So far my time in Southeast Asia has made me contemplate and look within a lot. It’d be easy to let the sadness of the recent past overwhelm all the awesomeness and smiles currently going on in these countries.
But some horrible atrocities have been committed here very much within living memory – namely the Vietnam War and Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia.
In visiting the War Remnants/Crimes Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and the genocide museum and killing fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, plus the landmine museum in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I could only keep on asking myself one question…
What’s wrong with us?
Why have we been fighting and killing each other since the beginning of time? At what point will we stop? If you would have told Socrates that in the future there’d be a device you could keep in your pocket that could do everything – even offer you an imaginary friend named Siri, he might have figured that by then people will have learned how to live in peace. How could such leaps in thought and technology not be accompanied by a similar increase in compassion for fellow human beings?
The fact that these atrocities were committed in Vietnam in the late-60’s and early 70’s and in Cambodia in the late-70’s is even worse. And we haven’t learned. We continue without learning from the past.
The U.S. is very justice and revenge hungry. I’m not sure how else you can explain the continued use of capital punishment otherwise. But the fact that we committed so many atrocities and war crimes in Vietnam, and supported the Khmer Rouge regime throughout its genocide and continued its support of Pol Pot after the Cambodian people were liberated from the Khmer Rouge by Vietnam..
Again, lots of questions that are hard to answer.
All I know is that it makes me sad. Very sad.
What makes me sadder is that such atrocities continue in places like Congo, with no one caring at all, and that they’ll continue.
I don’t have a solution. But I think awareness is imperative. There’s a reason Pol Pot started his genocide against all educated Cambodians. The educated the hardest to control and most likely to demand change. At least they used to be.
Apart from the obvious signs of these horrors, like limbless victims from landmines, a visitor from another planet would have no idea these atrocities were committed here. As I talked about in Cambodia, it’s happiness and smiles all around.
And I think this acceptance of the past, the digestion and continuation with life in a dignified and positive way.. that’s inspirational to me.
I’m not sure I could go through what many of the people here have gone through and come out the other side in one piece. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. These people must be as hard as steel..with smiles
About Adam Pervez
In mid-2011 I left my cushy corporate job and took the plunge into a life incorporating my passions of traveling, writing, volunteering, learning, educating, and telling stories. I study what happiness means to others, offer what I can from my engineering/MBA background as a volunteer, and try to leave each place better than how I found it. Read more.