THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 594, November 7, 2010
"And you expect things to be different this time?"
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
"The stature of today of these commerce-oriented goddesses (of
Vietnam) is bound up in the societal contributions made by women who,
during the postwar years, were involved in a vast but informal economic
movement that defied and perhaps helped transform from within the
patriarchal political economic orders dominated by the state. Thus the
Goddesses are collaborators in and agents of an unrecorded history.
They represent a popular reworking and retelling of history, where
women's activity is considered socially central, where commercial
progress is highly valued, where smugglers are the epitome of
efficiency and where flight from the country is granted to the virtuous
and is rewarded by prosperity. They celebrate informal social and
economic initiatives that the government has labeled criminal, negative
and treacherous or has habitually overlooked"
You can tell a lot about a country and its culture by its ceremonies and celebrations. In some countries there is nothing but "patriotic" parades, rallies and displays of martial power. Ordered ranks of soldiers, athletes and other military hardware march before the visages of Great Leaders, past and present. Emotions are martialed to maintain the might of the state. Everyone is either part of a passive audience or a puppet on parade. But there are exceptions as celebrations and ceremonies are older than states. And these exceptions can change everything, even in Vietnam.
For ceremonies and celebrations from ancient times can survive and evolve into important movements and events large and small. People persist in the hope of grace from the Cosmos or Nature and its seasons. This is why popular and profound rituals exist. These happenings allow the survival of people during difficult times such as the calamity of a state and other disasters.
Here in America as well many of our celebrations and ceremonies also revolve around the state and its bloodletting. Here people also passively watch military parades of power and patriotism with the pop of its fireworks. More likely we go to a party or beach.
And we have celebrations that are more subversive. Here we've also borrowed from the past as well as created new events. Festivals and counter cultural events have brought about new arts and thinking as well as new ways of income. This is a promising field of study ready to pay huge dividends to those who wish to build social change.
For in former Communist lands ancient and modern celebrations and ceremonies became instruments of liberation. Pilgrimages to Pope John Paul II's appearances in Poland attracted huge crowds during the Soviet occupation. The Singing Revolution in Estonia is another example. Here 300,000 people in a country of a million drove out the Soviets by rallies where songs were used to show unity and transcendence. These lands were fortunate in that the ruling Communist government was old and ready for reform.
But what can be done in a new communist land, freshly red in the radical bloodletting of its revolution? For decades Southeast Asia had been ravaged by colonialism from the French. Then World War II came with an invasion by Japan. After they left the anti colonialist war against the French continued and the Americans divided the country. This war against America took decades to resolve. There were more bombs dropped on Vietnam than on Germany during WWII. Bombings and guerilla warfare lasted over 20 years. At war's end Communism and vengeance arrived in southern Vietnam.
Even in America the word Vietnam scarred the memory of two decades. Every family saw the war on TV and knew someone there. The war was the country's dominant issue and the cause of countless demonstrations and even rioting. It was seen as the American empire's first defeat when South Vietnam fell.
Then Vietnam was on the brink of even greater disaster. Cambodia, its neighbor, fell into an even deeper chaotic charnel pit. Pol Pot, who was a greater psychopath than most Communists, killed over 30% of the Cambodians and drove the economy and morality back to the Stone Age. Similarly, Mao in China had killed over 60 million in his regime.
Yet Vietnam drew back from that nightmare to a more liberalized economy. How did common sense with faith, tradition and just plain fun, surround Communist dogma and tame it? The answer in great part is in ceremony and celebration of people's pilgrimages to Goddesses of business. This is described in Philip Taylor's book "Goddess on the Rise" and in other works. His book has 17 pages of bibliography and was well reviewed in academia. He's written 5 books and many articles in academic magazines on Southeast Asia. He has a Ph D in anthropology and teaches Asian Studies at ANU.
