Monday, June 27, 2005

Daughters, sons and fathers

The serenest suburb of Tehran-our main cemetery!
Posted by Hello

If you haven't been reading the comment section, you've been missing a few different conversations on the side. Mike T offers a few reassurances and Mr. Lake has now added a couple of clarifications. And thanks to Ali M, we also have the text of an email from Roya Boroumand about the previous post.

But all the issues that arise from those exchanges (adversarial intentions, objectivity, expertise, reliable sources, etc) have gotten me brooding about fathers again and the extent to which are the creatures of our past experiences, really.

There was nothing masked in what I said. What I wrote was an angry, unrestrained frontal assault. But in her short note, she has gone on guard defending her objectivity against the perceived charge of emotionalism.

Think about it. Even the most brilliant (woman) scholars in academia—one of those bastions of male hegemony, have had to fight the charge routinely. But see, this is the one blogger whose own very posts have rightly been characterized as jeremiads.

I've been doing one lament after another. Far be it from me to attempt to undermine anyone's credibility by charging emotionalism. But there you have it. Even with the best of intentions! The marvels of communication, I guess. It is indeed a miracle that any of us ever manage to make ourselves understood, isn't it?

Anyhow, about the past and our fathers: What is the real meaning of asserting we live in a grotesquely patriarchal society? Doesn't the past weigh a bit too heavily on our conscious? And that suffocating force of tradition?

In a way, it is nightmare that might allow no escape, ultimately! Or does it?

Note for example that we all perpetually claim that we are paying for the sins of our fathers on the one hand, and yet , on the other, we seem to be continuing in one form or another the arguments of--or often, as in my case, those with--our fathers. Even decades after the fact.

Does any of this undermine the validity of our political positions? Or do they inform our choices? Help clarify our beliefs, actions or particular persuasions? Or do they really distract from the issues?

For what they're worth, I am going to put the spotlight on my own perpetual personal broodings about father issues in our culture. The following is a piece I did a few months back for an online Spanish journal. I figure, it's as good a time as any to share:

Even insomniacs can have rituals. Every now and again, when I am feeling sad or dejected, I organize a meeting in the city cemetery. Present are my constant companions and childhood heroes, ROSTAM and SOHRAB—the two legendary heroes of Persian epic tales; your friendly story teller and some expertly disguised scotch whiskey. For some dawns, you see, are libation times at my father's grave.

The rest of Another Libation for Dad

And the Spanish version, Otra libación para papá

Saturday, June 25, 2005

And the spin!

This charming performer in Kurdistan, when not in jail, gets the attention of his city dwellers every day. Oddly enough, without insults, prevarications or being condescending.
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This might be too soon to react in a cogent way to what has been dubbed the Ahmadi Nejad tsunami. But hey, one has to start again somewhere.

Besides, one of the advantages of being the Brooding Persian, you see, is that the normal vagaries of our universe affect the mood very little. For your friendly blogger has taken the advice of our blind Lt .Colonel Frank Slade to heart.

Life has become a dance for us. And as we get "tangled up," we sort of lightly "tango on" in our normal melancholy way. Can't win them all! And when we lose, we take a break to do some more reading. And try to expand our horizon by studying a new language and making some new contacts. Then we get back for another round.

But really, there is no spinning this one. And although I am not surprised, I do fear for the consequences so.

Our Iranian Blogistan is utterly depressed/depressing. Most posts oscillate between angry insults hurled at those of us who boycotted or the 17 some odd millions who've voted for the new President and/or feeling sorry for having voted for that murderer-millionaire Rafsanjani.

That's despondency for you. And those reactions I understand. We Iranians don't deal well with defeat. But again who does?

Some reactions, however, utterly puzzle and annoy me. Take the following gloating as an example:

"We are really excited, this is a very good thing for the opposition to the Islamic republic," said Roozbeh Farhanipour, an activist of the secular Marzepour Gohar political group and a former Iranian student leader who fled to the United States in 2000.

To understand our surreal universe and how you (my dear American readers) are being sucked in, we need some more background here.

The gentleman who is quoted is an activist with what is known as the "Glorious Frontier Party." And they have been active in Washington

These good folk saw the same elections we saw in the first round and seem to have concluded that 90% of all Iranians are against the Islamic Republic. Well, how's that for observant?

They are so on top of the happenings in Iran, aren't they? They also continue to insist every chance they get that "our country is already being occupied by a non Iranian power."

It all does give a new meaning to that noun "xenophobia," doesn't it?

This is the blame all our misfortunes on those nasty Arabs contingent. Or is it those vast British Conspiracies? Like I've repeatedly said, it is all becoming terribly confused, confusing--our hold on reality.

And if you want to know how you're being sucked into this (dis) enchanting world of ours, note some of the names that keep on popping up, here with Eli Lake, and here and with the Voice of America, and here.

All I can say is: do please protect your future from converging any further with our present!


