Religious Crusaders, Freedom Fighters, and Businessmen · 1 October 2007

One of the last classes I took before graduating was a communications class called Intercultural Communications, it happens to be the the only comm class I’ve ever taken. The final project was to collaborate with a group of other classmates to write a paper on the culture of a specific people. On my encouragement we decided to write about Persian culture, now more commonly known as Iranian culture. I chose to research the people of Iran because I’m aware of the political tensions between the U.S. and Iran and I was curious how it related to cultural climates.

I have an aunt and uncle who have been teaching at international schools in Palestine and Saudia Arabia and who recently visited Iran. Their description of Iran mentioned a growing youth class increasingly interested in culture outside of Iran yet unable to push back against the authoritarian regime of their theocratic government. In researching the paper and watching an excellent BBC documentary on Iranian culture from earlier this year, I discovered much of the same.

Here you can find a pdf of the paper (I’ll make it plain text soon). I wrote the second part of the introduction, the closing paragraphs, and the history section. I make no claims on the quality or coherence of this paper – it was put together piecemeal by five students during summer quarter. Regardless, any attempt to get a glimpse of Iranian culture is undoubtedly extremely relevant right now within the often apathetic and complacent culture found on many college campuses across America. At the same time, protests and progressive movements of all varieties are often fueled by the youth of universities. Young American and Iranian populations alike seem to be more capable of progressive and open dialogue than most of their representatives in government. Clearly the rhetoric we hear now is frighteningly similar to the buildup to the war in Iraq and our blunders falling into Iraq are already frighteningly similar to the blunders falling into Vietnam. It seems the lack of understanding of recent history is making history repeat itself faster and faster. In case you don’t get through reading this full paper, I should at least mention one thing that I discovered when writing the history section that I was appalled to have never learned in over seventeen years of American public schools: Iran had a democratically elected government in the 1950’s, but the CIA overthrew this government because it was cutting off oil supplies to the U.S. and the U.K.. This is a publicly admitted fact that the Clinton administration even apologized for, yet some form of amnesia now leads many presidential candidates and obviously Bush to use militant language rather than open dialogue when talking about Iran. Just after writing this paper the September/October issue of Adbusters came out featuring this exact same predicament on its cover: “Iran vs. The United States of Amnesia”.

The senility of our government has continued with the U.S. Senate passing a resolution to officially label the government of Iran as a terrorist organization. Yesterday Iran responded by passing a resolution officially labeling the CIA as a terrorist organization. These actions demonstrate a serious lack of maturity and intelligence by both governments, especially since terrorism is commonly understood as something that occurs outside the purview of government. Terrorism-by-government is a misnomer, the language used to describe a government acting as a terrorist organization is: war, occupation, and authoritarianism. The government of Burma is an authoritarian military dictatorship. Al Qaeda, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Blackwater USA might be called terrorist organizations. However, many also call them religious crusaders, freedom fighters, and businessmen. It all depends on your cultural context.