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Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare
Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare
by Philip Short
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Details with quotes, 9 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was drawn to the biography of Pol Pot partly because of the heinousness of his regimes crimes. Most interesting were the methods employed by the Khmer Rouge. The whole scale deportation of city populations seems unbelievable but he did it. The book starts slowly and it took about a hundred pages before the pace of events drew me in. Until that point I would definitely not call it a page-turner.

What I find educational are the origins of the Khmer Rouge and the peculiar way they developed communism. Classical Marxist-Leninism sees communism as the rising up of the "working class" the proletariat. I had mistakenly believed that this was anybody who worked for a living. This is not correct however. It specifically refers to people working for others. This breeds the question of the worker receiving an equitable share of what they produce. In Cambodia subsistence farmers were not asking whether they had an equitable share of the produce of their hands. They had 100% of what they produced - and it was barely enough. The Khmer Rouge "adapted" communism with a cultural interpretation based on Buddhism, the traditional religion of Cambodia (p150) and the model of the French Revolution of peasants led by bourgeois intellectuals (p72).

Therevada Buddhism is intensely introspective. The goal is not to improve society or redeem one's fellow men; it is self-cultivation, in the nihilistic sense of the demolition of the individual. So it was that using the vocabulary of Buddhism the emphasis was on "proletariat consciousness".

There was a precedent in the case of China in which Mao said there was no need to go through the stage of bourgeois capitalism. Instead a "democratic revolution" followed by a "socialist revolution" would suffice (p70).

What is more difficult to explain is the cruelty and indifference. In reading of the flat denial of atrocities I was struck by the similarities with the Nambari in Babylon 5. Indeed was I not a fan of the series I doubt I would have understood the cultural roots which led to the denial of atrocities. One of the Nambari lies about who was to blame for a bar fight. This is amusing and innocuous but becomes crucial later in a murder trial. The witness is said to be lying but "Nambari do not lie". Fact is that lying is "permitted" if it is done to "save face" for another. This comes close to explaining the Cambodian ease of lying where a straight answer would cause loss of face (p207).

The reason for the mass deportations is more difficult to explain. There is a clue in the belief that "private trade like private ownership implied the pursuit of gain and attachment to individual possessions. It was by definition dishonest." (p247)

There were many other points, one of which was the use/control not only of the private lives but the language used to express thought.

· The ownership of private land was forbidden
· Cooking food in your house was forbidden (communal canteens) p334
· Foraging for food was forbidden (this was an individualistic activity) p346
· Married couples were separated (weekly "visits")
· Ownership of anything above the bare minimum was forbidden
· The educated were killed in villages (they were privileged like the rich) p254
· Mother and Father replaced by Aunt and Uncle p324
· Free choice of spouses was explicitly condemned and marriages were celebrated collectively for a minimum of ten couples.
· Money was printed in China for issue, but with no markets, no wages it was withdrawn and the state issued food etc... for work (I now have a Khmer Rouge banknote as a bookmark)

From a spiritual point of view one of the worst pronouncements of Pol Pot came on page 176 said in the context of executions, `I do not care if I am sent to hell,' he cried, `I will present the relevant documents to the Devil himself.'

In terms of language there are scattered examples throughout the 450 pages of the book. Most sinister was the concept of `spiritual private property' p316. "To destroy physical private property the appropriate method was the evacuation of the towns... But spiritual private property is more dangerous, it comprises everything that you think is `yours', everything that you think exists in relation to `yourself- your parents, your family, your wife.' Everything of which you say, `It is mine...' is spiritual private property.

The knowledge you have in your head, your ideas, are mental private property. To become a true revolutionary you must... wash your mind clean. That knowledge comes from the colonialists and imperialists ... and has to be destroyed."

The fullest discussion is on pages 324-325. Nuon Chea (the Khmer equivalent of the Nazis regime's Goebbels). "...words conveying lyrical or bourgeois sentiments like `beauty', `colourful' and `comfort' were banned from the airwaves. The goal was that outlined in 1984, a book which neither Pol nor Nuon had read but whose principles they grasped intuitively:
The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought... In
the end we will make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because
there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that
will ever be needed will to be expressed by exactly one word, with
it's meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed
out and forgotten... Every year fewer and fewer words, and the
range of consciousness always a little smaller... In fact there will
be no thought as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not
thinking... Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."


