Saturday, July 30, 2005

The fading faces

I half seriously toyed with the idea of closing shop for a couple of days. Birthday events are getting progressively more irksome. So, I'll be 42 and with each passing year, there are even more absent figures to think about.

My one wish?

To see the day—with as little bloodshed as possible—when the callous miscreants responsible for decimating our noblest and most gallant are made to answer for their deeds.

And I have a special treat for you tonight. But you must promise to read carefully.

Scratch the unfamiliar surface and abstract away the particularities and you'll have here in the following the all-too-familiar universal soldier's story of a happy homecoming that never was.

It seems as if there almost never is one, is there?

Such stories must be told and remembered--especially these days, when we expect from some of the most promising young men and women in our midst the ultimate sacrifice at a time when most of us are unwilling or unable even to alter some very elementary aspects of our life styles, like the cars we drive or the back bags we carry.

In this particular version, Penelope loses patience and packs up the kids and goes to her parents. And our unsung hero dies—in a state of heroin induced stupor, with a body ravaged by AIDS and hepatitis-- a lonely death.

Though neither un-mourned, nor in prolonged obscurity:

In death Ebby has found a status he never enjoyed in life. For many of the men who fought in this war, the only honourable outcome was death and martyrdom. For those who survived, it meant reintegrating into a society that every year cared less for their war. For the likes of Ebby, that was not an option. Despite support from family, a loving wife and children, Ebby’s love for the drug that helped him forget was stronger than anything and to it he sacrificed his family, his home and, in the end, his life. While still alive, reeling through the streets of Abadan, he was a disgrace to his family, an embarrassment to his country and a shameful testimony to the war that shaped him. In death, Ebby has become once again a beloved son, a missed brother and a father and husband. Another martyr to the war that continues to haunt its survivors.

Read Kamin Mohammadi's poignant tale, The hero and the heroin.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

And the recent executions

Someone was good enough to mail in a few pictorial reports about the recent protests in Milan in disgust with the much publicized public hangings of the two gay youngsters in Iran. You can see them here and here and here.

As those of you reading my blog for a while have probably gathered by now, I don’t have much of a stomach for violence. Especially for these ceaseless vulgarities of the murderous Islamic regime.

I have seen enough to satiate the bloodlust of a few lifetimes. But the recent portrayals of the events in Iran, as usual, have been a badly produced cartoon. And we would not get beyond step one in our efforts to bring about meaningful changes if we remained unable to get even the basics right.

The two youngsters were charged—not (solely) with the "crime" of homosexuality, but-- with the gang rape of a (thirteen year old) minor. And that has been mostly lost amidst all the (justified) rage at this state sponsored murder.

This is not to say that Iran does not executed homosexuals. This is not to deny that we have some fundamental problems in that society with intolerance of alternative life styles. This certainly is not to deny the existence of numerous unjust laws which have to be altered. And ultimately, this is not to deny the necessity of toppling a murderous regime.

But presenting caricatures will only weaken our chances of offering viable solutions to some very intractable problems which continue to demand our urgent attention.

So here I am, again, pleading with you to understand that Iran is not quite the caricature it is presented as. This is a complex society which has consistently belied stereotypes. And the sooner we come to grips with this simple proposition, the better our chances of bringing about fundamental changes.

Notice for instance that Tehran is the sex change capital of the world. You can see all types of people struggling to lead normal lives without being executed. Well, as normal as anyone is possibly expected to manage under the watchful eyes of the self appointed satraps of the Almighty or anchored in a fundamentally intolerant milieu.

But to present the problems we face in stark black and white and to always offer silly one dimensional tales of the struggles of a defenseless, blameless population of victims vs. a bloodthirsty irrational abusive regime is ultimately counterproductive.

For you see, we can't have it both ways.

We can't go on to argue that authoritarian regimes cultivate dysfunctional souls without first acknowledging also that often people might be guilty of what they are charged with. And we can't continue to point to the existing fundamental corruptions in our society without also exhibiting some desire to hold people accountable for their deeds.

Look, I'll be the first to admit that, just like every other society I've encountered, we have our fair share of problems with drug and alcohol induced violence, rape, child prostitution, child abuse, pederasty and pedophilia. Now, are we going to accuse the regime each and every time of having falsely charged someone innocent just because we loath it?

I think with these latest executions, we can certainly draw attention to and debate just or unjust deserts or needlessly cruel punishments and/or all the issues relating to government murder of juveniles, rights of the accused, forced confessions or despicable torture practices.

