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September 02, 2003

Who's running the show?
Arash Jalali  [info|posts]

In response to a recent posting which invited the writers of this weblog to write about their real concerns we had a posting by Kaveh Khojasteh, reflecting some of the concerns and issues from the perspective of those living abroad.

I am affraid I failed to be as elegant and as brief as Kaveh. I do not dare to claim to represent the "inside" view either. This was just me until about a month ago. My daily routine might have changed a bit ever since, but the thoughts and concerns are still there.

6:53 As I pass by the newsstand, I quickly read the headlines: Khatami Expresses Regrets Over [...]
[...] Has Been Arrested
The Canadian Ambassador left Iran ...
People read about all this havoc and then go on probably thinking that there's someone out there who takes care of these, that there're people who will run the show.
7:05 I'm finally on a bus and I've got a seat of my own. It's got to be cleaned though. People are grumbling about the dirty seats. Some old man goes to the driver and complains about the seats. The driver says: "Don't tell me. I ain't running the show!".
7:40 I'm at the place of service. People there love titles. Most people there call me "Engineer". I don't like it but I fake politeness. I'm with different people but they're somehow all like me, looking forward to the end of the day. They all think someone else is running the show. But no one is. I wonder how the country is still on its feet. Everyone's waiting to call it a day. Everyone thinks the show is being run by someone else.
14:30 I'm at my place of work. There, people don't call me "Engineer". They call me "Mr. Engineer". People there too think the show's being run by someone else. I know it's not. I try to be different there. I try to take responsibility. I suddenly find myself being reached out to by almost everyone. They think I'm running the show. I'm not.
20:45 I'm signing out and leaving for home. Another last-minute request from the boss. He thinks his personnel are running the show.
21:00 I'm on a taxi. The radio's on. Someone has implied in a speech that we need nukes to defend the people of Palestine. I wonder if he knows what he's talking about. Maybe he too thinks someone else will take care of it; will run the show.
21:30 I'm home watching some TV. Someone switches to one of "those" channels:
  • Hello! We have a caller from Iran.
  • Hi, I just wanted to say that we Iranians wish Mr.Bush would come to Iran soon and free us all like the people of …
23:40 Going to sleep. Thoughts have come to haunt me again…

Why does everyone think someone else is running the show?
Why do we need someone else to solve our problems?

Why is everyone (including myself) leaving?
What if all 60 million of us leave? Who will "run the show" then?
What the heck is wrong with us? Is it the culture? Maybe someone ought to "change" it. But who? And how?

What if we get into a war too? What will I do? What should I believe? Should I defend "my country"? Should I hide and save my butt because someone will run the show with or without me? Whom will I be defending? Whom will I be fighting? Who is running the show?

Senior Grad at September 3, 2003 12:34 PM [permalink]:

Thanks for sharing your own perspective with us, Arash. I reading enjoyed your posting, especially the ending, but I think you meant "Who's going to fix it?" rather than "Who's running the show?", because we're all running it. In fact, we're it!

But as for who's supposed to fix the situation, when every body, shrugging her/his shoulders, thinks others are responsible for fixing it, you have a point. We certainly need to take charge, but the problem is we're often not equipped with even the minimal security(courage?)/welfare(peace of mind?)/money/freedom(of speech)/education (not necessarily in that order) that is needed for doing so. So we leave to at least save our *own* butts, because, if you excuse me for a simlistic metaphor, a person who's drowning cannot possibly help others; can s/he?

yahya at September 3, 2003 07:33 PM [permalink]:

Our perspective on life has multiple levels. We can see our lifes in hours or as what happens day to day bases(what Iman Aghilian likes to see more) or in a larger perspective and more philosophical(what Kaveh was presenting, which was criticized by Iman).

I think there is no contradiction between the two. To build an outlook for our, we need to start from the understand what we do day to day basis. To also give flavour to our day to day experience, we need to have some type of a larger picture about our life.

