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Don't wait for help
Chained down by our rooted cultural and social incongruous habits



Payam Shahfari
October 19, 2006

The absence of responsibility and accountability among our citizens is one major source from where our problems arise. Today, every problem is blamed on the Mullahs or the government. It is often ignored that the responsibilities of building the edifice of order and solidarity in our society lies mostly in the hands of the people. We have chosen to play the game that the government has put forth in order to eliminate consonance and harmony among the people. The government realizes that with the existence of a solidified movement among the people, cooperation of the people with the unjust laws of the government will cease to exist, since they are all suffering in the same hell manufactured by the government itself.

The creation of a corrupt government, economic and social injustice, poverty, and financial crisis for thousands of families that has forced many of our youth into depression, addiction, suicide, and prostitution, are some factors of that manufactured hell. We have unconsciously become slaves to a system in which we are willing to slump one another in order to survive that hell. Until the day we wake up and realize the truth behind our sufferings and take responsibility for our own actions we will never comprehend our weaknesses that lead us to our state of slavery. 

Our problem lies in our dependence on the government. We seek government intervention to discipline us and regulate our activities while we remain emasculated. We refuse to realize the need to detach ourselves from the system and to create a state of anarchy and self-help. As Gandhi said, "The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall." We are facing similar conditions as slaves. Slaves are ruled by relying on, cooperating, and obeying their masters' orders yet, they blame the masters for their misery.

Today Iranians in Iran are in a similar situation. For the time being, they are distancing themselves form politics and political activism for good reasons. As a friend of mine in Iran told me, "The Iranians outside of Iran are more politically active than us inside the country. Today people are mostly trying to make a living and are attempting to make the best life out of their limited freedoms and opportunities." This is quite understandable since they have been the ones suffering for so long. If they are not engaged in political activities, they are at least undeniably involved, in everyday social activities such as interacting and socializing with others; trading, driving, working, and many other day-to-day means of communication. During some of those social activities, negligent mistakes are made that are blamed on the government. 

A simple and concrete example is the way of driving and traffic in Iran, especially in Tehran, which is rated one of the worst in the world. If one lacks the discipline to drive in a single lane, signal when changing lanes, stop at red lights, and not drive against traffic or go reverse on highways, how is that the fault of the government? Some may argue that the government does not enforce the laws because of corruption and bribery. That may be true, but do we really need the government to enforce the laws and even punish us for not following our own commonsense? As always, Gandhi had the right idea; "Independence means voluntary restraints and discipline, voluntary acceptance of the rule of law," a vision that appears to be quite unfamiliar to most.

Another problem is scamming others in order to make easy money. Some may also blame the government for this unjustifiable act by claiming that the bad economy created by the government has forced people into such acts of desperation. That still does not justify the exploitation of your brothers and sisters in order for you to make a living.

To add to the list of problems, our greedy entrepreneurs and investors take money from Iran to setup factories in China or India for the inhumane exploitation of cheap labor or for investing the money in Dubai just to maximize profits similar to the U.S. and western corporations. Why not setup factories inside the country and employ the Iranian people with decent amount of wages? Why not serve the Iranian people for once?

Yet another problem comes to mind. Inside Iran, people have the desire of purchasing foreign made products, which ultimately destroys our indigenous businesses. Why not purchase domestic products and support the workers inside the country instead of unknowingly supporting the system of corporate globalization that exploits other developing countries. To that some might argue that the domestic products do not have good quality. Well why not give them a reason to enhance their quality? Why not give them incentives for producing better quality products? Why not be satisfied with the idea of fighting poverty rather than owning high-end quality products? Except that this suggestion has no real meaning to the masses of our people especially the wealthy.

The truth is, we want products that are labeled as Armani and Gucci, Mercedes and MBW so that we could compete in our endless emulation with others. Since we, as Iranians, are so superficially judgmental about others and how they dress, what they drive, what they eat, where and how they live, we have become prisoners and victims of our own materialistic perceptions. We are unable to live simple as our less fortunate brothers and sisters, unable to adopt modesty and eradicate our avariciousness, unable downgrade our expectations, and relinquish our selfish desires. It is definitely possible but not yet tried, at least not by a significant number.

One admirable activity that does take place in Iran and gives me much hope is during the Muslim month of Ashoora in which a couple of households in every neighborhood feed hundreds of people at their own expense. This is a noble act done by some wealthy Iranians and it should be done more often than just during Ashoora. During the days of the feeding, the entire neighborhood from kids to elders, volunteer to help and assist in the event, completely independent of the government.

This is a simple illustration that neighborhoods can organize and be active. Not politically but merely through assisting the ones in need. They can use the same tactics for raising money for different purposes such as education for children and health care for the sick, supplying food and shelter for the homeless, rehabilitation programs for addicts, etc. They can also cooperate with other neighborhoods through trade and assistance, organizing local events such as educational meeting, forums and many other grass-root activities that sooner or later will open our eyes to the real question: Do we really need the government?

In my Opinion, until we are able to unite and create a large cooperative network among ourselves, it does not matter what kind of a revolution or government we adopt, we will still be chained down by our rooted cultural and social incongruous habits. We mind as well get to work with the existence of the current government and employ more energy and enthusiasm into bringing cultural and social change by methods of self-reliance, self-management, and public cooperation.

So you see, our problems are beyond politics and government. They are emblems of our need to simply eradicate our reliance on the government, enhance our sense of solidarity with each other, rely on ourselves, act according to our good-will, lessen our expectations and greed, assist others in times of need, organize locally and try to expand our reach to all of our humanity globally. Comment

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. -- Mahatma Gandhi.

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Payam Shahfari

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