Friday, September 30, 2005

Thus begins a dirty war

A reminder that this is role play and if you are easily offended, you should please move on. And so we continue. The half resourceful Persian nationalist that I am, I proceed to re-evaluate my encounters with India and all things Indian.

What is annoying me, of course, is the meanness of that Indian fellow blogger and my impression that the Indian negotiating team misrepresented their position about this ongoing nuclear standoff judging by how surprised the Iranians were with the outcome of the vote. But I am now merely lashing out.

Technically, the Indian move could be viewed as diplomacy proper. Or we might choose to call it pursuing one’s own best interest--call it what you will. I will choose to call it masking true intentions. Would it really qualify as cunning manipulation? And lying or deception?

So I begin to take liberties with the language which should have ideally helped me put problems in context. Babbling is what I am used to as an intellectual. It gives me power. It makes me feel superior.

Yes, it must have been a ruse all along. Now deep down, I know I have had my share of encounters with cheating, lying, deceitful domestic politicians. I have also seen children lie. I have seen students offer excused about not having their homework on time and have heard their creative stories about their papers having been eaten by animals.

I have heard husbands lie about their whereabouts or an affair and have seen their wives conceal the truth about the cost of those red shoes or the Chanel perfumes or a dress. And I have certainly seen colleagues twist the truth a little and offer tall tales, or many a lying whiteness as the expression goes after a few drinks.

But boy, do those Indians now get on my nerves. There must be something inherent to their culture that allows them to toy with their interlocutors so deftly, I begin to argue.

Well, now that I have had time to think about it, the premier text that is all about cunning, treachery, deceit and how to accumulate wealth and power by sowing dissention and discord in my own society is a book called “Kalilah wa Dimnah” which uses the technique of intricately woven tale within tale to deliver a message.

The book is a translation of collection of ancient Indian fables written down in Sanskrit -- popularly known as Panchatantra. The first tantra features the exploits of a lion and a bull and narrates the prominent role played by two jackals called Damnaka and Karattaka or Kartak and Damanak, take your pick. It is full of wisdom about eating others lest you be eaten -- a variety of what is categorized as practical wisdom. Most ancient cultures have sophisticated renditions.

But again, I am now in bending the truth business-- just ever so slightly. Our own ancient culture, I go on to argue, must really not have had those tales or someone wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of bringing those gems back from India. And as everyone must know-- because Herodotus said so-- we Persians used to learn early on “to mount the horse, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth.”

But Indians, you see, must have always had problems with the truth all along. As a matter of fact, they have a history of abandoning their neighbors—the Indians do, after they fall for new gods so it must be in their genes to follow a lie each and every time.

Remember how I alluded to having been once joined at the hips. Well, one of the reasons my ancestors chose to emigrate was because the forefathers of those who are now Indians decided to worship the younger, more hip deities who appeared the victors in a war of gods, while we remained faithful and chose to honor the more ancient Ahuras. That’s why in our old literature we have such a serious problem with the follower of Lie, or Druj!

We are nothing like them.

What’s wrong with those Indians anyways? What ails their society? How can you expect them to care about their neighbors when they don’t even care about their own people! They rank in the 127th position on the Human Development Index report. They fare even worse than Iran in terms of fighting poverty.

In point of fact, as the NGOs report, they have the highest concentration of poverty anywhere in the world with 350 million living below the poverty line. And they tolerate so much violence against the people they call untouchables. Their very own citizens.

Why do they reproduce at such high rates, anyhow? So I begin to offer alarming statistics. Here is the latest Indian census figures of 2001 putting the population at 1,027,015,247 and another and yet another here giving us three different models put out by Harvard projecting future population growth for the years to come.

What else can we expect from a people who worship genitals? Lingam and Yoni they call them. Besides, we should never trust anyone who also deifies some potentially yummy shish kebob!

And they always keep to themselves and eat their own food. Have you ever notice how Indians eat? And the smell that comes from their places of residence? And why do they dress the way they do anyways? Heck even the Chinese have begun to dress like the rest of us "normal" folk.

