Thursday, March 30, 2006

The exceptional, contrarian Asses & one stinking habitat

One of our more serious bloggers had a link to a single caricature by Houman Mortazavi in the Iranian a while back that I have revisited quite often in the past few weeks. There are about twenty in the series. They uncannily capture, I think, a good deal of the dominant Iranian psyche today. (Chattering classes)

I thought perhaps we should play a little in this post. But it will require your cooperation. I’d like to present them to you as I see them. Please humor me and play along. Once we are done, do with them as you please on your own and feel free to share your insights

I am going to broach the subject quickly enough for today and move to study Henri Bergson for a while. I have been thinking about him much after I saw the caricatures. I am sure he has managed to learn a thing or two after our initial encounter of those customary selections decades ago. So surely our old Henri is bound to make much more sense now, I am thinking! Hopefully in due time I’ll get back to the caricatures.

Let’s start with explicitly stating and getting some of my simple initial assumptions out on the open.

We are, as humans, all (hopefully) thinking embodied beings. Our body situates us in the world we inhabit. “It” has certain visceral reactions that are hard to comprehend and yet unavoidable. Like allergies, for instance, that in extreme cases kills when kissing someone who has had peanuts long before that regrettable moment.

On the same continuum, though occasionally not much less intense, there are visceral reactions that are culturally determined or might simply be thoughtless reactions. And even within cultures there are variations obviously. Of course, these days even this latter seems to be in dispute among some people—even or especially those on a rampage seemingly hell-bent on re-making our world in their own “enchanting” image.

The more successful, tolerable cultures will channel the reactions more effectively. They thus tap into various creative forces while balancing some of the less life affirming ones.

Some of you might get all grossed out, for instance, seeing or hearing about a breakfast I occasionally relish eating. Sheep tongue, eyes and ears. PukeOrama some will say surely. Much in the same way as some Iranians might respond to hearing about what some of you might eat: crabcakes or lobsters. Even the name of this latter elicits disgust: Khar-chang or donkey claw! I rather enjoy eating both, although, I wouldn’t be caught dead myself anywhere near some goat’s milk or yogurt. The smell alone suffices to make me feel nauseous.

You get my drift.

Now as living organisms we all have certain “energy” that keeps us going in life. But the way we think or perceive of the world will affect that energy. Human mind is a bit of a marvel when you think about it. We daily hear of those dying as a result of over taxing some body part or other. But do any of us ever end up dead “overworking” our brains?

Whatever we ultimately might decide to do with our bodies and minds, however, does have a bearing on how life comes to turn out. Greater intensities might give us better results or conversely lead toward gradual or sudden self destruction. And here the particular social collectivities we are apart or the institutions and the laws we live with come to affect us decisively. And we too, in turn, will impact their developments.

And here everything gets real murky the moment we enter Iran.

Obviously we all do the “same” things no matter where we are. We eat, sleep, drive to work, read or converse, love or fight, work and rest among so many other things. But the manner we approach whatever it is we do constitutes or goes on to determine that “unique” flavor of our cultures.

The Iranian “uniqueness,” I think, is a rather bizarre, unexpected consequence of a perverse national self-definition given that as a general rule we Iranians tend to view ourselves as “different.”

We almost routinely tend to characterize ourselves as “not normal.” (“Adame Adi Nistam”). And by this we don’t really mean “abnormal” here. Others are referred to as “abnormal” depending on whatever conduct it is that remains unappreciated or is viewed as “unnatural,” on any given day.

Obviously, this latter category is a constructed one and changes with time. Various scholars have worked successfully to document some of the features or forces at work and some younger ones will do their part in due time.

Note here, though, that what people have in mind when describing themselves as gheyre-adi is in actuality being “idiosyncratic” or “exceptional.” To be normal is to be “one of the herds,” and something to be avoided like plague. And the image, of course, that is most in vogue as object of scorn is that of a donkey here or Khar.

Unless it is used with money, of course, as in Kharpool, or literally donkeymoney which has become the preferred image of choice these days and something to aspire to! If you can’t be Kharpool yourself, obviously you dream of marrying one. It’s all rather simple, you see. Donkeys require hay—lots of hay, and no amount of hay is ever enough. No one else on the planet ever manages to accomplish anything worthwhile they set their minds on without hay. It’s all hopeless without lots of hay.

But I digress! So what we have in reality in Iran today is millions of self described “exceptions” who have a visceral loathing for being donkeys. The national nightmare, I often suspect, remains that frightful specter of the “exceptional” multitudes suddenly morphing into “normal” donkeys.

Now whether anyone likes it or not, these exceptional ones are going to have to continue to live among others. We end up doing almost identical “things” everyone else on the planet does all over again everyday. But all the activities will be “processed” through that lens or the image of “normalcy” which must be avoided at all cost. There are dreams and fears at work here that modulate all our exertions and conducts.

