BLOGCRITICS BOOK REVIEW - I am often amazed at human nature and how cultural differences such as education, religion, and culture affects it. Rousseau, for instance, believed in the noble savage. I have read so many memoirs of missionaries in far-off lands, histories of the wild west, and war stories that I have come to believe that innate human nobility is a rare find. Sure there are those one-in-a-million tribes and countries where everyone in the clan is like a living saint but usually it’s not that way with we humans. Especially when power and money is involved.
In The Road to Lost Innocence, Somaly Mam’s account of her life in Cambodia before and after the Khmer Rouge, we see this kind of savagery. Now, I’m not an expert in Southeast Asian history and born even before the war it seemed that certain cultural cruelties were pretty ingrained, as if they were a part of a thousand-year culture. Specifically, the oppression of women, racial prejudice against dark women and dark tribes.
Somaly belongs to the Phnong, a dark tribe that lived in the deep forests of Cambodia. Unlike the Khmer, who were lighter, the Phnong were considered savage, stupid, dirty. Yes, yes, I know. Sounds familiar, but as Somaly Mam writes, all these Asian countries like light or white skin. War and poverty, of course, only made these racial prejudices and the oppression against women even more cruel...
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