Javad the Great
has a tendency to form archaic opinions on issues that are too
relevant to rely on the ways of old
January 14, 2005
What to do when people continuously rail you with
impressions of righteousness? How tolerant can we be when dealing
with those reacting purely by whim? Should we feel immoral when
we don't invest in the same collective opinion, particularly
on sensitive issues? To put this into perspective, I will share
several of my recent experiences in dealing with an acquaintance
of mine named Javad.
Javad has been in the US for almost 25 years. Although
Javad has always liked the idea of traveling back to Iran one
he hasn't been there for 28 years, he is an American citizen.
He is highly educated and works for a well-know corporation. His
family background is vibrant and colorful, so much so that he doesn't
hesitate to show off on occasion. On so many levels Javad has
embraced American culture, yet for outdated personal reasons; you
won't find him drinking a cup of Starbucks coffee!
In a twisted way, I'm proud of Javad, as he has
managed to keep both his pleasant and distasteful Iranian behaviors
On one hand he is the most loyal person there is. You can call
him at 3:00am and ask for help -- he will show up without needing
the cause. On the other hand he slays you, should you ever feel
the need to utter any criticism of Iran and Persian heritage. He
has a tendency to form archaic opinions on issues that are too
relevant to rely on the ways of old.
Last year when I
wrote an article gently criticizing the way
Googoosh conducts her art, I lost count of the rash emails received
from diversified cultural
backgrounds; not because they had reasonable arguments regarding
my opinions, but emotional anger for the questions posed. Javad
included his 2 cents as well. While all of this interaction was
invigorating, I would have preferred a rational discussion of differing
points of view.
When National Geographic (NG) named Persian Gulf,
Arabic, Javad and I both agreed that they shouldn't have done so.
it was an "insulting act to Persian heritage and Iranians".
I thought it was unlawful. Javad fulfilled his patriotic duty
by taking one day out of his busy schedule and purchase more than
200 NG maps from a Border's bookstore in downtown Seattle
and then return them the same day. Javad was convinced that by
doing so, he really proved to NG how offended Iranians were about
the inaccuracy. His credit card company, however, only viewed his
show of protest as an inconvenience, as they called him the next
day asking why his credit card was over the limit!
On a boring and rainy afternoon in Seattle, Javad
and I decided to go to a movie. I really wanted to see Alexander,
but was sure that Javad would not go because he had heard that
would be talk against the Persian Empire of 2500 years ago. I thought
since the subject of the movie has something to do with history,
Javad would be the perfect choice to go with, considering the
age of his mindset, yet his struggle to keep an open mind was proving
a formidable opponent to the enjoyment of a simple afternoon.
To convince him, I began by mentioning
a few things that Javad would like to hear. "You know Javad,
the history of Iran has been destructive and consistent. Iran must
be the most
conquered and desired country in civilized history. Consider the
fact that while our brown-skinned neighbors were performing surgery,
the hairless whites were shivering in caves, dressed in fur skins.
Four civilizations began in the fertile soil of the Persian/Turley/Iraq
corner. Yet, because of geography, wealth of national resources,
bordering of waterways, intersections of trade routes, the sea
and mountain range -- it makes for a desirable country, and
so our poor Persia has always been under conflict. There is a lot
of self-defense made in Persia. The invasion of the Arabs in the
sixth century has neither been forgotten, nor forgiven. At least
Alexander let Persians have their own religious practices and appointed
Persian governors for different districts because his agenda had
nothing to do with religion or race. Perhaps we should go and watch
this movie Javad ..."
It was here that Javad vehemently cut me off, his
face was turning red, full of rage, shouting, "I knew it,
I knew you were a liberal bastard with no pride for Iran and Persian
is no way I see this movie."
Momentarily stunned, I was unsure how to respond.
How I should feel about his outburst. Hurt or insulted?
I replied, "First of all, just because I have different views
on things, doesn't mean I'm indifferent to Persian
values. Secondly, I would really like to see this movie because
Angelina Jolie looks so beautiful in the movie with the Greek outfit
and all that ... so let's go and enjoy!"
