Back in early 60's in Iran the Prime Minister Mr. Hoveyda paid a visit to Peykan automobile factory in Tehran where cars with the same name were assembled and sold at fairly affordable prices for an average middle class family. During that visit the prime minister was quoted as saying “let's all hope for a day that all Iranians drive a Paykan.”
Close to half century later, Mr. Hoveyda's dream is not too far from full realization, if only there was enough space on the streets of cities in Iran to afford more cars. His ill wish represents the decadence of a trend that has ruined many other third world countries as well. You certainly can not call this industrialization. Today, a nation is caught in the evils of pollution and traffic insanity, where thousands die each year of lung cancer thanks to our visionary forefathers.
If we had another Mr. Hoveyda today, what do you think he would have wished for all Iranians? Perhaps we can share such wish list over a glass of wine.
Today, Mr. Hoveyda's counterpart might have wished for all Iranians or at least for the ones abroad, to see a day that all of them have their very own and personal radio and TV shows or syndication in Persian language so that we all have the equal opportunity to blast the hell out of each other. I am referring to the Persian language radio and TV stations out of Iran. What is it that makes them tick? Well, Slander, assault, character assassination, smear campaign, labeling and just about any other negative contributions that we can make against each other just because we are Iranians.
Aside from a bit of obvious exaggeration above (bad habits die slowly) needless to say there are those among us that do not participate in character assassination (due to old age or being comatose on a hospital bed) but the rest of us make up for them and even for the deceased ones.
Inherently many of us are trained to discredit anyone who is a public figure or is intending to become one. We love people who are down to earth and “khaki” but we are hesitant and skeptical and frequently despise people who intend to accomplish public popularity. We are perhaps more prone to “geda parvari” or charitable ecstasy than “supporting leadership.”
If outside of Iran we see someone on a Persian TV program talking about his plans to unite Iranians or a group of Iranians, our first inclination is to ask “which country's government is behind him?” These are a few typical Persian inquisitions when they see such person on TV:
— “His face shows he is supported by the CIA” — “Look at that nose; it cries 'I am supported by the British'.” — “With that bald head who the hell does he think he is?” — “He must be an agent of the Islamic regime, I can tell one from a mile away.” — “Most likely he is attempting a fundraising followed with embezzlement.” — “He certainly seems to be from one of the villages listen to his accent!”
You see, perhaps one of the reasons for this is that Iranians are assumed to be the only nation in the world that just about all of them know about politics, all of them know who are behind the conspiracies and most of them have their very own political solutions. And that is precisely why nothing ever gets done and we keep falling behind.
Here is an example. When someone attempts to introduce a novel political analysis; instead of showing some interest and patience, the only response we give is a long “Baaaleh… meedooonam” with the rolling of the eyes which although it translates as “yes I know” but in reality and in true ulterior Persian lexicon it means “boro dareh kooneto bezaaaar ma khodemoon ostadesheeem, tokhmeh ma ham neestee” or its true translation is “go and screw yourself as I am a philosopher and politician myself!” Now this can very well be an eighteen year old talking back to a fifty year old uncle, but 10,000 years of civilization along the dusty Silk Road has created a nation that sees all as enemy, none trustworthy and nothing immune from its wrath.
What is attempted for clarification here is that perhaps our number one enemy is the one within. Far before Arabs, Muslims, Jews, Bahais, Westerners and Easterners become able to inflict a wound on us as a nation and a culture, we have a tendency to resort to self destruction.
How did we get here is beyond my knowledge but we all have our anecdotal memories of some events that scarred our feeling of trust. I recall clearly that in my 9th grade back in Iran our teacher in the Religion class used to advise us to stand alert against the Bahais. The only two Bahais that I knew then were two gorgeous girls near our neighborhood that we exchanged some glances occasionally.
Our teachers drew this picture of an evil cult that was there to get us and destroy our religion! He was not necessarily a bad person but certainly was not a good teacher and this to stand as a very small example of a very large problem in our culture, the fear of each other. They forced us to read our holy book in Arabic and at the same time mislead us about other religions, sects and cults. Such events left very little chance for us as kids to learn the truth or to hear unbiased discussion about the truth, so most of the damage was done by creation of atmosphere of intolerance along with unconditional obedience.
Then on 10th grade our science teacher completely ignored the entire botany section of our text and instead he advised us that we will be responsible only for the zoology and geology materials of the textbook and not the botany chapters! So what did he teach us instead? He spent the rest of the year talking about the virtues of Shia Imams and guaranteed all of us a passing grade for botany and an “A” for those who would volunteer to write and deliver a lecture about certain Imams. Piece of cake, we skipped botany chapters not learning a damn thing about plants genus and species! But we learned a lot about other stuff that I don't recall. In fact a couple of my classmates kept skipping the botany class from then on and regularly paid a visit to Tehran's whorehouse and within a month we knew the name of the top whores that they befriended on those days. And some of us ended up going to movies instead; it was a kind of fair trade. But I recall at least one good friend who indeed made an “A” in that class.
So, it's not just the Islamic Republic and constitutional monarchy that we need to make sure is forever abolished in our homeland but long before we can unite for such a difficult mission we have to fix the cultural anarchy among us. We need to promise and make a pledge to the spiritual forces, icons and temples or topless dancers that we worship that going forward we'll give each other a five-minute chance to talk before we interrupt with a solid “Baaaleh… meedooonam.” Once we accomplish such tolerance it will be the beginning of getting our country back together.
As an Iranian the next time you see someone on the street that also seems to be an Iranian try to control your urges evaluating him based on his bald head, big nose, his beard or accent. Please try to control all such tendencies and greet him or her with respect and if you engage in a conversation try to listen objectively and do not assume that you have the magical ability of scanning his or her background, religious affiliation and his political orientation based on your over-rated sixth sense.
As they say in America “united we stand, divided we fall.” Baaaleh… meedooonam