Thursday, March 31, 2005

In Memoriam

Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo
December 3,1963- March 31, 2005

To Posterior

Indeed I live in the dark ages!
A guileless word is an absurdity. A smooth forehead betokens
A hard heart. He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.

Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
And he who walks calmly across the street,
Is he not out of reach of his friends
In trouble?

It is true: I earn my living
But, believe me, it is only an accident.
Nothing that I do entitles me to eat my fill.
By chance I was spared. (If my luck leaves me
I am lost.)

They tell me: eat and drink. Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink
When my food is snatched from the hungry
And my glass of water belongs to the thirsty?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would gladly be wise.
The old books tell us what wisdom is:
Avoid the strife of the world
Live out your little time
Fearing no one
Using no violence
Returning good for evil --Not fulfillment of desire
but forgetfulness
Passes for wisdom.
I can do none of this:
Indeed I live in the dark ages!


I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger ruled.
I came among men in a time of uprising
And I revolted with them.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

I ate my food between massacres.
The shadow of murder lay upon my sleep.
And when I loved, I loved with indifference.
I looked upon nature with impatience.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.

In my time streets led to the quicksand.
Speech betrayed me to the slaughterer.
There was little I could do. But without me
The rulers would have been more secure. This was my hope.
So the time passed away
Which on earth was given me.


You, who shall emerge from the flood
In which we are sinking,
Think --
When you speak of our weaknesses,
Also of the dark time
That brought them forth.

For we went, changing our country more often than our shoes.
In the class war, despairing
When there was only injustice and no resistance.

For we knew only too well:
Even the hatred of squalor
Makes the brow grow stern.
Even anger against injustice
Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we
Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
Could not ourselves be kind

But you,
when at last it comes to pass
That man can help his fellow man,
Do no judge us
Too harshly.

Bertolt Brecht

translated by H. R. Hays

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Ministry of Justice!

I'll be back soon with a note on the recent soccer riots. In the meanwhile, do check out this new book by a courageous, smart woman writer (and adorable to boot)--an attorney living in America.

A touching story of the struggles of a brave and loving Iranian family and their post revolutionary tribulations across half the globe. (links via Payvand.)

Another slightly edited repost from January 2004.


Visiting the Ministry of Justice in Iran is roughly akin to visiting the Ministry of Inter-Planetary Explorations in the Burkina-Faso, with the difference that I bet Ouagadougou would evoke more exotic images than the polluted, overcrowded Tehran. And so I wonder, always wonder how we have come to create such a monstrosity.

I tell myself in my more exuberant moments that if the Government were to limit its reach; if it were to somehow stop its extra-judicial activities, and if it were to lighten up and to re-evaluate the efficacy of its (failing) efforts to regulate what people can drink, wear, say or do: or with whom we may or may not associate and for what purpose, then perhaps, in due time, we the people would reciprocate by developing more of a respect for the laws and maybe-- just maybe, we would occasionally then be persuaded to observe them.

In a more open and tolerant milieu, I tell myself, it might be possible to set about seriously debating the nature of the laws and of justice, and then perhaps, we might succeed in reframing them in a manner that would make our own Ministry of Justice less of an oxymoron.

But, even then, I can’t be all that optimistic. After all, rules, principles, procedures, customs and authority –these are always contestable and contested, as they should be. There would be no social progress otherwise.

But it is one thing to agree to the need to follow them while attempting to institute change—regardless of how loudly, acrimoniously, and disorderedly we set about our task, and it is quite another never to like or follow that which even remotely resembles a “rule.”

And that, my friends, is the paradox of living in a society that attempts to regulate conduct on way too many fronts. It creates the illusion that an individual is right and courageous every time he decides to break the laws and to defy the authorities. Is there a single traffic ordinance that is not broken a million times a day here? And I suppose, traffic laws too are corrupt and corrupting!

And more sadly, such a society-- a society that tries to subsume what should by all accounts be simple private moments-- creates the fantasy that one is gallant putting a handful of goop in his hair, or that he is some embodiment of audacity playing the latest techno song loudly, and obnoxiously in his car as he drives passed other people’s houses way after midnight.

An authoritarian society allows us to play “revolutionary” by ignoring regulations and by cheating the "central power” each time we encounter a code of conduct not to our liking, and it permits us to ultimately bribe, and to corrupt the enforcers of the codes--the irony being we consistently pretend to be the aggrieved party without so much as a blink.

Ultimately though, our closed society allows us always to feel self-righteous pursuing every insignificant, petty ambition and passing craving without the slightest degree of self-reflection and with no consideration whatsoever for any of the social obligations and the duties inherent in the concept citizenship.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Nice ideas

A few more days and I'll be back to my routine. In the meanwhile, here is an interview with the Brooding Persian Nema posted on his fine blog Iranian Truth. He is planning a series involving different Iranian Bloggers with Pejman Yousefzadeh and Sima Shakhsari coming up soon. Nice idea and many thanks to Nema for his efforts.

Speaking of nice ideas, a while back Reza Nasir proposed to have folk change the name of their blogs to "Hands off Iran" on the 19th of March to signal their opposition to military intervention in their country. Obviously I've missed the actionable. But here is N's updated list of those who participated.

And the reasons why I think military intervention in Iran might be disastrous long term.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The amazing wondrous enigma

I'll be back soon. Another repost from last April.

The ancient civilization of ours occupies a region that is simply stunning in its diversity.

With the largest lake--the Caspian to the North surrounded by lush jungles, colorful pastures and farm lands and the Gulf to the South and an amazing number of rivers, water falls, and expansive Marsh lands, Iran can be quite wondrous.

Whether you watch a sunrise in a high place of your choosing atop the vast Mountain chain of Zagros, or gaze at the midnight sky in a location close to one of our two large Deserts, the experience is bound to leave an indelible mark.

You will sense it almost possible to touch the stars, the moon or the sun.

Counting the shooting stars can become addictive, you know. Besides, climbing mountains or exploring caves and watching endless rows of date trees, palms or pines and violet orchards can be infinitely more preferable to dealing with nasty, obnoxious, money obsessed folk in this purported spiritual land.

The Iranian Plateau is visually sublime. Our ancestors had a knack for choosing beautiful peaks, valleys, and meadows to settle in. Unfortunately, however, we have not been as discerning in recent times in our entanglements with Nature.

So the cities that masquerade as the official faces of our culture are either devoid of character altogether or just a nasty collection of kitsch architecture.

The ostentatious abodes of the nouveau riche can be quite taxing at times-- especially since they are mostly built after what is left of our shrinking jungles are cleared to make room for these occasional weekend getaways.

Our national heritage, it seems, is also being systematically devastated by looters. Go here and use the search engine to see what happened at Jeraft. There is a vast network of smugglers slowly stealing artifacts and selling them abroad.

Every once in a while someone gets caught, but I must admit, I had no clue this was such a systematic effort, so sophisticated, well organized, financed and armed. What the future may hold is more of an enigma for me today than in the years past.