Normal is boring boring boring, remember.

So the question becomes: what would the shape of a culture ultimately become when millions of “exceptions” come to act on their dreams and aspirations routinely while wanting to avoid being bored stiff?

Let’s explore now with the aide of some of Mr. Mortazavi’s caricatures. You will find descriptions of each frame in English in the middle top black line and the Farsi remains in the middle bottom of the square.

All our normal strivings everywhere hinge on sustaining a level of curiousity or attentiveness does it not? So what happens when enough people have come to believe that curiosity or inquisitiveness is something dangerous that might get you accidentally killed? (Unless it involves idle chatter and gossiping about other people’s personal lives -- a favorite national pastime)

Or that when faced with the prospect of real danger, it’s best to make a meaningless gesture of safely pretending all is subsequently well while deep down one continues to live in the dread of that something immensely deadly which is about to fall on one’s head?

What happens when as that exceptional one, enough people think everyone else is out to get them and, quite naturally, they all have bigger guns, while bravery remains the pretense of selflessly exhibiting that exceptional gesture of audacity by making a show of defiance against all insurmountable odds alone and with a wooden sword?

And when thinking long term is conceived of as having to think about or look at one endless, miserable little trek while any attempt at exerting oneself to meet obligations and responsibilities is felt to be running around aimlessly which will inevitably leave one exhausted, enervated and disappointed.

And subsequently that mindless lashing out and belittling of everyone and everything in sight because one is unhappy since the universe can be so unaccommodating most of the time!

What happens when there is a constant expectation, no matter the circumstance or the place, that optimism about specific projects or achievements (as opposed to grand Hopes and Wishful Thinking) is deemed the equivalent of jumping head first into a small bucket and any enthusiastic, sustained, passionate engagement with particular endeavors that might end up ultimately setting one’s shorts on fire if given a chance is actually proof of blindness or lack of real understanding of the nature of the chains that is binding one in place.

And what happens when enough people seek to avoid feeling genuine affection for others or even allowing themselves to experience the sort of love that might perpetuates itself through attentiveness, playfulness and effort because we think we’ll unavoidably get hurt or alternately that all true love shall remain unrequited for ever.

Or that as that exception, one is so exceptionally ambitious that any normal, routine work or a manageable dream broken down to its smaller parts comes to be viewed as those way too insignificant, easy steps and certainly below one’s dignity to even be deemed worthy of a serious try? So one ends up supremely disappointed with any display of genuine passion or excitement about specific tasks one is assigned or whatever else it might be that one has come to freely choose in each phase of one’s life.

And what happens to tolerance, civility or compassion in any society when humility comes to be viewed as tantamount to an open invitation to be defecated upon by insignificant ugly little black creatures from above!

As a multi-ethnic society, of course, Iran is the land of many accents and intonations.

So what happens when one comes to perceive any social engagement with others as that insufferable burden of having to negotiate life with the rest of the herd, especially since some of the donkeys naturally have “funny” accents? The village accents of southern Arabs, or northern Rashdis or Azari Turk accents or Eastern Khorasani or Southeastern Baluchi or Western Kurd accents or even those of the Lors or Armenians!

Or that any effort to engage in civil dialogues with others or even to attempt to genuinely be open to listening is something to be avoided since their “true intention” or their “real goal” is ultimately to traitorously crucify you. When they are not trying to deceive you or scam something out of you, that is!

The consequences, sadly, become dire.

The expectations are never commensurate with the results. The results, predictably, become grotesque. Here we end up in the land of arrogant, abrasive know-it-alls. Those who end up recoiling from life after each short term burst of energy hurriedly retreating again into that bubble of sloth for more sleep.

We enter a bizarre world in which all genuine, sustained passion for much of any thing substantial—and almost all serious exertions people might stick to-- are viewed as cutting the branches that’s holding one in place in the universe.

Hence no trace of mutual cooperation, substantial information sharing or teamwork that might go on to serve as durable foundations for a developing society. It is one-upmanship all over the place. And thoughtless, habitual belligerence, negligence and a perpetual cutting of others “down to size” which predictably reproduces exceptional midgets shore to shore!

Trying to read extensively, or even thinking though assumptions and/or grappling engagingly with or analyzing seriously (as best one is capable of) whatever it is one is passionate about comes to be habitually dismissed or humored because it’s all seen as lies, deception, old, boring, and not the latest hip, trendy fashionable paradigm. Something exclusively for deluded asses thinking they’re being well informed.

Hence that incessant fluttering about from one fad onto yet other mis-,ill or poorly understood ones! And endless tirades about invisible hands and conspiracies.

