Monday, May 30, 2005

Campaigning in earnest!

There is only so far we can go always accusing our opponents of lying, or charging them with idiocy and simple mindedness. In underestimating their intelligence, we naturally end up exactly where we are and so we go on to claim that our authoritarian rulers would be dispatched within a week if only the international community were to so will. That has been our problem for the past 27 years. Always dealing in caricatures. And we continue to pay dearly every day.
And so as we are busy engaging the latest western fads without absorbing them properly, and as we go on to mindlessly insult and belittle everyone who does not dress and think as the rest of us trendy ones -- those we poke fun at all the time continue to do what they have always done—abuse and plunder.

If all we do is to ignore our people—and I really mean the rich mosaic we have here in terms of the diversity and the multiplicity of (the often conflicting) hopes, aspirations, expectations and fears— then we end up being the ineffective opposition we have always been-- continuously projecting our own passing fancy and ending up being paralyzed due to our false hopes and illusions.

Our ruling class has never been as dumb as we think them. And they have a solid constituency they cater to shrewdly.

I would like my multilingual friends (Nema, N, Assad, et al ) to read carefully. Perhaps we can then work together to help the (normally) methodic reporters see why it is exactly that some of our less than noble right wingers with a history of participation in the multiple organs of oppression here can so effortlessly end up changing outfits and finding home in certain circles in Washington.

With the exception of the two very obvious ones, all quotations are from those in the conservative camp.
اما چهل وخورده ای که رای می دهند ودر هشت سال گذشته بالای سه بار رفته اند رای بدهند از نظرپایگاه اجتماعی جزو طبقات فرودست به شمار می روند. ودر واقع نظام را کارآمد می دانند. اینها به کاندیدایی رای می دهند که می تواند شعارهایی در خصوص حل مسائل اقتصادی شان بدهد. این قشر آگاهی سیاسی اندکی دارد. یعنی احتمالا حافظه تاریخی قوی ای هم ندارد. بنابراین به وعده جواب مثبت می دهد. مشیت گرایی هم جزو خصوصیاتش است. پس در نتیجه به حکم تکلیف و مهر شناسنامه وهزارجور چیز دیگر هم در انتخابات شرکت می کند. یعنی چه؟ یعنی پس از ۲۷سال نظام نمی تواند روی طبقه متوسط و روشنفکران وتحصیل کرده ها حساب کند.یعنی اینکه هنوز این توده ها هستند که می رانند. یعنی هنوز ... یعنی ما روی نقطه صفر حرکت می کنیم
Worse yet, such easy largess and the cost of caring often translate into contempt for the small businessman, entrepreneur, and salesperson who is supposedly illiberal because he worries that he has less disposable income and is less secure. And when you add in cracks about Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and the "Christian Right" — all the things the more cultured avoid — then the architects of a supposedly populist party seem to be ignorant of their own constituencies
Victor Davis Hanson

...در چنین وظعیتی است که کارتن خوابی ژولیده هم مجال خودنمایی پیدا میکند و میخواهد «رکورد دار سیاست ایران» شود. او تنها نیست....وقتی احزاب واقعی امکان شکل گیری و فرا رفتن از انگاره های سنتی جامعه و تلقی آن از قدرت را پیدا نمی کنند، فرومایگان اجازه عرض اندام میکنند.
داوود پنهانی ...ایران

. But if you listen to Dr. Dean and his class venom, it hardly seems comparable with how he lives or how he was brought up. John Kerry's super power boat, Teresa Kerry's numerous mansions, Arianna Huffington's gated estate, George Soros's jet, Ted Turner's ranches, Sean Penn's digs — all this and more, whether fairly or unfairly, suggest hypocrisy and insincerity

عجیب تر آن که این افراد و همفکران آنها-مدعیان اصلاحات-که امروز به دفاع از طبقات مرفه جامعه بر خاسته اند و افراد متعلق به این طبقه راتربیت یافته در خانه و اقشار متوسط و کم در آمد جامعه را برخاسته از کوچه قلمداد می کنند و اداره مملکت و حاکمیت را در شاُن مرفهان میدانند...البته حرکتهای اعوجاجی و نوسانات عجیب و غریب از ناحیه تازه به دوران رسیده ها پدیده عجیب و غریبی نیست. نو کیسه ها و تازه به دوران رسیده ها-از نوع سیاسی یا اقتصادی یا فرهنگی و رسانهای...

علیرضا ملکیان...کیهان

The Rafsanjani hope is that, come polling day, common sense will triumph over superior organisation and Blairite polling methods. "Iranians generally aren't interested in having these people [the likes of Qalibaf] run the country," Mr Vaheb said. "They require comfort, welfare, security and reform - people who have served in the military aren't used to those things."

آری 16 سال بیش وقتی مردان جهاد خسته و خاکی از جبهه ها بر می گشتند تصمیم مدیران بر آن شد که آنان
را همراه فرهنگ مجاهد شان به پادگانها بفرستند چه اینکه معتقد بودند با فرهنگ تلاش وازخود گذشتگی
نمی توان اقتصاد را بنا نمود و تنها مصرف بیشتر است که اقتصاد را رونق می بخشد . مهندسان و متخصصان مجاهد که خود را محصور در دیوارها می دیدند در چهار دیواری خود شروع به سازندگی نمودند...و اکنون که روز کارنامه است نتیجه مدیریت مدیران سایه نشین درمیدانی به وسعت ایران کارخانه های پفک نمکی، خودروهای صفر کیلومتری که بین تهران و کرج یاتاغان می سوزاند. کارخانه های دولتی که به یک دهم قیمت به خود فروخته اند و سدهایی است که آب مردم روستاهای اطراف مشهد را به شهر نشینان قاسم آباد می رسانند و بهره بانکی هجده برابرژاپن تا سرمایه ها از بازارپرخطری که برای تولید آفریدند به جیب بانکهای دولتی سرازیر شود و اینان نه با کار اقتصادی بلکه با وامهای 30 درصدی، ده برابر کشورهای اروپایی از تولید کنندگان سود بگیرند و آن را بین خود و سرمایه گذارانی که هیچ ریسکی و رانپذیرفته اند تقسیم کنند و دامداران و کشاورزان و صنعتگران به زندان ها بیفتند و از پشت میله ها سلول لوکس شهرام جزایری را نظاره گر باشند...برنامه آینده آنان خرید کارخانه های خودروسازی ورشکسته انگلیسی و برنامه آینده اینان ساخت موشک برای پرتاب سفینه به فضا است. کیست که نداند دانشمندان جوان هسته ای که با وجود افزایش مواد مضر در خونشان به هفت برابر میزان حد مجاز باز بر کار خود پای می فشردند...سخن از نظامی بودن یا غیر نظامی بودن نیست بلکه سخن از فرهنگی است که ژاپن پس از جنگ را ابر قدرت جهان ساخت....

دکتر روح اله بیننده ...راه مردم

If there were any justice in the world, we would have the ability to transport our most severe critics across time and space to plop them down on Omaha Beach or put them in an overloaded B-29 taking off from Tinian, with the crew on amphetamines to keep awake for their 15-hour mission over Tokyo. But alas, we cannot. Instead, the beneficiaries of those who sacrificed now ankle-bite their dead betters… Yet from every indication of their own behavior over the last 30 years, we suspect that the generation who came of age in the 1960s would have not just have done far worse but failed entirely.


د رجامعه ما مردمي که مردم سالاري ديني را پذيرفته اند قبول کرده اند که در اين نوع حکومت چنان نيست که همه بايدها و نبايد ها و همه احکام فردي و اجتماعي شريعت با مراجعه به آراء مردم و از طريق دموکراسي معين ومعلوم شود. مردمي که اصول اعتقادات ديني خود را عقلا پذيرفته اند مي دانند که پيامبر براي ابلاغ واجراي احکامي که از طريق وحي دريافت مي کرد به آراء عمومي مراجعه نمي کرد. علي (ع) نيز هرگز حاضر نبود آنچه را که به قرآن و ملت پيامبر باز مي گشت با مشورت با عمر و زيد تغيير دهد... اگر همه ما بر سر مفهوم و حقيقت مردم سالاري ديني اتفاق نظر و وحدت پيدا کنيم و کساني را که مي خواهند از يکسو حقيقت آسماني و درست به همين دليل انساني دين را در پاي ليبراليسم غربي قرباني کنند.
آبادگران انقلاب اسلامی

Man cannot live without light, guidance, knowledge; only through knowledge of the good can he find the good that he needs. The fundamental question, therefore, is whether men can acquire that knowledge of the good without which they cannot guide their lives individually or collectively by the unaided efforts of their natural powers, or whether they are dependent for that knowledge on Divine Revelation. No alternative is more fundamental than this: human guidance or divine guidance."

