Utente:Mariomassone

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Da tradurre[modifica]

Per Haing Ngor[modifica]

I have been many things in life: A trader walking barefoot on paths through the jungles. A medical doctor, driving to his clinic in a shiny Mercedes. In the past few years, to the surprise of many people, and above all myself, I have been a Hollywood actor. But nothing has shaped my life as much as surviving the Pol Pot regime. I am a survivor of the Cambodian holocaust. That's who I am. (p. I)
By destroying our culture and by enslaving us, the Khmer Rouge changed millions of happy, normal human beings into something more like animals. They turned people like me into cunning, wild thieves. (p. I)
For Cambodians, rice is not a side dish. Rice is the center of our meals, a clean, neutral medium that sets off the flavors of other foods we add to it. Traditionally, until the Khmer Rouge took over, we had eaten rice every day. Under the Khmer Rouge, we hardly ever ate rice at all - not rice as it should be, with each grain separate and moist, and a clean, fragrant steam rising from the bowl. (p. 2)
The truth was that under the communists the country was much worse off than it had ever been during my lifetime. We had no electricity. No clocks or automobiles. No modern medicines. No schools. No religious worship. Very little food. And we lived in constant fear of the soldiers. (p. 3)
To outsiders, and often even to ourselves, Cambodia looked peaceful enough. The farmers bound to their planting cycles. Fishermen living on their boats, and their naked brown children jumping in and out of the water. The robed monks, barefoot, walking with deliberate slowness on their morning rounds. Buddhist temples in every village, the graceful, multilayered roofs rising above the trees. The wide boulevards and the flowering trees of our national capital, Phnom Penh. All that beauty and serenity was visible to the eye. But inside, hidden from sight the entire time, was kum. Kum is a Cambodian word for a particularly Cambodian mentality of revenge much more damaging than the original injury. If I hit you with my fist and you wait five years and then shoot me in the back one dark night, that is kum. Or if a government official steals a peasant's chickens and the peasant uses it as an excuse to attack a government garrison, like the one in my village, that is kum. Cambodians know all about kum. It is the infection that grows in our national soul. (p. 9)
Cambodia: it is just a name to most people. Someplace far away where something terrible happened, and few can remember exactly what. Mention Pol Pot or the Khmer Rouge and people start to remember. Or bombs dropping and genocide or even a film called The Killing Fields. (p. 10)
Vietnam has usually overshadowed Cambodia in world news, because the wars there are larger, and because Western countries have gotten directly involved in the fighting. So more people know more about Vietnam than Cambodia. But I have never liked having to explain that Cambodia is next to Vietnam, or even near India and China. To me, Cambodia means something very special. It was the name of the country around my village. And like all children, I believed my village was the center of the world. (p. 10)
Sihanouk didn't want the country ruled either by a Western power like France or by communists. He wanted Cambodia to be independent and neutral. In the Buddhist tradition, he wanted the middle way. (p. 11)
Buddha was not a god but a wise human being. He left a series of steps for us to follow to lead a correct and moral life. He taught that after life comes death, and after death comes rebirth and life again, on and on in a cycle. If we follow Buddha's guidance, the next life will always be better than the last. Only by following his teachings can we ultimately escape the cycle of birth and suffering and rebirth, which we Cambodians call kama and other countries call karma. (p. 20)
Cambodians will do almost anything to keep the appearances of bonheur. We try to stay polite even when we do not feel like being polite, because it is easier that way. To be in conflict forces us to treat one another as enemies, and then we lose control. (p. 22)
Sihanouk himself was not especially corrupt, but he did very little to stop corruption and seldom punished those who were caught. (p. 26)
By Western standards Cambodia was poor and primitive. Most of our people were peasants living off the land. We waited passively for the rains to fill up our rice paddies. We caught tiny fish and foraged for wild foods. Even our wealthiest class, made up of merchants and corrupt government officials in Phnom Penh, wasn't really rich. For all its charm, with all its flower beds and wide boulevards, Phnom Penh was a quiet place where not much happened beyond the morning bustle in the markets and the long lunchtime siestas. And yet how lucky we were, compared to our neighbours! Cambodia was at peace. Nobody had to live in "strategic hamlets" surrounded by barbed wire. We could live where we wanted and do what we wanted. Few were oppressed, beyond the level of oppression and corruption normal for Asian societies. Life ran on in its age-old patterns. In the midmorning, the monks made their silent rounds collecting alms. In the middle of the day, the farmers came in from their fields to rest in the shade under their houses, and old women chewed betel nut and wove their own cloth on looms. At night the villages resounded with the music of homemade instruments and drums. (p. 37)
In Cambodia, Sihanouk was immensely popular. We barely noticed his faults, like allowing corruption to go unpunished, and keeping incompetent people in the government. Few of us were educated enough to care. When he spoke to us in his loud, high-pitched voice, shouting and gesturing wildly, eyes bulging with excitement, we listened with respect. (p. 38)
Until the coup, Lon Nol had been Sihanouk's commander-in-chief. Sam Kwil, the newspaper reporter, told me, "The only reason Lon Nol was promoted was that Sihanouk knew he was stupid. Sihanouk didn't see him as a rival. And it really is true that Lon Nol is incompetent. He takes civilians off the streets, gives them twenty-four hours of training, personally sees to it that they're given Buddah amulets to wear and sends them off to fight the North Vietnamese."
"What's wrong with Buddah amulets?" I said. "You're Buddhist. I'm Buddhist.

