Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The zany, fatuous bowdlerizers

I don’t know what it is about life in Tehran, but I find myself oscillating constantly between despondency and the irate urge to bludgeon something. I mean, the stupidity, and the utter senseless banality of it all.

In case you pay attention to football, the Euro 2004 tournament started a few days ago and we are being treated to two matches a night. I have been jumping up and down like a madman each night, and not out of any great joy about the games, mind you, although they are highly entertaining.

You see, the coverage here has been getting on my nerves, infuriating me, really. Why you ask? You know how when there is a lull in the game, the camera pans across the stadium doing close-ups of some of the more quaint, titillating enthusiasts? Well, someone in his infinite wisdom has decided to expunge all traces of these dedicated sports fans from Iranian screens.

Thus there is no limit to the ridiculous length some editing team, I presume, goes in order to avoid showing the spectacle while trying nimbly to minimize disruptions to the flow of the games.

So, here they are—the authorities, paying money from the coffers of this nation to buy the rights to broadcast the games (unless the games are pirated, of course. I don’t know!) And they are paying additionally the wages of an editing team dedicated to erasing instantaneously all traces of fans from the stadiums, or at the very least exhibits of some cheering colorful face or a sun tanned body!

Who authorizes this mendacity, I wonder? What religious edict could possibly be at work here? What are they afraid of? What purpose could it all serve? Whom do they think they are fooling? What are they really saving this society from?

The sheer imbecility of a ruling class that thinks it can continue to pretend they are in any position to control life in all its diverse, multi-faceted, multi-colored beauty! How much sillier can they possibly get? Haven’t they had enough of the monochromic, dreary and bleak universe they preside over? Can’t they see what mess they have created through all the censorship and the (senseless) struggle to block out representations of a woman’s hair here, or shoulders there?

Surely they must know what is happening all around them on a daily basis here. How could anyone miss the scenes? Take a walk on any street and you will see how badly they are losing on all fronts. They are not in control of much of anything, really, as hard as they try to be.

I believe officials of this Islamic Regime, and indeed all who foolishly attempt to impose ill conceived greater plans on our lives, are well advised to be attentive to the magnificent wisdom of a Polish writer, Zbigniew Herbert. I recently encountered a poem of his thanks again to my learned Polish guide.

There comes a time when matters can no longer be settled, nor citizens cowered by words, propaganda, demonizations, censorship, fear, intimidation or humiliation. We are way passed the stage now. The question has become one of taste. And I assure you, it does not matter how it might look at the moment or how long it might take.

They will lose. They are bound to lose. They will lose their hold over our lives, their positions of power and in some cases their lives or limbs. No one, no matter how well armed or brutal, can possibly stand to compete against the alluring feast that is life.

The Power of Taste

It didn't require great character at all
our refusal disagreement and resistance
we had a shred of necessary courage
but fundamentally it was a matter of taste
Yes taste
in which there are fibers of soul the cartilage of
Who knows if we had been better and more
attractively tempted
sent rose-skinned women thin as a wafer
or fantastic creatures from the paintings of
Hieronymus Bosch
but what kind of hell was there at this time
a wet pit the murderers' alley the barrack
called a palace of justice
a home-brewed Mephisto in a Lenin jacket
sent Aurora's grandchildren on into the field
boys with potato faces
very ugly girls with red hands
So æsthetics can be helpful in life
one should not neglect the study of beauty
Before we declare our consent we must carefully
the shape of the architecture the rhythm of the drums

official colors the despicable ritual of funerals
Our eyes and refused obedience
the princes of our senses proudly chose exile

--translated by John Carpenter and Bogdana Carpenter

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