Either that or after all the pseudo- profound babble of “radical” criticism of life, a silly thoughtlessness and perpetual avoidance of current events because they too remain depressing and will drawn one in sorrow! Hence the land of superficial jokers border to border!

Something about the whole thing has gone wrong with us.

How could it be that so many exceptional, creative beings come to produce so little? How could so much pessimism give rise to such baseless optimism and misery? Why is it that so much money and love or glorification of it produce so little philanthropy and real profit or sustainable development?

Why does so much passion yield such barren creatures? How could so much desire for novelty lead to such little originality? How could so many of us hypercritical contrarians go on to produce collectively so very little and such dreary uniformity?

How could it be that so many kind, warm people reproduce so much ugliness routinely? Some are deemed too short, others too tall, the noses are too fat, the butts too wide, the feet too big, the skins either too black or too pale, and the skirts too short or too long! The hems too wide or too tight! The accents too funny.

It is unfortunate, but it does seem to me as though the enterprise that begins when the instinctively contrarian, exceptional multitudes strive to avoid the fate of normal donkeys, ironically enough, ends up transforming -step by step and gradually—a great number of us into that very image we loath above all others.

Hence our image of human beings today.

And those giant intemperate authoritarian plans by political thinkers who want to transform everyone and everything suddenly and overnight. Social revolutions, cultural revolutions, and it goes on and on. You name it and everyone wants it. Huge, gigantic godly leaps that crush countless in the process.

With the added bonus that an atrocious stink also permeates in most of the major cities, and in the buses and subways in the summers as well as-- and especially—in those omnipresent night gatherings attended by some of the more trendy elites, where the smell of mind-bogglingly expensive perfumes mingle freely with that of intense pheromone. In Tehran, as much as in London and Los Angeles!

For goodness knows none of us wants to be reminded of anything remotely resembling those licentious animals now, would we? Much less to go on to acknowledge the naturalness of it all! For this too shall remain for the asses.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Promises, plans!

Aside from my usual broodings which should cover more of the ongoing murder and mayhem everywhere, there are a few older posts I’d like to go back to as I never did manage to properly develop them to my satisfaction.

Much to the (probable) chagrin of my old friend Roger, of course, that means having to go back to the Iliad a few more times; although, I do promise to incorporate a dialogue he harangued me about last year, Plato’s Cratylus. Another beauty! The Perseus version.

There is a little “something” in the Iliad that allows me to finally feel lighter. Frankly, I breathe differently after each encounter with that text. It has been like that since my first serious excursion years ago. I’d like to explore more and see if I might draw “it” out more effectively.

There is much to explore and think about as well with two other universally “favorite” subjects, money and passions. A very curious and distinct attitude these days at work among Iranians! I have alluded to it repeatedly in the past couple of years. I’ll explore some of the cultural continuities and ruptures.

This especially given that the promise of those millions of $ aimed at fostering dissent has had everyone in an uproar of late. Much gobbledygook and suspicious banter everywhere!

What’s at issue with the passions, of course, is life itself. A lot hinges on them given specific orientations or intensities involved. And here too there are distinctive cultural attitudes at work. I’d like to see if I can try to isolate them more effectively and get your feedback on some of the subtleties I have had in mind.

And I am going to become better at introducing you to some of the bloggers who have consistently proven a joy for me. I have been a tad too lax in that department.

Anyhow, a few links to get warmed up again.

A beautifully conceived short story in Farsi. The initial first step, I suspect, for one interesting blogger who will have much to offer by way of enchantment given due diligence and attentiveness in the coming years. And also a poem by one of my favorite Iranian contemporaries who seems to be getting better with each one of his gems! And another.

A review of sorts, Is the Creator a Sadist? (Navid Kermani’s new book, The horror of God – Attar, Job, and the metaphysical revolts)

Also, another very curious item out of Prague again. No end to them lately.

It rightfully deplores the plight of ethnic Turkmen in Iran although some of the particular details present prove a puzzle. The city in question remains one of the more visibly distinct milieus in Iran today. Quite unlike any other place, really! Well, perhaps two or three other places should be excepted for now.


A background report of a meeting held a while back with some European Union officials and another older report about specific plans for an emerging united Kurdish front.

Finally, one by one of our more renowned geezers intended for a friend’s philological pursuits.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Happy Norouz

From the Brooding Persian to one and all.

Mr. BP might never get any wiser with each passing year; although, he is becoming more certain of one simple proposition with each passing day. Optimism remains the first and the last refuge, as well as the home base of the hopeless. So, I'll avoid the usual platitudes about a happy, peaceful year.

Here is to Doom.

And to a fleeting year, swift wars and rapid deaths!

Till then

Wonder, passions, gentility and Life!