And a host of other matters I have left out.

And we must do more to draw attention to the plight of the gay and lesbian communities and the ubiquitous violations of their civil rights in Iran, as well as the real prospects of all the legally sanctioned brutalities they must endure. Of course, I should emphasize here also the despicable violence and humiliation that (the mostly closeted) members of these communities are the victims of in their daily lives.

And we certainly can argue over rights and responsibilities.

But we can't start doing any of these unless we deal with the basics of what transpires soberly, judiciously and without resorting to duplicitous omissions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The silliness

Fast internet connection is just a marvel. So much more productivity. Thus, for tonight, we'll have a potpourri of links.

Mr. Eli Lake's timely, sober intervention puts an end to some odd and silly speculations. And our principled, uncompromising poetess-in-exile also weighs in on this matter and more.

But lest you think Iranians monopolize all silliness. Here is one of my favorite writers with more of his classic Fred wits and intelligence!

Well, only in America, I guess.

And the numbers are finally out. And we know now that there are 132,564 inmates kept in Iranian jails which include 4,707 female inmates together with 5,330 foreign nationals. And some are tortured.

I wouldn't take the numbers too seriously, though. And I mean this without the slightest bit of politically motivated cynicism. The conditions in Iran are so chaotic with so many power centers or competing agendas and untenable working relationships that even with the best of intentions, all efforts always fall short of objectives. Chaos wreaks havoc even on the best of projects.

There must be something about the region also, I am guessing. Because, look, even the most advanced organizations equipped with all the latest scientific gadgets and know-how, tend to forget their simple arithmetic skills.

Any how, I sort of like comparative views. So we round up the numbers to about150 thousands and for a population of roughly 70 millions, we seem to have an incarceration rate of about 214 per 100,000 in Iran. (is that right?)

Now, some sobering statistics to help put things in context. (pdf)

Of course it always helps to remember an odd aspect of life about Iran. Iran is both a prison state and also one of the freest countries in the globe, if you can believe that. Well, only when freedom is defined as lawlessness and license, that is.

Some government sponsored news agencies or (possibly) our "reformist" lawyers occasionally argue that lack of respect for the laws is in our genes—I kid you not.( Farsi)

But I personally think the problem might have something to do with one too many laws and inordinately numerous unjust ones. If the authorities were able and willing to truly enforce even a miniscule fraction of them, millions would have had to end up behind bars.

But such, you see, are the marvels of authoritarian states without fast internet access.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

And the question of taste

Two quick items for tonight.

I wanted to tell you, Rob, why I put up my post to begin with and why I then decided to bring it down.

Writing, as you well know, can be very tricky. Sometimes we say things that don't really come off the way we intend it. And other times, there are other considerations to think about.

I got very angry when I read your posts and couldn't let it go without reacting. Because, in a way, Shiva was right about me in her anguished rebuttal of what I had said about Islam and terrorism. I have the world view of a simpleton, really

I try to understand life as best I can in its multifaceted complexity and so I try to avoid caricatures. I study a great deal and marvel at the wondrous and the often annoying universe we live in. But then, there are a bunch of simple rules with me I try to live by. Sometimes I succeed and other times I fail--miserably. But I always try.

And wanting to see any part of our planet nuked is one of those absolute no-nos for me. And football hooligans unleashing on fellow spectators or the players of a visiting team is another. So, on principle I had to remove your site from my link list.

It is that quaint matter of "moral taste" I tried to get at a few posts down. It is what really shapes my conduct and my view of politics. And, incidentally, it also accounts for my opposition to the murderous reigning imbecility in Iran.

And I think many months ago, I posted a poem that sums it all up pretty nicely. I'll do it again tonight. Zbigniew Herbert--my favorite Polish poet, puts it best:

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

So it was the simple matter for me. And I was also concerned that you might be going through some rough times with all the transitions which were what might have been giving us those very angry (unreasonable) posts.

But I was also serious in all of my characterizations of you. You are a talented, passionate and caring individual and I do like your feistiness and your spirit. So then when I saw and heard all the negative reactions about you both on and off the comment section among my readers, I thought they were being unfair to who you appear to be and I didn't want you locked in the role that my representation of your posts assigned you to.

I don't like it when people take the easy out by vilifying others. And besides, your blog is still there for everyone to see and you continue to speak for yourself. So, once I had calmed down, I brought the post down. I thought I had done what I had to do and my reaction was in keeping with my sense of a "measure."

