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Khak bar sare opposition
A generation of post-modern youth who has no interest in politics and society


December 12, 2006

A friend's friend returned from Iran a couple of weeks ago and of course I had to have the full report on social, political and developmental issues in Iran from her. Unfortunately the only reflections of her trip which she reported on were the numerous parties she was invited to and the beautiful people she had encountered!

Somehow I had expected a little more depth in the descriptions of her "marze porgohar", her "khake pake mihan", but the depth didn't reach any further than the surface of the women's cosmetically modified faces, their extremely fashionable outfits or the epilated male eyebrows.

I wanted to hear about the Iranian Student Movement, about the vastly growing Woman's Movement, about the Shirin Ebadi's, about censored journalists and writers who fought back through publishing online, or brave men and women who organised underground meetings or demonstrations and strikes. All these stories remained untold. Nothing was said about the three-star students who were sent to jail for the third time during their study or the numerous under-aged women who were hung or stoned to death.

I was disappointed. Not because I was so eager to hear about atrocities in my "vatan", but because I knew that all these things existed but nobody in Iran seemed to care. The only thing the people in Iran seemed to care about, according to my friend's report, was about looking as European or American as possible and finding some way to become rich. Even the many University students she met of whom one could expect some level of general worldly intelligence lacked any sense of intellectual depth or societal consciousness. As she put it, they all looked like Ken and Barbie's in a way but weren't quite able to speak! I was afraid of this. Of having a report on the Iranian youth that would only confirm my presumptions.

But as theories of social science teach us, we always should be looking for that one black swan that would falsify the statement that "all swans are white"! So in my heart, I too am looking for black swans. In a lake filled with post-modernism, hedonism and post-individualism I am looking for modernism, social consciousness and political engagement.

"It is only natural", sociologists would say as a reply to Iran's massively growth of postmodernism among the youth. A country that was sent back to the middle ages during the reign of the Islamic Republic, is now struggling to modernize to reach some kind of cultural and social enlightenment, while unfortunately having no other example but MTV, Baywatch and PMC! When isolated from the outside world, with no other channel of information than satellite television, the Iranian youth has come to believe that the only way of becoming "modern" is by dressing like Shakira and having your nose operated to Hollywood standards.

The fact is that modernization is a long process of societal enlightenment, which can only occur through open public discussions about societal matters, religion and politics, which unfortunately is an impossible task in today's Iran. Since open discussions and criticism is no option in Iranian society, how can we expect a whole generation who is raised with the codes of conduct of the Islamic regime to be able to modernize overnight?

The friend whose report on Iran I was listening to finalised her stories by a single sentence that shook me up: "Khak bar sare opposition e Iran ke khodeshoono baraye injoor adama daran mikoshan!"  According to this conclusion I was to believe that the many people outside of Iran who spent all their time and energy on opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran, who raised attention to human rights-, women's and minorities' violations and cultural and individual oppression, were actually wasting their time! If that was true, Iran's future would be a sad one.

Before moving from post-modernism to a modern society, various growing pains will first be felt. Iran's youth who have developed a co-existent relationship with the Islamic regime will one day pass the bridge of enlightenment and learn to redefine values in their society.

The first step towards enlightenment is always facing yourself in a mirror and knowing who you really are, where you came from and what your history says about you. The second step is to learn how to receive criticism and how to give criticism without offending. The third step is to question the powers that are forced upon you.

I truly believe that open sources of information, and thus the internet can play a magnificent role in this matter. Maybe then one day Iranian youth will see more than just the shadows on the walls of Plato's cave and will be able to throw off their plastic masks of postmodernism and learn the true meaning of being and thinking modern. Until then, the oppositione khakbarsar, and Iran's intellectuals will have to do all they can to assist this process of modernization. Comment

letters section
Tina Ehrami

Tina Ehrami


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