Unsettled: Cambodian Refugees in the New York City Hyperghetto
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015
Since coming to write for Counter-Currents I’ve deliberately chosen to read, and if possible, review books by people very different from myself. Indeed, I make an effort to read and write about those whose ideologies are not Right-wing and those who are not white. Much of this involves looking at establishment or neoconservative figures like Madeline Albright or Max Boot. It is easy to grasp the mentality of such people: they are Jews who want Americans to fight for Jewish interests. And to be perfectly frank, many of the ideas of Minister Louis Farrakhan, who I’ve also reviewed, are attractive to me.
In Unsettled, I got a glimpse into a mentality wholly alien from anything I’ve ever read before. In whites, there is a drive and striving. Each philosopher seeks to top the others in ideas. Every white laborer and businessman seeks to maximize their earnings. White politicians have grand improvement schemes, and white doctors seek new medical treatments. In contrast, the Cambodians described in this book are simply helpless. They are swept along by events they cannot comprehend, and you, the white taxpayer, have paid for every bite they’ve eaten since the 1980s, as well as every night spent under a roof of their dismal lodgings in the hyperghetto.
The hyperghetto and the Cambodians
Unsettled is probably the only work which looks at the Cambodian refugee community from the perspective of an Oriental. Most other scholarship involving this group is the sickly-sweet syrup of the white Christian missionary or liberal type who is ideologically driven and semi-honest, at best. (Refugees are “vibrant!”) Pro-white immigration reformers look at them, also, but that scholarship tends to put the Cambodians and their problems in the same bucket as all other Third World immigrants and refugees. Their focus is elsewhere.
Eric Tang, the community organizer and professor who wrote this book, uses the buzzwords of the non-white/snowflake view of the world. American whites commit “violences” (sic) against “people of color,” and there is also “racialization and gendering” of the Cambodian refugees. There’s all the shibboleths that were used in President Obama’s weepy second-term town hall meetings.
One of the buzzwords used is “hyperghetto,” a term coined by sociologist Loïc Wacquant. The characteristics of the hyperghetto are intractable social problems and an unemployable population which is isolated from larger society. Hyperghettos arise, possibly, as a deliberate policy on the part of white American social engineers following the black rebellion that followed the “civil rights” movement. Tang writes, “In particular, the hyperghetto has functioned as a site of captivity for a decidedly post-Civil Rights and, more significantly, postinsurrectionist Black subproletariat” (p. 10).
The Cambodian refugees ended up in the hyperghetto due to the fact that they were at the intersection of several forces. The most important is the fact that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. During this period, Cambodian society fell apart, and some twenty-one percent of the population (1.7 million people) died. The resulting catastrophe led to a refugee crisis at a time when the American public was sympathetic to refugees, especially those from Southeast Asia. Americans needed some sort of morally virtuous move to help ease the guilt many of them felt over the Vietnam War, and “saving” the Cambodians, Hmong, and Laotians fit the bill.
The era of the Khmer Rouge itself deserves further analysis. This social catastrophe, often called “The Killing Fields,” was the logical endpoint of two different socio-ideological threads that intersected in Cambodia. The first was the Leftism which grew out of the French Revolution, and the second was the great tragedy of Third World people ruling themselves.
As for the first, Pol Pot lived in France from 1949 until 1953, where he was deeply influenced by the French Communist Party. Pol Pot’s revolution was Communist, and it followed the pattern of the French and Communist revolutions to a degree. There was a Terror, a Thermidor, a Directory, and an eventual return to semi-order via military means. The details are a bit different, however. The Terror in Cambodia was not executed with the guillotine and bayonet, but through a poorly-run back-to-the-land scheme. Thermidor took place during Pol Pot’s final days, and the restoration of semi-order came about as the result of a Vietnamese invasion. All Jacobin Leftist movements end in blood and tears when applied in the real world.
As for the second part, Cambodia was still a medieval society, with villages that were barely ouf of the Stone Age. It had had centuries of autocratic rule, and no middle class. Cambodia was a low-trust, mid-range IQ society. When the French took over in the mid-nineteenth century, Cambodia had been in decline for centuries. The population had shrunk to around a million, and there was concern on the part of the Cambodian intellectual elite that they would go extinct. This created a vicious social paranoia which persisted even after it was no longer necessary. On a personal level, Cambodians tend to flee interpersonal problems; in the workplace, a Cambodian will resign without saying why rather than argue about an issue. In Cambodian interpersonal relations, one either accommodates, flees, or kills. There is no dissent or tolerance.
