Giving a talk at a conference in Prague in early March, when the Covid-19 pandemic was still spoken of in “it-won’t-happen-here” tones in Europe, I was asked by the moderator to give my word of the year. Instead of the expected “coronavirus” or “Covid,” I opted for another c-word: “cakeism.”
It had entered the political lexicon of my home country, Britain, because of our Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s appeal that with Brexit, “we could have our cake and eat it too.” For those unfamiliar with the English saying, it means to seek to have two things at the same time that are mutually incompatible. Put differently, it is to enjoy all the benefits of a particular thing but none of its disadvantages.
But my awareness of “cakeism” was well tuned, after having reported from Cambodia for five years. For the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), in power since 1979, and for Prime Minister Hun Sen, a slight variation of on the theme is their much-trotted-out slogan of “win-win.”