Some years ago, a relative of mine settled in a small north European country. She constantly complained about being lonely all the time, not having anyone to make friends or socialize with. When I asked her how that was possible considering the large number of Iranians who lived there, she said: well, all these Iranians have [supposedly] been either army generals (sartip) or millionaires (millions meant something at that time) or sons and daughters of most important, distinguished people. I am an ordinary person, she said, the only one, it seems, that worked in an office in Iran.
We attended a ceremony last month. We were introduced to someone named x, who immediately asked, are you familiar with the name, x? No, we said.
You are not? How come? Mr. x was the first person to come to the US and import … and such and such factory was his and …
Mr. x was her husband, and she felt she had to line up all his accomplishments/valuables for two perfect strangers. Then came the next question, are you familiar with y?
No, we said.
Oh, y was the greatest family in Gilan, and they did this and … Mr. Y was my father and …
Another line up of names and mention of wealth and …
What is it with us? Is it a side effect of dislocation/relocation and losing one’s place or assumed rightful place in society/community that makes us to go to such lengths to establish our place or rather feel some sense of superiority over others? Why are we clinging to these names and degrees and former social positions?
I studied and worked in academia where I was constantly surrounded by highly educated people for a long time. But nowhere have I heard so many repetitions and uses of the title, Dr., followed by a list of accomplishments than in parties/weddings/funerals in Iranian community.
Being in academic environment, I know about degrees, positions, etc. It is rather sad when sometimes people try to make a point of telling me their sons/daughters/nephews are professors (ustad) at some university when I know as a graduate student in science, they are most likely TAs which is different from being a professor or an instructor. It could just be the lack of familiarity with the educational system, but constantly showering others with their relatives’ titles and degrees has to be rooted somewhere else. But where?
Is it the changing social system that has left some out thus feeling the need to establish a position for themselves? Is the sudden loss of wealth/status behind the urge to draw attention to what/who one once was? Or is it the jump in social status through education/new wealth that makes some people wanting to share the news? Perhaps all of these. Why can we not communicate as people trying to find common points of interest? Why can we not come forward with what we know/read/enjoy/watch to share with others rather than with titles and degrees that will, for the most part, make no difference in the relationship?