David and Goliath

My dear Kacvey,

This letter is intended for your students who wish to know the original story of David and Goliath. This is how the Romano-Jewish scholar and historian Flavius Josephus (37-circa 100) narrated in Book VI (ix) of his “Jewish Antiquities”, and translated by H. St. J. Thackeray and Ralph Marcus.

The story goes:

(ix. 1) Not long afterwords the Philistines again assembled and mustered a great force, and marched against the Israelites; occupying the ground between Sochus and Azekus they established their camp there. Saul, on his side, let out his army against them, and, having pitched his camp on a certain mountain, forced the Philistines to abandon their first camp and to take up a similar position on another mountain over against that which he had occupied himself. The two camps were separated by a valley between the hills on which they lay. And now there came down from the camp of the Philistines one by name Goliath, of the city of Gitta, a man of gigantic stature. For he measured four cubits and a span , and was clad in armour proportioned to his frame. He wore a breastplate weighing 5000 shekels, with a helmet and greaves of bronze such as were meet to protect the limbs of a man of such prodigious size. His spear was not light enough to be borne in the right hand, but he carried it elevated on his shoulders; he had also a spear weighing 600 shekels, and many followed him, carrying his armour. Standing, then, between the opposing forces, this Goliath gave a mighty shout and said to Saul and the Hebrews, “I hereby deliver you from battle and its perils. For what need is there for your troop to join arms and to suffer heavy losses? Give me one of your men to fight with me, and the issue of the war shall be decided by the single victor, and to the people of the victor the other side shall be slaves. It is far better, I think, and more prudent to attain your end by the hazard of one man’s life rather than all.” Having so spoken he retired to his own camp. On the morrow he came again and delivered the same speech, and so, for forty days, he did not cease to challenge his enemies in these same terms, to the utter dismay both of Saul and his army. And though they remained drawn up as for battle, they never came to close quarters.

(2) Now, on the outbreak of the war between the Hebrews and the Philistines, Saul had sent David away to his father Jesse, being content with the latter’s three sons whom he had sent to share the dangers of the campaign. David then returned at first to his flocks and cattle-pastures, but before long visited the camp of the Hebrews, being sent by his fathers to carry provisions to his brothers and to learn how they fared. Now when Goliath came again, challenging and taunting the Hebrews with not having among them a man brave enough to venture down to fight with him, David was talking with his brothers about the matters wherewith his father had charged him, and hearing the Philistine reviling and abusing their army, he became indignant and said to his brothers that he was ready to meet this adversary in single combat. Thereat the eldest of his brothers, Eliab, rebuked him, telling him that he was bolder than became his years and ignorant of what was fitting, and bade him be off to the flock and to his father. Out of respect for his father David withdrew, but gave out to some of the soldiers that he wished to fight with the challenger. As they straightway reported the lad’s resolve to Saul, the king sent for him; and David, when asked by him what he wished, said, “Let not thy spirit be downcast nor fearful, O King, for I will bring down the presumption of the foe by joining battle with him and throwing this mighty giant down before me. Thus would he be made a laughing-stock, and thine army have the more glory, should he be slain, not by a grown man fit for war and entrusted with the command of battles, but by one to all appearance and in truth no older than a boy.”

(3) Saul admired the lad’s daring and courage, but could not place full confidence in him by reason of his years, because of which, he said, he was too feeble to fight with a skilled warrior. “These promises,” replied David, “I make in the assurance that God is with me; for I have already had proof of His aid. Once when a lion attacked my flocks and carried off a lamb, I pursued and caught him and snatched the lamb from the beast’s jaws, and, when he sprang up upon me, lifted him by the tail and killed him by dashing him upon the ground. And I did the very same thing in battle with the bear. Let this enemy then be reckoned even as one of those wild beasts, so long has he insulted our army and blasphemed our God, who will deliver him into my hands.”