In terms of religion, Cambodia is Theravada Buddhist. This sect of 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.” This worldview lends itself to doing away with worldly possessions. The Khmer Rouge thus viewed and applied Communism through the lens of Theravada Buddhism. As a result, when they ordered the population of Phnom Penh – then roughly the size of Chicago – to move out of the city into a classless, cashless system of collective farms, the people left their houses and started walking into the jungle. Cambodian minds were pre-programmed to accept Theravada Buddhist-style policies.
Towards the end of the Vietnam War, the Americans bombed the eastern fringes of Cambodia, into which North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Trail stretched. This helped to destabilize Cambodia to the point that the Khmer Rouge could take over. Some have thus blamed America for the Khmer Rouge disaster, which is unfair. In fact, Cambodian society was already quite brutal even before their takeover. “Every atrocity the Khmers Rouges ever committed,” Philip Short has written, “and many they did not, can be found depicted on the stone friezes of Angkor.” (Angkor Wat is nine hundred years old.) To further emphasize Cambodia’s brutality, he points out that when Pol Pot was still in France, it was common for boys to find severed heads in the rivers and waterways of Cambodia. With this in mind, the words of Cambodia’s gloomy national anthem during the Khmer Rouge period take on a dark, prophetic meaning:
The bright scarlet blood
Flooded over the towns and plains of our motherland Kampuchea,
The blood of our great workers and farmers,
Our revolutionary fighters’ blood, both men and women.
The non-white community organizer: an outsider & swindler, but sometimes a truth-teller
After explaining how the refugees ended up in the hyperghetto in the first place, the book follows the life of a Cambodian refugee woman named Ra, who was forced to marry Heng by the Khmer Rouge. As Cambodia choked on blood, Ra and her family fled to Thailand, and eventually made it to New York. Ra found none of the American Dream’s glitter, however. Instead, “she was merely being transferred from one state of captivity to the next” (p. 49). Ra ended up battling the welfare office (largely as a result of the Clinton administration’s welfare reforms) and working low-end jobs, when she worked at all. Eventually, social services took some of her kids, and she ended up divorcing.
Eric Tang‘s perspective in this book is so far outside the American mainstream that he views the Obama administration as having been heartless towards refugees, while many on the Right viewed that era as a deliberate policy of race replacement. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of truth in this book. Tang argues that housing the refugees in the New York City hyperghetto brought an end to the arson epidemic that followed the black insurrection. Properties in New York City’s Africanized places following the “civil rights” movement had become huge burdens for their owners. When the Cambodians arrived, the landlords began receiving rent payments directly from the government. The landlords didn’t fix anything, the Cambodians didn’t complain, and the properties became solvent. Indeed, Ron Unz has argued that immigration has been used to move blacks prone to crime out of valuable real estate areas. But unfortunately for white interests, it is merely taking one type of poison to flush out another.
Tang goes on to argue that the Vietnam War was underpinned with liberal motives. This is certainly one truth in a complex war that had many truths; the war’s architects, presidents Kennedy and Johnson, were both very liberal. Tang also views Clinton’s welfare reforms as punitive. Again, he is right about this, although it is difficult to be sympathetic toward people who draw welfare and live in subsidized housing in the economically prosperous “city that never seeps.” Additionally, Tang uses the refugee experience to show that rights do not exist independently of the state’s authority. Stateless people have no rights, and if one’s state has gone insane . . .
Nowhere, however, does Eric Tang examine the white perspective. The Southeast Asian refugee community of Hmong, Cambodians, and Laotians were a disaster for America. Developing a “hyperghetto” to contain black insurrectionary violence was not irrational, and hostility towards refugees is a reasonable response based on the evidence; generous welfare payments to the unemployable, while they are living on valuable land, is bound to create resentments.
Ultimately, books such as this one, as well as the craft of the non-white community organizer tradesman in general, are part of a big swindle. All non-white community organizers run a paradoxical scam: They seek to have as much access to whiteness and white civilization as possible while decrying white people and “structural racism” in a white society. Their entire business is one of emotional blackmail, where a white social worker is beset with an ever-shifting set of demands and grievances. In all this, nobody bothers to ask why the Cambodians don’t simply leave the hyperghetto, go home, and seek to make Cambodia into a better place. Of course, the answer is that Cambodians won’t ever be able to make Cambodia great again. Whites, however, can create a white ethnostate that is a better place. With such a listless population believing themselves to be captives in a foreign, frigid land, why not just send them back to Cambodia?
 Philip Short, Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2004), p. 150.
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