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Free speech

Downward spiral
The case for tragic blindness


February 28, 2006

When was the last time you saw a caricature of Buddha carrying a beheaded corpse in a duffle bag? Or Moses as Mr. Greenspan counting his numerous dollar bills while saliva droops down his chin? Or Jesus engaged in a graphically pedophilic act as the Virgin Mary is having intercourse with her lover Joseph on the sofa? Or a Hindu God or Goddess as a Demon in the underworld abyss devouring bloody human babies?

If any of these imaginary sketches or caricatures had been published by a Middle Eastern newspaper or journal, there would be enough cause for a drastically punitive measure against all Moslems of the world. Evidently the absence of weapons of mass destruction still rendered the pretext for pre-emptive attacks, god forbid; those untamed and savage Arabs/Iranians would overtly ridicule non-Moslem convictions and sanctities.

The time for slogans, empty dialectics, and baseless arguments is over, though many have engaged in such fruitless activities to self-justify and harshly incriminate others. We can label a group of people as barbaric, uncivilized, and savage without examining our own contributions and causes to the uproars and chaos in this world. After all, doesn’t it all come down to our weapons of choice?

The discerning difference between those who burn up flags and curse Western countries, and the Western countries that bomb their hospitals, schools, and civilian homes in the name of democracy, is only the TYPE of utilized weapon or machinery. The discerning difference is by no means innocence, peacefulness, or laicism of one versus the other; the discerning difference is certainly not the civility, good will, or humanity of one versus the other, either. In the past few years of an unjustified war, killing over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, we have not witnessed more bigotry, prejudice, pretension, and merciless narcissism than in the past few weeks over the widely published and controversial Danish cartoons.

Some of my Iranian compatriots appear to suffer from a long-term memory loss infused with unbearable lack of reasoning, and a consciously biased interpretation of some historical facts. The very same people, however; boast about their own democratic nature and practice of equality.

The very same people claim to be feminist men and progressive women; the very same people claim to be disgusted by the current Iranian government and portray Ahmadinejad as a pre-Darwinian monkey, solidifying their own positions as passionately patriotic rarities. The very same people assume they have mastered humanity in ways that prophets, monks, and nuns never have; the very same people are convinced to be “superior to other people’s Reality”, as the wise man Eckhart Tolle eloquently puts it: this is only the trickery of our illusions.

Obviously, the freedom of speech has been an excuse to be belligerent and intolerant towards others’ dearly held spiritual and religious beliefs. The Danish cartoonist mocks Moslems who believe Mohammad to be their saint by depicting him as a sodomizing pig lover, draped in a “terrorist” attire while portraying Allah (the Moslem God) as the Devil in flesh; and in response, the Iranian fundamentalists have decided to mock, stain, and invalidate the tragedy and sanctity of Holocaust for Jews.

One must wonder which is worse. One is by no means superior to the other; it’s merely one weapon engaged in an ideological warfare against another; one blow in response to another, salting deepened wounds to the bone; who is to say whose suffering is more profound and existential; whose pain is more excruciating, and whose loss is more severe?

Do not forget that as a result of anti-democratic policies of the West towards the Middle East, millions of lives have already been slaughtered; remember the Iran-Iraq war? The Desert Storm? The current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? You tell me, which life is more precious? An Iraqi baby being breastfed by his mother or an Iranian child dreaming of his tomorrow’s toys, or an Afghan orphan sleeping soundlessly at three in the morning when the bombs drop?

Responding to a war by another war, responding to a Holocaust by another Holocaust, responding to a death by another death…

Yes, call it democracy; I call it unleashed madness.

Perhaps, the problem rests elsewhere. The problem lies in not observing history in its eternal sense and continuity of a procession of “cause and effect” karmic cycles, but rather a minute and fragmented segment of arbitrary physical manifestations.

Oh! Those damn Arabs, here they go again!

Well those damn Arabs have had thousands of casualties since only a few years ago and have been kindly labeled as terrorists. Still think they are responsible for setting you back today, 1400 years ago? The truth and tragedy converge so precisely in this matter that the denial of personal and historical responsibilities and contributions becomes self-fulfilling and conveniently addictive.

So you can deny that the people of your country are more than 95% Shiite and are offended by caricatures of their religious icons; you can call for a drastic reform and eradication of all personal beliefs by a U.S. military attack on Iranian soil, and you have probably gotten a hush-hush kick out of Iraqis getting killed and bathed in their own blood one by one.

If one does not dare to diverge from the conventional and traditional path of blaming others for failing to rise up to his own causes and occasions; the chances are he will miss another Mosadegh, vote for another authoritative government, have no substantial political criticism or argument than to say Ahmadinejad looks like a Neanderthal, and remain a trans-generationally self-defeating individual who enjoys either an unmotivated position as a chronic victim or an emotionally cut-off victimizer. In fact, with the unending number of the weapons of choice, he will have it all made.  Will self-reflection ever be an interruption or a moment of pause in one’s collection of offenses and attacks?

With hundreds of petitions circulating against the Holocaust cartoons and declaring the “savagery” of outraged Moslems over overt insults and injurious ridicules towards their personal beliefs; no one has even implicitly alluded to the crux of the matter. This has truly been an opportune battlefield for hypocritical voices that want to defend humanity, freedom of speech, and “democracy” by undermining and corrupting the foundation of the very humanity, freedom of speech, and democratic rights of others. I am not going to call this a catastrophic circus, but rather another massive blindness of the ego, and the continuous disintegration of a collective soul spiraling downward.

I long for the day that we make our choice not a weapon, but a disarmament of all that has created our world to consist of TV channels and radio stations reporting the number of deaths over whatever cause or ideology. No ideology is superior to another. No religion is superior to another. No life is superior to another. Taking a stance against anything is easy; you obsessively identify yourself against your opponent; but creating a stance that would be innovative enough to embrace all differences is the task of an invincible master, not a wavering ideologue.

Which one would you strive to become?

“See now the whole universe with all things that move and move not, and whatever your soul may yearn to see. See it all as One in me.” -- Bhagavad Gita

Leila Farjami is a published poet, translator, Family and Child Psychotherapist, and Art Therapist in Southern California. Visit her web log at

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