I am becoming more convinced everyday that what we need here is freedom, freedom, freedom, and more freedom. It will get terribly nasty and our society may not really recover for a long time.

It is a gamble for sure. For an authoritarian and religious society, ours is one of the most lawless and appetite driven already. People have a fetish for things and don’t mind doing whatever it takes to get what they want.

Ours is the land of the silly expectations and so I often wonder if any regime can really deliver to what we think we deserve. That said, I am convincing myself that there is no escaping the inevitable remedy.

A regime whose scruffy reach is limited to bare essentials might disappoint a majority of our entitled population, but it might offer us a chance to pause, to breathe, to learn to cooperate, and to rediscover inquisitiveness, and the joys of wonder and of discovery again.

Perhaps then, we might begin to understand that life offers great many more possibilities beyond the chance to babble incessantly, perambulate inebriated/smoke opium/do drugs, abuse others, and crave inane accumulation of objects at whatever cost.


In an informative, poignant Haaretz piece about our revered ancient Queen Esther said to be buried in the shrine in Hamadan (name derived from Persian astaar, star), scholar and writer Haideh Sahim wonders, "who will take care of our Esther?"

A very good question indeed! (link via payvand)

I am falling progressively more behind in readings which is probably why I missed Emily's witty, irreverent, soigné treatment of another one of our legendary heroes, Rostam-- one of my favorites and an inseparable companion since childhood.

Damned multiculturalism! As if we really needed one more mischievous fiend fiddling with our Pre-Islamic legends. Oh well, collision over heroes it is then and culture wars. One good turn deserves another, don't you agree? Evil Asad on various American comic superheroes.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Happy New Year

From the Brooding Persian to one and all! Posted by Hello

May all nomads discover what they seek.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Listen to your Allergies

Curmudgeonly, Prak, might mean internalizing this to enkindle rather than jumping it. But hey, some frolic still left in this body-- so I too hopped a little Posted by Hello

Housecleaning continues. Found again a piece I did for the a couple of years ago. It passes the (do I still like it) test:

Even if you have not read a word of Shakespeare, chances are that in this day and age, you have probably seen a movie rendition of the "Romeo and Juliet." In a scene as poignant as it is profound, Juliet wonders -- perched as she is on a balcony -- "what's in a name" for "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" or as miasmic, and as deadly if, that is, you happen to suffer from a particularly acute form of an allergy.

Allergy is a disease. It discombobulates, disorients and numbs you. Your sense of normalcy is the first casualty of an allergy. It wreaks havoc on your expectations of the universe. It forces you to re-evaluate your presence in the world. In short, an allergy gets to you in ways that even Socrates, in all his eloquence and persistence, fails to do. Note that while Socrates was killed trying to make us understand that "an unexamined life is not worth living," an allergy will kill if one were to ignore the warning signs. With an allergy one's life is in peril. Bluntly put: your life will terminate if you do not examine the way you live.

Juliet's anxiety stems in part from the contradiction between a name and the reality it represents. Historical enmity between the Capulet and Montague families is an impediment to the desires unfolding in Juliet's body for a reality embodied by Romeo the lover. Juliet wonders: "what is Montague, it's not a hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man...tis his name that is Juliet's enemy."

Now, allergy is widely understood as a reaction caused by the mistaken perception of the body that an otherwise harmless substance is a threat. Once your mind perceives a substance as an invading allergen, then, the immune system tries to eliminate it in a process that makes life a living hell. Either the mind "suspects" and torments the body or the body "knows" and re-educates the mind.

The first reaction might be psychosomatic but it is no less real. What the mind thinks, the body acts on. Allergy is life writ large. Our reaction to a given "reality" -- our perception of it -- is very much linked to what that reality is named. Whether it is called Romeo or a Montague, liberty or licentiousness, a daisy cutter or an incinerator of human flesh, a martyr or a thug blowing up innocent kids, veal parmesan or butchered and mostly burned baby calf toped by her mother's milk -- names will have a lot to do with how we come to perceive a reality embodied.

So what exactly is in a name? Quite a lot actually. The development of a civilization, and her stability, literally hinges on her naming convention. The Chinese were astute enough to have observed the importance of this "name game." They called it the doctrine of the "rectification of names," many centuries ago. Confucius, in the Analects, notes the problem thus:

...if language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.

But with allergy, just as in life, nothing is that simple. In today's jargon, the life of a sign is such that the signifier and the signified are, in a complex sort of way, intertwined. A civilization, through the efforts of her court intellectuals, might promulgate self deceptive stories, but allergy makes one attentive to the fiction and the nuances. That is the thing about allergy you see.

Allergy pushes the limits of common sense. Out on the fringes of the "normal" experience, allergy dissolves the clear cut mind/body dualism. By further blurring the distinction between the names and the reality they (mis)represent, allergy forces one to become attentive to the ongoing complex power play. In a sense, in allergy the body sometimes revolts against the power of the mind by cutting through the illusions that hold our social lives together. Through allergy, the body comes to share its "wisdom" with the mind.

The body becomes sick when the social body is in turmoil and one is left with actions the possibilities of which the mind is too petrified to fathom. This might be an answer to the riddle of the peculiar symptoms exhibited by our wives, our mothers, our sisters, ourselves or our lovers these days. It might pay to look a tad more carefully into the social constitution of the malady. To make life more tolerable, then it becomes essential to examine the illusions.

Allergy is a force of nature. It is just as real, just as constant, just as powerful, and just as disruptive as a typhoon, a tornado or a blizzard. More so than in other aspects of life, with an allergy one quickly learns that it does not pay to be a hapless victim. One is forced to take charge of one's life. Sure, one consults an assorted army of the "experts," but no one is as familiar or as attentive to one's body and one's needs as oneself. Your local preacher or mullah might make you feel better, but no sense searching the voluminous chapters and verses of the Qoran or the Hadiths to find the authoritative pronouncements and the cures.

One quickly learns to abandon silly ideas about the immediate causes of an allergy. One finally comes to learn about causality. It might just so happen that there are clouds in the sky each time one has an allergy attack. But if one wants to be free of an allergy, one learns that concomitance should not be equated with causality. It might be a mere coincident that one's allergy attacks are coeval with the presence of the clouds. But this assumption too must be put to test. Subsequently, one is forced to learn to reason; to look for real causes, to experiment, to postulate, to form hypotheses, to validate assumptions and to refute.

Popular prejudices won't help one either. One quickly learns that the rehashing of a wide variety of the nauseatingly repulsive gobbledygook won't help restore health. No sense blaming the Global Jewish Conspiracy, the British Intelligence Services, the Bahais, the CIA, the Kremlin, or Paris for your allergies. You must abandon stupidity to be functional again.

And so here we go, as a friend would want, attempting to close the circle. What exactly is in a name after all? Spiritual anguish? Physical torment? The joy of discovery?

