20 November, Monday


Kyrgyz honor, social cohesion and nomadic governance

Specialist view

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Central Asia is an open market where anyone can sell anything. West is able to sell their NGO culture and expensive liberal arts education. Graduates from western universities in Central Asia consider that it does not suit to their personalities to work in their own countries in these conformist bureaucracies and on such small salaries. They have to maintain their status among their class fellows and relatives. They consider only two options for themselves. One is to leave the country or second is to find a job in an international NGO or multinational enterprise. 
 
On the other hand, local and state universities are producing desperate graduates in bulk. These youngsters feel humiliation in front of their age-fellows when they see them dressed in branded suits, dining in expensive restaurants and drifting on expensive cars. They look for satisfaction. Sometimes, a spiritual satisfaction, which they often find in religion. Here comes religious industries, which are selling their conservative doctrinarians with full-fledged intensions to recruit jihadists. 
 
Kyrgyzstan claims to be different among Central Asian countries. However, I think it is not. They are just first to establish the industry of democratic governance in Central Asia. 
 
Politics is an industry in Kyrgyzstan, no different from religion. Who has more clients depends on your marketing skills. People are open to buy anything. Companies have no need to do market analysis for selling their products. Nomadic societies are open to accept anything if someone has strong selling skills or able to convince them that they need this product for their survival. 
 
No one can claim that Kazakhs are genetically superior among the Central Asian nomads because they are rich or Kyrgyz are intellectually advanced because they have democracy. I totally agree with the Jared Diamond’s claim that "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples' environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” We have to understand the social, economic and political dynamics in the historic context of each of these states, which become different at some point. 
 
Nomadic people from Kyrgyzstan were able to become different from other nomads of the region. I have a political evolutionary explanation for it but this is not my topic for now. For the time being just forget about the historic periods of settlements of Kyrgyz people into Fergana Valley to the communist rule. I will definitely unfold this historic evolution through chains of events in some other article. Let us consider ourselves in time of post-soviet era. 
 
For me, nomadic people are more socially inclusive than settled. During the process of moving from one place to another, they face hardships, which make them more prone to rely on the support of friends and families and to have larger families. They are very decently self-governed people with a tendency to adopt new strategies for survival. 
 
Central Asia faced a common problem just after the collapse of Soviet Union. They have to legitimize the individuality of their nation for the sake of nation building. We can clearly see a ‘rally round the flag effect’.  Some nations got recommendation letters from their ancestors like Kyrgyzstan from Manas and Uzbekistan from Amir Timur or they created something artificial to give the sense of attachment to their people like ‘building a dam’ in Tajikistan or president declaring himself as living legend in Turkmenistan. 
 
Kyrgyz people are dignified, hospitable and relatively brave because of having more encounters with people from other ethnic groups, patterns of movements and biogeography. They expect to be treated with honor. They know how to utilize their energy and stamina.  This is their Kyrgyz honor that keeps their necks straight.
 
Prehistoric explanation is that there was no constitution and they do not need one to run their affairs. The modern instruments of democratic governance, advanced electoral system, electronic voting, threshold, multi-party system has nothing to do with running of Kyrgyz societal system. My claim can easily survive any scrutiny that a quarter million dollars investment can ensure you a seat in parliament. 
 
The easiest explanation of two revolutions is the foreign interference. When a seller saw that someone is creating a hurdle in selling his product, it escalated the hatred, which lead to revolutions against the tribal chief who was doing nothing but ensuring the economic stability of his own people or family members.
 
Democratic political class cannot ensure the smooth and productive running of Kyrgyz society. Social cohesion is coming from person to person relationships, which are embedded, into their long nomadic history and evident by their loyalty to their ethnic group. During last 5 years, Kyrgyz parliament experimented with all the possible combinations of political parties and by changing prime minister after every 3 month. People did not care at all because politics was an issue of secondary importance. Even today, food, shelter and security are the basic demands of the majority of the people, which bring social inclusion or exclusion. 
 
The only hope for Kyrgyzstan is the active contribution of Kyrgyz Intelligentsia (Modern Clan Chiefs) into the process of social inclusion. 
 
Today, we can see three types of Intelligentsia in Kyrgyzstan. First, those who have exposure of Central Asia as well as western societies. They studied or worked in other countries and can compare nomadic societies with settled ones. They came back to Kyrgyzstan with a hope to strive for a better future of their country. They are not materialists and are willing to sacrifice with what they have, for their country. They can be divided into further two types. Those who became silent after encountering the local bureaucracy and decided to be the part of system but by keeping their moral high. They engaged themselves in academia or social work at personal level.  Other became activists and outspoken but at present being victimize by the orthodox fraction of the society which labels them as foreign agents. They are still standing and doing their jihad but unfortunately, are unable to gather the sympathies from the majority of the people. 
 
Second are those whose complex mental labors are for ensuring their own economic stability without harming their country. These are sincere with their country but busy in moneymaking like entrepreneurs. They do not want to harm their country but are very conscious about their economic status whom they want to maintain. 
 
Third type is one, which Kyrgyzstan cannot swallow and cannot throw out. These are also of two types. First are those who got their education and training under communism and trained a whole generation of bureaucrats that is corrupt and penetrated in all the institutions. Second are those who find a charm in liberal western life style or eastern orthodox life style and expecting to make Kyrgyzstan like east or west. 
 
The new generation is getting their mental development under one of these three types of intellectuals and one cannot make a claim that the coming generation will be sincere to the cause of social cohesion in Kyrgyzstan and will try to portrait a progressive image of their country with or without actively participating in politics. 
 
I think that Kyrgyzstan society should think about the growing gap between different fractions of society. Diminishing of spiritual satisfaction coming from nomadic philosophy and declining of person-to-person inclusion embedded in their history are the greatest challenges.  This growing gap is giving a chance to outsiders to sell their products. Kyrgyz honor is not in surrendering to the liberal west or to the conservative east. Kyrgyz honor is in becoming modern nomadic society based on their ancient values. Intelligentsia of first and second type should advocate among the people that which products they should buy and on what price. They need not to be the part of propagandas of the sellers from the east or from the west. Kyrgyz people need to be selective in setting their standards and preferences.  If they overcome this problem, they will automatically have social cohesion. Governance was never an issue and it will never be. 
 
Ammar Younas 
Political analyst and Central Asia expert

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