Sunday, December 31, 2006
Let's back the Mateel Board
This has split the community practically down the middle, in almost Biblical fashion setting father against son, servant against, master, yada yada yada. I have good friends on both "sides" (actually, there have been more than two "sides" which has complicated things even more). And for me personally, the end result is sad. I know there are those who are more sanguine, but I really did hope that mediation could turn out a more unifying result.
I also believe that the Board exhausted every reasonable possibility before making this decision. And I know that it was very difficult for at least some of the Board members. But one thing everybody agreed upon even before the negotiations began - the relationship wasn't working. In some ways, it never has although the money was made and the bills were, until recently, paid. The Mateel had to make a decision that would benefit the center and the community as a whole. Prior boards had visited the possibility of a divorce, but had not acted upon it. Whatever you think of the wisdom thereof, this Board's decision was courageous. And I hope it was the correct one. In either case, it's done.
I'm encouraged by these threads and those at the Reggae forum. It appears that people who were "adversaries" are pulling together to make ROR 2007 work, regardless of their opinions of the recent controversies. And as harsh as some of the venting has been, it could be much worse (and may yet worsen).
I also want to echo a sentiment expressed in the threads below. I don't censor comments for the most part, and I understand the need for some to remain anonymous. My suggestion is that if you must remain anonymous, avoid personal attacks. It's one thing to express a controversial opinion for which you are afraid of social or other repercussions. It's quite another to snipe from the cover of anonymity.
In the meantime, I'm grateful for the efforts at unity which currently outweigh the venting. I hope this spirit holds.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Finding a left narrative on Iran
At minimum, progressives lose credibility. Where they're successful, they become instruments of oppression they'd never stand for in their own countries.
But I do understand the desire to avoid marching in cadence with the war drum beat, and the question becomes how to strike a balance between opposition to a war and support for transformation in the country in question. This blogger, Ali Eteraz, is making a serious attempt to reach such a balance with regard to Iran. He starts with seven points, and then in "part 2" suggests a program of which I'm not entirely in agreement. But the basic idea is sound.
One problem with the peace movement is that it tends to be so fixated on its own message, it fails to confront and deal with opposing views, sometimes unfortunately because activists have their own dogma and would just as soon avoid having to integrate any significant nuance into their perspective. Unfortunately, this often means their political opponents have free reign. Eteraz grabs the bull by the horns.
The Right has a narrative on Iran: bombs away. The Left has a critique of that position as enunciated by Unclaimed Territory. What the Left doesn't have is its own narrative on Iran. This is where I can be of help.I'm going to jump around as the article in its entirety is linked above. But the next salient point in my mind is that for its shallowness, the depth of the peace movement's analysis of Iran tends to be better than the opposition.
Point 1: The Right's information on Iran comes from very dubious sources. One of the foremost Right authorities on Iran is Amir Taheri, who, as a reader informed me, was once referred to as the Emissary of the Apparatus. This post also discuses how Taheri lied about a story about Iranian Jews being forced to wear yellow stars and even though Juan Cole called him on it he refused to recant.
Not only that, but Taheri has a history of misrepresentation. In his article written after Nejad's letter to the White House, Taheri stated that the Iranians leaked their letter after the White House's dismissive attitude, when, in fact, Wiki had a copy of the letter hours after Nejad wrote it. This was the first time I started becoming reticent about Taheri's work.
The Left's coverage of Iran has been immeasurably better and broader. In this post I looked at two case studies of discussions about Iran and found that both times the Right picked up a story about Iranian reformists and then dropped it, neither time questioning its bombs away strategy. Not only that, but it actually picked up the stories from the Left. As such, the Right overlooked the fact that there is a Velvet Revolution afoot in Iran (yes, we have been hearing that since 1996 but ten years is a very short time if you consider how long it took the Central Europeans to get out of Soviet control).Then we get to the key point. The peace movement ought to be alligned with the dissent in Iran, just as it should have been with the dissent in Iraq under Hussein.
Iran, domestically, and internationally, is rife with activists and dissidents who are well aware of the evils of the Theocrats and doing something about it. My point is showing this group is that people are doing something about Iran's evils without dropping bombs. In this post (scroll down) we heard about Amir Fakhravar who has written an important collection of writings called "The Prison Papers." In this post we saw an Iranian dissident publicizing a letter by a man whose mother was stoned to death. In this post we heard about Rahim Jahanbegloo, the Iranian Gandhi. In this post we saw an Iranian-American anti-stoning activist take the Iranian regime to task.On the other hand, it's not enough to argue that Iran should be allowed to determine its own history. The left has to be actively engaged with reform efforts, and not come across as isolationist or even as "appeasors.
Point 5: The most important point. Iranian dissidents do not need or want bombs backing their activism. In Der Speigel, Iranian nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi stated this very clearly...
The Left has to understand and promote the fact that there are ways for dealing with problems in Iran -- and that the Left does have to do something about these problems because when the Left remains silent the Right starts screaming for bombs. Email and letter writing campaigns like this one -- the kind of stuff that the Left excels in -- help get activists involved at the global level. In fact, when I launched that initiative, close to 90 different left blogs linked to it (and one Right one). It isn't just stoning where such pressure can be exacted. Working with Muslim and Persian ethnicity groups is another way for the Left to seek positive change in Iran. Working with Muslims will not immediately make you any less secular humanist; you can still make plenty of critiques of the perversions of religiosity in Iran. There are many opportunities for pro-active initiatives in Iran. For example, after an important cleric imposed a death fatwa on a journalist, we at Eteraz.org were able to write a pointed letter directed at the cleric. Why wasn't this picked up by the big boys on the Left? My guess is because the Left does not have a narrative on Iran.