Write a note on:
(a) What was meant by the ‘civilising mission’ of the colonisers?
(b) Huynh Phu So.
(a) The “civilising mission” of the colonisers was an imperial disguise for controlling colonies.
European powers assumed that their civilisation was the most advanced, and that it was their umanitarian concern to spread it around the world, even if this was done by force. Europeans became the self-professed carriers of light to the colonies, rejecting the latter’s inherent traditions, religions and cultures as outdated. Also, education was viewed as a “civilising” tool, but fearing retaliation, the colonisers—the French in Vietnam, the British in India, did not want to give full access to the colonised people to Western education. They were aware that Western education might instill democratic ideals and a desire for independence. Hence, the “civilising mission” was marred by double standards and sheer hypocrisy.
(b) Huynh Phu So was the founder of a nationalist movement called Hoa Hao. He performed miracles and helped the poor. His criticism against useless expenditure had a wide appeal. He also opposed the sale of child brides, gambling and the use of alcohol and opium. The French tried to suppress the movement inspired by Huynh Phu So. They declared him mad, called him the Mad Bonze, and put him in a mental asylum. But the doctor, who had to prove him mad, became his follower. Finally, he was exiled to Laos and many of his followers were sent to concentration camps.
Explain the following:
(a) Only one-third of the students in Vietnam would pass the school-leaving examinations.
Only one-third of the students in Vietnam would pass the school-leaving examinations because the French colonial administration followed a deliberate policy of failing students in their final year examinations so that they could not qualify for better-paid jobs. Only the wealthy Vietnamese could afford enrolment in these expensive schools, and to add to that, very few would pass the school-leaving examinations.
Explain the following: The French began building canals and draining lands in the Mekong delta.
The French began building canals and draining lands in the Mekong delta for increased cultivation. This was done under a garb to "civilise" Vietnam on a European model, but it was actually an economic idea meant to increase rice production and subsequent export of rice to the international market.
Explain the following: The government made the Saigon Native Girls School take back the students it had expelled.
When the French principal of the Saigon Native Girls School expelled the students protesting another student's expulsion, there was widespread remonstration. Considering the gravity of the situation, the government decided to control the intensity of the protests by providing an outlet-making the school take back the students.
Explain the following: Rats were most common in the modern, newly built areas of Hanoi.
Rats were most common in the modern, newly built areas of Hanoi because the modern and apparently hygienic sewage system provided ideal breeding grounds for rodents apart from being a good transport system as well, for the rats. Sewage from the old city was drained out into the river or overflowed in the streets during heavy rains. The large sewers now became a protected breeding and living space for rats. Hanoi, despite its "modernity", became the chief cause of the plague in 1903.