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Allow me to reintroduce ourselves

Written by on Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Culture and History, Turkmenistan
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Photograph by Flickr user atomicShed (CC-usage).

Photograph by Flickr user atomicShed (CC-usage).

Wherever you might go, whether you realize it or not, you are judging people.  The human brain is the most complex processing unit on the face of the earth — and it is constantly at work. Within milliseconds, our minds proportion the eyes, nose, mouth and ears to form some facial recognition.  After a few more milliseconds, we’ve assessed one’s skin tone and, matching it with one another’s facial features, have concluded a crude biography of the person. Simply walking down a crowded street and catching a glimpse of another human, questions arise and are immediately answered within our subconscious. Where might this person originate from?  He has a yellow skin tone.  I wonder if he’s angry or happy? He’s smiling, and he looks happy.  Now, I’m happy. Notice his eyes. Hrmm, and the lips.  That nose.  Can I trust him? I wonder where he’s from?  Oh I’ve heard about his people.  What was that cover story on the newspaper last night?

But what if you were among the 2.5% who were unable to recognize faces.  What if you were afflicted with prosopagnosia, the inability to decipher facial features or make conclusions as to the identity of another human being (arising from damage to the fusiform gyrus of the brain).  Whether your mother, your brother, your President, your teacher, people with proposagnosia are completely lost when it comes to assessing what anyone’s face looks like. Imagine suffering from this grave disorder.  Imagine being in a foreign town or city where everyone suffers from this disorder towards you.

Welcome to my introductory article.  This is my first attempt of a “salam!” onto my Turkmen brothers.  Whether you are a local in Abadan or an expatriate in Chicago, in my mind, I identify your faces as among the many distinct features that make up the visage of our great nation.  During my travels back to my motherland in Central Asia, the Middle East, to Europe, and even through my home country in the USA, I am always struck by the great diversity of ideas and the combinations of different peoples arriving at a single locale.   To see a Turkmen traveling thousands of miles away from their home villages, to set up their own tribe 50 or 60 years later in a completely foreign land is a beautiful phenomenon, and then to view a Turkmen in his own home village, sitting on a crate at the corner, amongst the luxury of his own culture and countrymen, brings about an equal outburst of emotion.  My work now is to develop a bridge between these two different extremes of Turkmen peoples.

All too often our fellow Turkmens within the motherland do not have the media resources to form the idea that there are other Turkmens living abroad.  They fail to see the connection and worse, fail to hope for a future of strengthened ties, relations, and opportunities for each other.

On the flipside, many of our Turkmens living abroad fail in exactly the same manner.  They are living in a land where every non-Turkmen around them suffers from prosopagnosia, the features of a Turkmen are completely blurry to them.  And its not their fault, because they have never heard of a Turkmen, so how are they to identify our features or form any recognition of our faces? How can you respect someone as a friend if you don’t know them? Or worse only hear perverse things from a third person’s perspective? Through continuous anonymity within their surroundings, lack of identity, and general misunderstanding of the Turkmen way of life, our brothers and sisters frequently fall into voids.  They quickly become empty, unable to be proud of their culture, slowly forgetting their country’s heroes, figures, and relatives.  This emptiness quickly leads to resentment and self-hatred.  Finally, they quickly adopt one of the more disposable, rife and pervasive masks so they can be more easily understood within their environments.

The solution is simple, and the same for both extremes.  It stems from a lack of introduction.  Introduction of the Turkmen to the West, and a failure by Turkmens in the West to properly introduce the West to Turkmens in the motherland. We should have each side try and reach out to the other.  Our countrymen at home should be given the resources to understand the plight of our countrymen among foreign lands.  Perhaps over repeated dialogue, allocation of media resources on both sides and a positive outlook, humanity will begin to recognize the beautiful face of the Turkmens.  As a Turkmen in the West I will play my part, and that, my countrymen, is my goal as a blogger.

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