Walking through the ruins of the great capital of once magnificent empire I can't help but to wonder: are we the proverbial those who don't learn from the past, condemned to repeat it?
Angkor, the great ancient city, solemn symbol of old power and might. Once home to over a million inhabitants, until a handful of decades ago it was a forgotten shadow, lost in the jungle. To us visiting this wonder of the world is an adventure. We walk for hours through its vast area, land of hundreds of great temples and thousands of beautiful sculptures. We scurry around struggling to find a quiet corner to snap a photo free of the masses of tourists swarming the place. We try to imagine life back then, what sort of people used to inhabit this city, build these massive structures. We drop our dollars, euros and yuans in the collection trays, light incenses and buy souvenirs. And we leave, taking home gigabytes of images, suitcases of gifts and flurries of memories.
How many of us pause to draw a parallel between the fate of Angkor and our world today? How many of us realize the fragility of life as we know it? How do we know centuries from now another civilization will not find ruins of ours, swallowed by jungle, wondering who we were?
"That won't happen. We're different, we're smarter!" you might say, and I'd ask: based on what?
ISIS, Ebola, drone warfare, Ukraine, CAR, tar sands, climate change, Fukushima, Uganda, Sudan, Gaza, Syria… The list is growing. The stakes get higher and higher. Our Angkor today is the entire planet.