I'll continue to draw attention in different ways to the dangers of a nuclear exchange without giving anyone an excuse or the distraction of a someone to quickly demonize in order to avoid dealing with the real substance of issues.

But like I said, nothing in life is quite that easy to figure out, and this especially for the simpletons! That's what makes life…life, I suppose! We should try to take it all in strides. Looks like we might be in for a long, nasty ride.

And N, you should have a quick look here ( )
if the spirit moves you and consider some of the issues broached and we'll revisit the matter again soon.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Removing evil

A classic to have some fun with while I put together answers to some of
the questions:

Yang-li Hua-tzü, of the Sung State, was afflicted in middle age by loss of memory. Anything he received in the morning he had forgotten by the evening, anything he gave away in the evening he had forgotten the next morning. Out-of-doors, he forgot to walk; indoors, he forgot to sit down. At any given moment, he had no recollection of what had just taken place; and a little later on, he could not even recollect what had happened then. All his family were perfectly disgusted with him. Fortune-tellers were summoned, but their divinations proved unsuccessful; Wizards were sought out, but their exorcisms were ineffectual; physicians were called in, but their remedies were of no avail. At last, a learned professor from the Lu State volunteered his services, declaring that he could effect a cure.

Hua-tzu's wife and family immediately offered him half their estate if only he would tell them how to set to work. The professor replied: 'This is a case which cannot be dealt with by means of auspices and diagrams; the evil cannot be removed by prayers and incantations, nor successfully combated by drugs and potions. What I shall try to do is to influence his mind and turn the current of his thoughts; in that way a cure is likely to be brought about.'

Accordingly, the experiment was begun. The professor exposed his patient to cold, so that he was forced to beg for clothes; subjected him to hunger, so that he was fain to ask for food; left him in darkness, so that he was obliged to search for light.

Soon, he was able to report progress to the sons of the house, saying gleefully: 'The disease can be checked. But the methods I shall employ have been handed down as a secret in my family, and cannot be made known to the public. All attendants must, therefore, be kept out of the way, and I must be shut up alone with my patient.' The professor was allowed to have his way, and for the space of seven days no one knew what was going on in the sick man's chamber. Then, one fine morning, the treatment came to an end, and, wonderful to relate, the disease of so many years' standing had entirely disappeared!

No sooner had Hua-tzu regained his senses, however, than he flew into a great rage, drove his wife out of doors, beat his sons, and, snatching up a spear, hotly pursued the professor through the town.

On being arrested and asked to explain his conduct, this is what he said: 'Lately when I was steeped in forgetfulness, my senses were so benumbed that I was quite unconscious of the existence of the outer world. But now I have been brought suddenly to a perception of the events of half a lifetime. Preservation and destruction, gain and loss, sorrow and joy, love and hate have begun to throw out their myriad tentacles to invade my peace; and these emotions will, I fear, continue to keep my mind in the state of turmoil that I now experience. Oh! if I could but recapture a short moment of that blesséd oblivion!'

'If such is the man's reaction to an infirmity which resembles the Highest Principle, how much greater will be the effect of incorporation in the Absolute!'

From the Book of Lieh-Tzü, III: Dreams

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Simpleton's Manifesto

A dog brushed up against a sheikh, who made
No move to draw his skirts in or evade
The filthy stray-a puzzled passer-by
Who'd noticed his behavior asked him why.
He said: "The dog is filthy, as you see,
But what is outside him is inside me-
What's clear on him is hidden in my heart;
Why should such close companions stay apart?"
If inward filth is slight or if it's great,
The outcome is the same disgusting state-
If straws impede you, or a mountain-top
Where is the difference if you have to stop?


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Terror inspired religiosity

Expect a change of focus in this blog gradually away from my personal broodings about the relations between culture and politics of Iran and onto issues related to terrorism and terror inspired religiosity.

Like it or not, this global plague isn't going to go away anytime soon.

The recent events-- from the despicable massacre of those defenseless children seeking sweets while playing with what little they have to the upsurge in the number of Iraqi civilians and police and other military personnel being butchered on a weekly basis and the mounting numbers of American casualties, to the bloody strikes on the ordinary working men and women in London and those tourists in Egypt, Arab and others -- have reminded us (yet again) of the callousness with which some of the upper and middle class spoiled brats of Asia conduct their affairs.

