Saturday, February 05, 2005

Another Link

I have added No War On Iran to the sidebar. Some smart people are the primary movers behind this--yet another--collaborative project. We can disagree all we want about a broad range of different topics, but the curious are well advised to listen carefully to the myriad voices of Iranian communities.

It always amuses me how those loudest in insisting that others alter their ways of life, outlook or religion can be most fussy about even wanting to hear what may ruffle their feathers.

To each his own, I suppose. But the attitude may ultimately nib some in the butt in times of crises.

I think some form of escalation is a very real possibility for this ever expanding conflict. And Iran is a diverse country. You are bound to find those that will echo calls for a military campaign. And we know how ducks like quacks!

Some will amplify these voices. And then soon enough, others begin to think the voices representative. In one sense it is the nature of the beast. Politics is global and there are alliances in all different senses of the word and some curious convergences of interests and similarities of outlooks.

And yet when you get to Iran, you will find some baffling features. Farsi is by nature both poetic and exaggerated, as languages go. And then our perceptions too are a bit distorted. In fact, hyperbole is our middle name. Nothing unusual in the world of today though, just a bit more pronounced.

It has gotten to the point that if I am told "rain," I will have to stick my head out and get wet to believe. And even then I often do not trust my own perceptions. I wish I could have really communicated more clearly what it is like living here day to day. I did the best I could in the creative destruction post

That said, if and when there is an armed conflict, the eventual outcome is a forgone conclusion as far as I am concerned. Let's not mince words here. All you need to do is to compare Iran's annual military budget, or for that matter, the entirety of Iran's national budget with what America spends annually to fight STDs or to facilitate abortions.

And yet, there won't be a disastrous disruption of life in Iran. There will not be mass exodus. There will not be a famine. There will not even be a flood. As much as I nag about Iranians all the time, I find the people awfully good at dealing with--putting up with, really—events out of the ordinary.

It's merely the "normal" life that sucks.

So most Iranian families will come together and the neighbors too and people will quickly pool resources and take care of each other. In one sense, I think, everyone will come to enjoy that.

Life has changed drastically here over the past two decades and no one is happy about it. There is no sense of community anymore. Selfishness reigns and the solipsists and the self absorbed are having their moment under the sun. No heroism, heroic deeds nor heroes left in the traditional Iranian sense of the word.

Not entirely tragic, though.

A nation of thieves, addicts, abusers, prevaricators, hypocrites, pimps and prostitutes is what Iran has turned into, or at least this is the most commonly held belief among Iranians. (See what I mean about hyperboles!) And yet, this may offer a historic opportunity for a truly new beginning as far as I am concerned. These are exactly some of the features that will give Iran an opening into a new century.

Weren't they the sort who won the West? And so we are ready for the take off. And a war will destroy this golden opportunity.

Look, Iran's demographics alone are a frightening nightmare. And I could just imagine how excited some may be here for war as a heavenly Malthusian solution to the population problem.

Some think that if there were an opening to the West, there would be jobs galore and problems solved. But what a lot of people here overlook is that by the standards of the competitive global economy today, the young here come with the sort of grand expectations that are not commensurate with what they have to offer.

And who can blame the young really for the delusions. Living in an authoritarian society, they are being suffocated. Everyone breaths down their backs in schools, universities, at home, and streets and parties and in life generally. But that's not going to change the unforgiving facts of life.

They are dying young which is to say they live idle dreams mostly because the real is unbearable.

I am sorry to have to say this, but what we have here, especially among some the least satisfied and most boisterous, are a bunch—shallow, spoiled, entitled, impressionable, inflexible and untrained to think-- who live under the illusion that they can hustle their way out of life each and every time.

And yet somehow they must land a most esteemed social status and get top pay for it and have the respect they think due them. A bunch, prestige obsessed, with no sense of reciprocity towards the larger society or each other. Really talented men and women who, unable to find possibilities for actualization, have turned their backs on decency.

