Expatriate musings on Mongolia:City stumbling

One day, in Ulaanbaatar (UB), I was talking with a fellow foreigner about my job at the UB Post, and he commented, “If a journalist is not assassinated, he is not doing his job.”  Now, I think that is a bit extreme, don’t you?  Nobody wants to be assassinated.  And, that’s easy for him to say, since he is not a journalist.  I’d like to see him write some articles and put his neck on the line.  I’m sure he has some tales to tell.
We all know that there is crime and corruption wherever we go on this planet.  Even our own home countries are not exempt from crime and corruption.  Tourists and foreigners are targets in every country.
Because we all know that there is crime and corruption everywhere, it behoves the would-be traveller to take some very basic and common-sense precautions.  The best precaution is to get a native friend, for the natives know all the precautions that one should take.  At number two, never go anywhere alone after dark, especially if you are a woman.  If you are a man, I would caution you to avoid dark alleys at night.  Furthermore, if you are attacked, don’t fight back, because that will only make your beating worse.  Then, if the police get involved, it doesn’t matter how much damage the perpetrators have done to you, it only matters how much damage you’ve done to your perpetrators.  Your perpetrators will say that you started it and you will be put in jail and made to pay fines and damages.  I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.  Life’s not fair.  No one ever said that it was, so don’t expect it to be so.