(4) So then Saul, praying that the lad’s zeal and hardihood might be rewarded by God with a like success, said, “Go forth to battle.” And he clad him in his own breastplate, girt his sword about him, fitted a helmet upon his head and so sent him out. But David was weighed down by this armour, for he had not been trained nor taught to wear armour, and said, ” Let this fine apparel be for thee, O King, for thou indeed art able to wear it, but suffer me, as thy servant, to fight just as I will.” Accordingly he laid down the armour and, taking up his staff, he put five stones from the brook into his shepherd’s wallet, and with a sling in his right hand advanced against Goliath. The enemy, seeing him approaching in this manner, showed his scorn, and derided him for coming to fight, not with such weapons as men are accustomed to use against other men, but with those wherewith we drive away and keep off dogs. Or did he perhaps take him for a dog, and not a man? “No,” replied David, “not even for a dog, but something still worse.” This roused Goliath’s anger, and he called down curses upon him in his god’s name and threatened to give his flesh to the beasts of earth and the birds of heaven to rend asunder. But David answered him, “Thou comest against me with sword, spear and breastplate, but I, in coming against thee, have God for my armour, who will destroy both thee and all your host by our hands, For I will this day cut off thine head and fling thy carcase to the dogs, thy fellows, and all men shall learn that Hebrews have the Deity for their protection, and that He in His care for us is our armour and strength, and that all other armament and force are unavailing where God is not.” And now the Philistine, impeded by the wight of his armour from running more swiftly, came on toward David at a slow pace, contemptuous and confident of slaying without any trouble an adversary at once unarmed and of an age so youthful.

(5) But the youth advanced to the encounter, accompanied by an ally invisible to the foe, and this was God. Drawing from his wallet one of the stones from the brook which he put therein, and fitting it to his sling, he shot it at Goliath, catching him in the forehead, and the missile penetrated to the brain, so that Goliath was instantly stunned and fell upon his face. Then, running forward, David stood over his prostrate foe and with the other’s broadsword, having no sword of his own, he cut off his head. Goliath’s fall caused the defeat and rout the Philistines; for, seeing their best warrior laid low and fearing a complete disaster, they resolved to remain no longer, but sought to save themselves from danger by ignominious and disorderly flight. But Saul and the whole Hebrew army, with shouts of battle, sprang upon them and with great carnage pursued them to the borders of Gitta and to the gates of Ascalon. Of the Philistines 30,000 were slain and twice as many wounded. Saul then returning to their camp destroyed the palisade and set fire to it; while David carried the head of Goliath to his own tent and dedicated his sword to God.

Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian author, once, said: “That term, ‘David and Goliath,’ has entered our language as a metaphor for improbable victories by some weak party over someone far stronger.”

Will the one-man show go on forever?

My dear Kacvey,

In the entertainment world, a one-man show is not rare on theaters row. Unfortunately, when the performer falls sick, for example, the show has to be cancelled because no understudy can substitute the star. If sickness persisted and the star could not return to the stage for a long period of time, the promoter or producer has to close the show and bear the ensuing financial consequences.

In the City of Tonlé Buon Mouk, a one-man show has been on for 32 years on the politico-theatrical stage. The star writes the script, performs, rules the actors guild, dictates tickets cost, threatens potential artist or competitor who wishes to set up similar show, blasts any critics that do not give him a rave review, and believes that his one-man show is the only show that will be “there” forever. The business of this one-man show has made not only the star but also those associated with him extremely wealthy. Radio and television stations never stop praising his acts with the same old and outdated rhetoric repeated day-in-day-out.

Kacvey, how many times have your students seen that show “live”, heard it on the radio, seen it on television screen or FB? Poor students, they ought to be sick and tired of it and must wish that the show be ended one day, once and for all. Performing art is not the exclusivity of one man, never was and never will. Which of us do not know Charlie Chaplin, Lawrence Olivier, Richard Burton, Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli, Mel Brooks, Carol Channing, Sid Caesar etc …?

Well, the star of the one-man show in the City of Tonlé Buon Mouk is now 65 years of age and the City is abuzz with news, rumors and speculations about the state of his health and his whereabouts. Let leave the natural matter to nature, and the star to his star. But it is fair to ask what would happen to the show and the theater if the star is no longer available or capable of performing on stage, as it is briefly discussed in the opening paragraph of this letter?

Therefore, three words should be borne in mind: Chaos, Uncertainty and Paralysis. Or the CUP.

Which of us of the world do not know Franco, Pinochet, Duvalier, Idi Amin, Haile Mariam, Saddam Hussein etc … and Pol Pot and their criminal and murderous “acts” against their own people.?

