Be a better keeper
Iranians, especially scholars with Iranian descent need to do a better job of trying to be keepers of their culture
June 26, 2006
One day as I was walking around Barnes & Nobles a book by the title The Complete Idiot's Guide to 30,000 Baby Names caught my attention, which by the way had nothing to do with expecting a child. But rather with a pet peeve of mine that has to do with how most online web searches on baby names (non Iranian sites) display the name Arya as a Hindi origin name (see actuall root and meaning). Curious to see how the print world displayed its origin I looked for the name and not surprisingly they also didn't acknowledge the origin to be Iranian, moreover they had put its origin as Germanic.
As usual afterward I did a quick web search on the two authors and at least based on my searches I couldn't find any reason to conclude that they had a special expertise in such fields, which pretty much explains why such books are published under the "complete idiot's guide" tag line!
At any rate this experience made me think of the bigger issue that has faced Iranians since I would "guess" around 300 BC. Right around the same time frame when Eskandar, a.k.a. Alexander, brought down the Persian/Iranian Empire by defeating Daryoush, a.k.a. Darius. It seems afterward our history, our culture, our ways of being; has been continuosly redefined, renamed, re-everything by others, while many of our own historians and these days the Iranologists have either stayed silent or have not had an effective campaign to present the truth. Thus proving the old saying that history is written by the victor -- at least for the last 3,000 years or so.
By the way some of you may have noticed another pet peeve of mine and that is how we have allowed others mainly Greek historians to rename our names ala making Koroush to be Cyrus, Daryoush to be Darius, Khasayar to be Xerxes, Hakhamanesh to be Achamenid and on and on. If that was their phonetic way of writing it in Latin back then fine, but why should we follow their footsteps when we are writing in English now. After all these days history books aren't referencing to Khomeini using the Latin or Greek version of the name.
Let me now move on to some other relevant points that you and hopefully current and future Iranologists can think and act on.
As I was going through reading and formulating my thoughts on what I was about to write I came across another article here "Ancient Persia's virtual absence in Hollywood" written six years ago which basically discussed both the lack of presence and or misrepresentation of Iranian history in the West and more specifically in Hollywood. Of course since then we had several-failed attempt and some successful ones in this area.
For instance many Iranians had hoped that finally Alexander Jovi project in 2003 will introduce Koroush to the West but apparently his attempt has failed. That failed attempt was followed by the fiasco surrounding arrest of Cyrus Kar while working on the documentary project on the life of Koroush. On a positive note we have had some movie makers like Saied Ghahri, Kayvan Mashayekh, Farzin Rezaeian who have made their contributions in introducing and familiarizing the West and even the Iranian youths with our rich history and culture, but what is interesting is the lack of interest in such genres by other famous producers and directors especially those in Iran.
I'm not suggesting that the responsibilities of educating the masses lies with movie directors and producers or for that matter that movies are best sources of historical facts. However one can't also deny the strong influence of such mediums in shaping general opinion in today's world. Especially during a time period where we have had another big picture production on the life of Eskandar, prime time TV series like HBO's Rome, and of course many other similar topic documentaries on channels like the History Channel.
In fact I did a quick search on the History Channel site to see if they had any old shows on tape about famous Iranians of the past and/or the Iranian Empire. As I was going through all the shows on Roman, Greek, Egyptian empires it seemed (at least in my searches) that they either skipped over 2500 years of history by instead having bunch of programs on the more recent events ala hostage crisis and the 1979 revolution and the leading figure during it; or in passing just referencing the Iranian Empire during other documentaries especially the ones that were on Eskandar!
Moreover, as I was searching around on their site I noticed another interesting point which came about after I clicked on the banner ad for a new video game "Rise and Fall" -- a game about various empires. Once again I couldn't help but to notice the difference and brevity by the developer of the game on how the Iranian Empire was described vs. the other important empires of the past.
So why am I writing this? I am doing so because I think all Iranians, especially scholars with Iranian descent need to do a better job of trying to be keepers of their culture, their history and basically who Iranians are. I will be the first to emphasis the need and importance for Iranians to stop living in the past -- whether if it is 2500 years ago or 30 years ago after all past is the past.
However at the same time one can't also ignore the importance of how history, especially incorrect depiction of historical facts can shape both how we view ourselves and how others view us. So hopefully with the many advancements in communications, and the growing power and wealth some of us have in the West (See my last article, "Lessons in success") we can do a much more effective job in making sure our side is also presnted, thus contributing in paving a road for other Aryans to continue on making positive contributions to their own and the world.