Borat + CNN == Strange

  1. Setting the Borat issue straight on Behalf of Kazakhstan
    Like millions of Americans I have seen the Borat movie but unlike many I have been to Kazakhstan — also spelled Kazakstan — and I want to set the record straight. Kazakhstan is a wonderful country with customs that are both foreign and familiar to ours. In fact, there are many things I would take back to America. Borat (Sasha Cohen) has made this country look like it is populated with nothing but slovenly, unwashed, immoral, uneducated people – this is almost completely false in my experience. No, they don’t have an Ivy League educational system but these people for the most part are good-hearted and, if not well-read by our American standards, they do love storytelling. They ritually gather at village centers – usually this is where bartering and exchanges are conducted for food and services – and they share their knowledge by applying the oral tradition (please let’s not lower ourselves to the Boratian ‘oral’ jokes here). Yes, their technology is not at the state where ours is yet so they compensate with conversation, face to face. I’d actually like to see more of this in our world versus the faceless interchange of the internet. We might be a happier people. This helps their families stay close – and, again to refute Borat’s incest insinuations, this is not a national sport and I saw very little there to give one pause to consider it is more than a rare occurrence which is indeed not looked well upon even in the most rural stretches. These are a happy people with great values. No, Borat, they do not make their 8 year old children work by force. And women can vote in all elections. Legal age to wed is up to the families themselves. They are not a race of anti-Semites – they have a small Jewish population of over 170 who are situated by their own free will to live in a ghetto. But this is common: America and the world are replete with communities where people of similar backgrounds and mindsets gather and create neighborhoods – we have all been to Chinatown, Little Italy, Germantown. The food in Kazakhstan is some of the best tasting I have ever had in all my travels; always fresh. You cannot believe what they do with their vegetables and their goats (although Borat only highlights the sexual engagements – another exaggeration at their expense. I never saw anything like what the comedian speaks of. But let us not be so self righteous to forget about our own iconic cowboys who have gotten lonely on the trail — and the stories about them and cattle – rumors as well, I’m sure.) The people of Kazakhstan are indeed passionate and excellent dancers – Borat showed us that and the men do generally dance with great fanfare with each other as he indicated but again this is not unlike many countries. Most of all, I would take home to America the laughter and kindness of these simple people – they tell jokes all day on all subjects especially special family events. If your daughter is married in Kazakhstan, she is not sold for a VCR with a remote control like Borat says – and, remember, in America many brides’ parents still offer dowries or at least pay for the wedding so we are not really so different. The bride, as is the custom of Kazakhstan, is always asked to work for both families – this brings everyone closer. During the days she might, for example, work at the dairy or farm and nights she might sew or cook or clean and it is not uncommon for the young bride to have a say in the family financials. One fact to consider is that women in Kazakhstan do not live as long as men. This is the opposite of the statistics in the United States. So I wouldn’t want to live there with my present wife and daughter. Other than that, Kazakhstan is a place we can learn from. In closing, please realize the difference between a false documentary or propaganda and pure fiction. While the Borat film is funny, it is not real in many ways – although the men, as he showed in his movie too graphically for many tastes, do not consider nudity offensive. They swim without bathing suits and walk after their swim back into town often with nothing but towels around their necks. Their innocence is something to be admired — and if not, one can simply shield one’s eyes. There are a great many people in Kazakhstan who are offended by the publicity and news stories about Borat’s film though they will not see it due to the fact there are not many movie theatres there.

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