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Stop hallucinating
You are not going back to Iran. Ever.

July 18, 2001
The Iranian

What if we stopped all of this and said "Forget it! Let's not bother with Iran anymore." Worry about yourself, family and friends and the location/community where you currently live or the general vicinity you will be living in the foreseeable future. Which indeed, in DEED, we are.

A good number, if not a majority, of the articles and letters one reads on Iranian.com in one form or another, point to the authors' perceived desire to "do something for Iran" through the idea of "someday going back and fixing things." This is a very emotional issue and hard for many to swallow. Most notably the older generation of Iranians outside of Iran; some of whom literally and figuratively, still to this day, maintain a ready-to-go suitcase.

Let's not hold on to hallucinations none of us believe in. A great majority of the Iranian/Iranian-descended people I know, having lived in five different states in America for 18 years, will not go back to Iran to live. Ever. Yet everyone seems to be caught up in this web of "we are going sooner or later" -- most notably the Pahlavi family (okay, okay, we will leave this one alone).

We have romanticized this idea to death. Yet we only see major movement OUT of Iran not INTO Iran (with a few minor exceptions of course). Iran as it currently stands, is not self-sufficient in feeding its own population . Major food products or indirect food products (such as cattle feed) are imported. The population is growing at an alarming rate -- 10% of which are addicts (some hardcore some not but addicts nevertheless). Water is a perennial problem. The economy is a mess -- take away oil and what does Iran export? Pistachios and caviar and rugs and minibuses to Bulgaria. Not the most efficient way to feed 60 million mouths.

Countries with similar problems to Iran, like Israel (shortage of water and arable land), and India (massive population and unlike Iran NO oil) have realized certain facts and have invested heavily in one thing they have less shortage of: human capital. Indian and Israeli high tech outfits (most notably software producers) readily compete and at times outmaneuver Western corporations. Several of them are listed on the NASDAQ.

Given the resources Iran has and has always had, such as human talent and minerals, it is an absolute shame that nothing has been done to pave the way for the country to compete globally -- if anything due to unwise policies everything "seems" to have been done to prevent this. Then again, this is nothing new. It has been this way for centuries. One should refrain from saying it has been this way since the beginning as too many things from the "old" Persian Empire days are glorified; subject to debate of course and out of the context of this discussion.

Iran is like an athlete with Olympic Gold potential who, for a variety of reasons, continuously fails to realize what needs to be done to cultivate that potential and ends up competing in "yeh-ghol do-ghol" with "bachehaayeh sareh koocheh" only. And it is always someone else's fault or a global conspiracy.

Oil and gas will run out sooner or later (although some economic theory claims never due to the supply/demand/pricing curves and so on). Anyone who goes to visit comes back with depressing stories of hunger, prostitution, drugs, disparity, haves-and-have-nots, corruption, bribery, suppression, oppression, lies and deceits, great parties, and so on. With the minor caveat that "it was nice to see the family but glad I got the hell out." If they wanted to live there they could. If they were not "harmed" as a visitor they probably would not be harmed as a resident.

A lot of the problems Iran faces today have always been there. They are just far more exacerbated now due to the doubling of the population in the last 30-40 years. Corruption has always been there, drugs have always been there (how many "tar-yaaki" jokes do you know?), prostitution used to be in shahreh-no, now, apparently, it is everywhere...

Exactly what will make you go back? Did you ever truly really practically think about this? Are you willing to sell whatever you have, take your American or European-born kids to Iran to live? Only to send them back when they are 18 to go to college? (This is NOT to downgrade Iranian universities but the fact is that they do not have nearly enough capacity to handle the deluge of applicants).

If you are in your 20's and outside of Iran, wherever you are has been your home far more than Iran has been your home. If that is not the case that means you just recently left Iran. No explanation necessary there. If you are in your 30's and 40's you probably have homes and kids and a family or similar deep ties (assuming you have been outside of Iran for a while). None of you will go back. Visits sure. Move? Hah!

Most certainly, many people would love to see every inch of Iran. Of course we miss Tehran and Isfahan and Yazd and Shomaal and so on. We drool over every single picture of Iran we get our hands on. But I am sure most also miss their size 26 waist and 120 lbs. weight too (I additionally miss the thick hair on the top of my head and lack-of-hair elsewhere).

Stop being exiles. The Western newspapers talk about an Iranian exile population of some two million. Nonesense. They are not exiles. They are immigrants. But such newspapers will not admit it until we admit it.

Iranian immirgants can be a strong influencing block in the policies of their newly adopted home countries, most notably the U.S. By all accounts they are among the most successful groups of immigrants to the U.S. ever. They have fairly strong $ power, which is the language of politicans everywhere in the world. And that needs to be put into good use.

This manner of "exile" thought and incapability to give permanence to our presence has impeded us from moving forward in our new locales; there are of course many -- but insufficient-- examples to the contrary; you get the idea. There are some organized movements here and there but they are loaded with strife fed by political beliefs and baggage from the past.

If anything, standing from the outside and observing Iran, should teach the immigrant communities of Iranians worldwide a lesson or two in what NOT to do. Just as Loghman Hakim responded to the question of learning from the unlearned. (Okay so we are stretching "adab" a bit.)

Such foward movement outside of Iran can tremendously benefit the people of Iran in the long term. For example most American Jews support Israel and are very united in lobbying and other efforts in influencing U.S. policy. Yet only a trickle of them would ever go live in Israel. You can not discount the influence of Irish-Americans in the attempts to settle the Northern Ireland disputes. But most of them are still in Boston.

We are not going back. We will be here. If you want to help someone back in Iran, by all means do so, that is a noble and worthy cause. You can help them by staying out of Iran so there is more facilities to go around for people who have to live there. Unless of course you can be a significant contributor of sorts who will have a net positive effect. And given the historical treatment of those who really want to serve their country (Amir Kabir, Karim Khan, Mosaddegh, etc.) you should think twice before jumping in.

But please stop this "vaghti bargardeem eeroon ..." romantic fallacy!

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Aref Erfani


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