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Comment: The new goddesses

IN recent history the Cambodian nation has undergone prolonged suffering. But amidst

this tragedy, and because of it, the country has received various important blessings.

The international community helped seal a peace pact, and the United Nations mounted

its biggest ever operation to help give birth to peace, freedom and democracy.

Cambodia is blessed with the restoration of the monarchy venerated by many Cambodians,

and with a continued flow of international assistance. It is further blessed with

the arrival in droves of goddesses of cigarettes, beers, wines and spirits from all

over the world to ensure the continuation of the happiness and the well-being of

its people. New temples and altars are being built all over the country to greet

and worship these goddesses.

At some places these temples and altars are built high above ground, imposing on

people living or traveling down below. They are supported by elaborate structures

which are, at a number of places, themselves supported by stout, elegant, single

solid round columns. They are located at places where their signs cannot be missed

by even the least attentive of passersby. They have outside pictures adorned with

images of attractive girls or smart guys. Their structures and supporting columns

are painted with bright colors that enhance further their visibility. These structures

and those temples and altars are illuminated all night long by soft yet bright light

so as to ensure maximum visibility.

The design of these temples and altars of Cambodia's goddesses must require the work

of the best of architects, and their construction the work of well-trained engineers.

Their location requires likewise the work of genius. Their costs are undoubtedly

high. Expenses for each of these structures could well cover the cost of constructing

a modest house at least.

Why is so much energy, genius and resources invested in building these temples and

altars, when the same genius and resources could have been allocated for other uses,

perhaps more beneficial to mankind?

Messengers of goddesses of cigarettes, beers, wines and spirits set to evangelize

their gospels to all Cambodians with the aim of converting them to their new religion.

These temples and altars need to be made sacred places. The goddesses need to sit

at these elaborate, eye-catching temples and altars high above, beyond reach, well

protected by their height and by fences around the supporting columns. One can only

look up to them. They command veneration. They are sacred, sacrosanct.

We may spurn these goddesses. We may ignore them. We may travel past them, we may

not bother to look up to them. No problem! The goddesses are not angry. Their messengers

recruit an army of clergy to preach. This recruitment is the least difficult of tasks

when the most innocent girls, the best actors and actresses, the best singers, famous

people, and famous sportsman and sportswomen flock in to join, and they are not so

expensive. The goddesses send their priestesses to greet us, to smile at us, to chat

with us, to preach to us to accept and worship them. These priestesses are special

creatures altogether. They are young, charming, attractive. They wear clothes of

the latest fashion to cover their physical deformities so as to expose the best of

their shape. If we like them, some of these priestesses are willing to accept our

invitation to have private, one-on-one preaching anywhere of our choosing.

Another option is wide open for us. We can have their priestesses and priests right

in our living room, or at our ears for hours every day, if we wish. These priests

and priestesses trade their best charms or skills for our conversion to their religion.

They put on their shows again and again. After each show pertaining to the cigarette

goddesses, a silent health warning of two lines appears in such a lightening flash

that no one can read it. These goddesses are so much revered that any audible whisper

of objection would be blasphemy. Soon the slogans and gestures of these priestesses

and priests, repeated in our living room and at our ears day in and day out, sink

in us all. We recite these slogans and songs as psalms, and imitate these gestures

without much difficulty.

The goddesses do not just sit in their temples or at their altars high above at special

places to watch over all of us. They are ubiquitous and down to earth too. They follow

us everywhere, at every street corner, on house walls, on roof tops, at all public

places, at many functions, public or private. We cannot escape them. They care for

us. They protect us from the hot sun and shelter us from pouring rains. They are

all on standby duty to serve us day and night.

From time to time, mass in the form of sports events or music shows are held to spread

the gospel of the new religion, and introduce us to the goddesses. We throng to attend

these masses, to listen to and watch their priests and priestesses preaching these

gospels. We leave these masses with our minds attached to the goddesses.

Sometime the goddesses promise quick rewards in the form of prizes if we become their

disciples. We might be rewarded with cars, televisions or radio sets, watches and

many other things we need -and dollars! We are very much tempted.

To cap all that, our powerful politicians provide all support to the goddesses' messengers,

praise them for their enterprise and industry, thank them for creating jobs for us

and for their contribution to our economy, and reward them with medals and honorific

distinctions.

In the end, as mortals, we succumb to the preaching of the clergy of the new region.

We cannot help opening our hearts and minds to accept the goddesses and the new religion.

We prostate at the sight of these goddesses, and we would do all to please them for

fear they might curse us.

The goddesses promise can be experienced immediately. The cigarette goddess makes

us happy immediately. We can relax and get rid of our troubles when we kiss and puff

her in and out. We puff away all our sorrow. Sometimes, this goddess can help us

concentrate and conceive new ideas. With this goddess in between our fingers or our

lips, we become prolific writers, and our thoughts and our composition flow out smoothly

on to the paper or on the computer monitor. We become smart guys, thinkers or experts.

We immediately feel the goodness of every sip of our beer goddess, or our wine goddess,

or our spirit goddess. With her help we now eat well; we are eloquent and make endless

speeches; we joke; we shout; we are strong and unchallengeable; we cannot tolerate

objections or obstructions in our way; we bulldoze our way ahead, regardless, and

we win all arguments. Or we gain social status as now we are recognized as some one

in society, well-liked or well-respected by all; and we have friends, company and

followers. With this status we can impress the world. Or we are in ecstasy and all

our troubles and problems are gone. We drown all our sorrow. We are in our goddesses'

heaven, high above, no longer on this sin-ridden earth.

The goddesses' young, charming priestesses slave for us. They are very much obliged

to us, and are there beside us to serve us hand and foot, and ensure that all our

goddesses are with us all the time. They encourage us to have more and more for them.

We resist once or twice, but we cannot resist all the time. We not only enjoy our

goddesses on the spot, but we also take them home or elsewhere with us.

We like all these goddesses and we are faithful and loyal to them. Our betrayal of

them means disaster. They would curse us or make us sick. We worship them and become

their disciples. We make sacrifices to them. These sacrifices are our top priority.

We sacrifice the needs of our loved ones, even our own health, and deprive these

loved ones and our body of even basic nutrients. At times we do not want to know

about these needs, and we even do everything to push aside supplicants for them.

The goddesses declare war on our old religion when this old religion forbids us from

worshipping them. Soon they convince us that our old religion can provide no immediate

happiness, no immediate relief. Now we abandon our old religion. Bye-bye old religion,

we have enough of you, we no longer need you. We wholeheartedly embrace the new religion

and worship the cigarette goddess, the beer goddess, the wine goddess and the spirit

goddess. We are better off now with all these goddesses.

Well and good for us, for we simply exercise our right to freedom of beliefs, and

we simply enjoy this freedom. This new religion with their caring goddess is needed

to end all our sorrow.

O goddesses, bless us, protect us and be with us.
- Dr Lao Mong Hay is the Director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy

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