Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Just Stay Aside and Be A Viewer

[The following is a translation of an essay by Bijan Safsari.]

In his memoir, Bozorg Alavi, the famous Iranian writer, recalls:

Ostad Dehkhoda would come to visit us occasionally. During the summer, we would gather together in one of the cafés in Lalehzar Alley. The café was inside a large garden. There was a little path in this garden leading to a little pool. An assortment of geraniums planted in clay vases was placed all around this pool. One night, we were sitting together ten feet away form this scene and nagging. We thought we could straighten out the whole world. Ostad listened to our conversation, our criticism, or our fault-finding, and, realizing that we were all unhappy with the current situation, looked at the pool shimmering under the light cast from a lamp above, and said, “What’s the matter with you guys? Why you are so sad? Look at that scene under that light and see how it emits beauty and freshness. Just try to enjoy it. Why do you want to go closer? Each one of these mosquitoes and insects carries thousands of malaria, cholera, and hepatitis germs in them. Let them do their job and you sit aside and watch the beauty and charm.”

This anecdote is very similar to the story of some of our friends and colleagues who unnecessarily expose themselves to the dangerous and deadly mosquitoes of the world of politics without being aware of the political guile, with the hope of regaining lost opportunities. They may nurture a vague idea that if they succeeded, they would leave a good name behind and would be remembered as a savior and a hero in the struggle for freedom. What they are not aware of is that in this chaotic market of politics there is no commodity but lies, deception, and tricks, and what may appear as freedom and liberty in this desert is none but a mirage.

Many might criticize the writer of these pages and object, how could one gain freedom without struggle since it is an ancient proverb that “Rights must be taken” and in the entire history of struggle for justice among the nations, people had never gained any liberty, freedom, or independence by sitting idle. Iranians, too, have never done any different than this ancient wisdom.

In my humble opinion, while agreeing with these words of wisdom, we have to note that what we have all read and learned about struggling and fighting for freedom and justice belongs to the time which today is considered ancient history and old legends. Our time is not the same as our ancestors’, nor are we ourselves the same as our forefathers. There is an anecdote that once [Prince] Zell ol-Soltan visited one of the stables of one of the Bakhtiari tribe’s khans. After the khan showed all his horses one by one and bragged about their breeds, Zell ol-Soltan, nostalgically, said “Khan, what happened to horses like Rakhsh, Samandar, and Shabdiz? Why we do not have those breeds anymore? Where did they disappear to?” The khan answered, “Your highness, those horses where ridden by men like Rostam and Parviz and are gone with them.”

Now why are we neither like our ancestors nor our time like days gone by? I can see only two reasons for it.

First: Thirty years has past of what we mistakenly called a “revolution”, and we are still dreaming and longing for what seems to be impossible. Since a century ago, we, the people of this old country, have faced and borne the wounds of swords, daggers, and bullets in our chests in order to have a house of justice, a house of the people, but alas, no law and no justice obtained. After any change and movement in the system or even the governments in our old history, it took us at least half a century to live in injustice just to find out:

I expected to find a trace of the Kaaba
But found that all roads lead to Turkistan.

And that is while our ancestors were not as we are today. They never gave in to injustice, nor did they ever leave a day’s work for the day after. They were not delusional, waiting for a hero or savior.

Second: in our vernacular, this is the age of treachery, and as a matter of fact, this term connotes politics. What has passed to us these last thirty years is testimony to this claim. From the time that they witnessed the picture of the beloved in the moon to today, where they are wheeling and dealing behind closed doors, when every passing day by revealing some crime, the foundation of the nation’s trust is shattered so badly that it has become difficult to differentiate between friend and foe. For instance, have a look at the figures indicating that American exports to Iran has grown by a factor of ten after they labeled us “terrorist,” and this while the whole world, on America’s insistence, is barred from having any economic or commercial relationship with Iran. In addition, our statesmen, in spite of calling the United States an enemy of Iran for the last thirty years, have make a deal with this “Great Satan” behind the scenes. During the last few days on Saturday, July 12, in the Voice of America which has become a major source of news for many Iranians in Iran, in an interview with a retired official of the United States State Department, the secret meetings (as well as some open ones) between the Iranian and American high officials were revealed. Though, it may have been a political trick to embarrass and discredit its rival; still the quick and easy shut down of the opposition’s broadcasts and agreement reached regarding the final part of the program, lead us to put aside our optimism and believe our statesmen’s claim that the possibility of the US attack should not be taken so seriously.

Now, given it all, shouldn’t we take Ostad Dehkhoda’s advice and just sit aside and be a spectator?

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