The importance of un-important things


Ari Siletz
by Ari Siletz

Back during the first US-Iraq war I got involved with a local peace group in my hometown in California. The members were mostly leftover activists from the Viet Nam era who still hung in there with what little business they got from environmentalist causes.  A lot of innocent people were about to be bombed, and we figured the best way to stop it was to write a country-by-country Middle East information pamphlet informing our local yuppies that King Tut no longer ruled Egypt.

We included Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc with a couple of paragraphs describing their geography, system of government and main imports and exports. I did my research, and when it came to Israel I dutifully jot down that one of that country’s main exports was armaments. This reality bothered my fellow pamphlet editor Sarah, a beautiful, athletic, Israel admirer in her mid-twenties (To protect the innocent, I have changed her name as well as appearance, age, and state of health).  Being a peaceful soul, she preferred the pamphlet to emphasize Israel’s several billion dollar olive exports. A few philosophical back and forths over the nature of reality, our editorial fracas ended up being presented to the full membership for a debate and a vote.

Sarah wasn’t a good speaker. Her thoughts were disorganized, her delivery watery, and her facts plain wrong. Her forte was taking down minutes, making copies of posters, answering phone calls, balancing the checkbook, and holding up banners in the rain weekend after weekend decrying the extinction of the Fluffy-backed Tit Babbler . I, on the other hand had stayed dry until a worthy cause had showed up, and to the admiration and applause of everyone at the meeting, presented my case in a clear, linear and well-documented format. So as Sarah and I left the room for the secret vote count, I began thinking of ways to be nice to her so she wouldn’t feel so bad after her defeat.

 The vote count was 22-1…in favor of Sarah.

Lesson number one in Democracy: No group is going to risk alienating a useful and dedicated gofer in favor of the new one-issue hot shot.

Application of lesson number one in an Iranian Democracy:

If you want to support for your political cause, give your support and service to causes perhaps less important to you. These seemingly trivial causes are important to some people, and you may need these folks when the time comes.


Recently by Ari SiletzCommentsDate
چرا مصدق آسوده نمی خوابد.
Aug 17, 2012
This blog makes me a plagarist
Aug 16, 2012
Double standards outside the boxing ring
Aug 12, 2012
more from Ari Siletz
Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

Thank you for putting this blog back on track. Your take is spot on. Our hands-on experience of day-to-day democracy makes us a useful resource to our countrymen back home. In this particular blog, to give the protesters live testimony of the fact that scratching the back of some other cause in the coalition has a strategic payoff even though it may not be our itch.


Lost Point

by Patriot on

Mr. Siletz, I think the point of your blog was lost on some.  I understood you to be giving an example of your personal experience, hoping to put it into practice for how we approach helping Iran and Iranians (ourselves).  How did it become about Israel, again!?  Oh, I get it.  It's called deflection. 

Some people believe that Iran is already a perfect democracy with a perfect president who has been fairly and justly elected and re-elected, and there is no need to talk about Iran anymore, so they move on and talk about Israel, again.  All threads on this site, even the most interesting blogs, always become so boring hearing the same repetitious comments over and over again. 

It's true, Israel is a ruthless government, preoccupied by its very existence which drives its cruel actions on Palestinians, we get that.  How about if we now talk about another country which does the same--isn't it ironic that by only replacing Israel's name from that statement we can try and focus on what should be important to any decent Iranian these days?  IRI is a ruthless government, preoccupied by its very existence which drives its cruel actions on Iranians. Let's focus on the point of this blog.


Compromise on what? folks like Mrs ***, Mr *** & the

by SamSamIIII on


Ess-hal talab gang (site sanctioned behind the scene shady promotors of IRI version II  on this site)have no problem with Arab mercenaries on streets of Tehran but God forbid seeing a Jewish soldier on Lebenese or Palestinian land!!! that will make em implode. The day the likes of me have compromise with their Ommatie ilk is the day pigs have regular flights outta JFK. This site is working over drive to sell a Khamenei/Ahmadi free IRI to the crowd but forgeting one thing that it,s not 1979 & rozeh khoonii wont do for Ommatie imposters .Qadesiyeh regime with or without velayat is expired..30 yrs of lobby work down the toilette..Amen!!!

