No, the late American comedian George Carlin never talked about Vietnamese history, as far as I know, but I wish he had.

Today I got distracted (it happens a lot) and started to watch George Carlin videos on YouTube. George Carlin was a brilliant comedian, and what made him so funny was that he pointed out that there are countless things that people say every day that are just completely illogical.

The above video about national pride is a perfect example.

Related to that video, and this is where we get to Vietnamese history, there are many things that people say about countries and history that are also illogical.

I recently read somewhere something to the effect that “the Vietnamese have thousands of years of experience in dealing with the Chinese.” I’ve also seen and heard people say things like “the Vietnamese have lived with the Chinese for centuries and therefore they know how to cope with them” or “The Vietnamese endured a thousand years of Chinese rule, and therefore they know. . .”

None of these are direct quotes, but I think I will start compiling a list of every example I come across of statements like these, because over the years I’ve read and heard people make this kind of point countless times.

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And this is why I wish George Carlin had been an historian, because he would have responded to these statements by saying something like this (quoted from another George Carlin video):

“If people want to believe this kind of stuff, it’s fine with me. Let them believe it. I don’t want to disabuse anyone of their beliefs, BUT. . . I have a question about this, a question that involves. . . LOGIC!”

Yes, how do such statements make any logical sense?

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How can “experience” or “knowledge” get passed down through entire collectives of peoples (I don’t want to use the word “nation” because that’s a modern concept) over a time period of several centuries?

How exactly does that happen? How can it even be possible?

Do Americans have “experience” or “knowledge” from people who lived in the generations before them? Do they know “how to deal with the British” because more than 200 years ago some people who were very different from the diverse population of America today and who lived in conditions very different from the present “fought off” the British?

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Do Americans today know “how to get involved militarily in Asian countries” because Americans have been doing this since the US conquest of the Philippines in the early twentieth century?

Hmmmm. . .

So how is it that “the Vietnamese” have some kind of “knowledge” or “experience” that enables them to “deal” or “cope” with “the Chinese”?

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In the end, I think that there is a serious answer to all of these questions. There is no experience or knowledge that is passed down through collectives of peoples. That people today make such statements about Vietnam and the Vietnamese is due to a simple and recent reason.

It is because in the second half of the twentieth century, in the midst of war, an idea that the Vietnamese are a unique group of people who have united together and fought off the Chinese for centuries took hold. This idea served the interests of Vietnamese who wanted people to fight, and Americans who opposed the war.

As George Carlin repeatedly pointed out, there are many things that people say that are not logical. This is probably particularly the case for ideas that emerge during times of war.