Two pals: Nal and Ngog

My dear Kacvey,

Imaginatively, in a luxurious antechamber of a hospital in the Lion City, two old pals would meet and chat, discreetly and secretively:

Ngog: Hey old pal, you look terrible!
Nal: My health is playing dirty trick on me.
Ngog: What’s going on then?
Nal: What do you expect: chain-smoking, don’t know what is sport, blood pressure, diabetes, constant pressure on one eye. The whole enchilada of not getting younger anymore.
Ngog: But you play golf, though!
Nal: Golf! If it’s that good, why am I here? In fact, just to impress Westerners that I belong to their league. On the course, I just swing the club, putt and walk from cart to ball, and ball to cart; don’t even need to find or pick up balls.
Ngog: So, then, what did Doc say?
Nal: He locks me up for multiple tests and diagnoses for the hell I don’t know how long it will take.
Ngog: Oh boy, you’re in for a long haul!
Nal: Guess so, if that what it takes.
Ngog: But you can’t get the kitchen unattended while the stove is on?
Nal: I have guys on the watch and my iPad handy to give orders.
Ngog: How much do you trust those guys and how much do you expect your FB orders to be executed while you’re on a hospital bed a thousand kilometers away?
Nal: Look, I took the power through chaos, I might lose it through chaos. Karma. Ying and Yang.
Ngog: You sound contemplative and philosophical.
Nal: You see those tubes, needles, wires all around my body, and I’m tugged in a white blanket, it scares the hell out of anybody.
Ngog: You become uncertain and also seem afraid of something.
Not the same guts and physical strength from younger years anymore.
Ngog: How about your 3M? Is there anyone trustworthy to carry the torch?
Nal: What 3M?
Ngog: Your 3 male progenies.
Nal: Not promising. I want them to carry on my legacy and prepare them for that. But they don’t prepare themselves. Ah, modern kids, born and raised with silver spoons!
Ngog: So, they are out of contention, if I guess it right.
Nal: Sort of. Without me, they will be eaten alive by “White” and “Duck Shooting.”
Ngog: But have you really prepared at least one of them?
Nal: Yes I did, M1, but he screwed himself up with his trip to the US. M2 and M3 are way below par for such high objectives and stakes.
Ngog: Meanwhile, who’s in charge of the kitchen?
Nal: “White” and “Duck Shooting.” Hope that they are not “Lon Nol” re-incarnated.
Ngog: If “Lon Nol” re-appeared, you’re always welcome to Noï. What would your bodyguards be doing then?
Nal: Bodyguards defend me if I’m in the kitchen. When I’m not there anymore, they will sell themselves to the highest bidder or new master. Bodyguards are like mercenaries driven by big money.
Ngog: What about policemen and soldiers? Will they listen to your voice or order from your hospital bed?
Nal: Doubt it. They are government policemen and soldiers; they are not “comrades.” They never fight a single enemy or war. Like in 1974, they will unconditionally welcome any new leader.
Ngog: That’s your “domestic” paradigm. If so, “my comrades” of 1979 who did not return home but stay in your kitchen could be useful to you, couldn’t they?
Nal: They have all been “unmasked” and again, it’s all about whether or not I’m healthy and standing.
Ngog: How about your million fans and supporters from Facebook?
Nal: You’re mixing up social media and reality, because FB doesn’t vote. FB is shadow and hollow; I play it because not only it’s a fad, but also I can see what they feel or write about me.
Ngog: But you’re on it every single day!
Nal: True, but look at the crowd at Freedom Park after July 2013 and the funerals cortege from Wat Chass in Chruoy Chanvar to Takeo on 24 July 2016; I will never be able to mobilize such a massive crowd and sympathizers, no matter what I say or do. It’s FB versus reality, my pal.
Ngog: And you also mean the 3 millions that walked away from you on 4 June 2017, right?
Nal: Absolutely. These are incredible numbers that won’t stop of getting bigger and bigger in the future.
Ngog: Bottom line now is: your health and the 2018 elections, is it not?
Nal: As of now, my health cannot handle the elections. I give it one to two more months to recoup, but Doc might see it differently. I’ve slowed down quite a bit since Davos, but it ain’t getting any better.
Ngog: Without you at the forefront energetically and with gusto, 2018 elections wouldn’t be in the pocket …
Nal: Unless I play dirty like in 2013 again…
Ngog: Provided you could still be walking!
Nal: Are you wishing me something?
Ngog: Just following through on your line of thinking. Can’t still gather how come for 32 years you can’t have a person or a team to take over when your mandate and time are up.
Nal: I’ve always been stuck with the notion of political superiority and immortality. I beat them all the times and never think that time is the enemy of immortality. Man, time is beating me hard, clinically and medically.
Ngog: Never expect to see you in such a fatalistic and depressed state of mind and matter.
Nal: Wish me luck like you did on 9 January 1979.
Ngog: Wish you a quick recovery.
Nal: Recovery, probably; but unlike car or airplane engine that can be overhauled or replaced, human engine is what it is, from birth to dirt.
Ngog: Thanks for the chat. I will share your thoughts with Noï.
Nal: Tell Noï that he had made my 32 years in the kitchen the best time of my life. cảm ơn. Tạm biệt.

