The crowds, though still sizeable, are diminishing. The speakers and traditional singers have left. The stage, though empty of people, is filled by with the sound of the P.A. system pounding out techno-thumpo dance music, a musical genre that appears to be almost universal. I wonder what the older people from the villages make of it.
The demographic profile of the crowd now is almost exclusively ethnic Kyrgyz men and there are many more drunken men than earlier in the day. The number of females, who seldom walk alone, is down dramatically from the morning and afternoon and there are only a very few faces that appear to be ethnic Russian or Western. Perhaps the only reason I don’t stand out more is because I am wearing long pants instead of the shorts I had on in the daytime.
Two AUCA students I pass a few blocks from the square caution me to be careful. Many of the locals and other Central Asians I have met seem to go out of their way to express their concern for the safety of “foreigners” like me. The violence and looting that marked the so-called Tulip Revolution, which was more accurately a coup d’tat by dissident political insiders than a revolution, appears to have embarrassed many Kyrgyz nationals.
There is a pervasive belief among the students here that mirrors one held by many Americans of all ages that democratic change is accomplished as a result of learned men sitting around table hammering out a peaceful plan. In both sides of the world, they fail to remember that an expansion of democratic liberties is almost always seen as a threat by the dominant order, which resists it tooth and nail. Those who stand to benefit from democratic advances or the expansions of freedom typically achieve them only after enormous sacrifice. The powerful seldom give anything up without being forced to in response to social pressure from below. Furthermore, the model of the learned men politically negotiating reinforces the extremely anti-democratic idea that only our social betters are capable of ruling, a belief that virtually guarantees that these gentlemen’s agreements will primary serve their self-interests and not those of the larger public.