And their utter disregard for human life. These Salafist miscreants are ruthless in their quest to wreak havoc on all that most of us cherish about civilized life.

And as a non-Muslim "multicultural" Brooder--and to the countless victims affected by these atrocities-- I'd like to repeat my message of a couple of weeks ago. For what they're worth: I offer my sympathies, condolences and also my apologies.

I mean, somebody has to apologize here. It might as well be me. I am so profoundly sorry.

In an ideal universe—that is a universe presided over by an omnipotent Deity with the slightest inkling about the meaning of elementary Justice, we would have all gotten a chance to click our heels three times and return to the safe, comforting realm of our peaceful homes and cities.

As it stands, the entropy of our universe is going to accelerate geometrically. And I am just so sick and tired of all the unimaginative predictable chatter.

The murderous Usama operatives and their sympathizer goons will have nothing to apologize about. Those who are already dead are deservedly rotting and in no position to babble. And those alive are probably gloating and waiting for their next opportunity to torment the living.

The Muslims will again offer us the usual platitudes about how their great religion has been hijacked by those supposed pretenders. They too will not offer apologies. Islam is the "religion of peace," remember. And in a sense, they are half right. There are roughly a billion five million Muslims worldwide and life would have gotten a lot bloodier if Islam hadn't also tempered conduct in some miniscule ways.

And the ravenous, incontinent elites in America, and their global partners or sycophants and fellow travelers continue to go on to search for word about every re-mended torn underwear in the Middle East to flaunt as yet another example of the good news the "liberal media" loves to ignore while refusing to live up to the consequences of their misguided hopes, their deluded expectations and their piss-poor planning and executions of their mighty expedition to reshape that rotten region.

They refuse to admit errors of judgment. They refuse to be honest with the rest of us. And so they also refuse to offer any form of apologies. They can do no wrong; have never been wrong. And will never ever do wrong--anytime, anywhere.

And all their prattle and the ceaseless peddling of that noxious notion of "moral equivalence," is the prophylactic they habitually reach for in order to perpetuate their experience of onanistic Americanism.

Look, no love lost here between this blogger and Islam and its vengeful Allah. As someone whose life has been affected by religious zealotry, I have had my fair share of exposure to various religious texts. It is easy for me to reach for all those silly, bloody savage passages and also some very obscure ones most of you have never heard of and to revel in mocking Islam.

I don't indulge--not out of any fear of offending believers, mind you, for life devoid of the opportunity to be offended is not much of a life at all. None of us would have learned much if our core beliefs hadn't been routinely offended. And Muslims should not feel excepted.

Millions have learned to live with it and some of the more devout Muslims too will have to learn.

But my experiences of life in Iran have forced me to engage a confounding riddle more seriously, while also re-confirming what any good teacher worth his pay normally learns in the second year of teaching.

Often, the very same weaknesses in a student are also what give the individual his or her unique strength of character and that twinkle in the eyes. If you push too hard on the weaknesses, you risk a profound, irreparable loss as well.

In societies where the ruling classes show no genuine respect for their fellow citizens for/to whom they are supposed to be responsible and responsive; and where consequently, the disgruntled citizens come to reciprocate by showing no respect for the laws, what are we going to get if the fabric of the traditional religious prohibitions are even further eroded? What is going to happen when that gentle murmur in the mind about not abusing that little kid who can't fend for herself disappears altogether?

Look at it another way. Doesn’t the Leviticus contain some hair curling frightening passages? But that text also has some of the most moving edicts about empathy and the need for civil treatment of strangers and about social justice.

How to weaken one without the other?

That being said, the fact remains that certain unpalatable, murderous passions have been unleashed globally and unless there is a sober and concerted effort to deal with the consequences in a forthright manner, all of us face some appallingly grotesque consequences.

Real or imagined, as the purported emissaries of the Almighty go, none could compare in gentility to Christ. Well only perhaps Mani and Buddha, in my view. And what sort of followers has he managed lately?

