I was enjoying my life. Nothing was missing.
Then I saw my friends leaving for abroad, some to study, others to live. I wondered: "How is that? "
I left Iran for Canada. It was a lot of fun, but I couldnít decide if what I had sacrificed was worth it. Nonetheless, I was very fortunate to come to Canada, not everyone had this opportunity. So decided to enjoy my temporary residence, and not wonder if my moving to Canada was the right course of action anymore.
I saw my friends talking about immigrating to Canada. They filled out forms, and waited. Not too late, they were permanent residents of Canada. I thought with myself: "why not me? After all, it doesnít harm. Letís not miss this opportunity."
I had my landed status in Canada, and my college was over. I had planned to return to Iran after graduation, back when I moved to Canada. Then I wondered: "Wait a minute, if I stay for another three years, I will have a Canadian Passport. I can then enjoy the freedom of traveling anywhere without worrying about visas. Why not do that, like a lot of my friends? "
I had my Canadian Passport. I was working in a company and almost satisfied. The prospects looked good. Then I thought: "Iíve been working hard for the past few years to get this promotion, why should I live in a country with no insured employment? Letís strengthen my footsteps here first. I can always return."
Itís now years that I have been "temporarily" living in Canada. Not that I donít want to return, but I donít like to miss opportunities either. After all, I can return whenever I wish, canít I?
Note : This article was also published in the 12th issue of Ghasedak, an online magazine by Iranian students in Toronto.
One day, my Dutch friend asked me whether I have read the book “On Wings of Eagles” which is the story of some Americans in Iran at the time of revolution. He probably had bought the book for a buck or so from a peddler. After he finished reading the book he brought it for me to read it. Usually in times like this, I find myself to be in an uncomfortable situation since I rarely enjoy reading such books. On the other hand it would have been rude if I had not accepted it. However, it turned out to be different. I started reading it and I finished the whole thing very quickly. The story was fascinating and exciting.
The story is about a rescue mission lead by Americans at the time of the Iranian revolution in 1979. The leader of the rescue mission was Ross Perot, founder of EDS corporations, the person who later ran as an independent candidate for US presidency in 1992 and 1996. At the time of the revolution, he was runnig EDS corporations which had a few hundred million dollar contract with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Shah’s government.
The story beautifully takes the reader to the chaotic situations of 1979. A few months before the revolution, many of -one time- Shah’s loyals got arrested for charges such as corruption in order to calm down the opposition. Among them, it was the Minister of Health and Social Welfare. In trying to prosecute him, the judge tries to find a bribery case between him and EDS. Then the judge orders the arrest of two Americans who were in charge of EDS in Iran. The story is now about how Ross Perot, along with his team tries everything to rescue the imprisoned employees. Perot himself went to Iran and entered the prison where his men were held. Despite all their plans such as penetrating a heavily guarded prison fortress, it is ironically the happening of the revolution which eventually frees the Americans in its own funny way.
The book, which became a best seller, is written by Ken Follett and first published in 1983.
During the past few weeks I have had several isolated encounters with different people, both in the cyberspace and in the real world, which have collectively brought me to reflect on the question of "what has gone wrong in Iran". This post is the first part of a quasi-scientific exposition of the factors that I suspect have played, and are still playing a role in making our society dysfunctional.
I call it quasi-scientific not merely because I am not a social scientist, but also because many of the claims I have made are backed by nothing but my personal observations, yet I cannot call it totally non-scientific, because the substance is not only far away from being a fiction but it also tries to observe the established forms of a scientific argumentation, which among other things, tries to avoid letting any personal issues interfere with making observations and inferences. Let me confess right in the outset that despite the care I have taken in my wordings, it is quite possible that I might have, at times, made fallacious generalizations or even projections. I can only hope that those who take time to read my post also take the time to bring my attention to such fallacies.
My article is based on certain assumptions, and is confined to certain domains, which I think must be made explicit. I have restricted most of my observations to Iran's urban, if not metropolitan, society, or/and the people coming from such a society albeit currently living in another society. When referring to the stages of the life of a typical individual in Iran, I have confined myself to people raised in the middle-class families. I am neither concerned with the elite, nor with the underprivileged marginalized masses.
