One month might be long enough to allow one to reflect on a past event rationally, if not objectively. In less than three weeks the next president (yes I deliberately refuse to use his name or call him president-elect) and his yet to be known gang of cabinet members will take control of the government. I have tried to work out all the eventualities that could result from the policies this new government is suspected of adopting in the future. Minor differences apart, these outcomes all boiled down to two broad choices: going on more or less the same way it has been going for the past 16 years, or taking the country along a completely different, and most probably risky, path. This post is not about analysing which outcome is more probable. Let us for a moment assume that a risky future is in fact awaiting us; And a not so far away one too.
During the elections, the hottest debate, which I believe was one of the main reasons behind the dividedness of the anti-totalitarianism camp (comprising the so-called reformists, as well as the Islamic regime's opposition), was on whether or not to participate in the elections. One group said let's vote to stop the worst from happening even though the alternative is not that promising either, while the other group argued that boycotting the elections is the only way to not let the regime launch the usual "historic epic by the ever present populace" propaganda. While we were fighting to convince each other (not) to vote, the hardliners implemented their own successful version of operation "Market Garden." The vigilante-manufactured votes parachuted into the ballot boxes from one side and the economically challenged and deceived masses on the ground, rushing to "reject a corrupt Mullah in favor of someone without a turban," from the other, decided the outcome of the election. The question that has been bothering me ever since is whether the dilemma will always be on "whether or not to vote." With this new president, I am seriously concerned that the next choice would be "whether or not to go fight."
At the cost of sounding too melodramatic, let us assume this president and the hardliners behind him bring the country to the brink of a war. I am almost certain (and at the same time affraid) that while the same misinformed masses are being rallied to "defend Islam," we would still be biting eachother's head off over whether to welcome the war as a quick way of ridding Iran of Mullahs (by encouraging the attack from outside and "not participating" from inside), or to join up to defend the country and help prevent Iran from turning into yet another torn-apart piece of real estate. And at that very moment, if some divine hand offerred to turn the clock back to one day before the first round of the elections, would we still have any doubt about whether to boycott or whether to vote? There is still time to think, before our lovely new president and his hardliner friends bring us the Armageddon. Let us discuss this more rationally this time, shall we.
When Samuel Huntington published his "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order," many progressive academics dismissed it as yet another excuse by right-wing academics to justify Western aggression against non-western civilizations. They may have been right to a certain extent, but in my view they were wrong not to consider the merits of some of the arguments presented in the book. When I personally read the book in 1998, I was still in Iran, at a time when Khatami was just getting warmed up with his Dialogue of Civilizations. I felt Huntington's arguments to be out of touch with reality. Now I see his arguments to be close to the current reality of fundamentalist confrontation, which may have emerged with the failure of dialogue between and reform within civilizations.
This Morning a series of bombings on London transit killed 37 people and injured more than 700 (as of 2:00 p.m. EST, July 7th, 2005). A group tied to Al-Qaeda in Europe has claimed responsibility. While a tragedy of this magnitude is unfolding continuously in Iraq, with insurgents targeting the same number of people nearly every single day, I feel that the spread of violence to Western countries is taking us further towards an extensive confrontation between two fundamentalist visions. My intuition tells me that the next decade will be a tough one for the world, as were the times leading to and during World War I and Word War II. What I ponder at this time is whether such a confrontation is indeed inevitable, or if it isnít what can be done to prevent it.
The choice of the Islamic fundamentalists, the Neocons and Christian Fundamentalists seems clear. What is unclear in this period of time is the role of the progressive peoples representing the multiple civilizations at odds. For long the only thing we have achieved is to condemn acts of wars and atrocities, without an actual and concrete alternative to offer. So how about it? Do we want to sit and watch while the hatemongers in our nations take over the destiny of mankind and steer us towards massive bloodshed? What concrete ways are there to address issues of terrorism and bigotry in the Middle East, the growth of the military-industrial complex and religious fundamentalism and the retreat of rationality and human ideals in the West? Are there ways to address these issues on a global level? What I would like to see is something beyond the conventional intellectual response of demonstrating outside the White House etc. Where do we start? What do we learn? What ways can we propose? What organizations can help get our agendas on the table? I personally donít have any answers to these, but I believe in collective wisdom. If we think about it together we might be able to do things beyond just empty talk.
Progressives of the World Unite!!!
Akbar Ganji smiling during his temporary one-week release early June 2005. Photo © Atta Kenare, AFP.
Release Ganji! Campaign, releaseganji.net.
I decided to open this thread for those (I hope many) who are interested in doing something real about Ganji's situation. This is the least I thought I could do at this point. I hope the comment section of this post turns into a good place for brainstorming on what can be done concretely first and foremost for Ganji, for his freedom. So please keep your comments related to the topic.
Of special note in this regard is his recent letter in which he sounds really close to the end. Even if one regards this cynically as a move by him to gain some attention, I think we owe it to him and ourselves to take it seriously and give him the attention he deserves.