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  • Jerome Kocher

84. Final Thoughts



I’m showing you the same map I used for my first post when I indicated where I was going. I use it again to remind you of where I’ve been. The countries I visited are not really in our news, but are sandwiched between other political giants that get all the attention, usually negative: Russia to the north, China to the east, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the south, and Turkey to the west. Not to sound naive and simplistic, but it almost makes the “Stans” of Central Asia and the Caucasus region an island of tolerance and sanity. Don’t misunderstand. They have their political, ethnic, even military conflicts. Some have censorship. But this is not the Middle East in religious and ideological warfare. It’s safe, if you respect the dotted lines.


And what do they have in common. They are all former Soviet Socialist Republics. To be clear, the previous communist totalitarian system, especially under Stalin, was an abysmal failure for the Human Spirit. But there are three Soviet legacies that have ironically benefited these countries.


First, a Soviet atheist regime banned religion. It was ripped out of their soul. I never thought I’d say this but it left a silver lining after the Soviet collapse. People regained their Faith, but it was personal. After being molded into a secular society, these newly founded independent countries did not use religion as a self identifier, let alone fundamentalist ideologies. They became extremely tolerant. I saw the same attitude last summer in Albania and Kosovo. They could care less what religion you are. Respect each other. And all of these are Muslim majority countries. If atheism has a grandchild, this is it. Who would have thought?


Second, the Soviet regime was almost gender neutral. Women were valued and had a life outside the home, but not because they were equal human beings to men. No, they were all equal worker bees, economic units, in a central command economy. They were all producers. So again, like banning religion, this is not an enlightened vision of the human spirit. But it also had a silver lining. Women had a key role in public life. They were not just property of men, to be hidden or covered, and protected against their will. They were equal citizens.


Third, the Soviets valued education for all. In a rational, scientific society education was the light that made you a better comrade. Again, this is not an enlightened attempt to help individuals reach their human potential. No, its purpose was to create more efficient producers for the machine. But it also had a silver lining. Education is valued. For all. Take that to Afghanistan or Pakistan and see how far you get.


And so like any dysfunctional family, despite the strict parenting of their communist occupiers, a generation after the collapse of that family they have learned some hard lessons and have come out of it for the better. I have said several times that the 90’s were a chaotic disaster for these post Soviet Republics. Compare it to a teenager gone wild, who is on their own survival for the first time after a smothering and oppressive parent. But since Independence in 1991, these countries are now 33 years old, in their 30’s, and have more stability and order. 


I’m painting with a broad brush. A few of you may rightfully say, “But what about Turkmenistan? C’mon Jerome, you’re over simplifying.”  Yes, I may be, but although Turkmenistan is still a dictatorial parent, it is not a radical theocracy like countries south of it. It also prides itself as a declared “non-aligned nation,” not taking any side in a geopolitical world of regional bullies, or competing super powers.


What I am saying is that if you go to these countries . . . it’s safe. You will find kindred spirits. The Caspian Sea divides the Muslim majority “Stans” from a mostly Christian majority Caucasus. And although ethnically diverse, they all have been part of a turbulent crossroads of empires and religions along The Silk Road. 


The most important part of my trip were the personal encounters, however brief. They were more enriching than any stone or monument, regardless of how old or beautiful. I don’t travel for luxury nor relaxation. This was quite exhausting! The purpose of travel for me is to step out of my “comfort zone” and broaden my experience and appreciation of other cultures and the people who live there. We have a common humanity. And every time you can dissolve the boundary of “the other” you become lighter and freer of your own bias. What else is there to do?


I conclude with Gratitude. The most magical words in the English language are “Thank You.”


So to all those I met along the way . . .

Рақмет сізге - Kazakhstan.
Рахмат - Kyrgyzstan.
Rahmat - Uzbekistan.
Сипос - Tajikistan.
Sagbol - Turkmenistan.
Çox sağ ol - Azerbaijan.
Გმადლობთ - Georgia. 
Շնորհակալություն- Armenia

And to all of you, friends and family who have followed me on this journey, I say Thank You.


I very much appreciate you taking the time to read my reflections and experiences. It makes them even deeper and richer for me. May it inspire you to be more "uncomfortable."



The Silk Road, May-June 2024,

Jerome


P.S. On my trans Atlantic flight home I did something I had never done before. Normally it's a great opportunity to catch up on movies I'd never seen. But during the twelve hours in the air I didn't watch a single movie. I couldn't. I was so full of images and memories, I had no need to vicariously watch other stories. I was sated. I was full from a 35 course meal of my own experiences. All I could do is write and sleep. Write and sleep. It was so satisfying. I had no hunger for stimulation. I could barely digest my own. It was proof that my travels had nourished me beyond my expectations. And my writings . . . well, I look upon those as homecooked meals for all of you. Small portions of a wider world that you and I are a part of.


Blessings on the Meal!


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2件のコメント


lmzech
6月18日

Yes, what a potpourri, potluck collection of experiences, cultures, and images! Your conclusion once again portrays a warm-hearted, intelligent, open-minded author, and offers valuable practical and spiritual insight to a far-from-obsolete region and culture, prompting self-reflection and a renewed interest in working for the future (present and past) of our incredibly beautiful Earth.

いいね!

Jack Greenspun
Jack Greenspun
6月18日

Humanity humanity is not comfortable when lived. But the stories upon reflection are comforting.


Thanks for crafting your documentary Jerome. You are right. Every “meal” was a bite sized slice of humanity. Spicy but digestible.


Thanks for providing the ride along my friend.

いいね!
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