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Proverbial egg
Revealing natural, god-given feelings

By Shahriar Zangeneh
May 31, 2001
The Iranian

The more things change the more things stay the same, so goes an American proverb. I don't think anyone would argue with the statement that fundamental changes have taken place in Iran and the lives of Iranians.

One unintentional positive by-product of this change has been our mass, although reluctant, exposure to the Westerners' way of life and culture. As far back as I remember, and based on what I have read, we have always been envious of their life. Our fathers were too, so were their fathers. If you have any doubt, read a travelogue, any safar-nameh of an Iranian who visited the West. Yet our attitude is essentially as it has always been, self-censorship.

Another proverb: You cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg. We cannot achieve our dreams of prosperity for our beloved homeland, without emancipating (the proverbial egg) ourselves from the yoke of self/public/governmental censorship.

The mind needs to be inquisitive, to be productive. In order to be inquisitive it needs to be free spirited. The freedom of thought that we all support does really mean just that, to be free to think of whatever in whichever way we desire.

I think Hafez says it best, where he is talking about the one who is without love, the essence of life, and a very important component of freedom. The second line of the poem is more to the point, where he says: "bar ou namordeh be fatwaaye man namaaz koneed".

One cannot have a prosperous society which is bound by arbitrary moral codes (one day they tell you to wear a veil, then not to). But, one can have a moral society in which each and every member strives to be moral according to his/her own judgment (as long as it does not trample civil codes). After all what is moral to you and I might be immoral to others.

Let's not forget in our country as in other places (Italy) incest was not only moral, it was the sign of good citizenship; Veece and Ramin-e Gorgani is a testament to this. Or in some parts of Tibet brothers take a communal wife. What became of these practices is what becomes of all wrong things at the end, annihilation.

Now to my point, namely branding someone as a "jendeh" (whore), simply because of what she/he (yes, there are also the male varieties of the species) has dared think of and had the intestinal fortitude to write about, which is contrary to the arbitrary moral norm. ["Jendeh with an agenda"]

Of the hundreds upon hundreds of examples in our recent past, I only mention one who is a better-known "jendeh". Forough Farrokhzad, before her tragic death in a car accident, was branded a whore.

Don't think that low-lives or illiterate buffoons were the only inquisitors. The majority of our better-educated literati, and the very ones who should have been the guardians of free speech, were calling her jendeh too, and deny doing so now.

After all she dared to reveal her natural, god-given feelings, wants and desires. It did not matter that she verbalized what the majority acted out in secret. What mattered most was that she did not act as proscribed by the arbitrary rule. Her unpardonable crime was to speak of feelings one has in the presence of the beloved.

Arbitrary moral codes say a woman should not show any signs of being a healthy human being or else she is doomed as in The Scarlet Letter, in other words, she's a jendeh.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the pious, chador-clad, Haj-Agha-owned woman who got married at nine, has children in the double digits, and her cooking puts Martha Steward to shame. Yet the very same model of chastity, has no compunction to hide a razor in the rag she uses to wipe the decadent lipstick off the mofseds (corrupt), or whip prisoners until they pass out.

Isn't it more moral to teach a young inexperienced girl/boy who is going through puberty, what real love is, and not to mistake lust for love, and not to repress it to the point of becoming a sadist? To teach her/him what our parents left to the fairy? What is so immoral to be exposed to what is out there and is within us all? What is so wrong about learning the right vocabulary for different feelings?

How many marriages do we all know about that resulted from "I love you", when what they were really feeling was a temporary, wholesome, natural lust for another person? The end result is either a messy divorce, bewildered children and/or a lifetime of bitterness and want.

Writings like Nooneh's -- as crude as they might be to some who are more talented and find it below themselves to write about such subjects for earth-bound mortals -- have something essential to offer. It might be a lesson in what not to do, or how to do it, or simply what name goes with what feeling.

I had the good fortune of seeing exiled journalist Faraj Sarkouhi at the American University in Washington DC this past Monday. I would recommend everyone to go and listen to his talk if they get the chance. One of the many things he said was that totalitarian regimes target writers and thinkers simply because they cannot afford to have them around.

With free thinking comes the desire for a better life, no matter what level of comfort one is at. Freedom means freedom, period. Not what Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi and his handful of followers here and there say it means.

Nooneh, more power to you.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to the writer Shahriar Zangeneh

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