Long holidays, slow development
Living in a country with too many holidays like Cambodia can make us reflect in the culture of work we dream. I don’t believe Cambodians are the most lazy people on earth (Mark, 2010). I believe there are some elements in the culture we should challenge, for example, too many Cambodians like to have money, live in comfort and get it with the less effort as possible – let us blame in part the Cambodian aid dependency created by the international community throughout the last decades (see Sophal Ear, AID Dependency in Cambodia. How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy.) There is an authentic happiness when many of them notice holidays ahead in the calendar. A great activity to prepare themselves for feasts, carnivals and tours (ដើលើង Dae Lean), but boring to get back to work or to classes, a slow reaction to responsibilities and commitment in many. If we want a sustainable development, we need to change such holidays’ culture for an authentic culture of work.
Culture of work has to see with production and production must be constant. In production, breaks mean lost and decline. Now well, in so many holidays, the only sector to get a benefit is tourism, but we should not depend from the tourist industry only. Cambodia should not become a big thematic park for the international community only. We don’t need that all our young people finish to become altogether tourist guides or goods of consume (sexual tourism?) but we need scientists, economists, sociologists, philosophers, archaeologists and many other professionals and skills to give form to a real national development.
There is already a common idea that Cambodia, unlike countries such as Germany and Japan, did not develop the same after its disaster due to laziness. To this point of view, Germany and Japan were devastated during the II War World, but managed to recovery in the span of few decades, while Cambodia, similarly devastated, shows little self empowerment.
To me the comparison is imperfect. There are some elements you have to consider before doing such comparison. Not Germany or Japan were colonies of an European power like Cambodia. I think this fact has much to see of how Cambodia behave today. The damage of European colonialism can be traced around the five continents (see the African case.) Former European colonies tend to depend very much from international aid. Germany and Japan have been masters for all their histories.
When it was about to recover Germany and Japan, the international community helped those nations assuming a different attitude toward them, too different to what it has assumed in Cambodia. To Germany and Japan, the international community blamed them for the damage and, although there was help, they were asked to clean the mess they produced. So Germans and Japanese people, even today, feel a little shame for that chapter of their history and they feel they have to contribute with something to others and to themselves. In the Cambodian case no. There was a big feeling of consideration and shame. The international community felt guilty to ignore the Cambodian case for so many years, while there was a great violence inside the country. The international community saw Cambodians as poor guys and then came in to give a lot help, starting with the doubtless democratic transition of UNTAC that spent billions of dollars to nothing useful and the Khmer Rouge UN-Cambodian tribunal spending much money to prosecute a couple of elders, letting behind too many other much responsible of war crimes. A circle of scapegoats to assume our responsibility, certainly. Pol Pot became a perfect excuse to attract thousands of dollars to sustain a culture of corruption eager to organize big carnivals, but slow to think in a real sustainable and responsible development. Let’s build hotels and resorts everywhere… forget universities and polytechnics… it’s not need of it, we can design colorful diplomas in our printing presses…
Don’t blame Cambodians to show lazy. Those lazy Cambodians are the result of what the French colony and the international community have done through the years. In this case, we need to work on education and it must be a great change.