One learns in suffering through allergies that there are no easy answers in life. What masquerades as an authoritative pronouncement is often wrong. Experts are helpful, but persistently off the mark. Holy books might make you feel good, but they won't help you find the root causes.

There is no substitute for introspection, for analysis, for the exchange of experiences, for the careful examination of the problems, for an experimental approach to the proposed solutions; or for an open mind and for the freedom of inquiry and for the freedom of action and for the attentiveness to the nuances. Just as in life, our approach could literally spell out the difference between living well and dying.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Festivities, firecrackers

Ancient fire temple,Isfahan Posted by Hello

Shortened Repost from last year + an update

With the Persian New Year approaching fast, there are quite a few firecrackers going off all around everyday. Everyone is in frenzy. Chahar-Shanbe-Souri is a ritual rooted in our Zoroastrian past—with festivities normally held in the evening preceding the last Wednesday of the year. A day we congregate to jump over fire, (now that there are not too many functioning fire temples left) mingle, mutter nonsense and consume loads of food, dried nuts and fruits.

In anticipation, we have had to endure almost a month of loud, indiscriminate explosions—luckily only fire crackers. Sometimes, men on motorcycles use quite a large bundle as they pass crowded streets which they then time (or rather throw) to go off as some women pass by. On one occasion, a young girl simply passed out close by. Quite infuriating and also a raucous.

Can’t be quite certain as to why so many--the much vaunted “burnt generation,” so “Westernized,” “freedom loving,” and forever lamenting the ruling clergy's reign of terror --can’t quite bring themselves to comprehend the banality of frightening unsuspecting pedestrians.

You see it happening everyday as kids walk back from schools. Some nice girl passes by, a few boys and then a loud boom. Think about it, here you are walking home. Of all the things you could be doing—smiling, winking, flirting, passing around phone numbers or emails, seeking a date, complementing a nice eye, having an ice cream—what do you do? You throw a fire cracker to scare the living daylight out of some unfortunate soul…go figure!

So yesterday, having endured 3 hours of loud explosions every 10 to 15 minutes, I simply marched to a neighbor’s yard, cigarette in hand, to have a chat with some 8 year olds. They of course denied responsibility. (But it stopped) And on my way back in the street I ran into a couple of middle aged men --businessmen, pious, conservative, with military background and connections.

They immediately went on the offensive, as we Persians are wont to do, to scold me asserting that while they agreed I had every right to be annoyed, I should simply also stop smoking while I am at it. Then they proceeded to lecture me for about 10 minutes, boasting of how they had turned down a lucrative contract with a foreign firm because a representative had smoked in their office.

I calmly listened, expressed my appreciation for their concern, and respectfully pointed out the difference between controlling the consequences of habits that adversely affect other individuals or their private spaces, and controlling the habits themselves which quite literally might be none of their concern. And that if my explanation weren’t good enough, there are a few towns abroad I knew of which might be more suitable for them and that they should simply just emigrate.

Turning away, I immediately noticed my face stiffening to form a smirk. You know the type when you realize you have done something mischievous and fundamentally improper, yet utterly soothing.

I muttered to myself “how American of us.”

Both what they said --stop smoking if the sound of fire crackers annoys you--and what I said (take a hike) sounded familiar. No wonder Iranians are the only people besides the Israelis in the Middle East who are so enamored of the U.S.

This Year's Update: There were quite a large number of casualties last year, mostly accidents with firecrackers. So this year, there has been a sustained campaign of sorts to warn every one about the dangers just like every other year I suppose. But apparently, it might have had an impact. I don't quite know exactly why, but things have been a lot more subdued and orderly in the weeks leading up to this event.

Relative calm and some peace of mind always a joy, I suppose. If you don't hear from me again, assume I could have accidentally set myself on fire jumping around later this evening.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

«عجایب نا خوش آباد»

از عجایب نا خوش آباد
یک اینست که

وجدان را عصا کرده
عصیان گران را عبوس و آشففته
شماتت می کنند، نعره کشان
که بس!

به عبث یاد می کنید سلحشوران و قدُما را
بنگرید آن کاچول کاجستان
پس فراموش باید کنید تاریخمان را

و می گویند:

چون جرقهء عصیان و حریق طغیان
خانمانسوزمان کرده است
ویران-خانهء جنون زدگان زیتونستان را نیز
فراموش می باید کرد

و لابد

خِرخِر و فغان محنتِ سگان را نیز فراموش باید کرد
از برای آن غلاده،
در دست بی عصمتان، خون تشنگان و نا سگ صفتان

این است پیام امید "نور" به ظلمت؟

کـه فراموش می باید کرد
عشرت-رقصِ ِجنون زدۀ قلدران را
بر بدن لخت و عریان محبوسان

و لابد

بخاطر محبوسان نیز
فراموش باید کرد
ضجۀ سربازان مسلول و کودکان مسموم را

داغ دل ِداغ دیدگان
وبی کسان را نیز
حتمآ فراموش باید کرد

به بی لطفی وجود ناکس و غاشِم

غُرُنبِ مهیب حریق افشان غارغارکهای دیو-غول
را نیز
و غا يلۀ قلندر نمایان فاسق و
قاضیان قداره بند قبیلۀ غَمیس را هم
فراموش می باید کرد

اینست تمام ارمغان پیام ِنظم ِ دوش- مینیوان به سکوت؟

خصم و نَزم
و نافرزانه موهبتِ
سوسوی نزارِ فانوسِِ ِنژنگ ِ همدلی
به نیلگون-گنبد آتش وجدان.
Do forgive, please, my occasional impropriety when I break my rule and post in Farsi, excluding from the conversation my English speaking friends. I am making amends with this afterthought and special apologies to Sue.

This "poem" is in part yet another lament against a paralyzing dilemma.

There is certain logic among Iranians--though not exclusively limited to us, of course--which has somehow bafflingly banished to exile a once fiery conscious.
And even there and especially among some expats, her abode has become not so much the fire temple, but a dimming lantern.

I have come to think it a gradual descent--a most banal, needless degeneration, if you will, which has effectively destroyed our ability to empathize with others (and here is the catch) not in callousness but with the best of intentions and always mindful of suffering.

We have (sadly) transformed effectively Christ's admonition: "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her," into "Don't tell me I can't cast a stone because I have been hit by a rock, and particularly since I caught you once lobbing your own pebble."

Again, as you have repeatedly heard me carp: this attitude grossly and grotesquely pronounced in emphasis to the point of caricature.

And so it has become a life as if lived in jungle with no rules. In war against all, we are also indefatigable in pointing at others' hypocrisy, always cherry picking from past and present, and inattentive to our own conducts.

With all the hustle and bustle of the normal life, and those perpetual obsessions with who has done what to whom, we have become oblivious to the centrality of grappling with rights and wrongs.

La Rochefoucauld is so right when he describes hypocrisy as "the homage vice renders virtue." The sad consequence, of course, of not taking the Frenchman seriously on this is drowning helplessly in the cesspools of our collective indecencies.

"Me, me, me, what about meeeeeeeeeeeee?!"