And boy do they know how to migrate, don’t they? Both internally and externally. According to their own figures, 307 million migrate by their place of birth (pdf) within the country and there are 20 million Non resident Indian Nationals all over the planet.

So now, remember those Christian porn peddling terrorist of the last post? As it turns out, they operate in a contested region whose inhabitants are an ancient people called the Boro. And it’s just like those Hindus to come settle en mass in regions that belongs to others and they create conflict wherever they go and threaten the natives.

So now, I choose to highlight the plight of the Boro and begin to also draw attention to the latest anti-Christian disturbances. Then I begin to look again at the history of the Persian community in India because you just know that if an opulent, learned and successful community has lived around poor people of many different religions and ethnicities for centuries, chances are, there have been sporadic conflicts. Now I want to show how intolerant Indians have always been.

Those Hindus are at everyone’s throat all the time. They are always rioting. In the big ones a few years back between 500,000 to 1 million got killed. If it’s not the Christians they attack, they are after the Sikhs or some others. What’ wrong with them any ways?

You know, they must seriously have problems with woman as well. Because women hating, grotesquely patriarchal cultures are the ones that exhibit these symptoms of the widespread malaise we are witnessing among the Indians.

Look closely. Rape is as frequent as traffic accidents. There is sexual harassment and kidnapping and female infanticide galore. And violence and corruption and prostitution.

Indian women don’t have an easy time. 60 percent of women are anemic. 50% of women are illiterate. Maternal death in India counts for almost 25% world wide child-related deaths. There is corruption and crime and so much violence, but thankfully women are fighting back.

Indians have women problems because as their ancient text make clear, women are kind of merchandise and some (by nature or habit) are gained over by striking. As a matter of fact, despite their licentious sexuality, there is a morbid fear of women’s desires. Just go and pick up the latest edition of Kama Sutra at your local bookstore.

The older layers of commentaries make clear that women’s sexuality should be viewed with suspicion and should best be controlled. That’s why Hindus are counseled to see to it that women keep busy with housework and other domestic tasks. Because, you see, men’s sexuality is cyclical and a woman’s oceanic—she comes to have orgasms in waves. And as one of the chapters makes clear, the moment a man is fatigued, some “manly” women will chose to sodomize him to end up on top. Their whole cultural history can be viewed as an unfolding of a morbid fear of women.

So now, I am feeling pretty good about myself and so superior to boot. I have successfully overcome the last vestiges of shame and so I freely utter the vilest of thoughts while patting myself on the back for being an “anti-idiotarian,” or so audaciously “contrarian.”

I never cower before the “politically correct” crowd. Ain’t I special?

Now, I am ready to take the next step and go after some of their canonical texts in order to settle the affair with their false gods and to highlight their tenuous hold on reality.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Intellectuals and Culture Wars

There is a streak of anti-intellectualism in me that I try to keep under wraps. Occasionally, though, it gets the better of me. Deep down, I can see myself just giving in and unabashedly loathing “them,” in a serious sort of way. Actually, to be frank, I do dislike intellectuals already--myself included. And I am going to try playfully to show you why in the next two or three posts.

So we are going to role play tonight. We’ll make nice to begin with and subsequently grow to be nasty. If you are easily offended, please move on.

And we are going to do it without demonizing Muslims and Jews, or Israelis and Arabs. Too much of that already going on everywhere! It’s going to be Persians and Indians for a change. And I am going to elicit the help of an Indian fellow blogger who has a wicked sense of humor and someone with whom I have lightheartedly jousted in private correspondence. I think he’ll be happy playing along.

So, I am going to be a Persian nationalist who adores India to start with. All things Indian, from people to movies and food and culture to the ancient texts and philosophy, literature and languages which is easy enough, really. We used to be joined at the hips, so to speak.

Our common heritage is hard to miss. Soma or Haoma, Rta or Asha, Daevas or Devas and Ahuras or Asuras, you name it, we both have it. And I have studied a bit of Sanskrit to boot-- a beautifully complex and rigorous language and I have also enjoyed my limited exposures to their famed grammarian, a Panini who wrote about the subject when most of the rest of the planet had no clue what grammar was. The studies have helped me better grasp the structure of our own old ancient languages which hardly anyone pays attention to anymore. And for those opportunities I remain grateful.

