In the Iranian realm of sham Political Islam wheeling and dealing, nothing is what it seems, nothing does what it is supposed to do. In this despotic network of kleptocrats, the citizens are taken for useful idiots and face life with fatalistic apathy. People keep getting royally and religiously screwed and lied to one way or another, on pay, jobs, prices, justice, security, health… but they cannot be bothered to come together – finding excuses for immobilism is part of one’s upbringing – to shout in one voice: Enough is enough!
As long as a little favour from the despots softens lives for a fleeting moment, as long as a little money can be earned – whether through begging, corruption or theft – the Islamic Republic is there to stay. The colossal abyss in healthy political thoughts, the inability to organise efficient opposition, and the lack of collective initiatives for betterment outside of reactionary beliefs are the strongest proof of the fatalistic apathy in the society.
The prevailing phallocentricity of Political Islam, which runs deep in countries that oppress their people with tailor-made sharia, serves the self-interests of the autocrats by wiping out half the population, women, from social activities and responsibilities. In Iran, phallocentrism is a wrapper for the thirst for power and acquisitiveness.
Social violence, corruption, political stagnation and cultural massacre have been with us so many decades that they are now part of our being. The sense of moving forward, progress, change, development, improvement, or any other concept of this kind, has no meaning any more.
One can totally disconnect from the flow of information related to Iran. Then, after a lengthy period, one reconnects to it only to find the same plights, muddles, gloating and blabbers. Without a hint of new ideas, the public figures peddle stereotypical views and myths when they do not fuel conspiracy theories and xenophobic nationalism.
The intellectual stagnation has crippled the society and culture.
The Iranian authorities sing their own praises. Despite ruling with crass mismanagement and terrible blunders, they feel superior to all other governments. They eagerly talk about confronting the world and being victorious on all accounts.
Thinking differently and expressing one’s thoughts are Haram / forbidden for the useful idiots, the citizens.
The lengthy rule of the ayatollahs in Iran cannot be solely attributed to their slaughters and merciless hangmen. The conscious approbation – or worse, unconscious endorsement and nurtured ignorance – of the population is essential for the despots to stay in power.
Brainwashing, Censorship and Propaganda
From a series of articles, Forty Years of the Revolution 79, a dossier published by Deutsche Welle-Farsi, one can perceive the myriad impediments to achieving the necessary changes for betterment. They certainly bear witness to the fatalistic apathy encapsulating the Iranian society, which jeopardises any potential effort to overcome the challenges.
Reading meticulously through the articles, one perceives the questions that should have been asked but were not. And the questions addressed need far more complete answers than those offered. The articles have the merit of being the embryos in understanding our social fabrics.
One question nags behind our thoughts: Do we approve – not to say admire – the leadership of despots and charlatans because we despise the power of thought and reason so profoundly?
Outside Iran, there are strong signs that the diaspora’s analyses go beyond the Manichaean view of vilifying the Islamic regime and commending the population. Still, self-censorship and reticence to make a healthy observation of the population’s mentality prevail in many analyses.
The silence on the criticism of the deep-rootedness of Political Islam in the Iranian culture is deafening. A self-imposed censorship, uglier than the official one since it endorses the latter, forbids people to speak out for fear of ostracism or retribution.
It is impossible to fulfil Iran’s international human rights obligations with the political structure of the Islamic Republic and the fatalistic apathy that runs in the population. Thus, the civil society has not responded adequately to human rights violations. They do not know how to go about it.
The universal human rights are not taught and discussed in schools, but hatred, misogyny, denunciation and xenophobia are instilled in formal religious classes, and informal remarks. At school, perverted history classes and carefully tailored literature texts fit the propaganda. Referring to a subject that may blemish the official narrative is purely suppressed.
Brainwashing and The Fatalistic Apathy
No one escapes brainwashing, not with the intensity with which the propaganda machines have been grinding at for decades. Especially when the regime propagandists do their utmost to kill the desire to learn more and differently from the Islamic propaganda, in which worldly and spiritual pressures are used as lethal weapons.
Unfortunately, the Islamic censorship and propaganda have been efficient in providing these results. There is little desire left to explore new thoughts in politics and social affairs, and seek to learn more about them.
The goal of the education system, from kindergarten to university, is not to cultivate free thinking and raise free citizens for collective betterment, but to brainwash children with prejudiced beliefs that will make them in their adulthood the obedient servants of the system.
Far too often, the civil society’s reflex to repression and plight inflicted by the authorities is to look away, pretending nothing has happened as long as it affects unknown people. There is no domestic protest when an underaged person or an individual from a minority community is condemned to be hanged or left to rot in a cell.
There is no march in Tehran to side with the people in their home towns in Khouzestan or Sistan who are shot and badly beaten by the Pasdaran.
When unarmed Kurdish Kolbaran, traffickers in foreign consumer goods for which there is a large demand, are killed by the regime’s agents, no one sheds a tear or defrocks a mullah out of a sense of injustice.
Khozestanis are “Arabs”, Sistanis “Sunnits” and most of the Kolbaran “Kurds”. The xenophobic, jingoistic reflexes of the arrogant Persian-ism surfaces. Why bother about people socially below us?