That's what a (foreign) friend used to kid me about by characterizing our reactions to various events. And so here we have, or have become, citizens who even when occasionally on furlough from the oubliettes of the reigning imbecility, rush nonetheless to shackle Empathy morphing effortlessly into the frantic self-righteous wardens of our own misery.

And that's that is a nutshell.

Friday, March 11, 2005

My advisor, the little mouse!

The following I did a while back shortly after the Beslan calamity-- before the start of the Iranian school year. Written in part for a foreign journal, it was rejected for want of culture specific content. And I didn't want to change it; so for what's it worth, here is my story as is.


“Let me have your sunglasses,” she beseeched me “and you can watch me become a little mouse in a flash.” And right she was. With her lush, black hair covered beneath the mandatory Islamic headscarf, and her large, beautifully expressive eyes masked, all that was left to see was an oblong face. We laughed all the way home from school that day and have since settled on the name, mooshe koochoolu for her—the little mouse.

She is not always such a bundle of joy. In our third meeting while having lunch, she harangued her mother incessantly about her not wanting to head the Parent Teacher Association at school. Quite the tantrum, I thought.

“You should get out of the house more and accept responsibility for our education,” She insisted belligerently. She would cross her eyebrows, roll her eyes and angrily lecture her mother about a parent’s social obligations. Big words coming from such a small creature.

In the afternoon, though—to my amusement, she whispered discreetly: “I don’t know why I become so crazed sometimes!” The real reason for wanting her mother in that position, she then offered, was “to be allowed to get away with being naughty at school.”

That is the thing about my mooshe, you see. While naturally gifted at masking her intentions, she almost always acknowledges why it is she is being a pout. It is uncanny.

She has since become somewhat of “advisor” on children’s affairs for me. And I reciprocate by doing my best to explain adults to her. As a matter of routine, we have simply settled on waiting for her inevitable “revelations,” before having a substantive discussion.

She is in the 4th grade now. She loves learning. She adores school.

The first time she ever entered my house, as I was busy greeting her parents, she got busy sifting through the books stacked on my desk.

She later wanted to know how the Little Prince sounded in French, and what to make of those “weird” Greek Alphabets. The real question she was dancing around all night, though, was whether I had any stories with pretty pictures like the one with the “boa in the hat” to read since she found adult gatherings “very boring!”

Her questions are unending and exhausting.

As there is no succinct, widely used equivalent phrase for “not fair” in the Persian language, her protests about the vagaries of the universe take the form of “why” in rapid succession.

“Why can’t we see God?” “Why are bees such pests?” “Why did my parents not have me before my [older] brother?” “Why can’t kids gamble?” “Why shouldn’t I drive?” “Why can’t I hold up both feet in the air without falling?”

“Now, really why not?”

Her favorite game with me is being an airplane. She lies stomach down on the couch, hands spread, and legs tightly together and after we make the customary “safety” checks—shirt being sufficiently sturdy / soft on her delicate bones and my grip on the seed of her pants behind her knees sufficiently comfortable—we go for a cruise. And she giggles giddily and delightfully.

When properly mischievous, she insists on being a fighter bomber.
With a couple of apples, oranges or other fruits of the season in two hands, we go on a “bombing run,” around the position of his brother’s toys or sometimes even his brother.

I asked her mother to put mooche on the phone one day. “She is sleeping,” her mother replied. “She was throwing up all night and we had to take her to the hospital this morning.” That’s how I found out that my mooshe has a habit of throwing up and crying herself to sleep the night before every one of her father’s frequent flights on business.

A few days ago she told me, “If you are a real friend, break something on my head so I don’t have to start school this year.” I looked at her abnormally sad eyes and her hunched body, and with Beslan so fresh in memory, simply knew we had our work cut out for us.

How to deal with an inquisitive child’s “why” about the events of Beslan? Especially as she was about to start a new school year?

Luckily, she was in no mood to divulge much that day.

My mooshe koochoolu looked hesitant; frightened, less carefree, less audacious, and less inclined to experience excitement, delight and wonder.

She looked quite a bit more grownup that day.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What do I want?

Dan Darling appears to have augmented his previous post with some more of his insights. He poses a question:

In the end…back to Morden's question: "What do you want?"

Tough one. My very long list might include a Just political order. Life free from (unreasonable) fear. A vanishing of the threat of war which has been looming over our heads. A society perhaps which offers citizens maximum opportunities for self realization and fulfillment.. Respect for human dignity, especially in enmity. Getting those who enabled Saddam to gas tens of thousands here to admit for once that they were in the wrong and redress.

A political regime that does not condone or resort to torture nor jails dissidents. Programming free from televised confession of the accused. A citizenry sophisticated enough to urinate away the sort of false national pride which comes with weapons that can incinerate millions in an instant. An end to this particularly blood soaked chapter of Iranian history and as rapid a farewell as possible to this reigning imbecility here, if you know what I mean.

And who knows, perhaps in some happier day soon even a vast network of old fashioned institutions of higher learning all over Iran and if you really think you can help, I personally don't mind a lasting relationship with a brilliant multilingual, cantankerous Spartan of a dominatrix just in case I don't get any of the other things I want.

From you, Dan, I almost got everything I wanted in the shorter version of your post. A simple clarification that you "don't support the practice of televised confessions," no buts, ands, ifs or special cases.

I wished, though, that you could have just left it at that. But, I can appreciate how we all have to write until we feel free of the burden of the unsaid. And we each have our own styles.

Your characterization of mine was pretty. A Jeremiad captures the spirit nicely. I do lament. It has been a while, but if memory serves, doesn't that particular text evoke suffering, national captivity, assassinations, chaos, and exile? Sort of sums things up accurately, don’t you think?

You know Dan, living in a grotesquely patriarchal society; some of us have become rather acutely attentive to some of the practices that perpetuate it. One is not allowing others to emerge from a Patriarch's shadow. The other always accusing people of speaking with someone else's voice.

Your voice merits being heard as your own and it was never my intention to merge yours with Ledeen's. My style of writing doesn't help much, I know. As you rightly observe, I lament—and that about a wide variety of subjects and different people in one sitting. So I can understand the confusion. I am a Brooding Persian after all.

But despite the fact that there has been a marked deterioration of character in Iranian society –something I complain about often enough, and those omnipresent betrayals you rightly allude to—getting your one example wrong of course, we Iranians know a thing or two about friendships and those lasting bounds of affection.

So I can certainly empathize if you feel the fire that compels one to stand up for one's friend. But do be attentive to the demands of truth on friendships:

And there goes the "Ledeen is a monarchist" canard again - and here I thought he was working with the MEK, can't you people make up your minds?

Overlooking the obvious question of which people exactly it is you're asking about, here is Mr. Ledeen from a virtual Q & A session before the invasion of Iraq:

There is a very good Iraqi Government in Exile, the Iraqi National Congress et. al., with a very good leader, Ahmad Chalabi. He has held this leaky ship together for more than a decade, despite repeated betrayals by the United States--Bush the Elder, Clinton, and the State Department always. I believe he'll be, at a minimum, an excellent leader of the transition period (just as I expect Reza Pahlavi will be an excellent leader of the Iranian transition period).