نگاه آقای مطهری در این زمینه مقداری به نگاه فیلسوفان کلاسیک نزدیک بود و عدالت و حتی مفاهیمی مانند آزادی را به حق طبیعی متصل می ساخت و این قائل شدن به حق طبیعی شاید از نوآوریهای مرحوم آقای مطهری است که توانست حق طبیعی را در تفکر اسلامی معنا کند. من متفکر دیگری را در سنت اسلامی ندیده ام که این گونه سخن بگوید؛ بلکه در غرب هابز و لاک این گونه حرف زده اند منتها این دو سخن فرق می کنند. حق طبیعی نزد مرحوم مطهری به شرع محدود نمی شود بلکه آن را بر خاسته از دستگاه خلقت و طبیعت می داند. یعنی قبل از شرع چون انسان در دستگاه خلعت حضور داشته است دارای استعداد هایی است و مقابل هر استعدادی حقی است ...پس ما دارای منظومه ای از حقوق می شویم که اسمش را حقوق طبیعی یا فطری می گذاریم.
لاریجانی....گفت و گوی شرق

Liberal relativism has its roots in the natural right tradition of tolerance or in the notion that everyone has a natural right to the pursuit of happiness as he understands happiness; but in itself it is a seminary of intolerance

علت اینکه در غرب میان آزادی فکر و آزادی عقیده تفاوت نمی گذارند این است که آنها غایت گرا نیستند. آنها می گویند انسان باید زندگی خوش داشته باشد نه زندگی خوب بکند. اما آقای مطهری بر خلاف آنها معتقد به زندگی کردن یعنی هر کاری دلت می خواهد بکن و به چیزی پایبند نباش. ..
مشاركت مردم در عرصه هاي اقتصادي هم پايداري اقتصادي ايجاد مي كند.مشكل سرمايه داري هم اين است كه سرمايه را در دست عده اي خاص حبس مي كند. اين امر با مشاركت عامه تنافر دارد. در واقع تئوري اسلام هم تئوري فقر نيست بلكه تئوري زندگي خوب است اما اين زندگي خوب تنها يك مدل ندارد

The specific political distinction to which
political actions and motives can be reduced
is that between friend and enemy…
friend and enemy concepts are
to be understood in their concrete
and existential sense, not as symbols
or metaphors, not mixed and
weakened by economic, moral, and
other conceptions, least of all in a
private-individualistic sense as a
psychological expression of private
emotions and tendencies …

The enemy is not merely any
competitor or just any partner of a
conflict in general. He is also not the
private adversary whom one hates.
An enemy exists only when, at least
potentially, one fighting collectivity
of people confronts a similar
collectivity. The enemy is solely the
public enemy…

political thought and political instinct
prove themselves theoretically and
practically in the ability to
distinguish friend and enemy. The
high points of politics are
simultaneously the moments in
which the enemy is, in concrete
clarity, recognized as the enemy

Carl Schmitt

يا کساني را که ميخواهند به نام دين، مردم را از حاکميت بر سرنوشت خود باز دارند طرد کنيم و با طرد آنان مانع جدايي دين از سياست شويم، مي توانيم پيرو راهي باشيم که امام عزيز ما پيش پاي ما نهاد ودر آن راه ما را رهبري کرد. همين جاست که ملاک خودي وغير خودي معلوم و مشخص مي شود. ..این تفکيک خودي از غيرخودي که رهبر معظم انقلاب مطرح کردند سخن درست وروشني است بشرط آنکه درست فهميده شود. مي توان گفت: همه کسانيکه به مفهوم مردمسالاري ديني با همه لوازم و شرايطي که اين مفهوم منطقا دارد معتقدند خودي هستند و کساني که آن را نمي پذيرند غير خودي ...غيرخودي دانستن بعضي اشخاصو گروه ها البته به معني محروم کردن آنان از حقوق مسلم شهروندي و اعمال تبعيض و بي حرمتي در حق آنان نيست. اين سخن رهبر معظم انقلاب در باره خودي و غيرخودي همان سخن امام راحل است، آنجا که فرمود: «من در ميان شماباشم يا نباشم به شما وصيت و سفارش مي کنم نگذاريد انقلاب به دست نااهلان و نامحرمان بيفتد.
آبادگران انقلاب اسلامی

Holland is now in the grips of violent reaction. Mosques and religious schools are firebombed. Emergency legislation granting new intrusive powers to security services has been enabled. The Dutch are groping for a "solution," but they are still ducking the real problem, which, to their consternation, we are dealing with more effectively and far more self-confidently. "The multicultural crisis," Magdi Allam wisely reminds us, "should teach us that only a West with a strong religious, cultural and moral identity can challenge and open itself to the 'others' in a constructive and peaceful way. And that the goal must be a system of shared values within a common identity."

The Dutch — like every other European society I know — were unwilling to recognize that they had potentially lethal enemies within, and that it was necessary to impose the rules of civil behavior on everyone within their domain

That's what happens when a culture is relativised to the point of suicide. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once remarked of an American politician, "he can longer distinguish between our friends and our enemies, and so he has ended by adopting our enemies' view of the world." This has now befallen Europe, which cannot distinguish between free societies — their natural friends — like the United States and Israel, and has ended by embracing enemies such as the radical Islamist regimes and elevating Yasser Arafat to near beatific stature.

محسن رضايي ادامه داد: در صورت پيروزي در انتخابات و تشكيل دولت، با شناسايي نخبگان در حوزه‌‌هاي مختلف، نسبت به تشكيل دولت سايه، اقدام خواهم كرد.وي همچنين توضيح داد: در دولت سايه از نظريات، ديدگاه‌ها، انتقادها و پيشنهادهاي نخبگاني كه امكان حضور آنان به هر دليل در دولت اصلي وجود ندارد،‌ به عنوان مكانيزمي براي اصلاح مستمر عملكرد قوه مجريه، استفاده خواهد شد.رضايي افزود: حكومت به جاي آن‌كه نخبگان خارج از قدرت را به عنوان اپوزيسيون تلقي كرده، سعي كند يا به صورت حذفي و رويكرد امنيتي و قضائي با آنان برخورد كند يا آنان را غيرخودي تلقي كرده و بايكوت كند...

مساله دوم حکومت ایرانی یک حکومت مستقر است. حکومت در ایران مثل یک اسب زین کرده است و خیلی راحت هم می شود اداره شود ...اما متاسفانه پدیده های ساده مثل قتلهای زنجیره ای و کوی دانشگاه پیش آمد و علل آن کشف نشد اما دولت آینده باید اولین کاری را که در همان اول پیگیری کند روشن کردن این مسایل است.

محسن رضایی ... عصر اقتصاد
او {لاریجانی} که تحت عنوان کاندیدای نهایی شورای هماهنگی در قم سخن می گفت ادامه داد: اگر دولت ضعیف نباشد قتل زنجیره ای
در آن رخ نمی دهد. لاریجانی مشکل عمده کشور را بی بند و باری، بد حجابی و ریخت و پاش دانست....

فرهنگ آشتی

سوال : حقوق بشر يكي از قضايايي مطرح در ايران است كه آقاي شاهرودي نیز در مورد آن خيلي اقدامات كرده و انتقاداتی را مطرح کرده است .حالا شما فكر مي‌كنيد تا چه حد اين انتقادات جا دارد؟

به نظرم اين انتقادات نشان مي‌دهد كه دولت در بعضي از زمينه‌ها ضعيف عمل كرده است. يعني نقض حقوق بشر معلول ضعف دولت است .يك دولت قوي اجازه نمي‌دهد در زير مجموعه‌اش اشكالات اين‌گونه وجود داشته باشد ....
مصاحبه دكتر لاريجاني با دو یچه وله آلمان

به نظر یکی از روشنفکران ایرانی، تفاوت تمدن غرب با ما ایرانی‌ها در این است که غربی‌ها همیشه «بحران» را مرکز تفکر خود قرارداده اند و همیشه از بحران‌های جامعه و تمدن خود صحبت کرده و می کنند. این شیوه‌ی تفکر از زمان افلاطون شروع شده و تا كنون ادامه دارد. هشدارهای فروپاشی جوامع و تمدن غربی یکی از محورهای اصلی تفکر غربی است، ولیکن همین تفکر درباره‌ی بحران و فروپاشی، راه‌های برون رفت از بحران را هم به غربیان می شناساند. اما ما ایرانیان بحران‌های خود را نمی شناسیم. آنهایی را هم که می شناسیم انکار می کنیم
اولاً؛ دچار «بحران افتخار ملی» هستیم. اگر تعارف را کنار بگذاریم غرور ملی ما شکسته می شود، ما گرفتار این بحران بزرگ هستیم که نمی توانیم به وضعیت و جایگاه خود در عرصه بین المللی افتخار کنیم...

اگر بخاهیم دموکراسی را در ایران نهادینه کنیم باید یک فرد مقتدر سیاسی-نظامی انتخاب شود

محسن رضایی ... ایران

اگر از من سوال شود بزرگترين نقص اين دولت چه بوده مي‌گويم كارآمدي آن از لحاظ عملي قدري پايين است و اين نقص بايد در آينده جبران شود... بايد موضوع را متناسب با شرايط درك كرد و شجاعت تصميم‌گيري و تاثير‌گذاري داشت


"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result," Churchill quipped.This week millions of Republicans know just what he was talking about.

But true statesmanship, and the landmark achievements that attend it, demand something more. L'audace, toujours l'audace, said Danton.
William Kristol

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

In the mail!

I'll have to add a number of new links and make other adjustments. My buddy Gil's site has moved. He also reminds me of the noun brevity. I'll try to oblige him soon, and apologies also for the long posts.

Another friend Mr. Limitedinc writes to express his approval; although he thought the take on Strauss too gentle. In my defense, I'd like to introduce you to Mr. Michael Stickings, one self described "liberal Straussian" kind enough to drop me a note. So we have for your reading pleasure tonight exhibit A and B here.

For those who might be finding this blog's progressive slide to the right annoying, I'd give you a new collective: the revolutionary flower pot society and their insightful discussion of the upcoming presidential election.

And also another one of our expats' coverage of the election. He seems to be ahead of the rest of us on a number of different questions. A very attentive reader, I might add. Shiva's great site led me to him.

Mr. Behi might not need an introduction from me. But he too I learned about only a few days ago.

And to answer your question dear Praktike, my stomach is fine. AIPAC doesn't bother me much. They'll do what they must and we'll do what we have to. Mr. Perle, on the other hand, does annoy me immensely. He is simply malicious. There is no excuse.
Puerum miserum!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

An exchange: Strauss and the Neocons

I had one point that I wanted to clarify: you quoted Leo Strauss about "permissive egalitarianism." Since Strauss is considered the godfather of neoconservative philosophy, what do you think of the neoconservative philosophy in general? Do you think its premises (eg. society has to have an "other" to fight against to maintain a sense of community, liberalism is the problem as opposed to other forces, democracy can be imposed from the outside, etc.) are valid or not?

