Posts tagged kulak

Noone is Indispensible But We are Disposable

Today is Father’s Day in the U.S. and I’ve already sent my e-greeting to my dear Dad back in Minnesota.  Fortunately, he is looking after mowing our lawn, making sure everything is in order by the time we get back to our “dacha” farmhouse in less than a month.  Can it be, we are finally going to our own home soon?  However, it will be a quick visit before we return to our jobs where we are “disposable” targets. 

What do I mean by that?  Since my husband and I are “guests” as Americans in an institution that is a “guest” kind of western styled university in Central Asia, we are viewed with much skepticism if not outright derision.  Our institution of higher learning is really an anomoly among all the others in Kazakhstan.  From the Commander in Chief Nazarbayev, our place of employment has had his blessing from 15 years ago when it started up to now.

That could all change once his leadership baton passes to the next.  Leadership at our institution should and must change if we are to sustain a distinction of being a western university in a land proud of their own traditions.  As foreigners, we have NO job security and to pretend that there is a tenure system in place for us as it would imitate what exists in America or other western countries is laughable.  We are at the mercy of whomever doles out the work permits.  Someone in some ministry somewhere in the capital of Astana decides if there are too many westerners and that the job can be better filled by a native Kazakh employee.  Work permits are seemingly becoming tighter with each passing year.  As foreigners we are dispensible and should be easily disposable.

If last Sunday’s graduation ceremony was any indication of how many foreigners actually teach or are administrators in our western organization in Almaty, we will all soon be quickly disposed of.  Our expertise in whatever given subject we have taught in or have experience in as administrators will all eventually be taken over by Kazakhs.  So, essentially we are working ourselves out of our own jobs.

Education is a tricky thing, especially when it leaves God out of the equation which is what much of western academia has essentially already accomplished.  That is a given, western educators have done so with the zealousness of a communist atheist.  So much puffed up ego is involved with supposedly knowing more than the next person and having a title to PROVE that you know more is part of the game played.

What I’ve witnessed about Women Studies programs in many universities and what angry women have done to promote themselves as “womyn” saddens me.  Their tactic is to the detriment of what is really true and good in educating our young people.  They hold up women as far superior to men with this “feminine goddess” idea and that men are to be reviled as mere sperm donors.  These “educated” women (there are feminist men too) would want all people to continue with this “logic” that men are dispensible and disposable.

In the former Soviet Union, especially in countries like Ukraine and Kazakhstan, men as fathers and husbands were systematically taken out because of the communist ideology.  Many men were branded as “Enemies of the People” if they happened to be good breadwinners and worked hard to earn a living for their family.  (Seems that lazy men who later became thugs were safe.)  These unfortunate family men were targeted as either farmers or stockbreeders.  They were simply doing what men were equipped to do, be the head of the home raising and protecting their wife and children. Once these men were “kulakized” and either killed or sent off to the gulag, there were women and children who were forced into the collective in order to survive and expected to tout the party line.

What is the connection between what happened in the past under communist times and what is happening to us as western educators in Central Asia?  First, I am reminded of my experience of teaching in China in 1986-88 where we as foreigners told ourselves that we were being used.  The phrase “being chewed up and spit out” often came to mind during my two years of teaching English.  In a country of one billion people, what is one little American’s quality of life matter?  Second, I think we have some things to offer the Kazakhs but they are either not ready or willing to accept it yet.  Third, their own pride of not wanting to appear needy factors in.  Fourth, there have been some abrasive westerners who came in with their seedy ideology, such as the women’s studies example.  Tough to sort out the good from the bad, so the Kazakhs need much wisdom of what to embrace and what to dispose of from our western form of education.

Finally, I’m reminded of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians 4:10-13 about being a fool for Christ.  In my case, while teaching in Kazakhstan, I have to take solace in what Paul experienced as being disposable, “And we labor, working with our own hands.  Being reviled, we bless, being persecuted, we endure it; being defamed, we entreat.  We have been made filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.”

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Proverbs and Sayings from “The Silent Steppe”

Quotes from The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad Under Stalin

 by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, published by Stacey International, London, 2006

 

p. 10 We would celebrate with folk songs and music, competitions for improvising poetry, and different kinds of sporting contests.  This is how life was while I was growing up in our small aul, with its half-dozen yurts belonging to close relatives.  But the Soviet authorities brought it all to an end when they introduced collective farms, and gave the terrible name ‘kulak’ to my father and Uncle Toimbai.” 

 

p. 22 – My father began speaking, “…Remember the popular old saying: God has no wealth.  He gives it from one person to another.”  Well, it now appears to be true.  The authorities and aul activists have taken everything away from the rich and handed it over to idlers and made some of us extremely poor overnight.”

 

p. 32 “In 1930, the main topic of conversation was the daily news brought to the steppe by word of mouth (the so-called uzyn kulak – ‘long ear’ of the steppe telegraph), which was our only source of information.  Because we did not have radios or telephones, or even a postal service, it could take up to a year for information about new laws or important events to reach the far-flung regions of the country.

 

p. 33 – “Everything that’s been said here is complete rubbish.  And the bit about the collective farms and communes – they’ve all been thought up by the aul activists.  What good is Lenin’s wife to us lot here when all the power is in their hands?  The power’s completely gone to their heads and made them barking mad because they have no idea what to do with it.  People who have never managed to run their own affairs are now in charge of people’s lives.  How can a society be run by people who never obeyed their grandfathers or listened to their wisdom?  It reminds me of the old saying, “When there’s no lord, a slave will take his place, and when there’s no dog, a pig will guard the yard!”

 

p. 52 “Where the front wheel goes, the back wheel has to follow…”  Now I know what that saying means.  He was referring to his elder brother Toimbai’s dispossession as a kulak in a similar way the year before.

 

p. 62 “We children could tell how much the grown-ups were suffering by the way they kept sighing deeply and sadly repeating the old Kazakh proverb, “Poverty is fine as long as there’s something in the pot.”

 

p. 80 “We Kazakhs have always treated anyone related to us through marriage with great reverence.  As a popular saying put it:  ‘In-laws should be venerated like God.’

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