Meaningless medals and titles must end

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Mongolia has thousands of traditions and some of them are still relevant to these days. Mongolia has been under the influences and rule of foreign countries several times in history and has adopted many things from them. Now it’s hard to differentiate what is truly Mongolian and what is adopted. 

Culture adoption is not a bad thing at all as people and societies have been doing it since the dawn of civilization. There are several notable culture adoptions that is still a huge part of our everyday life. The most famous food in Mongolia, served during Tsagaan Sar, is originally from China, and perhaps the most used swear word in Mongolia is a Russian word. 

Though cultural adoption is an essential part of humanity’s development, there are some side effects that are particularly harmful to Mongolian society. 

Medals, titles and honors are nothing new. They are an essential political tool rather than a real acknowledgement of merit. Titles were given in Great Mongol Empire era and even the word Chinggis Khaan is a title derived from the word Tengis, or ocean, to symbolize vastness. During Qing Dynasty, various kinds of titles were given to Mongolian aristocrats and nobles to turn them against their own people. People bribed by titles without actual power and privilege would force normal citizens to pay taxes and tributes to consolidate their status. 

After the Mongolian People’s Revolution in 1921, USSR’s influence took over Mongolia. At the time, for Mongolians who were freed them from the suppression of another country, the People’s Revolution was the proudest event. And so USSR started manufacturing and handing out medals for the anniversary of the revolution to keep reminding Mongolians about the big help of their USSR comrades that played a big part in the revolution. 

The gesture that was made to keep Mongolians obedient and grateful to USSR eventually became a means for keeping appearances of meritocracy.

Mongolia gives many medals, honors and titles to many people in every field each year. Some of them are accompanied by one-time or lifetime monetary allowance. Besides the revolution anniversary medals, the Red Banner Medal of War Merit is given to WW2 veterans and the Blood Merit Medal to soldiers who died during war. These medals grant monetary allowances to veterans and their family for fighting bravely for their country. On the other hand, the anniversary medals of the Mongolian People’s Revolution lost its meaning decades ago since it has been given to people who played no part or in fact weren’t born when the revolution actually happened. 

Normally, those medals should honor people who initiated and participated in the revolution or at least their descendants. However, it’s given to anyone who worked in any field for over 10 to 15 years, whether their worked well or not. These medals do not have any other significance beside the metal itself. It is not accompanies by monetary reward, or special status or privilege. Now the medal is given to almost everyone over 60 that worked for a living in Mongolia. Honestly, it’s hard to find elders without at least one People’s Revolution anniversary medal nowadays. 

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of the Mongolian People’s Revolution and the Mongolian People’s Party is giving out the medals in bulk. The government of Mongolia planned to give 150,000 medals and the net cost of medals, boxes, and certificates is reported to be 975 mil- lion MNT. It means there are 150,000 people who made enough “merit” for the development of this country to qualify for the medal, which used to mean something to people who got them for freeing the country from foreign oppression. If there are so many people who made major contributions to the development now, why is the country still among the least developed countries in the world? Why is our standard of living so low com- pared to most?

In the history of humanity, there were many whose work was underappreciated during their lifetime as society failed to understand their achievements. Learning from our past, the world is trying to appreciate great minds of our time as much as possible, while they are in their prime or at least alive. 

If you notice, people who are receiving medals, titles and honors are mostly old people. So, it means that the government is giving those titles and medals for working for many years, right? People don’t usually work to get a medal that nearly everyone will eventually qualify for that has no real prize or value. But they strive to live well enough to support their family and raise their children properly. If everyone gets the medal, what is its value? Most elders love medals and display them proudly. But despite all the medals they cannot survive on their pension and rely on the support of their grown-up children. Spending nearly a billion tugrug on meaningless metal seems counterproductive, until you realize that this was an election year and the elderly were raised in a socialist system that taught everyone to aspire for medals. 

On top of the anniversary medals, Mongolia loves to honor people of various fields with the “merited” title. There are thousands of merited doctors, teachers, actors, miners, herders, athletes, cultural figures, and such. Higher version of these titles have the “people’s” label attached to them, like people’s doctor, people’s teacher and so on. Another version of merit title is the Hero of Labor, which was invented in 1956 and given to relatively fewer people. The Hero of Labor title is followed with Altan Soyombo Medal or Sukhbaatar’s Medal, and is regarded as the most precious and hard-earned title of them all as it was given to “only” 433 people to date. 

The same rules apply for merited titles. The titles come with great honor and some prize money but in most fields, there are age restrictions. If an actor plays a role in “Hamlet” or “Faust’ in their country’s biggest theater, they are considered as the most famous and successful actors of their time and will “qualify” for any title and honor the state has to offer. However, in Mongolia, it is often delayed a couple of few years as the merited people are not old enough. 

These medals and honors were adopted from USSR during the socialist era, when state honors gave people an edge in a society that supposedly valued equality. However, the awards are often given much later than the achievement that qualified the recipient for them. 

Another meaningless medal is the Order of Exceptional Mothers. The second-degree version is given to mothers with four or more children, and the first-degree version is given to mother of eight or more, according to a decree of the president of Mongolia. This act of discrimination between mothers with and without medals started in 1958 to “inspire” Mongolians to have many children as the population of the country was around 900,000 back then. However, it’s not ideal to support the idea to have many children in today’s situation. Mongolia is no longer a socialist country where the community supposedly looks after each of its members, but a capitalist country where everyone is out for themselves. Having a large family is costly and they often only have a single breadwinner, since typically the wife has to look after the kids at home.

Mongolia is infamous in the world for its dis- mal infant mortality and early deaths of children. Mongolia is not a good place to raise children at all. If you go to isolated districts and visit poor families, they usually have many children. It’s tough for people to raise four children, so why should the government incentivize having more children without adequate support? Poor family planning can lead to poverty and a miserable life for most parties involved. 

The problem the Mother’s Order highlights is the Mongolian population policy’s focus on quantity over quality. Children born today mostly do not live a “quality” life due to pollution and poverty, yet the state is treating the population like a human factory. 

These meaningless medals, titles and honors need to end since they are not awarded to the right people for the right reasons. At best they are a gesture of appreciation, but mostly they are a political tool to win favor of the masses. The Mongolian government should cease this cheap trick to win over elderly voters and actually start addressing their problems and improve their quality of life.

Khantushig B

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