Monday, December 26, 2005

Even if not, still…Or obviating truth value

Bleak as our enraged city certainly is, it is also a passionate city. It is a genteel city. A faithful city. It is a city of warmth, kindness and hospitality, in many ways, unlike any other city the world over. And perhaps that’s why the coldness, callousness and cruelty startle you in a fashion so much more disconcerting than in some other cities.

How is it possible for a people so intensely warm and alert to so quickly transform into such infuriatingly pathetic, inattentive asses in a blink of an eye?

You clearly see the grounding of the fidelity you encounter in our city in that could be clause of the last post. It is both one of our most debilitating weaknesses and our greatest strength. It holds our lives together. You could be anything you want to be, and you still remain a brother, mother, husband, father, sister, or a childhood companion, adored teacher or an old flame.

And that curse of long-term memory protects and preserves those ties.

It mostly averts such heart-wrenching scenes as that of the expectant gaze of the elderly in front of some nursing home on the weekends—waiting, hoping, wishing and praying for the visitors who never come.

You could be all wrinkly and a disruption to the routine of life, or could have outlived your “value,” to the society, or you could be a single mother or an unemployed divorcee, and, yet, those enduring obligations remain. And they remain with a vengeance.

Even the Dead beckon us unsparingly every Thursday or Friday—and this indeed even after decades. Go visit one of our burial grounds and judge for yourselves the hustle and bustle. Touch the fresh flowers, smell the rosewater, and read some of the most moving engraved poetry you’ll find anywhere and watch closely the tears of the heartbroken and those offerings of dates, sweets and fresh fruits.

In our city, some ties precede (and are privileged over) civil and religious laws and the various divisions and sub-divisions of the evolving social organization of the city that normally result from the interventions of myriad economic forces, or those ephemeral structures of state or religious institutions.

A tad more strongly, perhaps, than in some other cities!

And here we sense the essence of an ancient proverb that—in one of its many different formulations-- we should all be familiar with by now, no? I against my brother and my brother and I against the neighbor or the tribe and all of “us” insiders against “them” outsiders! (Khodie vs. Nakhodie/Either with us or against us!)

How a city, though, approaches those almost identical (human) impulses, desires, drives, and bonds of affection, as well as the prevailing attitudes of the city dwellers determine the nature of the city and its vibrancy.

Look again at those powerful images our aggrieved brother offers in his reprimand.

They are bedazzling: the violated sanctity of the castle; the tortured body, the unrecognizable presence, the broken hearts, the snapped neck; and the image of a distraught, forlorn mother. Ultimately that of the dolorous dancing body on the rope!

They touch you in ways akin to the soulful laments of Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruits.” Those Southern trees are not the only ones bearing strange fruits, with “blood on their leaves and blood at their roots.” And it is not merely the image of those swinging black bodies that haunt you now. This city too has cultivated more than its fair share of strange fruits.

And as the song reminds us, there must be justice, and Justice remains distinct from a lynching.

Here, then, we come up against that bolted gate, and our nemesis which, in my view, is mostly one of our own creation. It has been and remains the source of my quarrel with the man who is chastising me.

It is also fundamentally my grievance against the city of my birth long-term.

Think about it: Even if or if not…still.

It is an astonishing attitude to have; one that does not allow itself to be affected by much of anything. It is not willing to test itself, and is not open to negotiations or falsification. A friend calls it flexible inflexibility.

It is somewhat of a perverted, subversive can-do Spirit.

It is tormented, tormenting and vengeful. It anchors itself in something “higher” and is “mystical.” It recreates petty bickering, gossip and meanness wherever it goes. It corrupts anything it touches.

If you send it to university, it comes out even more arrogant, pompous, entitled and condescending. Without access to education, it becomes more resentful, hate filled and destructive.

Blocked by laws or regulations, it will circumnavigate them and bribe its way out. When asked to reconsider, it will charge you with hypocrisy.

Put it to work and it is a law unto itself. It is just as ruthless as it is sycophantical. Sent home and given the oil money, it won’t let anyone be. Nothing is ever enough. It is perpetually indignant and envious. It is covetous and ravenous.

It is cocksure and so self confident of its own righteousness and utterly self-indulgent and ruinous. It has a kind of godlike outlook on life because it has seen the past already and fully knows the future. One that is “intuitive” in modern sense because it “just knows’ about the nature of things, the order of things, and how they’ll turn up--always.

In victory it becomes even more belligerent and boastful. Defeat it and it’ll write it off as bad luck or due to some vast conspiracy. It never tires of wallowing in self-pity.

It knows no shame.

Even if or if not…still.

This attitude is also one of the reasons our city is so unbearable when it comes to the routine and the mundane--the real stuff of life.

You wait your turn in line for an hour in a bank, grocery store or some government building, and even if it is a line, it still is not a line. Some punk cuts right in front of you without a second thought. So there are endless fights.

Even if the light is red and even if the street is a one way street, they remain still green light and still a two way street. And even if the road is the highway intended for cars and trucks, it is still the skating rink. And tens of thousands die!

Even if it loves beauty and even if it lives in some of the most enchantingly decorated, immaculately clean surroundings, and even if it is a park, picnic ground or public space, everywhere still is a dumpster when not the sole proprietor.

Even if the woman doesn’t want to be bothered, and even if she is wrapping herself in multiple layers of black cloths, she is still a slut, and still asking for it and still getting pinched. So women avoid walking alone and hardly ever smile. And this doesn’t begin to consider the laws of our reigning imbecility.

Even if there are building codes and even if the architects know how to design more resilient buildings and even if there are sturdy materials available, it is still a poorly constructed house and it still caves in, still killing untold numbers.

Remember Bam.

Even if you have millions, you are still poor. Even if you are pampered and spoiled, you are still a martyr.

Even if Daniel, Esther, and Mordacai have shrines visited by thousands of pilgrims a year within its sight, the Jews still belong in Alaska.

Even if what they offer you is not good for you, it remains still good for you. And even if tens of millions refuse to consent to the Islamic government, it remains still consent and a shining example still of national unity.

Politics and culture are atrociously difficult to delineate.

And even if you suffer from an autoimmune disorder and even if you have pleurisy and even if you are allergic to penicillin, it is still bronchitis and the cure still penicillin and you remain still condemned to sudden death by callousness.

A callousness and inattentiveness which immediately vanish once you could be the physician’s brother or even if not, still a friend. And so nepotism, corruption and injustice reign wherever you go.

So you see, the fate of our city has not been carved in stone for me. It never had been. And neither has Ganji’s fate. It could be different. A change of attitude will do wonders. It could be that it partially releases the sort of creative energies suffocated too long in our city. More minds at work, and more participation and many more forces, and more possible solutions.

Or perhaps not, who knows for sure? But no city I know of has ever suffered seriously from an excess of empathy, wonder, introspection, critical thinking and attentiveness to the truth of things.

But as it stands, this even if or if not…still clause is an acquired habit that goes on to justify whatever it intends to see, do or say at any given moment. It comes close to being an addiction. Wordplay is merely so many footnotes and an afterthought.

And so long as this dreadful even if or if not…still attitude remains, we’ll tangibly have nothing more than false hopes and grand illusions when it comes to the possibilities of bringing to life a more civil, vibrant mode of being for that city no matter how many more bloody regime changes or peaceful reform movements we continue to have.