Economic and political change is usually accompanied by cultural, spiritual and technological change as well. Spiritual and ceremonial change is the most transcendent and usually takes the longest to accomplish since these roots are the oldest. Changes here are profound and also affect other parts of a person's life. The sacred aspects of people's lives are the strongest, deepest and arouse wide commitment. Even if you don't have a faith yourself this area deserves serious study. What is more is that even though this is a deep matter it has ironic, commercial and popular culture aspects as well.
Now I have seen some very creative exotic, celebrations. There's Burning Man, which is described as Mad Max on acid or the most dangerous arts festival in the world. With over 30,000 in attendance and growing it becomes the 5th biggest city in Nevada. It is said that Silicon Valley closes down during its 10 day run. During this time there is more fun and creativity here than anywhere else in the world.
I've also created and sponsored Goddess events and ceremonies. I write for pagan media and have been to many ceremonies in America and abroad. I see that ceremony is the unacknowledged, under appreciated art form of our time. Art inspires amazing things as creativity is a key to spirituality and a happy life.
The same can be said as well of its flip side, celebration. These events acknowledge and aid the movements of our time. These can attract techies, visionaries, commercial types as well as well as media, arts performers and influential partygoers.
Try to comprehend this; a glorious spiritual festival that used to last two weeks and is now over 5 months! This salubrious spectacle has a sideshow alley, carnival games, roller skating, magic acts, a house of horrors, acrobatics, restaurants, cafes, shops, gambling, karaoke, opera and brothels. There is a merry go round where people sit on oversized boxes of supermarket products. It is a carnival of capitalism where Christmas lights and swirling swastikas (there a Hindu symbol) beckon you. The ceremonies go from bathing and changing the Goddess's garments in somber ceremony to spiritualist drag queens, to Vietnamese folk opera.
It also has all-singing, all-dancing and beauty drag queen contests. They sell lottery tickets as the price of admission. Among this transcendent transvestite crowd this event is the highlight of the year. They act as mediums as well, when they can get away with it.
All this happens where this religious pilgrimage to a Goddess of liberty and trade takes place. Here are also astrologers, geomancers, palm readers, mediums, joss tick readers, sorcerers, clergy and fortunetellers of all types. This is a pilgrimage where a million come in a year. This pilgrimage is a spontaneous order. As this comes from the love for a Goddess it's also a spontaneous ardor. It has been going on for many years.
Welcome to the festival of the Goddess Ba Chua Xu, known as the Lady of the Realm. They come here by bicycle, motorbike, bus and boat to one of the most remote, war-ravaged corners of the earth. This area has a long history of grass roots prophets, peasant rebellions and unorthodox religious movements. It's a wild borderland where mountains and the fertile delta come together. This is where Vietnam and Cambodia meet along the Mekong River. This area is close to a smuggling and an escape route. For Goddesses act as a cultural border marker in polity and consciousness.
For the shrine of this Goddess is on the border of the Heart of Darkness and the tropical sun We know it as the locale of the famous film set in Vietnam "Apocalypse Now" an acclaimed masterpiece about the war. It shows the upriver excursion of the US military into the headwaters of Hell searching for a renegade icon. There was no exit there then but now it is a laissez fair, a cultural counterpoint to communism. .
Don't think this as an exceptional movement. There are 75 Goddesses venerated in Vietnam. There are shrines to Gods too and ghosts, mountains, trees and even whales that are worshipped all over the land. There are other Goddesses that also attract hundreds of thousands. Some have franchise shrines in other areas of the country. People ask here at this festival for success at exams, for love, fertility but mostly success in business. This phenomenon has resulted in more freedom even for Buddhists and Catholics.
This happened under the eyes of a Leninist state that did not like this at all at first and tried to stop it. History shows these states have butchered millions who were just being religious. They are here at the shrine straining under tight police collars. They ensure that drag queens don't channel the Goddess (in front of Her for Goddess sake!). And these fortunetellers tossing their joss sticks, reading palms are considered superstitious frauds and they are under orders to stop this. The glorious defenders of the revolution and victors of the war against American imperialism are brave and watchful. They also count their money and look the other way. Fortunes and fortune-tellers change. They learned a long time ago in fable and forecast about killing geese that lay golden eggs.