Let's look at the latest Fatwa just released by one his more renowned followers to get a sense for what petrifies me. Here is Mr. Hal Lindsey with his latest threats:

There is a fast closing window of opportunity for the large majority of "peaceful Muslims" living in the United States and the United Kingdom.
We are a peace-loving people that are longsuffering and slow to anger. But there is an inevitable breaking point that will surely come. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany discovered this. In the words of Adm. Yamamoto after the attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear that we have only awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve." That point is about to come again in response to the terrorist outrages that have been inflicted upon us by Islamic fundamentalists.
Our intelligence forces all warn that it is only a matter of time before Islamic terrorist will attack our cities with weapons of mass destruction. This includes everything from nuclear to biological bombs.
When one of these attacks happens, a flood of rage will burst forth, and nothing or anyone will be able to stop it. The law of the jungle will take over. Muslim communities who did nothing to stop the radicals among them will be the first targets.
[…] Cooperate with legal authorities before it is too late to plead your civil rights.
[…] The time is late. The "jihadist timetable" is counting down toward a major attack. Help your fellow Americans stop them before a catastrophe strikes us all and ignites an unstoppable holocaust.

It is my experience that pious believers are the most honest and transparent amongst us. They do mean what they say most of the time. It is only that in our arrogance, we the ("non-believer") intellectuals with no genuine appreciation for their inner experiences fail to take account of what they have in mind since we are mostly always deluded in thinking we can channel and control these passions to enhance our own competing political agendas.

There was nothing surprising about what Ayatollah Khomeini managed to accomplish in Iran. And Usama and Mullah Omar certainly never masked any of their intentions.
So then let's get a more clear sense for where we stand.

Usama and his thugs are able and willing to strike at will and as best I can surmise, they have authorized a body count of up to 4 million "infidel" casualties. And they loath anything not like them and are most comfortable in any stern, non-ostentatious, primitive milieu.

And they detest Shi'ias.

Our own murderous Ayatollahs are in the midst of their mad dash for the bomb--if only to save their own skins in their gambit to postpone the inevitable and they show no compunction whatsoever about sacrificing as many of their citizens as they see fit in order to maintain their hold on power.

And here we have also in the West millions who will not hesitate to act on this thinly veiled threat of pogroms against "peaceful Muslims" (sic) and, of course, they are not really that discriminating when it comes to knowing the difference between Arab fundamentalist or the Moroccan Berbers or a Mexican immigrant, and a Muslim or a Sikh.

And they are whipping up their rapture excited contingent of followers into frenzy by loudly promising our nuclear annihilation.

And now (via the heartwarming, though unconfirmed, report of plans in works in the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) for a massive conventional and nuclear strike on Iran in response to another 911 type assault anywhere on the shores of these United States regardless of the established guilt or culpability.

And that, my friends, is the frightening nightmare brought about curtsey of an arrogant fiddling with the gates of hell.

More later.

P.S. I have problems linking. For Mr. Lindsay article see his "Friendly Advice to Peaceful Muslems." For report about plan of attack see

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Genji's choice

I have been re-reading Mr. Genji's poignant letters. The crux of the matter, for me, lies in this:

3-3. The issue at hand has nothing to do with heroism. The issue is the following: An individual has been thrown in jail for years due to his dissenting opinions and views, but they haven't stopped at this unfair, unjust and illegitimate act, and have forbidden him communication by telephone and medical treatment; they say: "you must write letters of repentance and criticize and reject all your previous beliefs, otherwise not only will there be no improvement in your conditions, but after the current sentence is over we will keep you in prison for many years to come by setting up new trials." Is resisting this unfair process heroism? Do my critics invite me to write letters of repentance? The goal of the system is to break and destroy me. Although I have been broken physically during these years, I have been trying not to break mentally and spiritually, and to say "no" to the ruling tyrants. A "no" that is costing me my life. This body is on the verge of complete deterioration, but since I believe in the conjectures I have made (all my opinions), I see no reason to deny their truth. It is a trivial fact that all these conjectures must be tested with the sword of falsification. Commitment to "critical rationality" is different from "giving up our beliefs by force of prison."
[…]Prison has not trapped me in illusions. Dejection, hopelessness, despair, isolation, escape from politics and abandoning public arena, going after life and its pleasures, all have become prevalent in our society today. I have never been under the illusion that someone (people) will be awaiting me outside of prison. Not only that, but my closest friends do not accept my thoughts, talks, writings and attitudes. But none of these facts obliges me to bow before the tyrants so that they may release me from prison. Life in slavery is not worth a dime in my eyes. In the same way that some allow themselves the option to cooperate with tyrants, or to remain silent before human rights violations, I too have the option to oppose the tyrants and to say "no", in a loud voice, to them and to their attitudes….
Socratic death is a style of living, a style of living that men of wisdom have not ceased to praise throughout history. The choice of death, if one is forced to deny one's individuality, and is deprived of the opportunity to think freely, talk freely and live freely, is a choice, against which reason has no objection left to present….

