The Nexus of Naivete

Ahhhh: it is actually rewarding to be an old lady.  Sure, the hair is as thin as angel dust, the body parts have undergone the effects of gravity and the joints are as crackley as a fire on a cold evening.  Nevertheless, the wisdom that comes with age and experience, the acceptance of practicality over pure idealism and the loss of a certain naiveté is well worth the physical limitations.  And yet, a bit of naiveté and the hope that it represents is worth its weight in gold.

My daughter Maribel was incensed at a New York Times Op-Ed titled “Another Iranian Revolution? Not Likely”, by Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/opinion/06leverett.html?pagewanted=1&th&emc=th

It has taken me a few days to understand the depth of her outrage.  There is definitely cause for her ire, yet it is also a case of youthful naiveté.  There are two issues at stake here.  The first topic needing some attention is the authors’ contention that a new revolution is not fomenting in Iran.  Secondly, the political tone of the article needs to be examined regarding the author’s interpretation of President Obama’s policy towards Iran.

It is the authors’ belief that another revolution, such as the one in 1979 that ousted the Shah from power, is absolutely not taking place in Iran today.  I for one, thought that the Iranis’ public protest to the election abuses last year were significant in that they were reactions to a corrupt, unequal regime.  What I have found during my lifetime is that people generally get what they deserve in the political process.  When the Shah left Iran in 1979, he was replaced with a theocracy whose ultimate power resided in the religious leadership, as is the case today.  Iran replaced the corrupt reign of the Shah with an equally corrupt rule of the ayatollahs.

The religion of Islam rules in Iran and as a people, the Iranis are very religious.  They chose this theocracy and even though some of the people see this regime as a violation of their civil rights, freedom and justice, they are not necessarily condemning the religious tenets.  They need to either discard the suffocating tenets of their harsh religion or reconcile somehow those limiting constraints with a viable government.  The majority of the people support Islam, but are finding out just how difficult it is to “support” Islam while yearning for equal rights.  The Koran spells out explicitly what is accepted, and the government is based on the Koran.  It is kind of hard to pick and choose inviolable rights when the people support the strictures of their Holy Book.  Yet, the majority of Iranis are not willing to separate their government from their religion.

I thought that one of the most exciting events that occurred in 2009 was the public protest to the national elections in Iran.  I truly believed that this could be the start of a free and democratic movement.  Today, I am not so sure of that.  The rebellion has to go deeper than just a few persistent fringe groups.  I do not see the bulk of the Irani population willing to forego their strict religious principles for democracy yet.  Sorry, Mirabel.

The second issue that needs addressing, and I think this is the one that is truly outrageous, is the authors’ contention that President Obama is avoiding engagement with Iran, contrary to his campaign promise, because the fall of the current government in Iran is imminent.  They assume that the President is holding off opening up communication with Iran because he would rather wait for “the new government” to take power.  Furthermore, the authors hold that the Obama administration’s supposed desire for a revolution in Iran is being used to bring down the current regime.  There is something so wrong in this postulating that it makes me quite suspicious of the authors’ intent.

I should also note that I have tried to research a bit the organizations that the Op-Ed authors work for, i.e. the Race for Iran and the New America Foundation’s Iran Initiative.  I found some information but am really not equipped to get to the nitty-gritty of who and what those associations are.  Though their theory that Iran is not poised for another revolution now may have some merits, their twisting of President Obama’s policies are sheer malevolence, which makes me automatically suspicious of the entities that sponsor these writers.  Andrew Sullivan has written frequently about this Leverett team.  Please use this link to view a roster of articles regarding these authors.  Sullivan provides some insight into who these writers are:

http://www.theatlantic.com/fs/esearch.php?sort=time&source=sullivan&words=leverett&x=0&y=0

I am having trouble assimilating these two issues, one of revolution or not, the other being a slur on our President.   Mirabel responded much more cogently.  Here are her words:

That totally misses the point.  This article is masquerading as an
article about Iran, while simultaneously undermining Obama’s policy.
Firstly, it glosses over the revolution in Iran as no big deal,
despite the murders, corruption and unrest.  Furthermore, on the basis
of that ignorance, it accuses Obama and the western media of creating
a ruckus that is not real so that they can justify possible harsher
measures against Iran and it’s nuclear program.

