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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The elimination of despair

The elimination of despair

There's a disturbing trend to favour only the families of the wealthy and powerful regardless of their merit. This is true not just in Cambodia, but worldwide.

The Cambodian population consists of a mixed bag of people who survived the Khmer Rouge period and came out bewildered and looking for answers after that time of horror and isolation, coupled with those who understandably fled to France, Canada, the US or elsewhere, then returned. You can see, though not at a glance, how the world might occur for someone who lived through the terror.  The population mixture contains interplay between the returnees and those who stayed the whole time:  at first the returnees seemed like gods during the early 1990s, when everyone was looking for answers, but now there’s a kind of reversal in their popularity.  In Cambodia one could be “too westernized.”

These evolutionary processes are real and present in the population right now.  They are the result of a society that was completely destroyed.  That’s why extra care needs to be taken to create a spirit of service, entrepreneurship, patience and kindness in all the human interaction as Cambodia develops.

There are dangers that the society could creep in a direction that would cause unnecessary suffering.  That’s why the time-tested principles of good conduct, kindness and understanding toward others are particularly important in Cambodia today.

The enemy of that kindness is a type of exploitative and uncaring behaviour, one that would shove people off land; one that would be completely indifferent to others suffering from malnutrition, hopelessness, disease and unemployment.

Those are the conditions for despair, when real ugliness takes hold and people care only about themselves and not about anyone else; when human life means nothing.  Cambodians have had enough of that; they don’t want it anymore.  Cambodians want education, nutrition, a place to stay, a family that loves them and some possibility to work toward in the future, some chance to improve their lives.

When you approach business as a service to others; when you make business in order to feed people good food, to make good clothing for people to wear, to provide good education for people, to provide any quality product or service for people, you need not be embarrassed in any way about how you earn your living. You may be proud of it because you provide a necessary service to others, and naturally, you are rewarded for it.

When we get to the end of our lives and we look around and see what we accomplished, the amount of money in our bank accounts and the number of Ferraris in our driveways won’t mean anything to us.  What will mean something is the difference we made in somebody’s life.  Put a smile on somebody’s face.  Be generous.  Be kind.  The ripple effects are exponential.

These will be the very most important qualities present in the future society that Cambodia will become.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at



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