Although they remain a necessity, one fears that life will get much worst, or perhaps even slightly better with any luck, although, not anywhere close to what we desire or is within reach or palatable.

Because so long as we are unwilling to cease being self absorbed; as long as we prove incapable of looking past our own noses and remain unable to let go of our own vendettas or that unwillingness to briefly contain those impulsive, immediate petty ambitions or loathing; if, that is, we are unwilling to consent to surrendering a measure of our unbridled sovereignty to some norm slightly more enduring than ourselves, we effectively prevent the emergence of the sort of Wisdom that might then go on to formulate wiser or more just Laws. The type more suitable to the need of the city.

It is my desire and one wish to witness in my life time changes in our attitude and behavior so we can have a culture more nurturing of that orientation which might give us a secular democratic regime. And we can’t have that regime and its ancillary Wisdom without that requisite distance and due attentiveness to the truth value of things.

And if by some miracle, chance or change we appropriate or copy the already existent laws from somewhere and subsequently succeed in building a most beautiful Palace of Justice ever seen, there’ll be no reliable judges or enforcers of those laws anywhere in our city.

And if there were any, there would be no citizens who’d let them be without corrupting them. The type of citizens who’d consent to being respectful of those limits imposed by the judges and the enforcers of those laws on their behavior.

Yes, there are all types and all different causes at work here. But addiction remains addiction pure and simple. And all the rest only cunning wordplay to avoid the cures that are within reach. It is always possible to fight multiple causes on multiple fronts. Some are a lot easier to fight and win than others!

I might be unable to control the world, but me, I can control. Attitudes matter a great deal and they make or break a city.

So our city remains a loving city while being hateful. It is a city full of life and joy although terribly dreary and sad. It remains one hell of an intense city. A most sensual, coquettish city! You can taste life and see color and touch texture. It is a city you love to hate, but can’t help but love—in that pestering, tormenting, enduring kind of way.

And the city dwellers share a curious sense of time as well. This aspect we’ll explore next.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

X could be Or the shaky foundation of our City

A modern city has been described, roughly, as that giant space in which massive numbers of people coexist in loneliness. And when our lives connect, there are signals to guide us.

This way to the hospital, that way to sanitarium. A green light you walk, and the red one you wait. The straight yellow lines caution you not to overtake the car in front of you and the dotted yellow lines to pass cautiously.

In the more tolerable cities, this principle at work has become an art form. Yes, it can be intrusive, manipulative, annoying and exhausting. Especially in the supermarkets. But they take the guesswork out of life. No escaping them even in our private spaces. Look at any of your gadgets, or your computer. All the couplings, gears, and various connection points are either uniquely shaped or color coded.

When you move from city to city, you look for your points of contact. You try to find your way around reading the signs and signals. You attempt to become good at interpreting them because even though all the cities are beginning to look almost identical, there is still some unique flavor left to them.

It is still possible to talk about distinctive culture of a city.

So when our man protests that, “for all I know, Ganji could be the one…,” my initial reaction is to be sympathetic to his claim. Especially since I loath the rulers of the city and every one of their multiple organs of power that make life a living hell.

Unless, of course-- and this is the key, unless that crucial could be phrase is such a foundational principle in the city that by now I have become sick and tired of hearing it.

In one sense, this could be clause is what is relied upon to acculturate us into the life of our cities everywhere. It is also one of our best friends long-term.

It is a constant as a child.

The next car could be the one that hits you so wait for your parents. The dog you kick could be the one that bites you so be nice. The swing in a playground could be the one that throws you then be careful. And your friend whose yogurt you eat without permission could be the one that smacks you and the teacher you don’t listen to could be the one that kicks you out of her class. So be polite.

As adults, we continue to rely on it. The house you are buying could be structurally unsound. The stock you are counting on for your retirement could be a bust and the car you drive could be the one that blows an engine. So it always helps to remember.

But like so many other things in life, it’s never that simple.

It might also be the cause of many embarrassing moments for the discerning when you really think about it.

I mean, the erudite professor who has not taken that customary condescending tone with you could be an idiot so you cheat and are caught and get thrown out of the university you have been attending using your parent’s hard earned cash.

The modest woman who is speaking with you while smiling could be a slut you pinch and end up being slapped silly. The long haired engineer and his hirsute lover whose application for a job you reject could be the hippie moron you learn has put you out of business after going their separate ways to come up with the Microsoft.

That odd looking man in the elevator you insult in Farsi for 2 minutes because he could be foreign ends up your guest for dinner and Iranian indeed. And the millionaire who’s not flaunting his Armani suit and you think could be a pauper and beneath your dignity to engage seriously ends up the next big investor who bails you out.

That’s why in the more “tolerable” cities, they used to know how to teach you to avoid thinking in those terms because it was deemed ultimately counterproductive. They used to teach you about logical fallacies as well and expected you to act accordingly in real life.

But life has been a tad unpredictable, especially these days. Life can be funny that way. The “superior” ways of life despite all the nauseating self-satisfied babble tend to unravel quickly after a couple of blows! But we’ve digressed.

We were talking about this could be attitude.

So the whole thing has become a lot akin now to that roll of the dice. The next one could be a double six, or not, who knows? A lot depends on your temperament. And, of course, also on your experiences or your perception/expectations of long-term stability and/or radical insecurity of life in your city. It could always go both ways.

So, for instance, if you’ve seen a lot of people go from rags to riches in one life time, there is no reason not to think that your next purchase of a mobile phone could not be the one that makes a millionaire out of you. And the fellow named Hakha who speaks so confidently about returning on a certain date could not be the one who frees you. And that latest pyramid scheme of a certain Goldquest could not be the one guaranteeing free lunch for you for the rest of your life.

Who knows why we get to be so optimistic some days, and such cynical pessimists other days. But that attitude which guides our connection with others goes a long way in determining that uniqueness of the culture of the particular city we inhabit.

Run them out of town in disgrace one day and wait for their miraculous re-appearance the next. Always, though, somehow connected through that could be clause! A Mystical politics of sorts.

There are a lot of factors which might have affected this particular attitude or orientation we encounter in our city. Yes, a religion, our history, the wars and the conflicts of the past, and the open or closed nature of the city, as well as the intricacies of ethnic relations, or the nature of the rituals, or prudence, fortitude and acumen of the rulers or the lack thereof.

And so many other factors to consider as well since some very smart people spend years studying them to try to make sense out of the whole mess we call “civilized” life.

But I think we can all pretty much agree that there is a definite relation between politics and culture. And here attitudes come to matter a great deal. It could make or break you and your city.

Long term, “Democracy,” of course, provides the most promising possibility for living in a vibrant city where maximum number of people can negotiate and thereby discover/invent the most plausible ways of actualizing their potentials.

And the rule of Law, of course, is essential.

That’s why it is important to pay attention to the political. And to participate in the life of the city and to take active interest in the multiple fights that are a constant in order to open up space, and more breathing grounds.

A lot hinges on that attitude, though, since long term, the life of your city is affected so terribly adversely by this could be business. We’ll focus on the political ramifications in more detail soon. But the toll is particularly devastating on the individuals.