The urbane academic folklorists there grimace and want to look somewhere else, as well. This pagan pilgrimage with its profound political implications was not in the books taught to them by their Communist teachers. So how can this be happening? This denial is an old ancient custom of academics everywhere. Their academic research and scientific ideology both predict one day this will die out. However they are not yet as good as the fortunetellers. So until then they write books for the tourists about what a wonderful cultural treasure Goddesses are.
The emerging elite of the corporatists copying the decadent denizens of the West say the same. This is just some superstition of uneducated, rural or petty bourgeois women hagglers. They find it interesting to see many people from Ho Chi Minh City here and 40% of attendees are. HCM City, formerly Saigon, is the cosmopolitan center of Vietnam. In fact, Vietnamese from all over the world come here to thank Her for helping them escape from Communism
A network of formerly poor women traders committed to the Goddess run this shrine and celebration. Some of them were struggling smugglers and sex workers to support their families. Many were breaking the law every day. This was a dangerous time as people went on the Long March of enterprise between the abysses of bankruptcy and concentration camps on the road to prosperity and respect.
The Chinese who were the traders in Vietnam up to the 70's were much involved in the pilgrimage as well as business. Then they were kicked out of the country for possibly being loyal to capitalism and China rather than Communism and Vietnam. Who then would take over the role of traders between city and country? Who would continue the tradition of the pilgrimage? At the time only a few thousand would do go.
But continue it did. This pilgrimage is a living shrine to the commitment and energy of the women in the informal economy. Welcome to the glory of Goddess gatherings and also the righteous return of traders and markets. For in this Communist state revolution has transpired without headlines, violence, armies or even protests. This shrine to the goddess and its pilgrimage is a monument to this miracle. This Goddess is primarily known for guiding and protecting women engaged in trade. In Vietnam this Goddess has inspired a spiritual enterprise that's grown to a million in 20 years. They have become wealthy, respected and accomplished great change against great odds. They have changed economics, culture and attitudes toward women that even feminists are unaware of.
How did this happen? Religion was the first act of differentiation from the state. Think of a mother protecting her young from the cruelty and ignorance of a bad father. The Great Mother represents creativity, nurturance and protection and they were the first deities all over the world. These fertility figures were later transformed into shrines to define cycles of planting, of culture and relationships. From the festivals of the fertility of the fields and family came a newer call for help in trade and business. The Goddess worked in occult or hidden ways like the women who worshipped them. They offer gifts and pilgrimage in symbolic exchange to get favors, help and justice. Archaeology may yet discover a Goddess temple where the arch was traded for a rib of a king's fortress.
These are the lands where this way of belief never died out. Vietnam is mostly Buddhist, a philosophy that tolerates such worship. I have seen shrines to Goddesses on the grounds of Buddhist temples. Sometimes the Goddesses were in fact real women who had been known as benefactors to the community when they were alive. Some were poor virgins, others wives of important people. Some died tragically or were martyrs. Some left their families, others never left their land. Some became powerful in their time but all helped the poor. For many, like the Lady of the Realm, we just don't know. They were known for their wisdom, or for their acts of kindliness. Of the 75 Goddesses revered in Vietnam, the Lady of the Realm is the most popular and the focus here.
Her history is a nest of myths. Her statue may have been from India and perhaps was once Shiva, an Indian God. This makes sense in that since this Deity is now a Goddess and attracts trannies and women and more of these than men. It attracts people of all ethnic groups in the area, city and country. The Goddess helps in all types of personal matters but it's primarily a women's and as a business Deity. In her book "China's MotorA thousand years of Petty Capitalism" Hill Gates gives the pithy phrase: "Women reproduce, so in the appropriate political economic context does money."
Following the fall of South Vietnam to the advancing Communist armies the country fell into chaos. Normal trade was forbidden. Communist ideology forbids that. It also forbids dissent. And so was religion at first.