Friday, March 17, 2006


I don’t know about you, but the end of years always gets me feeling a bit more morbid than my usual. I think it was this blogger who astutely characterized Iranians a while back as a people who can boast not so much of stiff upper lips as “quivering lower lips.” Another enigma with Iranians, I suppose. For a country that cultivated hundreds of thousands of “martyrs,” Iranian families hardly ever make their peace with the death of their loved ones.

As if families ever do in any culture.

Anyhow, there is short story I experimented with quite a while back that I didn’t think had made it out on time. But apparently it had. So here is another one of mine I never linked to here, A Lonely Passing. And also the Spanish version.

If you go to funerals in Iran—and when you are Iranian, of course, there is no escaping them; above average participation in funerals and memorial services always—you’d notice quite a touching practice by women that we also encounter in Homer’s Iliad. At least it always reminds me of women’s lamentations in the Iliad. That’s what I tried to highlight in my story. Sort of like some pandemonium of calls and answers.

Let’s go back to my favorite book for a moment and start first with one of the more moving passages--the description of Achilles’ grief in Book 18 upon hearing of the death of his friend and companion Patroclus:

black cloud of grief swallowed up Achilles.
With both hands he scooped up soot and dust and poured it
on his head, covering his handsome face with dirt,
covering his sweet-smelling tunic with black ash.
He lay sprawling—his mighty warrior's massive body
fell down and stretched out in the dust. With his own hands,
he tugged at his own hair, disfiguring himself…
…Achilles gave a huge cry of grief.

My Iranian readers will be intimately familiar with the above scene which is close to the type of reaction you would expect from someone upon hearing the news of a loved one’s passing. Then there is lamentation or conversation with the corpse later on. But the conversation itself is a continuation of the earlier dialogue with the living.

A lot akin, again, to what we encounter in the astonishingly poignant, famous scene between Hector and his wife Andromache in book 6. The following words from Andromache:

My dear husband, your warlike spirit
will be your death. You've no compassion
for your infant child, for me, your sad wife,
who before long will be your widow.

For soon the Achaeans will attack you,
all together, and cut you down. As for me,
it would be better, if I'm to lose you,
to be buried in the ground. For then I'll have
no other comfort, once you meet your death,
except my sorrow. I have no father,
no dear mother. For lord Achilles killed
my father, when he wiped out Thebe,
city with high gates, slaying Eëtion.
But he didn't strip his corpse—his heart
felt too much shame for that. So he burned him
in his finely decorated armour
and raised a burial mound above the ashes.
Mountain nymphs, daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus,
planted elm trees all around his body.
I had seven brothers in my home.
All went down to Hades in one day,
for swift-footed lord Achilles killed them all,
while they were guarding their shambling oxen
and their white shining sheep. As for my mother,
who ruled wooded Thebe-under-Placus,
he brought her here with all his other spoils.
Then he released her for a massive ransom.
But archer goddess Artemis then killed her
in her father's house. So, Hector, you are now
my father, noble mother, brother,
and my protecting husband. So pity me.
Stay here in this tower. Don't orphan your child
and make your wife a widow. Place men by the fig tree,
where the city is most vulnerable,
the wall most easily scaled. Three times
their best men have come there to attack,
led by the two Ajaxes, the sons of Atreus,
famous Idomeneus, and Diomedes,
Tydeus' courageous son, incited to it
by someone well versed in prophecy
or by their own hearts' inclination."

Again, most of the elements and even some of the constructs themselves present will be familiar to most Iranians who have grown up hearing almost identical speeches. And now a narrative in book 24 of what happens when our old Priam manages to bring back the body of the fallen Hector to his besieged city:

At Cassandra's shout,
no man or woman was left unaffected.
There in the city all were overcome with grief
beyond anyone's control. Close to the gates,
they met Priam bringing home the body.
First Hector's dear wife and his noble mother,
tearing their hair, ran to the sturdy wagon,
trying to touch Hector's head. People crowded round,
all weeping. They would have stayed there by the gates,
shedding tears for Hector the entire day
until the sun went down…

And the following return to the original conversation but this time with the corpse

Then the women,
began their wailing, led by white-armed Andromache,
who held in her arms the head of man-killing Hector.

"My husband—you've lost your life so young,
leaving me a widow in our home,
with our son still an infant, the child
born to you and me in our wretchedness.
I don't think he'll grow up to adulthood.
Before that, our city will all be destroyed.
For you, who kept watch over for us, are dead.
You used to protect our city, keeping
its noble wives and little children safe.
Now, soon enough, they'll all be carried off
in hollow ships. I'll be there among them.
And you, my child, you'll follow with me,
to some place where you'll be put to work
at menial tasks, slaving for a cruel master.
Or else some Achaean man will grab your arm
and throw you from the wall—a dreadful death—
in his anger that Hector killed his brother,
or his father, or his son. For Hector's hands
made great numbers of Achaeans sink their teeth
into the broad earth. In wretched warfare,
your father was not gentle. So in our city
they now weep for him. O Hector, what sorrow,
what untold grief you've laid upon your parents.
What painful sorrows will remain for me,
especially for me. As you were dying,
you didn't reach your hand out from the bed,
or give me some final words of wisdom,
something I could remember always,
night and day, as I continue my lament."

