We have all had our share of insults, threats and quarrels on this site. We have all been mean or unjust depending our point of views especially when it comes to politics. I have never complained about the personal attacks I have been subject to because I think that when you express yourself publically you are sure to irritate somebody on the World Wide Web who may disagree with you, so I never take it too personally. However when some people under anonymous posts attack you on a personal level or in particular try and attack you cheaply by targeting your privacy or private life, I know that they are motivated by something else than pure intellectual discourse. I have received death threats, insults over the years that I have been writing (and in most cases I believe with a degree of politeness and tolerance for other people’s ideas and backgrounds) and even anonymous phone calls to family members which I found is the most cowardice form of intimidation. In recent months I seem to have a: “Lost Iranian Friend in Paris” who seems to claim he knows me and tries to discourage my posts by personal comments under the bold stance of anonymity.
However that is not the reason for my post today. None of these comments will ever discourage me to write what I think or want to say. I First want to thank Jahanshah Javid for not only his hard work, patience but also for having created this space of incredible freedom of expression that is certainly unique in the WWW. The IRanian.com has truly made a great difference I am sure in the lives of all of us readers, contributors, visitors from all over the world, from different social and intellectual backgrounds, education, cultures and opinions.
I know that I have over the years greatly benefited intellectually and emotionally from this wonderful and at times frustrating website. I was able to achieve some things that I never though were possible not only through my writings but also in promoting others enthusiastically and I hope creatively which at times wrongly comes across to those who do not know (me except virtually) as a form of narcicism. If they only knew …
I simply wanted to say that after nearly 9 years of writing for the Iranian.com, I have probably learned more about my fellow compatriots and probably even myself than I ever did through out my university years or professional life. I got to accept some of the qualities but also contradictions I saw in myself and others.
My generation ( basically Marjane Satrapi’s Generation) was too young to experience the Revolution from an adult point of view so as to allow us to strongly claim to any political opinion whatsoever. Yet I think we felt the pain, anger and at times absurd dark humor that would appear from time to time when we observed our elders in Shab Nesheenies quarreling over who is good and who is bad, listening to the passionate conversations between parents, uncles or elder siblings about the Shah and Khomeiny Rivalry, The SAVAK and the SAVAMA. We got to see the trials and executions become the new form of entertainment in the place of our favorite American TV shows like The Six Million Dollar Man or Charlies Angels and Iranian Variety Shows like Rang Arang. Black and White was to replace Colour on the TV screens on a daily basis with religious programs and political propaganda. The Propaganda was not new but it was more apparent at least to my eyes than the more subtle forms of censorships we had during the Shah’s Era.
When I first saw Marjane Satrapi’s comic books, I was hardly impressed by what I read, I should even say I was a little irritated by her left wing anarchism and black humor but maybe more because at the same age my views were if not right wing at least more conservative because of my family background. So I felt that her experience was not totally mine despite both of our upper middle class family backgrounds. Had my parents and her parents met they would have certainly had passionate quarrels with my PArents Defending the Shah and Her Parents Khomeiny and the Revolution.
My feelings regarding Satrapi did not change, after I met her twice, even if she was very kind and warm and dedicated me her album on a book promotion. I listened and read many of her interviews and something about her anarchism still irritated me, since I could kind of read through her answers that she did not particularly like the Pahlavis and was still very much certain about her own views as the absolute Truth. On the otherhand I was intrigued by her because she was like no other and I admired her for standing for her views and defending them through what she did best, her Art Work.
My views changed a great deal after I saw her movie Persepolis but more importantly by observing her in the public eye and reading or watching her various interviews defending her film. She seemed to have matured and it showed in the way she told the story maybe because of having to work with another director who pushed her in digging into her thoughts and demons. I think the experience and also to her own admission was more liberating than all that she had done before.
The proof is that when I got to see Persepolis, I did not react as if I was Iranian or had lived through the same experience but simply as a movie goer. The Life I had witnessed from a different perspective than hers was now a work of Art and the characters and situations were now part of an Empire of Dreams or Maybe she would call it a Republic of Imagination like Azar Nafisi the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.
What impressed me most about the film which I did not find in the original comic book was to see that Satrapi was no more trying to be a moralist or try and convert anyone to her ideas be them Marxist, Leftist or neo Islamist. It was about her life and human experience which found strong echoes in that of my generation.
