Well you'll work harder
With a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day!
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Cambodian island of Koh Tonsay
We've all met them. The upper-class idealistic youth. God help us and save us from the naive busybody that is both the West-coast Michael Moore-worshiping Socialist and the East-coast Ayn-Rand-spouting Libertarian. There is no facet of civilization that they don't want to screw up. They don't want money, they want the gold standard. They don't want food and drug regulation, because that's communism. They don't want computers, because that's bad for the environment. Honey is wrong, because it exploits bees. Streetlights are wrong, because they weren't built by the invisible hand of the marketplace. School is bad, because it creates elitism. Reading is bad, because it oppresses the alphabet. We should be anti-marriage, because it victimizes... oh, why go on?
Haven't you always wanted to grab one of these motormouths by the popped collar on their Abercrombie & Fitch shirt, yank them out of their jacked-up Hummer urban-assault tanks (with PETA stickers on the bumper), slap the Starbucks sloppachino out of their fat little hands, and say, "You think you have all the answers? Well, don't waste your talent here! Go someplace where the people can really
benefit from your wisdom!"
Yeah, Jello Biafra has felt that way, too.
And "Holiday in Cambodia," one of the best-loved Dead Kennedys songs, neither pulls punches nor exaggerates one iota. Pol Pot led Khmer Rouge, a totalitarian ruling party in Cambodia, from 1975 to 1979 following a revolution. Along with temporarily changing the name of the country, they threw out every possible aspect of modern civilization - including medicine and libraries - and returned the country to an 11th-century standard, then forced everyone to go back to the farms and try to rebuild the country from scratch. Out of a population of 8 million, anywhere from 1.7 to 2.5 million citizens were killed, by execution, starvation, disease, and just plain misery. This is the atrocity that gave rise to the term "killing fields."
Prasat Angkor Wat, the biggest tourist draw of Cambodia
There, there's your idealistic post-revolution paradise! And let's not have any bickering over "well, that's totalitarian communism, we're agrarian libertarianism, we're different" or "they just miscalculated the balance of liberated wealth to new resource creation, but if we just ran those numbers again..." No, no no. Did you cheer when the bank buildings got blown up at the end of the film Fight Club
? Then Jello Biafra is talking to you
. To make it clear exactly how far the Cambodian atrocities were taken: doctors, lawyers, and teachers were targeted, and one newspaper report told that "eyeglasses were as deadly as the yellow star (of the Jewish holocaust)" because they were a sign of intellectualism.
Cambodia has since made some recovery, establishing a constitutional monarchy and rebuilding something that resembles a civilization. It is a lush, exotic land exhibiting all the charm of far Southeast Asia. It is a land of monsoons, elephants, rice fields, fishing boats, and houseboats on the river. There's writing everywhere that looks like Salvadore Dali's first finger-painting and elegant Buddhist art and bas reliefs are still around. Whatever wasn't burned down, anyway.
For a better version, consult the album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
, which has extended guitar play. And for... well, one madman's answer to anther madman, do not miss the Richard Cheese version, which takes one of the angriest political punk songs and turns into a mellow lounge act like he does with everything.
Holiday in Cambodia Songfacts
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