The ubiquitous HCM

Vietnam lacks a royal family. As a proudly socialist republic is egalitarian enough to understand the folly of royals and their assorted paraphenalia. Thailand and Cambodia make portraits of their king unavoidable in a stroll around the main street, and the respective monarchs seem to have a calming influence on a hectic population. Indeed, the royals seem to be social gelatine, holding together otherwise disperate ethic and social groups with a common identity and figure of admiration.

In the absense of royalty, however, Vietnam has created its own. Ho Chi Minh is unavoidable on the streets of Vietnam, with his face of wisdom peering out over restaurants, cafes and government buildings, whilst his statue liberally dots boulevards and intersections. HCM is Vietnam, and Vietnam ceases to exist as it is without HCM.

Politically, HCM represents the father of the nation and its socialist ideology. His role, however, is much greater, in that he acts as a unifying force, much in the same way as the royals of Vietnam's neighbours. The myth of HCM seems to be much more pervasive than the reality, which sees HCM as yet another failed socialist from an era and a region which produced plenty of them.

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