Part I - Lack of Collective Etiquette
You have probably heard this so many times, as I have too: "Iranians are very kind and hospitable." Maybe so, but I have made another observation: "Iranians are rude," and by "rude" I do not simply mean "impolite". According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word rude, among other things, means:
As individuals, many Iranians try to be, and in fact are, courteous. Yet, I suspect this is just a personal (re)action based on a personal interpretation of what constitutes good manners. When I was a child, my parents told me what they thought is the polite way to behave, although they themselves sometimes failed to follow it. My point, however, is that there was and still is no solid system of education that tries to establish some basics of the social etiquette into children's minds just like the way they are taught to spell words. Here, I am referring to very elementary things such as "table manners". There is a school near our place and I sometimes am unfortunate enough to hear the crude voice of a man in a loudspeaker ordering the children to chant slogans: prayers like "Salavaat"1, or scream "Allah-o-Akbar"2, "Jaanam Fadaayeh Rahbar"3, etc. This man, and his colleagues, fail to teach these children how to behave at a dinner table, when and how to shake hands, how to refuse an invitation, how to invite someone to a party, how and when to hold the door for a lady, how to sit in a bus or a taxi, etc. Instead, with their typically disgusting outfits, repugnant body odor, and their often aggressive language they present themselves as the living example of the predominant, and the typical way of behaving in the adult world. Some children take that as an example and follow it; others might follow their parents, relatives and some during the course of time even devise their own system of values.
... Lacking the graces and refinement of civilized life; uncouth - ... Lacking education or knowledge
It is often said that "Iranians are very intelligent". I tend to agree with this remark in the sense that Encyclopedia Britannica broadly defines the word "intelligence":
[The] ability to adapt effectively to the environment, either by making a change in oneself or by changing the environment or finding a new oneWhat better example of adaptation than our society's adaptation to an assortment of individual behaviors. However, one might think that this ability to adapt has led to the formation of an open-minded, liberal, and tolerant society. Quite to the contrary, it has, at least from where I see it, led to nothing but a grotesque apathy in some, frenzied aggression in others, self-righteousness in many, and a sense of being under a constant psychological torture in almost everyone. Perhaps this could also, partly, explain why some, if not most, Iranians think of other fellow Iranians as "idiots".
During the past couple of decades, the rulers in Iran, deliberately or otherwise, have made every effort to denounce, defame, and ridicule all practices and signs of civilized social and individual manners. The image of a well-shaven man wearing a suit, a necktie, and cologne was replaced by a man with a nasty unattended beard, shirt fallen over his pants, unwashed greasy hair, and an awfully-smelling body odor that beats every skunk on the planet. Never as a child nor as a teenager, was I taught at school how to behave at a dining table, how to introduce myself to someone at a party, how to sit in a bus or taxi, to hold the door for a lady as much as I was given courses on religious cleansing of the body after ejaculation, and what should be done to a beast with which one has engaged in an act of sodomy. The closest I ever got to a rule of etiquette in those courses was that I should enter the toilet with my left(?) foot, lick my fingers after eating food, and afterwards shove my middle finger into my throat, and "preferably" let some gas gush out of my stomach!
I am not trying to imply that our social dysfunctions are the sole results of not wearing ties. However, it is my strong conviction that the first rule of making a thriving modern society is to teach it how to have peace with itself. Social manners and etiquette, in my view, are not luxuries of an aristocratic life. They are the first lessons of self discipline, respect for others, and teamwork. A society without manners is a society constantly at war with itself; its members incapacitated by the insidious psychological pressure of having to bear with, as opposed to living with their fellow citizens.
 A prayer-like sentence in Arabic asking the almighty to "bless the Prophet and his family."
 An Arabic phrase meaning "God is great."
 A prayer-like Persian phrase meaning "may my life be sacrificed for the leader"; usually voluntarily chanted by the supporters of the hard-line supreme cleric of Iran.