Post Script: In the comment section, Mr. Eli Lake-- in his uniquely charming style--has made his wish clear that I should add the following to this post:

" The boroumands have no connection to the monarchists or any other party"

I'd like to make one point very explicit here. As you have probably gathered by now, our society is not the caricature many think it. Iran is a highly fragmented country with a multiplicity of competing political views.

We have all exchanged sharp words about different subjects and will probably continue our many bitter polemics for years to come.

But in reading this blog, don't ever make the mistake of underestimating the great affection and respect I have for many of the individuals I criticize here. I am highly attentive to the adversities they have overcome and their personal stories.

Dr. Boroumand was assassinated years ago by some agents of the Islamic regime.

Read the following Testimony Before the US Congress Human Rights Caucus, by Dr. Boroumand's Daughter, Ladan

Friday, June 24, 2005

And the wait!

The Iranian Student News Agency calls the count for Ahmadi-Nejad.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency hints at his lead but does not offer confirmation of the final tally.

We'll see.


It is still not official. The IRNA now offers the following. As of 3:30 am, of the 24 million ballots cast, roughly 15 million has gone to Ahmadi Nejad and 9 to Mr. Rafsanjani. Looks like a rout.
There were roughly 47 million eligible voters, it seems

The verdict

Ahmadi Nejad wins big. True to form, one of our more prominent writers characterizes this seminal event so memorably as the victory of ignorance over injustice!

The final tally according to the official IRNA

Eligible voters: 47,000,000 (roughly)
Total Ballots: 27,959,253

Participation: 59.48

Ahmadi Nejad: 17,248,782 (61.95%)
Rafsanjani: 10,046,701
Spoiled ballots: 663,770

Thursday, June 23, 2005

About not voting (again)

Just a few short days ago, as I was roaming some of my favorite streets and gazing for one last time at the bookstores, the shops and parks I've frequented so often -- angry at myself, and my fellow denizens and our murderous regime and everyone that moved, polluted, or spoke, I kept wondering if this was truly what anyone deserved.

And whether any change (for the better) could ever come about so long as we continue being the self absorbed, petty-spirited habitual delinquents and control freaks we appear to be these days. And this election has made me even angrier and more unsettled.

And it has also exposed our social fault lines for everyone to see and all the false piety as well.

Notice for instance that all the talk about poverty and prostitution has vanished over night. The fear generated among the trendy elite by Mr. Ahmadi Nejad's strong showing has made most of our official "reformists," and many reform minded youth—the ever self pitying "burnt generation," forget their rhetoric.

And what has become painfully apparent is that unabashed, fundamental contempt for the absolute majority of our population. Contempt for who they are. The sort of identical contempt Mr. Hanson points out in the American context so effectively. And our "neo conservatives" have capitalized on it.

The "fascist" social base they are called and close-minded and backward looking and it goes on and on.

The very same people who never tire of haggling over dowries and the latest appliances and gadgets and fashionable clothing and the prices of nose jobs are most quick to poke fun at others who might have been lured into voting for Mr. Karubi for that promise of an extra $60 dollar stipend. The equivalent--in any other society—of a tax cut.

And that amusing spectacle of millions of entitled Mammon worshipers poking fun at other gods.

And all the talk about tolerance, no? So who has been the loudest about Mr. Qalibaf's change of outfit or Ahmadi Nejad's looks and all those posters with young women with makeup and hair visible? Haven't most been clamoring for anything "western" Well, that's what they finally got. And all they managed was that habitual, superficial belittling of everyone and everything in sight.

And yes, we all wanted the senile members of the Guardian Council out of a way for more of a "democratic" reckoning. But there was no end in the domestic media to the humoring of the 1003 disqualified candidates and that especially in the reformist press.

"Nobodies," they kept on calling them. And "zeros" and "midgets," among so many other unsavory insults,

So yes, I fully want to see our youth mingle free of fear in coffee shops and theatres and in all other social settings. And I want the trendy Iranian women to feel fully secure and guaranteed to spend as much of the GDP as they please on those fake nails and the blond highlights and the tattooed lips, eyebrows and their tulip colored toenails.

But must they feel so superior and condescending when faced with that same desire for security and safety among the absolute majority of our population?

That is the meaning of the rhetoric about the existence of 4-7 million drug addicts under the Islamic Regime, don't you think? Suppose each one comes into contact with 5 other people? Do the math and factor in the subsequent violence and criminality and now try to understand why there is such a clamor for "law and order" among the working poor.

So, sure we've wanted transparency! But, when was the last time we encountered the "democracy loving" merchants or businesspeople conducting their affairs transparently? Even those on the outside. Have any of the expat TV stations ever divulged the sources of their income? Or have any of the many political organizations based in Europe or the States?

Or did Zeitoon ever finally share her "dark" secret with the man she wants to share the rest of her life with? Does my physician ever try to explain anything? Or the local pharmacist? Will any of the rest of us ever? And Zeitoon at least had the integrity to grapple with the ethics of her choices publicly.

So you see, the relationship between culture and politics has become terribly murky for me.

But one thing is for certain. Our society is a highly fragmented one and divided along class lines, and ideological visions.