Religious repression is an old tradition in Vietnam. The Confucianism of the Chinese conquerors was against the native religions. The Nguyen dynasty before the French had whippings as punishment for fortune-tellers as well as hard labor. The French and the Diem regime passed laws against the Goddess worshippers to help the Catholic Church.
So how did the women survive in a war torn land? How did they succeed against a series of patriarchal oppressions of feudalism, colonialism and communism that lasted centuries? How were they also able to make the leap from there to an informal economy into modern capitalism without any educational help?
The women who stepped into the breach left by the Chinese knew what to do. Using the excuse to visit relatives and to make pilgrimage they traveled, bringing items and food for trade. Since they were women they were less likely to be suspected. Or there were bribes or other inducements. Eventually the regime sought accommodations with the pilgrimage to maintain a cultural and economic stability while the world was changing. So propaganda came to respect these old ways. The pilgrimages were then seen as a way to knit town and country together. During the war Goddesses were depicted as heroic archetypes of mothers hiding and providing for patriotic rebels and defending the border.
In the marketplaces of the time, which were often hidden in people's homes, as were shrines to the Goddess, different myths arose. As women shopped they traded stories of the Goddess as well. In creating businesses they re-created the market myths of the matriarchy. As Philip Taylor in "Goddess on the Rise" writes
"By the late 1970's and early 1980's, women were the main organizers of the thriving black economy, informal credit providers and liaison points for smuggling. Many women co-ordinated black market dealings from home" P.104 The book reports 70% of informal workers are women. They make over half of the GDP
"The rise of the goddess to such status is entwined in the history of women's informal resistance to economic centralization. As such She deserves some credit as an instigator of liberal reforms as do female traders who in their economic transactions with her raised her profile".
The last quote is from an article called 'Spirits, Iconoclasts and the Borders of the Market in Urban Vietnam" Humanities Research Vol. XI no 1 2004. Dr. Taylor credits the liberalization program in Vietnam called the Doi Moi on these matrons of the markets:
"Missing from the most narratives of these turbulent times is the role played by the female-dominated sector in the urban south, in precipitating or coercing the liberal reforms... This informal female operated distributing system denied the state control of the resources it sought to channel into its centralist vision of the re-unification project in the mid 1980's. The Doi Moi reforms were announced with great fanfare. However to a significant extent they were merely legitimating the pre-existing arrangements of the informal economy". P.16
Taylor has written widely on Vietnam, speaks Vietnamese and spent months in Vietnam interviewing, ethnologists and other academics, traders large and small and went on the pilgrimage himself. Again from "Goddess on the Rise"
"The transformation of the religious landscape in southern Vietnam took place against a backdrop of crisis in a series of state projects, the effect of which was mitigated by a continuous operation of informal economic practices in a petty commercial and trade sector dominated by women. The rise of the Goddesses reflects in no small measure the significance of this contribution and the authority of women as efficacious social agents. Guaranteeing good business, credit provision, domestic child care, education, domestic health care, family harmony, and more the goddesses have been crucial in making the Vietnamese world go round." P.242
This is an example of creating alternatives to the state. Taylor describes how women build an underground alternative world to a system more repressive than ours and is
"an alternative network to that of the state with its system of household registration, hierarchies of control, privileged channels of information and structures of surveillance that tie the population to the national center in ascending administrative tiers." (tears?) P.263
It also invades the state symbolically, establishing outposts on its own turf in the city. They do this just by making a living by capitalist means continuing on P.263.
"In the cities, market space, that realm where women are paramount, has intruded on the spatial order deemed exemplary by the modernist state; stalls encroach on streetscapes, hawkers congest market thoroughfares and mobile peddlers fill parks. The market has even invaded the space of the research institute and the classroom"
Note that the underground economy and the heroic role of women in putting together all of the elements that make families, neighborhoods and markets work. It is a living protest. Their enterprise is worthy of being studied and copied. But what is the role of pilgrimage in all of this? Is it just a magnet for networking? Or is it a feminist archetypal procession of women's strength and shrewdness? It goes beyond this. In the chapter "Goddess of Freedom" of his book he illustrates how the art of ceremony imitates life. He sees their mystical migration of pilgrimage as a journey of self-discovery.