Look, Strauss has somewhat influenced my thinking and probably not in a way too terribly pleasing to some Straussians, I suspect. But I have a soft spot for him in my heart, I must admit. He has wonderfully stunning insights into most of the texts I am passionate about and many beautifully imaginative readings which forces one to be attentive to the context of texts.

Behind some of the more accusative tarradiddle targeting him, however, has been, I think, certain inattentiveness to the precarious conditions under which various authors have written throughout history. It doesn't take much simply to hover over various texts, presumptuous in thinking we understand the writers better than they understood themselves.

Intimate readings, on the other hand, require thoughtfulness and carefulness and one has to occasionally work multiple layers to get at some of the more central concepts. So I find Strauss in some ways indispensable. And his contributions to the debates on the malaise of modernity, and particularly about liberal education should not be avoided; nor could they be ignored.

Some translations of his works can be found in Iran. Labors of love, really. And I would suggest that geography does indeed affect one's interpretations at times. Two different examples and an observation of a more personal nature about the act of writing.

Much of the more recent belligerent (western) attacks on Strauss won't have much force if you are reading here. Do you really think anyone would rush to find him outrageous, or Straussians a "cult", for suggesting esoteric/exoteric dimensions to texts?

People go on to read our medieval poet Hafez everyday here looking for as yet another undiscovered layer or undisclosed meaning. And a central feature of Shi'ia theology has to do with a reading of the Koran dependent upon Zaher and Baten dichotomy. Fundamentally though, we should remember, Mr. Strauss attempts to get at the crisis of modernity by proceeding back to Plato through Al-Farabi. And Al-Farabi is one of us and we an heir to his tradition.

Conversely though, there isn't much one can do with some of the more reductionist interpretations of the political consequences of his teachings in the Iranian context if one isn't content with our present predicament or some of the possible choices.

Let's be blunt: I like my ancestors just as much as many of you on the outside fancy yours, I suppose. But the divine laws appear to me antithetical to justice. The engagement with His inscrutable will has resulted in the vanishing of wonder in our society and myriad meditations on His mystery and omnipotence has destroyed much of the concern with the order of things. So instead of the promised "deepening of the soul" we now have its near annihilation.

Can't very well be blaming liberalism, moral-relativism or historicism for the breakdowns in the social life here now, could we? So what is there to think? Is the tradition itself or this present form of our Republic or our (conventionally understood) foundational principles really defensible?

Put differently, the "covenant" hasn't done what it was supposed to do and precisely because of this failure, those who insist on "childlike simplicity"," obedient love" and "fear and trembling" should now leave our cities or confine themselves to the temple. I had never been satisfied with the Almighty's response to Job's questions to begin with. But Bam has definitively exhausted my patience altogether and for eternity.

And now a problem of transition. A strict, inattentive reading of the question of the best regime might lead us straight into the stinky shoes of the likes of Chalabi at best, although I can certainly see why some of the more rightwing, pious supporters of this Islamic regime are occasional Strauss readers. (check the Resalat newspaper)

As an aside, I think those Iranians should invite Mr. Bennett in for a tour of our "spiritual" land and together they should reflect upon some of the existing "decadence" and "cynicism," until such time as emotional exhaustion and fury disabuse the gentleman of his disenchantment with "boredom!"

And should Mr. Shulsky decide to join in on the fun, he too can experience firsthand some of the corrosive social consequences of the mindsets privileging the "analysis of adversarial intentions," instead of "details and uncertainties." We are all exceedingly good at that here.

And I should now offer an observation about the act of writing in more familiar terms. I have been writing this blog for about 16 months and in real life over the years have had a few different "traditional" publications. I actively read a number of real writers. I do express my concerns yes, but always in conversation with them. Some are never named. There are a few people I have been having some heated exchanges with. But we hardly ever acknowledge one another "openly" every time. This mode of entanglement you can see in all different more ancient cultures where the oral tradition has played a more central role. It has been very productive. Even more so than when I "lament" outspokenly. It takes work.

Because I have to think more seriously and find ways of articulating concerns that would address their conceptions and even though it might merely be in passing, in some ways it has been even more exhausting precisely because it has been so much more intimate.

Now to others who just quickly glance at this blog, a line or a paragraph might very well be irrelevant or not a very interesting one. And yes, quite a large chunk is both irrelevant and uninteresting. But for my (intended) interlocutor, some particular paragraph might be enough for our next bout. And I think that is an experience familiar enough to most writers.

And note please: even though the title of my blog reads "Guarded Observations" I am not by temperament subtle-- quite indiscreet and loud actually, and I am your run of the mill thinker. So just imagine what the creative, brilliant minds have been doing with this sort of exchanges over the many centuries. And seriously reflect upon what we deprive ourselves of the moment we assume our present mode of vulgar shouting matches which routinely pass as reading/dialogue is the only way to map out the preoccupations of those who still speak to us from a place in another culture and other centuries.

What all this out of the way I should now more explicitly say that I think Mr. Strauss is being unfairly blamed for the neocons adventures. More to the point, I have come to think Carl Schmitt's friend/enemy paradigm far more pertinent and here Strauss has some pointed objections aimed at the heart of Schmitt's construct of the Political which should be examined carefully.

So then about the neocons: it is important to initially take self-definitions seriously which is why we need to focus on what Irving Kristol has to say about foreign policy. This might help us get more of a sense for what is at stake here. According to the fellow, there has never been a definitive text we can call neoconservative on foreign affairs. But they all like Thucydides and as luck would have it that goes double for me.

So from here, I would make two quick observations. For Strauss, the city at war is inferior to the city at peace both in terms of humaneness and naturally of course degrees and modalities of human excellence. And I am not convinced here this is the way neocons conceive of things. But I can still keep an open mind on this.

And then there is also that central question of the cultural background of who it is that reads the text or when and where. And so, I've often wondered how the Melian Dialogue comes off, for example, if one reads it in Fallujah as opposed to Washington, and in Jenin as apposed to Jerusalem. And that leads straight to the heart of the more central part of the question.

The "genuine" Straussians--mostly gentle, civil and principled, (probably following in the footsteps of Strauss himself: "the philosopher will not hurt anyone. While he can not help being more attached to his family and to his city than strangers…his benevolence or humanity extends to all human beings with whom he comes into contact.") -- are probably leading intellectually satisfying lives in various Colleges cultivating souls and their version of "political activism" probably translates into contributing to the future health of their Republics by teaching and fostering a sense of citizenship that is contingent upon a functional moral compass and sharp, critical faculty of intellect.

What I think we have, on the other hand, in the sort of people loosely categorized as the neocons—i.e. the politically interventionist talking heads --are the theorists of Dominion. Incontinent, self-indulgent ruling elites (and I don't mean this necessarily and exclusively in a personal way) whose job it is to promote a particular version of national self definition that appears intricately bound with a position of geopolitical preeminence.

As practicalities of normal international relations go, as a number of different folk have pointed out, it doesn't take much to recognize that any ruling elite with enough clout and power would have ventured to fill the void brought about by the demise of the Soviet empire. They are thinking geopolitical grandeur long-term. And personally, when America is expanding to impose its new sense of Order on the globe, I would much rather deal with the neocons instead of say a Jacksonian America given the reactions American moves naturally elicit throughout a resistant globe.

Their rhetoric might have a tempering side effect--especially domestically, I think. But what is troubling for me is a lingering fear that often there is a cold logic to discourses and to the way historic events unfold.

Thus, I want all of us to be fully aware that even in a more generous, nuanced reading; that is, even when noting Schmitt's acknowledgment that "if physical destruction of human life is not motivated by an existential threat to one's own way of life, then it cannot be justified;" any defense of that way of life, and thus presumably "Democracy" itself requires (for Schmitt) "first homogeneity and second -- if need arises -- elimination or eradication of heterogeneity." And one shouldn't always wait for the punch line.

Subsequently, even as I go on to fully acknowledge that we have had more than our fair share of killing fields in the East, it is in the West itself that we witness some of the most brutal and systematic manifestations of barbarity as recent as half a century ago, notably in Auschwitz and Dachau and the Stalinist Gulags and psychiatry wards, and with Mussolini as well, I suppose. And witness also how the West was a major Saddam enabler when he was busy with some of his most barbaric butcheries. And also the callousness and the ease with which most tolerated the murderous sanctions regime in Iraq.

That combination of the theoretical paradigm at work here coupled with the lessons of the past century rings all kinds of alarm bells for me.

But enough depressing recollections for now. What I want to emphasize here is that I am not so naïve as to think when confronted with the competing claims of the perceived short or long term national security interests vs. the rhetoric of democracy, this generation of American elites would have the required fortitude to tolerate the uncertainty entailed by that period of democratic experimentation in the Arab/Islamic world (if/when they sense they can't set a "controlled fire") given the high stakes involved not only economically, but also and particularly because of the apparent lure of different murderous forms of Islamic fundamentalism in this region.

Consider also the history of their choices and interventions here and their preference for petty tyrants post WWII.

As for me, when faced with a choice between having to write in anonymity/not voting and living in (needless) fear vs. getting a relatively free press and voting for a lesser evil to represent some of my interests for any length of time, I would certainly choose the latter each and every time. I'll take whatever I can get.

But really, voting once a couple years democracy does not make, nor a more hassle free life; nor a blossoming of democratic ethos in any society or a just Order. And so once we start with a broader conception, I can't in good conscious consider democracy exportable at the point of guns and especially not overnight. In some ways, I even think it counter productive long term.