Nearly 30 years after the Islamic Revolution that made my family and I leave our country in similar yet different ways to that of Marjane Satrapi (whose family still lives in Iran) I am nearly certain that if my Iranian father was still alive today, and had he and Marjane’s father known eachother over time they would fall in one another arms and laugh and cry when speaking of their respective lives and opinions. Indeed 30 years after the Revolution, I think that despite different views and behaviours towards that major historical event that shook our country, I think that we have all reached more or less the same conclusion and that is that what matters is Humanistic values and tolerance.
In the first years of exile, seeing the difficulties my parents went through like many others in exile, I could not feel anything but contempt and even hate for anyone who expressed the slightest support for the Islamic Republic or for the Revolution. I was on the opposite side of the political spectrum of someone like Jahanshah Javid and most probably he would have had the same feelings regarding me. Dunno. ;0)
Today however, I cannot even feel the slightest hate or desire for revenge towards Khomeiny, the Revolution or fellow Iranians who still believe in the current regime. I may disagree vehemently or even get angry with them on specific issues or comments but I bear no hatred. Not Even for those who call me a “Crowned Cannible Monarchist.”
We may differ or agree on many issues expressed on the Iranian.com articles and comments but I am certain that many of us have things to say and express which matter to you but also to us. It is important to be able to express them and share them. It is all the more precious if you do it without hiding behind an Anonymous name or Avatar unless for good reasons like privacy or self preservation or protection which is all the more understandable if you live in Iran or still have family there.
I recently had some harsh words with a fellow writer Abarmard whom I appreciate greatly despite strong ideological and political differences. My anger was triggered by deep convictions that could not have channeled a different reaction. But it was I think based on reasoning and not blind fanaticism. I also believe that my good virtual friend’s reaction was also based on similar considerations. It just happens that intellectually we feel we could not do so differently.
The issue of our discourse is not the point I am trying to bring up here. The real issue is about mutual respect and tolerance. I do not find it contradictory to be angry, or emotional when it comes to defending ones point of view. On the contrary, I think it is challenging, exciting and also useful to both the debaters as well as those reading them. What I appreciate in Abarmard, Irandokht and other writers who do not necessarily share my views is that they are open to arguing and defending their points of views with sincerity and conviction. We have all our own reasons to react or not react to a news, blog, article or comment and our opinions are shaped by our personal experiences and lives. How could it be otherwise ? We are only Human and contrary to those who think it is easy to write, they should remember that it is always something demanding to express your views in all honesty and sincerity all the more if those ideas correspond to what you truly think. It is only in dictatorial systems that free thinkers are deemed dangerous. Mind you, the same is in Democratic societies too since what you write appears on the web and anyone including your employers may read it and use it against you. That said, I truly think that writers and intellectuals can change the world and their duty is to do it for a better one. Sometimes they are correct, often they have proved to be wrong. Should that discourage us to continue and express ourselves on issues that matter to us, even if the entire planet disagrees ?
The Iranian intelligenstia before the revolution has earned a bad and negative reputation because they are blamed for not having predicted what happened in the aftermath of the revolution. the Term ANN TELLECTUAL has become a common designation which to some degree corresponds to a certain reality. But I believe that what makes a writer, author or individual truly an Intellectual it is when he or she stands accountable for what he says or does. I have no problem with former or present revolutionaries ready to argue or debate with me or with others who share or not my ideas or opinions.
I have a problem with intolerant people who under anonymous posts attack your individuality, your family, or the values you stand for in the name of pure hatred. Most of these people like this Anonymous Lost Iranian in France or others under different pseudonyms cannot tolerate your views but do nothing to stand for their own views. The simple fact that they hide under anonymity and indulge in making comments with the aim of hurting you and not your ideas necessarily proves that for them the “intellect” has no value and take written word for granted. That is why I have never thought of writing under a different name or photo than mine. If I offended people or hurt their feelings in the course at least I am accountable with my real name and identity.
I simply want to thank some of the contributors on the Iranian.com for their openmindedness and good heart despite the fact that I do not know them personally nor do they necessarily share my views. If I forgot some of you out there please forgive me, it is nothing personal nor is the following list of names aimed to be in a specific order but come to my mind right now as I list them.
Laleh Shahparaki Welsh
As well as the first feature writers on this site some of whom have stopped writing others who have left this world for another one.
I want to thank you for your friendship and your individual contributions that each in their own way have made me grow up and nourished my intellect over the years.
On a final note may I quote one of the Great French Lumières Philosophers who despite being a firm Constitutional Monarchist inspired some of the Great thoughts and ideas on Justice and Equality that were to shape the French Revolution of 1789:
“La gentillesse est une qualité de l’intelligence.”