September 25, 2007

Evolution of Iran-America relations

While exploring a phenomenon, either social or political (with regards to the subject of this post), the researcher may have many different approaches available to study the subject. For example, one may try to find the set of the causes which shape the public opinions in either side; another person may try a SWOT analysis to predict the future; and a third researcher may focus on the possible butterfly effect of an unpredicted factor (like Ahmadinejad, whose election and acts were unpredicted, while he is still unpredictable because a simple pattern in his behavior is yet to be identified by either politicians or psychologists).
Monitoring the ordinary people in my society and exploring the contemporary history of Iran, one may find out that an evolution in the Iran-America relations is underway. The most important feature of this evolution is that it is happening in the side of people, not governments (unfortunately politicians rarely –if ever– have the necessary capabilities for an evolution).
Note: I don’t know much about Americans, but let me hope that the thing now ongoing in Iran is also happening in US.
If I were supposed to choose a name for this so-called evolution, I would name it: ‘towards a realistic understanding of the other side’.
This process in Iran might be completely different from US, with regards to various factors including but not limited to: sources of misunderstanding in each side, how much people are prepared to change their minds in different issues and give up on their false beliefs, how much regimes (and mainstream media which distorts almost every piece of news) let people understand each other, how many realistic resources of information are available to each side (including such cyber-exchanges which may provide a better source of information compared to their mainstream media counterparts), etc. One of such characteristic differences might be this: while most of the Iranians have a fair good grasp of natural resources of US, there are many Americans that even don’t know Iran has beautiful jungles and landscapes! Yeah, this may seem worthless, but I strongly believe that such small pieces form a big puzzle together. Also the pace of change might be different in each society; same things may be listed to justify this as well.
Enough theory; where is evidence? Let’s have a closer look at a revolutionary concept in post-revolutionary Iran and how it evolved throughout a period of about 3 decades: Hating America.


We (as Iranians) hate America, or at least we keep hearing everyday that we should hate it. “Why should we?” Immediately after revolution, even asking such a question might seem insulting to many people in Iran. Roksana Bahramitash, an Iranian scholar in Canada, gives the answer: “It was too early for many Iranians to forget the CIA-engineered coup of 1953, which returned the Shah back to power.” That coup overthrew Mossadeq, who nationalized Iran’s oil industry and is still regarded by many (except some hardliners) as a national hero. Some years after the end of Iran-Iraq war, due to entrance of many youngsters who has no direct experience or even any idea of American tyranny (either real, or just perceived by elders), providing an answer to this question became more important.
Yeah, many books, articles, interviews, etc. were prepared to shed a light on the history of America’s interventions in Iran, either in pre-revolutionary Iran or in post-revolutionary Iran (in events like: provoking Saddam to attack Iran, supporting Saddam and letting him use WMD against Iranians as well as Iraqi Kurds, attacking an Iranian civil airplane and killing all its passengers by 2 missiles, etc.). The next question arose: “Whom exactly we should hate: Americans, this or that US Government, America’s political system, or America as a whole?”
The proper answer to this question at the early stages of revolution (if anybody had ever dared to ask) would be “America as a whole, including its citizens”, for the only Americans observed by Iranians were those engaged in Shah’s activities in Iran. But after about 15 years, an evolution had happened: the new generation would never accept the previously valid answer. Then, IRI propaganda machine excluded ‘Americans’ from the above answer and focused on American government and political system. This was because the new generation not only had a new perception of Americans (a common idea in that time which was the basis of new generation’s perception of US was this: every society has ‘good’ and ‘bad’ members), but also had found out that ‘people should not be held responsible for every single act of their governors’.
The latter was due to the experience of Iranians themselves: in a quasi-democratic situation, Iranians had to choose between limited options for different positions (like president, MPs, etc.); consequently they found out that though they choose A, they can’t be approving of all of his activities and behaviors as a whole. The Iranians’ experience of a quasi-democratic regime helped them understand how world works, and it was a step further toward ‘a more realistic understanding of the other side’.
Fortunately, the evolution didn’t stop. “We chose Ahmadinejad for he promised some economic reforms. Yes, we know that he is repeating his anti-holocaust rhetoric. He might be wrong in this case for we know that Jews suffered a lot in that damn war (and even there is a new serial in TV which narrates Jews’ problems in WWII), but we may choose him again if we find him successful in economy”. Some are contemplating: “if such a weird thing may happen in our country, it may also happen in other countries. That US president might be very hostile against us, but he might have been very good for his own people.”
There are enough signs to prove that this process won’t stop here. Free access to western media helped many people to understand why US (and westerners in general) may sometimes have every reason to be suspicious of Iran’s programs and acts: “when he says that ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’, then he says that ‘we need nuclear capability’, every reasonable creature might conclude that he needs it to do that! But I may still vote in his favor, because he has done many good things: building some new universities, providing the poor and needy with Justice Shares, fighting or firing some of mafia figures, etc.” Don’t you see this as another step towards a more realistic view?


Some may argue that such things happen mainly within intelligentsia and educated people. I do admit, with only one modification: ordinary people tend to pass the path left by intelligentsia. Many of these changes were not so common when they happened within intellectuals, but after a while, they became popular. ‘Time will solve all the problems’, albeit if and only if we let it.


Bradly Jones said...

You have quite a number of hard points here. thanks for sharing. Just wanted to ask, what are the differences between the Iranians that have been "Americanized" from the others. As a by stander, it is hard for me to believe that differences do not exist regarding views towards the US and it's allies. My cheap call to Iran keeps me in touch with my contacts but i still haven't found the courage to ask them what their views are on such topics. i guess it will be ok if i don't hesitate.

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