Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Someone Who Is Like No One

“Someone who resembles no one” was a poem said to be by Forough Farokhzad. This poem was published a few years after her death. There is some question of whether she wrote it or not. However, I do not recall such questions or doubts about the authenticity of this piece ever having been raised. The poem prophesized the coming of a someone who does not resemble anyone, who will spread justice and maintain equality, who is kind and benevolent, who is a savior, like the Messiah or the Twelfth Imam. The poem was published more than any other of this poetess’ poems and indeed was very popular in early 70s. I personally thought that if this was her poem, it was a sharp departure of her style, which is very personal and sensuous. Well, this consideration was irrelevant. Given the political climate of the time, there was such a need for the appearance of a savior that literary authenticity has no place among the intellectuals. We all accepted it as authentic because it was the poem of our hearts and minds. We could not have welcomed anything more than a savior or the prophecy of his arrival.

Nor did it take long for him to arrive, on a cold winter in 1979, with millions of people welcoming him at the Mehrabad Airport. (It is very ironic that the poetess had prophesized that her own death would happen in a cold winter day too, and it happened).

We all thought he is the one who “resembles no one.” An American anchorwoman, Diane Sawyer, described him once after she interviewed him as follows: “He came like a wind and left like a spirit.” I do not know a wind or a spirit, but he came and left like all who come and go, only he left more of a footprint. He was not very kind the way we expected, nor was he that forgiving. He did not distribute equally. He did not like those that were not like him. He never smiled, nor looked happy. Peace was none his concern, but war? Hundreds of thousands were killed in a war which had nothing to do with us. He was angry and full of vengeance. Well, he resembled every one else who came and ruled this country of ours for a while. He just left a legacy behind: Private virtues. Still we are hearing from people who knew him in person that he liked honesty, equality, freedom, he respected human rights, peoples’ ideas, truth, faith etc., but none of these were heard by anyone else beyond a very few who are nobody and have no place in the system now. In fact he was like everybody else.

Years later another one came, smiling and pleasant, with lots of good words and good thoughts. In fact, he came from the desert city of Yazd, the land of Prophet Zoroaster, with the same good mind and good heart. But, poor man, he was given only few years to make up for 2500 years of shortcomings. He told people that no one is coming who “resembles no one,” do not waste your time and energy, you are the one, and you are not supposed to be very different to be good and effective. He said if you need change you must do it yourself. He backed this up with quotes from all twelve imams, all the prophets, all the thinkers, from Galileo to Kant to Brecht to Sartre. He told them that the one you are waiting for has come, and it is “you.” But no one believed him, people wanted him to be that “someone,” and if he is not, then he is a liar and traitor.

People gave up on him and that “someone” all together; though, young people found their savior in Mohseni Square or Azadi Square, gathering there after any events, either for celebrations or a candlelight ceremony. Being together to midnight and listening to loud music became a substitute, or maybe a refuge, from waiting for that “someone,” and for a while it worked.

Then it was someone else who “resembles no one.” She came with a big trophy, a Nobel Peace Prize. Millions went to the airport, with the banners and placards and greetings and hope. Alas, nothing came of that either, just a big Allaho Akbar. That one was not the right one either.

Soccer games and occasional midnight gathering and celebration kept filling the gaps between the arrival of the Promised Ones.

Then came the army of journalists. Mostly disillusioned from the first “coming of the someone who resembles no one.” They were promising. They were good because they were insiders who became outsiders. They knew everything and they were the ones to expose the regime’s secrets and discredit it. Then came the arrests and murders of the journalists and writers; one by one they had little time to be heros. Then came Ganji. In and out of prison and finally in and on hunger strike for three months, with all the press involved. Then came his manifesto. That gave hope that this time “someone” is really coming. But still he was in jail.

Then the latest “someone” came. No one had prophesized his arrival. It looked more like a coup. However, he claimed that he is the one. The Twelfth Imam has signed his CV. He was specially connected to him. He went with him to the UN and kept the other delegates from leaving the room while he was talking. And some of his friends even witnessed the halo around his head while he was talking. In fact I met him, not in the UN but in the Hilton Hotel. There was no halo of any sort around his head, just a big circle of basijis around him in the middle of a ball room chanting “This blood flowing through our veins is a gift to our Ahmad.” Listening to his speech, I realized why the delegates did not leave the room, if only there was a little resemblance between these two speeches. I had never heard such an empty, nonsensical and irrelevant speech in my life, aside from what comes from Bush's White House off and on.

And then Ganji came with a new manifesto. He held another hunger strike in front of the UN. We all went there, some 150, though the New York Times said we were only 50. It was nice to see all those old Confederationists and other leftists and National Fronters etc., all professionals, journalists, writers, university professors, and doctors. Ganji, however, said that he is not that “someone,” but we need “someone” to lead us. We need someone like Gandhi. It was great! But can’t you see, man? We are not like Indians. Even if Gandhi comes, we are not going to listen to him. We are not even interested in listening to his strategy to adjust ours to his. We are going to tell him what sort of Gandhi he must be. We won’t let him even be his own Gandhi. Moreover, no Iranian could be like Gandhi. Being with the people for the people among the people is too much for us. We have to do everything by ourselves, alone.

Well he has not gone yet. We love him, adore him, but listening to him is something else, we have to think about it.

However, the latest “one that resembles no one” finally arrived. It is a book called Iran Awakening. It really resembles no one, it was published by court order! It is in the bookstores, but not on their shelves or the window displays or tables, but in the back rooms or somewhere safe, under the shelves. One has to go to the information desk and ask for it.

It is a good book, but is written in a rush, there are enough unresolved law suits and cases that you would know it is the memoir of a lawyer from the Islamic Republic. It is a very good book; it does not promise any one coming at all. She tells you right away that things are indeed very hopeless; there is a lot of gloom and doom, blackness and bleakness. But the author is very optimistic, she is a fighter and very stubborn; and she promises that she will find a way to save at least some of us. I do not think anything will come out of that either.

I do suggest that we all should get good break for a while and leave that “some one” to come whenever is a good time for him or her. Meantime, we can read a few good classics, Willa Cater or George Eliot; go to the museum and see a few good paintings, some Brueghel or Vermeer; or the best of all go to a botanical garden to see if we can find some water lilies, and if not, just sit down next to the nearest water source, pick up a piece of stone, clean it well, and examine it very carefully while listening to the water. There are things written there far more meaningful than many words. For sure it will bring us more peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful, this last paragraph. The stillness of the present moment is such a place of refuge. But it takes such discipline and determination, and strength of mind and spirit, to find that still point, to insist upon the present moment, to claim the importance of the sound of the water.