Authoritarian societies do that to you. Still, that attitude now has acquired an independent life of its own.

It perpetuates itself and gnaws at your spirit constantly and prevents you from effectively engaging with your fellow city dwellers—something essential if your aim is to run the authoritarians out of town.

And sadly, it goes with you no matter where you go. It seals you inside yourself and shuts your access to outside world. You can change your city, your outfit and you’re missing Imam or Messiah, the university you attend and the books you read and the language you study, but for all practical purposes, you can still remain petrified of seriously engaging the world given you with that requisite audacity and openness.

The city then becomes a dreary city. And each city-dweller reproduces that dreariness no matter what new city the person arrives at.

People humor each other and belittle and demean one another or insult and laugh at each other perpetually and do their best to avoid listening to one another. There is no awe, wonder, astonishment, surprise, or genuine curiosity left in the city. It has become an enraged city. A self absorbed city where people are hesitant to look past their own noses and their own personal pains and adversities.

The land of cynical know-it-alls who insist on squeezing themselves and others into pathetic little jars that make it hard to breath and become terribly suffocating.

And the sad thing is, there is even an additional bolt we use to further lock ourselves in hell from inside. That’s what we’ll examine in the next post.

I am talking about the complementary evil twin to this could be clause.

That horribly ugly: [Even] if not….still a….

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To a grieving brother

Before anything else, I should offer a more personal note addressed to A. I am no writer, but choose my words carefully. The piece on Ganji makes clear that he “is no hero” in my view. He is characterized as “the last of a mostly decimated generation;” better than “many of the rest of us.”

Notice the empty spaces--a pronounced absent presence--in my constructs purposefully left there for those who’d care to see.

Your brother and the thousands of young men and women who perished alongside him were the ones I grew up with and looked up to. They were the ones I played football with, argued and fought with and smoked and drank with. I smelled their smells, touched their skin, cherished their gestures, expressions and coquettishness, and the cadence of their speeches and their laughter, tears and shouts and their temper tantrums and their kindness, fidelity and decency.

They were the dreamers.

They were caught unprepared, as is often the case in these matters, and suffered the insufferable. Regardless of what they did, and failed to do, and irrespective of where I am and end up being on the political spectrum, they were, are, and shall remain my friends, companions, comrades and my inspiration.

It is the eternal shame of the Iranian nation that they were so ill treated and that they so perished.

We mourn them always. In due time—more humane time, we’ll celebrate and honor them in a manner befitting their dignity.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The aggrieved

A reader has been good enough to have offered anonymously a poignant and sardonic objection to my defence of Mr. Ganji which I though particularly instructive to ponder over—this especially for those outsiders who continue to pay lip service to the tragic if only to pursue their own political ambitions more unencumbered.

So in the following heartfelt protest we have what may be fairly characterised as variation on the themes of the Oresteia and Antigone all rolled in one:

“I cannot take this anymore, so here I go ... I am coming out of the closet ..... Yes I am one of those who does not give hoot about Ganji.

I am going to just compare him with my own brother and his situation; barley out of his teen when he got arrested, for months nobody knew where he was and when we finally saw him his own mother could not recognize him. He could barley walk but
the first thing that he said was that the others have it worse. Got a 10 years sentence and spent over 8 years of it all over the place but mostly in hotel Evin and finally was hung in Gohardashet. His body was got dumped in a shallow mass grave somewhere in "Lanat Abad” and as they say got eaten by animals. No petition and call to UN and asking for mercy.

Now let’s look at Ganji.

As we all know he was part of the murderous Revolutionary Guards all that time and for all I know he could be one of the people who arrested my brother, tortured him, broke in to my house, disrespected my family, caused it to broke apart and tortured my mother for over eight years and finally broke her heart that she never recovered. For all I know he could be the same person who pulled the rope and let my brother dance in the air. For all I know he could be the guy who heard his neck snapped and broke, for all I know he could be the one who dumped his lifeless and broken body in a ditch.

After spending over eight years in prison all we have from him is a handful of heavily censored and blacked out letters, no pictures (propped and from
every angel) or any long ass manifesto full of I I I I and ME ME ME. ( read the same crappy quotes that you have from him, how many I's and me's?)

So, if Ganji is the one as described above, I hope I get to him one day and I am not talking about truth and reconciliation commission here, and if he is not the one.....well your hero, the one that makes you blush, the one that stayed with RG during and past the summer of 88 is still a piece of shit that as soon as he gets a chance will try to shove his stupid god and religion down everyone's ass.

So, damn him, damn his religion and damn his cause which is nothing more than making a hero out of himself.

So, I am out of the closet now.

I am grateful for the personal perspective because such stories are important to tell, retell and to remember regardless of our political disagreements. Revolutionary upheavals take a brutal toll on all involved and the Iranian revolution has been no exception. It has devoured some of our bravest, most dedicated and idealistic youths.

The ones who did their best under difficult circumstances with little or no experience and with the hand that were dealt them; those audacious enough to have fought for what they believed in at the time. None who lived through the period have gone unfazed given those unsettling years.

In one sense, it is terribly difficult to argue with the man. What is there to say that would appease or sooth him? It is particularly difficult since the fundamentals of his quarrel with this murderous Islamic Regime are also mine.

If he had been a tad less enraged or even a more careful, thoughtful reader, he might have noticed some of the difficult subtleties involved.

For those of you, though, who have been reading this blog for a while, the themes, events and places he alludes to are easy to recognize.

They are what lie at the root of most of what has been written here, as well as the reasons for those omnipresent references to some ancient texts. Those earlier years of intense brutalities-- which in certain sense has never ceased--of the civil war, war and regime consolidation-- -were formative events for many and what is narrated by our commenter naturally constitute the core of almost every one of the many obsessions you have seen me struggle with for the past 2 years.

There have been haunting pictures we have lived with posted in this blog. We talked about the curse. I have told you about what is called La’nat Abad (the Precinct of the Damned) and the need for the respectful handling of the bodies of the fallen—especially those of the “enemy”. You have seen insistence upon proper burial for the dead. Essential, it has been argued, to the core of the very definition of our humanity, and having to do with respecting the solemnity of Death itself.

And naturally also the source of many warnings against the repulsive practices of defiling corpses and the dangers posed to the very foundations of a given society by the rhetoric involving (muslim) corpses and pigs.

The evens that recently have become more popularly known as the Summer of 88 have also been featured in this blog. And alas, even those repeated “jeremiads” against torture and the protests against extracting forced confessions themselves have been motivated primarily by the events the man so mournfully reminds us of.

So, yes, it is difficult to quarrel with the man because this Islamic regime has a despicable history that must not be forgotten. A recent report by the Human Rights Watch has reminded us yet again of the responsibility of some of the leading figures of this regime for those barbarities that has so battered and bruised so many over the years.

And one way or another, there must be justice.

But a quarrel we must now have with this man.

Assuming that Iran or many of us even survive the reckless gamble of this reigning imbecility coupled with the frenzy that is being whipped by the likes of our illustrious thug-in-a-tie with pretensions to decorum, aided by some of his more bigoted disciples, the shape of the society that shall emerge does depend primarily on the outcome of some much too persistently avoided soul searching.

