Thursday, January 1, 2015

The problem of Kyrgyz mothers

There are two problems in Kyrgyzstan, two problems so huge that they shatter the very fabric of civilized community. The first problem is abusive men which is a problem not only because they are abusive but even more so because they are the masculine norm. The second problem, only slightly smaller and a lot more subtle are mothers.

Mothers? Who in their right mind would dare to attack a being so selfless, so pure and devoted to another as a mother is to her child? And this is precisely the characteristic common to all monsters: they have an untouchable status.

But let's rewind to the beginning shall we.

In the heavy patriarchy of Kyrgyzstan, a girl must fight to earn her place. She grows up in a family of many where she will be slightly undervalued in comparison to her brothers. But being apart value-wise will not leave her apart duty-wise. Having children in Kyrgyzstan is a hard task in which parents have little choice. The powerful el emne deit (what will people say?) pushes families to produces children regardless if they are ready or not. This has a few dire consequences, especially for the mother who has to take care of them. Often, she becomes bitter, and expects to get her money's worth for the daughter that she had to give birth to. Of course in this is mixed a lot of motherly love, of national pride and genuine respect for traditions (including the tradition of having many children).
In the end, the Kyrgyz mother is left with a very unstable mind full of conflicting emotions and it is in those emotions that the newborn daughter will be raised.

In the mist of that mental conflict, the daughter seldom feels protected by her parents as we often feel in Europe. On the contrary, she learns to sense the danger and she will feel that it is her duty to protect her parents, especially her mother because she is the one most in distress.
This is true regardless the region and regardless the generation.

"I want to be a doctor when I grow old," says a 6-year old girl in Issyk-Kul region, "Because I need to take care of my parents when they grow old."
"I want to be a policeman. When I am older, I can fight against people who bother my parents," says another boy.

While it is common, maybe everywhere in the world, for children to reflect their parents in their hopes and dreams, it is less common for them to feel protective of their parents. In my childhood, I use to hear:
"My father is a ski champion. And he can climb the Eiffel tower in ten minutes. I want to be a ski champion, like my father"

This thought aside, let's go back to our little Kyrgyz girl. She is growing up in uncertainty and pretty fast, she must take part in the chores. She will clean, she will cook, she will serve tea. She will go to school because she has to but she will not always be encouraged to do so. If she is in a village, it does not matter much if she goes to school or not, she will get extremely little education. The reason for this is that school is not taken seriously and the education level of teachers is also nil.
It is not rare to turn 18 and still not have a grade 5 education according to western standard.
Of course this may vary depending on the child's character but the child must be incredibly independent and enlightened to understand the importance of education at such young age when all around it seems like it is utterly useless because the goal is to marry and have children and who needs math for that?

The Kyrgyz girl turns 18 and for a lack of knowledge that she could but didn't acquire at school, her only role model has been her lost and distressed mother. By that time, she has become a professional waitress and housekeeper for her parents. By that time, she has long realized that her parents have money problems (everyone has) and she will take her first job. Since she has no formal education, it will be sewing.

Sewing in Kyrgyzstan is not easy. The working days are long. And parents are getting older, they need more and more care. More trouble comes in, she is pushed to marry. Our poor Kyrgyz girl, as hard as she tries, can't catch her breath. She is too tired, too tired to study, too tired to think.

When she marries, her life becomes even harder. In addition of having to take care of her parents, she also has to take care of her husband's parents. At that point, she is a machine, she desperately needs to catch her breath, to find something to lean on, to rest. And when the situation becomes unbearable, she has children. If it happened in another world, she would cherish and protect them with care but now this is too much, she needs a lifeboat and god help her but her survival instinct kicks in and it seems that her children are staying above water just a few inches higher than her.
So from the last strength of her mind and body, she will raise them. She will raise them until they are old enough so she can collapse on them. Sometimes, this happens very early. Way before puberty.

A child is a wonderful tool. They are like a robot but with endless supplies of energy. A robot's battery will finish and it will give up on you. Not a Kyrgyz child. A Kyrgyz child will recharge itself again and again to tend to his or her mother's every need. So she has many children, as all-resistant tools and investments to the future. Of course she loves them but she also needs them. And for the first time, she can rest. Her own parents are probably dead by now and for the first time, she feels like the legitimate human. For the first time, she can rest.

Her tired body and mind now feel the legitimate retirement. She doesn't have to work anymore, son #1 will take care of that. She doesn't have to clean anymore, daughters #1,#2 will tend to it. The sudden change from servant to princess, from slave to master, makes her head spin like heroin rushing into a newbie's veins. She soon becomes addicted, she is a junkie on her children's help.

The Kyrgyz society, as sexist as it is, values women in one way: the way of mothers. Mothers are holy. They are so high in the ladder of respect that they overshadow god. Of course, it is not official but it is like this in practice. As muslim as they claim to be, you will see people disobeying god, drinking vodka or stealing brides but you'll see very few disobeying their mothers.

Very soon, our Kyrgyz mother will start to feel holy herself and delusions of grandeur seometimes begin to surface. She is always right and all resistance is futile. She forgets that her children may be feeling as she felt before. She becomes self-centered, then selfish, then manipulative. She will create her own el emne deit regarding how things should be and terrorize young girls with it.
It is not a good thing for a human to see itself as a god. And subconsciously maybe, it is god that Kyrgyz mothers try to impersonate in their late stages of post-motherhood. But it doesn't work. It just twists one's mind. A mind that was already unstable from very early stages.

At that point, a monster is born.
But remember the poor little Kyrgyz girl, the one with a pure heart only wishing to protect her family. So who is to blame? Her mother? Or her mother before her?

In conclusion I don't mean to bash all mothers. Some of them are quite alright which is miraculous considering the things they have to get through. As with all things, the origin of the problem lies in the cryptic strings of history. All I can do is write about it.