October 5, 1999
Wrong, wrong, wrong
I just read your front page article in The Iranian Times called
work ethics" and frankly it just hits me the wrong way:
The writer apparently in an extended period of bad mood, decides to
write a two-page article and attack every Iranian characteristic or behavior
he can come up with. He tangles issues ranging from our cultural interpretation
of zerangi, to politics, work habits, oil (of all things), productivity
and women's role in our society. Of course in every case, the so-called
Iranian way of dealing with these issues is wrong. Let's talk about some
of these issues:
Zerangi: I have tried to come up with a translation of this word in
English and the closest I can come with is "opportunistic". I
think everybody agrees that the masters of this technique are Americans;
not that there is anything wrong with it. After all, America is known as
the land of opportunity and they are proud of it. Majority of Americans
don't believe that by being Mr. Nice Guy and waiting for your turn in every
situation, one will be successful. I think if we look back at our cultural
history, we will discover that the concept of zerangi didn't really flourish
in Iran until we became more familiar with Western culture. So let's not
give all the credit to Iranians; this is just a sign of our times.
Kaaraamad or productivity: I must admit, I have no idea where the writer
gets his information regarding 11 minutes productive work per day for Iranian
workers. No matter where this information is coming from, it should be
disputed. If this number is true, then somebody forgot to mention it to
Mr. Mahichi, the 90-year-old city worker in Malayer, who cleans the sewer
system under city streets and receives just enough money to get by. They
forgot to mention it to my cousin who is radiologist and works 12-hours-a-day
in two hospitals and has his own private practice. They forgot to mention
it Laleh the 15-year-old girl I met in Iran last March, who goes to school
all day and also spends over 40 hours a week weaving rugs to help support
her family. While it is expected for our productivity to be less than countries
such as Japan, Untied States and Germany, I don't believe we are far below
countries such as Russia, Turkey and Italy. Economists will tell you that
measuring productivity has as much to do with automation and advances in
the computer industry as hard work and long hours.
Women's role in Iranian economy: Latest statistics that were printed
in Hamshahri newspaper about two months ago indicated that 50% of
all college attendees in Iran are now female. Close to 40% of all new graduates
with degrees in medicine are women. Women play a fundamental role in Iran's
economy and politics. In fact women are the main force behind today's movement
towards democracy. Finally, the percentage of elected women in the Iranian
parliament and local councils is higher than many Western countries. One
can not deny the atrocities that Iranian women endure in the name of Islam.
But this is a phenomenon that is not stationary and you should look at
where we are headed to have a better picture of where we are.
Agriculture: The writer's information regarding the production of sugar
cane and the comparison between Iran and Japan might be accurate. However,
you have to look at the real reasons for such a disparity. Everybody knows
Japan is a small country in terms of land suitable for agriculture. Their
agricultural output per square foot is among the highest in the world.
You can compare their output per sq. ft. to those of the USA and be surprised.
But this is achieved by using a great deal of human, chemical and technical
resources. If you truly want to compare the two countries' production,
you should look at the finished cost of one pound of sugar in Iran vs.
Japan. But it might turn out that the cost of producing sugar in Japan
is less than Iran. What does that prove? Does it mean that we are a lazy
Quotas: As far as I know, Iranians weren't the first ones to come up
with the concept of quotas. After WWII, the U.S. government invoked new
policies enabling war veterans and their families to benefit from government
assistance in housing, obtaining loans, medical insurance and, yes, college
tuition. They also have quotas for different races. For instance as an
American Indian or an African American, one could enter a college with
far lower grades than a White student. I don't see anything wrong with
the government of Iran offering quotas to the children of martyrs. If a
father gave his life in the war against Iraq, I don't mind if his children
are guaranteed a chance to get good education. You talk about martyrs as
if they were brought in from another planet or something. These were the
young soldiers who gave their lives and enabled us to still have Khouzestan.
Shame on you.
I suggest you put down your cappuccino and think hard about where you
have come from. It is easy to be negative about anything, but those who
are interested in the well being of the Iranian race, culture and values
don't always take the easy route.