Sometimes I try to imagine what our old heroes would say if they were to see millions of young men and women dressed in the latest fashion, equipped with top-of-the-line cell phones and cameras, march and chant in streets of Iran knowing that the brutal police and Basij forces, not impressed with their fancy outfits or even their fancy demands of “human rights,” would crush them pitilessly.
They would very likely be as puzzled as many of us are today. Our analysts, being used to complex classical formulas for social movements, have a hard time fitting this particular one into any pattern known to them. Class struggle is missing; economic incentive is missing; and so is even any ideological motif. One can add as the main source of the problem the absence of any category of virtues packed together and often used interchangeably as rationality, practicality, objectivity, pragmatism, or finally, realism as opposed to idealism which is associated with impracticality and irrationality
I do not intend to discuss the validity of such categories. Nor, would I even want to challenge those who equate idealism with irrationality, since they are simply wrong.
Surely it is not hard to notice that practicality is missing in the movement. No one can foresee that one day the Islamic Republic would give in to opposition forces who do not even posses regular conventional arms, and even if they are given any, not only are they incapable of using them, but they are ideologically, philosophically, socially and morally all vehemently against such practices. Moreover, how could anyone think that it is practical to win over the army of millions just by walking in the streets with fingers signaling V for victory? I assume that no victory was ever achieved in this fashion for Iran to follow.
Consequently, pragmatism is missing as well as rationality, of course by a narrow definition given by economical science, meaning choosing the easiest and the most accessible way to reach the desired end. Of course in this case, the goal itself seems to fluctuate as the event progresses, and the participants seem to enjoy their “participation” more than what it actually accomplishes.
Obviously the movement does not enjoy the support of history either. Not only has no similar pattern ever existed, but historical explanation has not yet come up with any theory to explain such a movement. Class struggle, more than anything else fails in this regard. I’m sure at this point our leftist friends are racking their brains to squeeze our Green friends into one of the classes allowed by their gurus, though so far nothing has come of it.
However, as we all have noticed, our young friends in the streets of Iran are marching with such a high spirit and such determination, with their happy and hopeful faces, that even the officials of the Islamic Republic do not know what to make of it. And even the police’s brutal suppression not only has been unable to douse their enthusiasm, but it has made them even more unwavering in their demands. Moreover, the movement is progressing at such an unexpected rate that analysts are wondering to what they should attribute such success. Even five months ago we could not imagine being where we are right now.
The success of the movement which earns the applaud of friends and foes alike, coupled with the feeling of “naiveté” associated with it seems tend to create a paradox, like most of Iranian political life. When few months ago, in reaction to one of the most violent scenes in street of Tehran, I commented “What should we do with these savages?” my friend, Alireza Darvish, responded “We should tame them.” And during the hunger strike in New York City, Shahrnoosh Parsipoor, the acclaimed Iranian writer, criticized the slogan “death to….” and said “Is it not enough to say shame on…” instead? Obviously it is only a poet who thinks of taming the savage and it is another one to object to violence, even figuratively speaking.
Oddly enough, the above-mentioned reactions are not just unique to these two who happened to be artists. This is a general mood in the country, which has lent its spirit to a movement with a non-violent and peaceful character. Of course, this degree of non-violence in a movement is not expected from a country that is sandwiched between neighboring countries that have harbored all sorts of terrorist groups, and has been run for three decade by a regime that is itself a strong supporter of terrorism.
Indeed, it is not only our young combatants, armed with their mobiles, cameras and green wrist bands wrestling with the armed forces of Islamic Republic, who appear naïve; the same could be said about our ex-patriots abroad who want to take the Islamic Republic to the International Court of Hague knowing full well that Iran has not signed the treaties with the Court in that regard.
But with a little attention, we would notice that only those obsessed with what we call reality see naiveté in this movement, those that are seeing only what exists and are oblivious to what does not exist, unaware of its forces, and unimpressed by its attractions. It is only the adherence to a brute pragmatism that does not hear the impatient cry of what has to come, and what ought to be created, and even worse the magic of the desired one. And here are the lovers of ideal who seek the the coming of those perfect beings that are like nothing on earth, pure beauty, and pure goodness, an end in themselves even if their like has never existed, even if they are formed only in minds and the hearts of those who seek them, something like freedom.
At the dawn of Islam, when the realism, rationalism, pragmatism of Islam were hatching in proximity of our land, the voice of Mansour Hallaj echoed in the market place of Baghdad running out (more likely nude) from bath and screaming “I’m God, I’m God.” Centuries later, when Islam saturated Iranian life and its reality became almost undeniable, another Sufi master wrote, “Let’s cut through the sky and design a new world there.” I do not know if any of these two Sufi masters were worried about reality, rationality, and pragmatism.
Crazy as it may sound, today after fourteen centuries passed, many rulers have come and gone, all equipped with tangible tools, power, foresight, and every possible means to implement what they thought as doable and workable, only very few of them left an impression in our minds. But we still treasure every single one of those who outraged many by their fanciful idealistic world of looking into vacuum and nothingness in search of some unreality they thought ought to exits somewhere.
Centuries later, our youth, with eyes open, fed up and bored by the brutal reality around them, by all those repetitive facts and figures which have imposed their unwanted existence on them, want to take refuge in the infinite, unlimited, perfect and beautiful world of the ideal which they can form to their hearts’ desire. They are fed up by the cold reality of chains, locks and prisons, by the unbearable lightness of what is just there. They are seeking the beauty of what ought to be there, the ideal that is waiting to be born. They are ready to draw a new design in the vast sky, smiling, shining, bright and promising. They are seeking an ideal they have no experience of, something that may not even have existed anywhere in the world, but so much the better, then it is guaranteed that it is perfect, just unique to itself. So far, they have called it democracy and who knows, they may even want to change it to something else. After all, it is the world of the ideal; and they are the artists and artisan, and the sky is their limit