One Country, Two Nations – Iran and Modernity.

I believe that like an individual, an entire nation can have a low self-regard or low self-esteem. But, like so many personalities, the complexities reach its peak, when talking about a nation. The nation I would like to discuss here is the nation of Iran.

To attempt to talk about Iran, even of one particular aspect of this ancient land and culture may be inevitably futile. The reason is simple, the Iranian people are inheritors of a rich and pluralistic history with many thousands of years in profile. It is highly difficult to categorize, characterize, and to define. But in the absence of such wishful thinking, and the knowledge of the aforementioned challenge, I would like to discuss the downfall of Iranian culture, at the hands of Iranian culture, if I may. Note, I am not a scholar and this is merely my opinion.

So, what is the root of the downfall of Iranian culture? For many years, during the reign of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi, there seemed to be a glorification of nostalgia, and a remembrance of great Persian kingdoms and dynasties. This was engineered predominantly by the regime itself, but it was indicative of something inherently Persian – the passion for storytelling and glorious occasions with elements of mythological fantasy.

As one studies Persian culture and history, they will find the most powerful works of art and mesmerizing literature, from the likes of grand poets such as Ferdowsi, Rumi, and Hafez, to name a few. The beautiful Persian creativity in art and agriculture to music and dance is world renown. However, the medium to showcase this culture came to decline, during the 17th and 18th centuries,

With the gradual decline in political and economic power, particularly during the Qajar dynasty, more and more of Persian aristocracy found solace in other cultures. As this exposition to European culture increasingly grew stronger, it became more prestigious for the Persian aristocracy to say they spoke a foreign language. And, at the time, it was particularly prestigious to study abroad, and/or master the English or French language. Thus, through time, and with the consolidation of worldwide power by European cultures, the Persian culture gradually went under a veil of insecurity.

What then later came to be known as Iranian culture, as we know it today, was a culture left in fantasy, mystics, legends, and nostalgia. Today, one of the elements that has kept Iranian culture, and the nation from moving forward is predominantly its affinity for the past, and its dialogue and language, through metaphors, analogies, symbols, and all things imaginative. Contrarily, we can see quite evidently that in countries that have had political and economic superiority, a strong emphasis is put on the material world, and rationality – and thus, on realism.

These concepts are culturally foreign to Iranian society, and thus have kept the nation well-rooted, with the ability to use memories of a distant past to safeguard  against those who attempt to uproot its language and culture. The means to remember and maintain this identity is visceral – through Persian poetry, music, art, and a glorified history and taking solace in nostalgia defines the modern Persian identity.

Yet, ironically, the very same psychology of the Iranian nation that has helped preserve its Persian identity, has also entrapped it from seeking modernity in an Iranian sense and form. The society in Iran today is still longing for modernity for the wrong reasons, whether it is to return to the economic glory during the Pahlavi dynasty, or the glory days of the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great. The Iranian psyche is centred on being accepted by foreigners, hence explaining why Iranians are more welcoming to foreigners coming to Iran, than to each other.

The Iranian nation is now more than ever losing its cultural perspective for the future. One can set blame on Islamic ideology, foreign political interference, and imperialism for the decline in Iran’s cultural influence in the world, and its ability to re-innovate itself and propel itself into the future. Although, the aforementioned reasons did arguably have some influence on Persian culture, one cannot lose sight of the fact that Persian culture has in it a value system based on the past, used to preserve the present, with little to offer for the future. The religious and national values and belief system have left Iranians simply to mourn of legends, be grateful for the present, and but disregarding of the future.

In the end, with this mentality, Iranians may believe all they have is history, and all they are to be are survivors, and the rest is up to God. However, to construct a great modern nation that references past achievements is still possible, but requires a renaissance in Iranian society. It should realistically look at its current state of affairs and use Persian history and culture as a minimal source of reference for reconstructing Iran for the future.

It should be acceptable to believe that modernism is not a “Western idea” and is not contrary to Iranian cultural values and beliefs. A mentality centred more on the future of Iran is beneficial, and will not diminish the cultural legacy of Persian history, but will rather strengthen it and bring it back to prominence. If this cultural change does not occur, Iran will always remain stalled within its cultural fantasies, walking backwards into the future.

Fear and Phobia: Among The Political Elite.