Post war trauma always unleashes insecurity which lets even the nastier genies of aggressive patriarchy, ethnic chauvinism/petty mindedness and fear-generated religiosity out of their bottles and these factors can be most destructive of the gradual blossoming of saner societies in the Middle East.

An exchange

For your reading pleasure, a thoughtful and well written article on Iran: Axis of Culture, History, and Geopolitics. Had an exchange with the author a while back which I am posting here today in two installments. In particular, note her systematic approach and her acutely probing style-- qualities which make her such effective and interesting interlocutor.

I've deleted some parts and considerably expanded certain others. There is more personal info here than usual. But it might help put my political positions in perspective.

Were you born in Iran? If so, what part of Iran are you from?

Yes. I was born in the capital city Tehran. But have lived in a number of different regions and have traveled (relatively) extensively.

Did you grow up in Iran? If so, what was your educational experience like?

Yes I did mostly. Education in Iran is (was) quite rigorous although it emphasizes route memorization, quick thinking (I really mean knee jerk) and impulsive responses, regurgitations, test taking, and-- with the sort of class dynamics that involves anticipating what is expected of you when put on the spot. A form of ritualized game plays, really. Of course, obsessions with grades and rankings was/is paramount as always.

The education system doesn't encourage independent thinking or much thinking generally. No serious engagements with primary texts aside from poetry. And emphasis remains as always on synopsis, grandiose conceptualizations and/or repetitive problem solving drills e.g. in mathematics/ geometry /set theory and other more exact sciences. And requires absorbing inordinately voluminous information about everything.

The pedagogical relations especially in universities these days given the explosion of the student body seems to have become highly adversarial with students mostly annoyed about not being heard and concerned with overtly arbitrary treatments along with the perception of being humiliated constantly and belittled; with some instructors concerned about lack of discipline and excessive number of entitled hustlers in the ranks whose learning might have breath at best without depth..

The fundamental problem of course remains the emphasis on systematization and having all the answers instead of encouraging students to learn to ask the right questions satisfied at some stage with partial answers but with follow-ups possible because of a cultivated sense of curiosity about the unknown and/or because of the desire to figure out riddles on one's own—just for the heck of it. And a fear of experimentations still a constant problem..

What did your family do for a living? (eg. professionals, farmers, merchants, etc.).

My mom was a homemaker and dad an army officer.

What memories do you or your family have about the Shah's rule? Were these memories generally positive, negative or something else? Please explain.

Memoirs, as you well know, can be tricky. My happiest memories are those that have to do with growing up. An enchanting childhood with a loving family and endless play in wide open spaces, with the aroma of sage and jasmine filling the air and bright star filled sky and moon lit nights and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter with an affectionate mother actively supervising rigorous home schooling and dad putting me to sleep (most of the nights) telling tales from our ancient Book of Kings. Thus, by association, happy memories of the era of monarchy as well.

Since the family was fiercely anti communist /pro-U.S./Israel, all of us were quite happy with the Shah. As a young teen of course-- with the start of the revolution--I split from the family ranks. Something quite normal during revolutionary upheavals which also affected a lot of other families.

So, my father and I had many bitter exchanges and continued our arguments until his death. But the same memories, given my father's profession, include also living in villages without electricity or clean water. Snakes and tarantulas meandering on the wooden poles of our ceiling at night and scorpions on the ground. Parasites that had grown to be huge worms in my intestines and scaring the living daylight out of me as a child when they came out of my rectum and struggling to walk in the sort of mud that practically covered half my body because of the unpaved roads and always being surrounded by poor, dirty kids all around and their parents who looked abused/abusive. Encounters with many bitterly unhappy, poverty stricken families in need etc.

So, yes, both positive, negative and literally something else.

What are your memories and views concerning Ayatollah Khomeini and his revolution in 1979?

I was enthusiastic about the revolution though didn't much care for the Islamists from day one. I never thought of it as his revolution. I have never been religious. I think my family might also have had something to do with my trying to walk a fine line between supporting the revolution and not supporting its particular manifestation by way of the growing predominance of the Islamic groups.

My father was in danger and his friends were being purged, incarcerated or executed right and left and those were the authority figures I'd grown up with and loved. So very concerned, and conflicted with a sense of enthused excitement. And of course, youthful aspirations and dreams of helping build paradise on earth.

What forces do you think led to the 1979 revolution? Do you think the effects of the revolution have been positive, negative or mixed? Please explain

This is such a huge question. Economic factors were one. There was a land reform in the 60's that left many peasants landless and sent them scrambling to make a living in the cities. No structure in place to absorb them. Rapid changes evident also all over the country because of the rise in the price of oil and the influx of money into the country.

Expectations of better life amongst workers denied decent wages and minorities fed up with being abused, and certainly the emergence of a more cosmopolitan student body affected by the global pandemonium of the 60's and 70's who demanded their rights along with the influence of those two main guerilla organizations-- the Maoist Fadayeen and the Islamist Mujahedeen and their mystique. Not to be overlooked of course the obvious impact of the clergy and the mosques and the long history of Iranian nationalism and the yearning for full sovereignty and loathing for foreign meddling/domination..

Inequities and inequality were pronounced in our society with privileged few having access to most of the wealth and the resources along with rampant corruption and out of control authoritarians in power who pushed everyone around as they pleased.

Too bloody I think has been the march of this revolution in its aftermaths. As uprisings go, the overthrow of the monarchy was modestly painless. But what happened afterwards has been a monumental disaster. In a way, I still think it has the potential of having been positive despite all the suffering. I think conservative religiosity might be banished for a long time to come with the demise of this regime—whenever that is. And that's a relief. There has been much expanded infrastructure and native abilities. And Republicanism might become a lasting tradition.

But I might be wrong here and too optimistic. Because from where I am sitting, what is evident is that all sorts of different forms of "mystical" thinking have been gaining ground lately. I have a hunch in a few years even evangelical Christianity might also make huge headways in Iran if you can believe that. We'll see. So who knows, we might even be forced back to square one again. More authoritarianism, princes and princesses and courtly ostentations and their fools and legally sanctioned whorehouses without taxation, medical benefits or representation plus various religious sects vying for the attention of unhappy souls.

The major puzzle for me of course is the following: what set of rules will we have in place to allow the emergence of an orderly society? Years of authoritarianism has ensured that people have no respect for any laws or regulations and now with all the traditional religious prohibitions practically decimated, it has become a free for all in all appalling sorts of ways. How will it all come together? What can be done? Your guess is as good as mine.

What led to the heightened push for democratic reform in the late 1990's?

End of the war, I think, took the lid off all kinds of desires and those pent up frustrations and expectations. And a new generation which thought it had sacrificed enough for the longest of time and so it deserved a more responsive government for a change. And also envy of social freedoms like those enjoyed in the west. Also, seeing how a lot of people had become well off to enjoy authority and prestige in the aftermath of a revolution which demanded so many sacrifices from all citizens while promising such earthly rewards effectively contributed to people's voracious appetite for what they lacked.

What is the general background of the students in the student movement--are they typically from elite families or are many of them first-generation university students from more humble means?

This is an excellent question for which I don't have an answer. But something certainly worth looking into very closely. The conventional wisdom has it that under the Shah 1000 families ruled here. There are some prominent families still left from the older times. But there has been a population explosion with a new ruling elite having emerged in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution.

And even though power and wealth might appear solidified, the diffusion in breath and depth is unprecedented in the history of modern Iran, I think. And most of them have had humble beginnings that stretch back only to 25 years ago chiefly due to their positions and the endless wheeling and dealings in the post revolutionary Iran. So, I don't know if their kids should be considered humble or simply not so humble elites!

Remember, there are two major types of universities here. One is nationalized, first tiered. And the other called "Free Islamic University", which is actually private and requires high tuition. Those who pass the competitive entrance exams ranked in the higher percentiles can get an education for free and I don't know who they are and where they come from. The composition appears quite mix to me.

But all the indications are that those who are better off are often the loudest and also (unfortunately) most quickly intimidated. Like all other countries, the ones not terribly wealthy are more self-reliant, with a natural kind of intelligence and street smarts which translates into more of a stomach for violence. If this group gets more belligerent and involved, they won't be that easily forced to retreat or beaten back. A big enough if though.

And we should never lose sight of the negative affects of the Iranian overprotective family dynamics on the kids. Parental influences play a major role in tempering revolutionary conduct, I think. Something that most observers of Iranian scene don't pay enough attention to probably because of their perception of what happened in Iran during the War—an anomaly I think.

As if parents were really happy to sacrifice their children. Iranian mothers faint quite often with each of their kid's stubbed toes. And fathers lose their bearings in life. You should see the numbers who still sob uncontrollably next to the quite crowded multiple tombs of the unknown soldier all over the place here even after so many years. And the main cemetery is crowded most of the time.

Who'd want to cause so much heart ache for parents?

Drug addiction is also high and really problematic. Can't fight brutal black-shirts stoned you know!

Do you know anyone personally who is/was active in the student movement

Everyone comes to know, at some point, everyone else around here which, incidentally, is one of the reasons our regime has been so effective in preempting organized dissent.

Snitching has become a favorite part time profession of choice for many here.

There seems to be some disillusionment among the population with the limited success of the reform movement. I have read from different sources, including on your blog (2/5/05), that Iranian youth seem alienated and cynical and have withdrawn from a sense of community. Please discuss how much this is a problem and what, in your opinion, could be done to change it for the better.

I have a hard time thinking a viable answer. Ours is still a highly socialized and meddlesome culture. This means people are in very extensive interrelated networks even when they don't want to be. Then patriarchy, hierarchy and all the other negative factors work their magic, and that means at any given time most kids are being pushed around by the older kids, their parents, their teachers , their peers and of course the authorities, the Bully-in-Chief.