"For many of these women, pilgrimage is isomorphic with their lives in the world of the marketplace: rising early, traveling to make purchases from distributors, socializing with fellow market women, transacting with clients and the authorities, being entertained by a riot of street life, consuming a stream of food and drink, snacks and making continuous offerings of the same to the spirits. Pilgrimage is an intensification of this and employs similar strategies of self arousal." P.261
You might think that this pilgrimage as a trip to the wild frontier where they gloriously outnumber that which is opposed to them. It is a rally and celebration of who they are. It is a temporary autonomous zone as described by Peter Lamborn Wilson.
But why do they worship at great risk and expense to themselves a statue of unknown origin and variegated myth? This trip to the country is subject to idyll, idle and idol conjecture. What kind of people are these Goddess worshippers? In interviewing the colorful individual threads of their lives Taylor discovers a quilting bee making the Queen Bee. The weave and we've of this tapestry reveals an image of the souls of the worshippers of the Goddess.
"Rather than wait for the government to open the doors and for society's cultural values to modernize, these women have constituted for themselves a creditable symbolic support system in the figure of a Goddess that endorses and abets their own informal activity. In many ways the Lady of the Realm reflects their own social position as mothers, nurturers, creditors, wealth creators, healers and mediators. In leaning on her they appear to be drawing for succor upon an enlarged version of themselves. That a goddess such as the Lady of the Realm has become phenomenally popular in the wider society shows how successful their innovations have been. Religious symbols such as the Lady of the Realm encode a view of can-do efficacy as female and furthermore propose that such figures will advance the fortunes of all those who contract with them." P.263
Or as famed anthropologist Emile Durkheim has said "Religion is society worshipping itself" Or that religion is a way of belief that gives shape to culture and would maintain that shape through time" It also encodes such valued strictures of respecting property of others, paying debts and keeping promises. Contracts with the Goddess must be honored!
"She is particularly well known and has her largest following among the petty traders, small entrepreneurs, money traders and financiers who work nonsalaried, entrepreneurial employment. For them low income is not so much a constant preoccupation as the income instability and juggling of exposure to risk. A common perception among traders is that even though their incomes are high, as non-salaried workers they lack the financial stability and safety net that those on a wage enjoy. Thus the goddess has been described by her followers, who work in such trades as their only form of insurance or even as a personalistic mafia-style "fixer" who helps them out of tight spots they invariably get into with clients, creditors, and debtors, as well as with the law and other representatives of the state" P.93
For those who might wonder if lesbians are left out of this matriarchal partnership this story from his book will be of interest. There were these two childless lesbians...
"'and they went to Nha Be and asked the Lady there to give them a child. They were able to adopt a daughter after that. But there was something unusual about her. As she grew bigger and bigger, they grew richer and richer. Now these two are really rolling in it. Their daughter is 5 and truly beautiful, but would you believe it, she acts more and more like a lesbian herself!'" P.239
What an amazing Goddess. She has ancient roots and is also open to the modern revolution in personal roles as well as market awareness. This is something striking!
"The meanings of the goddess are hot contemporary issues, go to deeper structures of identity, belonging, feeling, memory and social experience." P252
One reason that there is so much to be found in relationships to the Goddess is that there is so little known about her and therefore there is much room for interpretation. They are a Rorschach with reverence. Divinity must be open to divination and divine intervention. People must also be able to define her for themselves. She therefore must be great, creative and open to interpretation and invocation. She is power greater than themselves but of themselves. She's a symbol like the Statue of Liberty.
