Friday, April 02, 2004

Shibboleth I

What is it about the Islamic Regime, aside from its brutality, that has made it successful in stifling organized dissent? This question I have been thinking about for a couple of days as I hear an old friend is back in town after a long time.

I have known him for years and he, like the rest of us has gone through many phases, both in his thinking and his activism. And I worry. I asked a friend to advise him to be level headed and keep his big mouth under control until he gets a sense for what he is dealing with. But he declined wanting to know why our friend should not “create trouble.”

Was I promoting self-censorship? Or pacifism? Forgive my crude anthropology, but I really don’t think we (Iranians) are too terribly thorough and systematic. Now, admittedly, I haven’t seen how our security folks function on day to day basis, negotiating, meeting, mapping out daily chores, etc., but I doubt they’ll function too differently from the mean performance visible in all other branches of the organized culture.

At all levels, people are visibly winging it. They make up rules as they go along, with decisions mostly reflecting ecclesiastic myopia, focusing on supposed material advantages, obsessed always with finding opportunities to cut down and humiliate opponents and brownnose friends or superiors. Every thing else is secondary. They want something to show as an accomplishment to boast about needlessly if put on the spot, but the old heart isn’t really in anything they do in daily life.

So, for instance even the censorship on the net is half assed (thank Goodness). A few “unsavory” sites in each Google search page blocked, but others ( in pages 5 and on) mostly untouched. Popular sites blocked, and yet unpopular ones, even more dangerous with the exact information one seeks, not noticed.

And in almost every official organization, one is forced to deal mostly with information that is hand scribed in notebooks. Cross referencing is arduous and slow. More advanced places use Excel or at best some rudimentary Access program-- even in the Purchasing Sector of some of our best funded organizations (hint hint). Can you believe it?

I am going out on a limb here, but I doubt the Regime has nearly the impeccable and anal system of the notorious East German Stasi, or the Iraqi Mukhabarat for that matter. They do have a sophisticated network of snitches, mind you, a lot more elaborate than the Shah’s. This becomes obvious in the mornings at the entrance to one of their agencies. In the older time, I am told, shiny new cars, with tainted windshields would go through. Now days, all kind of cars with people from all walks of life, lining up to go deliver their daily reports, aside from those working there.

Assuredly, they have more of an appetite for bad news than the old regime. That much I am certain of. And they also cast wide nets, and don’t usually worry about the intricacies of separating the wheat from the chaff. What’s a life any ways? Or a few hundred innocents when the future of God’s will is at stake? And yes, they are terribly brutal. Political prisoners and dissenters have an atrociously rough time of it.

But remember, brutality alone doesn’t guarantee success? Besides, when was the last time you heard of one of our youth or a paraplegic killed by a missile fired from a helicopter in Iran? They hack them to death or shoot them at times, yes, but unless I missed something, the Islamic Regime hasn’t recently blown up any houses of the relatives of close to 4500 students reported to have been detained last year.

The key I think is in the Old Testament: in the Judges to be exact. The story is not so much a success story for this regime so much as a tale of our failings -- the citizens'.
Look up and think about the passages 12:2-12-7 while I put the rest of this conjecture together.

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