So, we’ll be focusing on the man’s note more carefully in the next few posts here. What we are after is to show more clearly the outlines of an attitude that has been amplified in the note due to his anguish; although, it should best be approached as a culturally determined outlook on life that constitutes one of the most difficult-to-overcome impediments to the emergence of a saner, more humane polity in Iran today.

I will argue that behind this seemingly radical and uncompromising attitude lies a not-so-thought-through habit that is not only deeply debilitating politically, but also most instrumental in perpetuating the destructive rule of the Islamic regime.

It is, indeed, this attitude itself that has left the society susceptible to the lure of the likes of Mr. Carl Schmitt. In retrospect, it was simply a matter of time--as if a match made in the heavens finally came to bear its most mature monster.

And ultimately, I will argue that unless this attitude is dealt with and checked, Iran will remain the pathetically dysfunctional society that it has always been no matter how often there are bloody regime changes or reform movements--from above or from below.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The illustrious BozoPundit

This business of peddling mass murder-- is it loathsome or what?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Not forgetting Ganji

Reports of new death threat against Mr. Akbar Ganji again, the man who has spent more than 2500 days in jail. The following an edited re-post.

I have never told you why Mr. Ganji is important to me. I don't feel comfortable with this panegyric business. But I am going to work to change that tonight.

I don't share his views of politics or religion. Really, I don't agree with him about much. Although, I must admit, as I've grown older, and having lived through some tumultuous times, a shared outlook on life, politics and religion have become progressively less relevant for me.

Certain qualities of character count a lot more now than all the agreeable babble in the universe.

So about this man of conscious, free thinker, audacious journalist, and the veteran of the murderous Revolutionary Guards, I'll say this: Mr. Genji might not have always made the decent choices in life. But in this, he is very much like the rest of us.

There is such thing as forgiveness, after all. Which one of us could look back and unequivocally claim to have been proud of the past?

But I think Mr. Ganji is what the wise old poets—ancient healers so much more firmly anchored in our common heritage and creative with constructs that continue to soothe and amaze–would have called the best and the bravest of men. And in many ways, Mr. Ganji has proven far better than many of the rest of us.

Mr. Ganji is the last of a (mostly decimated) generation who remains too guilt ridden to live the prosaic and too responsible to live aloof. He is a man conscientious enough to want to see to it that the mistakes of the past are set right.

And that to me is noble, and dignified. Mr. Ganji has integrity. Ganji does not collaborate and is no sycophant. And he refuses to bow or break or repent.

He makes it clear that he is no hero and justifiably so, I think. In many ways, he's come to realize that the age of heroism is long past and should best be forgotten.

This is a different era we live in and a fundamentally disenchanting one, in my view. And it is not as if history ever ended. It is merely that "grandeur of spirit" has finally vanished.

This is a time for sneak attacks and for striking the vulnerable and unsuspecting and for molesting the defenceless and for incinerating women and children from afar. A time when jailors torment their hungry, thirsty wards with the aroma of barbeque or the offerings of excrement and urine. A time for hoods, claustrophobia and lynching.

The era of petty tyrants and their petty spirited foes, and a time for spins, meanness and smears.

And while I am no longer certain there ever was a time when Titans clashed, I am rather convinced that what we have now are mostly the confrontations of the entitled and of the self-absorbed-- accompanied by nauseating displays of murderous jingoism and onanistic tribalism.

And unless there is a sustained outpouring of decency—which I am thinking highly unlikely in the foreseeable future, we'll be made into Tutsis and Hutus—most of us. It is a grave mistake to delude ourselves by (falsely) assuming our superiority.

So, I can certainly see why Mr. Ganji decided to say "no." Here is Mr. Ganji writing about compassion and tolerance in his Second Letter to the Free People of the World from prison:

Although the dictators have managed to bring my body under their domination, since they have not succeeded in taking away my spirit and my thought and in making them theirs forever, they can't stand my face and so crave for my blood.
The person, who recounted these sentences to me, swore to me that "Your death is their dream. You are an obstacle for them. They can’t wait till you die". That compassionate person wanted to convince me by this to break my hunger strike.
Now that I have shouted out I have hastened my death, but I have also managed to show to the entire world how ruthless and inhuman the Sultanist system ruling Iran is in reality and what it has in store.

Let the world learn what goes on inside "Hotel Evin" and its "Suites".

Hafez used to say:

The ease of the this world and the next is in the interpretation of these two words
With friends, compassion[Morovat], with enemies, tolerance[Modara]

But Motahhari used to say Islam has gone even further than this:

"With friends, compassion and generosity, with enemies, compassion and generosity too... to have compassion is to be compassionate towards one’s enemies as well."

Mr. Ganji could have repented a long time ago to live a safe, servile existence and to contribute to the cacophony. But he refuses and if that means dying, he is prepared to let go.

More importantly, and ironically enough, he makes his stand only truly hurting close family members and friends who love him the most.

By his acts, Mr. Ganji I think, puts petty tyrants, myriad jailors, assassins, tormentors, sycophants and indeed all those deliriously pursuing that illusive "awe" of the Leviathan on notice (yet again) of the truth of a simple proposition.

A proposition which Rousseau knew well and most tormentors seem to have nowadays forgotten—that,

it is difficult to reduce to obedience a man who has no wish to command, and the most crafty politician could not succeed in subjugating men whose only wish was to be left free.

So you see, for me Ganji is no hero. He is just a man probably fed up with what surrounds him and tired of living though audacious enough to toil on—but only on his own terms.

And while I am sure for some he remains just another predictably disingenuous Iranian who has never progressed beyond that adolescent stage of obsession with honor and shame; for me, Ganji rekindles the flames of hope in these dark, unsettling times.

Simply put, Mr. Ganji makes me blush.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It’s official

Mr. Ahmadi Nejad fully earns himself the title. I think Jonathan Freedman is absolutely justified in lamenting, “[T]he Iranian president’s support for holocaust denial is a measure of how far the infection of Jew-hatred has spread,” and that:

"We can deny it no longer: the virus of anti-semitism has infected the Muslim world. And virus it is, for Jew-hatred on this scale, as Christian Europe can testify, is a kind of sickness.

This represents a menace to Jews, of course, but also a tragedy for Muslims. Theirs is a tradition that historically valued learning, and when an ignoramus like Ahmadinejad denies the overwhelming weight of historical evidence he makes a mockery of that tradition…

Today's Muslims should want no part of such ignorance or bigotry. It demeans them.
And those non-Muslim progressives who have made alliances with Islamists should do the same. It may mean some uncomfortable conversations - but the days of denial must end."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Pain and the ticking bomb

Isn’t it odd how the specific location of certain passages stays with one long after the whereabouts of the original copy of the book itself has become another faint memory?

Read carefully and think:

“Whatever pain achieves, it achieves in part through its unsharability, and it ensures this unsharability through its resistance to language. “English,” writes Virginia Wolf, “which can express the thoughts of Hamlet and the tragedy of Lear has no words for the shiver or the headache….The merest schoolgirl when she falls in love has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her, but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and the language at once runs dry.” True of the headache, Woolf’s account is of course more radically true of the severe and prolonged pain that may accompany cancer or burns or phantom limb or stroke, as well as of the severe and prolonged pain that may occur unaccompanied by any nameable disease. Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it, bringing about immediate reversion to a state anterior to language, to the sounds and cries a human being makes before language is learned.

