What I didn’t say in the detail I was thinking it was that our American blinders eliminate far too much of what’s going on in the world. That goes for liberals as well as conservatives, Obama or Clinton supporters.
Here’s an example that bothers me every time it comes up in Doonesbury: Central Asia.
Central Asia is probably as far away from us as it’s possible to get, maybe with the exception of some of northern Siberia. That’s not just in miles, but culture as well. It’s further than Africa because Europe colonized Africa and layered onto it governmental and social practices we can recognize. It’s further than Antarctica because environmental organizations don’t sponsor luxury cruises there.
So Duke and company supervise a radio interview of Trff Bmzklfrpz, dictator of Berzerkistan, anti-semite and genocidaire.
Yes, I know, Doonesbury is satire. And there are indeed both corruption and despotism in Central Asia. But I wonder how much good this is doing for our understanding of what’s happening there. (And isn’t this a repeat? I think I read somewhere that Garry Trudeau is taking a leave of absence?)
Start with the dictator’s name. Yes, I know that Central Asian names are not usually Smith or Jones. But getting names right is a fundamental mark of respect. And then there’s the name of his country, which implies that its citizens share his, er, issues.
Turkmenistan is most likely Garry Trudeau’s model for Bezerkistan. Its former leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, insitituted a cult of personality that makes Stalin look like a small-town sheriff. Gold statues of himself, renaming the months and days for his family, all that. But he died in 2006 and was succeeded by Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. (C’mon, you can sound that out!) It was hard to know how Berdymukhammedov would rule; what a person does when working for someone like Niyazov does not reveal his opinions and preferences.