1975 – Phnom Penh falls to the Khmer Rouge and Year Zero begins

The Khmer Rouge were a Communist movement allied to the Viet Cong. When the United States military pulled out of Vietnam and Cambodia in 1975, they left a power vacuum that their opponents were quick to exploit. The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, championed a particularly oppressive form of dictatorship that called for a return to medieval technology and an abandonment of urbanisation.

With the fall of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, the Khmer Rouge took control of the country. All the citizens of Cambodia were forced to leave the cities, to practice subsistence agriculture in the rural areas. The regime was infamous for its cruelty and brutality, to say nothing of its near genocidal policies. It is estimated that in the four years of their reign, as many as two million people were killed, either in concentration camps, summary executions or simple starvation. In fact, during the years of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia became known as the Killing Fields – more than 20,000 separate mass graves were created in these years.

Referenced in:

Pol Pot — Down I Go
Earth Song — Michael Jackson
Holiday In Cambodia — Dead Kennedys

1947 — Palestine is partitioned by the United Nations

In 1947, in the wake of the Holocaust, moves were afoot to restore the Jewish homeland in what was then called Palestine, and governed by the United Kingdom under a League of Nations mandate. A plan for the partition of Palestine was developed by the League’s successor, the United Nations, dividing it into Jewish zones and Arab zones.

The plan was doomed to failure from the outset: it satisfied neither side, and once the State of Israel was formed, it rapidly overran the boundaries set out for it in the U.N. plan. More than 50 years later, the question of who owns the land – the Israelis (Jews) or the Palestinians (Arabs) – is still a contentious issue, with a huge loss of life on both sides that continues to this day.

Referenced in:

Earth Song — Michael Jackson

1897 BCE — God first appears to Abraham

When God first appears to Abraham – which, by the way, was what the big guy renamed Abe – his name was originally Abram – Abram is 75 years old, although that doesn’t mean much, since his father Terah has not long died of old age. Terah lived to be 205, so no doubt Abe anticipates a number of good years ahead of him yet.

God tells him a bunch of stuff – that he should move from where he lives (in what is now Iraq) to Canaan (or what is now Israel); that he will become the founding father of a great nation; that he should change his name; and that his wife, Sarai (also renamed as Sarah) will soon become pregnant. Sarah is old enough to be unable to bear children, so she laughs at this prophecy, although one assumes that it seems less funny after she conceives and delivers Isaac, as prophesied.