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Sense of guilt
... for abandoning an ancient country

By H. Shamloo
May 29, 2001
The Iranian

Again I am hearing the same depressive music. This is not the first time we are dealing with apologetic self-criticism. It usually starts with a prelude addressing the importance of admitting the fact that "us Iranians are pretty much living in a non-existent glorious past ... that we are nothing more than a poor, third world nation much behind others," but after stripping the nation of its national pride stops short of any constructive discussions on how to approach our country's problems and think of solutions.

It is almost like some intellectuals enjoy themselves in a masochistic way by criticizing and making fun of one's own "glorious past" but have nothing else to say (the pragmatic businessman at least "appeals to the U.S. government" to break the trade mafia!). They typically jump in to "correct" someone else, not that they have an opinion de novo and want to share it with the rest of compatriots.

Let me briefly analyze the psychology here: this mentality stems out of a first generation emigrant's sense of guilt for abandoning their ancient country seeking a rational way to relieve the inevitable anxiety that follows such an internal conflict between their (usually big) ego and the harsh reality.

One comes up with the idea of "embracing" the new world with all its components, the other tries to adopt some parts of it by "letting go of that... whatever", someone else just resorts to "rationalization" by advocating "self-actualization stage of one's life", and perhaps many more that have not passed the editorial screening at iranian.com!

They rationalize their attitude by referring to some historical "facts" more often than not mixed with their subjective interpretations, but they forget to tell that there is no nation on the face of the earth that has been a super power for several hundred years in a row, and still there is nothing wrong with that.

None of the modern powers or superpowers are anything but the descendants of a bunch of scattered tribes in the forests of Europe when our fathers were ruling over the world, but they are not apologetic for that. They are not making fun of their humble past. The so-called superior Germans are the descendants of those Vandals and other primitive germanic tribes that destroyed the Roman civilization. But are they ashamed of it?

We sure don't need to subdue our pride by calling our history "not really that glorious" or even worse, calling the product of our own Persian civilization as Arabic (not even Islamic) empire under Abbasid Caliphate mightier than any before. It's true that time was about 1100-1200 years later than when Cyrus started the first empire in the world therefore, in a sense every new empire would be considered mightier (the latest one being the U.S.). We can be and should be proud of that background which is real and as "existing" as "history" can be i.e., it really happened once!

The modern Western nations are lucky; this is their turn as we have had our chance once and may have it again two centuries from now. Why? Because there is inconsistency in the pattern of development of societies. One may use different models to explain the underlying mechanism: for example the geography, religion, different political systems, and perhaps a more economic analysis i.e., that different societies experience different levels of technology and production at different times.

When the rest of civilized world was enjoying a relatively advanced irrigation system and higher agricultural productivity -- hence ruled by semi-independent local kingdoms -- the bedouin communities (like Arabs in early 700 AD or Moguls in 1200 AD) were in the process of uniting their nations guided/influenced by the newly emerging commercial business. With their geography they couldn't have an agriculture based civilization. As a result of that there would be no solidified resistance against their military invasion.

So there comes their easy conquest and as soon as they are established technocrats of the already advanced urban civilization -- now privileged with some freedom -- handles the bureaucratic machine and of course the credit goes to the desert man (it was Sibovayh, a Persian scholar, who laid the foundation for the codification of Arabic grammar and wrote the first Arabic dictionary). And there follows the rest of story.

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