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the anti-bonobo world 1: the BHT

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somewhere in Turkmenistan

So today begins a new series about the anti-bonobo world, and I thought I’d start it with a country and a person I’ve recently learned about from a game show I was watching on a pub TV. With the assistance of a well-informed bar worker, I’ve learned that the trippingly named Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow is the current dictator of the BHT, my own coinage for the Eurasian nation, Turkmenistan.

The Black Hole of Turkmenistan (BHT) is a landlocked country with a population of 6 million (though censuses are rare there, and outside observers argue for a population of less than 3 million!), bordered by the Caspian Sea in the west, Uzbekistan in the north, and Iran and Afghanistan in the south. My pub informant told me that its above-named Leader has a reputation as a joke version of another joker, Kim Jong-un. He’s been the BHT’s dictator since 2007, having previously served as assistant to the previous dictator, Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov, who’d held the job from 1985 until his death in 2006. Interestingly, Niyazov’s party from 1985 to 1992 (i.e. mostly as a ‘socialist republic’ under the USSR), was the Communist Party of Turkmenistan (CPT), but in 1992 it was changed to the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, which was akin to switching from the Stupid Arse Party (SAP) to the Stupid Dick Party (SDP). The new dictator has retained the Stupid Dick moniker, though he’s definitely a chip off the old bloke, who supported the 1991 attempted coup d’état against Gorbachov’s reforms.

These types are often called ‘hard-liners’, which is a euphemistic political term for those who will do whatever ‘hard’ things are needful to retain or reinforce their power. I prefer the term ‘thugs’ myself – and of course there are many of them dotted across the political landscape. Most of the head thugs – the ‘dictators’ or ‘party leaders’ – are surrounded by a band of lickspittle thugs, all of whom are male human apes. In the bonobo world they would likely have gotten their penises bitten off before they got to this stage.

So, the BHT earns its names for a number of reasons, but especially because of its impenetrability in terms of information. But while black holes are stars, metaphorically speaking, in the firmament around us, black holes on the Earth’s peel are simply disgusting blotches, as everyone would expect from a region that has suffered from total rule by two dictators in the last thirty years. North Korea is, of course, another example.

So, even if we accept the 6 million figure (they’re apparently having another census in 2022), the BHT is one of the most sparsely populated nations (it’s mostly desert), and one of the poorest and most corrupt. It does have one historical claim to fame, though, for within its current territory once lay the city of Merv (also known as Alexandria, Antiochia and Marw al-Shāhijān)the largest city in the world and a regular hangout for the polymath Omar Khayyam. That was until 1221 when the city opened its gates to the son of Genghis Khan – another chip off the old bloke – who, along with his male minions, proceeded to destroy everyone and everything in the greatest massacre of the medieval period. It’s now preserved as a world heritage site, though good luck on trying to visit it.

Returning to today’s BHT, it’s about 93% Muslim and other religions are barely tolerated. Homosexuality is illegal of course, though at least the death penalty has been abolished. Its economy is heavily reliant on its gas resources, which of course is problematic for the future – but, like all the other thugocracies that were once part of the USSR, it will receive ongoing support from Putin. Even so, the nation is leaking people at a regular rate – the majority of them heading across the Caspian Sea to Turkey.

As to those gas resources, they are spectacularly large – the fourth largest in the world, apparently representing some 10% of the world’s potential supply – something that I’m sure is front of mind for the likes of Putin, and other powerful figures. As the VisualPolitic video referenced below points out, it’s probably no coincidence that Russia and Qatar, hosts for the last and next FIFA World Cup, are the biggest gas exporters in the world. Being in possession of large supplies of oil and gas is usually a boon  for any nation – most residents of the oil-rich Middle Eastern nations are relieved from paying tax or ending up in extreme poverty, and despite COP-26 that doesn’t look like changing in my lifetime. However, Turkmenistan is a landlocked country with little in the way of international investment. LNG is transported in two ways, generally – by ship or by pipeline. For Turkmenistan pipeline is the only viable option, but given the rampant corruption there, few other nations are willing to take the risk. One country that does is China, a nation that knows a thing or two about corruption. It has sufficient funds of course, to pour largesse into the country in exchange for various guarantees regarding its gas resources, and it also has the economic and military might to ensure those guarantees are abided by.

And yet, even the most scary thugocracy won’t be able to curb the idiosyncrasies of the tin-pot dictators it deals with, and Berdimuhamedow, also known (by himsself) as Arkedan the Protector, is pretty weird. The two thugocrasies appear to be locked in a struggle as to who rips off the other most successfully. 

In any case, Arkedan the Protector has made a few unsuccesful moves with the funds flowing from China. For example, he had the bright idea of turning the country into a tourist Mecca. He built a vast airport and associated hotel region -a sort of Las Vegas in the  Karakum desert. So he clearly imagined that an influx of tourism would boost the nation’s economy. Good thinking. But then he realised that tourists might be critical of the lack of political freedom, the lack of decent education, and the general impoverishment of the citizenry. Good thinking. So he decided to severely limit the number of tourist visas into the country. Good thinking. The result of all this excellent thinking was a collection of near empty hotels surrounding a state-of-the-art-airport, which, due to the general lack of arrivals and departures, is one of the most efficiently run airports on the planet. Why am I reminded of Yes, Minister? 

Joking aside, it’s worth bearing in mind that many of us are simply lucky to be born under a government that is minimally repressive – and I should assure you that I’m no libertarian – as the most hypersocial species on the planet we owe more than we like to admit to states and their governments – for example, our education, our access to healthcare, our jobs, houses, clothes, technology, the cars that we drive and the roads we drive them on, the cities we live in, and so on. All of this is facilitated by the state, the libertarian bogeyman. I live in Australia, which, as states go, is fairly benign, though far from beyond criticism. I could’ve found myself in Turkmenistan or North Korea or the ‘democratic’ Republic of Congo. That’s why, as a hypersocial species, we should recognise we’re part of a human community and try to improve life for every member of that community. Of course, a community of almost 8 billion is almost too much to contemplate, but there but for the good or bad fortune of where we’re thrown into this community, go you and me.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkmenistan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gurbanguly_Berdimuhamedow

Why is TURKMENISTAN the World’s most INSANE dictatorship? – VisualPolitik EN (video)

 

Written by stewart henderson

November 18, 2021 at 10:28 pm