Marvel meets Pol Pot
Yesterdays post was longer than I’d anticipated. In my mind, it was going to be in short, pithy post, but I just got carried away and couldn’t help myself. It also made me think made me think of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge, and Year Zero, specifically the bit when I wrote of;
the almost totalitarian idea that who who you are and more importantly, how you feel about things, has greater cultural cachet and influence than those who with almost perverse obtusity, cling to the wrong
Telling people that the way they are thinking is wrong, but with re-education they’ll learn to think the right way, the proscribed and approved way, and that they’ll end up the better person for it, well that to me smacks of Year Zero. I accept that it we are thankfully nowhere even near that now, but I’d contend that we are perilously close to the edge of a slippery slope that could easily end up somewhere like that.
Upon seizing power in 1975, Pol Pot immediately renamed Cambodia as Democratic Kampuchea and Year Zero began. One less than generous interpretation of Year Zero is that it effectively meant that all culture and traditions were completely destroyed or discarded and that a new revolutionary culture would then replace it starting from scratch. Meaning therefore, that all of the history of Cambodia and its people before Year Zero was deemed irrelevant, because it would ideally be wiped out of existence, to be replaced from the ground up. The problem, of course, who was in charge of the replacing and what they thought it should be replaced with. Seem familiar? Certain beliefs being deemed outdated and irrelevant, the past being critically re-appraised, with an almost pathological need to denounce it and by extension, the society it created?
A simpler explanation, one that might be more readily understandable in 2023, was that it was a complete reboot of Cambodia
Marvellous it wasn’t
Knowledge of anything pre-Year Zero was prohibited. To ensure that there was no recorded memory of a pre-Year Zero society, books were burned and the wearing of glasses was also criminalized as it was taken to indicate that one might habitually read books. The only acceptable lifestyle was that of peasant agricultural workers. Centuries of Cambodian culture and institutions were thereby eliminated—shutting down factories, hospitals, schools, and universities—along with anyone who expressed interest in their preservation. So-called New People—members of the old governments and intellectuals in general, including lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, clergy, and qualified professionals in all fields—were thought to be a threat to the new regime and were therefore especially singled out and executed along with their extended families during the purges accompanying Year Zero.
Before Pol Pot and Year Zero, Cambodia had a population of just over 7 million. It is estimated that somewhere between 2 – 4 million died as a result of the policies carried out by the Khmer Rouge.
The problem with a slippery slope is that often some people fail to realise it is one, usually those so ideologically committed to pursuing what they consider to the path to a chimeric utopia that they only realise when they’re at the bottom of the slope that there was one after all.