There have been countless articles, editorials and books about the oppression of certain governments on their people. From the Machiavellian, to the “good dictators”, to the most evil “Draconian”, to the more modern systems of control (technological age) using complex socio-economic structures, we have theorized how best these types of governments should exercise control by means of laws. In doing so, we have legitimized government statehood, and thought it best to keep the citizens of the state subordinate to the political elite. However, in opposing certain forms of control exercised by government nowadays, we tend to look at the issue of fear from the perspective of the people, only. Let’s now look at the fear that people strike casually against those atop the legal and social hierarchy of society on a daily basis.

The more fear a government strikes against its people, the more it fears its people. Tyrannical governments are generally more fearful and paranoid than their people in any society, although they hide it very well. Their leaders have more to lose and have arguably spent more time and hardship to reach that point of social status in society (unless you were an heir to a thrown, of course, then little effort was needed). They struggle for years at times and sometimes endure prison sentences, forced to be exiles, or simply labelled and condemned as outlaws of society.

Depending on their personal predispositions, some aspiring political leaders become fighters for freedom and strive for something beyond themselves. But once they reach that stage, it seems they become intoxicated by their own words and lose purpose. Furthermore, as we all know, not all of us are perfect individuals and we are not fully immune to self-indulgence and material gain. Thus, political leaders may strike fear into the eyes of their people knowing full well, exactly how much there is to lose. They may constantly be reminded of their painful past, and will do anything to protect themselves and their families from experiencing those pains again in the future.

Another point to remember is that it is not only dictatorships that cause leaders to use force and evil mechanisms of control to remain in power. In countries that have laws that protect the rights of ordinary citizens, it becomes difficult for leaders to use their powers to directly strike fear in the eyes of their people. However, they do use instead the “external threat” strategy or policy, which is used by many countries in the developed world as a means to suppress internal dissent or disunity in order to better achieve their political objectives.

Whether it is a dictatorship or a democracy, in the end, each political leader has his or her own agenda, so does each political party, and finally each country in furthering and solidifying their security and power. Within this dynamic, power breeds totalitarianism or, effectively, the need for supreme authority. In other words, there will always be the need to gain more power, constantly. This feeling that one must gain more power in order to guarantee their security and the security of the nation comes from fear.

But one must remember that the people do strike fear in the eyes of their leaders more so than one might think. The people are always more powerful than they think they are. Whether a political leader is a “dictator”, or a democratically elected leader, their job becomes heavy. They must carefully uphold a political system, maintain and protect a reputation, provide a future for their children, whether or not they remain in power; have on the back of their minds that any day, ‘I may be betrayed, setup, plotted against or assassinated!’

Ever wonder why US Presidents’ hair go grey so fast?

And If You Do NOT Believe in: Religion, Atheism, Agnosticism, or Scientology?

I was surprised looking up the terminology and finding out that there is not one that properly defines “one who does not believe in organized religion”, and/or believes that “it is beyond a human beings ability to fathom and communicate with the supernatural”, yet still believes in a God or Creator. One can think of Atheism, which professes the denial of any supernatural entity, and of Agnosticism where believers honestly confess that they neither believe or disbelieve.

But what about me! I do not believe in Religion, nor do I believe in Atheism. I am more in tune with the Agnostics, but even there, I cannot say I don’t believe in what we know as God (or a Creator)! What do we say then? I’m a Godist? That doesn’t make much sense, because then you will be asked: Which God?! Which Holy Spirit?! Tell me, tell me, Right Now!

Then you must pause, take a deep breath, and say: “the one you believe in” with a smile 🙂

So where do we stand? Those who have the same line of believe system, what should we call ourselves?

If we do not deny Evolution, we do believe in a Creator, then what the hell are we? What should we call ourselves?

You think, why is this important to bring up. It is important because I find modern day definitions too narrow or absent for those who do not believe in Religion, Atheism or Scientology.

We must start a campaign for a new terminology for people who may already believe in:

-The existence of a Creator
-The truth of Evolution
-The acceptance of the fallibility of Human Beings
-The inability of Human Beings to know the true essence of God’s intentions (therefore, religious doctrine becomes moot)
-The existence of subjects and matter that lead one to produce questions about possible Creation (but not in seven days)

These are just some basic points. I think it’s time to create a new terminology to describe those who believe in God, but do not follow their religion in practice.