"One of the most pervasive themes in the study of folk culture in Vietnam is its construction as a symbol of freedom... In academic and popular anthologies, folk beliefs and customs represent the cultural core of Vietnamese identity, distinct from the culture of the court and its centralizing standardizing power; free of enervating Confucianism, the compromised social elites and urban centers; and resistant to all varieties of foreign colonialism, ancient and more recent. Folk culture is a font of autonomy, that source of creativity from which peasants, the oppressed, the outcast have drawn from time immemorial in shucking off from oppression, feudalism, cultural imperialism, patriarchy, class oppression and state control." P. 251
Folk culture is the story of the people, for the people, told by the people. It is the dish from where culture is grown. It gives us an understanding of our own ways of creating, thinking and believing and doing. It can also be a business.
America is an anomaly in that we are a comparatively young culture not connected to its aborigines. So we lack the deep folk culture of other countries. So some of us go to the roots of pre immigrant ancestors who had no knowledge of America. And others would say we have recently invented our folk culture (movies, comics and TV) from this. That has become one of our biggest exports. We are, as a people, extremely able to absorb other folk cultures and use them in re-creating newer ones.
But in most other countries folk cultures are deep roots; not easily noticeable but essential to the stability and nourishment of an identity. Roots are by definition, radical, and can be interpreted in many ways by commoner, businessperson, artist, pilgrim and intellectual alike. To do this one cannot be facile. To work with roots they must be part one's very being and therefore respected for what they are. Myths are reinterpreted from time to time as can be seen with the King Arthur's story "The Mists of Avalon to "The Once and Future King". Myths can be used as cheap entertainment as well as range to philosophical commentary. Sometimes even these interpretations are done without any factual underpinnings. Myths do succeed when responsive to deep psychological needs. Therefore myths are retold in new ways that are forever Jung.
"This too is a persistent theme in writings about Goddesses, which depict them in various ways as symbols of freedom. There femininity is celebrated as signs of cultural resistance against oppressive Confucian patriarchal overlays associated with Chinese rule, feudalism, aped foreign influence, elite culture and state authority. Feminine symbols point to the persistent matriarchal values or influences from the more liberal societies of Southeast Asia" P 251
"In the patriarchal and bureaucratic world of Chinese society, Sangren (in his book "Female Gender in Chinese Religious symbols": Kwan Yin, Ma Tsu and the Eternal Mother" talks of the worship of female deities as embodying a counterculture. He argues that female deities are important counterpoints to the hierarchal, bureau- cratic orthodoxies of state religion, territorial cults and ancestor worship P.306
We should also be aware that in ancient societies as well as in contemporary ones it is dangerous to criticize authoritarian rulers or even one's husband. One of the reasons that women were allowed to get away with this pilgrimage may have been the fact that so many of them were widowed from the war or had lost sons. From these terrible losses and perceived weakness came incredible strength. Women, culture makers and those on a spiritual path were perhaps not seen as threats and so left alone. Also...
"Because each of these latter is associated with a feudal past, feminine symbols also work as symbols of progressiveness and transcendence of the past" P.306
It is for this reason we go to novelists, playwrights, poets and other artists as well as myths and spiritual writings to find the radical roots of resistance and new beginnings. Because these culture makers lack physical power yet seen as necessary these figures work with feminine energy to a great extent. Read between the lines as well as know the coded interpretation of what cannot be openly said. Think of black American slave spirituals and their use of Moses. Understand what this idea means for everyone.
"Far from leading to the effacement of cultural differences, the post-Cold War rise to global dominance of liberal market relations, a process known as globalization, has been accompanied by a new primordialism: a focus on ethnic, nationalist, religious, and indigenous identities that Jonathan Friedman has attributed to the dissolution of the encompassing structures' of imperialism of the Colonial and Cold War variety. (1994,235). This somewhat unexpected turn toward cultural essences and identity politics has been equally evident in China, Cuba and Vietnam" P.47
In fact this has gone on in Africa, South America and all over the world as well. Even in the developed West has seen a revival of paganism as people who have taken care of basic needs are researching, creating and celebrating their identity.
