July 28, 2007

Ethics - 1st Approach - Part A

A friend, who seems to have had a good grasp of philosophy (at least as a student), posted something about Nietzsche and Plato, and the way they think of morality in the society, so to speak, "Priority of Nobles over Slaves". I asked him why and how he got convinced of such a thing, and he posted some explanation of the idea.
For the last 2 days, I was thinking of a new idea to write about. Um.... how is a simple discussion about the above subject? this post, and probably few later posts, will be dedicated to this matter. then, if you are eager to follow the debate, read his 2 posts before you continue: his 1st post, his 2nd post.
As you (and I) well know, too many philosophers and intellectuals have discussed such matters throughout history, and a very extensive body of science does exist about such debates. Here, I just want to forget every other possible resource which may help me oppose my friend, and give my mind a workout!
I think that one may criticize your idea in 3 ways:
1- Behavioral approach: there are differences between humans and animals, with regards to their behaviors. Such differences make it necessary for them to have different order and rules in their societies.
2- Causal approach: why such moralities did happen to exist? How were they created? Was it just the claim of slaves, or even nobles might have some benefits in such a moral system? This may give us another hint. Yeah, throughout history, strong and weak people came to understand that they should agree on some rules for the society, because this trade-off would make more opportunities for each one.
3- Historical approach: this method may be somehow similar to what I propose in 2nd approach, but I prefer to pay a special attention to it. Suppose that right now, we remove any morality from the earth, and let each man/woman do what he/she can/please. Again, after a while, rationality of human kinds will lead them to agree on some basis/rules for the society, which can be called a Moral System.
Within those 3 approaches, I think the 3rd one is the strongest. But, in this post, I will follow the 1st approach, and just half of it: to show what those differences are.
Let me begin with the very basis of your claim: "the law of nature". If we suppose that the Mother Nature is the sole source of inspiration, then one might ask why you do follow its rules just every other time? I mean, why do you get inspired by Mother Nature just when you find these natural rules conforming to your pre-determined theories, and leave them when they come to oppose your idea?

Do you want any example to show this flaw in your debate? Here is my example:

Deers would never ask Lions to follow 'Animal Rights'. Lions, when feeling hungry, go and kill one or more deers and, yeah, devour their flesh in a family party. On the other hand, you can hardly find a normal Lion which kills Deers just for it feels more powerful. You know, when Lions are full, they and Deers may go to the same lake/spring to drink water. I remember from those "Wild Life Shows" that in this case, Deers may even get close to Lions, for they know that just hungry Lions would attack them.

you may come with this idea that Lions don’t root Deers out, for they want Deers to still stay on the earth, reproduce, and provide Lions and their next generations with enough food.

Here I pose my main argument: Humans behave in a very different way than Animal. Many things and acts they (humans) do, just never would enter the mind of an Animal. For example, in Human's history, we can find too many events to show that when a man feels powerful, he may kill too many others just for his joy.

There are other things, which we can never find even one of them within animals: very often we see wealthy people who enjoy seeing poor sweating for just a piece of bread, and make it harder for them to get that piece of bread just to enjoy more.

Consider the rate of Suicides in every society. Is it something Normal & Natural, in accordance with the laws of Mother Nature? Do you know any other species in the earth which commits suicide when it comes to feel highly depressed? What causes some people to commit suicide? Isn’t it sometimes the behavior of more powerful people?

If you think that my clarification of the differences between humans and other species (I mean: in their behaviors) is still foggy, let me know, and I will try to make a better explanation, with more examples and evidences.

But if you approve of these differences, I will go a step further and try to say why such differences make me to believe that there should be differences between them in the context of social order and rules.

My semi-final-conclusion:
If People are naturally different from Animals (which I think it is so), then the rules governing each one's society should be different.

July 23, 2007

Anti-Semitism vs. Anti-Zionism

As you well know, there is not a good attitude to Israel within Muslim societies. Here I don’t want to enter this debate, explore the roots of the problem or propose any solution; but I want to focus my attention on something which came to me as a surprise.

I used to believe that all of those Muslim analysts, who oppose Zionism, don’t offend Jews as a whole (i.e. are not anti-Semitic). Now I'm not that sure of this idea. You may want to know why; if so, follow this post.

Since about 7 years ago, by the beginning of my university studies, I was obsessed with Mideast conflict. Reading the articles and analysis of both sides (if we assume that there are only two sides in this conflict, which may be rather simplistic) and following the news, was part of my routine program. You know, there are too many groups in Iran (mostly, if not wholly, related to hardliners) which are bonded to this subject, and I have attended some of their seminars, meetings and workshops.

