September 28, 2000
I think that your article is symptomatic of the backward mentality present
in the Iranian communities in many parts of the world ["Doctor...
Doctor..."]. In Los Angeles this mental backwardness seems to
be all the more accentuated.
Iranians seem to place an important emphasis on professional, religious,
and academic titles as they serve as social identifiers used to distinguish
among people. We call people who have been to pilgrimage in Mekka Haji
and those who have been to Mashad Mashti. During the Qajar period many
people were Shazdeh or Doleh or Saltaneh. Nowadays people strive to establish
an identity for themselves by somehow prefixing their names with "Doctor"
and thus acquire notoriety.
I have seen many charlatans amongst these so-called doctors. They are
very good actors. They look at people and are eager to see how dumb people
are to squeeze them out of money. It is quite common to see that they make
patients come and go to their offices unnecessarily just to charge the
government or the insurance companies till they reach their income ceiling.
It reminds me of the many Iranians that spend many years in the universities
studying in the biological sciences (i.e. biochemistry, microbiology, physiology,
anatomy etc.) to get into medicine or dentistry. Many of them don't make
it after getting their bachelor's degree and then continue by studying
another degree in this domain. Some of them choose a quicker path and choose
alternative medicine like chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, and naturopathy
at private colleges although it has been documented that these professions
lack any scientific foundation and don't offer good prospects.
Most of these people graduate in their thirties and owe a tremendous
amount of loan. During their studies they boast that once they graduate
they will pay off their loan within six months and thus become heavily
indebted during their course of studies. Once they graduate they realize
the amount of loan they owe. Faced with huge loans and considering that
their income is not as per their original expectation they resort to unethical
practices to uphold their empty image.
What I find quite interesting is that the great majority of Iranians
chose the industrialized countries as their final destination because of
their prosperity and higher standards of living. The reason for this wealth
and stability are primarily the industries of these countries. And it is
the engineers that run the industries and high-tech companies that create
wealth. In today's world it is mostly the critical mass of the brain workers
(i.e. engineers, scientists, professors etc.) that creates wealth for a
country and provides it with a sound economic backbone. The routine workers
and manual workers (i.e. general practitioners, dentists, chiropractors,
hairdressers, estheticians etc.) don't play such an important role. They
just respond to the needs of the society at large. I think it doesn't take
that much brain power to drill a tooth but it takes a lot of brain power
to do circuit design.
The other issue is that the engineering profession is not at all accessible
to the common man or woman. The common man or woman neither has the brain
power to study such disciplines nor do they have any idea what engineering
is all about. They don't have the slightest understanding how the everyday
engineering products they use come into being. They used to ride donkeys
less than a hundred years ago and now they are driving cars. Simply the
donkey became replaced with a car. How that was made possible they don't
The same thing goes for all the other conveniences that engineering
has made possible and people take for granted. But now the salesperson
that sells computers has a higher standing in the Iranian community than
the engineer that makes it. Why? It is because of the stupid clichés
that are so prevalent amongst the Iranians. The usual saying: "Ma
aghaye khodemoon hastim" or "Ma baraye kasi kar nemikonim"
or "Ma raiiseh khodemunim" etc. Thus every small business owner
(ower) becomes more eulogized than a scientist does.
Then there are those Iranians that are actually graduates in physics
or commerce and once they get a job in a decent company start calling themselves
"Mohandes" even if their work has nothing to do with engineering.
So I think pretty soon everybody is going to be called "Doctor"
Mohammad Ali Yamini