 Long live spirit of Eran-Shahr



Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on


Sarah was neither dumb nor un-informed. She knew that in a democracy you have to put in a lot of time protecting the endangered Yellow-bellied sap sucker, perhaps feeling ridiculous so that when the time comes you have influence with your true cause. There was no conspiracy, just a good understanding that in a democracy dedication and hard work can trump logic and justice.


That's part of the POINT!

by Jaleho on

I think the figure several billion was just thrown as a benign "gondegoozi" on her part, as even the arms export is not steady to those fgures. However, she clearly wanted to switch the IDEA of "arms export" which actually defines Israel for those who know a bit about Israel, with the more romantic idea of "agriculture," which BTW many Israelis do intentionally. The sane ones though,  put more emphasis on the citrus, never the olive, for the reasons we mentioned ;-)

Ari Siletz

It was my fault

by Ari Siletz on

Jaleho,  The fracas between athletic Sarah and I included mention of the points you have made.

Though Sarah's grasp of reality was tenuous, the fact that I lost to her had more to do with my my own tenuous grasp of the reality of how democracy works. Democracy can be neither pathetic nor noble. It is what it is, brainwashing and all. You can find out what the laws of physics are and use the knowledge to your advantage, or you can insist the world should behave according to your liking and stay frustrated.    By the way, Israel's olive exports are nowhere near several billion Dollars. Their entire agricultural exports at the time was less than a billion. That part was irony.


Did you mean to be so ironic?!!

by Jaleho on

 or this athletic Sarah was too dumb to understand that her Israeli olive export is much more vicious than the arms export you were proposing?! you said:"  Being a peaceful soul, she preferred the pamphlet to emphasize Israel’s several billion dollar olive exports. "

I would have reminded the peaceful soul that Israel not only destroyed 50,000 Palestinian olive groves upon its savage creation in stolen land, but what originally made "Israeli olive export" came even from the stolen labor and property of Palestinians. Here's a review for you by Ralph Schoenman, look under "Absentee" property:


By 1951, 95% of all Israel’s olive groves came from seized Palestinian land. Olive produce from stolen Palestinian groves represented Israel’s third largest export - after citrus and diamonds.

The fact that you lost to this Sarah 22 to 1 shows the pathetic state of a American democracy under massive brainwash. 

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

You are absolutely right! The pro-freedom coalitions being formed in Iran during these critical times are necessarily democratic in nature. Those of us who have experienced democracy up close may help by pointing out ,to a protesting union worker for instance, that even though the issue of hejab maybe un-important to him, for a woman in North Tehran it may be as important as dignity itself. Supporting each other's causes regardless of our individual priorities is a useful idea to spread around these days.

Javad Yassari


by Javad Yassari on

Very funny, Ari! You pegged it down correctly!  In fact I seem to have a memory about "democracy" which resembles this one closely, except it wasn't in a political context as it was happening in a bowling league in the 1980's!  The lesson was similar, however.

I hope your suggested application of the lesson you learned does not in any way keep you from doing what you can now to help Iran and Iranians.  For the first time in 30 years, we are in a position to help AND our help is needed and appreciated by pepole inside Iran.  Supporting Iranians inside Iran is not trivial, as it could put the spotlight on unspeakable crimes taking place behind Evin walls and saving lives.  We must all do our very best now.


very funny Ari!

by Q on

Sarah, a beautiful, athletic, Israel admirer in her mid-twenties (To protect the innocent, I have changed her name as well as appearance, age, and state of health).

This combined with the piece of info that they were left over Vietnam war activists really undermines your attempt at obfuscation!

Good lesson though. You are right, the rule is usually "why rock the boat?" Even though your stance was clearly accurate and relevant in this case.