Now let’s see what happened earlier in Book 19 when it was the turn of a grieving Briseis:

Briseis, looking like golden Aphrodite,
then saw Patroclus mutilated by sharp bronze.
With a cry, she threw herself on him, hands tearing
at her breast, her tender neck, her lovely face,
fair as a goddess, lamenting:

you who brought the utmost joy to my sad heart,
I left you here alive, when I went off,
taken from these huts. But now, at my return,
I find you dead, you, the people's leader.
Again for me, as always, evil follows evil.
I saw the husband I was given to
by my father and my noble mother killed
by sharp bronze before our city. My brothers,
three of them, whom my own mother bore,
whom I loved, have all met their fatal day.
But when swift Achilles killed my husband,
you wouldn't let me weep. You told me then
you'd make me lord Achilles' wedded wife,
he'd take me in his ships to Phthia,
for a marriage feast among the Myrmidons.
You were always gentle. That's the reason
I'll never stop this grieving for your death."

As Briseis said this, she wept. The women joined her
in wailing for Patroclus, though each of them
had her own private sorrows.

Isn’t the Iliad simply amazing? Greek literature gives me hope. The Greeks give me hope. For the same reasons the Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda is such an absolute joy for me. From what I’ve seen of his handiworks, Wajda communicates hope without the customary rah rah of misplaced optimism.

And I find myself trying to think daily about how we should remember the myriad possibilities in our more distressed moments.

The astonishment of the ongoing saga of our collective endeavor might actually lie in the possibilities for the emergence of that “unbounded vitality,” and “appetite for life,” out of terribly dreary, suffocating, muddy and cruel milieus.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Google gags.

The Iranian New Year is around the corner and since this might be one of the last posts of the year, I thought I should simply brood about certain slightly irritating behavior that doesn’t seem to want to stop.

If navel gazing annoys you, please move on.

One of the curious advantages of having roots in an authoritarian society, I must admit, remains an odd appreciation for experimental forms of communication. And I don’t mean here indirect, subtle communication that is as old as speech itself. As you never know what might get you out of a jam you remain open to newer possible resources.

So I really mean here, the more novel forms made possible by new technologies which invite certain attentiveness to evaluation of their effectiveness. This latter, ultimately for me, due to an ongoing fascination with the question of why it might be that some come to prefer certain forms over others.

I have noticed, for example, that aside from the visitors sent my way by other bloggers and those omnipresent accidental tourists who seem to always arrive here looking for Iranian body parts or some culture specific unchaste positions or a variety of other odd visitors we all encounter because of those goofy search engine results which somehow end up pointing at specific blogs, I’ve also been getting hit for the longest of times by google gags indicating some variations on pretty constant themes.

And yet, not exactly the most rigorous type of google gags there is either. So it can’t merely be the challenges inherent to a passing fad of game play. An example of a witty, open, playful and public gag from Opip here I could appreciate for your edification.

Now, an imprecise discreet gag apparent only through a webcounter is a rather interesting way of communicating and also peculiar. What’s the point to abusive private google gags, really?

I do have a comment section and it remains open. It is a place to ask questions, share insights or opinions and to express pointed disagreements and to hurl insults if need be in more open public ways. I have never (intentionally) deleted any comments and never will. I also have an email. And there are multiplicities of sites that offer anonymous email accounts as well.

So why the persistence of all these discreet insulting google gags mostly for my eyes only?

The profile that emerges in my mind is obviously that of occasionally avid readers with intense loathing for what I write. Hence a rather aggressive, persistent and yet discreet array of insults! Without the backbone, of course, or how shall I say, the requisite minimal energy for leaving a returned address or signaling an openness to the possibilities of allowing a response. Even mullah’s occasionally do better, no?

But hey, to each his own I suppose. But here are quick answers to a collection of some of the more memorable ones:

Yes, my life is a monotone if someone is moronic enough to think reading is monotonous or books without charm, or lacking in adventure. But really, my life is not as colorless as some angry, superficial characters might have concluded. Although, we can never know for sure, could we?

So I’ll try to work on adding some spice in good time. [New Year Resolution: work diligently on getting an email from some unconventional, spicy dominatrix ASAP]

Yes, I have left behind an army of betrayed companions in so far as we Persians generally have obscene expectations of one another and inevitably always come to feel disappointed no matter what any of us do. Besides, there is always a learning curve with everything which means it takes a while to get a rhythm going in life so we end up always negatively affecting others. And one always risks having been remiss with various responsibilities and obligations. I have been no exception.

