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~ Abai Kunanbaev ~


Word Forty-Two

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One of the causes of people's inclination to vice is indolence. If the Kazakh had worked the land or engaged in commerce, would he have lived an idle life? But instead he rides from aul to aul on a horse he has begged from someone else, he sponges off other people, spreads gossip and rumors, by guile and duplicity he leads people astray or is himself under the thumb of other scoundrels; he drifts about and does nothing. Anyone who wants to live well and is accustomed to working will consider such life humiliating. Will this person abandon his business and live like a vagabond without any aim or purpose?

He who manages to acquire even a small herd will not be content with his way of life and will not take good care of it; no, he sets off in search of pleasure, leaving his livestock to the care of his herdsmen and children. His animals will thus become an easy prey for all kinds of thieves and predators, and will die in bad weather. The fellow will get over this loss, but he will be unable to overcome the temptation of taking part in secret plots, gossip and petty squabbles. Out to gain importance in the community, he will engage in all kinds of nasty intrigues and dirty tricks.

Others who have attained some affluence also leave their property to the care of strangers — "Now, keep an eye on that!" — and give themselves up to idle chatter, scrounging and roaming around.

Today people do not value high intelligence, a good reputation or wealth; the ability to scribble complaints and the cunning to twist somebody round one's little finger— this is what is respected. He who succeeds in that, poor and destitute though he may be, will be given a place of honor at the table, a fat chunk of meat and a stout horse. Such a scoundrel can easily ingratiate himself with a simple-hearted bey by a bit of blarney—"You just say the word, and I'll go through fire for you!" And this will be enough: without lifting a finger he will be well fed and clothed, ride a fine horse and enjoy general respect.

The bey does not regret his lost peace; he does not count his expenses. Before having a talk with anyone, he seeks advice from this rogue who bows and scrapes for fear of losing the bey's confidence, scared lest other counselors turn up. "Allah be with you," the rogue will say obsequiously, "how couldn't you think of such a simple thing?" And off he will go, suggesting vile tricks, one worse than the other, and he will implant suspicion of other people in the bey.

At length the bey himself will no longer be trusted by the people. If some clever man disagrees with the bey and turns away from him, the scoundrel will always be there. "See? Didn't I warn you about them?" And the credulous bey will become putty in his hands.

It is to this the present generation dedicate their minds and will. This is what they live by.

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