Contemporary philosophers have habituated us to the recognition that our interior states of consciousness are regularly accompanied by objects in the external world, that we do not simply “have feelings” but have feelings for somebody or something, that love is love of x, fear is fear of y, ambivalence is ambivalence about z. If one were to move through all the emotional, perceptual, and somatic states that take an object—hatred for, seeing of, being hungry for—the list would become a very long one….This list and its implicit affirmation would, however, be suddenly interrupted when, moving through the human interior, one at last reached physical pain, for physical pain—unlike any other state of consciousness—has no referential content. It is not of or for anything. It is precisely because it takes no object that, more than any other phenomenon, resist objectification in language….. To witness the moment when pain causes a reversion to the pre-language of cries and groans is to witness the destruction of language… but conversely, to be present when a person moves up out of that pre-language and projects the facts of sentience into speech …How is it that one person can be in the presence of another in pain and not know it—not know it to the point where he himself inflict it and goes on inflicting it?

“For an analysis of arguments about torture, see Henry Shue, “Torture,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 7 (Winter 1978),124-43.

Especially pernicious in discussions of torture is the argument that a hypothetical case can be imagined in which, for example, saving a city from a nuclear bomb might depend on torturing the madman who placed it there and knew where it was hidden (see Shue, 141)

Introducing an “imaginable” occasion for torture that has no correspondence with the thousands of cases that actually occur has the effect of seeming to change torture to a sanctionable act. As Shue points out, the absolute prohibition against torture must be kept in place; and should the unlikely “imaginable” instance actually ever occur, the torturer would have to rely on convincing a jury of peers that the context for his act was exceptional (55) … That is, torturing should be perceived with the same acute aversion with which one’s own legal culpability and one’s own death are perceived; and while it is certainly possible and desirable that a jury would exonerate anyone in this situation, it does not follow that any such guarantee should be provided before the fact. That one might have to do something one day that is wrong does not mean that the act has ceased to be “wrong” and punishable. It is unlikely that any saviour of the city would actually be inhibited by the lack of pre-existing moral and legal assurances of immunity.

It is a peculiar characteristic of such hypothetical argument on behalf of torture that the arguer can always “imagine” someone large-spirited enough to overcome (on behalf of a city’s population) his aversion to torture, but not so large-spirited that he or she can accept his or her legal culpability.” [Note 160, p.352]


Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Say what you want, but I’ll take Harold Pinter over Charles Krauthammer any day, anytime, in any country or any part of our planet in a heartbeat. It is simply a matter of taste--as one of my favorite poets once said.

I should write this when I am less agitated and more cogent. Although I must confess to finding myself lately yearning for those old-time Western movies: “If you want to shoot, shoot….just don’t talk so much.”

I mean, the whole scam, I often suspect, is intended merely as justifications for (self-validating) assumptions and/or further excuses for not having to listen.

Really, when we reacted strongly to the barbarism of naked, tortured bodies, it was simply because we had women or mother issues and problems with sex and sexuality. If it was the humiliation we objected to, the pro-pain pundits thought it was pride and demanded more humiliation please!

Write or speak honestly, it is a jeremiad. Speak softly, it is whine. Be nuanced, it is pacifism. Question them, it is unpatriotic. Remind them of their history, it is anti-Americanism. Stay, they want to bring the war to you. Go, and you’re the enemy within. Mingle and have a dialogue, its dissimulation. Not mingle, it is ghetto mentality. Have a religion, it is fascism, and not have one, it is secular humanism.

These folks are not going to relent until they get the precise decibel of the QUACK they aim to hear. Or is it a dance they want to see?

Before or after some Castor Oil? And, of course, with due gratitude!

And why? Simply because someone discovered and graced us with penicillin?! Go figure.

We are sure to visit this matter again soon. For today, let us thank our universe for that gift we call Poland. The Poles have some of the best poets ever.

Here is a short one from Hieronim Morsztyn:

A Man

He is not a man who strives for a soldier's pay,

Nor who stains his hands with blood a fool to repay.
Not he who has ample courage and great power,

Nor he for whom life is not worth living longer.
Not he who tears ropes and breaks an iron horseshoe

In his hands, not the one who can twist and wrench too
A steel nail or can stop a mill wheel in its gate

Or who can break up with his forehead an oak plate.
Not the one who breaks with his head somebody's door,

Nor he who gulps down several gallons or more.
Not the one who manages with luck his duels,

Nor in whose heart no fear of enemy dwells.
Not he whose arm is stronger or can withstand blows,

Not he who can endure considerable woes.
But the one who bore bravely Fortune's punishment

Or disappointments and who never underwent
Any change at all in good days or in distress,

Him I call a man and thank for his manliness.

Translated by Michael J. Mikoś

Text: Sokołowska, Jadwiga. I w odmianach czasu smak jest. Antologia polskiej poezji epoki baroku. Warszawa: PIW, 1990.

And the following gem by a father figure of sorts, Jan Kochanowski


You'll find here good trifles, also fair, and worthless,
Walls are not always built with the finest substance.
They put redder brick and dressed stone on the outside,
Broken pieces and cast off rubble go inside.

Translated by Michael J. Mikoś

Friday, December 09, 2005

Back to basics

Never a dull moment with this President, is there? The man is a bundle of contradictions and partially representative of the kind of a society—and the global polity—we’re forced to contend with today.

I don’t really know where to start! I have been trying to find and check the actual text of his speech before finally reacting. As stated before on a more personal note, I would be impatient with holocaust revisionism. But about one part of his speech there can be no doubt:

"Let's give some land to the Zionists in Europe or in Germany or Austria, so they can have their government there," he said. "They faced injustice in Europe, so why do the repercussions fall on the Palestinians? Offer a piece of land from Europe, and we will back this decision and will not attack this government."

What is articulated here pose a number of difficulties for me.

Above and foremost, in so far as he is a thinking man and a political activist, I would expect from him to engage more seriously with a crucial moment in the history of the Twentieth century regardless of his feelings for Israel, Israeli policies or Palestinian suffering or, for that matter, his dislike for reading.

A group of people who had been marginalized in ghettoes are emancipated and within a short span of time successfully assimilate in the life of a country they have called home. The very same liberal country—the land of Goethe, mind you-- attempts then to put an end to their existence. All of them!

That he can be indecent and so utterly clueless about his repulsively cavalier attitude is, of course, typical for Presidents of a Republic who have presided over a society unwilling and unable to integrate with an open mind and open arms millions of our Afghan denizens who have tolerated living in Iran, toiling and contributing to the routine functioning of the society without much of any rights, least of all respect or proper access to schooling for their children or medical benefits.

And also typical of a regime which has persistently abused the various different ethnic groups that have historically shared the Iranian plateau. Typical, I say, but not easy to overlook or forgive.

Second, as the President of Iran, he is expected a minimal measure of familiarity with Iranian history. Substantive aspects of that history have been preserved, although it continues to be ignored, unexplored and inaccessible, thanks to the collective memory of the Jewish communities whose presence in that region dates from antiquity.