If you want to do anything you’re passionate about, though, you just have to learn at some point to stay focused come what may. But I don’t think I have betrayed anyone in any substantial, destructive sense of that term. Not yet, anyways. But, sure, there is always a first time for everything. And many thanks for the warnings! I’ll keep that possibility in mind to try to avoid it.

When it comes to old wisdom and conflicts: Yes, the type of wisdom I am enamored of is rather old. It doesn’t mean I avoid conflicts when I deem them necessary. Or that I’ll ever be too hesitant in ways that would prevent me from tackling the issues I think are important at the right time.

It just means I am not at conflict with everyone who disagrees with me all the time. There are differences between bad thinking, unappealing leanings and destructive, unprincipled conducts. Always a judgment call and subject to constant reevaluation.

At the end of the day, though, I opt to choose my quarrels based on what’s important to me and not instinctively, habitually or just for the heck of it. So yes, conflicts don’t set my shorts on fire, but I won’t go out of my way to avoid them either.

Hence in this one sense, there might be some justified cause in complaining about the aroma of all the “old perfumes”-- I concede. But let’s at least try to pretend to be fair.

The reason I prefer the older perfumes is that some of the “newer” ones being peddled offer the horrid stench of putrefied or charred innocent flesh covered with some pretty nauseating rose water. All the miasmic prattles without that old time generosity of spirit doesn’t attract me in the slightest!

And now about guile and cunning: the persistence of this theme points to some foolish minds absolutely dense.

Really, what is it you think I’ve been hiding besides the essentials that would allow me greater unfettered mobility without putting myself and those I encounter at unnecessary risk for what I might decide to say or do?

Have I ever hidden my disdains? Or my likes or preferences? Or the simple fact that I have no interest in being ruled by dwarfs and midgets incapable even of ruling themselves? Or that I try to limit brutal expressions of some of my personal opinions if I think the negative consequences that might ensue through adding to the bigoted cacophony all around us might outweigh any positive contribution it might make to the existing public discourse about any given subject.

Isn’t that the sort of persistent (re)evaluation that should remain at the heart of thinking about communication?

So yes, let me admit openly again: This blog, as it explicitly states on top, remains nothing more than my personal broodings and guarded observations. And I am no angel. Never have been! But I want to be ruled by my betters. Now, what kind of imbeciles would ever miss what’s so clearly articulated in post after post and persist in thinking they should resort to sending me private google gags discreetly and repeatedly?

To what end? The approach is ultimately lame even by the prevailing abuse standards we’ve all grown accustomed to these days. It’s only minimally annoying at best.

Any how, I do genuinely hope this clears up some of the difficulties. If I’ve left anything out, or if there are new ones, simply let me know in the usual way and I’ll make sure to try to clear things up again as best I can next March --if I am still around, that is.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Iran apromises to resist the mounting pressures from the West. And the Joys of Sanity circa 2006!

The Christian Science Monitor examines Four Approaches in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions

There is a new UK daily I’d like to introduce you to, the First Post. Let’s just let the editors do the talking:

[tFP is]a new daily online magazine, targeted at a discerning well-educated audience aged 25 up offering a spirited response to every aspect of current affairs from politics and foreign affairs to sport and the arts.

Today, Edward Luttwak, author of ‘The Pentagon and the Art of War’ and a former military consultant to the US National Security Council, the White House Chief of Staff, the US Department of Defense, US Army, US Air Force, US Marine Corps, Department of State and several allied governments makes the case for bombing Iran. Read ‘To bomb or not to bomb?’

For different sides of the story you are also invited to visit a previous article from another First Post columnist Patrick Cockburn, author of ‘Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession’ who cast a critical eye on how American and British governments used the Iranian army and paid street mobs to overthrow the prime minister.

Meanwhile government special advisor Richard Ehrman traces the route to the current stand off

Try to visit them and let the editors know what you think.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Festivities, firecrackers.

Please read AMT on Jill Caroll. Also Shahram on Jill Caroll.

And the following a ritual repost for a festive ritual.


With the Persian New Year approaching fast, there are quite a few firecrackers going off all around everyday. Everyone is in frenzy. Chahar-Shanbeh-Soori is a ritual rooted in our Zoroastrian past with some of the festivities starting in the evening preceding the last Wednesday of the year. A day we congregate to jump over fire, (Sadly, not even 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 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,” and other youths 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. (Not that their Western counterparts are proving any better these days)

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 someone, 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. [*for me much like inhaling air, you see. I aim neither to amuse, impress nor to callously inflict harm. I simply need to do what I must…for now*]

And that if my explanation weren’t good enough, there were 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 kind when you realize you have done something mischievous and fundamentally improper, and yet so utterly soothing.

