Pig-chopping festival: Vietnamese need to have opinions on culture

VietNamNet Bridge - The Vietnamese people should have strong views on cultural issues of the country because they are an integral part of their culture.

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The debate around the pig-chopping festival in Bac Ninh is not new. In fact, this type of problem has been discussed many times in the media in recent years. Differences in culture always lead to controversy.

However, it is interesting that our cultural issues always become the subject of controversy when “outsiders” raise their voice; for example, when some French tourists threatened to boycott Vietnam because Vietnamese people eat dog meat or when Animals Asia proposed abandoning the pig-chopping festival.

Cultural frontier

nem thuong, pig-chopping festival

There are many different concepts of culture. For the simplest meaning, culture contains physical and spiritual aspects created by humans to serve humans.

People, as a cultural entity, always try to conquer and renovate nature. However, due to differences in anthropology, geography, climate and other factors, there are differences among countries and regions in this process. This is a key point to make about cultural diversity. Also, in a large culture (popular culture) there is the existence of subcultures (folklore).

The trend of globalization has helped countries in the world to be closer. In a flat world, people can talk to each other with one language or make transactions with a unified currency, and geographical borders are no longer a hindrance.

But there is still the cultural border. On the positive side, this helps prevent assimilation and a faded cultural identity of each country. However, cultural differences are a source of controversy and conflict, originating from culture shock when an individual or an organization witnesses and experiences a product/culture with different values from their own.

The "prickliness" of the Vietnamese?   

There is a noteworthy point that the two issues of culture – the pig-chopping festival and eating dog meat - became a hot topic and attracted the interest of the public when foreigners raised their voices.

In 2013 articles about several French tourists who threatened to boycott Vietnam because Vietnamese people eat dog meat created heated debate.

The French tourists could not convince dog-meat “fans” to abandon their favorite dishes. However, in some way, these tourists made a number of Vietnamese people rethink their eating dog.

Similarly, Animals Asia’s consideration of the pig-chopping festival in Vietnam and the most brutal festivals in the world have again stirred up the public.

Our concern and respect of opinions on Vietnam’s culture from foreign individuals and organizations is good, but the position on that opinion is another story.

We also need to ask ourselves why "internal" opinions and views can not be a powerful motivator?

Respect for cultural subjects

Returning to the pig-chopping festival, it is said that the traditional values of this festival belongs to the subculture of the people of Nem Thuong Village so it should be looked upon with caution when compared to the cultural values of the popular culture. It is unsuitable to impose your culture when you perceive and judge a different culture because it will create the "oppression" of cultures.

Moreover, Nem Thuong people, the subject of the festival have voiced their desire to continue the tradition, to bring good luck and fortune for everyone in the New Year. Thus, is it reasonable when we, the outsiders, who live in a different culture condemn and prohibit the festival?

Ultimately, culture is about the physical and spiritual values created by people to serve people in a given social context. Therefore, cultural values that do not fit with the current social context will be eliminated.

However, this process must be carried out by the entity that created the culture. The intrusive prohibition into culture will disable the culture, and the poor and the community living in that culture would have to tolerate the disadvantages.

The process of resolving differences of culture should be conducted in a manner that respects the differences between the two sides.

It’s time for Vietnamese to have strong political views on the issues of culture of their country and their communities, because we are the subjects who take part in them. As long as we feel uncomfortable and prickly because of comments of an individual or an organization that comes from different cultures, it is a sign of a weak internal culture, which is prone to erosion by outside cultures.

Huu Tri

nem thuong, pig-chopping festival