White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Little bit of self critisism

Two related thoughts that came to my mind in recent weeks.

1. One of the evening in Edinburgh, I had short discussion with an Israeli friend of mine who thinks progressively on many political matters (including the Palestine issue). He told me that we, who are trying to stick to a progressive/leftist model of thought, suffer from the a similar arrogance of judgment that we claim the right wingers of our time have. He worked hard to challenge me (and probably himself) on many ideas. His point was that similar to the right wingers, we try to push our mindset and ideology in a way that it is the plain truth and there is no what so ever alternative method. Whenever we fail (usually in elections), we do not challenge our thoughts. We jump to the conclusion that people are misinformed, naive, etc. Regardless of our discussions, in most minutes of this talk, I felt how shaky our believes are and how much far I'm from having a concrete moral and intellectual foundations. I suddenly felt how much politics and daily events that constantly fill the air, can make my judgements shallow.

2. My brother in law is a knowledgeable guy and we usually spend quite a bit of time discussing about politics. The course of events after September 11th, combined with the political frustrations that he felt in Iran in these past few years, have made him totally disappointed about progressive voices. He's now gone as far as being pro Bush's policies in the middle east (including full support for Sharon, invasion of Iraq, pressuring Iran, etc.). Of course our discussions gets really hot, as we disagree in most of these cases. He admits that he believe the neo-conservatism as the right model to resolve very complicated issues like the middle east, Africa and globalization. I should admit that discussing with him on these matters is quite fascinating and helpful for me to see how solid I can defend my judgments. For example last night, at the middle of a discussion about Iraq, I felt for a second, how little do I know about the neo-conservatism. How much do I want to sit and reject these guys with same old fashioned rhetoric of the left. This is the same mistake that my father and his fellow leftist activist made 30 years ago and rejected the western block and accepted the eastern block with no reservation. And the results were a mess: Iranian chaotic revolution, a religious government in Iran (who later cleaned up the whole leftists) and finally a uni-polar world. Unfortunately I feel this problem is quite wide in the left. The rhetoric of the neo-conservatives is something totally novel and their foreign policy doctrine is different from what Kissinger was talking 30 years ago. But unfortunately the voice of the left and progressive people has not changed much. Instead of blind rejection of what's coming from the other side, shouldn't we first strenghen our understanding of the other side to be able to develop an alternative voice and solution for our world?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Back Home!

Finally after 4 months I'm back home!
The Iran trip was short and quick. Fortunately or unfortunately my Iran trips have been limited to family and friend visits inside Tehran and I haven't been able to travel to any other part of the country. There is whole a lot to see, specially in these years that tourist industry have improved.

The immigration trend among my generation is amazing. This trip, I felt that practically majority of my highschool and university close friends are now outside Iran. One day that I was trying to reach my freinds, I saw that no one is there anymore. As part of the immigration flow of Iranians to US, my in-laws moved to our town this week (on the same that I came back). My brother in law who is his early 30s was one of the best professionals in his sector in Iran. It's quite a challenging decision for me and my friend to convince our in-laws about leaving that busy life and come to US for the sake of education and their long term life stability. With his super busy background in Iran, it'll be challenging to settle in this quiet and properous environment. I'm sure the next few months are going to be challenging for all of us to settle them down here. But in the long term I see a more stable condition for all of us. The family gap is finally narrowing.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Couple of notes from Tehran

1. This trip, I avoid driving in Tehran as much as possible. Using the public transportation is a very good way to learn more about people, their dilemmas and concerns. It's always great to hear from a cab driver about his daily economic and social dilemmas, about the past election, the education and job opportunities for his kids and the future of the country.

2. The middle class in Iran are literally being crushed. While walking around shopping malls in the upper Tehran, I clearly see a new trend of extreme luxury life for the wealthy Iranians. It's amazing how these people spend their money on super expensive western brands from Heinz ketchup to Espirit bed sheets and CK's clothings. It was quite a surprise (and disappointment) for me to hear from young rich highschool kids who were talking about buying a new cell phone every 6 months! This is very different from the way I and majority of my generation grew 10-15 years ago. It's not surprsing to see Mr. Ahmadinejad holding the presidential seat today.

3. I hear contradictory comments about the past election. For me, it was always a big surprise to see the victory of Ahmadinejad in the 2nd round of the election. Some people believe the the voting fraud was not limited to the first round, and even in the 2nd round millions of votes were injected for Ahmadinejad. At the same time I keep hearing about the fact that many non-conservative and religious people have been talking in support of Ahmadi and in general it seems that Ahmadi has been pushed into the 2nd round of election with a little bit of vote fraud, but has won the second round by public vote.

4. In upper Tehran, Hejab is literally a joke. In the evenings I see many women driving cars with no scarf. Mantos (the coats that women have to wear) are in their shortest state ever and short pants (called bermuda here) are quite common. Yes, this state might not last very long as conservatives are starting to push their agenda.

5. Unlike what I was expecting, people are not that much pessimist about Ahmadinejad's government. Maybe that's because there is not that much to lose after this election. Whatever happens is better their expectation. Ahmadinejad has been quite careful to avoid any contraversial speech about social and political issues. Majority of people here believe that he first DOES NOT LIKE and second CAN NOT enforce so much of change in the social issues like the dress code and cultural issues like cinema, theater and books. One reason is probably the heavy internationl pressure that is coming to the regime with respect to the nuclear technology.

6. Despite all the disappointments that I felt in recent years about the state of my people and country in general, still I feel optimistic about returning and working here in Iran. There is whole a lot of cultural and social and personal reasons that makes me happy about living in Iran. I had a meeting with one of grad students who works in research areas close to my interests. There is much work to do here and there are a lot of smart people who are thirsty to learn and work, if there is right direction and adminstration. Of course I can write pages about the problems of living in Iran.

7. Checking the newspapers and magazine desks is quite depressing. The media spring of 1997-2000 is clearly gone and what's left is a bunch of average magazines and newspapers quite controlled and censored. Books are still in a better state, but clearly far from those days that the front line of every bookstore was filled with titles about democracy, civil society and human rights. maybe that spring was too early and far from realities of our nation.
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