The Iranian


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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


October 26, 2000

Stereotyping Iranians

I suppose the main difference between Iranians and Americans (and perhaps Western culture) is that the Americans always use a systematic approach when they analyse a situation. They seem to be very fond of moulding people into categories. This is quite a logical way for breaking down a big problem into very small ingredient to better understand the intricacies of human nature. However, in doing so they go to the nth degree and at times they lose a proper track of their thoughts. The fact is that in this way they generalise things and attach a particular trait to a nation. Possibly the most pronounced feature of Americans is that they like to stereotype.

"The twelve rules" by Ms Sciolino is definitely another attempt by an American 'intellecutal' who has been lucky enough to get a little insight into a very complex society. Obviously for a person who associates herself with what represents America today it is very difficult to understand subtleness of a nation that has gone through different phases in its long history. Thus she purports that "concealment is part of Iranians life".

Ms Sciolino has studied some facets of the Iranian history and has met a variety of Iranians from different walks of life. But does this mean she is an authority on Iran? She claims that the 'rules' have helped her to understand Iranian culture and have assisted her to "survive the setbacks and embrace the surprises of Iran".

I am not going to analyse each and every one of her 'rules'. But I take a couple of them and would like to address her on her objectivity on these two as a 'journalist' and 'intellectual'. Or should I say what is expected of an unbiased and fair journalist or correspondent. I understand that over time historians have proved to be biased and perhaps the same applies to today's journalists. In her 'rule' no. 2 she asserts that 'concealment makes Iranians very different from Americans. Americans live in houses with front yards that face out to the street. They sit on their front porches and watch the world go by'. I am not sure where in America Ms Sciolino lives. I travelled through 40 states of America about some 24 years ago and can't remember to have seen in any of their major cities what she is talking about. In their more affluent suburbs there are high walls, fences and security system to protect those inside.

Furthermore, America by the virtue of its distance from the rest of the world and the fact that it only has two neighbours to its north and south had never had to deal with any land invasion to warrant a high wall around its houses or the country. On the other hand, Iran has had to fend off intruders and in particular in the late nineteenth century was caught between its northern neighbour expansionist rulers and the sly imperialist rulers of the part-ancestors of the Americans (the British). Thus what Ms Sciolino refers to concealment is not concealment as such but a compelling need to fend off intruders.

In her 'rule' no. 12 she begins by stating that "Iranians view America as a land of demons and dreams, of unlimited power and unlimited promise". I was under impression all these years that is a universal belief and is not limited to the Iranians. Americans themselves adopted that land because to them it was the land of opportunities. However, she finally admits that "America is Iran's worst enemy".

The truth is that American society has been built on the premise of exploiting others to satisfy their own needs. Here the actual truth comes out where they finally admit that they have interfered in another nation's internal affairs by staging a military coup and albeit Ms Sciolino does not agree that was a criminal act. Depriving a nation from its popular leader because the ideas of the popular leader did not fulfil their shameless supremacy over the world that desire to control all the resources of the world to fatten the American big trusts.

I wonder who is doing the act of concealment. Are Iranians whose life is concealment or it is the Americans who are concealing their criminal acts against other countries including Iran. The Americans justify their involvement in any covert activity by undermining other countries' control over their own destiny and yet accuse other nations of concealment. Ms Sciolino talks of Iranians' resentment and anger towards the Americans without mentioning all the things Americans have done to Iranians amongst other nations. Mr. Terry Anderson sues the Iranian Government as indirectly responsible for his capture and imprisonment over seven and a half years in Lebanon. Americans on the other hand do not have any responsibility in shooting down an Iranian passenger plane that was 'mistaken' for a fighter plane by an American navy ship's officers.

Imagine that! The sophisticated American navy ship with all its state-of-the-art high tech facilities was unable to distinguish between a passenger plane and a fighter plane. Where on the world Americans are permitted to have their military navy ship in the waters of sovereign countries and shoot down another country's plane without first checking with the pilot. Note that the passenger plane would have been flying on a predefined route at a speed that is a characteristic of passenger planes and with a larger body than a fighter plane. Unless of course the American navy officers claim that it was a bomber of the same size as a passenger plane. Even if we accept that they had the right to be there, shouldn't they first warn before they fire at a plane. Obviously the American weaponry is quite accurately deadly and unlike their 'inability' to recognise a passenger plane from a hostile vehicle.

Furthermore, if the Iranians are deemed to be indirectly responsible for the traumatic experience that Mr. T. Anderson and other hostages held by the Lebanese Hezbollah, then by the same token Americans are responsible for the trauma they caused to the families of those 291 who perished as a result of a deliberate and calculated act of the Americans (and not a mistake as they claim). However, we see that the total amount of compensation offered to the families of those who lost their loved ones when the passenger plane was shot down is in no way comparable to the amount the American courts are affording to Mr. T. Anderson and others.

Jamshid Entesari


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