At some point you just have to play expected roles just well enough to get by although what you are actually doing is tuning others out to remain sane. And this is what I think is happening everyday here. People are so much in your face that one just ends up shutting the eyes and the ears to have some peace of mind. Even with this Islamic regime in power, if people just backed off a bit respecting each other's private spaces, I think that would go a long way in taking away some of the pressures.

I think what we need here is time and space to map out our own priorities. So my only solution for now is freedom, freedom and more freedom and tolerance and space. Freedom from the arbitrary impositions of various modalities of formal and informal authority structures to begin with. Some peace of mind until people learn to listen to and discover a measure of their inner voices and requirements. It will get nasty and might be a disaster, but I can think of nothing else.

For a while, I think post Islamic Iran might look like one of those spring breaks in Cancun MTV covers plus some idiotic zealots dumping acid on naked bodies. I sincerely hope I am wrong though.

What I am trying to say is that no one will get any further mileage out of pushing Britney Spears/Animal House model on Iran. The paradigm is now effectively contributing to the perpetuation of the authority of the Islamists here since everything is being done in private and those in power are quite happy to let kids do drugs and dance and copulate as they wish just so long as they never lose sight of the fear factor and the fact that the authorities can and will strike at will.

A paradigm shift is in order.

Do most Iranians seem to be moving toward wanting a secular government or are they still trying to find better ways to reconcile an Islamic state with democracy? If the latter, what are some of the more popular ideas of how to achieve a better balance?

A large percentage has had it with this regime and all its various possible mutations. A small, but sizable minority has not. Even assuming a 70/30 ratio always thrown around in the media, we will still have considerable millions-- rather devout family of believers of all different ages who'd want to see some strict Islamic interface with the government. Some are striving for a balance. Others just want out of the whole construct.

I have been looking at some of the more rightwing models. I think in a way they mimic some features of the American Right. But it has been slow work and so I won't be able to give you any quick answers just yet.

A measure of our progress towards a saner society, I have come to believe, is the actual number of Iranians who don't start their utterances by emphatically saying "Iranians want…." There is no such thing as a unified Iranian voice. We are a highly divided, fragmented country and at some point our political discourse has to allow for that.


Upon closer examination, the recent reformist movement in Iran seems more complex than it is portrayed here in the mainstream U.S. media. For example, there are more moderate clerical members who are calling for reform as well as secular democrats. I have read that those who advocate for political liberalism are often opposed to economic "liberalization" (i.e. free trade policies, opening up Iranian assets to foreign ownership, mass privatization, etc.). Is this true from your observation?

Yes. And quite problematic. Look, Iranians are really a complex bunch with rather confused/confusing set of expectations and some weird sense of entitlement. We really think we are a very rich country because we have oil and so we start out with terribly grand expectations.

Look at it as a paradox of self definition. Iranians think themselves highly intelligent and cunning.(probably true) Yet, I often wonder how it is we have managed to successfully delude ourselves into thinking we have the same sense of communal sense of responsibility evident amongst the Israelis, and the discipline of the Japanese, the planning acumen of the Germans and the executive management skills of the Americans and as a result we always set ourselves up for disappointments in that we just can't subsequently understand why Iran is still the rotten place it has always been.

In a way, I think, the ideal image most Iranians have of their society is the Swedish model, except no one likes to pay any taxes. We'd like to have government subsidies for everything we do, but have no tolerance for expectations in return. No sense of reciprocity really. Everyone is business minded and expects a share of the oil money directly accessible for all the needs without any limitations imposed. And not much long term patience and frankly, not the most systematic people you'd encounter although very formalist in our approach to thinking.

My gut feeling here is that Iranians will not be happy with any regime whatsoever. But we will begrudgingly accept a govt. that has policies which subsidize our various activities while demanding little in return. In the long run, I think it best to confront the attitude instead of fanning expectations because no one will be able to rule this particular bunch democratically any time soon with that attitude and given the country's limited resources in absence of some more advanced modes of cooperation.

Reading about 19th/20th century political history of Iran, it seems that the majority of the Iranian population did not benefit from or were even exploited under these foreign investment/free trade policies imposed by the British. Do you think that most Iranians think these policies are unwise and not in their best interest based on their historical experience with foreign control and socioeconomic stratification?

I don't think too many of us these days reflect much on the wisdom of any policies. We've come to think life as jungle with the strongest doing whatever they can get away with. And so yes, we start with an innate antipathy towards foreign control. But since our notion of the universe is one controlled by out of control thieves, the consensus is, any thief who shares more crumbs is going to be tolerated more easily although always begrudgingly.

Middle East journalist Sandra Mackey has suggested that Iran, as well as others in the Muslim world, are having a crisis in terms of maintaining their identity and sense of stability in a world that is experiencing rapid changes via technological advances in communications/travel, along with a more Westernized/corporate capitalist culture being thrust upon them. Do you think there is truth to this? How do you think globalization is affecting Iran both culturally and economically?

Look this again is tricky. In explains nothing. What is identity really? In so far as we are all men and women caught up in a rapidly changing world, we all struggle to maintain a sense of self no matter where we are. But you are not dealing with the Soviet Union here. Iran and perhaps the entire Islamic world have always been capitalistic, and entrepreneurial in orientation. It is one giant bazaar, when you think about it. And we are much less disciplined here curtsey of the authoritarian rulers who want to regulate all breathing spaces.

Hence, when you think about it, if and when we succeed in getting the head Imam to leave the government and return to the mosque, given the new sense of self confidence that will have resulted, why would anyone want to tolerate the Imam attitude in a CEO?

And culturally, Iranians have always been quick to jump on any foreign coattail. There is a famous, beautiful and oft quoted description of Persians in Herodotus--something about a nation that thinks itself superior to all other nations while she is most ready to borrow from others. And that hasn't changed much as best I can figure.

Even in the heydays of the Islamic regime's cultural isolationism and brutality, Iranians didn't easily relinquish their "western" ways. Iran has always been highly cosmopolitan formally, with people open to outside influences. Most often without even reflecting upon the consequences as we are a fashion minded lot. Thus love/hate dialectic has always been the side effect. As best I can figure, it is not going to change much in the foreseeable future.

What is the current situation like for women? Is it overall getting better or worse?

I think woman have come a long way precisely because of this Islamic regime and not in the way you might think in terms of where the credit might be due. Think of it as a classic case of unintended consequences.

Quite a large number of more traditionalist families who would have fought allowing "their" woman access to education, sports, social participation, etc. decided it was fine with them to give women more leeway since the society was now Islamic. And obviously since Islam was deemed superior to all the other organizing principles for societies, folk wanted to prove Islam can facilitate achievements for women. This allowed large segments of woman more breathing room.

The less traditionalist segment, precisely because of seeing their own hang-ups and fears about/of more independent women codified in restrictive Islamic laws and acted upon by those in a Government they consider backward, strived to appear more "open minded," and so they too tired to be "liberal" when it came to woman.

But more importantly, women have been in no mood to play nice given all they do here while being pushed around all the time. And Iranian woman are generally strong, ambitious and not easily prevailed upon. In many ways, I really think, Iran is a matriarchal culture. And precisely because of the strong presence of women and their formidable interventions, patriarchy manifests itself so grotesquely.

Men are really dependent on woman in a lot of different ways and so fear works out in the form of aggression. But just watch what is going to happen here twenty, thirty years down the road if my hunch is right. This country will be managed by woman in all sorts of unexpected ways. I have a couple of entries on woman you might want to check out in my blog for more thoughts on the subject. But many problems remain, both legal and personal. Prostitution is rampant. Abuse and addiction and high divorce rate and unemployment , and of course the obvious, all the legal discriminations as well as both formal and informal social limitations.

Discuss Iran's geographical location in relation to its current & historical political realities. It seems that geography has made Iran vulnerable to invaders and outside powers using it as a base to compete for domination. At the same time, it has also contributed to Iran's cultural richness & sophistication

Yes, the last aggressive foreign war initiated by Iran was eons ago. And we have had chunks of this country absorbed by aggressive neighboring powers large and small over the years. But that has also meant a diverse country that has been in the crossroad of a multiplicity of influences from different civilizations. The more "sophisticated" my understanding of other cultures becomes, the more amazed I become at how much of their echoes I detect in our own culture and vise versa. Something that cannot be explained away by parallel development or independent recognition of "universals". You would be amazed at the degree of Greek, Indian, Jewish, Chinese (among others) influences you encounter in Iran. Just look at some Persian miniatures as a simple exhibit of intercultural influences. Their faces and the Chinese motif of the clouds for instance….

Considering that the U.S. has a history of hostility toward Iran and is now militarily occupying Afghanistan to the east and Iraq to the west, as well as having a military presence in the northern Caspian area, do you think Iranian leaders see it as a logical step to obtain a nuclear weapons program as the only viable means of protection?

Yes, and I am not persuaded by all the denials and prevarications to be frank, although I have no solid proof for my statement. If you have been reading my blog, you have noticed how much I complain about the evident deterioration of Iranian character. We were never this angry before or this violent or self absorbed as far as I can remember. If you look at both the revolution and the initial stages of the war with Iraq you will see how things just escalated gradually. A part had to do with post revolutionary confusion. A bigger part was gentility. Iranians of old weren't as mean-spirited and fierce then. Not this time though. Iranians appear to me to genuinely enjoy inflicting pain these days if someone robs them the wrong way. And this is what worries me a great deal about any potential conflict.

