Sunday, October 19, 2014

safe little world in cambodia

The Safe Little World concept was always grounded in the context of a quiet suburban backwater in New Zealand, and I've always wondered what would happen to it in a different situation - one with less comfort and a different culture. As things transpired, I had the opportunity to test that question on a recent trip to Cambodia.

The contrast between Tauranga and Phnom Penh in many ways couldn't be more stark. With this shift out of a comfort zone, the comfort of western suburbia which is inherent in the Safe Little World concept was immediately destabilised and then thrown into a light that exaggerated just how obvious our western expectations of comfort are. The sarcastic phrase "first world problems" is probably the most apt way to describe this in a nutshell. But the Safe Little World concept has also always embodied a paradox. The paradox is that our safe worlds have the potential to come under threat - and Cambodia's history and our experience of it as visitors definitely bore that out (encapsulated, for example, in a visit to S-21).

Other than a critique of our western sense of a safe little world in the context of a developing nation, it could be interesting to see if the underlying concept of a safe little world was found wherever we go. The question is, is it a fundamentally human drive, no matter where humans find themselves, to try to create a safe haven? The short answer is yes. This drive may embody itself slightly differently and have unique cultural manifestations, but ultimately this is a very human trait.

No matter how much, or how little, you give a person; no matter the threats, upheavals or fragility, humans seek to create a space for themselves.

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