Death is 1-year old

My dear Kacvey,

On 10 July 2016, you and your students mourned the death of Mr. Kem Ley through cold-blooded assassination. On 10 July 2017, all of you pay respect to his disappearance, his honor of being an honest Khmer, a Khmer for all Khmer.

His death is now a year-old, and so is the awakening of Khmer conscience. Time will make his death deeper into the political history of Cambodia, and will also make the Khmer conscience stronger and more determined for change.

Mr. Kem Ley’s last born son will never feel his heartbeat nor his touch, but time will reveal to him and teach him how a man of national character was his father!

The “presumed assassin” is purging his jail term sentenced by a sham kangaroo court that takes the laws into its own hands to protect the “schemer of the assassination” rather than investigate and find the TRUTH. The plot to assassinate Mr. Kem Ley is text-book Khmer Rouge, whether it is for the past, present or future. Khmer Rouge of past is always Khmer Rouge of present and future. Dark scheme to spill Khmer blood has always been their political and autocratic trademark.

A clean and un-corrupt politician was murdered, the presumed murderer in jail: perfect crime. The “schemer” smiles as he wraps himself in a cape of the demon of darkness before entering his cache like Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.

Kacvey, your students should be assured that Mr. Kem Ley will never be forgotten.


The Character of a Nation

My dear Kacvey,

In its website, The Daily News published an Associated Press newswires reporting a warning made by the Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who said: “The character of a nation is not the character of its president. The character of a nation is the character of its people.

Although Senator Warren’s warning is related to the current state of domestic political and institutional affairs of the US, the meaning of her statement could well be studied by people of any nation in the world. Idea and concept, like sunlight, moonshine or air, have no frontiers or walls that no man could set up against other man.

That being said, Kacvey, you may wish to share it with your students in the context of Cambodia for their reflection and obiter dictum. Let paraphrase it: “The character of the Cambodian nation is not the character of neither the ex-Khmer Rouge and sitting prime minister, nor the self-exiled ex-leader of the opposition party, nor the combination of them both. The character of the Cambodian nation is the character of its people who defined themselves at the communes elections on 4 June 2017.

Kacvey, let help your students building up their good attitude and character for the future of Cambodia, and to avoid what Albert Einstein, once, said: “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character” to happen.

Khmer Diaspora Novelists

My dear Kacvey,

On both shores of the Atlantic ocean and in Australia, four young and promising authors of Khmer stock have recently emerged, and their books should now be introduced to the attention of your students.

In France, Olivier Michael Kim, has written four novels:
– Ne réveille jamais un ours qui dort: L’Ordre de Saint-Michel – Tome 1
– Les ours ne font pas des chats: L’Ordre de Saint-Michel – Tome 2
– Un pantin sur la route
– Le Mal de la Mer

In the US:

Sambath Meas has written two novels:
– The Governor’s Daughter – Mysteries of Colonial Cambodia
– The Immortal Seeds: Life goes on for a Khmer family

Vaddey Ratner has also written two novels:
– Music of the Ghosts
– In the Shadow of the Banyan

In Australia, Alice Pung has written five books:
– Unpolished Gem
– Growing Up Asian in Australia
– Her Father’s Daughter
– Laurinda
– Lucy and Linh

Francis Bacon, once, said: “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man” to which Joseph Addison added: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

Please encourage your students to do so during summer vacations.

“Banana Republic”

My dear Kacvey,

This is in response to your students’query about the phrase “banana republic.”

Although google could generously address the question, the full paragraph below would provide a glimpse of the context where O.Henry coined it in Chapter 9: The Admiral of “Cabbages and Kings” [Book 5 of “The Complete Works of O.Henry”]

The paragraph goes as follows: “In the constitution of this small, maritime banana republic was a forgotten section that provided for the maintenance of a navy. This provision – with many other wiser ones – had lain inert since the establishment of the republic. Anchuria had no navy and had no use for one.  It was characteristic of Don Sabas – a man at once merry, learned, whimsical and audacious – that he should have disturbed the dust of this musty and sleeping statute to increase the humor of the world by so much as a smile from his indulgent colleagues.

Nota bene: O.Henry is the pen name of William Sydney Porter (1862-1910). “Cabbages and Kings” was written in 1904.

Generation “DEMOCRACY”

My dear Kacvey,

A couple of weeks ago, you asked your students about their readiness for the commune elections on Sunday 4 June 2017, and you indicate that their positive responses are so encouraging that even yourself was surprised by their enthusiasm and determination.

