Poisoned hill of guilt…
During a power cut while in a little coffee shop in Phnom Penh this week, I felt the urge to browse among the twilight of the shelves where second–hand books were on sale. My attention was caught by an intriguing title, "Cambodia: a book for people who find television too slow." At a mere $2, who could resist purchasing? Not I!
In a creative mix of factual account and fiction, text and overt subtext, the author (Fawcett) argues that two cultural rights crucial in the enterprise of being human — the right to remember the past and the right to imagine the future — tend to be lost under the inevitable white noise of post–modern techno–media culture. In fact this erasure and suppression neatly serves the agendas of neo–colonial imperial powers who exhibit paranoia of those who seek to learn from the past, lest they envision an alternative future.
As is often said: history is written by those with power. However, the hidden perspectives on history from the people themselves are those to which we need to listen and attend, however painful this may be.
Last week I visited Tuol Sleng, the former Khmer Rouge S21 prison, to learn something of the history of the Cambodian genocide. While it doesn't make all the connections, it does clarify some. Such histories are rarely (if ever) given undivided attention by leaders of today's global imperium.
Notably, while the UK's Prime Minister (…or should that be "ex Prime Minister in waiting"?) goes globe–hopping in search of some last minute handshakes and photo ops, the daily paper here carries plenty of news on Iraq and Afghanistan, Blair's true legacy.
Yet this sub–architect of these new obscenities of catastrophic misery on a colossal scale merely wrings his hands and makes stuttering attempts at sincere speeches punctuated by long pauses, as if trying hard to remember something long forgotten or to imagine that it could have been different. Or perhaps trying hard to avert acknowledging something he knows only too well, but dares not admit not even to himself — that would be too honest and too dangerous.
Learn from past mistakes and envision an alternative future? Not the global powers that be. They prefer the illusory security of remaining enslaved in the vain and endless repetition of their own foolishness.