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Feature Story July 25, 2002
 
Missing the Mongols
By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
Page 3 of 4
 
A science-fiction writer wisely said, "The thing about aliens is--they're ALIEN." You can't understand them. You never will. That's true of the Mongols: they were so unlike the people who "eat bread" that chroniclers can only describe them by resorting to a whole zoo of analogies, like the Armenian does: they were like ants, lions, snakes, birds, dogs...everything but human. The Mongols referred to themselves as a "swarm of birds"; they flew, while the humans trudged. The humans said the same: "The Mongols appear where least expected," coming and going like a wry, lethal God.

The Khans claimed to be the descendants of a she-wolf. They tinkered with humans; they played. When Ogotai, son of Genghiz Khan, captured North China, his lieutenants suggested that the human population be erased, because all these walls--the houses and palaces and cities which were no more to the Mongols than termite mounds--spoiled what could have been good pasture. The Khan considered it, but decided as a matter of policy that those bipeds could be useful. And it would have been a lot of work to erase them, because there were at least twenty million people in North China. He let them live. That's why China is not pasture today. Mongolian tribe on the ride

In Iran, the Mongols chose to erase the human population: that's why much of Iran is desert today.

And that's why we need to talk to the Khans now: because they are the only people before the invention of nuclear weapons to have treated the world as a garden to be pruned as they chose. We need to compare notes with Genghiz and Kublai Khan, with Subotai and Ogodai. But it's difficult, because the Mongols are coming into fashion and becoming extinct.

The two processes are linked: extinction first, then fashionability.

The missionaries are in charge of the actual extinction. As the eXile's inimitable War Nerd recently pointed out, the missionaries are the military wing of Christianity, the real stormtroubadors. They are busily infecting the Mongols now. Mongolia is converting to Christianity faster than any other country in the world. Some reports say the whole population will be Christian in ten years. Plump white folks from Nebraska and Texas are fanning out over the steppes in expensive new Toyota Landcruisers, visiting the most remote herders' tents to breathe the God-virus on them. And these Mongols, the shy remnant, lack the Khans' immunity to the God-virus; they're succumbing to it instantly.

For the herders, the switch from Buddha and the shamans to Jesus is simple: Jesus brings stuff every time his followers come by, while Buddha never brought anything. The old Buddhist monks just sat in their lamaseries, chanting; the Christian missionaries, these inexplicable white people in vehicles worth more than most Mongolian towns, drop off blankets and pots every time they come by. And the shamans' drums don't work as well as the drugs the plump visitors bring.

So the Mongols are finished. Already they've descended to human; soon they'll be churchgoing stooges--less than human. Ten years from now they'll all be in cheap suits, singing Come to Jesus in the key of C and studying accounting at Oral Roberts U.. Then the Khans will really be gone.

The most grotesque aspect of the whole thing is that Hollywood is going Buddhist/shamanistic as quickly as the Gobi is going Christian, so that in a decade the Dalai Lama may build a new, Lhasa-style palace overlooking the HOLLYWOOD sign while Pat Robertson powers his wheelchair up the ramp of a brand-new Jesusarium & Bible College built on the ruins of Genghiz's capital.

Somehow, though, it's not a fair exchange. Hollywood Mongols just wouldn't be very good. Hollywood has never done the Mongols very well. John Wayne actually played Genghiz in a movie called The Conqueror, but I've heard it was one of the worst movies ever. Didn't see it myself; I don't go in for camp, especially about serious matters.

Genghiz Khan

Genghiz Khan


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