Generation “DEMOCRACY”, here it comes!

Generation “DEMOCRACY” has come of age, after having:

  • studied and learned the tragic and genocidal history of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge,
  • survived to this date with their parents and grand-parents the corrupted, nepotistic and autocratic rule of the ex-Khmer Rouge,
  • seen how the constitutional and acquired rights of citizenry are abused by the power (civilian, military and police) in existence with the explicit complicity of the kangaroo courts,
  • been victims of lands expropriations and decimation of natural habitat,
  • witnessed the continuous destruction of Cambodian natural resources,
  • endured the constant threat of arbitrary arrest and detention for expression of different ideas and opinions,
  • been subjected to the blindness of political obscurity of the current national leadership whose focus is mainly to protect the tyrannic power and the dishonest wealth accumulated by members of the tribe,
  • been astonished and shocked at how political figures who do not toe the line of autocracy are cold-bloodedly assassinated, brutally beaten by hired thugs, illegally wiretapped, and arbitrarily arrested and detained on artificial and trumped charges,
  • perceived that the ruling party, after 30 years of political monotony, has transformed Cambodia into a private fiefdom under the control of one man – and one man only – without accountability whatsoever,
  • experienced the economic hardship due to the disparity in income distribution between the corrupted 1% and the remaining 99%, and, last but not least,
  • given no opportunity to try or to taste the flavor of free and democratic discussions and debates.

Generation “DEMOCRACY”, the time is now yours to show that you are:

  • responsible citizens for yourselves, your future and Cambodia,
  • concerned citizens who are equal in constitutional rights and obligations with those who seek your vote and voice,
  • citizens who care about Cambodia that belongs to all of you together,
  • independent and sovereign in expressing your political opinion through secret ballot,
  • the owners of your belief, conviction and principle,
  • confident that “change” is the way that the future, since time memorial, always conducts itself.

Generation “DEMOCRACY”, you must remember that the world moves with constant changes. The most original and philosophical idea and demonstration of change are contained in an ancient Chinese classic called “Book of Change” (Yijing 易经). It goes as follows: “In ancient times, when Baoxi had come to rule over all under Heaven, he looked up and contemplated the images exhibited in the sky and looked down and observed the processes taking place on earth. He contemplated the patterns on the birds and the beasts and the properties of the land … Thus he devised the Eight Trigrams (bagua 八卦), in order to communicate with the unknown and classify the relations of every object and phenomenon on earth… Change must occur when the existing way is no longer adequate, and only through change can a new workable way be found. As long as it works, the existing way lasts. Heaven protect those who change with the change of circumstances.

Generation “DEMOCRACY”, ask yourself: If you can’t change, who else could?
By voting, you have the capacity to move things forward. You vote, you change, and “democracy” is yours, your Cambodia.
It’s up to you to count on yourself.
Don’t live in the future with the outdated.
Get rid of the old Khmer Krâhârm’s leftover image and symbol.

Generation “DEMOCRACY”, you have the limitless power to shake up the status quo.
Exercise it, en masse.

From Adam to Moses

My dear Kacvey,

Here is the answer to your question whether or not there is lineage from Adam (& Eve) to Moses.

According to “Jewish Antiquities” written by Josephus (37-100 CE), the lineage from Adam to Moses could be reconstructed as follows:

Isaac (Ishmael is Isaac’s stepbrother)
Jacob (Esau is Jacob’s twin brother)
Moses (Aaron is Moses’s brother) (Moses had two sons: Gersos and Eleazar)


The ‘Chinazation’ of Cambodia

My dear Kacvey,

This letter is intended to assist you in your lectures/discussions with your students on the above-mentioned subject which is contemporary, delicate and politically sensitive. It is related to two books and one newspaper article the contents of which would lead you to the notions of “Under the Heavens” (天下), the “Central Kingdom” or “Middle Kingdom” and their historical dynamics that are impacting today’s world politics and conflicts.

  1. RENEWAL – The Chinese State and the New Global History” by Wang Gungwu (王赓武); ISBN: 978 962 996 536 5;
  2. Everything Under the Heavens – How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power” by Howard W. French; ISBN: 978 0 385 35332 8. Chapter Four “A Pacified South” deals extensively with Cambodia in its triangular historical and political contexts with China and  Vietnam; and
  3. The ‘Chinazation’ of Cambodia – China’s deepening economic presence is bringing progress – but at what cost?” by Kenji Kawase of Nikkei Asian Review.