This generation in power really likes all the money and the prestige and the privileges. They think they won it fair and square in the face of global opposition and they have sacrificed much and quite enough already. And they are acutely aware of their waning influence in the society. As far as they are concerned, they won a revolution and overcame adversaries in a civil war and then fought Saddam for eight years when the fellow was supported by practically all the major Western powers and they lost large numbers of their friends and relatives.

They are not going to play nice and they are not going to play defense exclusively. . And they are not going to gradually escalate especially as they saw what happened to Taliban and Saddam. And they have nowhere else to run to. And this time around, no one is going to innocently walk on land mines to defend god, Islam and the country either. They are going to fight for power, and prestige and money and if they have to die, they will want to make sure they take as many of their enemies with them as possible.

They are going to fight dirty and all over the place. They have tasted what money and power can get them in real life. So they will want to have as many deterrents as possible to maintain their hold on power and if there is a conflict, it would be dirty and nasty with them initially lashing out ferociously at their own weak center, i.e. the internal opposition-- "the enemy fifth column."

I have read that most of the Iranian population across the political spectrum is supportive of a nuclear deterrent based on a strong sense of nationalism. In your observation, is this true?

Yes and no. There is a strong sense of what Strauss calls "permissive egalitarianism" in operation in Iran. People don't think in terms of differences. If someone has something, we don't like being denied. I don’t know if we can call this also an innate sense of fairness, but it certainly qualifies as what some have called "indignation envy." Whatever you call it, people don't like being surrounded by nuclear bombs. But whether a large percentage just wants to have the Bomb out of some sense of nationalism, I am not sure I can vouch for that.

Some journalists who have recently covered Iran have illuminated the ambivalent feelings that Iranians tend to have toward the west in general and the U.S. in particular. What are your thoughts on this?

Look, the Iranian encounters with the West in modern times have been problematic. The West's conduct in Iran has been less than exemplary. Assorted intrigues and conspiracies and wars and coups. And you can't reconstruct those memories away. So the West has become an entity to look up to while also to be fearful of.

But the enemy of an enemy is a friend, and since a lot of people loath this regime so emphatically, most are willing to forgive and forget …well, until the next round that is.

Iranians are really a fickle bunch and so we are either passive aggressive or unabashedly belligerent. This "soft" feeling for the West can evaporate in an instant given any set of distasteful policies.

Do you think that Iranians in general would be open to reconciliation with the U.S. if it were sincere and equitable on the part of the U.S.?

Yes of course. A lot of people just want normalcy. A lot of people want hassle-less visas to go visit relatives and the possibilities of lucrative business interaction once the sanctions are lifted remain attractive enough and a lot of people might even be dreaming of emigrating. And the idea of being on the good side of the US and all it evokes here has certain charm. Iranians are much like Americans. That innate lawlessness and that sense of limitless freedom and license resonate with Iranians. So yes, even if it is not terribly equitable, my best hunch is a lot of people look forward to reconciliation.

And precisely because Iranians are so like Americans, quite a large number loath the idea of being dictated to. Remember how Americans regard one their own who even so much as receives election contributions from an outside power and so people still remember all the unabashed meddling here. And recall how some New Yorkers responded to the Saudi fellow who contributed money while talking about American policy in the aftermath of 911. So just imagine how those who have been tending to the victims of Saddam's chemical warfare feel knowing full well who was partially responsible for the mayhem.

You don't have to agree with the emotional reactions one way or another. Just have to recognize the intensity of the emotions involved when it comes to the matter of reconciliation.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


The initial phase of the formal registrations is now over. In sum, 1010 potential candidates are in-- 921 men and 89 women. In ten days or so, after the Guardian Council has had its say by vetting the candidates, those left in the field can start campaigning in earnest. I guess if my math is right, there will be 20 days of sharp exchanges and some marvelous promises of stars and the moon.

Luckily, one of our daily newspapers (Farhang-e-Ashti, Culture of Reconciliation) had some stats on the last 8 (presidential) contests. I thought you might find the following useful:

First President: Mr. Banisadr 1979; 174 candidates registered; got 10,753,752 votes out of 14,152,907. Total eligible voters 20,857,391. Participation rate:

Mr. Rajaie 1981; 71 registered; 12,770,050 out of 14,573,803.TEV: 22,439930. 64.95%

Mr. Khamenei 1981; 46 registered; 15,905.987 out of 16,847,715. TEV: 22,439,930. 75.08%

Mr. Khamenei 1985;50 registered; 12,205012 out of 14,238,587. TEV: 25,933,802.

Mr. Rafsanjani 1989; 79 registered; 15,550,528 out of 16,452,677. TEV: 30,139,598

Mr. Rafsanjani 1993; 128 registered; 10,566,499 out of 16,796,787. TEV: 33,156,055

Mr. Khatami 1997; 238 registered; 20,138,784 out of 29,145,745. TEV: 36,466,487

Mr. Khatami 2001; 814 registered; 21,659,053 out of 28,082,930. TEV: 42,170,230

A bit of melancholy in the air today. As I was sitting in my park bench thinking about these stats and looking at my fellow Iranians, I started telling myself that ours must be one of the strangest societies anywhere on the face of our planet.

The first president was booted out after some disagreements and forged an alliance with the infamous MEK and had his daughter marry MEK leader Mr. Rajavi and they absconded to France together. He had a falling out. The daughter divorced and he now lives there in a cold house all alone.

The second president was assassinated along with countless others, probably by Mr. Rajavi's henchmen. Mr. Rajavi himself at some point moved to Iraq and had him an ideological revolution in his Organization. That meant one of his fellow "Central Committee" members, or whatever it is they call themselves, divorced his wife so Mr. Rajavi could marry her.

Since then, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi has become a permanent fixture in any presidential election. Not that she is running or anything. She is just a self declared "interim President" of something or other.

For the longest of times, Mr. Banisadr too signed off every one of his declarations, "Your Elected President." I haven't read any of his stuff for years. I wonder if he still does that. And then there is also that perpetual King somewhere in the background hoping for the throne back and of course the yellow Savior who planned to arrive here last year but had a change of heart as he deemed us only worthy of his TV images.

Our next president got a promotion and is now our Supreme Leader. He too was a victim of an assassination attempt on his life. He survived, but lost the use of one of his arms.

Mr. Rafsanjani, the moneybag himself, has already served two terms. He is a serious contender now, although he is not very well liked anymore. Apparently he is deemed too rich, too corrupt, and powerful. Even though by all accounts we too are all in love with money, and always aspiring for as much power via that shortcut money provides. Hence our worship of Mammon. We are probably mostly just as corrupt ourselves! Why does he want to be a president anyway?

And the rumor has it that Mr. Khatami had no clue he was going to be such a smash hit and one hell of disappointed at the same time. All he wanted to do was to have a few million votes so that with the subsequent name recognition and his charming smile, he could move on and start an academic journal or a classy magazine of some kind. That's what it is he is really passionate about. But voila! He too got more than he bargained for and forgot himself.

The number of eligible voters has probably skyrocketed from the last time around. Here in this heartland of evil, we have, I suspect, the youngest voters you'd find anywhere on this ravaged planet of ours.

At the tender age of 15, you might have to always negotiate your lunch money with your mother, but hey, you can just walk into any station and vote as you please. Sort of funny when you think about it!

If they ever managed to pool resources together effectively by persuading some of their older voting friends to help out, they could then become a voting bloc to be terrified of.

What if they voted in an absolute bloodthirsty imbecile to punish their own parents for not giving them the car key for the Friday night cruise? Or what is there to prevent them from voting in someone ruthless and he cuts all the benefits to the retirees and their dependents, thus punishing the grandmothers for not giving them all the birthday gifts they'd wanted?

And that's the real reason, you see, we have those just, pious grandfathers in the Guardian Council. Only to save us from our own folly. By their vigilance, they are probably looking after our best interests--particularly the grandma's.

Like I said, a terribly, terribly strange Republic!

Friday, May 13, 2005

The nuclear crisis

An interesting interview was broadcasted with two high level members of the Iranian team involved in the negotiation process with the Europeans-- Messrs. Aghazadeh and Aghamohamadi.( link an interview in Farsi) That process appears on the verge of collapse and so we now face the prospect of another full blown international crisis. I am going to share my thoughts on the subject.

Here is a quick recap. A few days ago, the authorities here declared their intention to resume uranium enrichment activities in Isfahan. The process, from what I understand, involves conversion of that notorious yellowcake of the few years back we heard so much about into UF6. Best think about it as the industrial process of mass producing cakes galore. If those cakes are then fed to the centrifuges in Natanz, then we'll have juicy cakes.

In other words, the Iranian scientists will have managed to successfully master and control the entire fuel cycle. And that in essence was what remained at the heart of all the negotiations, suspensions and the hustles and the bustles of the trio. That declared intention to resume activities has drawn the ire of the Europeans and now they've threatened this country with some not so vague "serious consequences." Now add the irate "Mr. Mustache" Bolton to the equation and Mr. Bush's declared support for the European position and I at least sit up at nights tending to my upset stomach.

Just so you know where I stand. My objections to the Iranian pursuit of nuclear energy are safety related. Put bluntly, modern Iranian culture suffers hugely from the plagues of impatience, inattentiveness to details, and a non-horizontal work structure marked by inefficiencies and overtly belligerent forms of non-cooperation.

We also have here the baffling antipathy for all conduct proactive, and an astonishing lack of respect for rules, procedures and predefined uniformed processes, Those qualities along with our ubiquitous manifestations of "audacity" when it comes to safety-related work issues, and our love of improvising as we please and our (misplaced) overconfidence in our own personal abilities and the tendency to have a dismissive attitude towards the inputs of others and an unwillingness to seek advice add up to bad news when coupled with nuclear technology. It is atrocious enough hearing gas leaks all the time in our streets and putting up with those murderous drivers in cars. You can understand why the prospect of another Chernobyl worries me a great deal.

