Have you ever wondered why conspiracy theories are so common among some Iranians, specially the older generation? Why do you think most of these theories are attributed to the British? According to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, “A conspiracy theory attempts to explain the ultimate cause of an event or chain of events (usually political, social, or historical events) as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance of powerful or influential people or organizations.”
This definition implies covert alliances of influential and powerful forces. Were British politicians influential and powerful? I am sure you have heard, again mostly from the older generation, about British politicians being depicted as, quoting Manouchehr M. Eskandari-Qajar “cold-blooded, foxy, and cunning (rubah-e makkar), able to cut off the heads of their enemies even with cotton".
British politics or (siasat-e Engelis) gives them powers to achieve strange things. Even today, when as friends we gather for a good conversation, inevitably our thoughts turn to politics, and sooner or later the British meddling in Iranian politics takes center stage.
Honestly, I kind of agree with most but not all of these theories. If we look at recent Persian history, there is now documented evidence that foreigners, especially the British, did in fact meddle badly in our affairs. They overthrew governments, toppled dynasties, and had prime ministers and other high officials assassinated or replaced.
In fact, I wish George W. Bush, being a strong ally of British, would have learned a few things from them when it comes to dealing with the Middle East. Incidentally, did you notice that for the first 3 years of the war in Iraq, southern Iraq which, was under the control of British troops, was the quietest area? Accident? I think not.
You see, the British know exactly how to deal with people of the region, especially Shiites. I am sure many of you are familiar with the legendary Iradj Pezeshkzad and his classic satire "Daa'i-jan Napoleon" (My Uncle Napoleon), which made us all laugh so heartily at our own impotent musings against the British.
In a recent interview he said “the idea that everything is a British conspiracy is itself a British conspiracy! The British wanted people to think that whatever happened was the result of their power and influence.” Obviously, conspiracy theories are not just attributed to the British.
After the C.I.A. had engineered the 1953 coup that overthrew the Mosaddeq government, the dominant position of the United States in Persia began to be reflected as conspiracy theories. It was widely believed that the Shah's White Revolution and the land-reform program of the 1960’s had been designed in detail by Americans, though in fact American officials had favored more moderate land reform. There are many more examples of such theories, but I will not bother you with the details.So where does all of that leave us? In reality, unfortunately, the acceptance of such theories has in itself influenced the course of modern Persian history, for it has engendered a sense of helplessness in dealing with the rumored activities of foreign conspirators.
What is sad though is the fact that some of us, even today, have taken this as if we as a nation had nothing to do with it, thus relieving ourselves and the generation to come from the responsibility of taking care of our own destiny. As the saying goes “it takes two to tango”.
Do you honestly think the British (or for that matter any other foreign power) would be able to meddle in our country without the help and support of willing and able Iranians? That’s where, in my opinion, we need to depart from blaming others for our destiny and take the lead in charting our own destiny. We should stop interpreting all of our history in terms of elaborate and devious conspiracies and start looking at ways that we as individuals can take responsibility for our own actions.
Another byproduct of conspiracy theories is the immediate creation and distribution of unfounded rumors. How many times you have heard that even here in America a successful businessman, a helpful organization, or a successful company is rumored to have connection to the Islamic Regime?
Many of the so called ‘opposition’ leaders (and specially the LA based satellite TV personalities) accuse each other and anyone who disagrees with their point of view as being agents of the government in Iran!. By creating and feeding these rumors all we are doing is undermining our own capabilities.
As a successful, well educated immigrant group, we Iranian Americans are capable of achieving great things and creating the wealth we have. Perhaps back in time when the majority of the country’s population was uneducated and isolated from the rest of the world, foreign powers were able to plan and execute covert operations as they wished.
Today, however, with a world that is digitally connected and the high percentage of educated population, such operations are more difficult, if not impossible. So the next time you hear a conspiracy theorist suggesting a new plan for Iran by foreign powers, just tell them it takes two to tango! Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
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