You can see it in the results of the first round. There are no reliable statistics about Iran's income and wealth distribution. But we have all seen the 20% number thrown around. For a society of 70 millions, that’s the numbers who control most of the wealth and income and do most of the consumption. Correlate the numbers with those who've voted for Rafsanjani and the two other reformist candidates (excluding Mr. Karrubi) and the boycotting contingent.

There you have the background, the rich and the rich wannabe. It won't make their choices wrong, of course. Just puts things in perspective. Are their interests necessarily identical with those of our other citizens?

And to finally answer your question Ali M, were there voting irregularities? Of course! And there'll be some more in this round. We don't need solid proof, ever. Is there any aspect of life in Iran today that isn't irregular? Any rules we don't habitually break? Any conduct that doesn't involve cheating, and twisting or tweaking procedures? Big and small?

But we would be fooling ourselves if we continued thinking there is not a solid constituency in Iran today for a particular vision of a more distinctly nativist alternative to life as it actually exists today. A desire for an alternative which is manifesting-- albeit in a twisted form, in the support for the program put forth by Mr. Ahmadi Nejad.

Security, justice, piety and fairness. And a measure of respect and visibility for the invisible millions.

And frankly, I have yet to see a single loser in Iran, be it a game of backgammon, football or any other contest in life admit even once that they've lost without crying fowl. No one assumes responsibly for much of anything these days. It is always someone else's fault. And it's only when things don't go our way that we clamor about the unfairness of it all.

And there is such a twisted relationship with the real these days as well that I don't even trust my own perceptions anymore let alone those of others. That said, the fact remains that the reform movement, while successful in bringing a measure of comfort to many millions, has also made the lives of many more millions a living hell and now this latter group appears in the embryonic stages of an uproar. All indications point, for me anyways, to a large turnout.

And to answer your question TE, I am not voting because I won't be happy with myself if I did. That too is a cultural revolt for me.

My decision has nothing immediately to do with any political campaign to boycott. We Iranians, I have concluded, are a bunch of hypercritical perfectionists who somehow always end up settling for the grotesque.

In politics as in our personal lives. And as we've come to make one bad decision after another, we have forgotten about the need for actually thinking—genuinely I mean—thinking, and evaluating and grappling with our personal decisions and choices.

Look, we have really become mostly a people with little passion for much of anything unless it also involves telling others what to do in order to avoid thinking about what we have done. And we constantly flutter about from one fashionable in thing on to another and perpetually ride any and all available waves-- in no particular direction and quite unhappily.

And we do all this--even the most insignificant ones—while quite loud in telling everyone that ours is the only way to be, and there'll be dire consequences of world historic proportions in acting otherwise—and that with a quintessentially condescending Iranian tone, of course.

Doing the right thing, for me, has become doing what I should in the spheres over which I can exercise full control. In essence, I do not have much control now over this Islamic regime, international relations and the entire insider planning, and the wheeling and dealings that are part and parcel of global political life. Not immediately anyways.

But my own two hands and feet I can control fully most of the time.

So no, I won't be voting just because I'd be terribly unhappy with myself if I did. Really TE, there is no escaping the Iranian within ever, I've concluded. We are, finally, what we are. The only thing I can do now is to avoid becoming any more of a brooder than I already am.

Simple as that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

History and Character

I thought we needed more context. A mirror to look at ourselves in. A much closer look.

So yes, I too love to repeat Herodotus's description of the ancient Persians every chance I get and blame our every misfortune on this Islamic regime. But I am not so convinced any more. It has all become terribly hazy.

Sure, we might once have been a people who were taught to "mount the horse, to draw the bow, and to tell the truth," with wisdom and justice guiding our way. Not any more though. And so long as we continue to delude ourselves, there is no escaping our predicament.

I felt that we needed to closely re-read Xenophon's take on the Persians only a brief while later. He might as well have been describing the contemporary state of affairs . From the epilogue to his celebrated Cyropaedia:

[C.8] Of all the powers in Asia, the kingdom of Cyrus showed itself to be the greatest and most glorious….

2] But no sooner was he dead than his sons were at strife, cities and nations revolted, and all things began to decay. I can show that what I say is true, and first I will speak of their impiety. In the early days, I am aware, the king and those beneath him never failed to keep the oaths they had sworn and fulfill the promises they had given, even to the worst of criminals.

[3] In fact, if such had not been their character and such their reputation, none of the Hellenic generals who marched up with the younger Cyrus could have felt the confidence they did: they would not have trusted a Persian any more than one trusts them to-day, now that their perfidy is known. As it was, they relied on their old reputation and put themselves in their power, and many were taken up to the king and there beheaded. And many of the Asiatics who served in the same war perished as they did, deluded by one promise or another.

[4] In other ways also the Persians have degenerated. Noble achievement in the old days was the avenue to fame: the man was honoured who risked his life for the king, or brought a city or nation beneath his sway. But now, if some Mithridates has betrayed his father Ariobarzanes, or some Reomithres has left his wife and children and the sons of his friend as hostages at the court of Egypt, and then has broken the most solemn of all pledges--it is they and their like who are loaded with the highest honours, if only they are thought to have gained some advantage for the king.