Baha’is are persecuted? So what! Replied to me an MD established in Tehran.
Presently, the hangmen who have history of serious human rights abuses hold high political positions. The Islamic Republic’s cynicism at its height includes nominating the executioner Ebrahim Raisi as president and Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, a misogynist torturer, as chief justice.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has buried the pretence of free election, while dressing them up with rhetoric and false results. The Republic, even if it has always been a meaningless word, is dropped. Iran is in the nude: Islamic Iran is what should be rightfully called now.
Raisi took pride in executing thousands in 1988. On the issue of cutting the hands off of petty thieves, a common condemnation in the Islamic Republic, he declared: The amputation of thieves’ hands is based on divine limits, and these divine limits are one of our greatest honours.
In the days before the last rigged presidential elections, a call to boycott them was voiced. It was only another flash in the pan, the modus vivendi of the Iranian politics. A couple of days after the voting, people minded their own business as if nothing had happened: “Inshallah, Dorost misheh! / God willing things will be all right!”
The civil society has internalised the Islam’s idiom enjoining good and forbidding wrong, امر به معروف و نهی از منکر as an individual or collective duty.
Who decides what is good and what is wrong? In the name of Allah, the ayatollahs impose their own choices and encourage snitching, betrayal and ill-advice. Therefore, in the minds of people, no one is to be trusted. This plays into the hands of the regime’s informants, the creepy-crawlies that infect the society.
But, not only this. Any family member, employee, neighbour, or friend is a potential snitch in the name of Islam, ready to denounce someone for a little favour or revenging a petty grudge.
Khamenei endlessly repeated: We will clean the press, radio, television and cinemas from corruption. Everything must be in the service of Islam.
In fact, religious-style corruption is a deadlier illness than downright corruption. The present regime continues to make every effort to hide realities, including the scale of disasters (the latest being Covid-19), the environment and the economy.
The brainwashing has created a hateful nationalist discourse similar to the myth of True Muslim with the same false virtues: anyone corrupt is not Iranian, violence is not the path a True Muslim takes.
The ideology of Political Islam considers the truth to be its monopoly. Forty years of brainwashing and a miserable situation of education and teaching have paralysed minds and let the Islamist bureaucrats decide what is good for the culture and what should be banned since it can only spread corruption and prostitution if in contradiction to ayatollahs’ teachings.
Writers and artists have left Iran. Their works are published and honoured in the West. Those who have stayed endure unemployment, are subjected to ill-treatment or have been slain.
But their productions are little disseminated in Iran and their ideas shared only among a few insiders. Some works are reproduced in underground printing houses, and a number of smuggled books in Tehran are sold as if a handful of eager buyers are dealing in illegal drugs.
The disturbing factor of killing the voices of the artists is the lack of public outcry over this abuse of power.
There is a need to spread the words of our artists before the public’s fatalistic apathy and despotic censorship kills off what is left from literature and art.
Political Windsocks feeding Fatalistic Apathy
The fatalistic apathy, so characteristic of the Iranians, has always prevailed in history. The educated Iranians, civil society’s elite as opposed to the ignorant mob that easily responds to the regime’s propagandist call, have in common characteristics that make them, all together, social and political windsocks succumbing to corruption and clientelism.
Immobilism, wrongly branded “tradition”, or “cultural heritage”, is instinctive.
My uncles who took part in the 1953 events of the Mossadegh era, used to say: Those who chanted in the morning “Either death or Mossadegh”, in the afternoon were chanting “Long life to Shah”.
In one morning of 1978-9, the snooty courtesans and smart-set snobs in big cities were praising the Shah; in the afternoon they held banners which read Death to Shah, Independence, Freedom, Islamic Revolution.
The fact that R. Khomeini openly called for a religious system (Velayat-e Faqih) in which individual freedoms had no place was not taken seriously. What mattered to the educated elite was not Khomeini’s views on religious despotism, but his ability to mobilise the masses in the struggle against the Shah. Something they were unable to do themselves, lacking the comprehension of the essence of the diverse Iranian societies.
What would come later was of no interest: “Inshallah, Dorost misheh! / God willing things will be all right!”
The mobilisation of the population behind a common vision is a remote dream in present-day Iran.
In 2021, the educated elite suffer from the very same weakness of 1953 and 1978-9: a profound inability to work toward a consensual and long-term political vision. After so many years, the parochial mindsets have not budged. They still expect a messiah, another Khomeini perhaps, to materialise and render Iran a country of love, honey and butter.
For many, democracy should be served on a golden platter like tea /چای to enjoy without the bother of brewing it. If we want tea we have to do the job ourselves, starting by growing the plant. Only after a long process, we might be able to accommodate it to our tastes.
In the ballroom of the Islamic Republic we waltz with Ali Khamenei to the tune chosen by him. We automatically dance, yawning with bleary eyes, and the fatigue of fatalistic apathy. Breaking the rhythm needs more courage and skills than we muster. This will certainly not happen in the short term; not before we open our eyes to our weaknesses in reasoning and coherence.