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Ignorance in Information Age
Disregard for history, heritage and contribution of first civilizations to the modern world



Ali Parsa
January 20, 2006

When I glanced at the article, titled "Stick to 21st century values: The Persian Empire was not really anything to be proud of", I thought this was another article opposing the recent exhibit glorifying the Persian Empire Empire at the British Museum.

I also thought this must have been written by a Briton until I saw the name Ben Madadi. Of course Mr. Madadi may be a British subject which would make him an Iranian-British. I hope I do not offend Mr. Madadi if I paraphrase the axiom, with friends like that we do not need an enemy!

At the outset Mr. Madadi is right to predict that "most Iranians shout with discontent to read this." He can count me as one of those for sure!

The truth is that Mr. Madadi's analysis of the by-gone empires especially with respect to Persian Empire and their influence on our modern world is seriously flawed, not speaking of offending those who maintain their attachment to Iran no matter where they live.

Mr. Madadi's comparison of the old empires to the present ones is as irrelevant as comparing apples and oranges particularly with respect to human rights. I would ask him what logic is there in condemning all of the ancient empires for trampling on human rights when the so called "civilized" empires make a mockery of human rights or define it in their own terms even during the twenty first century.

If Mr. Madadi gets his facts straight he would know that at least Persian Empire was a clear exception to his generalization. After all, didn't Cyrus the Great take the first step some 2000 years ago by recognizing the fundamental human rights for many minority groups who had become his subjects, and thus laying the foundation of what became Magna Charta in England some seventeen centuries later?

Another major flaw in Mr. Madadi's judgment is his criticism of Iranians for their short-sightedness, self-enjoyment and living in the past at the cost of missing the present and future as the people of, in his words, "civilised" world do!

He fails to give due credit to almost all Iranians including diaspora-perhaps like himself and people inside Iran who, take the time to express their opinion and inform the world about Persian history while at the same time contribute to the modern world in so many disciplines. He does not recognize the fact that Iranians abroad often exercise their civic responsibilities the same if not more than the citizens of the countries they live in.

Fortunately most of us are aware of the fact that in a world in which human rights are increasingly trampled upon by ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy we have to do more rather than less to keep the notion of respect for human rights alive, for if we do not, almost no one else will do it for us.

As a real example, this past Christmas I had a glance at a book given to my daughter as a gift. The book was about history of bread making in the world, and yet, and not surprisingly the world of the writer consisted of ancient Egypt, Europe, United States and Israel-yes Israel that was not a country until recently. It had nothing about the Middle Eastern countries that are considered the graveyard of empires and frontiers in almost all endeavors from bread making to manufacturing fabrics and clothes making.

Disregard for history, heritage and contribution of first civilizations to the modern world is gradually receiving less attention in the world especially in "civilized" world of Mr. Madadi. Some of these "civilized" countries even ignore their own recent history, much less the rest of the world.

As another real example, while looking up the word Cyrus for writing this article I noticed that  the most updated Longman's dictionary had not even listed the name Cyrus, while my thirty-year old Random House dictionary, not only had listed the name Cyrus, but had included an excerpt on what Cyrus the Great's accomplishments.

Any wonder why we are constantly repeating the history again and again? Any doubt that our leaders are ignorant of history? In the light of such trend in our "civilised" world in which technology devoid of humanities is in and history is out we should do all we can to erase such ignorance during "Information Age".

I wonder if Mr. Madadi still recommends that we should sit idle and let the "civilized" world write our history and define our identity the way it wants. Let us not forget that the biggest threat to our world is the ever-increasing gap between humanities and technology. Some 300 years ago a great American, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The end of human race is that it will die of civilization."


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