And when you write:

I believe the Brooding Persian is misrepresenting Ledeen's argument (apparently not the first time, as I have read other references in the past suggesting that he thinks that Ledeen envisions himself as some kind of Bremer in Tehran or that he wants to invade Iran, neither of which are, y'know, true). If the Brooding Persian desires to rail against his straw man, I will be more than happy to leave h in peace to do so

The following might be what you are referring to I presume; the first Ledeen's two years ago July, the second mine last June:

In Iran, where treachery has long been the national sport and superstition the bedrock of political analysis, the people are casting runes and reading entrails, searching for certainty about the American strategy. Once they know it, they will act accordingly.

I am beginning to be disappointed with our potential. Gauleiter in Tehran. (Pity though, he prefers Positano So collectively heartbroken we are!) I mean, he is such a sharp fellow, educated, witty and likable. Surely he must by now have developed a measure of familiarity with some features of the dominant Iranian psyche.

Mine is an account of what I had found funny about a three way exchange between Ledeen, Buchanan and Hanson as reported by the Frontpage mag. And I have continued the joke with an occasional reference to Viceroy-in- Waiting as I personally found myself--after greater reflection upon the connotations of the original term—unable to use it in reference to Mr. Ledeen given the historical excess baggage implied.

But details, I am going to assume, are going to be hard to remember accurately, especially for someone who reads as much as you Dan. And I was hoping though, that a fellow reader might appreciate the need for closer textual readings, no matter how off the mark one considers the interpretations.

But that too we'll overlook given the fragmented and contentious nature of our reality today.

What is not so easy to overlook, however, is that urge to simply dismiss all criticisms, no matter how legitimate, of one's friend. No real favor to true friendship, if you ask me.

About the other matters in question, I will have more to say when the spirit moves me. Something having to do with that peculiar quality of Jeremiads, you understand.

Monday, March 07, 2005


Dan Darling responds:

From one self-professed Babylon 5 fan to another, I would hope at the very least you would assume that I had seen "The Illusion of Truth," which featured (among other things) an almost word-for-word account of a HUAC confession. I am quite familiar with the nastier role that televised confessions had played in US and other nations' histories and if you believe that I was attempting to argue for their rehabilitation, you've got the wrong guy
I'll deal with the rest of this later when I have more time, but I want that point (that I do not support the practice of televised confessions) clear

Read the rest of Dan's thoughtful post for further clarifications.

And check out this Payvand collection of background readings on the 1953 coup that brought the deposed Shah to power.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Confessions of the Accused

Here I was-- having promised myself not to further depress anyone -- writing a happy story and I foolishly take a break in order to read an interesting post on Ledeen and wham, my whole day ruined again.

In his post, Praktike urges all "Ledeen associates" to convey some elementary message to Mr. Ledeen, and so out of curiosity I follow the link and being an avid sci-fi enthusiast, I am thinking I should really chastise my friend for his choice of words.

Dan Darling appears way too reasonable, and transparent to be tagged with that term since for me the phrase kindles memories of Shadow associates naturally leading to flashes of these sorts of creatures from Babylon 5.

And then there was this link and, well, just like I said, a whole day subsequently ruined.

I feel so despondent sometimes. I simply can't for the life of me figure out why some will not see how by pushing for certain particularly repulsive practices, they are rapidly and effectively undermining the very structure of a more civilized (and fast disintegrating) reality they so insist we should all emulate here in the Middle East!

Do they not comprehend the contradictory messages they are sending here as a result—and this myopically for some short term political gains?

Doesn't Dan really understand or does he not care about the ramifications of wanting to see the "explosive confessions" that recently aired on the Iraqi TV re-broadcasted in America? We should ask ourselves: is it really, as Dan claims with certain qualifications that he seems to have set aside quickly, "more than appropriate to air the tapes of these captured cretins over here to give the general public a better idea of just who it is that's fighting our troops"?

More pointedly, is the practice of airing those confessions on the Iraqi TV truly a harbinger of a better tomorrow to come?

Is Dan that oblivious to the lessons of history? Is Dan not aware of the historical weight on our collective consciousness of public confessions? Have we so quickly forgotten? Have we learned nothing at all?

Incidentally, how could those who claim to understand this region far better than those who live here (not an entirely undisputable proposition, mind you!) be so inattentive to the symbolism of televised public confessions in our history?

You don't even have to look here. Just look at American's past. Perhaps the example George Anastaplo has set might prove instructive.

Wouldn't we call him principled? The exemplar of integrity proper? How do we then categorize the call for televised public confessions of the accused? Even forced, perhaps? Do we know or care?

They are the accused, aren't they? Have there been any trials? Any Geneva conventions apply at all? Are there any rules a civilized society is bound by?

Sometimes, I feel as though one of the reasons I have grown to so genuinely respect Mr. Hanson despite all of the differences is that he seems to be amongst one of the last remaining honest men in the lot. He never hides his disdain and one intuitively understands that an educator's disdain has everything to do with qualities and conducts.

In Hanson's world view, one either nurtures growth or nurses recovery. Hence even some of his more cantankerous, violent and unattractive conceptualizations—that of politics of disease, cancer, impotence and such, presuppose a sense of identicalness of kind.

Not all the beautifully evocative phrases in the world, on the other hand, are enough to distract from the odious assumption of radical essential differences. And some then appear to be drawing all the wrong conclusions further sinking themselves and this region into an abyss, remaining so hell-bent, of course, on taking what's left of the Western Civilization with them.

And I feel such dread about the consequences.

Look, some of us here have been pulling our hair out trying to figure out what it is exactly we have been doing wrong so at least we don't repeat our past mistakes and thus give ourselves more of a fighting chance for a better future. And yet some out there are just so confident of their simple minded remedies.

Fluttering about like some misery butterfly attracted here one day to the stink of torment and moving on elsewhere the next.

Deedly doo dah! Look there, with Arash in jail, and our conscious in the clear because of that banner on a website--no matter that our propaganda machine appears to have been the one throwing him to the wolves-- let's just move on to the Lebanese, shall we, who are out there in force! Yippee! Proof we were right of course only if we overlook the same desire for full sovereignty so easily vilified any where else on the planet we see fit! And who knows what's next and so yes, Faster please! Go for it Ledeen, ey?

Perpetual adventure at other people's expense. We call it here terribly crudely copulating with the neighbor's organs.

And to reengage some significant insights: the difference between hollow triumphalism , Dear Nadezhda, and railing against the Putty and not feeling euphoric has everything to do with real emotional attachments to the place. Some can move on to saving some three legged, green hermaphroditic Antarctic bug for all they care, and some will still be left dealing with the Putty within and cleaning up or being affected by all the aftereffects of callousness if not outright malice.