Exposures to other cultures do that for you.

If you sympathetically engage with other cultures and their rich heritage--with an open mind and with your critical faculties fully operative, chances are that in due time, you will not only come away awed and humbled, but also will grow to appreciate the elements of your own culture which you might have been taking for granted all your life.

So I have enjoyed laboring over some of the original texts of Hinduism, The Rig Veda and the Upanishads which have helped me better understand our own ancient Zoroastrian tradition as well as Manichaeism and I have learned a great deal from those formidable Indian logicians such as Nagarjuna, and Dharmakirti.

I have been moved by the sensual poetry of Kalidasa and marveled at figures like Shakuntala and my body and mind feel a bit healthier and more serene after encountering Pantajali and heck, even my love life—what little I still remember of “normal” sex at any rate-- has been rendered more enjoyable thanks to those celebrated Kama Sutras.

And of course, even a brief exposure to the magnificent and complex epic of the Mahabharata with so many engrossing concepts such as Brahman, Avatars, Maya and Karma along with seekers and myriad duty bound with exotic names such as Brahamacharya, Grihastham, and Vanaprastham could be sufficient to rock anyone’s world.

And on a more personal level, I remain grateful to our Indian neighbors for having offered sanctuary to those purest ancient Persian communities—the much loved and respected Zoroastrians, after they were forced to migrate in order to escape the hordes of invaders who changed the face of our culture forever.

And gratitude has a way of pulling at one’s heart.

So the emotional attachment colors everything positively for me. Indians might have their own set of problems, but they can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. I am on their side.

Even the more obscure news items rile me up and move me to offer support. So when I read some group is using Christianity to undermine the influence of Hinduism in a region with a history of ethnic strife, I remain vigilant and when the news briefly hits of this same group producing “revolutionary pornography” to fund their struggles, I highlight the report put out by the Tripura Police to show what despicable creatures the Indians are up against. Shame on those porn peddling Christian terrorists in India, I say.

I just love and adore Indians. They are my allies. I wish them success. I am rooting for them. I want to see more jobs for them. And easier access to universities and educational opportunities for their students. As well as greater mobility for their workers and my endless, profuse praises for their democracy, tolerance and hard work. More power to them everywhere, I say.

But there is a catch.

Remember I am a Persian nationalist. What’s good for me I feel grand for everyone else. If someone is nice to me, naturally that means the person is obviously O.K. Everyone is great as long as I get my way and just so long as I get to hear what I want to hear.

But something odd begins to happen.

India votes against Iranian aspirations to harness peaceful nuclear energy. This, I find, especially offensive as they have been trying to gain access to “our” cheap oil. I know my country. I represent my country. What I think is good for my country, I know is really good for the country. Dastardly Indians.

And then some Indian blogger shows up to my blog and writes a comment on my post about the eight years of a devastating, brutal war. He writes:

In terms of Reagan’s support for Iraq, Iran somewhat reaped what it sowed by first humiliating Jimmy Carter and then deliberately waiting till he lost the presidential elections before releasing the hostages on the day Reagan took office.

Which is, indeed, perfectly reasonable, I know. He has kindly reminded us of a chain of events which has been no secret to anyone. Iranians took some Americans hostage. Then some Americans got tired of a president they deemed weak and indecisive. They voted for Reagan and wanted him to act on those nasty feelings most everyone had come to develop for the Iranians. And when the war dragged on and on, Reaganites didn’t think twice about siding with Mr. Hussein.

But the war and revolution were also particularly difficult for my family, friends and classmates among so many other millions. Loved ones died and some were poisoned and others were purged and some landed in jail or were executed or assassinated. It wasn’t the best of times for any of us.

So his comment doesn’t sit well with me at all. Is he implying that my family and friends deserved to be gassed and bombed and killed simply because some other miscreants took a few diplomats as hostage?

So my festering wounds break open. All the negative emotions that all of us have which remained under control for so long are suddenly set loose. I don’t know what they are exactly or where they come from. But it is all focused now on India.