“How American of us,” I muttered to myself

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.

Previous 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.

This year’s Update: Iran, fires and firecrackers nowhere in sight!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The ears and the many senses

Another report of the Israeli promise of preemptive “crushing military strike” by a retired general as the Security Council deliberates further about this nuclear stand off. And the Islamic regime’s UN Ambassador vs. a Fox reporter.

The UK’s Channel 4 has been wrapping up its long visit to Iran. And here has emerged this new organization, Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran.

When I make my rounds of Farsi blogs, I am always amazed at the multiplicity of voices that seem to be talking to one another in code or with some subtlety all at once. We are all good at that and it has its virtues. Especially in our world today of crude shouting matches and all the vulgar abuse! The many voices, yes, but it’s more like countless eyes and ears at work.

I occasionally suspect our universe to be one comprised of multitudes thinking we each inhabit the Center. And as it’s not really clear most of the time who’s speaking to whom and especially since none of us is that Ancient Deity with many ears, ten thousand eyes, and a thousand senses, it all naturally makes for some surreal comedy of errors on occasions. It even brings a wry smile to my face on occasions. Perhaps one of these days, I should trace just a few for some real entertainment.

Any how, our heartland of evil is the land of many paradoxes. And there have been no shortage of illustrious luminaries who’ve visited from the outside over the years.

Here is that old interview with Joergen Habermas about his impressions of Iran. (via Hoder)

And another old report about the famed Italian Antonio Negri who visited last January. Negri’s visit proved a bit of a disappointment for at least one Iranian blogger at the time.

And lest you think some one like AEI’s Michael Rubin has been deprived of his chances of experiencing the chaos first hand, Mr. Rubin’s report about his adventures in Iran.


From Amir:

For my reaction to the publishing of a "translation" of this very "report" or "interview" with (which originally had come out in FAZ in Germany, subsequently) in Tehran's daily "Hamshahri," please look here:

Juergen Habermas

Go down to point number 4 in that article, which is entitled "Sultanate of Reformists."

Friday, March 10, 2006

On Hitchens

As I indicated earlier, David wanted to get my reaction to Christopher Hitchens’s article joyously titled, Let the exchange of ideas and trade begin. I am neither an avid reader of the fellow nor a big fan. Having said that, I’ll try to have a go at his assumptions and proposals as best I can.

Two moments based on his interactions with Iranians he highlights in his opening two paragraphs are also the beginning points for our divergence:

The most touching remark I heard during my time in Iran last year was from a woman in the wonderfully beautiful city of Isfahan... she broke in to ask shyly, in faultless English, "Would it be possible for the Americans to invade just for a few days, get rid of the mullahs and the weapons, and then leave?"

[T]here are very many Iranians who are wishful along just those lines. They dream of some magic trick that would just make the bearded ones go away,of the millions who want the mullahs gone, very few would support an outside military intervention if it actually occurred.

These two simple features of our dominant Iranian psyche today that Hitchens successfully captures here and is touched by just happen to be what repulse me most about us Iranians and this not exactly in the way you might think.

If you read some of the more academic writers on Iran or spend a few months living in the country, you’d know what I am talking about here. These are precisely the sort of qualities that contribute to making Iran an unbearable society to live in, as well as the source of a good deal of our troubles and misery on day to day basis.

The persistent wishful thinking along with that never ending desire to manipulate others into doing our bidding for us as effortlessly as possible with the least toll on our lives followed by the ensuing scramble to justify our conduct, no matter what, by falling back again on those initial Lala land dreams that began it all makes for a debilitating bubble and some nauseating babble.

Life then, sadly, becomes reduced to a collection of false hopes or myriad expectations and a willingness to want to experience enchantment with magic tricks followed by quick plunges and disappointments.

And the sort of perpetual disillusionment with this universe that seemingly refuses to accommodate us in precisely the exact terms we expect it to and our every single whim.

Universe has a wicked sense of humor, though.

A paralyzing cynicism ensues that goes hand in gloves with that propensity to want to blame all our misfortunes on outside conspiracies or those larger than life forces and controlling invisible hands of arch villains with base designs who, predictably, never mean what they say.

If no one ever means what s/he says, then there can be no trust and this actually translates into some very simple practical consequences in terms of life in the sort of bubble it successfully perpetuates.

It is deemed useless, for instance, to carefully read what others write, or any of the regime newspapers or academic journals or to pay attention to the way your enemies conceive of the world or scrutinize the on-going attempts to think or experiment to forge strategies and tactics that deal more effectively with you and your demands. So you end up missing what is being planned for you.

Hence, the persistent melodrama of that role of the always unsuspecting victims!