Javad, still angry, went on, "How could you say that? You're
such an ignorant person. You just want to see a pretty girl without
acknowledging that you're financially supporting this movement!"
Confused, I asked "What movement?" I struggled,
trying to find some facts in his argument to understand what exactly
upset him so. I was casually talking about the entertainment value
of seeing a beautiful woman on the silver screen on a dull and
rainy afternoon. I decided to try again, "Have you read any
book or watched any program about Alexander?"
Javad shook his
head and said, "No, a friend of mine went
to see the movie and said that there was quite a bit of bad mouthing
against the Persian Empire."
"Javad, there is no Persian Empire anymore.
That country is now called Islamic Republic of Iran. Maybe you
need to see the movie
and judge for yourself. Besides, who says this movie tells the
truth. Usually films dramatize history from filmmaker's point
of view." I uselessly tried to persuade him.
"Naaa, Kamran. There is no way I ever see
this movie", he
was not going to change his mind. "Ok! But Why?" I
asked, and then met with silence. He just glared at me, and then
left without even saying goodbye.
This wasn't the first time Javad had disappointed
me during a conversation. He has always been like that. But upon
it had not only been Javad, I realized. I have had conversations
with many others, who without reasoning tend to enforce their ideas
without explanation or logic. These people are monopolistic, dominative,
and controlling in their dialogue styles. They tend to spread their
umbrella in such way that everything else falls under their shadow.
In this situation, I as the audience, feel my understanding
is heavily influenced by what the speaker is trying to impose.
types of conversations are general, at times imaginative, and often
fact-less. Throwing out broad claims without any ability to substantiate
the information attempting to be instilled, is about as meaningful
as saying "I'm right because I said so". Such
dialogue does not invite those you are conversing with any opportunity
for discussion. Influential views and claims should pass through
four stages: listening, thinking, dialogue, and approval or disapproval.
Those of us who have been raised in
traditional families are quite often accepting of this routine,
as we have experienced them during
our conversations with our parents. Some of us have been raised
in an environment where respect was absolute, in regards to any
communication, especially with parents. That's the beauty
of our culture and we cherish that, but what about fairness and
equality? What about exercising reasonable discourse? How do we
control our impulse reactions?
The problem with spontaneity is that it is generally
fueled by emotions, which can lead to rashness and misinformation.
of fallacy, humongous amounts of energy could be spent to explain
the reaction -- that is if one cares to explain!
Javad has an incredible sense of nationality, pride
and loyalty. He speaks with pride of our national heroes, even
when he is distressed
over the government of the country. I try to help him remain calm
by reminding him that the heroes I recall were optimistic and patient
-- they adapted, waited, and learned -- they indulged in conversations,
ideas and stories. My Persian heroes were more gentle and passionate
during the course of conversation. I think people should neither
hide nor glamorize their heritage to the point of inanity.
A few weeks after that obnoxious interaction, Javad
called me and with a conciliatory tone invited me to go out and
the Fockers", in a theatre near his house. I accepted! The
movie was funny and Javad really enjoyed it. After the movie we
decided to talk over a coffee. I suggested going to the Starbucks
next to the movie theatres. He said "No, let's go to Tully's",
which is located half mile away from where we were, and once again,
it was raining. I reluctantly accepted.
It was in the coffee shop that I asked Javad to
review the draft of this article on my laptop. I mentioned that
I intended to put
it on the Internet. I hesitated for a moment, as I was a little
worried that he wouldn't invite me to his wedding, and I really
wanted to attend. It is my only chance to see many glamorous ladies
who look like Shahbanoo Farah.
After reviewing the draft, with a puckered brow
as bitter as Andy Rooney's, he pointed at me and said with an accusatory
intimidating tone, "Should you ever put this article online,
I will destroy you." Out of fear of losing our friendship,
I conceded at the time.
Well, I did put this article online, hopelessly
thinking, Javad will read it in his quiet way and actually think
about it. I wonder
how this is going to affect my already-weakened relationship
with Javad. I'm sure he won't be calm about this. So if you're
thinking of condemning me in email, consider that Javad might
have already beaten you to it, literally!