Look, if one doesn’t have the luxury of postulating a radically different "them" to begin with; that is, if one starts with a relatively normal "us" who despite all the limitations that might be inherent to the life in a particular geographical, cultural and religious milieu, could sill have ended up with a more agreeable social construct, then figuring out the exact nature of all those wrong detours along the way becomes all the more urgent.

And not repeating the mistakes one knows to have been mistakes yet another.

There is a connection, after all, between history, culture, and the prevailing social mores and customs, our political choices and subsequently that particular regime societies end up with, don't you think?

So forgive some of us for not being moved by the sort of rhetoric which oscillates between a crude demonology one day punctuated by all the silly exaggerated, empty complements and giddy exhortations the next.

Real nasty, weren't they, those Moslem Saudi and Kuwaiti brutes always abusing their foreign Asian maids and other workers? Apoplectic fit one day, and mum's the word the next. Iranian youths as mobs one day and oh so very freedom loving the next.

And just why is that, exactly?

This again another difference due to different intentions. The desire for destabilizing the enemy vs. wanting to build a better future.

Once this regime is gone, some out there could care less what happens here next. No threats equal no interest. No matter how blood soaked the experience, no matter how dysfunctional the society, or how many drug addicts or abused women and children or broken homes and dismembered bodies and tormented souls or blood thirsty miscreants in our midst as a result, some will be simply all too happy to move on tagging all the subsequent developments as the good news the lazy reporters love to ignore.

Mission Accomplished and Next! Wasn't it a mess to begin with and now it is a non-threatening mess, right? Oh, well. That's life.

But suppose we did not want to start with a Ledeen assumption of a radically different "them"-- all the "skullduggery" (his term) in the world not withstanding.

Suppose--unlike Ledeen who seems to start with a notion of Iran (or perhaps even the entire "Islamic" world, who knows?) as a place where "treachery has long been the national sport and superstition the bedrock of political analysis, [with] "people [busy] casting runes and reading entrails"-- we started with the relatively normal beings, well as normal as any human being could get these days, who with the best of intentions and relatively judiciously, had come to settle on a series of measures and conventions which in point of fact ended up exactly where Ledeen seems to have started from to begin with i.e. a land where " treachery has long been the national sport and superstition the bedrock of political analysis, with people casting runes and reading entrails."

Mostly concessions for the sake of argument, of course.

How then to account for the developments? What did we do wrong? Where did we take the wrong turns? What behaviors do we need to alter? And here is where we part company.

You know, I really don't have any interest whatsoever in vilifying Ledeen. I do think though that he is fundamentally wrong in just about everyone of his more significant interventions. I give you an example of one of his more memorable gems that makes me furious each and every time:

We should have encouraged the shah to fight for his throne. Instead, we wrapped ourselves in the mantle of political correctness, warned him about the use of violence, insisted that his troops use rubber bullets, demanded that he permit freedom of assembly… Then, as today, we told ourselves that it was their country, not ours, […] Why should he get his hands dirty by fighting the mobs in the streets?

Just why is it that he doesn't want to understand that what we have here today is the natural outcome of the murderous and inane conduct for upward of twenty five years of the very same man he still wishes he could have seen butcher more of our bravest citizens (mobs, ey?)

Isn't it an absolute irony that he can keep up the charade of being the revolutionary?

We recently had the anniversary of the 79 revolution here. For days the TV was running old documentaries of the era leading to that event. And I, a grown man, found myself crying uncontrollably again.

Such hopes and promises and so much bloodshed and suffering.

And I fully understand that Mr. Ledeen is simply writing about those events and that there are some difference between writing and having acted up. But the images here were infuriating. Even the "simple" stuff.

Old soldiers in full military gear—four star generals to be exact, with all the pomp and rows and rows of medals on their uniforms breaking in half, bending down to kiss the hand of our omniscient little father, "the King of Kings," as he called himself.

Do you not think when the dignity of men so toyed with in public, and when the integrity of officers in uniform and other citizens so reduced just to satisfy the vanities of one incredibly weak, fallible mortal, the ruler to follow would have any qualms staking claim to the souls of his subjects—all equal citizens, no doubt?

If Mr. Ledeen hadn't been so busy facilitating the delivery of cakes and weapons to our ruling clergy some years later, when he was last spreading freedom and liberty Ledeen style in our midst, he might have noticed the long procession of our youth--some no older than what Praktike appears to be now, on Iranian TV, with pictures in newspapers, confessing to their "misconduct," having named names, and recanting their beliefs and supplicating for their lives and begging forgiveness in public for having been the instruments of foreign conspiracies and interventions.

All redux of what was done to some of the bravest soldiers and most dignified the vainglorious "King of Kings" had in his armies--the ones who chose to stay on instead of fleeing with life and money--to face the consequences of their acts. And even this latter itself a redux of what the Shah himself had done to those courageous enough to critique his arbitrary exercise of power when the likes of Amir Taheri were happy enough being the "Emissary of the Apparatus."

But in the 80's, most were mere kids, mind you, innocent, inexperienced in politics and perhaps only briefly flirting with some passing political persuasion after years of authoritarian rule, and subsequently again abused, broken, and confessing to being agent provocateurs!

Just around the same time some of their other classmates were busy killing and being killed in the battlefields of that needlessly protracted war, walking on land mines and later being gassed to death or maimed for ever--in part curtsey of the foreign allies of Saddam.

And all the smug smirks of those who congratulated themselves euphorically on a successful dual containment policy, remember?

Do you know what "Death with Dignity" --Iranian style--came to mean among some activist here and abroad? The right of youth in prime of life to die --a quick death-- on account of their beliefs and political activities without being forced to publicly humiliate themselves, without betraying friends and companions and without being driven insane by torture.

There is a woman I know out there close to where Dan and Praktike might be living, beautiful and sexy and neurotic as hell. A run of the mill immigrant found meandering almost anywhere on our planet these days that might even have annoyed some of you. You would only learn about her demons if you stepped into her bath one day. A dozen or so wash cloths, each for a distinct part of her body. And what, I ask you, might give one that lasting sense of dirt?

So please, spare me the false piety and good riddance!

I ask again: do you intend really to replicate our experiences there? And can you then call yourselves the great liberators employing the same methods our present tormentors are infamous for! And have you seriously reflected upon the consequences for the society you so cherish?

And to belabor the point here again, from day one, in terms of the show trials and public confessions and forced recantations, this regime was following the precedent set for by the "King of Kings"--the compliant ally of the United States, the man Ledeen wanted to see fight for his throne and shoot more of our citizens, and the man whose son, Ahura's buddy Jr., Mr. Ledeen seems to want to peddle here yet again.

From where I am sitting, far from some Wind of Change, the breeze I detect carries the miasma of the same old repulsive dumpster best left untouched.

And I am still not finished with this particular rant. Not just yet anyways.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The kindly, genteel Americans

Some gestures simply prove more meaningful than all the frantic triumphalist flutters of myriad misery butterflies or expensive propaganda campaigns.

