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Photo by Alexander Serzhantov / Unsplash

What are the most God-forsaken ares on earth?

I'm talking about barren areas. Relatively barren of natural beauty, of a beautiful cultural history, and of a beautiful contemporary culture.

And menacing: in its vastness, perhaps, or its brokenness.

There are plenty of contenders (western Australia, western China, northeastern Russia, Detroit in January), but one place always comes to mind first: the Steppes.

That vast area of central Asia from eastern Turkey to Mongolia, home to the Five Stans: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The region's toughness repeatedly breed the toughest soldiers, who would occasionally slam into eastern Europe (Huns, Magyars, etc.). It never seemed to have enough historical continuity to develop a rich cultural history, always being invaded or doing the invading. Its Christian patrimony was largely destroyed by the Muslims. In the early 20th century, its entire patrimony and future and very soul were sucked out of it by the Soviet Union, leaving the region an economic wasteland.

If it weren't for Borat, many Americans wouldn't even know the region existed.

But the region is attempting to make something of itself. It has shifted to a market economy and things are looking better.

Of course, with the market economy, comes all those human foibles, from greed to self-promotion and public flagellation, like the pan-sexual bodybuilder who courted and married his sex doll in one of the stupidest PR stunts of 2020.

Fortunately, his bride is now broken (leaving ribald pundits to speculate why). PG-13 link. The whole thing is so preposterous, I am a little embarrassed to post about it, but there are no doubt woke folks out there who applaud his alleged affection.

Those folks can't be mocked too often.