As said above, most of the anti-Zionist analysts (either in Iran or else) claim that they respect Jews, but the only thing they can never stand is Zionism. Yeah, it may be possible in theory, for we see even some Jews (some orthodox ones) who oppose Zionism. (Again, this is not my aim to judge if they are sincere, if such a thing is rational, etc).

Meeting some of these so-called Iranian anti-Zionist analysts helped me get a better grasp of their actual beliefs. Yeah, one may refuse to state his innermost feelings and thoughts in a public seminar, for reports and reporters may make many problems. Then when you get into the depth of his mind, you may find something completely different from what gets out of his mouth. Without referring to any special figure or case (for it may make problems), now I think that anti-Semitism is in the root of some of these anti-Zionism movements.

How can we find such an argument in their statements? It's not that complicated. Though they first claim that 'respectable Jews also do exist' and divide Jews as being 'bad' or 'good' (a completely black and white view indeed), after a while they (either implicitly or explicitly) state that 'if a Jew is a True Jew, he/she is bad'. Believe it or not, I saw some of them who even try to find a historical pattern of conspiracy done by (true) Jews to eliminate Islam. This kind of conspiracy theory is what I call anti-Semitism.

July 19, 2007

Tourist Friendly City

Isfahan is one of the most attractive cities in Iran. Almost all those who enter this country to take a visit from historical sites, spend at least few days in Isfahan.
In addition to its rich history, a river called ZayandehRood contributes a lot to this city's beauty.
But an important feature of a modern city is missing in Isfahan: it is not tourist friendly.
What do I mean by being (or: not being) 'tourist friendly'? I mean:
1- If you get lost in this city, you can hardly find English speaking fellow who might help you.
2- There are not enough restrooms, etc.
3- Detailed maps of the city: what a dream!
4- Not enough English signs in the streets or bazaars to help you find your way.
& etc.
Yeah! Those who visit the city as a tour and have tour-guide may enjoy the trip, but the problem is that indeed a relatively good proportion of these tourists are backpackers: they do not hire tour-guides because it may cost them a lot.
Then, what is the solution?
Very simple: a NGO may be very useful in this case. Suppose that an organization is established in order to register boys and girls who know English enough to serve as a free-tour-guide, and then introduce them to tourists who come here. This way, youth may have a good opportunity to practice English, while tourists may visit some hidden beauties of the city free-of-charge!

July 15, 2007

"a photo never lies"

ah, yes, if a photo is not manipulated using photo-editing tools, that will show a piece of truth; but the problem is that you can't be sure that it will be 'all the truth'.
in addition, you may fail to get a true meaning of that pic, specially if the pic is taken in a way to obscure some part(s) of the facts on the ground.

look at this photo:

this photo was given in a comment to an article on Guardian website. it shows Khatami (ex-reformist-president of Iran) while watching an agent torturing a possibly political prisoner.

dont go so far: neither pic is manipulated nor was Khatami so cruel.
the pic is taken in an exhibition: a former prison of Shah regime was changed to a museum, and some statues of Shah's Agents and also some prisoners were added to show what was used to happen in those prisons. look at this image which shows the officer and prisonor (both statues, not real ones):

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this is what one may assume as an illusion!