Perhaps it is all those movies I saw when I was a kid with Indian foot soldiers under the leadership of British officers trying to wreak havoc on my country. Or perhaps it is a few bad encounters I have had with all those Indians who seem to be everywhere these days I visit or am ever likely to visit-- from Europe to the Americas and Africa, Asia or even Guyana.

Indians are taking over.

Perhaps I got sick one day eating at an Indian restaurant. Or maybe the Indian Goddess I adored dumped me one day and my inner masochist is feeling deprived of the spanking she used to administer mischievously. Who knows, really, why any of us come to finally snap and react the way we do?

Now India is on my manure list. And so is my fellow Indian blogger. Perhaps, finally that last of one too many callous comments from a brash young Australian of Indian descent about Persians has gotten me so annoyed that I am now fed up with all Indians in toto.

So, from here on, you will notice, “objectively” as the old Soviets used to say, nothing much has changed.

Only now my perception of Indians has. But it’s not “politically correct,” to come out and say exactly how I feel in public. So being a half resourceful intellectual, I’m going to pull at the threads of my universe--one strand at a time-- until there is nothing left of that colorfull tapestary which was my love for India and Indians.

I am going to radically reconstitute my experience of the Indian presence in our universe and you’ll see how in my next post.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mashad, weasels and stupid laws

This item annoyed me no end. Especially since I repeatedly argued about the whole matter with a bunch of my compatriots last year. Back then, the number stood at 32,000.

There are close to 40,000 children without birth certificates in the “holy” city of Mashad, notorious now because of the public hanging of those gay youngsters. That’s because (mostly) Iraqi pilgrims, among others from bordering Arab countries, (according to the report) have brief liaisons with some poor women and then skip town after impregnating them thus abandoning their lovers to fend for themselves.

And by law, children born to Iranian woman and foreign men or those whose paternity can not be established have difficulties getting birth certificates.

While I have nothing against the much tormented Iraqis engaging in a bit of responsible R & R while on pilgrimage in the “holy” city—and this, especially as our Iraqi neighbors are having such a rough time of it regaining a sense of normalcy at home, it really irritates me that they don’t take the necessary precautions to avoid leaving a child behind.

It isn’t as if there are no condoms or other methods of birth control easily accessible. They are ruining some woman’s life as well as that her offspring.

And the Iranian authorities should really be forced to take the appropriate steps to change some of these anachronistic, stupid laws. A more open approach to sex education might not exactly hurt either.

A much welcome additional advantage to changing the laws, of course, is that our irresponsible citizens will be deprived of that omnipresent luxury of blaming foreigners for the consequences of their own indiscretions and false hopes. I am sure quite a few people can intuitively appreciate how easy it can be to scapegoat some non-existent Iraqi or Arab pilgrim when faced with a difficult, embarrassing predicament while stuck in a needlessly intolerant milieu!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It’s called the “Sacred Defense Week”

September 22 is the anniversary of Mr. Saddam “Hitler” Hussein’s attack on Iran. So much of what Iran is today, I think, is the unfortunate outcome of those devastating eight years of a needlessly protracted war.

This is how some veterans of those years look like dying years later. This is what the victims of chemical warfare look like curtsey of Mr. Hussein and partially made possible, of course, by the (mostly) European, and the American involvement and subsidies.

Some more pictures of the war years here and here.

And the military marches go on to commemorate those events just like every other year. More pictures here, here, here, and here. More young men likely to die in case there is another conflict only to be soon forgotten again as we all move on with our own merry lives.

So you see, I really don’t hold any of the unkind characterizations of Iran and Iranians against the pundits. People are fully entitled to feel superior if that’s what sets their shorts on fire. But I fear some are drawing all the wrong conclusions thus dragging us even deeper into an abyss. All of us.

Iranian revolution came to an end with that war I think. I know the revolution is forever associated with the despicable Islamic form cemented during the war years. But that was never inevitability. Revolutions are funny that way.

Revolutions tend to release the imagination as well as powerful new forces which then often become impossible to comprehend and control.

