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!

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