[5] With such examples before them, all the Asiatics have turned to injustice and impiety. For what the leaders are, that, as a rule, will the men below them be. Thus has lawlessness increased and grown among them.

[6] And injustice has grown, and thieving. Not only criminals, but men who are absolutely innocent are arrested and forced to pay fines for no reason whatsoever: to be known to have wealth is more dangerous than guilt, so that the rich do not care to have any dealings with the powerful, and dare not even risk appearing at the muster of the royal troops.

[7] Therefore, when any man makes war on Persia, whoever he may be, he can roam up and down the country to his heart's content without striking a blow, because they have forgotten the gods and are unjust to their fellow-men. In every way their hearts and minds are lower than in days gone by.

[8] Nor do they care for their bodies as they did of old. It was always their custom neither to spit nor blow the nose, only it is clear this was instituted not from concern for the humours of the body, but in order to strengthen themselves by toil and sweat. But nowadays, though this habit is still in vogue, to harden the body by exercise has quite gone out of fashion.

[9] Again, from the first it was their rule only to take a single meal in the day, which left them free to give their time to business and exercise. The single meal is still the rule, but it commences at the earliest hour ever chosen for breakfast, and the eating and drinking goes on till the last moment which the latest reveller would choose for bed.

[10] It was always forbidden to bring chamber-pots into the banquet-hall, but the reason lay in their belief that the right way to keep body and brain from weakness was to avoid drinking in excess. But to-day, though as in the old time no such vessels may be carried in, they drink so deep that they themselves are carried out, too weak to stand on their own legs.

[11] It was a national custom from the first not to eat and drink on the march nor be seen satisfying the wants of nature, but nowadays, though they still abstain, they make each march so short that no man need wonder at their abstinence.

[12] In the old time they went out to hunt so often that the chase gave enough exercise and training for man and horse alike. But when the day came that Artaxerxes and all his court were the worse for wine, the old custom of the king leading the hunt in person began to pass away. And if any eager spirits hunted with their own followers it was easy to see the jealousy, and even the hatred, aroused by such superiority.

[13] It is still the habit to bring up the boys at the palace-gates, but fine horsemanship has disappeared, for there is no place where the lads can win applause by their skill. The old belief that the children of Persia would learn justice by hearing the judges decide the cases has been turned upside down: the children have only to use their eyes and they see that the verdict goes to the man with the longest purse.

[14] Children in former times were taught the properties of plants in order to use the wholesome and avoid the harmful; but now they seem to learn it for the mere sake of doing harm: at any rate, there is no country where deaths from poison are so common.

[15] And the Persian to-day is far more luxurious than he was in the time of Cyrus. Then they still clung to the Persian style of education and the Persian self-restraint, merely adopting the Median dress and a certain grace of life. But now the old Persian hardihood may perish for all they care, if only they preserve the softness of the Mede.

[16] I might give instances of their luxury. They are not content with soft sheets and rugs for their beds, they must have carpets laid under the bed- posts to prevent any jarring from the floor. They have given up none of the cooked dishes invented in former days; on the contrary, they are always devising new ones, and condiments to boot: in fact, they keep men for the very purpose.

[17] In the winter it is not enough to have the body covered, and the head and the feet, they must have warm sleeves as well and gloves for the hands: and in the summer they are not content with the shade from the trees or the rocks, they must have servants standing beside them with artificial screens.

[18] To have an endless array of cups and goblets is their special pride: and if these are come by unjustly, and all the world knows it, why, there is nothing to blush for in that: injustice has grown too common among them, and ill-gotten gain.

[19] Formerly no Persian was ever to be seen on foot, but the sole object of the custom was to make them perfect horsemen. Now they lay more rugs on their horses' backs than on their own beds; it is not a firm seat they care for, but a soft saddle.

[20] As soldiers we may imagine how they have sunk below the ancient standard; in past times it was a national institution that the land- owner should furnish troopers from his own estate, and men were bound to go on active service, while the garrison troops in the country received regular pay; but now the Persian grandees have manufactured a new type of cavalry, who earn their pay as butlers and cooks and confectioners and cupbearers and bathmen and flunkeys to serve at table or remove the dishes, and serving-men to put their lords to bed and help them to rise, and perfumers to anoint them and rub them and make them beautiful.

[21] In numbers they make a very splendid show, but they are no use for fighting; as may be seen by what actually takes place: an enemy can move about their country more freely than the inhabitants themselves.

[22] It will be remembered that Cyrus put a stop to the old style of fighting at long range, and by arming men and horses with breastplates and giving each trooper a short spear he taught them to fight at close quarters. But nowadays they will fight in neither one style nor the other.

[23] The infantry still carry the large shields, the battle-axes, and the swords, as if they meant to do battle as they did in Cyrus' day.