Thought I should take a break from further depressing both you and myself by sharing an email exchange which has so delighted me:

Dear Sir,
I hope this finds you feeling well! I was roaming the
net looking for advice-- A lovely Iranian family just
moved into my neighborhood--Someone mentioned you
might be a person who not only understood Iranian
manners/etiquette but could probably advise me about
some things I am confused about.(I so want to make
my neighbors feel welcome). After briefly looking at
your site, I suspect strongly that I was sent to the
wrong place. But maybe you know a good site? Any help
would be deeply appreciated!

Good Evening,

Yours was the sweetest, most genteel, and decent email I have gotten in over two years. Thank you. I am so pleased my expatriates are moving into your neighborhood. Must be an absolute bliss having someone of your caliber next to one's home.

Truth to tell, good manners have never been my forte. I sort of make my own rules as I see fit. But in the older times, when we Iranians were more civil, we would greet the new neighbor with some cake or flowers.

I am assuming, of course, that if the good folk in question have left Iran, they made a conscious choice to leave the old customs behind fully willing to adapt themselves to the prevailing customs in their new community of choice.

In that spirit, what you've done for your other neighbors is more than perfect for the Iranian newcomers. If, however, you intended to take that extra step, just write the following as well on a card:

Be Khaneye Jadid va Hamsayegi ma Khosh Amadid or literally To House New and Neighborhood(neighboring) ours Welcome!

In conclusion, may I reprint your note in my blog, naturally of course deleting your name and address? I'll be grateful for your permission.


Dear H,
I just had the best day I can remember and I owe it
to you. Thank you so much for coming to the rescue!
Yesterday, I had brought a basket of fruit, nuts,
cakes and a bottle of sparkling apple cider to the new
neighbors. An older lady had answered the door, saying
she didn't speak English. I tried to convey through
gesture that I lived nearby and held out the basket.
She looked utterly confused and said "No, thank you."
I was suddenly overcome with the fear that there was a
dietary rule I was unaware of and had included
something inappropriate. I hastily left, feeling
mortified. I obsessed that maybe the sparkling cider
looked alcoholic.

Today I went over, armed with your advice, the
basket and a card with the charming phrase you
provided and left them at the door. Five minutes later
I answered my door to the lady, her daughter-in-law
[N] (spelling?) and her gorgeous baby son. It turns
out I misread the situation. They loved the basket.
Over lunch [N] explained "taroof" and I explained
"fear-of-being-another-ugly-American-syndrome." Over
many cups of tea, we discovered to our happy surprise
we have so much in common. I am so grateful for your
help and of course you have my permission to !

All's well that ends well, no? So, when was the last time we read an eminent Thomist? Back to 1956 and a three day gathering at the University of Chicago and we have the French Catholic Philosopher Jacques Maritain's Reflections on America.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Young Woman and a Raincoat

Edited repost from early last year.

I was planning a rant about the sit-ins today. It has been thirteen days and I figured it might be as a good a time as any. But then, on my way home there was a majestic sight to behold: a young lady, with a child and oodles of groceries in tow, looking in passing at a raincoat.

Neither the women nor the raincoat would strike you initially as out of the ordinary or odd. What caught my attention, though, was the astonishing nature of her gaze. There was a dreamy, longing quality about the way she just glanced at that raincoat--with an indescribable awe and an enchanted smile--the sort that melts your heart away.

It was as if for one fleeting moment she lived out a lifetime of sublimated desires.

To understand why I react with amazement, you should visit this place for a week. There is something surreal about life in Tehran. Think fever to get a small opening into our universe.

Try to recall how fever amplifies, rather negatively, all of one’s sensory perception--the disconcerting blurred vision, maddening sound of the rapid heartbeats, the flustering colors and contours, and a miasmic atmosphere. Add to these a sense of nausea and a feel of suffocation that come with breathing the horrendously polluted air. Then you get a sense for life in Tehran.

The impulses and trends dominant in our society are not different from those in the lives of others you might encounter in other cities your travel to. But there is certain grotesqueness about life here. There is intensity about the way these impulses animate people into action and the way we come to perceive other people’s conducts.

A lot of women, for example, might dress modestly elsewhere, but in Iran, we have an ocean of blackness--waves and waves of chador clad women in movement. Conversely, multitude of women might choose to liven up a bit with a touch of makeup.

But not here!

We have throngs with exaggerated foundations and colorful shadows--the kind adorning an old harlot planning seduction of a horde of drunken sailors on a desolate island.

Men in other places might put a bit of gel in their hair. But here, the hair simply squirts goop. You either have people who don’t play music in their cars, or play it very loudly as they pass you by.

People are nasty, rude and brutish or feel the need to prostrate submissively before others. And some are even so extremely kind that you simply want to die to be free of gratitude. And so it goes on and on.

A subset of our much vaunted “burnt generation” has got to have its mobile phones at a million Toomans a piece, no matter that they are unemployed and their parents at the end of their ropes. And then there are chatrooms with obscenity galore, and jewelry-- gold, rubies and diamonds, and clothing, and furniture, rugs, drugs, alcohol and food-- lots and lots of food.

Again, no different from other places mind you. But our expressions betray our unique frenzy. You never know why we so immediately want everything we see. Most kids cry for them, legions of men deceive and lie for them, and some women marry or prostitute for them.

What is so urgent, I always wonder, about having the latest colorful manteaux, a cell phone or a shoe that would justify loss of our dignity, and the inevitable threat to our long term family stability, or to our sanity?!

And our glances-- they are the lascivious sort, or the dispassionate, aloof sort, the kind that would help communicate a sense of false disinterest just so we can haggle successfully over the price. The paradox, of course, is that most of us have no real immediate, unmediated relation with the objects of our passions.

We quickly get bored with them, for we really wanted them in the first place since they were either the latest fad, or that our neighbors or friends hadn’t yet managed to acquire them. And so here we are, the unique one beating the rest of the herd.

And so, this woman with her dreamy eyes stood out to me because her gaze revealed a unique undisguised affection-- she genuinely adored that raincoat and simply wanted it, for its own sake.

She seemed resigned to the fact that having this raincoat was just not a priority in her life and so she embodied restraint and discipline-- she courageously just marched past without so much as a pause--something most of us can’t fathom.

To me she epitomized all that is decent about this nation, and the enigma of her future.

Here is my funny feeling of the day: there are those here who carry such burden as no one should have to bear in a civilized society. They do so quietly, invisibly, stoically, with dignity and self-restraint.

And then there is the loud, boisterous crowd with a sense of entitlement, and a long list of the multiple ways they are being victimized daily.

This latter group is living it up mired in its delusion of grandeur, in its sense of superiority, with false hopes, obscene avarice, and silly expectations. Most are timid though, and paralyzed due to a lack of appetite for real risk and hard work.

I would watch out though for the pivotal moment this young woman decides she has had enough of merely dreaming about that raincoat and all it symbolizes.

