28 Apr 2010

And Then There Was A Little History Gem…..

In the early 1990’s I was working in Vietnam. Our main office, located in Saigon, would send us a selection of newspapers whenever they could. There was a local Party clip board person in the mail room, with a big marker looking pen, who’s sole purpose was to check ‘em all out first to ensure we didn’t get anything ‘Off Message’.

The item below is a snippet I cut out of a paper, the Herald Tribune I believe, and saved and re-discovered while going through some more old stuff recently. A little gem.

Free Speech


If we go every further back in time… no, further… further yet…… you were only how old? Fuuurrrrther…….. you weren’t born? Oh dear. Those that can, keep going further back some more a little bit yet some. WHAT? Even your mum wasn’t born? Oh, come ON. For crying out loud, is ANYBODY with me??

OK, It’s you and me then and it’s about 1964’ish. At this time I did a spell as a young lad, I’ll say that bit again – as a YOUNG lad, in Murmansk, Northern Russia, and also Rostock, East Germany as was. This, as you will have picked up from the date, was well back in their day.

I do remember how gray everything was although the people seemed happy enough. Were they smiling? Or were they just breaking wind owing to the diet. Boiled cabbage will do that to you.

What I do remember was the control, the complete control; people in uniform all over the place, some with clip boards, all with guns. You could be stopped at any time and asked for your papers. You could be stopped at any time and searched. They could throw you in gaol on a whim. You had to be veeerry careful taking photographs and what you were taking photos of. Funny one that, because they were photographing and filming you all the time, everywhere. You also had to be careful what you said and who you said what to.

You know what was hard to believe? What was hard to believe was the way school kids were indoctrinated with the Party line by their own teachers no less. The very people parents trusted with their kids for hours and hours every day.

And the way neighbour was encouraged to spy on neighbour, the kids taught to spy on the grown ups, even their own parents!! I mean, how scary is THAT?

I’m sure most, if not all of those old totalitarian controls have been swept away by now, but at the time it did make you glad you lived in Engla…. waaaaiit a minute, let me think about that………… Haaaaayy, WHAT’S GOING ON HERE???

Quote; Frank Zappa.

“Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yo Fogs,

I was up offshore that Sakhalin place a year or so ago and the spirit of the USSR lives on in Russia's Far East. "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us" is still a major part of the mindset.

Nice people, but the culture shock is profound when poor, harried multi-tasked-to-death Western oilfield workers bump up against the Socialist Workers paradise model of 100% employment, which is achieved by subdividing every task until everyone is working.

Crewchange was by boat (a tale in itself), but we were assigned an HLO who did nothing else but attend the 4 helicopters that visited over the 6 month campaign. One man monitored air quality, another kept records on sea temperature and such. There were even two Company men...

Two border guards maintained a presence on board for the whole campaign. They would check my passport and visa details when I arrived on board (after just being checked by the border guard on the supply boat)...and check them again 28 days later when I left.

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones." - John Cage