[24] But they will never close with the enemy. Nor do they use the scythe-bearing chariots as Cyrus intended. By the honours he gave he raised the dignity and improved the quality of his charioteers till he had a body of men who would charge right into the enemy's ranks; but the generals of to-day, though they do not even know the charioteers by sight, flatter themselves that untrained men will serve their purpose quite as well as trained.

[25] So the charioteers will dash off, but before they reach the enemy half the men have fallen from their boxes, and the others will jump out of their own accord, and the teams, left without their drivers, will do more harm to their friends than to their foes.

[26] And since in their hearts the Persians of to-day are well aware what their fighting condition really is, they always give up the struggle, and now none of them will take the field at all without Hellenes to help them, whether they are fighting among themselves or whether Hellenes are in arms against them: even then it is a settled thing that they must have the aid of other Hellenes to face them.

[27] I venture to think I have shown the truth of the statement that I made. I asserted that the Persians of to-day and their allies are less religious than they were of old, less dutiful to their kindred, less just and righteous towards other men, and less valiant in war. And if any man doubts me, let him examine their actions for himself, and he will find full confirmation of all I say.

And filtering

A report on Filtering in Iran from OpenNet Initiative

About not voting

About not voting

I'd like to respond to the two comments of TE and Ali M on the previous post both about the election results and why I choose not to vote in the runoff. To put my decision in context, I am going to offer first an edited version of the Putty in the Lala Land post of a few months back. I'll pick up next where the post leaves off.


…[W]e have may dirty secrets few talk about in public ….Let's make some sweeping generalizations here to get some points across quickly ….

We Iranians, I've concluded, are a curious mix of some of the nicest universally approved qualities plus the standard issue European class snobbery, an American sense of exceptionalism, and some typical angry Arab temperaments.

The exceptionalism is not country/mission related. It is personal in a contextual or situational way. You can never have a routine here. In fact, what makes meetings drag on and on is that everyone comes up with that exceptionally singular event which has to be settled first or all will have been in vain.Accordingly, given how exceptional we think we are, and the consequences -- all the phone calls and the sick days, the dead relative days, the insane mother days, the domestic fight days, traumatizes kid days etc. our work force has some of the lowest possible recordable productivity for such organized chaos.

So there you have it. Dirty secret number one.Every one of us, regardless of how ordinary, will in fact fancy ourselves uniquely exceptional.

So exceptional in fact that none of us can wait for the light to turn green before crossing the street, or follow any of the traffic ordinances including the "one way" signs. We are all so exceptionally busy, in fact, that we can't even wait our turn in grocery stores or banks or any other government offices.

Or not drive in reverse in the middle of highways or not go skating in the beltways. It is absolutely mind bugling.

So then most merchants on different streets collect money and bribe the police officers to stay away and not fine customers illegally double parked. But that too is the fault of the regime or that British conspiracy aimed at corrupting us since no one else on the planet is as busy or quite as brutalized as we have been, and so no one quite as unable to park at some distance in order to finish daily shopping.

Every one of us has a grand--I kid you not, truly exceptionally grand--story about an exceptional event which has prevented us from doing what we must. Either that or those standard denials and projections. And the lashing outs in anger. That's the temperament I was telling you about. Putty and his dagger.

And nothing can satisfy us, ever.We had wanted the freedom to read books just for as long as books were banned. The moments we could get any book we wanted freely at the local bookstore, we stopped buying them since obviously this too was a part of some conspiracy to pacify us. Every space that becomes open to us is not worth it because, to paraphrase that most loathsome of pitches, all forms of social openings are just "safety valves" intended to postpone the inevitable.

And then there is all the emphasis on the IQ and on our supposed cunning. (zerangi) In fact, humoring each other's IQs is a favorite pastime here. That and calling people simple, stupid and idiotic. There is even a popular insult articulated in the vocative thanks to an Iranian soap opera:

Ahay…EYE Qui--You

Among the elite, and understandably so even the less fortunate, there is that emphasis on money; oldmoney/newmoney /family lineage/the past achievements /regional background/proper accents, you get my drift. AGAIN THE EMPHASIS ON VERY VERY PRONOUNCD to the point of caricatures. That's the European snobbery I was alluding to.

Of course, we can't ever get beyond the past details. Very unforgiving, indeed. That's the dirty secret number two.

It is not rare to hear…."when we were doing such and such/our family driving this or that/ our house located here or there….they were meandering on a donkey eating cheese and living in a hut. The reason I am telling you all this is because I'd like to give you some sense for the need to believe in conspiracies. Especially given that the discourse itself originates from a particularly bitter and boisterous group that shall go nameless for now.

Think like those Iranian for a minute. Looking around: not as rich as you had hoped or thought you'd be or deserved. You can't dress as you wish in public. Can't drink or dance openly. Can't organize even if you wanted to or could; unable to form a political party or write without trepidations. Can't have the king or queen you want or the courtly ostentations and the fools and the whorehouses especially since you think all those "lascivious" "rich" Arabs in the Gulf are stealing the ones who should be working domestically.

