As an Iranian-American, I feel like I can provide an observation on our culture. We, as a whole, have an identity problem. Blame it on Islam, on invasions, on whatever; it is there and it is real. I blame it more on familial enmeshment; perhaps it is because I'm a psychologist. Allow me to explain.
Politics and society are the expressions of a culture, the ways of behavior of a knit group of people- ethnicities to tribes, tribes to the family, the family to the individual. In this top-down progression, the family serves as the first door to socialization and the embedding of norms, and it is at this level where changes can be implemented to affect an entire culture. Iranian parents, for the majority, seem to have boundary problems with their children. This affects things as far up the societal ladder as a nation constantly shifting from one form of authoritarianism to another- the political history of Iran, from the Achaemenids to the regime of today.
How many in the Iranian youth pursue art, psychology, interior design, academia, or teaching? The numbers pale in comparison to the amount pursuing engineering, medicine, and (to a slight extent) law. It's not that the former fields aren't lucrative- one can make ends meet as a teacher or psychologist; millions do it around the world. It just takes more guts and individual drive than other fields- and the ability to swallow one's pride and realize it will be a different kind of profit- inner satisfaction; not prestige, hefty salaries and bonuses. Iranian parents control their kids in many ways- some overt ("I'm not going to pay for your school if you don't pursue pre-med!") some indirect ("You know Khaleh Fariba's son, he's a well-known engineer from MIT. He's such a good boy"). Some Iranians pick their cookie-cutter careers because three or four family members are in the field, some pick it to please parents, some pick it to compete with others or fill a void in what they believe they "should have" compared to others (fulfilling what the culture says they "ought" to do), and some pick it because they have never thought of other careers. The career, the next 40 to 50 years of your life, is but one building block of identity- yet it is a very important one.
Through familial enmeshment, Iranian youth become dependent. They cannot make decisions for themselves without "mashferat kardan". They cannot develop their own reason without self-doubt and lack of confidence. This enmeshment and authoritarian family system leads to eventual expression of thoughts and feelings in passive-aggressive ways and outburts from things held inside for too long. It leads to sudden and dramatic life changes. It impedes the trust of and development of the self. Like a famous Russian proverb- "leave the thinking to the geniuses"- Iranians don't give much value to the thoughts or abilities of an individual to reason and figure things out for themselves. This comes from the family system- what we were raised upon. We know how we are supposed to act, and someone out of that norm is somehow less. But we all secretly long for the ability to attain that boldness to make decisions on our own life- mainting our own, individually-developed values. We have our values handed down to us for the most part; why can't we go by what is pragmatic for us? Why not weigh the benefits and costs of these values; the costs of this control? Are security and pleasing others really worth the loss of the self and the perpetuation of this destructive pattern on our newer generations, our future sons and daughters?
Iranians don't exercise the right to choose for themselves because of the insecurity and lack of confidence in decision making brought about by this enmeshment of family members. When others are making decisions for you, you will lack the experience of autonomous thought and action, lack the experience of consequences, and lack the experience of establishing new patterns and routes to achieve results in your life. You will remain in a quagmire of self-doubt and will opt for whatever is secure, even if it means shortchanging your own happiness.
My point is: Iranian family systems are inherently authoritarian- though not in an oppressively overt way, they nonetheless still are. Many find their careers don't suit them well into their lives (though many also find they do). Many Iranian youth struggle to live up to cultural expectations, even miles away from their homeland. Parents seek to live through their children what they did not live in their lives. This is all well and human- it can be argued that it is a type of love- but it nevertheless impedes individuality and identity growth. Familial enmeshment and overprotectiveness cause late or nonexistent growth in identity development, which leads to psychological adjustment problems. Hence, Iranians have a tough time without their family network. Perhaps it is time for the new generation of abroad-living Iranians to change this cultural norm and abide by "carpe diem"- because you only live one life.