~ Abai Kunanbaev ~

Word Twenty-Two

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I wonder whom amongst the Kazakhs of today I could possibly love or respect.

I would have respected a bey, but there are no true beys anymore; even if there is one, he is not the master of his will and his wealth. At bitter enmity with some, he will, as a precaution, give away his livestock to others and eventually finds himself beholden to a good hundred people. He believes, in his stupidity, that he has shown generosity by responding to their humble requests, but in fact he becomes dependent on them. You would call him neither generous nor merciful. In his native land he struggles against his own people, squandering his wealth and currying favor with unworthy men. When the beys are at loggerheads, rogues of every kind appear, and they intimidate the beys and live at their expense.

I would have respected a myrza, [1] but now you cannot find a truly generous one; as to those who give out their livestock right and left, they are as many of these as stray dogs. Some part with livestock of their own free will in a bid to gain some advantage, while others do it reluctantly — these often do so just to make a show to gain the reputation of a myrza, running around as if he had salt on his backside; yet, more often than not, they become the prey of wicked people.

I would have respected a volost chief and a biy, but on our steppe there is neither divine nor human justice. Power bought by servility or with money is not worth much. I could have respected a strong man, but I see that everyone among us has the strength to do evil deeds one cannot find anybody prepared to do good.

I wish I could find a clever man to honor. Yet there is none ready to use his intelligence to serve the cause of conscience and justice, while one and all will be quick to guile and perfidy.

I might have respected a feeble beggar, but he is not without sin either. It does not matter that he can't even climb on the back of a prostrate camel. If he had the strength, he would find the dexterity to pilfer a thing or two. Who is there left? The cunning and grasping! There is no stopping these until they ruin others completely...

Whom, then, shall we love and pray for? The stinking volost chiefs and biys cannot be considered. There remains only the peaceable bey who, by virtue of his meekness, lives by the saying: "If you want to prosper, avoid discord!" Such a man incurs the displeasure of all and sundry, even though he may give away half of his wealth and tries, to no avail, to protect the other half from thieves and ruffians.

There is nothing to be done: him shall we pity and pray for.

As it is, I have found no one else.

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[Footnote 1: myrza- nobleman vested with power, philanthropist] Back to text