I took this photo in Phnom Penh just before flying off to Nha Trang, Vietnam. This is a street family in their “home” just one block from the promenade along the river. Yes, you are seeing correctly, that is a baby sleeping in the trash pile. The family is on the bed, living room sofa and communal bed while the baby sleeps. Life on the streets is not all that inviting when one sees images such as this. You might wonder what is the point of posting a photo such as this. Am I changing the blog to become more of a critique of society and its ills? Well, I would have to say that the purpose isn’t to be critical of societies, cultures or politics in IndoChina. The purpose is to show how the “self” is not healthy. What happens to others is also happening to ourselves. One can’t seal oneself off from others by raising barriers and fences around our homes, by having security guards and police forces keep the “others” at a distance. All the money in the world doesn’t build a big enough wall to keep out the ripples that the existence of these others and what is happening to them.
The baby sleeping in the trash cart is symbolic for the self, a self that is denied as we buy into the persona we find ourselves in at birth and the personae we build as more luxurious prisons in order to escape the prisons in which we were born. We come to belief we are the masks we wear, that the shadows we flee from are “others” and not really our own shadows. We disown and disinherit the baby in the trash cart. This is how we end up working so hard to drown the denied baby self in all manner of substances and activities. Yet, the baby reappears at night in our dreams, pleading for us to remember self, to reinvest in self. The baby is a symbol of promise and hope, letting us know that all is not lost, that we are not lost.