Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Blurry Monk and the Sleek Advertisement


                                                {click on image to enlarge}

I was sitting in a coffeehouse in Phnom Penh when I saw this monk walking toward the large advertisement. In Phnom Penh monks wander around in the mornings "begging" for donations or food. 

I saw very poor shop owners provide monks with money because, from what I was told, they believe it is good luck to do this and bad luck not to do this. Buddhist monks must thank God for superstition every day of the week; without it they would probably get a lot less food and money.

So I saw the monk moving toward the advert and I thought that if I snapped a photo it would be a good contrast between the (alleged) values of the monk and the values of the advert.

The photo didn't come out that well because of the glare from the glass through which I took the shot and the fact that the monk was moving and he came out blurry.

Yet, I think the photo still works and I wanted to share it out here. 

The monk is moving, he is blurry, because he represents transience or impermanence. He is constantly aging. 

The jewelry ad represents a type of permanence, or it represents the permanence of the inequality that is readily seen in Cambodia and other 4th world countries.

Cambodia has suffered from 39 years of a dictatorship which is going to be followed by several years of a dictatorship from the original dictator's son. For 39 years the dictator, a former Khmer Rouge officer, did very little to lift his people out of poverty.

If you go to Cambodia it will break your heart. The level of poverty was worse than anything I had seen elsewhere and I have traveled to 11 Asian countries.

But back to the monk. Another thing I wanted to ask through this photo is: to what extent is the monk really divorced from the economic system he begs from, and to what extent is he participating in that economic system?

Read some amazingly thoughtful essays by Daniel Gauss here, for free:


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