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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


October 5, 1999

Wrong, wrong, wrong

I just read your front page article in The Iranian Times called "Persian work ethics" and frankly it just hits me the wrong way:

The writer apparently in an extended period of bad mood, decides to write a two-page article and attack every Iranian characteristic or behavior he can come up with. He tangles issues ranging from our cultural interpretation of zerangi, to politics, work habits, oil (of all things), productivity and women's role in our society. Of course in every case, the so-called Iranian way of dealing with these issues is wrong. Let's talk about some of these issues:

Zerangi: I have tried to come up with a translation of this word in English and the closest I can come with is "opportunistic". I think everybody agrees that the masters of this technique are Americans; not that there is anything wrong with it. After all, America is known as the land of opportunity and they are proud of it. Majority of Americans don't believe that by being Mr. Nice Guy and waiting for your turn in every situation, one will be successful. I think if we look back at our cultural history, we will discover that the concept of zerangi didn't really flourish in Iran until we became more familiar with Western culture. So let's not give all the credit to Iranians; this is just a sign of our times.

Kaaraamad or productivity: I must admit, I have no idea where the writer gets his information regarding 11 minutes productive work per day for Iranian workers. No matter where this information is coming from, it should be disputed. If this number is true, then somebody forgot to mention it to Mr. Mahichi, the 90-year-old city worker in Malayer, who cleans the sewer system under city streets and receives just enough money to get by. They forgot to mention it to my cousin who is radiologist and works 12-hours-a-day in two hospitals and has his own private practice. They forgot to mention it Laleh the 15-year-old girl I met in Iran last March, who goes to school all day and also spends over 40 hours a week weaving rugs to help support her family. While it is expected for our productivity to be less than countries such as Japan, Untied States and Germany, I don't believe we are far below countries such as Russia, Turkey and Italy. Economists will tell you that measuring productivity has as much to do with automation and advances in the computer industry as hard work and long hours.

Women's role in Iranian economy: Latest statistics that were printed in Hamshahri newspaper about two months ago indicated that 50% of all college attendees in Iran are now female. Close to 40% of all new graduates with degrees in medicine are women. Women play a fundamental role in Iran's economy and politics. In fact women are the main force behind today's movement towards democracy. Finally, the percentage of elected women in the Iranian parliament and local councils is higher than many Western countries. One can not deny the atrocities that Iranian women endure in the name of Islam. But this is a phenomenon that is not stationary and you should look at where we are headed to have a better picture of where we are.

Agriculture: The writer's information regarding the production of sugar cane and the comparison between Iran and Japan might be accurate. However, you have to look at the real reasons for such a disparity. Everybody knows Japan is a small country in terms of land suitable for agriculture. Their agricultural output per square foot is among the highest in the world. You can compare their output per sq. ft. to those of the USA and be surprised. But this is achieved by using a great deal of human, chemical and technical resources. If you truly want to compare the two countries' production, you should look at the finished cost of one pound of sugar in Iran vs. Japan. But it might turn out that the cost of producing sugar in Japan is less than Iran. What does that prove? Does it mean that we are a lazy nation?

Quotas: As far as I know, Iranians weren't the first ones to come up with the concept of quotas. After WWII, the U.S. government invoked new policies enabling war veterans and their families to benefit from government assistance in housing, obtaining loans, medical insurance and, yes, college tuition. They also have quotas for different races. For instance as an American Indian or an African American, one could enter a college with far lower grades than a White student. I don't see anything wrong with the government of Iran offering quotas to the children of martyrs. If a father gave his life in the war against Iraq, I don't mind if his children are guaranteed a chance to get good education. You talk about martyrs as if they were brought in from another planet or something. These were the young soldiers who gave their lives and enabled us to still have Khouzestan. Shame on you.

I suggest you put down your cappuccino and think hard about where you have come from. It is easy to be negative about anything, but those who are interested in the well being of the Iranian race, culture and values don't always take the easy route.

Mohamad Dilmagani

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