Now, let’s talk business.  The aforementioned man, who claimed that I would have to get assassinated in order to be doing my job correctly, probably has his gripes with the corruption in the business and political sectors of society, as he is a businessman trying to run a business in UB.  Well, let me point out some very pertinent facts.  There is not a single McDonalds restaurant in Mongolia and there is not a single Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) either.  Yet, there are a myriad of Korean businesses all over UB.  The Koreans have been very successful in Mongolia.  Why do you think that is?  Well, having lived in Korea for 10 years and having had lots of business relationships with Korean businessmen, I think I am qualified to tell you why that is.  It is so, because the Korean businessmen know how to “wine and dine” the appropriate authorities in order to get what they want.  The Western McDonalds and KFC businessmen do not know how to “play the game”.  They don’t know how to get their foot in the door.  Furthermore, they won’t compromise.  I heard that McDonalds couldn’t get their foot in the door in both Vietnam and Mongolia because they refused to use a certain percentage of local meat and vegetables.  You see?  Either you have to “wine and dine” to get what you want, or you have to compromise.  Otherwise you are S.O.L. (So Out of Luck).
Someone might counter my arguments by saying, “I’ve tried ‘wining and dining’ to get what I want, but it didn’t work.”  I would give my rebuttal thusly, perhaps you didn’t go high enough on the ‘food chain’ or you were not willing to compromise.  I would further suggest that ‘wining and dining’ involves a bit more than wine and food, if you catch my drift.
If you don’t like them apples, then so be it.  You don’t have to play the game if you don’t like the rules.  I never make my students play the games in my classroom.  If they complained about my rules, I showed them the door and said, “You are welcome to go home.”
Corruption is the name of the game, in ANY country, not the least of which is the United States of America, where Big Banks get lower interest rates (near zero) from the Federal Reserve and where the Huge manufacturer General Electric pays zero taxes, while the little guy must pay exorbitant self-employment taxes.  The little guy cannot compete with the big guys in the U.S.  It is grossly unfair, undemocratic, and unrighteous.  Well, welcome to planet Earth, my friend!  Welcome to the Globe of government corruption.  Welcome to the Planet of pilfering.  That’s where we live.  If you don’t like it, then don’t play the game.
Hey, there’s an idea:  don’t play the game.  Maybe if everybody would stop playing the rigged game, then the gig would be up.  Just refuse to participate in corrupt business.  Just…. don’t….. play….. the game.
Maybe what we sensible people should do is put our money together, buy an island somewhere, and set up our own country—a country where there is no corruption and no bloody politicians to steal our hard-earned money; one where the rules of the game are fair for all, both for the big guy and the for little guy.
Either that or we can try to fight against the system; Although, I’m not recommending that course of action.  The system is much more powerful than we are individually.  Only by using a Ghandi-like mass civil-disobedience movement would we ever have hope of achieving a truly corruption-free life.  Honestly, I don’t see that happening.  People are too busy going about their daily lives, running to and fro, spending multiple hours a day stuck in bloody traffic, trying to make ends meet, trying to feed the children and give them a decent education.  Where is the time to fight corruption?  I mean personally, I barely have time to urinate each day, let alone worry about who’s digging into my pockets, whether it’s the corrupt pick-pocket on the street or the corrupt authorities charging me 200 dollars to renew my family’s stinking visas.  Where’s the time to fight corruption?
In the fight against corruption, does Mongolian have a chance?  Honestly, I don’t know.  I was talking with a Mongolian acquaintance of mine one day and he said that Mongolians (as a whole) cannot seem to achieve much, because they are not collectively-minded.  Even 70 years of communist rule seems to have failed to produce a collective mind.  “Mongolians have a nomadic mind,” he said.  “Historically, they worked for the survival of their small, nomadic clan and competed against the other nomadic clans for dominance,” he continued.  It was his conclusion that the nomadic mindset prevented Mongolians from achieving any global greatness, because they can’t come together and work as a collective.
Yet, somehow Chinngis Khan was able to unite the nomads into a common goal—one of dominating the world under a single Khan.  Could my acquaintance be wrong?  Is it possible to unite the Mongolians into a fight against corruption?  Is it possible for the Mongolians to come together for the collective benefit of the Mongolian people as a whole?  Or are we going to continue to see certain individual Mongolian families selfishly insure their own clan’s survival, to the detriment of the rest of Mongolia and ultimate to their own detriment?  Only time will tell, I suppose.
From reading that last paragraph, one might get the erroneous impression that I am against big business.  Let me state for the record that I’m not against big business.  I think that there is a place for big business.  I mean that’s how South Korea developed into the powerhouse that it is today.  South Korea went from an impoverished, third-world country to one of the top twenty economic powers in the world in just 30 years.  How did they do it?  There were four major chaebols (and that is a word in the Oxford dictionary).  With the help of the government under the leadership of President PARK, Chung-hee, those four chaebols played major roles in developing the small country of just 40 million people into a major world economic power.  Perhaps you’ve heard of them.  They are Samsung, LG, Hyundai and Daewoo.
So, I’m not against big business.  Big business has the capital to invest, the clout to make big deals, and the cleverness to put money into research and development in order to compete in a market that craves innovation.  So long as big business doesn’t step on the little guy, which it doesn’t in Korea, I’m okay with big business.  So long as the government prevents monopolies and insures fairness in the market place, without favouritism to any one faction, I’m okay with big business.
However, let’s spread the wealth around a little bit, eh?  It is my hope that Mongolians can pull together and realise that they are more powerful as a unit, then as a divided nomads.  Have they not learned from the Man of the Millennium, their very own Chinngis Khan?  You must first unite the nomadic tribes in order to conquer the world.  All this political division in Mongolian politics just won’t do.  It just won’t do at all.  The political party system divides the people, it doesn’t unite them in a common goal.  What Mongolia needs is a non-party leader, with the charisma to unite all parties into a single common aim; and, that aim should be to end corruption, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, and develop the common welfare of all Mongolians.  And that would include, as my wonderful colleague, Jargalsaikhan, mentioned in his article:  education.  Mongolian needs to invest in the education of its people.  Teachers should not be going on strike.  They should feel like a very valuable member of society.  They should be paid the same as the politicians.  That’s right!  The same salaries as the politicians get in parliament should be paid to all public servants!  Students should have adequate facilities and adequate learning materials.  If Mongolia does not invest in the future by investing in its children, divisions will only grow.  That gap between the poor and rich will get wider.  There will be growing resentment and dissatisfaction between the haves and the have-nots.  Again, I say, “Spread the wealth.”
In conclusion, let it be said that I, Leon, have spoken out against corruption.  Let it be known that I, Leon, stand for a government that loves all the people whom it was designed to serve.  Let it be attested that I, Leon, promote big business that shares the wealth and stimulates the local economy by providing jobs and innovation in order to compete in a global economy.  Lastly, let it be paramountly promulgated that I, Leon, encourage investment in Mongolia’s future, namely its children as a whole, and NOT as individual clans.  If Mongolia is to become a great nation again, it must unite to these ends, and stop the petty partisanship.  It must unite in a collective aim for greatness.
It is sad to see that Mongolian has the potential to become an economic mountain through unification of political parties, but it prefers to wallow in the waves of division and nomadic self-interests.
I challenge Mongolia to find a person who can unite the country into a collective aim for a monumental and magnanimous Mongolia.  As this is an election year in Mongolia, I challenge the Mongolian people to vote for unification, rather than division.  Good luck, Mongolia.  May Wind-Horse be your guide to Political and Economical Shambhala.

Source: UB Post


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