Arash at September 5, 2003 04:26 AM [permalink]:

First, I think if we take the average number of comments made to a series of postings as a measure for the overall interest in a certain topic then I, and to some extent Iman Aghilian too, have been able to establish that the collective interests of the people of this forum do not lie in the microscopic view of life which yahya refered to as the "day-to-day" view.

Second, as regards the comments kindly posted by Senior Grad and Yahya, here are a few things I should like to add:

1- My posting did not strictly try to reflect a person's discontent with the people's lack of participation in any social movement of any sort, be it a reform or anything else, especially on any grand scale. What I was trying to reflect was a general lack of eagerness and apathy for taking resposibility not for solving the problems of the whole world but simply for one's own duties. If one pays attention to the line of events covered in a day, no matter where this person (me) goes, he always comes accross people who think (or may be hoping) that the bulk of that enterprise is in someone else's hands and that he/she can rest assured that it will be taken care of by "them", whereas this "them" is simply an illusion. This I believe has got nothing to do with courage or making change on a grand scale. This is just doing what you are supposed to do. Using Senior Grad's metaphor, I roughly characterize the situation as everyone drowning and yet everyone resting assured that "they" will eventually come and save you. Of course, the situation is actually a bit subtler than that.

2- I too like Yahya believe that there should be a balance between one's microscopic and macroscopic (broad) preoccupations. I also suspect this very fact could be the reason for many of today's (and maybe past) Iran's dysfunctions. Too many people have too little perspective and those who do claim to have perspective are so out of touch with the harsh realities of "day-to-day" life that they have practically alienated themselves from the rest of the society. That could even partly explain this obsession with charisma. We are all collectively waiting for a saviour, a "superman", a "god", to come and save us and we simply make one out of the first person whom we find charismatic.

nina at September 5, 2003 04:50 AM [permalink]:

About someone who is out of the system or even in to lead the system all or to save us, I think there are two important characteristics of eastern people related to the subject.
First, there have been a belief that they had been in a lost paradise before, out of the boundaries of history. For examples, Aria people believed that their origin had been in a paradise , somewhere in east (according to the historian records, it could be in the warm and wet jungles of India ,or the high and cool weather mountains of Pamir).Another famous example is the tale of Adam and Eve in some holy books of religions.

Second is the hope that "someone shall come" in different religions, someone who now exist and run the show until s/he comes in many theologies from Judaism to Buddhism. Maybe there are varying patterns, but the core is unique.
We see that Europe have been free of these thoughts, related to the renaissance time or maybe a materialism way they followed, but we –in the east- have had them yet.

We are challenging with these matters : past lost heaven and coming utopia ,more than west. but there is a matter, even though humans may belittle the religious credits, there is an idealist nature in all of persons that lead them in the way of life with dreams and fairy tales….

I say the roots of that sense of existing another who have more power of us, sometimes a saving power or some times a power to manage us, are established inside of us related to our idealism rather than external circumstances.

Senior Grad at September 5, 2003 01:00 PM [permalink]:

I suspect that the issue of savior (which is related to, but not the same as the issue of charisma) is a well-researched topic. In Europe, too, there have been self-proclaimed "mahdi"s (not with that name) for many centuries. There is an old bold book titled A'IN-E RAHBARI (which may be loosely translated as: The way to be a leader) by Nasereddin Sahebbazamani, in which the author, as far as I remember, had offered in a slick way (because the question of Mahdi must have been a very sensitive issue even back in Shah's time) his findings on the history of Mahdism and its European versions. If you ever get a hold of this book, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

I agree that Mahdism, in its various manifestations, has been responsible for people's apathy, but at this point, I don't quite see the relevance of creationist stories about the origin of Man to people's lack of interest in taking charge of their lifes, at least in microscopic scales.

The second remark (Number 2) in Arash's elaborate comment (about leaders being out of touch with people's day to day life) reminded me of something which may not be quite relevant. The Persian site of BBC has a section called SOKHANGAH which is not a forum, like this one is, but is rather a poll. I was wondering if the British intelligence system have the comments there translated to English and analysed to help them deal with affairs related to Iranians. I wish our own leaders had this much sense. Alas, they just send the pollsters behind the bars...