So, you've been to school
For a year or two
And you know you've seen it all
In daddy's car
Thinking you'll go far
Back east your type don't crawl

Playing ethnicky jazz
To parade your snazz
On your five-grand stereo
Braggin' that you know
How the niggers feel cold
And the slum's got so much soul

It's time to taste what you most fear
Right Guard will not help you here
Brace yourself, my dear
Brace yourself, my dear

It's a holiday in Cambodia
It's tough, kid, but it's life
It's a holiday in Cambodia
Don't forget to pack a wife

You're a star-belly snitch
You suck like a leech
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch
So you can get rich
While your boss gets richer off you

Well, you'll work harder
With a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers
Till you starve
Then your head is skewered on a stake

Now you can go where the people are one
Now you can go where they get things done
What you need, my son...
What you need, my son...

Is a holiday in Cambodia
Where people are dressed in black
A holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll kiss ass or crack

Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot

It's a holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll do what you're told
It's a holiday in Cambodia
Where the slums got so much soul
Pol Pot

Lyrics submitted by Ice

Holiday in Cambodia Lyrics as written by Jello Biafra Bruce Slesinger

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Holiday in Cambodia song meanings
Add Your Thoughts


sort form View by:
  • +15
    My Opinion
    It's self-explanatory. He's skewering the people in the opening of the song: So you been to schools For a year or two And you know you've seen it all Basically, kid who has never been outside the suburbs goes off to college...learns about far left ideology (think Marx) and decides that he/she too will be a "revolutionary." They learn to "appreciate" jazz...thereby "understanding" the plight of Blacks in the US. Student thinks to self, "Too bad we can't have a state like Marx talked about, where there really is 'justice for all.'" Biafra is basically satirizing the student who has absolutely no clue what the real world is like. As was pointed out, Pol Pot killed or "re-educated" college graduates. But Cambodia was just the example. Every "communist" revolution ends up killing the majority of the intelligentsia...they use the students as an alternative to the thugs, but, let's face it, the students get pissy when the great leader begins to oppress the masses. So the leader eliminates them. Think about it. Then think about who makes up the majority of the student activists at any college campus.
    BitterGenXeron March 24, 2011   Link
  • +13
    General Comment
    You guys are interpreting this song incorrectly (at least partially). The first half of the song is critical of "trust-fund radicals" who posture at being supportive or sympathetic to radical revolutionaries in places like Cambodia, because it's safe for them to do so from the warm cocoon of their upper-class, American liberal arts academic life. JB is saying that these college hipster types only know about revolutions through books and that they would piss themselves if they actually took a "Holiday in Cambodia" and had to give up their comfortable western lifestyle to see what revolution looks like in real life. The SECOND half of the song is critical of rich yuppies who JB feels could use some humility training in a third world communist dictatorship like that in the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia.
    carolinahazeon December 02, 2011   Link
  • +9
    General Comment
    I like what you guys are saying, but I have my own little spin to add. When Jello sings about rich, over-educated urban types with only the vaguest notion of what it's like to be poor and marginalized, and then sings about Cambodia, I think he's talking about how the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities of anyone with an education, money, etc., and forced them to break their backs working on forced-labor farms. I think he's saying that while that was awful for them, there's quite a few people in the U.S. that should deserve a little "re-education", to see what it's really like to be downtrodden and abused, as opposed to what you picked up in your Jazz History 101 class.
    ubermaxon March 25, 2003   Link
  • +6
    General Comment the text in the wrong place. here it is to understand the meaning of the song, you have to understand some of the history of punk and the cultural environment that surrounded the dead kennedys. Punk was a reaction against the spaced-out hippie culture that was rampant in middle to upper-class youth and college students during the 60s and (somewhat) 70s. Bored from their spoiled lives, they saw less fortunate life styles, such as those in ghettos and third-world countries, as more real and "soulful." The movement promoted "living as one" and "getting things done" by rallying against american authority. Though the hippie movement brought some good (women's rights, civil rights), the movement also encouraged unrealistic escapism and utopianism. DK came from San Francisco, the epicenter of the hippie movement. Specifically, this song was a brilliantly-written reaction against the ignorance of first-world youth who think they know everything. Jello tells the ignorant, spoiled youth to move to communist cambodia to "live as one" (only to loose their individual identity and freedom of speech) and "get things done" (by living on a bowl of rice and slaving in the killing fields) in order to bring their romanticized outlook on the world back to reality. What these 60s hippies needed is some re-education back into reality.
    jtothed1031on February 06, 2010   Link
  • +4
    General Comment
    This song is about how soft and easy it is to be white, rich, and live in america. If some of these preppy assholes around me were shipped of to Cambodia (in the late 70s or early 80s) they wouldn't last a minute.
    OceanOfChaoson May 16, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General Comment
    Great song, but it basically boils down to being about ignorance. People living "happily" in America/Europe/Whatever, thinking they know everything, when there are people dying in poorer nations, being forced to kill, then killed themselves, living in squalor, etc. "So you can get rich But your boss gets richer off you"... ignorance to the fact that society uses you. "Play ethnicky jazz To parade your snazz On your five grand stereo Braggin' that you know How the niggers feel cold And the slum's got so much soul"... Acting like something is cool, e.g. "the slums got so much soul", but really just ignorant to the fact of how it really is.
    MercyKilleron June 03, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General Comment
    I'm seeing this as partly a smug attack on American college "intellectuals" and preps. If anyone knows more about the Khmer Rouge, they were shipping these kinds people off to prison camps and executing them to eliminate the "threat" to their "perfect peasant society". They also compared the conforming or willingly ass-kissing nature of the corporate workplace to the labor camps where people were forced to kiss ass and strictly follow the regulations or face death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge's soldiers. The US government blindly supported the regime because they opposed Northern Vietnam and the Viet Cong, but this was only because of Pol Pot's nationalistic and isolationist politics. The band was pretty much sticking it in their faces by detailing the horrors of the regime.
    Balleron January 05, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    I read some earlier post by this kid, HarlequinStars, saying how he believed that this was also about the black community in the ghetto, feeding off welfare, and i do have to say, you're an idiot, I'm sure Jello Biafra is real pissed off about those damned niggers, just sucking his goddamn paycheck down the drain, he works hard for his money, and if those lazy spooks would just get off their asses, and put down the crack pipe, and stop having babies they could get a job makin minimum wage at MdDonalds, that's exactly what those lyrics were about Go read the Autobirography of Malcolm X, that lyric was about kids like you, who just make assumptions about the ghetto, kids who think that they can make comments on it
    Leif Eriksonon February 20, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General Comment
    I had to write once a short essay about a visit somewhere... So I wrote about my "holiday in Cambodia"... I got 24/25 for that one... thank you Dead Kennedys! :D This is the first song I ever heard of the Kennedys... I still like it, though I've heard it so many times it's growing dull...
    TimBuck2on June 05, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Comment
    sorry to be so stupidly immature in the middle of this serious political conversation, but does any one else love the line "you'll kiss ass or crack"
    cheddaringoon January 03, 2006   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!