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Trust vs. fear
My suggestion is to look at ourselves before blaming others


April 5, 2007

What are the reasons behind all this suspicion and animosity that Middle-Easterners have toward the West? Why can't Iranians and other Middle-Easterners have a more receptive and trusting approach toward the West? I remember my own father and many elders I knew used to talk about the West in a very negative sense. Some old and even young people used to talk about Americans and the British as being behind almost everything, controlling the lives and minds of Iranians, Muslims and others through all the possible means, even including the imported food. Some of my school colleagues in Iran used to talk about how the West was trying to control, manipulate and exploit us through their films, products and even pretty much innocent science.

There are two black and white approaches toward all this suspicion, and there is the gray, the middle approach. The black and white means that the Iranians and other peoples of the Middle East (of course not all of them, but the mainstream) are either wrong or right. The other approach is that they are partially right and partially wrong. The same suspicious approach surfaced with the capturing of the 15 British sailors by Iranian authorities that are supposed to be released very soon (if not already). I wrote an article about that subject and received very angry feedback from some of my fellow Iranians.

Analysing the Middle-Eastern suspicion of the West, it is simple to state that Middle-Easterners are simply wrong about most of their suspicions because there are no grounds for them. However some of the events of the past are proof that Western actions toward the Middle East have not always been nice and friendly. One very significant action taking by America and Britain that has been very significant in the psyche of the Iranians is the coup that brought down Mossaddegh and returned the dictatorship of the Shah to shadow over Iran for decades to come. The other bad memory that Iranians have is that the West aided Saddam in his war against Iran that caused the death of more than a million innocents and combatants on both sides.

There are of course many other instances in which the peoples or nations of the Middle East have reasons to be suspicious of the West. However, let's be objective and impartial and see how things are in a less emotional light. For this matter let's take the example of Iran, which is much closer to our realities. There is proof and no-one (even the Americans) has denied that the Americans helped Shah come back and take over power from Mossaddegh. So the Americans are guilty for that. The Clinton administration even appologised for it. Who brought Khomeini to power in Iran? Is there any proof that the West brought Khomeini to power? No, there isn't. It was a made-in-Iran event. Who brought Saddam to power? Nobody. That was a made-in-Iraq event. Who started the Iran-Iraq war? It was Saddam, not the West. Who didn't accept to stop the war later on? That was Khomeini, not the West, or even Saddam. Why did Iran fail to establish a democracy for more than a century or starting the attempt? Maybe America hindered the process with the Mossaddegh coup, but what about so many other opportunities? Why did Iran fail in democratising? That's not because of America but because of the inadequacies of the Iranian society. So, the West may have some faults but we cannot blame all the ills of the nation on the West.

Let's look at the situation from another perspective! No matter how many Iranians would disagree with me, there must also be quite many open-minded ones who would agree that the Middle-Eastern culture is one in which trust and the truth rarely go beyond empty words, slogans and theories. Families are based on the wrath of the patriarch in order to hold together. Businesses are based on the shrewed underground practices of the ruthless owners in order to survive. Every aspect of life in the Middle East is either based on fear and reprisal or it simply does not exist. Simple citizens on the streets have either no relations to one another in which case they ignore each other or if they do have relations to one another then the relationship is not genuinely based on trust but on fear. So if two people who have some sort of a relationship with each other (friendship, business or family) seemingly respect each other on a relatively equal footing then it means that they fear each other on a relatively equal footing.

But Middle-Eastern relationships are rarely on an equal footing. There are usually some who fear others and there are often many who fear one. The fear factor in such societies (including Iran) is something that actually works and holds the pillars of families and various organisations and structures together. What happens when the fear factor is missing? Well, let's see what history has to show for this! Iran of the early 20th century is a clear example when hundreds of thousands or even millions died in chaos and civil war after the Qajar became unable to rule the country under the newly chosen constitutional democratic system. Another example that everyone is familiar with is Iraq where daily violence (it is called civil war) claims the lives of tens and hundreds of innocent people. Why fear rules in the Middle Eats? That is a complicated question to answer but science has come up with various solutions to this. It is simply a stage of human evolution. Western societies have been there too.

So, my suggestion is to look at ourselves before blaming others! Iranians and other Middle-Easterners have their suspicion about the West simply because they do not know the West. The West is indeed different. Western societies, unlike Iranian and Middle-Eastern societies are not societies that are held together by fear. Can you believe this? Am I just bluffing? Can Iranians and Arabs believe this? Maybe not. Anyway, even if Iranians can find this unbelievable, it is indeed so. Western countries are held together because the citizens of the respective countries truly want to. Westerners respect each other not because of fear but because there is trust. Western businesses are able to grow large not because they have politicians who cheat for them and protect them (the fear factor) but because there is trust that allows people to come together and work with each other and create values for the benefit of all. Western governments are so strong not because they exploit the poor countries of the world but because they have their populations behind them, not fearing them. All this trust has been the result of a long and difficult path through which Westerners have learned a lot and have built what they deserve.

What we, Iranians outside Iran, have received from the West has been a simple and precious gift, and that is freedom, no fear. And unfortunately Iran is long way from this. However what Iranians have received from the West have been almost all the products and services they use every day for consumption or entertainment, or for treatment, and I guess it is time to stop the blaming and get on with our own lives and improve our own ways. Comment


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Ben Madadi



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