Friday, September 08, 2006

Witch Doctors

I remember a story I read in my third year elementary school textbook. It took place in a village populated by illiterates. All the jobs which required any sort of wisdom or knowledge were performed by a rammal, or witch doctor. One day, a man comes to this village and is amazed by what was happening there and starts educating the people. Little by little the rammal, losing his influence and power, considers how to regain his previous position. He gathers everyone in the center of the village and tells them that the new teacher is deceiving them and leading them to the abyss; and finally in order to chase him out of the village, he pursues the teacher to demonstrate his knowledge in front of the villagers and put it to the test, and the teacher accepts this challenge. The rammal asks him to write a snake, and the teacher very happily writes on the ground “snake.” The rammal, in turn, picks up a stick and draws a big snake on the ground and asks people which one looks like snake. The answer is sadly obvious. The teacher is kicked out of the village and the rammal’s position is restored.

I read that story almost half a century ago. At that time, I thought it was already outdated and better replaced by something more relevant to our time. In my wildest dreams I could not foreseen that half a century later, we would see plenty of those rammals everywhere, not only in remote villages, but in the capitals of the world in various positions: statesmen, clerics and intellectuals.

In our country during the last twenty-seven years since the Islamic Revolution, came a genuine rebirth of these rammals in every possible shape and form. We were told enough lies, we have heard so many unsubstantiated claims, we have seen so much of the pretences and we have faced so much shameless aggression under the cover of religion, ethics, and morality that they are enough to make us complete nonbelievers. In this week’s news, president Ahmadinejad in Tehran University encouraged the students to scream at the president who would allowed secular faculty to teach. This bewildered all of us. It could give the impression that he was encouraging freedom of expression and participation in decision-making, while in reality he was just fully engaged in a diversion. Purging the universities was not part of Ahmadinejad’s campaign and he very flatly denied rumors about it. However, all the expected restrictive codes have been implemented, only worse. The government is in the process of installing Basijis in every government and ministry office, something that was not done so openly during the Shah’s time or during the first purge of the universities under the Islamic Republic.

The ban on satellite dishes and Persian broadcast media outside the country, and occasional insults to any person out of the immediate clique of the government, and hypocritical attacks and counterattacks (such as Rajabi’s letter and Shariatmadari’s defense), in all this, he is saying one thing and doing something else, further weakening our already weak faith in whatever is happening around us.

Twenty-seven years after the Islamic Revolution, one can see a drastic shift in approaches to everything in the country. Today, we have reached the point that we do not know what is what anymore. With each passing day, this curtain of delusion and falsehood becomes thicker and thicker. One does not know what is behind it and if there is a reality at all.

Our president is every day in a new masquerade and charade of some sort; one day denying the Holocaust, the other day wiping the Israel from the map. One day defining a strategy to win the World Cup, the other day claiming a cure for AIDS, one day inviting George Bush to an uncensored debate, the other day chanting the slogan “Nuclear energy is our right!” to the villagers in remote areas. It seems everyday he is trying very hard to come up with something ridiculous just to keep us all busy.

However, the result is just the opposite and even more dangerous—annihilation. That is what we are facing. We are so lost in all these pretenses and falsehood that we hardly give a damn anymore about what is happening. We doubt if there is any truth to anything at all. After all, why should we? Could we not write a scenario about how we perceive each of these events? Could we not doubt that all is part of a bigger game? Could it not be a game that Khatami is here to make peace to help the Islamic Republic? Could it be that even Ganji is pursuing the same aim in different way? Could it be that all those letters and attacks against Khatami back at home is part of the same strategy? Could it be that the entirety of the last elections had been agreed upon by all of these clerics together just to stay in power? Could it be that United State is behind all this? And how far? And how much?

It is more nightmarish than Descartes’ meditation that everything is act of Evil to deceive him. Everything could be a pure deception and falsehood except his thinking which leads him to conclude that his existence, by the virtue of his thinking, is not false and therefore he exists. But where is our existence? I mean politically and socially? What certainty is there to make us believe that we exist at all? Where is the line that we draw between reality and all these falsehoods and witchcraft around us? Or should we continue to doubt to the end? And should we even doubt that truth ever existed or could exist at all? We live in that nightmare and even worse; falsehood is so well entrenched that we think it is a way of life. The Islamic Republic has created such a fiction and parody of life that I wonder why they need to have any jails. We all are living in jail when we do not know where the truth and reality are.

That there should be something that exists is beyond doubt. There is something there that makes all this mambo jumbo worth it for them. At least they need us to believe them, otherwise they would not need to play tricks on us to portray the falsehood as reality. There is something that they are afraid of otherwise they wouldn’t go through all this trouble to protect themselves. For sure we are the reality. We must be the truth. And no one can deny us except ourselves. The Islamic Republic has to dance around itself in vain if we don’t dance with them. Their music calls for doubt and despair, and we dance to it by giving up to despair and doubt. Not only do we not trust anyone else, we do not trust ourselves either. Let us change the music. Let us change the rules of game. Let them play our game for a change, let them know that not only do we exist, but that we are well aware of our own existence. And let them know that there are about fifty million of us. Which one of them does not need fifty million votes? Let them gain it and pay for it. Let us remember that in the next election we are needed. We may still not be able to have what we want, but is it not the first rule in every game to prevent the other side from winning if we are incapable of defeating them? In the last election, we defeated our own team, we abandoned our game and let them win. This time let us win, or at least not let them win. Let us remember we have the strongest weapon in our hands, our votes. Let us use it before it is taken away from us or before it becomes a forgotten relic.

1 comment:

PostGlobal said...

David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post, is currently soliciting suggestions from Iranian bloggers regarding the ongoing process of indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran.

Please visit the Editor's Inbox of PostGlobal, the international blog and forum of The Washington Post, at: . Here you will find links to publications by an array of think tanks attempting to make sense of the "proximity talks" between Iran and the United States.

Is the only option for the U.S., in seeking a nuclear-free Iran, to react militarily? Can diplomacy still succeed? Should the United States accept the inevitability of an Iran with both civilian and military nuclear capabilities?

Please visit PostGlobal and take part in this virtual Iran-U.S. dialogue.