Every skull in this monument somewhere in Cambodia once belonged to a human being with hopes and dreams, a life filled with sunsets and worries. Then one day a group of people decided that their way of living was wrong and they got murdered. This picture was taken in the early nineties when I worked in Cambodia as a UN soldier. Our task was to keep the former murderers, the Khmer Rouge, away from the people who wanted to live again on their ancestors’ land. Today, it is not going so well in Cambodia, and I wondered how much they have learned from their history.
I have written about these skulls before; they fascinate me, and they have also put my life on a trajectory I would probably not have taken If I hadn’t lived in that country for a while, between monuments filed with skulls. There is a reason why one group of humans gets killed by another group of humans, in my opinion, that is because the latter group is convinced that they are right, and have the right, to do what they do; in this case, they murdered millions of people.
I have strong opinions, but one of the strongest is that no one knows how the world should be organized. Many people think they do, but where do they get the authority from? Even if there is a God as the ultimate authority, which of the thousands of belief systems has the right to claim that they are the closest to this God? Do they even speak its language? I read philosophy to learn about us humans, and philosophy can tell you this, but it (should)wisely stops at giving a reason for why we live. Science is also a good guide for understanding how we live and what is good for us living organisms, but science is also incapable of answering why.
There is no why; every why you can give starts with an assumption; we are just here. I know that many people see the beauty of that “answer,” but for most, it is not good enough or a reason to give morals a pass and live to their heart’s content. For me, the fact that conscience life is possible and that we are part of it is a miracle, and we should realize that. All these dictators from the past, like Pol Pot in Cambodia, had no respect for life and how special each human is, how minute the chance is that we are born at all. A lot of people don’t seem to realize this, stuck in ancient beliefs and hollow thought patterns.