July 8, 2007

Women's Rights and Islamic Laws

Nowadays there is a strong voice in Muslim societies, among them Iran, which claims reinterpreting Islamic laws in favor of women's rights.
But the question is that which Islamic laws may be reinterpreted to which extent? In other words, is a modern understanding of Islam able to enforce equality conforming to international norms and standards?
Briefly: Can Islam bear such reforms and still preserve its known identity as being Islam?
Recently, Iran's leader was quoted as saying "Some issues about women, which exist in religious jurisprudence, are not the final say. It is possible to interpret new points through research by a skillful jurist". This quote may truly reflect the fact that this attitude not only exists between Women's Rights Activists, but also enjoys the support of some Ayatollahs in Iran, especially those who try to make Islam more consistent with day to day life of a modern world.
This group of Ayatollahs claims that Islam would support such reforms, but how?
A brief description of the basis of such reforms form the point of Shiite is following. Firstly you will read a little about the way that an Ayatollah can state a Fatwa (religious decree), and then we will consider some of the issues related to women's rights.
There is an Arabic term in the glossary of Shiite, called 'Ijtehad'. This word is derived from 'Jahd' which means 'trying so hard'. Ijtehad officially means 'the process of deriving Islamic laws from original resources'; and these original resources are: Quran, Tradition (quotes and behaviors of Holy Prophet and Infallible Imams), Reason, Ejmaa (general agreement of all Mujtaheds about the same law).
Those who study in theological schools after some years (after passing some certain courses, including but not limited to: Arabic literature, Quran, History, etc) are recognized as Ayatollah which means that they are able to get into original resources and find God's decree in every case.
The important part of the story is that some kinds of Fatwa may change during the ages. For example, consider the case of chess. Old Ayatollahs would agree that chess is forbidden in Islam. But Ayatollah Khomeini (founder of Islamic revolution) stated a revolutionary Fatwa that "Shiites are allowed to play chess if chess is not considered generally as a mean of gambling and as long as they do not bet on chess".
This fatwa was a very important one: there are some quotes of Infallible Imams which state explicitly that 'chess is forbidden', But Ayatollah Khomeini concluded that though there is such an explicit ban on chess in Tradition, it is Gambling which is forbidden not chess itself.
Now, let's consider the case of inequality between Men and Women in financial issues of which Islam seems to be approving.
We have some verses in Quran which explicitly state that 'woman should inherit half of a man' or 'money paid to the (family of a) male victim is 2 times of a female victim'. But some Mujtaheds today believe that this belongs to the time in which Woman was used to staying at home, and the only element of family which was economically active and had to be the only breadwinner was Man. In such a system, a Man is worth 2 times of a Woman and his loss would press the economy of family (and society) 2 times of a woman's loss. Then, some Ayatollahs conclude that it is the financial values and responsibilities of the person which determines the rate of inheritance or blood money, not the gender.
Finally, in a modern life that man and woman work together and share the expenses of the family, also both of them are active workers or business doers in the society, the decree may change: man and woman may inherit equally, and the money paid to the family of a victim will be fixed whether that is he or she.

July 4, 2007

Will Iran and US begin a war?

few weeks ago, a very good friend on Facebook asked of my opinion about a possible war between Iran and US. here is her message and my response (with few edits in both letters):


I keep hearing all the time that people in America are so worried that Iran will one day bomb them. Why do Iranians hate Americans? Although I probably know the answer, it is because Americans are invading Iraq and ruining the country....
yesterday, I was reading some quotes of Ernest Hemingway, and one of them best applies to this case:
"War is no longer made by simply analysed economic forces if it ever was. War is made or planned now by individual men, demagogues and dictators who play on the patriotism of their people to mislead them into a belief in the great fallacy of war when all their vaunted reforms have failed to satisfy the people they misrule."
if your compatriot, Ernest, were still alive, he would be much excited to see how his prediction came true in this case...!
America's invasion and Iraq's story had 2 lessons for Iranians, 1 for the people and 1 for the regime:
I) for the people: US would not care about the country and its natural resources or infrastructures or even the society's future, when it decides to attack.
II) for the regime: Vietnam's story would never happen again; if US decides to attack, it will change the regime for sure, no matter how much it may cost.
add following facts to the above lessons:
1) Iranians don't hate Americans, or at least I feel so.
2) Extermists would bomb/attack America, if they could. (note: in this case, Time goes in favour of US, because my country's problems weakens extermists more and more, day in, day out, espicially when we consider future UN sanctions. nowadays, more people ask Ahamadinead to do something for inflation, unemployment, etc. and give up on other things, and the number of this group is on rise).
3) There is a very wide spectrum of ideas about Iraqis' current situaion. some even say that Iraqis had to be punished for the crimes they did against us during 8-years-of-war. from this point of view, US was the hand of God, though somehow a dirty hand!
4) look at recent direct-talks between Iran and US in Iraq. following the news, I felt that Iranian politicians were more thirsty for these talks!
5) moderate groups will win next presidential elections in Iran, godwilling.
6) it seems that Democrats in your country are more likely to enter the house. true?
7) Iran knows that no country would help it in the case of a possible US attack.
8) Iran's regime makes a massive propaganda about its military capabilities, but most of the people doubt it seriously. and a pre-emptive attack can stop any kind of possible attack on Israel or other local interests of US by Iran. Iran is not that strong.
when I try to consider above lessons and facts together, I come to believe that Iran would never enter a war. this is the only rational conclusion of these facts on the ground.
'never underestimate the power of idiots, espicially when they come as a group'!an idiot may never think of rationality, and 2 idiots together can do their best to destory a whole world. this is what I am afraid of, not facts, truths, or Americans.
Take care