Sense of guilt
... for abandoning an ancient country
By H. Shamloo
May 29, 2001
Again I am hearing the same depressive music. This is not the first time
we are dealing with apologetic self-criticism. It usually starts with a
prelude addressing the importance of admitting the fact that "us Iranians
are pretty much living in a non-existent
glorious past ... that we are nothing more than a poor, third world
nation much behind others," but after stripping the nation of its national
pride stops short of any constructive discussions on how to approach our
country's problems and think of solutions.
It is almost like some intellectuals enjoy themselves in a masochistic
way by criticizing and making fun of one's own "glorious past"
but have nothing else to say (the pragmatic businessman at least "appeals
to the U.S. government" to break the trade
mafia!). They typically jump in to "correct" someone else,
not that they have an opinion de novo and want to share it with the rest
Let me briefly analyze the psychology here: this mentality stems out
of a first generation emigrant's sense of guilt for abandoning their ancient
country seeking a rational way to relieve the inevitable anxiety that follows
such an internal conflict between their (usually big) ego and the harsh
One comes up with the idea of "embracing"
the new world with all its components, the other tries to adopt some parts
of it by "letting go of that... whatever", someone else just resorts
to "rationalization" by advocating "self-actualization stage
of one's life", and perhaps many more that have not passed the editorial
screening at iranian.com!
They rationalize their attitude by referring to some historical "facts"
more often than not mixed with their subjective interpretations, but they
forget to tell that there is no nation on the face of the earth that has
been a super power for several hundred years in a row, and still there is
nothing wrong with that.
None of the modern powers or superpowers are anything but the descendants
of a bunch of scattered tribes in the forests of Europe when our fathers
were ruling over the world, but they are not apologetic for that. They are
not making fun of their humble past. The so-called superior Germans are
the descendants of those Vandals and other primitive germanic tribes that
destroyed the Roman civilization. But are they ashamed of it?
We sure don't need to subdue our pride by calling our history "not
really that glorious" or even worse, calling the product of our own
Persian civilization as Arabic (not even Islamic) empire under Abbasid Caliphate
mightier than any before. It's true that time was about 1100-1200 years
later than when Cyrus started the first empire in the world therefore, in
a sense every new empire would be considered mightier (the latest one being
the U.S.). We can be and should be proud of that background which is real
and as "existing" as "history" can be i.e., it really
The modern Western nations are lucky; this is their turn as we have had
our chance once and may have it again two centuries from now. Why? Because
there is inconsistency in the pattern of development of societies. One may
use different models to explain the underlying mechanism: for example the
geography, religion, different political systems, and perhaps a more economic
analysis i.e., that different societies experience different levels of technology
and production at different times.
When the rest of civilized world was enjoying a relatively advanced irrigation
system and higher agricultural productivity -- hence ruled by semi-independent
local kingdoms -- the bedouin communities (like Arabs in early 700 AD or
Moguls in 1200 AD) were in the process of uniting their nations guided/influenced
by the newly emerging commercial business. With their geography they couldn't
have an agriculture based civilization. As a result of that there would
be no solidified resistance against their military invasion.
So there comes their easy conquest and as soon as they are established
technocrats of the already advanced urban civilization -- now privileged
with some freedom -- handles the bureaucratic machine and of course the
credit goes to the desert man (it was Sibovayh, a Persian scholar, who laid
the foundation for the codification of Arabic grammar and wrote the first
Arabic dictionary). And there follows the rest of story.