" the global spread of capitalism in the 1990's was a dramatic intensification of appeals to enchantment, evidenced by the growth of witchcraft accusations, prosperity cults, the trade in icons and amulets, deals with powerful spirits" P 83
This has a led to an explosion in cultural and spiritual artifact production all over even in Moslem countries. Old matriarchal culture is now displayed by a new media made by the marketplace and Taylor riding a bus that has a VC player describes this as:
"The feminine realm of the marketplace and the cafes of and food and market stalls presided over by women seem to be another model for the world of cai luong. (Vietnamese folk opera). It is a world that conforms to the logic of the heart, where cruelty and unfaithfulness are punished, innocence rewarded and devotion repaid.
"The cai loung video was followed by a program featuring a kindly old woman telling cautionary tales to children that illustrated the negative consequences of greed, vanity and theft. For her tales took viewers into a dreamworld where fabulous and magical creatures interacted with simple and childlike adults" P.150
So we see a peaceful cultural revolution happening before our eyes. The repressions of the past are replaced with new cultures that are based on ancient memes and archetypes that are open to personal interpretation. It's a political, economic, technological, cultural and spiritual change that is most evident in the changing role of women as seen on P.283.
"Do they represent resistance to a repressive state, a counter-cultural alternative to an elite world view, or an evanescent outburst against stifling cultural conventions? Do they encode an intransigent local or grassroots culture a resistance to patriarchal authority, or do they express the power and freedom women enjoy in this society?"
Most noticeably The Goddess shines as an ironic and iron determination of freedom to survive. She is most prominent in symbolic iconic contexts which shows I CAN:
"The shrine to some goddesses in contemporary Vietnam do tend to eclipse the institutions of the state in universalistic appeal. Attracting passionate feelings and a buzz of conjecture, they outshine in charisma most symbols of Communist rule. The crowds and effervescent activity in the shrines to spirits such as the Lady of the Realm evoke the mass mobilization ethos out of which Vietnam's socialist state came to power. As responsive beings in whom people invest fervent aspirations, whose efficacy is constantly being assessed, and whose reputation is always on the line, such goddesses contrast with stereotypes of the Vietnam's socialist state as bureaucratic, faction prone, ideologically conflicted and wary of diversity to the point of courting stagnation. As a broad church, giving refuge to a broad range of propitiants, interpretations and ritual forms, these Goddesses embody a quality of inclusiveness that the party is often accused of lacking" P.285
In other words there Communist ideology is dead in all but name and state oppression. The state may last for years but is losing the hearts and imagination of the people. This is amazing considering how recent the war was. Also consider how many scarred, hardened veterans must be in positions of control. Perhaps the Vietnamese have handled so many traumas through the drama of their ceremonies. Repressions still exist for some religious groups but not the Goddesses perhaps because of the compassion they can manifest.
So the goddess is a community organizer, counselor, consoler and more. She represents market processes, which is the way to the future and its great changes. The pilgrimage is a Spontaneous Order in Hayekian terms as well as an occurrence of Emergence. This concept defined by Goldstein is an event that has novelty, coherence over a period of time, global, evolving, able to be perceived and has downward causation. The meanings here, define radical or going to the roots. This is a comprehensive social change awesome to any observer. In Taylor's essay on Spirits he comes to the conclusion that she is...
"A spirit who makes intelligible contemporary economic processes, she also embodies a form of historical consciousness that, a condensation of what is popularly seen to have worked in the past." P.17
This Goddess is more than that. She though not schooled helps with exams. She, though childless, helps with fertility. She though single, helps in finding a suitable mate. She, though poor in her life on earth, helps people find wealth and respect. She though living under Communism is the symbol of freedom and markets. She from unknown ancestry is seen as the Mother of her People. From time without memory she is seen as always there and remembered as the Goddess of the Realm
The conclusions here are my own and not the political or religious ideas of Mr. Taylor or anyone else.