To better appreciate the nobility of this uniquely audacious soul, you must understand his profound revulsion with the prevailing social alternative of living with a mask: "a life so artificial, no smell, no color, no beauty."

Monday, July 18, 2005

A note on the Iran coverage

The image of defiance that has haunted me all of my adult life. Finally found it here (also the last picture.) Posted by Picasa

Nema recently offered some blunt warnings about the need for being careful when relying on the excessively distorted presentations of the Iranian events that we are fed by groups which shortsightedly spin all for the sake of some imagined short term political gains. One of the latest examples: all the hoopla about Mr. Ahmadi Nejad's picture.( the first image from the Critical Montage)

I just wanted to add my voice to his. The global community is still reeling from the consequences of all the half truths-- if not outright prevarications and deceits--which have been part and parcel of the military campaign in Iraq from the very beginning.

There is no need for twisting the facts on Iran. There are not justifications for carelessness. There is no need for pettiness. And certainly nothing warrants outright lies and smear campaigns.

This Islamic regime has a track record that would make even the most bloodthirsty amongst us blush.

Sober, judicious presentation of facts will do. No need for spins.

The most puzzling aspect of life about Iran! Most of us have no clue how to live well. But when faced with the inevitable, a great number aspire to die well. Can you let yourselves see the stunning, serene dignity?  Posted by Picasa

Not him! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Moral taste or the red lines in an old box

In an old box the other day, I saw a crumbled piece of paper almost a couple of decades old. Fragment of a letter which Rosa Luxemburg-- the brilliant Polish heroine of the German SPD-- had written sometimes in the early 1900's, I guess. On it, I had scribbled a note:

"interesting solution to the R riddle/see Hannah!"

The minutia of what or where eludes me. But I finally managed to reconstruct the broad outlines of what I had found compelling. Why the trouble?

Because frankly, in an age when the prospect of being devoured by that barbarism of "identity" politics has become (yet again) a frighteningly real prospect, it is becoming all the more urgent for me to do what we must in order to (re)establish certain red lines that might bolster our inhibitions against collective indecencies.

I can certainly live with a wide range of critiques of various conventions we live under wherever "home" might be. And passionate activism for or against the status quo I certainly understand. Although I am increasingly losing patience for the cowardly act of hiding behind one's deity of choice or fellow citizens and so utterly fed up as well with all the nationalist prattle.

That said, what is it, really, that prevents any of us from participating in or condoning a wide range of repulsive acts?

Let's get back to the note. We start with Montesquieu first. By R, I meant Rica and he, you will recall, is one of the characters of the celebrated Persian Letters. No e-text available (that I could find) in English, but you can still read the French text here (XXX):

Mais, si quelqu'un, par hasard, apprenait à la compagnie que j'étais Persan, j'entendais aussitôt autour de moi un bourdonnement: "Ah! ah! monsieur est Persan? C'est une chose bien extraordinaire! Comment peut-on être Persan?

The gist, I suppose:

If [in Paris] someone chances to inform them that I was a Persian, I soon heard a murmur all around me: "Ah! Indeed! He is a Persian? How extraordinary! How can anyone be a Persian?' "

Well, really, the book is more about the French than it is about the Persians, I know. But that's what makes the reading experience all the more interesting. We can assume any prospective we choose to, couldn't we? And so, once we pose the question of how we can be a Persian, or German, American, Saudi, Egyptian or a Pakistani, we at once enter a realm which for Joyce (as Baldwin points out) is history as nightmare.

Baldwin further reminds us that "people become trapped in history and history is trapped in them." History as litanies of suffering, or a long list of real (and perceived) pains and torments.

And then Rosa's unique compassion which I found an interesting antidote to the poison of the self absorbed Rica in all of us:

What do you want with this particular suffering of the Jews? The poor victims on the rubber plantations in Putumayo, the Negroes in Africa with whose bodies the Europeans play a game of catch, are just as near to me. Do you remember the words written on the work of the Great General Staff about Trotha's campaign in the Kalahari dessert? "And the death-rattles, the mad cries of those dying of thirst, faded away into the sublime silence of eternity."

Oh, this "sublime silence of eternity" in which so many screams have faded away unheard. It rings within me so strongly that I have no special corner of my heart reserved for the ghetto: I am at home wherever in the world there are clouds, birds and human tears.