(This smacks of Republicans trying to pull a Dick Cheney-era argument
except from the opposite side, as in, WMDs were invented in order to
justify unjust war.)

I’m not saying that Obama should or shouldn’t open lines of
communication or sanctions or whatever with Iran.   I’m saying that this
article establishes a false pretense (green revolution is a fake
revolution staged by western media) in order to present Obama’s
foreign policy as wrong or deceitful or harmful.

I, too, would love to revel in a new regime in Iran that is conducive to more humane and democratic principles.  Alas, the people are going to have to decide if they want the discriminatory tenets of the Koran to have precedence over a fair and just society.  Until they reach that point of committment to egalitarianism over prejudicial religious rules, all the protests in the world will not change their state.  In comparison to my daughter’s take on all of this, I might be considered a cynic.  Not true.  However, my years on this earth have hardened me a bit more than the almost 30 years that Maribel has been aboard.  Some might call this bent of mine pragmatism, but you know how much I hate that word: pragmatism is taking what you can get instead of getting what is right and necessary.

All in all, it pleases me to see Mirabel reach outside of her own world and have strong feelings for what goes on in the global community.  Her outrage is wonderful and while somewhat wrapped up in a degree of naiveté, is absolutely necessary for hope to thrive and change to occur.  I am inclined to favor Mirabel’s assessment that there is real change fomenting in Iran and that her idealism is based on a groundswell of rage in Iran.  My age and experience tell me though, that the unrest has to go a lot deeper and be more than just a few unhappy fringe groups before the people are truly willing to make and accept a new revolution.   Time will tell whether this “movement” in Iran is a protest in response to a few terrible events, or if is is a true revolution that will shake the very core of the country.

I hope Maribel is right.

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2 Responses to “The Nexus of Naivete”

  1. artemesia Says:

    yo, mama,
    you have a way to go until you understand the Iranian people and culture.
    NO, the Iranian people are NOT particularly religious, contrary to your assertion — where did you get that impression?
    NO, the Iranian government is NOT a theocracy, it is a rather unique blend of Islamic principles which inform political decisions, functioning in a deliberately complex system of political organization. The deliberate complexity is attributable to the numerous times Iran’s government was overthrown by outside forces.

    You indicate no comprehension at all of the challenge Iran faces from its very geography. What do you know about Iran’s terrain, climate, demographic patterns?

    Are you aware that Iranians are culturally Persian before (and for far longer) than they are Islamic? Persian culture celebrates poetry, literature, beauty, and love of life.

    Your writing is copious, but it is ill-informed. Therefore, it is dangerous, particularly as you are advocating revolution in a culture that you manifestly know little about.

    • yomamaforobama Says:

      I might not understand totally the complexity of Iran, but I do appreciate what has been reported.

      First, have a look at this article, written right after the 2009 elections and following unrest:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/world/middleeast/08clerics.html

      Pay special attention to this paragraph:

      Most telling, and arguably most damning, is that many influential religious leaders have not spoken out in support of the beleaguered president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Indeed, even among those who traditionally have supported the government, many have remained quiet or even offered faint but unmistakable criticisms.

      Also, Wikipedia, in the second paragraph, calls the government of Iran a “theocratic constitution.” If the ultimate say of government resides with the clerics, and clearly Ahmadinejad is beholden to the supreme ayatollahs, it is a theocracy. If the Koran principles supercede the constitutional articles, it is a theocracy. This fact in no way mitigates the enlightenment of centuries of advanced Persian accomplishments. However, you cannot logically refute that current-day Iran is a theocracy based on its past. It is what it is today, and that is a theocracy.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_Revolution

      Of course I appreciate the long-standing history of Iran: their advanced culture, their isolating geography and their pursuit of freedom. However, their dedication to the harsh interpretation of the tenets of the Koran is not compatible with their desire for equal civil freedom. Something has to give. The Irani people are in a pickle: they support a government based on the strictest interpretation of the Koran, yet want their freedom and justice which contradicts their strict take on the Koran.

      My writing is not as ill-informed as you think. Perhaps you should do more reading yourself.

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