I have been inquiring locally regarding some things in Uzbekistan that are conspicuous by their absence - they are these: Pool (billiards) tables, motorcycles, and people of African descent. Here is what I've been told by folks here in Tashkent.
#1) Lack of pool tables in establishments: apparently, the son of a very high-up official (like Ministry level, but I couldn't get a name) was unfortunately killed in some sort of altercation in an establishment that was, at least in part, a pool hall. Keeping in mind that this is a tragedy, and my heart goes out to anyone who loses a child under any circumstances. According to my buddy, pool tables were somehow outlawed following this event - I couldn't get much more of this story. The justification for this seems to have been that pool halls attract or sustain 'bad elements' of society, so I think this 'rule' or 'law', whatever it is, was established as a method for controlling public mis-behavior.
#2) Lack of motorcycles: again, these just don't get allowed in and aren't able to be licensed. They're not allowed on the roads. Justification for this seems to be that they provide easy and difficult-to-police transportation for folks who might be up to no good. Again, the rule of law seems to be responding to a perceived need to limit activities and behaviors that could be employed by bad folks for bad purposes.
#3) Lack of people of African descent: well, there is certainly no shortage of opinion on this, and without much help from me you can imagine that some of it would sound pretty harsh to some ears. Here, there appears to be a real difficulty for folks of African descent to get visas to visit or study at University (something that was far more common many years ago). There is a real fear of HIV, a real fear of criminal activity, and - well.
Don't shoot the messenger - I merely report what I've heard.
It's interesting to me. Very very wonderful people, a vibrant and exciting and active culture, a proud people and very capable people! It goes to show that there are limitless options taken by various countries around the world to keep tabs on the population, things that are imagined to be for the public good. In the USA, these three 'rules' (above) would be met with terrible backlash. I recall in Chicago, while in grad school, there was a city ordinance enacted that was in response to the very very active gang activity throughout Chicago - this ordinance was, if I remember correctly, a law prohibiting more than two people standing together on the street (loitering) and this enabled police to stop and break up the gatherings of gangs on street corners and such. As appeared to be their wont. Anyway, this ordinance passed and for a period of about 6 months, gang-related violence dropped by some massive percent, residents of most communities were delighted, and in some communities (including mine, in Rogers Park) were just getting used to being unafraid to come out of their homes and walk the streets after dark - when, SURPRISE, the ordinance was reversed and taken off the books because of the public outcry about this ordinance restricting individual rights. The arguments used words like "profiling" and "freedom to peaceful gathering" and all that. As a population, many of us were dismayed - our streets, for a few months, were safer than they'd been in decades (statistically speaking), but... we are a nation that preserves rights of individuals even under difficult circumstances. It's one of the things that distinguishes us from other nations. Sometimes it works, but sometimes, well, let's just say that it can be hard to draw that line between 'rights' and 'common sense'. Slippery slopes aside, I don't mind the lack of pool tables here - and I didn't mind knowing that the Chicago gangs that harassed and bullied and killed and attacked were finally getting as good as they gave for once. (full disclosure here: my partner was attacked by what was probably a wanna-be 'gang' of about 10 teenagers in Rogers Park on a residential street - so this experience no doubt alters my view. ALSO, don't mistake my entry here as being against OR in support of the UZ choices or of the City of Chicago's choices - I am one who could suffer directly from prejudice, bigotry, and profiling, so I am most unashamedly AGAINST prejudice, bigotry, and profiling as such. But I am also a practical person and I don't break laws, and I'm the geek who thanks the Airport Screeners and TSA agents when I pass through airport security: "thanks for helping to keep us safe!", even if I've been delayed and 'selected for further screening'. I am happy to suffer inconvenience for the greater good - but, well, only to a point I guess - slippery slopes... ah, it's a bigger question than I can answer on my own!)
Sleepless in Tashkent