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August 07, 2003

What Inaction Might Bring
Mehrad Vaezinejad  [info|posts]

ocean.jpg"What is Khatami doing?" is maybe one of the most frequent questions in recent Iranian political discourse. I'm not going to answer this question through defending his actions, but only suggesting an alternative idea about possible benefits of what it might seem as his inactions.

I do believe that cultural backgrounds of a group of people has a relatively important role in the ways they think and act, and thus in how they make changes in different aspects of their society. I also believe that this kind of changes might take a longer time comparing to economic changes.

Looking back to our history and cultural traditions, I cannot trace that much "acting-together" that are based upon thinking-together and deciding-together, although there exist many signs revealing our wonderful sense of feeling-together in critical situations. So, there has always been good initiations for processes of change in some periods of our history that were mostly wasted due to what we can call "lack of rationalistic mainstreams" in the following steps of those processes. But what causes this fact and lets it happen again and again? Among many other possible reasons, I would pick two cultural characteristics that seem to have had a considerable influence on many historic events in Iran.

First, talking and not listening. The truth is we usually look at each other and think about the words we should pour out next, while nodding every now and then and pretending to listen. Back to our social literature throughout history, it is full of monologues and not that much dialogues. And actually wherever dialogues are found, they are mostly non-equal-conversations between a Morad and his Morid (take it as the teacher and the pupil). [Morid means devotee and Morad is whom s/he is devoted to]

Second, walking and not looking. One thing I've learned in several mountain climbing programs is the vital rule of looking at your path and checking it with both past steps and the way ahead even if it has been the right way in the beginning. But instead, in our personal life and specifically in our social and popular movements, over-eagerness is the dominant sense of individuals. So, you either walk by or stand aside and watch others pass.

This time around, optimistically, the flow is a bit calmer (assuming there actually exists one!). So, there might be a chance for the time factor to play its role and let the people think their thoughts, train their ears, find their real place in the river-flow and at least try to see in which sea it pours.

And again I should say, this is neither offending nor defending the whole flow. I'm just saying that accidentally or deliberately, President Khatami's actions (considering inaction as a kind of action!) could happen to make (and maybe it has already made) some historical change in Iran's political literature and Iranian's socio-political culture.

Comments
yahya at August 7, 2003 12:17 PM [permalink]:

I agree that moving slow is good because people learn how to "act-together." But there is a downside, and it is the fact that a number of social ills are rapidly entrenching in Iran's culture because of the current situation. For example, corruption and bribery are becoming well accepted. Religious values are deteriorating without being replace by any other value system. Maybe at the end people learn how to act together, but I am afraid by then they all would be so corrupted that they won't have any value left to collectively act upon.

yash at August 7, 2003 12:54 PM [permalink]:

i think the changes you're referring to in the last paragraph, that occured in Iranian socio-political culture were rather the results of his 'actions' in hic first 3 years of presidency. like allowing for relatively free press, purging (mildly) the security forces from 'rogue elements' which made people feel freer to criticize the government and express their real demands because they were less scared of the government. I think since everything in Iran is controlled by the government you need a government that takes 'actions' in a progressive way, if you want the society to make real progress. For example, education is very fundamental in shaping a modern socio-political culture in our society, was Mozaffar really the best choice for this purpose? I think Rafsanjani's ministers of education were so much better and more modern. Mozaffar was Khatami's personal choice according to differet sources.

yash at August 7, 2003 01:10 PM [permalink]:

for example, education is very fundamental to forming a modern socio-political culture in Iran (or anywhere). Khatami's personal choice (according to different sources) for minister of education was Mozaffar. the ministers of education under Rafsanjani were much more decent and modern (comparatively). the least thing he could do (considering the parliament was in favor of a reformist cabinet) in his second term to show his gratefulness for the votes he got, was to choose a decent cabinet. his choice for the cabinet was a mess.

yash again at August 7, 2003 01:21 PM [permalink]:

there is also another point.
there is an ambiguity when we talk about inaction. in developed countries the role of the government in society, economy, ... is usually very small, and there is much larger independence from the government, in economy and civil society. in this respect inaction of the government is beneficial. in Iran though, it is the opposite, the government takes 'actions' that are sometimes almost exactly the most harmful for the economical or the social interests of the nation. so a reformist president's duty would have been to undo or prevent those harmful actions taken by the totalitarian part of the government. here what inaction on his part means is that the government gets its way in its harmful acts.

yash at August 7, 2003 01:22 PM [permalink]:

taken by the totalitarian part of the government. here what inaction on his part means is that the government gets its way in its harmful acts.