Before the Iranian revolution, you will recall, we were all being lectured about how all we could do was to make the only possible choice available. It was either the Soviet tyranny as a model for the third world or those American backed strongmen—brutal and vainglorious rulers like the Shah. That was not all too palatable for many everywhere.

No third alternative was even deemed probable. Either “them” or “them.”

And we Iranians said no. We broke out of a suffocating construct. But then we failed miserably in finding our way through all the tortuous aftereffects.

In the midst of the war, there were massive terror campaigns initiated by the MEK activists who killed the President and many other prominent figures which resulted in a murderous, brutal backlash that cost us thousands of our idealistic youth. There were massive student unrests brutally suppressed and a civil war in Kurdistan and elsewhere taking a heavy toll while some of our most promising men and women were dying on the battle fronts.

The confusing atmosphere and all, in retrospect, proved too much for a people who had come to feel liberated from a Bastille of imagination, and who yet lacked the experience or the tools necessary to make possible a more humane alternative.

But judging by the venom and the bloodlust evident in the “civilized,” portion of our planet after a bit of pressure, I am not quite convinced any other people in our shoes would have been any less of a failure.

That’s why, you see, in my less despondent moods, I remain (guardedly) optimistic. Iran is an ancient nation and this too shall pass.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The crash

A companion of many years which has felt more like an extension of my body—dearest laptop—began to make curious noises one day and then it suddenly died. And it took along thousands of photographs and pages up on pages of notes about various books and articles and many other files I had managed to accumulate over the years.

Of course I have back ups, but they too are sitting inside assorted boxes (which remain) scattered around different cites across four continents. Mr. BP, you see, isn’t the most stable of fellows. So we have been brooding a tad more dejectedly of late.

And we have also been interviewing for jobs. But of course that too isn’t going anywhere. We have lost our taste for the “respectable” society and we half suspect the disdain to be mutual.

Living the life of a semi-literate vagabond in the margins of our great cities has a certain charm, I must admit. But it would get terribly tedious intellectually, I fear. So, I am thinking I should really take a long break soon to put my own affairs in order.

Before I go, though, I would like to finish a number of conversations which I’ve never managed to develop to my satisfaction. So, I intend to do a series of posts on Mr. Pollack’s book, The Persian Puzzle, which might also offer an opportunity to rethink some of the issues I have broached in the past.

At least two reviewers from the opposite sides of the political spectrum haven’t been too terribly kind to the Gentleman.

Mr. Amir Taheri, our famed, old “Emissary of the Apparatus,” comes to pull a Juan Cole on Mr. Pollack, charging our author with suffering “from the fact that he has never been to Iran and does not know the Persian language,” while complaining further:

Pollack has an amazing arsenal of adjectival bullets with which to shoot his hated Iranians. He writes that Iranians are "stupid, naïve, paranoiac, delusional, unreasonable, and obtuse." And that is only for starters!

And that, of course, makes a rational discussion of the conflict that much more difficult.

Mr. Kaveh Afrasiabi, on the other hand, an author who is the closest there is to a thoughtful fellow traveler, has almost identical set of objections:

Pollack indulges in criticizing Iranian emotionalism, xenophobia, exaggerated "self-importance", "considerable ignorance of many of its policymakers", etc, thus making a mockery of objective analysis bereft of such abstract generalization smacking of what the late Edward Said labeled "Orientalism".

The crux of the matter, for Mr. Afrasiabi, appears to be the following:

Pollack unfortunately proves incapable of breaking free from a CIA school of thought that, in addition to denigrating Iran's national character, consistently predicts the imminent demise of the Islamic regime in Iran.

I have been reading Mr. Pollack’s book and I like it. It is nowhere written in stone that an analyst should like Iran or Iranians. By that standard, almost everything anyone ever writes these days about Iran could be easily dismissed.

But it is terribly unfair, I think, to highlight a few unflattering characterizations out of 539 pages of a book instead of thinking about some of the more important assumptions and conclusions presented by a writer.

