Friday, June 24, 2005

Hinges of History, Take 1

Another series of disorganized brain-farts, a bit on the dark side.

History. Ever noticed how history often hinges on but the actions of a single individual, as opposed to some over-arching, macro view typically associated with orthodox historiography?

Pol Pot. Here's the world's second-most infamous perpetrator of genecide in history (or at least in the 20th Century), yet who even knows about this guy? His dictatorship led to the killing of 1-3 million Cambodians (1/4 - 1/3 of the entire Cambodian population!) in the '70s. Check it out:

1974 - In March, the Khmer Rouge capture the old capital of Odongk, north of Phnom Penh. In a foretaste of what is to come, the city is destroyed, its 20,000 inhabitants are dispersed into the countryside, and teachers and public servants are executed.

1975 - Now in control of most the Cambodian countryside, the Khmer Rouge surround and isolate the capital Phnom Penh, which has swollen with refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge and the US bombers. The noose steadily tightens. On April 17 Phnom Penh falls. Within days the city's entire population of over two million is marched into the countryside at gunpoint.

Pol Pot declares 'Year Zero' and directs a ruthless program to "purify" Cambodian society of capitalism, Western culture, religion and all foreign influences in favour of an isolated and totally self-sufficient Maoist agrarian state. No opposition is tolerated.

Foreigners are expelled, embassies closed, and the currency abolished. Markets, schools, newspapers, religious practices and private property are outlawed.

Members of the Lon Nol government, public servants, police, military officers, teachers, ethnic Vietnamese, Christian clergy, Muslim leaders, members of the Cham Muslim minority, members of the middle-class and the educated are identified and executed.

... and how many reading this even remember this guy's name? He died a few years ago in transport to be tried. Heart-attack, I believe was the reported cause of death. Guess it goes to show that if you aren't #1 with a bullet, history can safely ignore you. So that leads to...

Hitler. It's believed, based on some descriptions in Mein Kampf, that Hitler's hatred of Jews started with but a single schoolmate: Ludwig Wittgenstein, a child a bit older than Hitler who was smarter, faster and bullied Hitler unmercifully. In his later years, he became well known for solving with the Private Language Argument the 'mental zombies' philosophical dilemma, among a hundred other things.

Can you imagine that 1 person may have been indirectly responsible for the wholesale destruction of 9 million of his own race?

History hinges on but a few, most of whom are in power. If Dubya is any indication, they ain't all that bright. Comforting, no?

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