"Your work in the hospitals," he said sarcastically. "Do you see any proof that Buddha amulets can stop bullets from an AK-47?"
Under his fierce glare I dropped my eyes and admitted that badly wounded soldiers with religious tattoos and charms came into the hospital all the time. "Lon Nol's crazy," Kwil said earnestly. "I know, I've followed him around. He's going to get a lot of innocent people killed, and then he's going to rely on the Americans for weapons and air strikes to keep the regime from falling. Take my word for it, my friend - he's stupid. Stupid, I tell you! Stupid! Stupid! He started a war but he will not be able to defend the country!" (p. 48)
Men fight for glory or ideals, but the result is not glorious or idealistic. The main result, besides the suffering, is that civilisation is set back many years. (p. 49)
In rural Cambodia, traditional health care is provided by spirit doctors, who interpret dreams, cast spells and use magic, and by herbalists, who make their own medicines from plants. Sometimes the spirit doctors are able to help their patients, because the patients believe in the treatments; and some of the herbal medicines are good. (The herbal cure for syphilis, for example, a strong, nasty-smelling tea boiled from bamboo joints, black pepper and about a dozen other ingredients, is reasonably effective, though why it works is hard to say.) But traditional medicine has no concept of infection and no real method of surgery. It is helpless against many of the diseases that are easily treated by Western techniques. (p. 51)
Unlike Sihanouk, who had involved himself in the daily life of the nation, Lon Nol stayed in his office. He seemed to have very little idea what was happening in the countryside or even nearby in Phnom Penh. In 1971 a stroke paralyzed his right side, confining him even more. When he walked, his right arm shook spastically and his right leg shot out stiffly in a goose step. His speech was slurred, and those who watched him closely [...] believed his thinking was impared too. (p. 60)
Lon Nol did nothing to stop the corruption. He didn't seem to realize that the bonjour and the war were connected - that officers who were interested only in bribes wouldn't fight. He had no real strategy for fighting the communists. He just stayed in his office, making vague, mystical plans for restoring Cambodia to the greatness of its times in the ancient empire at Angkor. He consulted astrologers. He sponsored an organization called the Khmer-Mon Institute, which tried to prove that the dark-skinned Khmer race was superior to the light-skinned peoples like the Chinese and Vietnamese. In Phnom Penh, which was racially mixed and Western-oriented, his ideas were treated like an embarassing joke. We didn't realize how dangerous he was. Under his regime, racial prejudice against Chinese-Cambodians flared up, and his troops massacred thousands of ethnic Vietnamese Cambodians. (p. 60-61)
Lon Nol was a leader only in name. Under him, incompetence and bonjour flourished. The guilty went free and the powerless suffered. Our society had lost its moral direction. And that's why we lost the war. (p. 69)
For every story we heard about the Khmer Rouge atrocities there were several about the Lon Nol regime - mostly massacres of ethnic Vietnamese civilians, whom the Lon Nol soldiers seemed to hate even more than they did the ethnic Chinese. Every day we heard accounts of government soldiers stealing chickens and livestock from civilians in the countryside, or setting up roadblocks to collect bonjour. But we never heard of the Khmer Rouge stealing anything, even a piece of paper or a grain of rice. It was said that the guerrillas kept to a strict and honorable code of behavior - no gambling, no abuse of peasants and, above all, no corruption. After the stench of the Lon Nol regime, the communists seemed like a fresh, clean breeze. (p. 71)
Compared to Lon Nol, who was despised even by those who worked for him, Sihanouk was highly respected. Even if Sihanouk was only a figurehead for the Khmer Rouge, it was hard to believe that the cause he represented was cruel or bad. (p. 71)
In the Khmer language, angka means "organization". Angka was the Organization - logically, I supposed, the Khmer Rouge command group. What did that imply? That the guerrillas were going to try to organize the Cambodians? That wasn't likely. If there was ever a disorganized people, it was us. Peasants who farmed when and where they wanted, employees who were casual about showing up for work, a society so laissez-faire that nothing ever got done. Even Sihanouk hadn't been able to organize us when he was our ruler, and he had tried. (p. 82)
To them, anything in an ampule was medicine. If a patient died after getting an injection, it was the patient's fault. What was the purpose of a revolution like that? I wondered. What was the gain, what was the progress, when a society went from ignorant herbal healers to monkeys like the Khmer Rouge? What about the kind of knowledge that was taught in medical school? Wasn't it worth anything? Were we supposed to forget that it existed? (p. 148)
We Cambodians believe in kama, or karma - a religious concept meaning something like destiny, or fortune. A person's kama depends on what he has done in this life and in previous lives. If he has done bad deeds he will suffer, sooner or later, in this life or the next. Similarly, if he has done good deeds he will have better fortune, sooner or later, in this life or the next. The cycle of births and rebirths goes on and on, and souls carry their kama forward with them. (p. 157)
Was there something in our past existence, some terrible deeds we had committed, that caused us to be punished by this regime? Plenty of Cambodians thought so, but they tended to be people who belonged to rather mystical and superstitious sects of Buddhism. They believed that old prophecies were coming true and that Cambodia was being punished for sins committed long ago. They submitted to the Khmer Rouge sadly but without objection, as if surrendering to their fates. I didn't agree. To me, whether we had good kama or bad kama, it was important to fight the Khmer Rouge. If we couldn't fight them openly and physically then we would fight on the inside, on the battlefields of our minds. (p. 157)
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