Any how, I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Pollack’s attempts at being fair minded and his efforts in seriously grappling with a number of fundamental difficulties and challenges that Iranians and the Iranian regime pose. This is not to say that I don’t have misgivings. But since when has agreement become the sole standard for judging a book?

I’ll tell you about some of Mr. Pollack’s more interesting observations soon. This especially since--as our Spirited Poetess rightly points out-- after the election of Mr. Ahmadi Nejad, and faced with the brewing (potentially) catastrophic conflict, some of the loudest (Iranian) observations are reducible to a variety of the shallowest sartorial, or boring and banal rhinological, fulminations.

Friday, September 02, 2005

About Beslan.

A year passes. No end to fury and grief and still more talk of blasphemy. Edited repost from last September.


What is it about Beslan? It haunts and infuriates, leaving us dazed or baffled although practically every one of the impulses, deliberations and miscalculations leading to this calamity can be accounted for. I have been trying to avoid discussing Beslan for fear of sounding like an absolute lunatic.

Is it Islam?

Of course it is. At least a particularly repugnant strand of Islam even when overly generous! “Who are we trying to kid?” I am thinking. The Beslan barbarity is a reminder of the sort of dystopia awaiting us if the Islamists succeed. The stakes are high indeed.

And then there was a child crying under my window this evening, shouting at the top of his lungs: “Divaneh, divaneh, nazan mano.” Roughly translated, “maniac, don’t hit me.” In all likelihood, echoes of his mother's pleas. A child of no more than 5 or 6 profoundly perturbed about being battered. Children finally managed to find a way onto my heart. Shortly after my sister’s first born.

Look, when I used “daze” and “baffle” at the beginning, I wasn’t playing clueless. It is easy to be sanctimonious about such a brutality. But, at the end of the day, isn’t it really all about inhibitions? And apathy, coarseness of spirit, and helplessness?

Why is it that I didn’t rush down to beat the living daylight out of the bastard who made the young boy cry in agony under my window? Why is it that everyday I pass by all the pathetic, poverty stricken street children peddling in this land of obscene expenditures only to occasionally hand them money when “touched” by something "extraordinary?” Why is it that we tolerate child abuse, child prostitution, widespread hunger, and systematic killing of children everyday?

The World Food program ran an advert on BBC the other day. Hunger kills 776 children every hour on the hour, every day. Do the math. Seven Hundred Seventy Six.

Sometimes, silly stupid questions become an obsession with me. Look at the conflict that the majority of us tend to focus on compulsively because it might be “closer” to home-- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why is it that children in buses and pizza parlors are blown to bits, incinerated and dismembered while it is not “O.K” to serve their soulless bodies in a deep dish pizza? We eat almost every thing else that moves, don’t we?

Why is it that some get vasculitis when a cartoon of Sharon drinking the blood of children shows up in print somewhere, but the same people can stomach hearing or watching children’s blood being spilled practically everyday on the streets of the occupied territories? And they almost always insist on a “firmer” policy, don’t they? It is in the news everywhere, isn’t it?

I have been avoiding Chechnya for years. I don’t understand it. I was terribly disgruntled with various “National Liberation” movements to begin with. But they are not going to go away simply because I don’t wish to deal with the questions. We have the basic facts in front of us and can all do the math. Prior to Beslan, the “score” stood at 80,000 Chechens to 4000 Russians. Can you count that? 80,000 out of a population of a little over a million, I think.

How many of those 80,000-- are you willing to wager--were children? Had you heard of the “black widows” some 10 years ago, before Crozny, when the same Jihadists were running around being the same murderous miscreants they have always been?

But then I think about “us” again. Of all the many years that we—the Persians—have abused our own various national minorities and in particular the Kurds—and I use abuse here to encompass all of our various shameful deeds such as withholding oil money for regional development, preventing them from studying their own beautiful, ancient language in schools and universities, and putting their children to work in backbreaking construction jobs, or the ongoing de facto economic blockades, as well bombing their houses and cities , tormenting their families, and torturing their activists, never once, to my knowledge, have they ventured to seek us in “our” cities or schools in order to kill and to avenge their mistreatment.

