The Iranian Personality
Whatever its etiology is, the personality dominating our society has long proved to be incompatible with prosperity and progress in the modern world. To address this issue, I believe we should first stop accusing others, be they our own officials or foreign politicians, of being responsible for all the failures and frustrations of our nation. We should, instead, recognize the undesirable character traits which have led to our downfall and try to replace them by more constructive healthy ones. To get an overview of the peculiar personality traits that prevail in our society, one can just observe the stark contrast that exists between the driving habits of Iranians and those in more developed countries. In Iran, almost no one can tolerate having another car in front of him/her. Driving regulations of any kind are considered a nuisance, which reflects the general attitudes towards restriction. Finding ways to bypass traffic laws is interpreted as the ultimate sign of genius and courage. Achieving the slightest personal advantage justifies compromising the good of all other drivers. Last but not least, in the case of an accident, the only language that seems to be understood is physical aggressiveness prior to any dialogue; forget an apology or a compromise.
Iranian driving style may be an exaggerated example. However, a tinge of all these detrimental habits is evident in our overall personal and social behavior. Even those who are critical of the current situation in Iran consciously or subconsciously follow the main stream so as to survive in such a malfunctioning system. That is why, I hold that any bright future prospect is far out of reach unless the whole system is reset and a different mentality dominates our society.
Can we, however, change this mentality and reshape our national character to ensure a more promising future? Is it possible for humans to stop a vicious cycle that has been impairing their country’s character over generations? I believe so, but this will be neither as simple nor as quick as we expect of other changes in life. There is a famous adage stating that disciplining children needs to be started from the previous generation. This is actually based on the fact that, to successfully bring up children, one needs well-disciplined parents and teachers who themselves have been raised in a healthy and constructive atmosphere. The transformation of a whole society’s nature, thus, requires a systematic and comprehensive long-term approach which works hand in hand with the discipline of children in families, the education of students at schools, and the promotion of human rights and mutual respect by all members of a society.
Instead of passively waiting for a savior to miraculously rescue our society, we should collectively foster positive traits; characteristics such as honesty, diligence, composure, discretion, and courtesy, which are the building blocks of a prosperous civilized nation.
A Practical Approach
From this moment, let us start with ourselves. When driving, swear not to run a yellow light, no matter how late you are. When standing in a line, respect the other’s turn. Similarly, if someone tries to cut into the line, never remain indifferent; assertively object to this behavior even though you may not be the one violated. At home, instead of lecturing your kids about moral values, become a role model by personally striving to live out these virtues. If you are a teacher, reward students for their creativity, not just their memorization skills; encourage the open expression of opinions and mutual respect; motivate pupils to constructively cooperate rather than frantically competing with each other.
By our daily actions, at the university, at work, at a restaurant, or in a cinema, almost everywhere, we participate in a type of election to choose the path towards our nation’s prosperity or decline. The results may not be readily available, but when they appear they will have such a profound long-lasting effect which revolutionizes our entire social, economic, and political system.