Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On deception

Kuala Lumpur July 2006

Life has a funny way of causing me to question motives and re-think actions and attitudes. I've been reflecting a lot on the issue of deceipt and dishonesty.

I am confronted on a daily basis with the choice to trust or not to trust the people around me. I have commented to others that my faith in the decency and purity of people has plummeted. I now have a very difficult time trusting anyone because I have been lied to and cheated so many times since I've been in Asia.

In fact, when I did a fun quiz with of a group of my pre-intermediate students on how honest they were (as an introduction to teaching the 2nd conditional, unreal/unlikely future), only 3 students out of about 20 actually scored in the range of being honest people. The majority scored in the OK or dishonest category.

In fact, one student shocked me so much by completing the sentence, "If someone lied to me, I would. . ." and he completed it with ". . . be happy." I actually stopped class and clarified what he said because I was so shocked that he was so casual about it.

What I have been coming to realize is that lying, cheating and stealing are considered necessary and prized virtues by most Cambodians nowadays. It happens so often and is so rampant that there is an attitude: "you can't fight 'em so join 'em."

My heart is so incredibly sad to come to this realization because I know that it is a stumbing block to true freedom. And as an American (along with other western foreigners) it is not in my spirit to want to accept this. I want to believe that people are good and honest. Unfortunately, reality paints a different picture which flies in the face of everything that I have learned and been taught.


  1. just stopped by to say hi. I am sorry you are feeling blue. I had me some excellent yellow curry the other day and I thought of you.

  2. Firstly everybody lies, and yes so do Americans and Westerners its just not so open in the west. As a half Cambodian half Australian who has lives in Cambodia and Australia, I have to admit that YES Cambodians (including my own family) seem to openly accept lying and manipualtion, but also being in Australia people also lie and manipulate (just not so openly). You have to also take into consideration the historical background in Cambodia. During the Pol Pot regime, Cambodian culture and tradition was turned over its head. People were taught to dob each other in, parents, children ect. It was all about survival and yes to survive that regime people had to make terrible decisions and choices. And because of the current situation of poverty and massive corruption (government and police ect) it is a difficult environment to try to undo the social damage that was done. I'm going to Cambodia in October, because I love the country and people. I do not judge people with surface and superficial and western ideals of what a decent person is, but what lays deep inside at the heart of their being.

  3. Dear Anonymous,
    I don't disagree that everyone lies, no matter what country they are from. However, deception is not a superficial judgment. Decent people should not have to lie. And if you really read my post you could see that is was/is a real issue that I have to deal with. I am truly sad that for many Cambodians living in the town/city, because deception does lay inside their heart. I know because I see it in the classroom, the marketplace and elsewhere. This is, as you said, a reality of the the devastation of the 4 years of brutality by the Khmer Rouge, a fact that I DO NOT dismiss lightheartedly. I am aware and often ponder the weight of that period's impact on the nation's culture to this day. I have lived continuously in Cambodia for four years (and Asia for five). It definitely makes an impression on someone. I cannot evade my own upbringing in a Western civilization, but rather have to deal with the contrast of Asian life and come to some sort of an understanding in my brain. I don't doubt your love of Cambodia. Please don't dismiss my love of the country, too. After all I would not be living there if I didn't love it.