Why not? What is it that holds them back? They are both Muslims and an abused national minority, aren’t they? What causes the inhibitions? How long will it last?

I know the Chechens have been brutalized, but what kind of a society will they create even if “liberated” from the brutal yoke of the Russians? What did the poor Ossetians ever do to deserve this? What control do these wretched Ossetians ever have over the decisions of this supposedly “reformed” KGB strongman Putin? Or those of an ex-Communist Party apparatchik, Yeltsin? Did they help Stalin forcibly exile to Serbia all those Chechens years ago? Did they exert any kind of an influence on the Tsars before that?

Why is it that it is O.K. to take children hostages, to torment them, to force nudity upon them, to imprison them in a hot gym, to starve and dehydrate them, to shoot them in the back, give them urine-soaked cloths to suck on, to scar them permanently for life, and yet it wasn’t “acceptable” to feed them some barbequed teacher?

What held them back?

Regardless of the “tribal” idiosyncrasies involved, the various Jihadists have a very particular notion of the dystopia they try to impose on the majority as well as specific means in mind to get us there.. Every one of their (mis)deeds is a harbinger of what they wish to bring us. And they must be resisted, and methodically defeated, their ideas discredited and their methods repudiated.

Here in Iran, for instance, the first sign of their activism was spraying acid on the faces of women deemed improperly dressed in conformity with their understanding of the Islamic etiquette. They are doing their best to drive women out of public spheres in Iraq, and we know how they forced women to retreat inside imprisoning them in various Afghan homes, and denying them education.

And well Saudi Arabia has always been Saudi Arabia. So now they ride the wave of the agonizing misery of some Chechen women to open a new front in their tribal war of ruin.

The fight involving women and children is a central battle front. Women are the primary educators of children. Aside from suffocating their teachers and caretakers or killing and imprisoning them, what else do they promise children?

Whether it is by killing them in a school in Beslan, or brainwashing them and destroying their humanity in various religious madresas in Pakistan or in other intellectually stifling places like Saudi Arabia and Iran or by distracting them from learning in France, or by killing the joys of learning through fear in the likes of my little friend in Tehran thousand of kilometer away from Beslan, they have very specific objectives in mind.

What do they really want?

A new vicious tribalism, widespread fear, pacifism and inaction, I think. And in this goal they are united with those authoritarians who acknowledge “weakness” only to distract from the issues of right and wrong.

The authoritarians whose own weak case is being bolstered further by their natural allies who never tire of talking “Carthagian” tactics, “Jacksonian Economy of Force” and nuclear weapons as means of forcing “cultural adjustment” on Arab and Muslim lands!

Both groups feed on each other’s energy while complementing the other’s activity. They must know that not all of us have the desire or the stomach for collective retribution and widespread murder and mayhem. They want the majority of us out of the way so they can do what they want. And they must be resisted, and forced to retreat.

A lot easier said than done, though.

At the end of the day, I think, YES, in a sense, it has everything to do with Islam. I was wracking my brain trying to think “devouring of children” theme in mythology.

I stopped reading Russia related material years ago. So much to read and so little time. I couldn’t think of anything on that front. But we have all the usual Greek stuff about Kronus, and various child-eating dragons in the Japanese and Chinese literature as well as the Indian Demon which I think Krishna slays.

But what about us?

Isn’t it true that we live in region where one of the very central formative “myths” is the ten plagues? Isn’t it true that our shared heritage postulates an omnipotent deity who repeatedly “heardens the Phraoh’s heart,” (Exudus 9:12; 10:20; 14:10) only to do this:

At midnight the LORD smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle. 12:29

Perhaps, so long as we continue to celebrate our heritage mindlessly—our sanctimonious prattle notwithstanding--- we don’t really get to have much of an inhibition when it comes to killing children.

Then the first thing we should think about doing is to let go of whosoever insists on not being under our yoke before we end up losing a lot more than our first born.

That and bolstering our inhibitions when it comes to assorted barbarities.

Something a lot akin, I suppose, to tapping whatever it is that accounts for our dislike for munching on a barbequed human hand or a thigh.