That place is and remains their home. Perhaps the Israelis—much like the rest of us—should be encouraged/learn to be better, more humane neighbours. But it is not Mr. Ahmadi-Nejad’s business to play the role of a disgruntled landlord. No one elected him to that position.

Third, in so far as he is the President and thus partially responsible for the supposed national security of Iranian peoples, he must be expected to be attentive to the history of other nations Iran shares the region with. As long as any of us—and particularly those in power—remain oblivious to those traumatizing re-formative moments in other nations’ self-consciousness, there can be no hope of civil coexistence.

This does not bode well for Iran or the region.

I am increasingly more alarmed at the very real prospect of a brutal, ruinous exchange between Iran-Israel-US, involving conventional and/or chemical, nuclear weapons. And I have no clue how this impending catastrophe could be averted. There are certain factions with strong taste for blood now, and they have proven ruthless and unyielding.

Mr. Ahmadi Nejad, I should add, represents a highly dangerous, authoritarian tendency within Iranian establishment which has become even more deadly by freely appropriating from a particularly odious and dangerous strand of American political thought. And this is not the first time Iranian intelligentsia in power have tried flirting with American “creativity.”

The last time our sycophants became mesmerised by the scents of money and power, they anchored themselves in their understanding of what Mr. Huntington had to offer which resulted in the emergence from above of a proto fascist movement –Rastakhiz or Resurrection and the formation of one party rule with disastrous consequences which we’ve all had to deal with since.

What we’ve got now—and I mean the Iranian nation, our neighbours and the broader global community—with this witches brew of nativist authoritarianism, Shi’ia theology, Mr. Huntington’s creative profundities and a bit of second hand Carl Schmitt from-god-knows-where, coupled with belligerent adventurism of foreign powers--is what a nice lady once described long ago as the “devil’s cauldron.”

Of one thing, though, I am absolutely certain. Beelzebub will be the inevitable, undisputed winner of any future conflict in that region.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

News the good news peddlers love to ignore

No one was cursed, clubbed, lynched, mobbed, chased, bombed, and I guess that accounts for lack of much interest anywhere in a recently reported contact between delegations from Israel and Iran in Tunis:

Normally the two enemy states are separated by over 1,500 kilometers, loads of vitriol and, recently, threats and counter-threats in Persian and Hebrew.

But in the football-field-sized space, where 18,000 participants at the UN summit milled between hundreds of exhibition booths, barely 12 short steps separated the delegations of Iran and Israel. Members of both delegations could not stem their curiosity about the other and visits began one by one.

Read the rest of this Jerusalem Post report, Israeli-Iranian encounter a ‘dream’
(via Payvand)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hawks and Doves

Not a particularly peaceful week, is it? A plane full of journalists hit a building in Tehran earlier. Some pictures here and here. There is, as always, much gloating amongst the self proclaimed proponents of “culture of life” and “civilization” here and here and here and here and here and here and here, but a few examples.

How many morons, do you think, officially constitute a dancing horde?

And we also have more carnage in Iraq on top of what transpired in a busy Natanya mall and its aftermath a short while ago.

Our friend Irina’ anguished fury got me thinking about how gradually we all have been transforming into hawks and doves.

And this not solely in the conventionally understood sense of those terms. Recall the poignant Homeric simile (book 22) of a few posts down with Achilles chasing a petrified Hector:

Just as a mountain falcon, the fastest creature
of all the ones which fly, swoops down easily
on a trembling pigeon as it darts off in fear,

the hawk speeding after it with piercing cries,
heart driving it to seize the prey—in just that way
Achilles in his fury raced ahead.

The image is powerful and moving. The duo also appears in my other favorite, the Book of Job. This is still the roar of the Almighty:

26: Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?
27: Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?
28: She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place.
29: From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off.
30: Her young ones also suck up blood: and where the slain are, there is she.

And so we continue tonight with our gesture of atonement aimed at our Hindu Deities. What we have here is an ancient parable, beautiful as it is profound. From the Mahabharata, tale of King Sivi, hawk and dove:

"Markandeya said, 'One day it was resolved by the gods that they should descend on the earth and try the goodness and virtue of king Sivi, the son of Usinara. And addressing each other,--'Well'--Agni and Indra came to the earth. And Agni took the form of a pigeon flying away from Indra who pursued him in the form of a hawk, and that pigeon fell upon the lap of king Sivi who was seated on an excellent seat. And the priest thereupon addressing the king said, 'Afraid of the hawk and desirous of saving its life, this pigeon hath come to thee for safety. The learned have said that the falling of a pigeon upon one's body forebodeth a great danger. Let the king that understands omens give away wealth for saving himself from the danger indicated.' And the pigeon also addressed the king and said, 'Afraid of the hawk and desirous of saving my life I have come to thee for protection. I am a Muni. Having assumed the form of a pigeon, I come to thee as a seeker of thy protection. Indeed, I seek thee as my life. Know me as one possessed of Vedic lore, as one leading the Brahmacharya mode of life, as one possessed also of self-controland ascetic virtues. And know me further as one that has never spoken disagreeably unto his preceptor, as one possessed of every virtue indeed, as one that is sinless. I repeat the Vedas, I know their prosody; indeed, I have studied all the Vedas letter by letter. I am not a pigeon. Oh, do not yield me up to the hawk. The giving up of a learned and pure Brahmana can never be a good gift.' And after the pigeon said so, the hawk addressed the king, and said, 'Creatures do not come into the world in the same particular order. In the order of creation, thou mayst, in a former birth, have been begotten by this pigeon. It is not proper for thee, O king, to interfere with my food by protecting this pigeon (even though he might have been thy father).' And thus addressed, the king said, 'Hath any one, before this, seen birds thus speak the pure speech of man? Knowing what this pigeon sayeth, and this hawk also, how can we act to-day according to virtue? He that giveth up an affrighted creature seeking protection, unto its foe, doth not obtain protection when he is in need of it himself. Indeed, the very clouds do not shower rain seasonably for him, and the seeds though scattered do not grow for him. He that giveth up an afflicted creature seeking protection unto its foe, hath to see his offspring die in childhood. The ancestor of such a person can never dwell in heaven; indeed, the very gods decline to accept the libations of clarified butter poured by him into the fire. He that giveth up an affrighted creature seeking protection, unto its foe, is struck with the thunder-bolt by the gods with Indra at their head. The food that he eateth is unsanctified, and he, of a narrow soul, falleth from heaven very soon. O hawk, let the people of the Sivi tribe place before thee a bull cooked with rice instead of this pigeon. And let them also carry to the place where thou livest in joy, meat in abundance.' And hearing this, the hawk said, 'O king, I do not ask for a bull, nor, indeed, any other meat, nor meat more in quantity than that of this pigeon. It hath been given to me by the gods. The creature, therefore, is my food today in consequence of its death that hath been ordained. Therefore, O monarch, give it up to me.' Thus addressed by the hawk, the king said, 'Let my men see and carefully carry the bull to thee with every limb entire. Let that bull be the ransom of this creature afflicted with fright and let it be carried to thee before my eyes. Oh, slay not this pigeon! I will yield up my very life, yet I would not give up this pigeon. Dost thou not know, O hawk, that this creature looketh like a sacrifice with the Soma juice? O blessed one, cease to take so much trouble for it. I cannot, by any means, yield up the pigeon to thee. Or, O hawk, if it pleases thee, command me to do some such thing which I may do for thee, which may be agreeable to thee, and upon doing which the men of the Sivi tribe may yet in joy bless me in terms of applause. I promise thee that I will do what thou mayst did me do.' And at this appeal of the king, the hawk said, 'O king, if thou givest me as much flesh as would be equal to the weight of the pigeon, cutting it off thy right thigh; then can the pigeon be properly saved by thee; then wouldst thou do what would be agreeable to me and what the men of the Sivi tribe would speak of in terms of praise.' And the king agreed to this and he cut off a piece of flesh from his right thigh and weighed it against the pigeon. But the pigeon weighed heavier. And thereupon the king cut off another piece of his flesh, but the pigeon still weighed heavier, and then the king cut off pieces of flesh from all parts of his body and placed them on the scale. But the pigeon still weighed heavier, and then the king himself ascended the scale and he felt no grief at this and beholding this, the hawk disappeared there saying--(The pigeon hath been) Saved,--And the king asked the pigeon saying, 'O pigeon, let the Sivis know who the hawk is. None but the lord of the universe could do as he did. O Holy One, answer thou this question of mine!' And the pigeon then said, 'I am the smoke-bannered Agni called also Vaiswanara. The hawk is none other than Sachi's lord armed with the thunder-bolt. O son of Suratha, thou art a bull among men. We came to try thee. These pieces of flesh, O king, that thou hast cut off with thy sword from thy body for saving me have caused gashes in thy body. I will make these marks auspicious and handsome and they will be of the colour of gold and emit a sweet perfume, and earning great fame and respected by the gods and the Rishis thou shall long rule these subjects of thine, and a son will spring from thy flank who shall be called Kapataroman. O king, thou shalt obtain this son of the name of Kapataroman from out of thy own body and thou wilt behold him become the foremost of the Saurathas, blazing with renown, possessed of bravery and great personal beauty!"