That is what a game of cat and mouse with the authorities trying to regulate all aspects of life has produced here. Life as lark really, subject to the myopia of how much one can get away with and how often given minimal exertion and effort and with the loudest of bugles.

And the parents too.

The first couple of companies foolish enough to start large scale ventures here will either suffer huge losses or will have to abandon the project all together.

And this is why there has not been a revolt around here, really. Fear is a part but not the entire story. You will be amazed at the sort of thoughtless and callous--truly brainless -- manifestations of "audacity," you'll encounter on any given day in Iran.

But after years of blaming all misfortunes on the Shah, the West, the British, Saddam, and ultimately this Regime, people have begun to finally suspect--deep down at least, and some even confess openly, that it has always been us all along.

And our friends too and our relatives, coworkers and bosses. And that there might be remedies.

But the political language has frozen in a particularly banal mold for years. I give you an example. I detest drugs, particularly opium. It smells like burnt flesh. But drugs are inescapable and I do occasionally find myself in gatherings where this scrooge is the centerpiece of the "nightlife."

So at first the usual babble. Then what we call "ta'arof," or that habitual invitation for you to join in. Then testimonials about how good it is for your health and heart, and how you can't really tolerate life without it, and simply ceaseless insistence for you to try smoking it at least once.

And when the conversation turns political, as it does always, the first thing they do is to blame the regime for "having made" people into drug addicts.

And I just look into their eyes even occasionally asking them if they are a Regime operative in disguise. And then laughter and a change of conversation.

And so it is with almost any other feature of life here. People go on to talk about prostitution forgetting that marriage itself these days has become for most partners a particularly venal form of trade in human flesh.

People are bartering all the time about dowries and stuff and marrying for a house, easy jobs, emigrant visas, some gold coins and foreign trips and cars and mobile phones. People will sleep with each other for gifts or meals in fancy restaurants or leads and connections and even some minor role in a movie.

Always what might strike initially as the easiest and the cheapest route!.

Did you really think the explosion of Iranian cinema staffed almost entirely with ordinary people an accident? Or simply the unfolding of some newly discovered creative genius?

The truly sad part, of course, is that no one actually enjoys what s/he does. Incessant nags and perpetual unhappiness because there are voices that never shut up—the sort of confused/confusing intolerant voices both outside and inside our heads which offer no room for the ease of mind.

And so we are not at ease in our own skins and thus tend to lash out in desperation at those closest to us or alternately come to blame everything, as always, on the Islamic Regime.

And yes, this Regime is responsible for a good deal of the misery. But even within the limited range available for maneuvers, we unreflectively choose what makes us the most unhappy and uncomfortable.

Nothing unique to us, I suppose. Just a matter of degrees, expectations and those intolerant spiteful voices that never hush.

So you see, with the caveat I stipulated earlier i.e. taking everything an Iranian utters with a grain of salt, it is my belief that people are unwilling to take a risk because they don't trust one another.

After all, everyday we prevaricate about all matters, school work, work, money, our whereabouts and our love lives, how we have purchased our latest phone or computer or clothing or household appliances, where or how much and what we drink or smoke and what we have or should have inherited.

Imagine living in a country where the same people most eloquently critical of the unethical business practices of this regime and the inadequate wages and the heart wrenching poverty will go on to get what in effect are post dated checks signed by future employees before hiring them (a routine practice) and then instead of paying them what the law stipulates, will go on to deduce in some cases up to 30 percent (again routine) from the paychecks.

Or not pay employees at all for months. Just because they can.

How could you trust someone to watch your back in case of an upheaval?

And so even though practically everyone is dissatisfied, unhappy and furious really, most fully understand that if there ever were (more of a) breakdown in Law and Order here, it'll be an absolute pandemonium.

For an approximation of the tamest possibility think Euripides and the Bacchantes.

Another war, though, might very well be the quickest way to redirect anger and forge a sense of community again.

A Short term gain for the fomenters on both side and along term disaster for all.

No comments: