Sad But True

Phnom Penh. Not the classiest place on earth but probably not the sketchiest either. The backpacker ghetto where most travellers stay was awash with overt propositions for sex and drugs. At least a quarter of the people at my guesthouse seemed to be either smuggler types or pleasure seekers, whatever the cost. The going rate on Life seemed a bit cheaper in this part of the world. However cheap it may be now, it is nowhere near its market level in 1975, when the ultra-communist leaderPol Pot and his Khmer Rouge staged one of the world's bloodiest revolutions. Cities were ordered empty, money abolished, and a total agrarian state was attempted. During the ensuing 4 year reign of terror, the Khmer Rouge managed to slaughter 1/4th of the population of Cambodia before the Vietnamese took control of the country in 1979. Justice has never been seen. Pol Pot fled and died in exile in 1998. Other leaders managed to live normally in Cambodia until natural death, except for the few who have finally been arrested. For current-eventers, you may have read that "Duch" the school teacher turned torture warden of the infamous S-21 is now finally on trial, although the proceeding is in danger of mistrial due to alleged corruption in the Cambodian judicial system. Not quite the story of justice one wants to hear about.

Anyways, the also infamous "Killing Fields" are located just outside Phnom Penh, so this in addition to the S-21 prison were necessary to visit while I was there. It was grim. The museum approach of the Killing Field is straightforward--Here is the field of mass graves and here are the bones to prove it happened.

The S-21 museum was alot more informative, containing chilling photos of alot of the 17,000 prisoners that came through there, of which only 7 survived. Interestingly they had documented interviews of many of the hundreds of S-21 guards now living back amongst the neighbors they formerly tortured. Most transcripts included the phrase "I was only following orders." A defense made popular by former Nazis on trial.

Think America is immune from such a inhumane mentality? Watch (or read up) on Yale's famous 1964 "Obedience Experiment" (remember it from Psych class?)in which the majority of Americans in the testing sample administered what they what they thought was a lethal dose of electricity to another audibly screaming person just because a person of authority told them to. Yikes.

What am I getting at? My usual nothing, but sometimes a dose of reality never hurts to penetrate the insular world we live in. For me, seeing places like the Killing Fields, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, the sectarian hate murals of Belfast, etc. represent the shedding away of adult layers of innocence. If I see evidence of another religious or idealogical inspired atrocity, I think I will puke. I used to think being aware of all this was a totally necessary process but now I am second guessing that opinion.

Cue that Don Henley song,

PS. Sorry to piss in your Monday coffee. I promise to keep the next blog a tad more upbeat.

1 comment:

bro-in-law said...

funniest blog yet!!! I just wet myself.