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Sunday, April 15, 2007

The West's hypocrisy: language has the power to mask the truth

Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. George Orwell

In the world of politics, George Orwell realised that language has the power to mask the truth and mislead the public, and he tried to increase public awareness of this power by placing a great focus on Newspeak and the media in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Demonstrating the repeated abuse of language by the government and by the media in his novel, Orwell showed how language becomes a mind-control tool, with the ultimate goal being the destruction of free will and imagination.

In Australia, this type of politically-hybridised language is increasingly being used by some sections of the media to propagate apathy. Just consider the use of the term “un-Australian” for every action deemed by our populist press to be against so-called “mainstream values” - another devious term in its own right.

Worse still, we have become immune to this misuse of language as a propaganda tool and blind to the potency of well-crafted diplomatic-speak as a “reality extinguisher”. This abuse of language is an extension of the human rights abuses it is designed to white wash.

Consider last month’s ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague clearing the Republic of Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide in the Bosnian war in the mid-90s. In what amounted to a mealy-mouthed legalese-infused response that reeked of diplomatic doublespeak and First World chauvinism, it could have been easily mistaken as the constitution of the League of Nations version 2.0.

According to the article “Timid Justice” by David Luban writing in the online journal, “The court's exoneration of the Serbian government nonetheless - and after the case dragged on for 14 years - undercuts the principle of state responsibility that it endorsed. If Serbia's actions don't amount to state complicity in genocide, it is hard to envision what would.”

Ironically it seems the only ones prepared to admit the truth about genocide are the perpetrators themselves. As Hannah Arendt famously complained 45 years ago at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, “international law had yet to come to grips with the notion of a criminal state”.

In 1944, Rafael Lemkin, coined the term “genocide”. Lemkin who lost 49 members of his family in the Holocaust, preferred to call it: “Genocide”, with a capital “G”. He believed that naming the crime of genocide was the first step toward forcing the world to commit to abolishing this horrendous practice.

An extremely persistent and relentless advocate whose passion finally lead him to an early grave, Lemkin was determined to establish genocide as an international crime and one that all countries were legally and morally bound to prevent. Language to Lemkin was an important precursor to facing the demons of reality.

Nowadays, it seems a lot easier on the Western political conscience to rebrand the term genocide as “atrocities” or “ethnic cleansing”: after all, it allows the West to abrogate any responsibility and to continue living in a state of perpetual denial. The language of the western political cartels is one of carefully orchestrated perturbation - you cannot condemn what you refuse to acknowledge. It is a bit like renaming Cambodia’s Killing Fields as “life annulment sectors” and claiming that you were totally unaware of the real intentions of the Khmer Rouge.

And speaking of the followers of Pol Pot, someone who went a long way to legitimising that foul regime was Gareth Evans. Now Evans, the former Australian Foreign Minister and Left road warrior is also the new head of the United Nations' Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention. According to a recent piece in The Age titled “Remaking the mistakes of East Timor” by Scott Burchill, “Civilian massacres that reached genocidal proportions were only ‘aberrant acts’, Indonesia's takeover of East Timor was ‘irreversible’ and it was ‘quixotic to think otherwise’ - all this according to [the newly-created UN ‘genocide czar’] Gareth Evans.”

But it is not just the sheer banality of Evans’ remarks hiding the true horrors of 24 years of Indonesian occupation of East Timor; it is also a clear and present example of Western cultural hypocrisy and overriding Anglo-centric political elitism - if you don’t belong to a certain group; if you are not connected enough to be able to write your own version of history; or if you are not a strategic asset to NATO, your net worth may as well be that of a single-cell microorganism.

Neither Kemal Ataturk, Adolf Hitler, Slobodan Milosevic or Saddam Hussein et al could have been able to extinguish millions of innocent lives without some form of acquiescence from western spin doctors.

The West continuously moans and groans about its so-called “higher” morals and values, about how its political institutions and media diversity are superior to those of the rest of the planet, about how it is the shining example of where everyone else should be. This argument has also been used to underline the current War on Terror, as the jihadist enemy we are told, despises all we stand for. US President Bush conveniently advises us that “our way of life threatens them”.

But maybe it’s not so much our way of life that threatens them, but our hypocrisy that feeds their anger and resentment - all potent recruiting tools in this New World Order.