Sunday, December 04, 2005

King Yudhishthira and his dog!

I have been thinking that I should offer some gesture of atonement for the nastiness I was responsible for in that series of role play posts about the purportedly inevitable culture wars. Think of it as my attempt to propitiate Hindu Deities although, I am convinced they would know better than to think me so really presumptuous; Better safe than sorry, though!

This post and the next, then, will deal with a couple of my favorite sections of the Mahabharata.

I have elected to reproduce the following story partly because of this report of a weeping dog in a journey of pilgrimage to the shrine of the (8th Shi’ia) Imam Reza recently in Mashad.

These noble and much abused creatures have every right to be supplicating given their atrocious mistreatment in Iran today.

So I think we should read very carefully a beautiful and poignant tale from India about a just and upright King that refuses to abandon his devoted dog even when told “there is no place in heaven for a man with dogs!”

From the Mahabharat 17 in this Sacred Books of the East version:

Vaishampayana said: "Then Shakra, causing the firmament and the Earth to be filled by a loud sound, came to the son of Pritha on a car and asked him to ascend it. Beholding his brothers fallen on the Earth, king Yudhishthira the just said unto that deity of a 1,000 eyes these words: ‘My brothers have all dropped down here. They must go with me. Without them by me I do not wish to go to Heaven, O lord of all the deities. The delicate princess (Draupadi) deserving of every comfort, O Purandara, should go with us. It behoveth thee to permit this.’

"Shakra said, ‘Thou shalt behold thy brothers in Heaven. They have reached it before thee. Indeed, thou shalt see all of them there, with Krishna. Do not yield to grief, O chief of the Bharatas. Having cast off their human bodies they have gone there, O chief of Bharata’s race. As regards thee, it is ordained that thou shalt go thither in this very body of thine.’

"Yudhishthira said, ‘This dog, O lord of the Past and the Present, is exceedingly devoted to me. He should go with me. My heart is full of compassion for him.’

"Shakra said, ‘Immortality and a condition equal to mine, O king, prosperity extending in all directions, and high success, and all the felicities of Heaven, thou hast won today. Do thou cast off this dog. In this there will be no cruelty.’

"Yudhishthira said, ‘O thou of a 1,000 eyes. O thou that art of righteous behaviour, it is exceedingly difficult for one that is of righteous behaviour to perpetrate an act that is unrighteous. I do not desire that union with prosperity for which I shall have to cast off one that is devoted to me.’

"Indra said, ‘There is no place in Heaven for persons with dogs. Besides, the (deities called) Krodhavasas take away all the merits of such persons. Reflecting on this, act, O king Yudhishthira the just. Do thou abandon this dog. There is no cruelty in this.’

"Yudhishthira said, ‘It has been said that the abandonment of one that is devoted is infinitely sinful. It is equal to the sin that one incurs by slaying a Brahmana. Hence, O great Indra, I shall not abandon this dog today from desire of my happiness. Even this is my vow steadily pursued, that I never give up a person that is terrified, nor one that is devoted to me, nor one that seeks my protection, saying that he is destitute, nor one that is afflicted, nor one that has come to me, nor one that is weak in protecting oneself, nor one that is solicitous of life. I shall never give up such a one till my own life is at an end.’

"Indra said, ‘Whatever gifts, or sacrifices spread out, or libations poured on the sacred fire, are seen by a dog, are taken away by the Krodhavasas. Do thou, therefore, abandon this dog. By abandoning this dog thou wilt attain to the region of the deities. Having abandoned thy brothers and Krishna, thou hast, O hero, acquired a region of felicity by thy own deeds. Why art thou so stupefied? Thou hast renounced everything. Why then dost thou not renounce this dog?’ "Yudhishthira said, ‘This is well known in all the worlds that there is neither friendship nor enmity with those that are dead. When my brothers and Krishna died, I was unable to revive them. Hence it was that I abandoned them. I did not, however, abandon them as long as they were alive. To frighten one that has sought protection, the slaying of a woman, the theft of what belongs to a Brahmana, and injuring a friend, each of these four, O Shakra, is I think equal to the abandonment of one that is devoted.’"

Vaishampayana continued: "Hearing these words of king Yudhishthira the just, (the dog became transformed into) the deity of Righteousness, who, well pleased, said these words unto him in a sweet voice fraught with praise.

"Dharma said: ‘Thou art well born, O king of kings, and possessed of the intelligence and the good conduct of Pandu. Thou hast compassion for all creatures, O Bharata, of which this is a bright example. Formerly, O son, thou wert once examined by me in the woods of Dwaita, where thy brothers of great prowess met with (an appearance of) death. Disregarding both thy brothers Bhima and Arjuna, thou didst wish for the revival of Nakula from thy desire of doing good to thy (step-) mother. On the present occasion, thinking the dog to be devoted to thee, thou hast renounced the very car of the celestials instead of renouncing him. Hence. O king, there is no one in Heaven that is equal to thee. Hence, O Bharata, regions of inexhaustible felicity are thine. Thou hast won them, O chief of the Bharatas, and thine is a celestial and high goal.’"

