by School of Vice
It is an age old adage of liberationist thought around the world, and one that resonates time and again in humankind’s struggles against organised repression throughout history that oppression always breeds resistance even if sometimes the crushing weight of such oppression in the end overwhelms even the best of mobilised effort and sacrifice directed to reversing it. This fact, indeed, proves to have been the case with the vanquished and ancient nation of Champa, the various indigenous races [Les Montagnards] scattered all over the highlands of central and northern Vietnam, and, of course, the Khmers of Kampuchea Krom or the Mekong Delta. ‘Vanquished’ is the right term one may use to describe the tragic fate and plight of these communities – victims or collaterals of what Karl Marx might have termed ‘historical dialectics’.
In the natural or animal world researchers and naturalists have identified certain characteristics inbred or inherent in some species which render them particularly inimical to the stability, regeneration and physical survival of their ill prepared rivals, and or other species in their own native habitats and climates. Naturalists call these predatory creatures ‘invasive species’ owing to their tendency and instinct to rest their breeding and growth upon the annihilation and subjugation of ‘lesser’ able or equipped species by virtue of the latter’s own climatic conditioning and adapting limitations.
Nowhere in the human universe and perhaps in human history has there been witnessed man’s competition for survival and inter-state warring on the scale and intensity as had been recorded and witnessed in the history of the ‘Middle Kingdom’ where tribalism, the cause of good and evil, as well as internecine violence and clashing ambitions would have been put to a sterner test and to the greater limits and endurance of man. Even Marco Polo had allowed himself to note the ironic, benign twist in this human drama when he touched upon the idea [romanticised at best] that the rest of mankind would have to endure what would have been unimaginable punishment and suffering had the ‘Chinese race’ not been as peaceful by nature. By this we think he meant that unlike the Mongolian hordes that terrorised and subdued more than half of the medieval world’s nations, the Chinese and their rulers had, on the other hand, confined their ambitions and warlike tendency to within the already immense boundaries or confines of their Empire. Even the notion of such a kingdom, like the ancient Hebrews’ belief and conviction that they alone of all humanity had been elected as God’s ‘Chosen people’ implies [divine] closeness to and special relationship with the Heavens; and if the Chinese had not looked to add to their empire all those races of “barbarians” existing outside or on the fringes of this Middle Kingdom, it is perhaps, because they had not thought it worth their bother and time civilising races they inherently believed to have been exempt from this heavenly mandate and thus beyond redemption anyway.
Brute strength and violence combined with stealth and cunning are some of the main characteristics of any invasive species - School of Vice
The Chinese had their great sages and philosophers too, whose cerebral impact, like that of ancient India, had reached further afield and had been welcome and assimilated into the enquiring minds and annals of learning of contemporary western societies than would have been the march of their army. The earliest inventions of paper and gun power, as is the science of astronomy, are likewise attributed to these rich – if violent – cultural milieus. After all, it is impossible to imagine the utility of gun power in a nation veered wholeheartedly towards peace – as some think Marco Polo might have implied through his famous account of China. Marco Polo had also brought a great deal more to his native home of Venice than a collection of ideas on how to make spaghetti and macaroni!
But more pertinent here for our present purpose and discussion we ask: what has Vietnam as a nation and state brought out of this violent and unforgiving caldron that was the Middle Kingdom where the Vietnamese had been bonded and enslaved for over two thousand years, and as it has resolved to move south and westward across lands that would have been better described as ‘peaceful’ in character and inclination? Well, one immediate reason appears to be that the Vietnamese have brought with them this warlike tenacity and relentless predatory mindset of the former slaves with impossible wounds to heal; a merciless vision and impulse to impersonate and equal – if not exceed - their former captors and tormentors, and a will to destiny of the most clinical and inhuman in nature, as well as an account to settle. Sadly, it has not been their former enslavers or adversaries, but rather the wholesale communities lying well outside of the immediate reaches of the Middle Kingdom who have been - and are being - made to pay for these two thousand years of injuries and injustices.
What had the ancient kingdom of Champa committed in the worldly affairs of ancient China to have merited such a cruel, brutal fate of having been first courted through the most devious schemes and treachery and second, dismembered violently into nonentities, subsequently banished into stateless exile and humiliation those fortunate enough to have escaped organised enslavement and slaughter? Even the kingdom’s name of ‘Champa’ - deriving from that most fragrant and exotic of flowers in what is now central Vietnam - tells us something of the aesthetic and harmonious character of its rulers and indigenous inhabitants. I know detractors would love to remind me of the intermittent warring between the Khmer kingdoms and Champa. Yet, these inter-state conflicts and violence had not on the whole been waged with the conscious purpose of exterminating one another as an entity and people and, more specifically, with the ultimate goal of seizing territories and arable lands as living space and stepping stones to further territorial expansion. This would not seem to be the distinct trait or characteristic of a kingdom that described itself as ‘Champa’ or ‘Sovannaphoum’ [Golden Land] – and would more fittingly describe a sub-Sino culture or state, be it literally translates as ‘overpass...’, ‘southward-bound’ or ‘westward-bound’ as its preferred self-definition.
Why had these smaller kingdoms been so easily swept aside by Vietnamese expansion and aggression? The clue to the question would be found in these nations’ respective modes of survival and adaptation. Nothing in their temperament or world view had prepared them for the seemingly sudden and rapacious invasion of a hostile foreign species – and that’s where our analogy begins. History has witnessed the destruction of the Montagnards, the Chams, and the Khmers of Kampuchea Krom in systematic planned stages, and if any of us are alive and breathing at this moment in time, their past horrors and miseries are being re-enacted upon the people of Cambodia before our very eyes today.
It had taken the Vietnamese two thousand years to escape Chinese repression and bondage. The Vietnamese state, however, has not needed or does not appear to require that long a time to subjugate and annihilate peoples and states whose plundered lands and liberties had ironically been a central contributing factor in its historical emancipation from Chinese hegemonic rule not that long ago.