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.

No comments: