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Avoiding responsibility

By Mahyar Etminan
August 29, 2001
The Iranian

Recently, I wrote an article about "gehssmat". I received various emails from readers who basically made two comments. 1) How can you say science can explain ghessmat when many events depend on other events? 2) What is your opinion about "cheshm-zadan" or as Westeners say, jinxing.

You must have heard from someone in the family that the reason your relationship with the love of your life failed was because someone jinxed it. Cheshmet zadan. Usually they blame some old, ugly, jealous cousin who sits at home and doesn't do anything else but jinx people.

I have even heard an explanation for this phenomenon: there is this mystical, laser-like ray in someone's stare that can jinx you. If you want more specifics then rent the first Superman movie, where whatever he looks at he destroys.

Is there such a thing as cheshm-zadan? Well some Iranians swear by it. Can we use science to come up with an explanation? Again I would like to emphasize that Westners have the same belief but I do not heard it from them as much as Iranians.

So what is the scientific explanation for this? Is the reason you lost the love of your life because your jealous cousin looked into her eyes one day and BOOM! destroyed the relationship? I don't think so.

Iranians love to discover reasons for what happens to them without taking responsibility. If outcome is positive, they say it had to be ghessmat. It is negative, then we say cheshmemoon zadan. When are we going to stop making excuses for our actions? Why can't we just say, "That's life, live with it."?

Imagine you and your friend want to flip a coin and it just happens that your grandmother and your brother, who is a statistician, are sitting side by side. You tell your grandma that you really want heads. You friend flips a coin. It flies two metres in the air, comes down and lands on the table. Bingo, heads it is. Your brother tells you that the probability of heads is 50%. Your grandma says, "You see I told you, ghessmatet bood."

Now imagine that instead of heads, you had tails. Again the probability is calculated by your brother as 50%. Your grandma turns to you and says, "Bebeen baraadaret cehshmet zad." I hope I have been able to successfully explain that there is no such thing as a jinx and it is just a term we use to avoid responsibility and to blame things on something else.

As for those of you who claim science cannot explain ghesesmat, boy do I have a surprise for you. In the 18th century, Thomas Bayes discovered a branch of statistics that works based on "Conditional Probability". What makes this science fascinating is that it allows us to calculate the probability of events based on other events.

For example, remember how your mother used to say that finding that special someone had to be ghessmat because if you hadn't gone to that building at a specific time and hadn't opened the door at a specific instance, you wouldn't have found her? Well, even the probability of that can be calculated. If you can find a Bayesian statistician and have the money to pay him/her, it can be done.

So what's next? We talked about ghessmat and cheshm-zadan. How about sabr? When someone is leaving the house and sneezes, she is prevented from leaving for at least ten minutes by a family member because something bad might happen to her. Give me a break.

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