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~ Abai Kunanbaev ~


Word Eight

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A wealthy bey on the Golodnaya Steppe. Photograph taken in 1911
by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorsky

Will anyone heed our advice and listen to our counsels? One man may be a volost chief, another — a biy. If they had had the least desire to become wise and learn sense, would they have sought such posts? These people consider themselves quite clever enough and seek power so as to teach and give guidance to others, as if they themselves had attained the heights of perfection and had nothing further to do but instruct others. Are they the kind who would have the inclination or spare the time to listen to us? Their minds are filled with other concerns: not to offend their superiors inadvertently; not to provoke the anger of a thief, not to cause trouble and confusion among the people, and not to land on the losing end, but to gain some personal advantage. Besides, they must be always helping somebody, getting someone out of trouble. They are always too busy...

The rich? They want for nothing. Be it only for a day, they have wealth and they think they possess the treasures of well-nigh half the world, and they can pay in livestock for whatever they lack. They set their sights high and their ambitions even higher. Honor, conscience and sincerity are no dearer to them than their herds. They are certain that if they own livestock they will be able to bribe even the Most High. Their herds take the place of everything else to them — their native land, people, religion, family and learning. Why then should they listen to other people's advice? Some fellow might be inclined to lend an ear, but he has no time for that. He must feed and water his livestock, sell it at a premium, protect it from thieves and wolves, shelter it from the cold, and find someone to do these chores. No, this man is too busy to heed good counsel. When he has seen to all this, he will be boasting and bragging, so he has no time left for anything else.

As for thieves and scoundrels, they obviously would not listen anyway. The poor, meek as sheep, are only concerned about getting their daily bread. What good is advice, wisdom and learning to them when even the rich do not want it? "Leave us alone, speak to those who are cleverer than we are", they say, as though knowledge were of no use to poor folk. They don't care about anybody, the poor. If they had what other people have, they would know no worries.

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