And since you can’t trust the people who are potentially your friends either, you find it hard to come to view the possible recourses available to effectively devise strategies or counter-measures in order to tackle your enemies.

Hence life immured in a bubble that resists all pressure to burst!

You get a sense for the vicious cycle, don’t you?

Everything then really does become a self-fulfilling prophesy. You always end up validated in whatever you might have chosen to have initially seen or believed with the consequence that with each passing day you become more paralyzed, more wishful, and even more firmly a believer in those magic tricks that would make it all disappear once and for all.

Given this set of annoying qualities and the unfortunate aftereffects of the American Mesopotamian adventures for now—the strengthening of Hamas and the ever increasing number of nefarious Islamists or blood thirsty Jihadists globally with the looming threats of a full blown civil war in Iraq, more unrest and lucrative opium trade in Afghanistan, or generally, the unsettling prospect of endless bloodletting and mayhem everywhere—a growing segment of the Iranian polity has already begun to murmur that this had been the goal all along.

So why get involved in anything now?

At this point, then, any gesture of accommodation initiated by this insular, corrupt, incompetent American administration aimed at the murderous Islamic Regime will be seen as just another indication of the unfolding of that “master plan” and simply as one more sign of a grand bargain in the making.

With disastrous consequences for any hopes of a better future for Iran long term!

Try to look at it another way.

We can argue history, religion, theories of culture, anthropology, and economics until we are all blue in the face. But sometimes the Gordian knot actually hides in the simplest of places. And that’s what I tried to get at in one of the exchanges with a reader recently.

The story of our lives has become reduced to a repetitive retelling of a simple tale. A few utterly ignorant, murderous creatures succeeded in hijacking the revolution and have gone on to maintain their fragile hold on the lives of millions of highly educated, sober minded, free spirited and sharp Iranians-- conceived of as some very astute judges of character , and seers of the true intents, motives or identities-- through sheer brute force and stupidity for around 27 years,

And now this very simple minded, stupid group of folks, armed with 1400 year old collection of inanities, pistachios, some oil and a military budget of 4.3 billion with their powerhouse of an army, navy and air force shall be taking over the world shortly aided by the sort of ex-doped up, fraternity reject true believers and misfits who’ve successfully hidden everywhere in order to torment the innocent on queue at just the right time.

Nothing about the whole thing makes sense to me.

So if we have been so astute and on top of things, how could it be that we’ve persistently fallen for the most transparent peddlers of false hopes? And how could such “parasitic”, incompetent, stupid and out-of-it group of people have any chance of bringing down what’s left of the Western Civilization?

You can now intuit the reasons why Iran’s nuclear ambitions are so nettlesome for me. It simply doesn’t so much worry me in terms of its international ramifications as it does in what it would mean for any hope of change long-term domestically.

The Islamic Regime’s global ambitions can and should be contained. And it must be contained forcefully.

But what will the shape of a domestic revolution aimed at toppling this brutal, authoritarian regime run by some utterly ruthless, cynical creatures armed with nuclear weapons be?

Whether the Indians or Pakistanis have those weapons, or nuclear power plants for that matter, is neither here nor there.

You only need to walk a couple of blocks in Tehran and hear all the gas leaks and smell the smells or observe the constant, inattentive work on those dilapidated networks of underground pipes to begin to seriously appreciate why I am so worried; especially by the prospect of a nuclear power plant in Iran- a country that has been cut off from the mainstream of global life for so many years.

So here too I have my strong misgiving about Hitchens’s position and those of many of my fellow Iranians.

But perhaps never before did I put my finger on the reason I am no fan of Mr. Hitchens or many of his neo Wilsonian cohorts as clearly as when I read the following scenario that he outlines:

So, picture if you will the landing of Air Force One at Imam Khomeini International Airport. The president emerges, reclaims the U.S. Embassy in return for an equivalent in Washington and the un-freezing of Iran's financial assets, and announces that sanctions have been a waste of time and have mainly hurt Iranian civilians… A new era is possible, he goes on to say. America and the Shiite world have a common enemy in al-Qaida, just as they had in Slobodan Milosevic, the Taliban, and the Iraqi Baathists.

I genuinely have no more set of cogent solutions for the mess we are in than any of the rest of you. But I can pretty much with certainty point out proposals that are either non-starters or predictable failures long-term in so far as they simply promise some more of the same failed policies of the past.

And that Mr. Hitchens could be seen so publicly and effortlessly retreating into this very familiar bubble of wishful thinking and silly babble is the perfect illustration of why I have had the sort of fundamental problems I have with our “neocons” in action.

The taradiddle of the blind and the wishful so cocksure in promising to lift the rest of us out of the morass killing multitudes one day at a time can be infuriating indeed!