Bertrand Russell is the philosopher I love the most, probably the thinker that most influenced my whole way of life. The title of this post is also the title of one of his best essay. It came to me while I was thinking on how to describe Vientiane state of mind. Maybe it suffice to express the whole of nothingness..
Laos is renown for this quietness that dominates life in all of it's aspects, so a capital city that incarnates this dimension is no surprise. But contradictions abound all around.
This is a Socialist country with a deep Buddhist soul. Language and culture are close to the Thai one, but the dynamism of evolution is left stranded right across the Mekong. French culture is still evident in every aspect, with baguettes, official international language, cafè on the corners, but is China that is really overtaking Vietnam as the new political wing on the country. And people are mild and gentle, yes, but capable of not forgiving the Hmong minorities 50 years after the war against America is finished. In fact still persecuting them now that are repatriated by the Thais.
But the overwhelming impression is this silent tranquillity in which life seems to happen somewhere else, hardly touching you. So strange in the heart of South East Asia, the place where everything seems to be evolving fast, everybody being on the run. Is not like the reflexive state of meditation foreseen by Russell: is more a condition of disillusioned acceptance of a condition in which your say has no relevance. More renounce then peace.
How will Laos enter our photo-journalistic project on the Mekong basin? Hard to say.. What they'll do about this fundamental component of their culture and economy will be decided by somebody else somewhere else.. So disarming..