The fire of her desires would burn this rotten scaffolding to the ground long before the rest of us could settle on what to do.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Putty in LaLa Land

I am going to (hopefully) pick up the pace so I can get to articulate some of the stuff I have been meaning to write before the curtains fall--and they will fall -- a curious feeling, either due to circumstances beyond my control or my having to move on with life.

So for today, I'd like to grapple with the issue of why it is, I think, some of us Iranians feel the urge to believe in the "Made in Britain Mullah" conspiracy theory. And I am going to elicit the help of our friend the Putty to make my points. (See the posts from Oct 16 and 17, 2004. Every time I link, everything that proceeds disappears)

Remember we left him a while back when he was heading "home" to "Mother Iran" with some ghastly intentions:

I'm coming home to your arms, to embrace you, and stick the dagger I have carried in my heart, into your back, and lovingly hold you as you draw your last gasps; and sooth the shock in your gaze with the serenity in mine."

And all this at the behest of "one of the most distinguished intelligence agencies in the world," or so he claims.

Forgive my skepticism. If he is right though, the said agency is even more ridiculously incompetent than what I had originally thought. But what do I know?

I have never met any spies I have known to be spies. Isn't that a prerequisite for the job? As the old adage goes, isn't a spy supposed to be so inconspicuous that not even a waiter notices him in a restaurant?

The stench, however, of Putty's self pity is detectable from kilometers away. Putty has been roaming the planet, reading great literature, mastering any number of beautiful languages, and encountering enchanting landscapes in various continents and yet, he still carries that chip the size of Gibraltar on his shoulders.

Nothing much satisfies him. Nothing can sooth his pain. All very human, I suppose, but with a quintessentially Iranian twist. What is it, exactly, that he thinks he deserves from life that he hasn't been getting?

A product, as he claims, of a rift in time and space, he thinks all his problems are due to the existence of this Regime. And so he is thirsting for revenge. And he seems so confident-- now that he has finally willed success, that the outcome of the bout is a forgone conclusion.

And I am happy to report: our Mother Iran has been trembling under her black veil in morbid dread and we too have been quivering in excitement. Make no mistakes. Putty is coming, Putty is coming! Just like Ahura before him along with a certain Jr. in tow. (Not!)

Putty is in for the surprise of his life when he gets here. There are millions more just like him where he came from. And their chip is even heavier because their claim to suffering is even more cogent.

What, do you think, Putty finds when he finally gets to Iran? I am thinking the first thing he is going to try to find are the disgruntled contingents so he can either organize or fund them and also dig up dirty secrets about life here to pass on to his handlers.

Easy enough since we have may dirty secrets few talk about in public. That's what our British visitor of a few post down picked upon immediately. There is an atrocious disconnect between the private and the public. Like no other country any of you have ever visited.

It is really odd, and now that our Putty has turned into quite the cosmopolitan, he too will notice immediately. Let's make some sweeping generalizations here to get some points across quickly and I'll expound upon this singularly important feature of life here in some other post.

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

The exceptionalism is not country/mission related. It is personal in a contextual or situational way. You can never have a routine here. In fact, what makes meetings drag on and on is that everyone comes up with that exceptionally singular event which has to be settled first or all will have been in vain.

Accordingly, given how exceptional we think we are, and the consequences -- all the phone calls and the sick days, the dead relative days, the insane mother days, the domestic fight days, traumatizes kid days etc. our work force has some of the lowest recordable productivity for such organized chaos.

So there you have it. Dirty secret number one.

Every one of us, regardless of how ordinary, will in fact fancy ourselves uniquely exceptional.

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

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

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

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

And nothing can satisfy us, ever.

We had wanted the freedom to read books just for as long as books were banned. The moments we could get any book we wanted freely at the local bookstore, we stopped buying them since obviously this too was a part of some conspiracy to pacify us. Every space that becomes open to us is not worth it because, to paraphrase that most loathsome of pitches, all forms of social openings are just "safety valves" intended to postpone the inevitable.

Sort of like our Putty who enjoyed all the freedom in the West to read what he wanted--Chaucer, Ferdowsi and Shakespeare, without letting them touch his soul. Everything simply as something to boast about at some dinner party or gathering of diplomats.

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

Ahay…EYE Qui--You

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

That's the European snobbery I was alluding to. Of course, we can't ever get beyond the past details. Very unforgiving, indeed.

That's the dirty secret number two.

It is not rare to hear…."when we were doing such and such/our family driving this or that/ our house located here or there….they were meandering on a donkey eating cheese and living in a hut.

The reason I am telling you all this is because I'd like to give you some sense for the need to believe in conspiracies. Especially given that the discourse itself originates from a particularly bitter and boisterous group that shall go nameless for now.

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

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

What's worst, a group of people you think have "low IQs" have been ruling you and most of them even speak with a regional accent, or might be Arabs; neither shave nor wear trendy clothes or ties in public and it appears that despite your best efforts, they have outsmarted you at every turn and have proven more cunning.
What are you going to choose to believe? That you haven't been as smart, cunning, deserving and competent or that there are vast conspiracies out there lead by the British with the help of other Western powers to rob you of your richly deserved proceeds of that oil money?

Just to postpone your inevitable ascension to high heaven! We are a rich country after all, aren't we? And we can all have everything we want immediately and without sweating for it.

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

Try building the country you're after on that attitude. Sort of like our Putty who is just so sure of his dagger and just wanted the agency. If we haven't succeeded, then there must be something fundamentally wrong with the universe.

Recall for instance that one of the most frequently conjured up insults hurled at some of our present leaders by certain boisterous circles is that they worked for a living--horror of horrors--in the past at low wages giving sermons house to house.

"Vagabond," I believe is the term used. What kind of an insult is that, really? In what obscene world view working for a living becomes a political insult?

Hence, the dirty little secret number three.

One of the reason there hasn't been a revolution around here, really, is that for a developing country, there is so much money going around that it is obscene. Money and power, in my opinion, have never been so diffused in the history of modern Iran. And the degree of whining from the wealthy in opposition just doesn’t add up. Let's do some simple math for a change.

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

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

Some of these people have been the loudest about poverty and injustice here. Fair enough. You don’t have to be poor to find poverty distasteful.

But do you really think any are willing to risk their precious positions to fight for change or risk life and limb to ensure better opportunities for the poor--the very same people most are quite comfortable in ignoring on any given day?

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

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

And they normally corrupt anything they go near and subsequently come to blame everything as always on others.

In the meanwhile, the dissatisfied, quiet contingents who bear more than any human being should suffer in a civilized society continue life as they have always. With some measure of dignity left and an admirable degree of self restrain. They are watching very closely.

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

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

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

What would you do if this was the exhortation aimed at you: "Losers, you deserve your fate. But do get out there and risk what little you have so we can have a better life!"

There are simple reasons, after all, that Herbert's spice merchants always make poor revolutionaries during periods of turmoil.

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

Thus the dirty secret number four.

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

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

More later.