I remember four years ago when I joined my research group here in Canada, for the first time, I got a chance to interact with the people who had come from different countries and backgrounds. Most of the time, we had lunch together and while eating we would chat about different issues. However the sad thing for me was that I had nothing to contribute when my friends were talking about subjects such as music, movie, novel and travel! The only music I knew was Iranian music and the only movies were Iranian movies. I had no opinions about the movie they had all watched or the novels they had read. In Iran, I had grown up amongst friends and family whose interests were relevant only to my home country, not to the rest of the world.
With my personal experience, it came as no surprise to me when I read in a A.T. Kearney/FOREIGN POLICY Magazine Globalization Index that, for the third year in a row, Iran ranked as the least global nation among the 62 countries which were studied. On the one hand, it is our government which is very isolated, especially politically. In Iran, the economic laws and regulations are also not compatible with other countries and the communication infrastucture is very poor. However the more important isolation comes from the society and the people who have very little connection to the outside world. In our schools and public media, there is not much discussion about other cultures and lifestyles. Living in Iran, you may never get a chance to know the taste of Chinese food, the beauty of Irish dance (of course!) or the harmony of French music.
The idea of this post came to my mind when the first issue of Shargh daily was published two weeks ago. Shargh is a Persian newspaper recently started in Iran by a group of journalists who used to work for the reformist papers. Shargh is not as political as those newspapers, instead it has color pages full of articles about world music, literature, politics and technology. What is fascinating about Shargh is not its high quality of journalism but its coverage on the world culture. In brief, it makes its readers more global and this is what our country desperately needs.
In the long run, Shargh is the most threatening paper against conservative's backward agendas. When Iran becomes more integrated with the rest of the world, people would not only get to know the delicious taste of Italian Spaghetti but also the freedom and democracy which have brought them that food. If the judiciary sytem was smart enough (let's hope they aren't), they would have shut it down from the very beginning.