In the good old days, you think, they were all heading "here" and now ours are going "there!" What injustice! Doesn't the sun supposedly shine in the mornings because Iran is in the dark?

What's worst, a group of people you think have "low IQs" have been ruling you and most of them even speak with a regional accent, or might be Arabs; neither shave nor wear trendy clothes or ties in public and it appears that despite your best efforts, they have outsmarted you at every turn and have proven more cunning.

What are you going to choose to believe? That you haven't been as smart, cunning, deserving and competent or that there are vast conspiracies out there lead by the British with the help of other Western powers to rob you of your richly deserved proceeds of that oil money?Just to postpone your inevitable ascension to high heaven! We are a rich country after all, aren't we?

And we can all have everything we want immediately and without sweating for it. That the entire amount Iran earned after selling millions of barrels of oil everyday given the high prices of last year was a meager 28 billion is never all that pertinent. We must have everything come to us the moment we will it without much work or effort. Just divide everything up the revenues by a population of 70,000,000. A net worth less than that is a travesty.

Try building the country you're after on that attitude. If we haven't succeeded, then there must be something fundamentally wrong with the universe.

Recall for instance that one of the most frequently conjured up insults hurled at the "Supreme Leader," Mr. Khamenei, by certain boisterous circles is that he worked for a living--horror of horrors--in the past at low wages giving sermons house to house."Vagabond," I believe is the term used. What kind of an insult is that, really? In what obscene world view working for a living becomes a political insult?

Hence, the dirty little secret number three. One of the reason there hasn't been a revolution around here, really, is that for a developing country, there is so much money going around that it is obscene. Money and power, in my opinion, have never been so diffused in the history of modern Iran. And the degree of whining from the wealthy in opposition just doesn’t add up.

Let's do some simple math for a change.Multiply the number of students registered in universities and those already degreed by the tuition required +housing and living expenses (from 500,000 to a couple of millions for medical students a semester); add the number of cars on the streets on any given day; the home ownership stats; and the number of nose jobs and the face lifts, weekly hair removals and the hair do's; land grabs and property ownership; mobile phones and computers and other gadgets; the perpetual shopping sprees, the marriage , birthday and funeral feasts; the number of people traveling to Europe, Canada or America, Turkey, Kish, Dubai, Mecca and Syria each year; all the souvenirs that is a must with each trip for the entire family; the good-by parties; the hello-I am-back parties; the remodeling, the satellite dishes and the latest appliances, trips to the Caspian sea on the weekends and the weekend villas; the widespread weekly gambling, the opium and other drugs and alcohol; not to mention the preposterous number of legal cases involving fraud in huge sums pending in the Ministry of Justice etc, all this versus the widely reported/repeated average monthly earnings and unemployment rate to get a sense for why some are politically inactive.

The Gold Quest scam alone here recently has had, to the best of my knowledge, 700,000 plaintiffs with 600,000 minimum investments from what I understand. Central Bank official reported $3 billion in money lost in a short span of time.

Some of these people have been the loudest about poverty and injustice here. Fair enough. You don’t have to be poor to find poverty distasteful.But do you really think any are willing to risk their precious positions to fight for change or risk life and limb to ensure better opportunities for the poor--the very same people most are quite comfortable in ignoring on any given day?

And when confronted with the question of whence the expectation for manna from heaven, the answer always: "we deserve better; we are a rich country. We have oil."

And so, the pitch here is: the country is corrupt, the rulers are crooks but I am that exceptionally well off one who made my money the exceptionally clean way. And I deserve more. Incidentally, these are some of the folks most likely to position themselves on the fence to go with the winner in case of any conflict.

And they normally corrupt anything they go near and subsequently come to blame everything as always on others.In the meanwhile, the dissatisfied, quiet contingents who bear more than any human being should suffer in a civilized society continue life as they have always. With some measure of dignity left and an admirable degree of self restrain.

They are watching very closely.What they see is how quite a large number are obscenely well off and living it up as a result of a revolution that promised equality and justice. They are swallowing their pride everyday because for the reasons obvious to all who have ever visited the developing world, the elites and the wealthy are some of the most obnoxious, rude and insufferable you'll ever encounter.

The same people who demand prestige and respect at every turn are most disrespectful of others. Those Sadr city slums were no accident. Neither are some of our own. And our good folk see ostentations in an Islamic Republic and they hear constantly the rhetoric about a better future, on the one hand, and all the loud chatter about the "Bi-Sar-O-Paha" literally "the head/ foot less," i.e. those "with no class!" (the poor).

Do you really think they are going to risk life and limb for the promise of a better future? So some could use their battered bodies as their ladder of success? Or risk precious life to end up where some pimple faced, spoiled brat lectures them again about the need to suck it up and stop all this "class envy"!

What would you do if this was the exhortation aimed at you: "Losers, you deserve your fate. But do get out there and risk what little you have so we can have a better life!"There are simple reasons, after all, that Herbert's spice merchants often make poor revolutionaries during periods of turmoil.

