Iran News ...


Eastern skepticism, Western optimism

By Hooman Moradmand

"... they've become cynics- as cynical a people as I have known in the decade I've spent writing about south Asia and the Middle East. " Christopher de Bellaigue writes about Iranians in his 'Happy new year from Tehran' in Guardian. He is not alone in describing Iranians in such a way though. Some even go further than that and brand the people of the whole region as conspiracy-minded. Bearing some elements of truth, however, things are not always as simple as describing people as what they seem to be.

Let's try to see things from a Middle Easterner's perspective. Would you be still trustful if your country's history for the past 100 years was a commonplace of bitter twists and your trust was betrayed by almost anyone? I doubt it. A good number of superficially nationalist governments in the Middle East, once stimulating nations, have turned out to be puppet regimes installed by CIA or British Intelligence Service. The odd part is that these secret services have kept opening their books after a certain period of time and admitting the installment of those governments. Therefore it would be rather natural, for people subject to those manipulations, to start seeing events through conspiracy glasses after a while. Ironically in certain cases, the secret services removed democratic or progressive governments only to put up suppressive regimes.

He further goes on to conclude his article on the particular case of the war in Iraq with this: "If these Iranians don't appreciate the importance of ideology to the US administration, it may be because their own was betrayed."

The fact is things are not simply a matter of betrayal per se. The American public could have been betrayed equally; however, the question of betrayal is often raised once you have failed and you look for root causes of your failure. You don't look under your hood as long as your engine runs well, so you won't most likely know if you are betrayed once you have succeeded. That's perhaps why fewer Americans share Michael Moore's views than Middle Easterners.

Having said it all, here is now a different question. Given the constant skepticism at the political issues in the region, how democracy is going to prevail in the Middle East or Iran? After all, no government can claim being democratic or legitimate if people's trust is taken away. If the population of a country goes doubtful, they will start voting by their feet and staying away from the polling booths. That could partially explain the dilemma of a struggling democracy in a country like Iran. After all democracy hinges on people's trust to some extent. And that's perhaps why USA, despite Michael Moore's comments on the Oscars night, is considered a democratic country: People trust their government no matter how "fictional" their elections are to the skeptical Mr. Moore.

Bottom line is the lack of democracy creates cynicism, and cynicism hampers the growth of democracy. On the other hand, democracy creates optimism, and optimism fosters democracy. It sounds like catch 22 on both ways, doesn't it?

About the author: Hooman lives in Canada. He writes easy going column-like essays on social and cultural matters. You can find some of his critical thoughts and observations in his web-based journal, called Hooman's Scribbles.

... Payvand News - 4/24/03 ... --

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