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Gold, Iron and Spirit

By KANI XULAM 14/6/2014

The email came via Facebook. It was written in impeccable Kurdish. A person calling himself Raperin Ekrat had signed it. The name, I soon found out, was an assumed one. It didn’t matter; I subscribe to the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and read it in its entirety.

Because I have discarded my Turkish name, I actually like it when other Kurds do the same. The action is a political one and seeks to correct a wrong that was imposed on us by our heartless masters. I don’t know who inspired the letter writer to use a pseudo name, but I can tell you about mine: Malcolm X.

The black activist’s original name had been Malcolm Little. Educating and liberating himself in a prison—yes, you can free yourself even in a prison—he soon realized that “Little” was his only remaining tie with slavery. By throwing it away, he was practicing freedom. The children of captive nations would do well to study his example.

As to the content of Raperin’s letter, I expected it to be a request for help.

It was not.

Instead, he was reaching out to me for an exchange of views on the issues confronting us as a people—wronged for centuries, gassed for being Kurdish, disdained as backward, and used as fodder for the “happiness” and “greatness” of Turkish, Persian and Arab ruling circles.

Call me “ungrateful” if you will, but I am not interested in making Turks, for example, “proud” by winning them medals at the Olympics—as one Kurd from Turkey did in Athens.

Also, when “honor killings” take place in puritanical parts of Kurdistan, I want us to atone for such lapses; I don’t like it when Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran shoulder the blame for us.

The point I am trying to make is this: we are no longer kids in need of supervision to distinguish the right from the wrong. It is high time we took credit as well as censure for our own actions as a people, and one day down the road, as a state.

The letter writer, I could tell from his questions, was equally agitated with the state of affairs in Kurdistan. He wanted to pick my brain on the issues that were vexing his mind.

He wrote:


What should be the role of Kurdish youth in today’s Kurdistan?

How should we think and what should we do?

For instance, should we take part in the politics of the day?

Or would you recommend the realms of linguistics and cultural studies [for our curious eyes and hungry minds]?

What are the tools of advancing the cause of Kurdistan?

In short, what are your recommendations for the new generation?”

I don’t know about you, but I was immediately struck with the quality of his questions. They went to the heart of issues confronting us as a people. I sought his permission to go public with his letter. I wanted to make others privy to his thinking.

My two cents, by way of an answer, are simply a contribution to the ongoing debate about what should the Kurds do to protect the heirloom called Kurdistan from those who wish to bury it under six feet of soil or foreign rule if you will.

I wrote:

Dear Raperin,

Your Kurdish is beautiful. It reads like viewing a remarkable work of art. Please continue sharing your precious gift with the world. A world without Kurds is a poor one. Thank you for speaking up as a Kurd.

As to your questions, there is only one politician who makes my heart skip a beat: Mahmut Alinak. He is a disciple of Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. You would do well to invest in him.

The rest are fair weather friends, habitual liars and some are outright sadists. Don’t let them contaminate you. Being born in a dishonest age doesn’t require us to view honesty as a soiled diaper.

Let reason be your teacher. Hold on to the principle of proportionality with both hands. Stand on your own feet. And make growth and renewal your goals in your waking hours as well as sleeping ones.

To be more specific: Our people always complain about being poor. They think it is the source of all our woes. They readily submit to the observation of King Philip of Macedon, “A mule laden with gold can enter the gates of any city.”

And then we have our impatient young who, wittingly or unwittingly, march to the footsteps of Otto von Bismarck. He is famous for offering “Blut und Eisen”—Blood and Iron—as a way out for one’s national problems.

I won’t say anything about blood, thankfully, it is a subject above my pay grade, but I do want to say a few things about the gold and the iron as it were.

First the shining metal: Plato says, “The only way to be rich is not to have more material possessions, but less desires.” Gandhi adds, “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.”

As to the iron, it can give one the appearance of power and allow the likes of Saddam Hussein to think they are God, but no one has managed to hold on to that position and many of them have eventually choked in their own blood.

In other words, the challenge facing us is greater than the sum of gold and iron.

The existential threat confronting us is the dearth of our spiritual capital.

How do we make Kurds confident, ambitious, fearless and capable of looking into the pastso they could see into the future? Can we see behind the Kurdish mountains?

American founding father James Madison said it all, “Education will forever govern ignorance.” Frederick Douglass, the emancipated black slave, sharpened the point, declaring that learning and servitude are wholly “incompatible.”

That is, in a nutshell, my advice to you.

Make arming your spirit the front and center of your attention.

To use a Marxist term, it is the determining factor that will lift us out of the immoral muck that has purposefully been laid under our feet.

I will end with Hegel, “Thought achieves more in the world than practice; for once the realm of imagination has been revolutionized, reality cannot resist.”

Greetings from the passionless capital of America,

Kani Xulam


qR | 15/6/2014
Wow, what a powerful article, Kani Xulam! Thank you!
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