Our world and our individual lives are full of contradictions as this post will remind you if you did not already know. It is a story of ugly beauty, of oppressive beauty, but also kind of fascinating. I could not put it away because of these contradictions. But it also made me disgusted with the way a stupid dictator can waste the wealth of a people on his own selfish whim. I use a strong word--"stupid," for that is what it is. He runs a good chance of being pulled down from his perch in total ignominy and shame. Even if he dies on his throne, his reputation in history will be worse than mud, let alone his eternal destiny. Jesus strongly condemns oppressors.
Apart from his own fate, the totally unnecessary suffering such a dictator inflicts on his people amounts to a crime to humanity.
I am referring to Fjola Helgadottir's story of her journey through Turkmenistan that I pass on to you below. It is a fascinating country and journey, with unusually beautiful and expensive buildings that cannot help but impress you. However, when you think about the oppressive part of the story, the selfish use of power, then it all becomes downright ugly.
Now when you pick up a world atlas to find out about the state of the country's people, it looks pretty good. My atlas tells me that the country has a literacy rate of 99%, the same as Canada, my adopted country; the USA, my neighbouring country; and the Netherlands, my birth country. The same atlas claims a calory consumption of 2754 kilocalories, an average intake, judging from the 24 countries listed on the two adjacent pages in the atlas. That's surprisingly high and would seem to indicate that, in spite of the totally arbitrary personalized dictatorship under which the people live, they are doing fairly well. The thing is, of course, can you trust such stats? I, for one, doubt them. You can't trust anything that comes out of a dictator's sleeve.
But the situation described in Helgadottir's story below reminds me of the Olympic saga. That's a strictly elite sports event for which people spend years of energy and, yes, tons of other people's money, for their own glory. Whether they win or lose makes no difference to the course of world history, even though the media reports keep proclaiming that history is being made. Except for the participants and their organizers, no one's life is improved by it. In fact, poor people are often chased out of their neighbourhoods and the latter demolished to be replaced by glitter and gold. Vancouver and its province British Columbia, the scene of the 2010 Winter Olympics where I live, was and is becoming a city and even province impossible to live in because of the obscenely high prices of property and houses, and all this while there is said to be no or hardly any money for or solution to the housing shortage. I could wander around in the city during the event and taste the Olympic ambiance, but I could not afford a ticket to the events. Was it an event of beauty? Really? I leave it to you along with the dictators of this world.
I place this post on this Christian-Muslim blog, because Turkmenistan is a Muslim-majority country. Muslim theologians claim that Islam pushes justice and compassion. Their dictator is probably a Muslim, but he seems to know little about Islam and seems hardly motivated by it. When Muslims makes these grandiose claims for their religion, they need to explain how such situations arise. Does Islam have no defense against this or protection of the poor? I realize, of course, that "Christians" have similar situations to account for.
Here's Helgadottir. Enjoy--if you can.....
Vancouver Sun, February 24, 2018
"At the whim of a dictator in fascinating Turkmenistan."
The Province of February 28, 2018
"Turkmenistan has an eccentric and narcissistic president and it shows."