Vaishampayana continued: "Then Dharma, and Shakra, and the Maruts, and the Ashvinis, and other deities, and the celestial Rishis, causing Yudhishthira to ascend on a car, proceeded to Heaven. Those beings crowned with success and capable of going everywhere at will, rode their respective cars. King Yudhishthira, that perpetuator of Kuru’s race, riding on that car, ascended quickly, causing the entire welkin to blaze with his effulgence. Then Narada, that foremost of all speakers, endued with penances, and conversant with all the worlds, from amidst that concourse of deities, said these words: ‘All those royal sages that are here have their achievements transcended by those of Yudhishthira. Covering all the worlds by his fame and splendour and by his wealth of conduct, he has attained to Heaven in his own (human) body. None else than the son of Pandu has been heard to achieve this.’

Perhaps in some other post, we’ll do some comparing of various “cars” and chariots, here, and in Herodotus and Ezekiel 1 and 10. My witty and intelligent friend who so graciously—albeit begrudgingly, tolerated appearing as demi-villain in my posts on India has a beautiful picture of one such chariot on his blog.

For today, let’s continue focusing on dogs.

I really don’t understand what might account for the miserable state of dogs in “Islamic” societies. I have tried searching the Koran on a number of occasions and there are no more than 6 or 7 references I have accounted for to dog, and none too terribly negative.

I am sure the Iranian dogs in particular, are plenty peeved with their lowly status given the exalted position of their ancestors in Pre-Islamic times. The formula “men and dogs” is a constant in some of the older texts.

I invite the more curious among you to read Faragard 13 The Dogs in this Ancient Book of Vandidad. Note as well the interplay of dogs and Druj Nasu in the sections regarding Purity Laws.

My friend, AMT recently offered her observations on the treatment of animals although I couldn’t find all of the ones I remembered reading.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The face of radical evil

Quite a few years ago, while checking into some hotel before attending meetings, friends and I were jovially discussing the safety of walking around downtown area of a large port city late at nights.

As I finished telling them that having perambulated the area many times in the past at all different ungodly hours, not once had I come to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, the wickedly witty receptionist holding my ID and giving me the room key--as if to express her dissatisfaction with our exchange--said lightheartedly, “no offense but look at this picture. You look evil!” Or something like that.

I have thought of her a few times recently because of this latest change in my scenery. As I’ve hinted, I came out for air not knowing when I would return again to the heartland of evil and it looks like I might be staying for a while. It had been some years since I last roamed a big American city.

Residing in yet another new milieu and trying to absorb new sounds, sights and smells, I now meander amongst the wanderers, drifters and vagabonds while searching for work. Mr. BP is a nomad at heart and finds it easier to adjust starting at the fringes regardless of the city, country or the continent he finds himself in.

What choice do I have…but a mere vessel?

So I could imagine how--now a bit more aged and in the middle of this endless war-- our kindly presence might evoke for some that petrifying face of radical evil. How could it not?

Yet another enemy within lurking to strike the unsuspecting everywhere, anytime-- especially since I have not as yet settled on a choice of profession.

I might end up being the one charging you for your cup of morning coffee, or the fuel you’ve just pumped in your car. Discussing your latest blood pressure medication with you, or helping you locate the book you search for; or the fellow selling you a nice Oriental rug or some other piece of furniture or drapery.

Even perhaps someone who corrupts the mind of the young best kept under surveillance or the one mowing your lawn, and delivering your morning paper or serving you food in those conferences some of you attend in order to map out strategy and tactic essential to extending civilization to the uncivilized or denying insurance to the uninsured. Or your stockbroker, banker or realtor.

And perhaps even the fellow who works with a team improving the programming on the computers that keep our lives connected or some one in a factory that manufactures the latest high-tech gadgets. And the one discussing some paintings in a gallery or sitting next to you on a bus, train or some Tchaikovsky concert.

It might get terribly traumatizing for some, I suspect.

But not to worry! Mr. BP has made empathy the cornerstone of his being in the world. I promise: no sudden movements. It’s all about learning and negotiating, I think. Gentle but firm.

I know that even in his native land, not very many people found BP likable. He is used to being undesirable and has developed a thick skin. So, a mere dislike alone won’t be held against anyone. Although, some of the more pointed rhetoric about immigrants and assimilation will be tested in practice persistently.

Hot air inevitably rises above and BP never hesitates in point to it, albeit in the most civil manner possible.

For you see, I am a firm believer in integration. When in Rome, live as the Romans, my motto here. But I won’t see myself hailing the Caesar anytime soon! Think of me as a classic poster boy for immigration control, if you must. But your friendly blogger won’t be easily deterred. Massive movement of people in search of greener pastures has been part and parcel of life since time immemorial. And I rather love and thrive in heterogeneity.

It appeals to my sensibilities, both aesthetic and intellectual. I know multi-ethnic societies can pose challenges. But to me, it is the most interesting and viable model of life long-term. It facilitates growth. And it has been under assault --especially lately.

Both militarily and paradigmatically! 9/11 was not exclusively an attack on the symbols of American power. To me, it represented the latest chapter of an ongoing saga—a methodic intensification of the process of dismantling the very fabric of life most dear to me.

From Sarajevo, to Baghdad, Mosul, Tehran, London and now Paris, multi-ethnic societies and multiculturalism has become what so many aspire to destroy. And using almost identical language to boot! Politics makes for strangest of bedfellows.

And some things are worth fighting for tooth and nail. Now, over the years, I have been fortunate enough to have crossed paths with many intelligent, good natured souls of different ethnic / religious backgrounds who have mostly helped guide me in understanding the virtues of multiplicity.

A most generous and patient set of companions-in-thinking who have taken upon themselves the thankless task of confronting my provincialism while putting up with those inevitable stupid, hurtful comments, as I attempted to navigate my way in an alien milieu. They patiently worked with me--educating me to comprehend why it is and how it might be that approaching an issue in certain ways might ultimately be fruitless and destructive.

Sometimes I didn’t mean what I said but had inadvertently touched some festering wounds the depth of which I’d never thought about fully before or worst yet, I meant exactly what I said and didn’t know any better.

Through their persistence, gentility and care, they thus contributed to my understanding of how imperative it is to converse—as honestly, forcefully and forthrightly as possible, and yet civilly-- about our common predicaments.

And if at all possible, to do so without hurling insults or making one’s interlocutors feel too terribly obnoxious and most importantly, without needlessly offending sensibilities or antagonizing aimlessly.

It is all about exploring, mutual learning and transformation, to me. Exciting opportunity for many eye-opening encounters, really! It can occasionally get terribly annoying and painful. But there are no easy outs in life.

And the Political as that collective endeavor to open up space for a more expansive horizon of possibilities.

On some other fronts, during the silence of the past few weeks and much to my chagrin, I have now definitively concluded that this blog is not exactly one of the central pillars holding our universe together.

The German press, as steadily as ever, contributes to the increased awareness of the difficulties of the Iranian Blogistan while kindly sending more readers my way-- thus making me feel even more atrocious about having missed opportunities to study German.

Otherwise, life has continued pretty much as it has always without much of any help from the BP.

Mr. Ahamadi Nejad is now claiming a mystical experience of sorts while at the UN. Thousands have been flocking to see a meditating boy and hoping to rediscover a reincarnated Buddha. And the Vatican has also been seeking signs of a miracle or two.

The Rapture Index for today stands at 154, a net change of -2.