Although the Iranian Diaspora seems to be one of the most successful migrant community in the world in adpating to host culture, it has not been smart enough to learn one of the most fundamental Western traits. Namely, that of setting one's differences aside and rallying around issues of common importance.
I was assigned to the Iranian Embassy in Norway as a Minister-Consular from 1968 to 1973, when the debate for or against holding the 2,500-year celebrations att Persepolis was in full swing.
One night our best diplomat friend, Senior Lasidess, the Ambassador of Colombia in Oslo, invited my wife and I to attend a “sitting” dinner party at their Embassy.
Senior Lasidess did not speak Norwegian or English. He only spoke his native Spanish. However since I spoke Italian we could understand each other and had become very good friends. His wife was a beautiful Japanese, whom he had met during an earlier assignment in Tokyo. Prior to taking his post as Ambassador to Oslo, he was Minister of Education.
Ambassadorial seated dinners are semi-official functions, usually attended with elegant evening dresses for the ladies and black smoking attires for men. At the dinner table of twelve, I was placed to the right of the hostess.
A well-known Norwegian journalist was seated right opposite me at the majestic mahogany dinning table. Suddenly out of the blue this correspondent from the other side of the dinner table burst out:
“Mr. Hakimi, is it true that in Iran you eat with your hands?
“Perhaps sir, it may be true,” I replied, “but your question is a manifestation of the depth of your ignorance and affrontery.”
Suddenly there was complete silence in the dinning room.
Then I added: “Sir, by this inquiry you imply that the inventors of knives, spoons, forks, bowls, plates, chairs, dinning tables or any other dinning utensils are Europeans. But if you go to Persepolis, a place difficult to avoid nowadays given all the publicity about the site, then you will find the specimen of all these utensils in the archeological museum. You should also have a good look at the stone carvings for the same utensils engraved on the walls and staircases of that colossal palace. And if you remember that the Persians erected Persepolis 2,500 years ago, then you should also realize that at that time you were just cavemen! True, we do eat with our hands too, the same way that you eat your Pizzas, sandwiches, fish and chips in a piece of paper and with your fingers. That makes life so enjoyable and colorful, doesn't it, sir? If you examine the history of your Royal families up until a 100 years ago, they ate with their hands and threw the bones back over their heads?”
Needless to say, what remained of the dinner party passed in absolute silence. Nobody uttered a word. Following the dinner the guests just vanished. I apologized to Senior Lasidess and his wife for ruining their party.
Senior Lasidess, with a very friendly gesture patted me on the shoulder and replied: “Dear man, do not worry. These arrogant snobs, especially their journalists who think they know it all and have nothing to learn from anyone, had it coming.” He added, “I am fed up with their arrogance and prejudice towards us.”
Yet some of us Iranians believe that the 2,500-year celebrations were a shameful blunder, both inside as well as out side of our country! I for one have no comments.
But one point remains and that is, regardless of our inherent dissension on whether these celebrations were necessary or not, we should always try to set out our differences aside when it involves dealing with outsiders on matters involving the prominence of our country and our national interests.