Our moral superiority complex is proving to be nothing more than an illusion of its own making; a house of sand and fog that sits precariously on the precipice of its own arrogance; a fools’ paradise in which military expansionism has become the only way left of demonstrating its own ethical vacuum and moral demise and language is being used as a tool to cloak this gradual downfall.

Mercifully though, the countless victims of genocide from Auschwitz to Srebrenica, from Cambodia to Kosovo and from Darfur to Rwanda will never have to suffer the added pain and indignity of seeing how little their sacrifices amounted to and how today words are used for the same purpose as bullets were yesterday.
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Cambodia confirms bird flu outbreak

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia on Saturday confirmed a new outbreak of bird flu among poultry a little more than a week after a 13-year-old girl died of the deadly H5N1 virus.

The government said the fresh outbreak was discovered earlier this week in chickens and ducks raised in a family’s backyard farm in Kampong Cham province, 124 kilometres (77 miles) east of the capital Phnom Penh.

“We have a new outbreak of bird flu,” Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries Minister Chan Sarun told AFP.

The discovery came after the Cambodian girl died of bird flu last Thursday, becoming the kingdom’s seventh fatality from the H5N1 virus. Her death prompted the government to launch a week-long bird flu awareness blitz.

Following the latest outbreak, authorities killed some 100 chickens and ducks at the backyard farm in the eastern province, said the minister.

Cambodia has been praised by the United Nations for its rapid action against bird flu, which has helped spare it from the human and poultry deaths suffered by its neighbours.
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Buddhist shrine brings a bit of Cambodia to area

By Kristen Holland

A member of Cambodia's royal family has spent more than a year painstakingly creating a three-story replica of a mausoleum at Angkor Wat, a temple complex northwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

And he's been doing it in southwest Dallas.

Socheatrapagna Sisowath, a Cambodian Buddhist monk, arrived in North Texas a year ago to begin construction of the monument at the local temple site. He completed the work last month.

Temple member Shuen Cheh said the Dallas temple wanted to build a monument for those who haven't been to Cambodia. "And to bring the essence of Cambodia to the community," he added.

Mr. Cheh said the monument, constructed using 500- to 1,500-year-old stones and statues imported from Cambodia, is the only replica in the United States, and possibly the world.

Walking around the base of the temple, Mr. Sisowath pointed out the carvings of lotus flowers, minitemples, dragons and lions.

"The Cambodian king uses lions to represent himself and his power," he said through Mr. Cheh, who served as an interpreter.

Mr. Sisowath then showed a visitor a pile of molds he brought from Cambodia to create the intricate designs, as well as several rows of dried panels. He explained that he poured concrete into the molds and let them dry in the sun.

Temple member Volak Sin called the method "old school."

The interior of the stone temple is small, just large enough for a single altar to Buddha. Candles, incense and a plate of yellow and red apples have been placed immediately in front of the altar. Colorful treelike sculptures that represent life line the white walls.

Mr. Sisowath said through Mr. Cheh that he generally worked from 8 a.m. to around 2 or 3 a.m. He set each of the concrete moldings himself.

"I never see anybody that put so much effort into his work," Mr. Cheh said, eying Mr. Sisowath as he zipped around the site, flipping through detailed charts and plans of the mausoleum. "The only time he takes a break is when he sleeps and eats. He pretty much did everything, with his own hands."

Hidden treasure

WHAT: Cambodian Buddhist Temple of Dallas

WHERE: 5701 Crystal Lake Blvd. in southwest Dallas

HISTORY: The Dallas temple was founded in 1986. Weekly services aren't offered, but families visit from time to time for spiritual blessings or to meditate. Several monks live at the temple.

WORSHIP: Those who worship at the Cambodian Buddhist Temple practice Theravada Buddhism, the oldest surviving Buddhist tradition, closely approximating what Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, taught. It has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka and continental Southeast Asia for centuries.

FESTIVALS: The Dallas temple hosts two major festivals a year. The first celebrates the Cambodian New Year; it takes place this weekend. The main celebration will be Sunday, on the grounds. It's open to the public; admission and parking are free. Vendors will be selling food (cash only), and festivities generally last from 9 a.m. till about 1 p.m.

The second, in October, involves a memorial for loved ones.
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