ingredient seems to be large scale cooperation.

Trust, Robbery and Development

The key requisite for cooperation would have to be trust. So while trust here may be high in small groups or families, it would seem that it is quite low amongst the general public. As a foreigner I've quickly developed a habit of questioning the motives of nearly everyone I interact with. It's uncomfortable.

Where does trust come from? How can you build trust? I'd like to say Europe and Japan's long history of war has (un)naturally selected cooperative and trust-capable people, but Vietnam has had it's share of wars too. Is trust a trickle down effect from people in power? Do you trust your leaders? Or would you say trust arises between citizens when there is no reason for distrust (for example, due to poverty-motivated theft). If that is the case, you have a bit of a catch-22 situation.

Blogging always confuses me.

About Roger Keays

Trust, Robbery and Development

Roger Keays is an artist, an engineer, and a student of life. He has no fixed address and has left footprints on 40-something different countries around the world. Roger is addicted to surfing. His other interests are music, psychology, languages, the proper use of semicolons, and finding good food.

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