But my position, I'd like to emphasize here, is an absolutely negligible, marginal minority opinion in Iran today. Most people here like the idea of nuclear technology. Understand that as far as most Iranians are concerned, energy conservation might as well be some suburb of Ouagadougou. Iranian energy consumption is mind bugling. And Iran is even an importer of gasoline. And we still manage to feel cheated of our birthright.

In the absence of the conscious participation of the Iranian citizens in the efforts to curb that insatiable appetite for energy, and given the adversarial nature of our relations with this regime, the authorities here do not have much room to maneuver domestically.

In purely technical/economic terms, a cogent case can be made here for nuclear technology.

And another factor to consider. Socially, our culture is highly adversarial in nature. It is always exhusting keeping up with everything one's interlocutor does or says or even what we think he or she is actually thinking while saying something else. We are all attentive to existing disequilibrium of power and even the slightest changes in the body language. And that is what makes living in this society so difficult. Among other riddles, it is always annoying to all of us when confronted with that simple question of why it is people so attentive and aware are also such apathetic, selfish and inattentive creatures in public settings. ("duh…years of authoritarianism" explanation comes in handy here!)

And that is an essential feature of most ancient cultures. Think the Greeks and the Indians and the Chinese. Our politics then is also fundamentally affected by this cultural proclivity. No one born and raised in this culture reacts well to threats and to perceived bullying. In personal terms, we might put up with it begrudgingly for a while. But at some point we suddenly decide enough is enough and then we do what we have to no matter what the costs. Just look at the casualties alone per year in Iran that is fight related. Think also the number of people killed or in jail under this Islamic regime. We make their lives a living hell and they reciprocate in order to hang on to power and we in turn return the favor. Life is one perpetual ceaseless battle here.
If you think any of us are ever silent, docile victims, you should think again. We might be momentarily defeated and biting our tongues or subdued and in retreat. But only to collect ourselves for the next round. And again, this is reflected in the politics of Iranians of various persuasions. It is a perpetual tug of war in this society and it has been like this over every single issue for as long as I remember. Now you can think International Relations and factor in our regime's love of power and money and its ability to tolerate exorbitant costs in pursuit of its objectives and you'll get more of a sense for what has given me an upset stomach.

I think the Europeans might be fundamentally misreading the intentions of the Iranian regime if they think this declaration a ploy to win concessions. As far as the negotiating team was concerned-- as best I could surmise-- the Europeans were deemed either unwilling or unable to offer anything worth of substance at this point. This is an assault to alter the existing context of the pressures Iranian regime is under.

Iranian authorities think Europeans have only been interested in delaying tactics and not serious in acknowledging Iranian objectives. And all that is required of them by their choice is that act of showing up to the negotiating table every now and again whereas with those seals on the facilities in Isfahan, the lives of around 700 employees has been placed in limbo and the Iranian nuclear aspiration in permanent stasis. Iranian authorities are loath to continue seeing the fate of their love, joy and pride hang in balance.

In essence, the Iranian authorities appear to me serious about wanting to salvage their nuclear energy plans come what may. And this while seeking to exercise full sovereignty over the entire process and production. They think this crucial to the technological, scientific developments of the next 20 years and a matter of national pride. Just look at the constant delays in bringing online the Bushehr facilites, they point out. This, they argue, is what befalls all activities dependent on foreign expertise.

Of course, we all know about those hundreds and hundreds of development project initiated exclusively by the Iranian nationals which never see the light of day. But playing the xenophobic card always gets politicians everything they want-- everywhere. Just look at all the freedom loving Bush supporters in the Land of the Free. What can you expect from us brutes?

They have made the final assessment that there is no satisfying Washington ever and if they bend on this issue any further, there would be no end to fresh demands and that will certainly be the start of an endless series of humiliating concessions that would ultimately culminate in a regime change. And they are not about to take that lying down.

This is the equivalent of Iranian regime's red line in the sand, I think. I do hope I am wrong on this. But this is how things appear to me at the moment.

So they are attempting to tie their endeavors to that deep rooted sense of Iranian nationalism. There has been much talk of selective treatment. Why is it, they repeatedly ask, that nuclear energy is being tapped in so many different countries-- even those with huge oil and gas reserves (singling out both Russia and the States), if it is deemed so economically unviable? Why was there such a hush job when it came to the South Koreans and the Egyptians whereas Iran is dealt with so clamorously?

And the answer was presented as simple enough. That Iran is deemed a threat and nothing the Iranian regime can offer would change that attitude. It was a rather funny, ironic restatement of the American position in the Iranian context. Yes you guessed it, "they hate us for who we are." So "let's do what we have to."

Think of it as a variation of the pro-Bolton adds that has been running on the US media I watched reports about last night. "Aren't you tired of politicians who blame everything on their own country?" This is now the pitch here. "We did everything in our power to resolve this standoff in good faith. And now we'll do what is right and in our long term national interest."

They were emphatic about their desire for a win-win deal with the Europeans especially given Washington's desire to see the negotiations fail. They claimed that the Iranian authorities had no intention of handing the Europeans a defeat in their mediations efforts to end the standoff. But enough was enough…or so they said.

And the issue of Israel was also raised tapping into the average Iranian's fears. The media has been pointing out the extent of Israeli nuclear arsenal shrewdly mixing some very effective images as usual here every night. And even for those here without a pathological loathing for Israel, the questions might appear sensible enough. How could you trust such a destructive nuclear arsenal in the hands of a Sharon regime which doesn't hesitate to blow up houses and uproot olive trees?

It appears to me that at this point a conscious decision has been made and a consensus reached in the highest echelons of power here to equate any further concessions with that unforgivable act of cowardice and betrayal. And they have a solid constituency for that line of thinking. And hence the specter of an unacceptable national humiliation. And again, this might strike a lot of people as cogent.

Even when most of us fully understand that the real national humiliation here is in not having our full say in the political decision making process and in having to live in fear because of what we think, wear, do or say and with whom we associate and that sad, infuriating fact of having our jails full of dissenters. But nationalism, you understand, has certain pull on people's emotions. Anywhere, everywhere and anytime.

The argument here is: given the (claimed) full disclosure by the regime and those intrusive inspections of all the (known) facilities which has ensued, the perceived lack of European reciprocity is no longer tolerable. Any further concession at this point is tantamount to reliving that detested Treaty of Turkmanchai.

The move appears to me well timed and part of a new policy shift playing out in an ongoing multi-pronged campaign. First, the attempt to beef up "national unity" domestically by appealing to Iranian nationalism. Hence all the recent travels here and the promises of those endless expanded programs of social entitlements. (I'll do another post on this soon)

Second, the decision to make clear that the regime will no longer offer compromises internationally backed by the threats to abandon the NPT with the hope that the nationalist tide might translate into more massive electoral participation in an otherwise dull election year. And third, the decision to prepare for various contingencies in order to confront the worst case scenario by flexing some military muscle. Hence we have had continuous coverage of the Navy war games in the Sea of Oman for the past three days along with some old war movies, and mutterings of patriotic songs.

The good news is, of course, that some acts are simple posturing as best I can figure based on the behavior pattern evident in today's Iran. Everyone here knows full well --and especially the authorities-- that they will not get that wave after wave of innocent youths walking on land mines which we got during the last war. Everyone has been disabused of that malady. The bad news, of course, is that Iranians have never been this angry before and this fickled. If anyone is to die, the objective will be to take along as many of the enemy as possible. No one will disappear without a nasty fight here—nasty and all over the place.

And so, it appears to me as if this regime is making its final stance on this issue. What might follow is something to see. I do genuinely hope though that this post ends up being way off the mark on all fronts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

And the Election

What a spectacle! With the second day of the formal registrations behind us, 225 people have so far entered the foray-- mostly men (209). The rank of the remaing16 women hopefuls includes the youngest registrant, an audacious one at the tender age of 18 from Isfahan. The oldest to date is a gentleman (86) who promises a swift end to the Iranian nuclear standoff.

This phase will go on for another 4 days. And then, our famed Guardian Council will have 10 days to ascertain the qualifications of the registrants in accordance with the article 115 of the Constitution.

Among some of the more colorful figures, we have our first villager who insists 15 million would vote for him and my personal favorite, of course, a 72 year old milkman from a principality far from Tehran who made an impression on the reporters with his open zipper during the registrations and he appears quite charming as he frankly admitted to having no place to sleep over the night at in Tehran. You see, honesty has become a rare commodity around these parts.

We'll see if anyone has offered to put him up tomorrow, hopefully. The gentleman was adamant about his ability to get ALL Iranians to vote for him-- with a little help from the media, that is.

Must be a cultural thing. Because every time I hear people discuss Iranian politics these days—especially on those expat satellite programs, the phrase most (over) used has been "Iranians want…." It always confuses me. No two Iranians I know can ever agree on much of anything. Well almost nothing. Money is an obsession with everyone, young and old. So much so that some election oversight official had to publicly announce and emphasize yesterday that the government will in no way be providing loans or cash to those who might choose to register.

And of course, the ubiquitous folded jean look is the latest craze. Everyone folds it. Even those whose pants have been falling off their buttocks while showing off their cell phones.

So we also now have Messrs Rafsanjani, Moin and (the old revolutionary guard commander) Rezai officially in the race.
I am not much of an enthusiast for the "official" politics here. But I'll try to keep my gentle readers informed. Stay tuned for more excitement.

Monday, May 09, 2005


I am interrupting my originally scheduled observations to bring you the following summary!


