Purchase The Culture of Make Believe
Read more

Excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe

Dina Chan (p. 380)

From chapter "False Contracts"

Having been tricked into signing a contract binding her to the man who became her owner, her maebon, her pimp, Dina Chan was locked into a pig slaughter cell and gang raped. In the morning she heard the pigs screaming as they were being pushed into their pens. She said, “I knew what that feeling was like: I was no better than the pigs to these men; and they could have killed me. Something inside me did die, and I will never be the same. I am twenty-four years old and my life has been like this since 1993. … I know starvation, I know slavery, I know being forced to work all day. But I also know physical violation and torture every day, I know discrimination and hatred from my country people, I know not being wanted and accepted from my society, the society that put me in this condition. I know fear, I feel it every day, even now that I dare speak my life is in danger.

“Some of you think I’m bad because I choose to remain a sex worker,” she said later. “My answer to those people is I think your society, my society, my motherland Cambodia, is bad because it doesn’t give girls like me choices; choices I see are better for me. I think it is bad that my country allows men to rape young women like me and my sisters and go unpunished. I think it is bad that my society lets men seek and demand the services of women like me. I think it is criminal that we are enslaved to make money for the powerful. I think it is bad that my family are so poor and getting poorer because they cannot survive as farmers with little resources which are getting smaller because more powerful people move them off their land. I think it is bad the police treat me and my sisters like we are criminals but those who exploit us and take our dignity, our money and some times our lives live in freedom, enjoying their lives with their families. Because why? Because they have a powerful relative, because they have money.”

Who determines that money is more valuable than life? Who determines that those with money are more powerful? What is money, in the end? It is paper. It is metal. It cannot be eaten. The paper can be burned for heat. But it is nothing. It is nothing except what we make of it. It is nothing except what we pretend it to be.

“Is this right? Is this justice? My sisters and I do not create the demand, we are the objects; the demand comes from the men, the men come to us. We are cheated, deceived, trafficked, humiliated and tortured. Why? Because men want us and we bring money to the powerful. But we are the powerless.”

It all boils down to whether you believe in the possibility and desirability of fully mutual, fully engaged relationships. It all boils down to whether and when you feel it is in your best interest to perceive and treat others on their own terms, rather than as objects, as means to ends, and whether you are socially rewarded for doing so. It finally becomes a question of whether we can perceive others. It boils down to our ability to tell the difference between others and objects.