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Counting Hell: The Killijng Fields Revisited

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RonPrice View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 Jun 2011 at 12:12

Last night I revisited Cambodia’s Killing Fields on the 4 Corners program “Where Are They Now?”1  I read some of the commentary on the subject and the writing of Bruce Sharp2 interested me the most.  In his essay Counting Hell Sharp wrote  that we are confronted with incomplete and inconclusive evidence, and it is tempting, therefore, to say that we will never really see the full picture of what happened in Cambodia’s Killing Fields from April 1975 to January 1979.  It is also tempting to say that after more than thirty years have passed, it is time to move on.  So much of the contemporary scene and of history is “a time to move on.” History is, as Edward Gibbon once wrote, “little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.”



To the German-Swiss novelist and poet, Hermann Hesse, as he put it in his The Glass Bead Game, the study of history means “submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task.”  Perhaps the most apt definition of history insofar as the Killing Fields is concerned is the one from James Joyce in his Ulysses. “History,” Joyce wrote, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake.”

Historians are accustomed now to the idea of genocide. Cambodia was not the first occurrence of genocide and it will not be the last. There have been a myriad newer crimes since 1979. “Do we still need to worry about the old ones?” Sharp asks rhetorically. Why should we bother with numbers? One and a half million, two and a half million deaths in Cambodia: does it matter? There was once a time when these were not merely numbers. These numbers had names, and that is why it matters, he concludes.2-Ron Price with thanks to1 “Where Are They Now?” 4 Corners, ABC1 TV, 27/6/’11, 8:30 p.m.,  2the link: http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/bsharp.htm, and 3the internet site Cambodia, 1 April 2005.

It was a big year ’79.  Those killing

fields came to an end, the revolution

in Iran took place and I settled into a

life in Tasmania at the age of 35 Y.O.

I was in Ballarat at the CAE during all

those years of 1 to 2 million deaths in

Cambodia. I was busy reading so many

books, helping the Baha’i community &

surviving another four years of marriage-

family and the community responsibilities

until I was worn-out due to my own wars,

my own hell with bipolar-disorder……and

Cambodia was at least a million miles away

in another world, indeed, another universe.



Ron Price 28 June 2011

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RonPrice View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RonPrice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jun 2011 at 12:14
I'd like to correct the characters found where the apostrophies belong. But there is no editing mechanism to do so.-Ron Price, Australia
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Carcharodon View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jun 2011 at 09:54
Probably as long there are people still living who remember these things they will be talked about, and perhaps also a couple of generations onwards. As time goes by the more emotional aspects of the narratives will decrease and finally only historians will discuss the matter in an academic way.
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RonPrice View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RonPrice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jun 2011 at 10:10
As you say, Carcharodon, "finally only historians will discuss the matter in an academic way." I think you have just about summed it up. Of course, I could add a few points but---it's time for bed.-Ron Price, Tasmania
married for 47 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 15 and a Baha'i for 55(in 2014)
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