And Hannah Arendt, in her Men in Dark Times, does wonderfully in explicating the genesis of this enchanting generosity of spirit. She so rightly emphasizes the importance of "ethical codes," and of "moral taste":

Nettle rightly stresses Rosa Luxemburg's excellent relations with her family, her parents, brothers, sister, and niece, none of whom ever showed the slightest inclination to socialist convictions or revolutionary activities, yet who did everything they could for her when she had to hide from the police or was in prison. The point is worth making, for it gives us a glimpse of this unique Jewish family background without which the emergence of the ethical code of the peer group would be nearly incomprehensible. The hidden equalizer of those who always treated one another as equals—and hardly anybody else—was the essentially simple experience of a childhood world in which mutual respect and unconditional trust, a universal humanity and a genuine, almost naïve contempt for social and ethnic distinctions were taken for granted. What the members of the peer group had in common was what can only be called moral taste, which is so different from "moral principles"; the authenticity of their morality they owned to having grown up in a world that was not out of joint. This gave them their "rare self-confidence," so unsettling to the world into which they then came, and so bitterly resented as arrogance and conceit.

Something to think seriously about, no?

Friday, July 15, 2005

X-ray vision

It had been years since I last read any writings of this fellow:

In so far as I reacted at all, I reacted by trying to be pleasant—it being a great part of the American Negro's education (long before he goes to school) that he must make people 'like' him. This smile-and-the-world-smiles-with-you-routine worked about as well in this situation as it had in the situation for which it was designed, which is to say that it did not work at all. No one, after all, can be liked whose human weight and complexity cannot be, or has not been, admitted. My smile was simply another unheard-of phenomenon which allowed them to see my teeth—they did not, really, see my smile and I began to think that, should I take to snarling, no one would notice any difference.

Baldwin's can help us a get a better sense for the pathologies of certain contemporaries:

I do not think, for example, that it is too much to suggest that the American vision of the world—which allows so little reality, generally speaking, for any of the darker forces in human life, which tends until today to paint moral issues in glaring black and white—owes a great deal to the battle waged by Americans to maintain between themselves and the black men a human separation which could not be bridged. It is only now beginning to be borne in on us—very faintly, it must be admitted, very slowly, and very much against our will—that this vision of the world is dangerously inaccurate, and perfectly useless. For it protects our moral high-mindedness at the terrible expense of weakening our grasp of reality. People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.

Read carefully the rest of James Baldwin's "Stranger in the Village"

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

No More Political Prisoners

Iran's murderous Islamic regime should really start by taking the necessary steps first to Release Genji now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

To Londoners

To the latest victims of the barbarism devouring us: I offer my most heartfelt sympathies, apologies and condolences.

And to the many British friends and relatives who have so enriched my experience of life, I can only say this: during this dreadful period of mourning, try to remember your Lear:

Wipe thine eyes; The good years shall devour them,
flesh and fell, Ere they make us weep. We'll see'em
starved first
. (V.iii)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Benjamin Franklin & Iran

I am sorry I couldn't respond to the translation request. I have been traveling and have limited access to the net. It'll be a while before I can return to my regular schedule. In the meanwhile, here is a Fourth of July repost from last year.


The Independence Day that Americans everywhere celebrate is a bitter sweet day for some here. It was only yesterday that we commemorated the sad anniversary of the U.S.S. Vincennes' destruction of the Iranian passenger jet with a loss of 290 lives. Pedram has some reflections on the calamity.

The relations between the U.S. and Iran have been tumultuous in recent years. You would (justifiably) get the impression of one giant, perpetual evolving scandal; from the 1953 coup that toppled the popular administration of Mossadegh, to the support, spanning over a quarter of century, for the authoritarian regime of the late Shah Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, as well as the backing for Saddam during the war, the hostage crisis, the Marines in Beirut, the Iran-Contra affair and the ongoing saga of the nuclear proliferation and the differing perspectives about the future of Iraq.

But there is a bridge. At least, a couple of million individuals of Iranian descent have found a welcoming haven over the years on the shores of the United States. Meet one of my favorites. Perhaps one day soon perhaps, some might choose to return and help build a more civil future in Iran.

This post is going to be positive though. It is, after all, the Fourth of July.

I think some years ago I read in this Leonard Levy book, about what the hapless King George III had written in his diary on July 4, 1776: “Nothing of importance happened today.” Sounds funny today, doesn’t it? But some thing significant did happen that day.