They've heard all this before. What hope is there for them? What precisely are they going to have to look forward to with the track record they've witnessed under both the monarchy and this regime?

Thus the dirty secret number four.Some of these very same people have been getting in on the loot and have had their share of certain social services unimaginable during the previous regime. And they now want more. Lots more! They think they deserve everything they can get. I think they should get more too. But how? What mechanism? And to what extent?

That said they really don't want to risk losing what they have been getting.More later.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The shock

Ever the restless nomad, Mr. BP has been traveling in search of new pastures and nurturing brooding ground. Hence the silence! I'll tell you all about it later. For today though, just a quick note before sharing more at some greater length later.

The Iranian Blogistan has been a lot quicker in grappling with the shock of this election than both the expatriates and naturally, of course, our ever ready- to- spin Honorary-Iranian savior, Mr. Ledeen.

Certainly dear! They simply faked millions of votes and just bused in two million Pakistanis. Probably the very same foreign fighters we have been reading so much about furloughed for a few days to help consolidate the regime in Iran before going back to Iraq via Syria to cause even more mayhem. There is simply no end to his jokes these days.

As for the rest of us, most bloggers--by their own admission-- have been too self absorbed to gauge the mood of the Iranian electorates accurately. The soul searching has been almost universal. And the unflattering insults and angry accusations relentless.

And for me, there have been one and one half (not so minor) surprises.

Initially, I half expected a slightly lower voter turnout. But the moment those first bombs went off, it was obvious we were in trouble. And when Mr. Bush opened his mouth in part due to his administration's preemptive campaign again, I thought the impending misery of our "reformists" clinched for sure. Not a wise move, I thought.

But more importantly, I fully expected the old police Chief Mr. Qalibaf to be where this murderous thug, Ahmadinejad has ended up. I really do loath the fellow. He is a very capable, methodic manager with a can-do spirit. A true believer who is not as self-serving and corrupt as most of our other politicians. And that's what makes him all the more dangerous.

Those with greater access to resources should dig up some of the available info on this man and his track record and especially his tenure in Kurdistan during the post revolutionary civil war there.

Otherwise, the broad outline of what happened this Friday was very predictable. And I stand by my decision to not vote. It was the right thing to do. And I shall not be voting in the runoff either.

More later.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

To not vote or Not to vote

Edited repost from the Majlis elections , Feb. last year.

Have a look first at these pictures of the latest protests in front of the notorious Evin prison. And a pictorial report also about the aftermath of the explosion in Tehran a couple of days ago.


With the Election Day approaching fast, I find myself brooding about split infinitives. I wonder if those in power ever wonder about such mundane matters. For you see, those odd split infinitives, just like life, work in mysterious ways.

There are no Supreme Leaders having the final word about how they should be employed. There are no Guardian Councils anywhere attempting to disqualify anyone before s/he has had a chance to form an incorrect construct. No one is going to be beaten, tortured, imprisoned, mutilated or dismembered for having used inappropriate syntax.

Yet somehow, millions continue to wonder about split infinitives. People freely associate, cooperate, and learn from one another or instruct each other. Lives have been transformed because of these interactions and because of mutual learning.

Rules have been debated, scrutinized, internalized, and memorized. The matter has never been settled once and for all, and this probably has been for the best. Consequently, the language we use is dynamic, vibrant and perpetually changing in order to keep up with our ever changing material circumstances. So, the language that helps us comprehend, organize, present and disclose this immense set of interrelatedness that constitute our experience of life itself serves as a source of immense joy and enchanting creativity.

And we rush to find the best teachers, find the most intelligent, dedicated, eloquent companions to help us understand proper usage. Sure, we mostly make mistakes all the time, but there are no shortcuts in life.

Can you imagine a world in which mistakes were officially forbidden? Or a world in which a vast infrastructure existed to excise all traces of split infinitives because someone in his infinite wisdom had decided to shield the rest of us mere mortals from the troubles and perplexities of life?

The result, as you might suspect, is a depressing, bizarre landscape where nothing is as it initially appears. The land of the cynics who believe in nothing, care for nothing and respect nothing. Perhaps that ever-present deity, Mammon, should be excepted of course.

This is no longer exclusively about ideology. It is about power and privilege pure and simple.There are those here who have it and are scared to let go. And then there are those who are excluded and want it. For now, those in power would have a lot more to lose by letting go than what those outsiders have to gain by violently contesting the former's hegemony.

Hence the uneasy stalemate and the never-ending back and forth. And the game goes on-- the belligerence, sudden seditions, and the retreats and all.The key to stability in this country lies—I kid you not—in two simple reforms.

Above and foremost, a restructuring of the banking system that could facilitate for our citizens access to credit cards with unlimited funds. And secondly, a relaxation of what is left of our social rules in a manner that would facilitate open fraternization between the sexes without fear, and a re-opening of bars, cabarets and the discothèques.

Anyone who can bring about these two reforms while keeping the violent reactions of the indignant, or the devout and meddlesome in check will have the majority’s begrudging acceptance for a long time to come.