"Morally, operationally, and politically…blah blah blah.. Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda…blah blah blah…cooperative "liaison" intelligence efforts…blah blah blah…Arab states…blah blah blah…sin, retribution, sex…blah blah blah …at least 100 men…blah blah blah…part of a global pattern…blah blah blah…top of a slippery slope…blah blah blah…Abu Ghraib…blah blah blah…abusive antics… aggressive interrogations…MTV imaginations… juvenile understanding…blah blah blah…Arab sexual ethics…blah blah blah…regime security… sexual intimidation…more polite, dictatorial regimes …blah blah blah…educational impact of rendition…blah blah blah…hard-nosed bureaucrats… "ragheads"…many Americans…blah blah blah… privately agree…dirty work….Arab enemies…blah blah blah…violent political behavior…blah blah blah…the compelling reason… two great advantages…blah blah blah…proving guilt…civilian or military court…extremely difficult…blah blah blah…minor-league would-be Islamic terrorists or guerrillas…blah blah blah…guilt by association…lack of legally admissible evidence….blah blah blah…eliminates the Guantanamo detention problem …blah blah blah…large-scale renditions to Uzbekistan…Guantanamo-avoidance type…limited operational range…blah blah blah…14 years of pretty warm relations…best liaison cooperation…any Central Asian state…blah blah blah…muted sounds…human beings…memories of 9/11…blah blah blah…efficacy of rendition…indefensible…ugly… blah blah blah… needed tool…blah blah blah…abdication of intelligence professionalism…blah blah blah…maintain control… good, even excellent… greater knowledge… greater access… dominion …blah blah blah… intelligence sources…blah blah blah…Syrian debriefings… aiding Iraqi insurgents…Palestinian terrorist organizations… Lebanese Hezbollah… Iran's Revolutionary Guards… drug-smuggling organization…blah blah blah… in-house aggressive interrogation… blah blah blah…Bush's pro-democracy foreign policy…blah blah blah…Ambassador Negroponte …reluctantly…blah blah blah… grow to appreciate…blah blah blah… assent to torturing…blah blah blah …truth will come out…blah blah blah… primitive notions of justice and salvation…blah blah blah…thoughtful, humane counterterrorist program…blah blah blah…proved to have committed specific terrorist acts…blah blah blah…years--decades, perhaps--in American jails…blah blah blah…Repatriation isn't rendition…blah blah blah…unjust…blah blah blah…truly innocent who get sucked up…blah blah blah…allied dragnet…blah blah blah…ethical codes…divine authority…blah blah blah…torture…extract information…save lives…blah blah blah… expansion of democracy in the Middle East…blah blah blah…determined promotion of democracy…blah blah blah… liberal democracy in the Middle East…blah blah blah…encourage and empower progressive Muslims…blah blah blah…rendition ethic in Washington…blah blah blah…"forward strategy of freedom"…blah blah blah."

So yes, by all means! Let's have that "great debate" between torturers and/or their intellectual advisors. What do you say? American Enterprise Institute's Reuel Marc Gerecht vs. our Judiciary's Ayatollah Shahrudi. Assuming, of course, that the fellows would ever step out of their safe haven provided them by that babble of "moral equivalency."

Isn't it way too easy to just continue hiding behind millions of one's fellow citizens, and the history of one's nation and the deity of one's choice instead of exhibiting the audacity it requires--in the words of an old professor of mine--- to "appear naked in public?"

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A new beginning!

I have been trying to avoid the subject of sexual politics in Iran for a number of different reasons; chief amongst them, a lover from the past who is an avid reader of this blog. Soon as the slightest reference to a woman appears on this blog, an email also arrives in my box demanding to know what really lies behind the utterance and occasionally even expressing outrage and feeling betrayed or bruised.

Thus, I have been consciously censoring myself quite a bit for fear of hurting my ex. Our paths diverged many moons ago, but there is still a great deal of affection at work.
It might be one thing to offend the authorities and the censors or torturers who diligently toil at making our lives miserable and quite another hurting someone you care about. Where is the romance in that, really? .

But then the Zeitoon piece I presented you with in the last post was just way too delicious to ignore. And this time I deviated from the norm by sending a warning to my ex first. This, my way of stating the obvious. Relationships are hard. Sexuality and numerous issues arising from it--even in some of the most open, tolerant societies, and even assuming the best of intentions remain troublesome still. And even the minutiae of the men/women encounters atrociously difficult to get right—anywhere, any time.

No matter how old one gets or how experienced and regardless of what continent or country one resides in, there are no magic formulae. Our love lives are difficult to deal with and oftentimes annoying.

Zeitoon's writing then both touched me profoundly and obviously also irritated me. In one sense, I felt profound shame. That's a fundamental fact of life with us Iranians, you see. No avoiding it. We are still stuck (oh well, lets bluntly say it in the way some of the more petty-spirited Likudniks are so enamored of saying) in that immature adolescent stage of obsessing about honor and shame.

Consequently, certain critiques that some of my more excitable readers might dismiss as the standard issue "Fem-ah-nazi" propaganda feel quite apt, insightful and applicable here. After all, who in good conscious can argue against the proposition that "all men are genetically educated from birth to dominate, betray and beat up women," when one happens to be living in such grotesquely patriarchal, abusive society as today's Iran? Although I must say here that I am quite relieved and happy to note there is still room for us in Morisset's universe.

And shame is not so terribly atrocious when you think about it, really. I happen to think Thrasymachus learns a few things when he blushes in that famous encounter with Socrates. So I too blushed after reading Zeitoon's piece.

That a woman in love could be so emotionally distraught at nights agitated me. How could we—the men of this nation—participate in such burdensome construct? How could we have allowed our conduct to so disrupt the most natural relation that should exist between women and their bodies and so also recreate those daily impediments to the joys of exploring desires? Why should even some of our best and the brightest have to endure such torment?

But where there is suffering there is also struggle. Where there is abuse there is naturally that politics of liberation. One can acknowledge abuse without believing in the cult of victimhood. And in here lies the paradox of Iran's political discourses and certain limitations which I think are culturally determined and ultimately counterproductive. Alternative discourses and modes of being are needlessly frivolous due to years of authoritarianism. So for me, the central issue has become one of self-limiting perspectives.

Let me just admit here first that one learns quickly living in Iran that nothing is at it initially appears. Additionally, even though I read Zeitoon often enough, I don't usually follow the nitty-gritty of her love life. So I am not at all clear whether her piece is actually an honest dialogue between the lady and her conscious or an attempt to highlight certain problems that affects multitude of women (and men) here.

Whatever the case might be, the heroine in the piece has chosen a certain solution to a problem that she so obviously finds unsettling. Her piece also reveals an approach to communication that is both politically tendentious and reflective of the omnipresent apprehension of the body –again so typically Iranian, though by no means our obsession exclusively.

In short, if politics is ultimately about communication, then the piece is an exemplar of a certain notion of the Political which should be scrutinized. We'll explore more in the next post


Now you should go read a real writer, Corinna Hasofferett of Time in Tel Aviv. Sol Salbe just translated one of her posts from the original Hebrew and so we now have in English, Corinna's How to Turn the World Upside Down.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

One woman and her conscious!

I was planning a post about the presidential election campaign, but decided against it. Regardless of who wins this election and whether or not this Islamic regime manages to sustain itself in power, we Iranians will continue to be the Iranians we've always been. So, I though I should offer you a glimpse of yet another one of our many dirty secrets.

Although I've come to think it (even more) essential to respect other people's privacy living in the Land of the Meddlesome, I thought it appropriate to make an exception tonight. My friend N was good enough to direct my attention to a short (Farsi) piece by one of our more spirited ("feminist") bloggers which I thought way too delicious to keep to ourselves.

So here you go. A simple, quick translation for your reading pleasure! I will have more to say on this text and some of our (more asinine) prevailing sexual mores and practices soon. I'd like to thank N for her considerable editorial interventions and guidance. I also owe her a debt of gratitude for drawing my attention to yet another interesting piece.


"Zeitoon Joon, since you normally spill your guts out--the dope [that] you are, why couldn't you tell him about this one and get it over with." (this is what my conscience said to me)

"'but this one isn't important "(this is me answering my conscience)

"What do you mean it is not important? After all, you've accepted him as your husband and you say you love him. He should know about this secret of yours too"

"Oh brother!(in Persian Ey Baba—Daddy) Quit being more catholic than the pope. He has made his peace with these sorts of issues. He is the most enlightened [literally "intellectual"] man I have seen in my life.

"Careful, careful! Iranian men and enlightenment? You're such a dope! [talking is one thing, though] in deeds, they are more ghereirati [jealous and possessive] than Shemr" [one of the villains of the Karbala butchery]

{such an uneducated" conscience! Was Shemr the personification of ruthlessness or obduracy?}

"Wouldn't it be too gossipy to tell him about every little detail? He's going to find out on his own after the wedding."

"Say it: on the wedding night!"

"Not exactly! We have agreed to live as friends together for a month in separate bedrooms."
"Dummy! He has claimed as much and you believed him?"

"He is different from everyone else. He is so decent. Surely he will understand me."

"Blah blah blah (she is making fun of me now) He'll understand me. He'll understand me. These things are so important for men. Particularly for Iranian men. If you are not going to tell him, at least trick him and pretend that you are not that way."

"I am not in the hustling business. Go away now. I've lost patience for you."

"Your business! But after he beds you on that first night and ends up loathing you, don't tell me I didn't warn you."

"Well what am I supposed to do? As much as I feel hot during the days and roam around naked, as soon as I lay down at nights, I freeze and my blood pressure plummets. I have to wear a bunch of clothes and cover myself with two or three blankets! In both winter and summer I have to wear socks. Recently I've taken to sleeping with my jacket on or else I can't fall asleep"

"Well I had to tell you ("az ma goftan bood") I'm just afraid he might mistake you for a polar bear."