Among the group of men we have come to know as the Founding Fathers, one of my favorites has always been Benjamin Franklin.

Most know him as a scientist, an essayist, and an entrepreneur who boasts a wicked sense of humor. What some may also find interesting is that Mr. Franklin also has been implicated in a scandal of his own which in a round about way involves Iran.

Now, I must admit, I appreciate the man especially because of his associations with Thomas Paine. There is an outstanding translation of Paine’s Common Sense prominently displayed in some of the bookshops close to the University of Tehran. If only some could have had the sagacity to learn!

Oddly enough though, I haven’t found his Rights of Men! Must be a sign from the gods! I digress though. Back in 1776, of course, there was no America as we know her today. Empire would have been a dirty word. And Iran was known then as Persia. Still, there was certain symmetry.

Persia was just becoming stable again after 40 years of turmoil thanks to the reign of Karim Khan Zand. He too shared the Founding Father’s disdain for kings. So even though he is associated with the Zand Dynasty, he refused to refer to himself by that odious title, “King of kings,” preferring instead the less pretentious Vakil—literally a regent. He managed to cut the taxes and get the government off people’s backs, which is why he is still remembered today as a compassionate ruler who was chiefly interested in expanding commerce, and promoting sciences and the arts.

But luckily for us and Mr. Franklin, the scandal (at least this time) doesn’t involve money, arms, or intrigue. Now that takes character. No wonder they are called the Founding Fathers.
The matter in question involves a certain “Parable against Persecution,” and the charge is “plagiarism.”

Read the full account here. Apparently, Mr. Franklin is caught having fun using a story that is ascribed to the Persian poet Saadi. This story he successfully manages to pass as a lost book of Genesis. I must admit, however, that to date I have never managed to locate the original story myself. Here is the short version:

“To amuse himself with an oriental apologue which he called "The Parable of Persecution," he had the story bound with a Bible. From this book he would read the legend aloud, amazing his auditors that so beautiful a scriptural passage had escaped their knowledge.

The form in which Franklin cast the tale is this:

"And it came to pass after these things, that Abraham sat in the door of his tent, about the going down of the sun.

"And behold a man, bowed with age, came from the way of the wilderness, leaning on a staff.

"And Abraham arose and met him, and said unto him, `Turn in, I pray thee, and wash thy feet, and tarry all night, and thou shalt arise early on the morrow, and go thy way.'

"But the man said, `Nay, for I will abide under this tree.'

"And Abraham pressed him greatly: so he turned and they went into the tent, and Abraham baked unleavened bread, and they did eat."

And when Abraham saw that the man blessed not God, he said unto him, `Wherefore dost thou not worship the most high God, Creator of heaven and earth?'

"And the man answered and said, `I do not worship the God thou speakest of, neither do I call upon his name; for I have made to myself a god, which abideth alway in mine house, and provideth me with all things.'

"And Abraham's zeal was kindled against the man, and he arose and fell upon him, and drove him forth with blows into the wilderness.

"And at midnight God called unto Abraham, saying, `Abraham, where is the stranger?'

"And Abraham answered and said, `Lord, he would not worship thee, neither would he call upon thy name; therefore have I driven him out from before my face into the wilderness.'

"And God said, `Have I borne with him these hundred and ninety and eight years, and nourished him, and clothed him, notwithstanding his rebellion against me; and couldst not thou, that art thyself a sinner, bear with him one night?'

"And Abraham said, `Let not the anger of the Lord wax hot against his servant; lo, I have sinned; lo, I have sinned; forgive me, I pray thee.'

"And Abraham arose, and went forth into the wilderness, and sought diligently for the man, and found him, and returned with him to the tent; and when he had treated him kindly, he sent him away on the morrow with gifts.

"And God spake again unto Abraham, saying, `For this thy sin shall thy seed be afflicted four hundred years in a strange land. "`But for thy repentance will I deliver them; and they shall come forth with power, and with gladness of heart, and with much substance.'"

Allow me to conclude on a personal note to my readers: those of you who never tire of insulting us, mindlessly disparaging our way of life, however problematic it might be: heed Franklin’s warning!

Those of you who never tire of repeating that you were deceived into a war, perpetually blaming the neocons, the Israelis and their agents, or Iranians and their agents, note Franklin’s pointer!

And to those who never tire of bullying citizens and trampling rights: listen up: there are consequences. The Declaration says so!