The Faith Healers
The Faith Healers
Price: £3.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Randi shows todays phenomenon is not Biblical healing but does not examine Biblical miracles, 19 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Faith Healers (Kindle Edition)
This book deals with the issue of charismatic miracles in the form of healings that are claimed. In refuting the miracles Randi is very thorough. As an atheist he does not examine the biblical texts which are used as justification for today's 'healing crusades' and 'power and wonders' ministries. It is a mild criticism and I wondered if he would invite concerned Christians to contribute a little, even as an appendix. So four stars for what it sets out to do, but a little reservation that the historical precedent for today's claims was not distinguished clearly enough from today's claims.

This is not Randi's fault and if I am honest my criticism would probably be worse if he had attempted a theological analysis. That said I think he could have drawn a clear distinction between biblical miracles which were instant and cured major illnesses and diseases. Today's 'miracle workers' seem to go for low hanging fruit such as toothache and headaches and often heal in stages.

I would recommend BB Warfield's book "Counterfeit Miracles" or John MacArthur's book "Charismatic Chaos" as further reading.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 14, 2013 2:59 PM BST


Exegetical Fallacies
Exegetical Fallacies
by D. A. Carson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.35

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars GREAT READ (but somewhat academic), 25 Sep 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Exegetical Fallacies (Paperback)
The book is divided into five chapters (six if you count the 11 page introduction)
1. Word Study Fallacies
2. Grammatical Fallacies
3. Logical Fallacies
4. Presupposition and Historical fallacies
5. Concluding Remarks
I found the word study fallacies salutary and it has made me (even more) cautious in accepting at face value word study expositions. The chapter on grammatical fallacies was a little bit more demanding of my linguistic vocabulary (anarthous, articular, syllogisms, distanciation).

To give one example the word "agape" (love) has become a loaded term to describe the qualities of Divine love. Yet the word is used in the LXX to describe the love of Amnon in 2 Samuel 13:15 for Tamar whom he raped! (p31) Apparently agape was becoming the prominent word for love from the 4th century on. One reason was that phileo (love) was becoming increasingly used in the context of kissing. This seemed a bit academic, until I was directed to Luke 22:47, where Judas betrays with a kiss (phileo).

The book is well referenced and I have already ordered one book referred to (Biblical Words and Their Meaning - Silva on p61). This deals with the problems of seeking Hebrew equivalents for the Greek. I am particularly interested in this as I am dealing with friends in the Hebrew Roots movement.

It has left me with a new respect for the Greek text and a desire to know more about possible meanings that Greek actually rules out (and rules in). I would highly recommend the book but would warn that it is pretty academic; more so as you move through the chapters.

Before closing this review I should mention GRAMCORD which is a GRAMatical concordance. This was conceived by James Bayer and developed by Paul Miller (p85). It is a computer retrieval system which uses a tagged text of the Greek New Testament. It allows sophisticated analysis of grammatical constructions.

If you are looking for a lighter read then I would recommend Scripture Twisting: Twenty Ways the Cults Misread the Bible by James W. Sire (16 copies second-hand on Amazon on 26th September starting at ~$4). This was one of only two books I bought after browsing the London Bible College library as a student. It is sitting on my shelf as I speak and is a much more accessible tome. It is referenced on p103 (world views) by Carson, which is what reminded me of it.


Scripture Twisting
Scripture Twisting
by James W. Sire
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.16

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant Today, 20 Mar 2004
This review is from: Scripture Twisting (Paperback)
I first read this back in the Bible College library. I liked it so much that I bought it for myself. Although dealing primarily with misreadings of scripture it does help to clarify how scripture SHOULD be read.
One amusing example occurs on page 65 where a cult discusses the book of Genesis and Adam. Genesis was written in Hebrew and the author acknowledges this explaining that Adam comes from the Hebrew 'adamah' meaning dust or earth. Then they really go off the rails by splitting Adam into two syllables and expounding on the theme that Adam was "a dam" or blockage... It is really funny but it reminds me of the liberties I have heard some ministers take with the text!
We need to be very cautious in how we read scripture and not make it say things it doesn't. This book does a good job of warning against the worst excesses. Broken down into small examples it is not heavy reading, although tackling an important subject. Highly recommended.


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