Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Akbar Ganji at Stanford

During this Sunday's talk at Stanford University, Akbar Ganji devoted a lot of time pointing out the differences between his views and those of his ideological rival Saiid Hajjarian. The audience, some of whom hadn’t even heard of Hajjarian, perhaps wondered at this premature electioneering. Highlighting this impression of candidacy was Ganji’s clean shaven face. It seems he now knows his revolutionary stubble was too Islamic fundamentalist, so he has adopted a less religious public image. Ganji’s gradual transformation from dissident intellectual to politician is a positive development for Iran as a nation. With his proven track record of courage, sacrifice and shrewd politicking Ganji may turn out to be Iran’s first charismatic force for democracy since Mohammad Mossadegh.

He almost said so himself. It is not true, Ganji declared, that the age of heroes is behind us. He insisted that even enlightened democratic movements need role models of courage and leadership. Looking around at Iran’s political landscape there is no one else Ganji could possibly nominate to this hero role but himself. With his death defying 56 day hunger strike, Ganji stood toe to toe with the most powerful elements of the Islamic regime and delivered them a huge moral defeat.

Unlike Mossadegh, however, Ganji is methodical in his approach to politics. His thinking incorporates many lessons from history, and he seems to have digested voluminous amounts of historical facts and social theories to help him avoid mistakes. Also, he seems less intransigent than Mossadegh. Several times during his Stanford talk Ganji mentioned the term “bedeh bestoon,” give and take. Unfortunately Ganji’s English interpreter, the distinguished Dr. Abbas Milani, chose to translate this term as “bickering,” which implies a trivial or impetuous arguing. This interpretation does not give credit to Ganji’s subtle bargaining mind, something Mossadegh could have used more of in his dealings with the British. Ganji seems aware that the power of Iran’s Islamic regime is not a castle in the air; there is a social basis for this power that must be respected as a reality and bargained with.

For the forces of democracy to be able to bargain from a position of strength, first they must demonstrate their political power. Here, Ganji advocates civil disobedience, openly ignoring and deliberately violating unjust laws. He calculates that the regime will then attempt to exact a price on this disobedience. The higher the price we are willing to pay, the more power we can buy. Simply put, Ganji’s recommended strategy for democracy in Iran is to purchase power with courage.

Will the strategy succeed? Judging from Ganji’s statements I don’t think he is so sure himself. He pointed out that tens of centuries of despotic rule in Iran must in some way reflect the mentality of the Iranian masses. Though he relies heavily on political science and social philosophy as tools of analysis, Ganji gave us no data as to why he thinks this mentality may have changed. Here’s where Mossadegh has the edge over Ganji. Mossadegh believed in his ability to inspire his followers, Ganji merely believes in the lessons of history as laid out by Western thinkers. To become the new Mossadegh, Ganji must complete one more step in his transition from intellectual to politician. He must reverse engineer the ideas of his Western mentors Karl Popper, Jurgen Habermas, etc, into a uniquely Iranian format, then begin speaking his mind in the creative and inspiring slang of the Iranian political ethos.


Anonymous said...

We will have every Hizbollah women fucked by dogs.
We will send Phallus of ours into ass of All priests muslems.
We will have Khamenei and Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad and Khatami and Akbar Ganji fucked by a great penis Of donkey and whale .
We will fuck all foreign government which help mullah.
کیر سگ تو کس ننه سید اولاد پیغمبر و کس ننه خود پیامبر اسلام.
کیر خوک تو کس ننه امام حسین.
کیر خر تو کس ننه شیعیان.
صلوات: الله و کیر خر تو کس ننه محمد و آل محمد.
This is a beautiful cultural message for you.

Ari Siletz said...

In reply to anonymous who said, “This is a beautiful cultural message for you.”

What you have sent this website is certainly a cultural message, though it is up to the reader to decide whether it is beautiful or not.

Your use of the mullahs’ sermon style to deliver an anti-Islamic message may seem clever at first, but it is by no means original. Even contains at least one version that I know of. I will not cite the exact link out of respect for the Muslim community. Yet I am sure you are aware of other diatribes, much cleverer than yours, that illustrate Iran’s brilliant anti-religious literary tradition. Your use of the menagerie of familiar animals in your “sermon” is hackneyed, except for the whale—and only because I appreciate the reference to Iran’s long lost seafaring culture. As a writer I must comment that I find your phrasing and rhythm awkward, especially in the first line of the Persian selection. It seems to me you have allowed your annoyance with the Islamic Republic to diminish your poetic aesthetics. In the mind of some Iranians this is more offensive than the content of your message.

On the political front, your desire to dislodge Iran’s Islamic regime has energy but lacks a logical focus. I admire Mr. Ganji--despite his early ties with the Islamic Republic--precisely because I sense reason to his methods. His hunger strike was an appeal to emotion, but it came from a rational understanding of the actions that such emotions can motivate. In a culture where martyrdom has high value, risking death by hunger accrues leadership points. In my Machiavellian moments I wonder if Mr. Ganji should have risked death by dehydration instead, as this invokes the legend of Imam Hussein’s martyrdom. Mr. Ganji wisely avoided this tactic because dehydration would kill him before the regime could figure out that dissidents should not be allowed to die of thirst.

Though I disapprove of your scorn for the feelings of the world’s substantial Muslim population, I share some of your frustrations regarding the Islamic Republic’s behavior towards Iran’s citizenry—see my post:

I encourage you to seek constructive outlets for your political rage—Mr. Ganji recommends civil disobedience--and I discourage indulging your anger in ways that are harmful to the reputation of Iranians as rational actors. However, if you insist on vulgarity, I suggest you do it more creatively. Study Iraj Mirza and Obeid Zakani. At your current level of skill with the Persian language, you stand little chance against the formidable oratory that the Mullah’s are capable of. For your enlightnemnet here’s a “beautiful cultural” example of mullah talent:

Ari Siletz

Anonymous said...

اون بی شرف خری که به محمد و آل محمد فحش داده میگم خاک تو سر نفهمت احمق