But there is always hope. Hope that we will once again re-discover our moral compass. We Iranians have a tendency to surprise ourselves and others. One day very soon perhaps.

And so, there will be no voting for me this coming Friday--just like every other election under this murderous regime. Simply another day I'll spend reading an old book and mingling with my loving family and friends.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Happiness, disobedience

Now that I can exercise a measure of control over my emotions, I am going to offer some observations about the post-football frenzy that has become part and parcel of life under this Islamic Regime.

But first, two important items. Mr. Akbar Ganji, a courageous journalist and one of our most tormented political prisoners, is now missing after having been only recently released. For all we know, he might have been taken back to jail.

It is important to let the authorities know how displeased and furious we are going to be given any further mistreatment of this audacious soul. For those who read Farsi, here is the second installment of his Republican Manifesto in the original. You can also read the English translation in the blog Free Ganji.

Second, about 30 very gutsy women—mostly journalists—managed to force their way into the stadium for the Iran-Bahrain game. See this pictorial report. Also an account of the events in Farsi. I read this very moving piece describing the reasons for wanting to gain access to the stadium (in Farsi) written the night before. I've decided to share and so we also have this quick translation of the highlights:

For the sake of my right and not football

Tomorrow, I want to go to the stadium just like so many men and boys

Tomorrow, I want to resurrect the right that I might never actually use [again] just like so many women and girls.

I want to remind the Security Force that so many associate with flimsy transformations that we too exist just like so many others.

I want to head for the western gate of the Azadi (Freedom) Stadium so I can accompany the other women and girls who show up.

Tomorrow, I want to go watch the game and to sit next to the men who are said to curse and insult and utter so many strange profanities [so I can] cheer [my team] Iran. [Next to] the very same men and boys who are my religious brothers when we see them in the streets and [yet] the authorities and the security officials, among so many others, claim to [somehow] suddenly transform into predatory wolves when they show up to the stadiums.

Tomorrow, I want to sit next to all the predatory men and shout the name Iran and I consider myself strong enough to defend myself without a shield and other customary concerns.

I want to go and tell them… this is my right. Leave it to me and I will know what to do.

Tomorrow, I want to go earn the right I am told I am being denied on account of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

I want to go there so I can declare this to be my right. This is what I desire. It should for me be a most natural choice. You must just give me (the right) and I will decide whether or not to use it.

Tomorrow, I just want to be there…simple as that."

She brought tears to my eyes. And they've succeeded.

You have no idea how proud I am today of both these women and of Mr. Ganji. More than all the street dancing and the window breaking and the littering.

Authoritarians, torturers, high and low tech killers and tormentors and abusers and censors and their supporters or sycophants are dime a dozen in this day and age. Just like the multitudes of (habitual) delinquents.

And in our society of cynics where the self absorbed, the moneybags and other assorted Mammon worshippers rule, these principled creatures are indeed (hidden) gems.

Beacons of light and genuine sources of true national pride for the rest of us, as far as I am concerned!

More later.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Football, elections

What do you know? Iranians made it to the world cup! Lots of excitement for some, I bet. One of these days, I might get around to discussing some of the football related disturbances which have become part of our routine.

As for the elections, the funky campaigning continues. The skaters out in force promoting Mr. Rafsanjani. So amusing—this lala land of ours…and beyond.

But hey, even some on the outside now seem at ease feeling superior while exhibiting all the moral indignation of some dehydrated vegetable. Go figure.

Weren't you all relieved that not many of us got worked up over the commotion about flushing a book down the toilet, or urinating on it, or whatever else it is the civilized/civilizing book loving/freedom spreading contingent naturally might do with any other book?

We too have a tendency here always to feel superior, you see, while being too self absorbed to be conscious of the silliness of it all. Our worlds are seriously converging. Millions of us here are ready to join some of the rest of you on the other side about as quickly as some of you appear headed towards re-creating our reality there.

Here is an example from our end: watch a veiled woman striptease!

And if you have been following the election coverage, you have probably noticed how most everyone here always makes fun of the candidates' degrees.

As I've said before, too much bad blood on this end for me to be enthused about any of these figures. My least favorites though are Messrs. Rezai and Ahmadi Nejad. Real, extraordinary thugs.

But I can't really figure out why some of the younger kids are so condescending when it comes to the candidates' educational achievements. And this from the very same brats whose experiences have been greatly relaxed by that vast industry specializing in making cheating and plagiarism cheap and accessible for all.

Any how, since hyperinflation has been a central concern, with the help of some friends, we have put together a list of about 400 items and prices which might give you a better sense for how life unfolds on our end. I'll post it for the curious just as soon as I am finished with my spreadsheet.

In the meanwhile, here is an item worth reading: Iran’s Conservatives: Anti-Americanism or Fear of Economic Restructuring?

Monday, June 06, 2005


Please note the change in the email address. I altered my password a while back and have not been able to remember it. So, there you have it. My new contact info on the sidebar and apologies also for the emails gone unanswered.

I have also added a number of new bloggers and links. Have fun exploring.