Is there hope that what has been done will not be done again? – Sunday, 7.6.2009

Posted on 8 June 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 615 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 615

Editing the Mirror, day by day, is a reminder that both the different philosophies of time have some truth: is the flow of time linear, or is it circular?

The daily work and the changing dates remind us clearly that time is running in one line, step by step, from the past to the future.

But the daily work is also a reminder of another view of time, of human time, where a writer in the Hebrew Bible said about 2,300 years ago, in a desperate view of history:

Meaningless! Meaningless!
Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.

What does one gain from all the labor
at which one toils under the sun?

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
in days to come both will be forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise man too must die!

So is it true that there is not much that can be done – a statement often heard in Cambodia: “What can I do? I am only one person without power.” And recently a reader, from far away, wrote in view of the different reports from Cambodia, about the law, and the irregular law enforcement: “Crazy world, in Cambodia.”

Reviewing some reports from the past weeks, one is tempted to get into a similarly desperate mood.

  • The Mekong River Committee, where Cambodia is a member since decades, reminded its members that the Mekong is a rich, but vulnerable resource. Therefore its member countries had agreed, “to jointly study the developments in the Mekong River Basin.” But now a lot of uncoordinated plans have been developed in the different countries – “there is concern that those projects can damage the eco-system of the river, the movement of fish, and the settlements of people.”
  • According to the Constitution, Cambodia is “based on a multiparty liberal democratic regime, guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law” – but the Permanent Committee of the National Assembly was reported to discuss the reduction of the salaries of the parliamentarians from opposition parties who had boycotted a National Assembly meeting. To boycott sessions as a strong expression of dissent happens in many democratic countries; and it was never reported that salaries’ cuts were considered when members of various parties, including members of the former majority coalition, had to be absent from sessions. – Others expressed the fear that an opposition party “is threatened through the court system to have its voice eliminated.” A multiparty democratic regime is based on the assumption that there may be dissent. To consider the expression of disagreements as unacceptable undermines the basis of the Constitution.
  • A member of the National Assembly, Ms. Mu Sochua, has to appear at the Municipal Court to defend herself first, related to the counter-accusation by the Prime Minister, that she defamed him, while the court has not yet handled the original defamation suit of Ms. Mu Sochua against the Prime Minister. And her defense lawyer is under investigation by the Bar Association – he may lose his professional position as a lawyer.
  • A Law on Financial Leasing has been adopted by the National Assembly – “to develop banking and other financial systems in order to ease equal, safe, effective, and productive financial leasing operations” – but disabled children still are not assured to receive a 9-year basic education, and an end for serious child labor can only be expected by the end of 2016.
  • More than 70 garment factories have closed, and others operate with only a quarter of their capacity. At present, 38% of the nearly 5 million Cambodian children under the age of 15 cannot gain the full course of education, due to their economic problems and their social environment. Even so, the Minister of Finance believes that the Cambodian economy will not face a crisis. That means: the crisis in which these children live, and which sent tens of thousands of worker into unpaid unemployment, is not a crisis of the Cambodian economy?
  • The Cambodian Center for Human Rights had to delay holding a meeting with residents of the Boeng Kak Lake region inside of a building there, to talk about their problems, as they have to leave their houses – but the authorities intervened, claiming that there had not been a permission requested. But it is reported that a representative of the authorities was not able to say based on which law such a permission is necessary. – And organizers of the anti-corruption event, the Clean Hands Concert held recently at the Olympic Stadium, were summoned to the court for questioning about the use of a public stadium and criticizing the government. The stadium does not belong to the government, but either to the municipality or to the state. It is public property and should therefore be available to the public for public, lawful events, where the basic rights, like the free expression of opinion, should be actively protected by the law enforcement authorities. That the US Ambassador expressed the hope, at that event, that Cambodia will adopt an anti-corruption law soon, which the Cambodian government itself is drafting since more than a decade, was criticized as outside interference.
  • There had been a number of airlines in Cambodia over the years: Angkor Airways, Cambodian President Airlines, First Cambodia Airlines, Mekong Airlines, PMT Air, Royal Khmer Airlines, Royal Phnom Penh Airlines, and Royal Air Cambodge. While the relatives of the persons who were killed in a plane crash in June 2007 in Kampot are still waiting for a settlement of insurance claims, it was announced that a new national airline – Cambodia Angkor Air – will be inaugurated in July – but the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation declares to have no information at all about such plans.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” So is there no way ahead, asked the writer of the old wisdom. He is almost giving up to try to achieve anything, but will only enjoy life:

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart… Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun – all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.

A later poet in the Roman empire arrived at a more cynical version: “Seize the day and place no trust in tomorrow.” The driving force of an almost unrestricted market economy, which created the present global economic crisis – internationally and everywhere – seems to be based on a similar thinking.

But is this the end? Whenever there were points of a new beginning, it started with persons with a vision towards change. At present, we observe such an effort by the President of the USA. This will either inspire also others, or we will hear many voices, desperately agreeing: “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”


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