Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Azar Nafisi

Truths, universally acknowledged, that…

Note: Re-edit of ““It is a truth, universally acknowledged that…” November 28, 2012

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Muslim man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a 9 year-old virgin wife…”.

That’s how Nassrine started the discussion with the opening sentence of Jane Austen book “Pride and Prejudice”, a temptation that a reader is most likely to feel and rearrange….

Manna rejoined: “It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Muslim man will eventually displace his older wife for a fresh naive 16 year-old virgin…”

Azar Nafisi, an Iranian author, held Thursday’s sessions for 7 of her former students, discussing selected English fiction novels and keeping diaries.

What is your “truth, universally acknowledged….?”

Azin, who is in the process of divorcing her third husband, said: “Who is thinking about love these days? The islamic Republic of Iran has taken us back to Jane Austen’s blessed arranged marriages. Nowadays, girls marry either because of family pressures, or to get a green card, or to secure financial stability… And we are talking about educated girls, discussing English literature, and who have gone to college…”

Mahshed replied: “Many women are independent in Iran, and are business women and who have chosen to live alone…”

Manna retorted: “Most women don’t have a choice now. In previous periods, my mother could chose her husband and wearing the veil was optional…”

Nassrine said: “Temporary marriage contracts are all the rage. President Rafsanjani is encouraging these kinds of short-term marriage contracts… Many conservative clerics call these contracts a sanctified form of prostitution… A few progressive men are for these contracts, and I tell them that they should demand that this law gives women the same rights as men… Talk about hypocrisy!”

At the start of the 20th century, the age of marriage was changed to 13 and increased to 18.

In the 1960’s, there was little difference between the rights of both genders, and women were at a par with western democratic States standards in human rights.

As Khomeini grabbed power in 1979, and this totalitarian and theocratic regime came in the name of the Past, and individual freedom was banished… the first law was to repeal the Family-Protection law, which guaranteed women’s rights at home and at work.

The legal marriage age for women was lowered again to 9 year-old, sort of 8.5 lunar years… Adultery and prostitution were punished by stoning to death, and women were considered to have half the worth of men

And why this 9 year-old cut-off standard for marriageable girl?

Prophet Muhammad had officially married Aisha at the age of 9 but he didn’t have intercourse with Aicha until she was 13. They didn’t beget any children. Aicha was the most beloved of wives and the most educated. Aicha’s father was Abu Bakr, later to become the first Caliph of the Muslims.

This terribly jealous wife used to throw tantrums when exposed to injustices.

As Muhammad announced his desire to marry another wife (9 wives in total), Aicha shouted: “This God of yours has the habit of satisfying all your desires in verses…

Aicha was in charge of transcribing the verses during Muhammad’s bouts of epilepsy.

And the Muslim clerics want to emulate their prophets, particularly in lifestyle that pleases their pleasures and comfort…

Sanaz was to meet with her long-time preferred Iranian young man, accompanied by her family, across the border in Turkey: The beau was settled in England for the last 6 years and decided to give it a shot and get engaged with Sanaz. The discussion among the girls was on how to discover the compatibility attribute, after so many years of absence, before Sanaz agrees to get engaged.

Nassrine suggested that “The first thing you should do to test your compatibility is dance with him

This suggestion was a reminder of the “Dear Jane Society” idea of forming dance sessions: Teacher Azar had gathered the girl students after class following a lecture on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to dance in the style of Austen’s period (the Napoleonic age). But that is another story.

Note 1: The story is taken from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

Note 2: If interested in a biography of Aicha, check https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/aicha-la-bien-aime-du-prophet-by-genevieve-chauvel/

I’m lost: 8 characters described and presented in the first chapter…

The most interesting purpose in great novels is the complex description of the interactions among characters.

If even only 4 of the main characters are presented and thoroughly described in the first chapter, I am lost if they are not mentioned and refreshed in the successive chapters.

Just think of the number of interactions among only 4 characters: 6 interactions between 2 characters, 4 among three characters and one among all four characters…

Human brain is not able to keep all these interactions alive and refreshed at any moment: You need to keep written notes and refer to them every time a new interaction is happening… And this not fun and defeats the purpose of enjoying a fiction novel.

Unless a third of the interactions are “refreshed” in every single chapter, it is very difficult to keep track of the story and assimilate what the author is putting forth as controversial ideas, or tacit conspiratorial attitudes

Unless the novel is read in one setting…

Unless each chapter grabs you from the first sentence…

What if 8 characters are set forward in the first chapter? What can you do?

“Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi is not a novel.  It is a diary and memories of a period in this Islamic Republic of Iran.

Azar decided to set up weekly sessions for 8 of her former students in literature and discuss and keep diaries of the novels they read… The purpose was for the girls in this restrictive and theocratic regime to be affected by the independent minds of characters, particularly the female gender, their outlook to life, how it gelled perception about themselves, independently of external realities of the living…

I discovered the girls in the following chapters, as if their description in first chapter were redundant, since I forgot most of the description…

What saves this highly interesting book:

1. Chapters are self-contained

2. My good background knowledge and interest in Iran makes this book highly important

3. I read with Azar many novels that I didn’t read before, and enjoyed the in-depth characerizations of the heros and heroines

4. Azar studied in the same university in the USA: The univ. of Oklahoma at Norman…

5. I got to be acquainted with literature departments…

Now, you say that my rational premise of 4 main characters are one too many is just a hypothesis. It may be so. For the case of my simple mind, this is a fact.

In any case, I suggest to set up series of experiment to research my hypothesis.

The objectives are:

1. to discover the optimal number of main characters for the retention and emotional effects on a reader.

2. what is the better structure of the novel in order to maximize the personal effect of each character in the fiction story.

Experiment One:

For Group 1,

1. Select three characters and physically describe them accurately before writing a short story for each character.

2. Administer a questionnaire for comprehension and recollection of the characteristics of the person (physically and psychologically)

For Group 2,

1. Tell the stories of three characters first, and end the story with a thorough detailed description of the characters that were not included in the initial story version

2. Administer a questionnaire for comprehension and recollection of the characteristics of the person (physically and psychologically)

Experiment Two:

A month later, administer the same questionnaire to the two groups of people and analyze how well the characters were retained and recollected.

Experiment Three:

Repeat this experiment with 5 characters and then 7 characters

Experiment Four:

Repeat all these experiment using only pictures of the characters, no word physical description.

The experiments are simple. However, the quality of the stories and how the questionnaire is designed and well articulated, and what kinds of “data” are measured and captured… are the main difficulties that need to be ironed out and a lot of time invested in…

These experiments can be altered to extract the kinds of author’ styles that infuse the best impact.

For example, the stories of each character can be taken from different novels of the same author. The results will compare authors styles and additional pieces of information.

Obviously, the subjects in the experiments must be familiar with the connotations and exact meaning of each described attribute

Note: You may read one of my 11 reviews of “Reading Lolita in Tehran” http://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/reading-lolita-in-tehran-by-azar-nafisi-part-1/

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged that…”

“It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Moslem man, regardless of his fortune, must be in want of a 9 year-old virgin wife…”. That’s how Nassrine started the discussion with the opening sentence of Jane Austin book “Pride and Prejudice”, a temptation that a reader is most likely to feel and rearrange…

Azar Nafisi held Thursday’s sessions for 7 of her former students, discussing selected English fiction novels and keeping diaries.

Manna rejoined: “It is a truth, universally acknowledged that a Moslem man will eventually displace his older wife for a fresh naive 16 year-old virgin…”

What is your “truth, universally acknowledged….?”

Azin, who is in the process of divorcing her third husband, said: “Who is thinking about love these days? The islamic Republic of Iran has taken us back to Jane Austen’s blessed arranged marriages. Nowadays, girls marry either because of famiy pressures, or to get a green card, or to secure financial stability… And we are talking about educated girls, discussing English literature, and who have gone to college…”

Mahshed replied: “Many women are independent in Iran, and are business women and who have chosen to live alone…”

Manna retorted: “Most women don’r have a choice now. My mother could chose her husband and wearing the veil was optional…”

Nassrine said: “Temporary marriage contracts are all the rage. President Rafsanjani is encouraging these kinds of short-term marriage contracts… Many conservative clerics call these contracts a sanctified form of prostitution… A few progressive men are for these contracts, and I tell them that they should demand that this law gives women the same rights as men… Talk about hypocrisy!”

At the start of the 20th century, the age of marriage was changed to 13 and increased to 18. In the 1960’s, there was little difference between the rights of both genders, and women were at a par with western democratic States standards in human rights.

As Khomeini grabbed power in 1979, and this totalitarian and theocratic regime came in the name of the Past, and individual freedom was banished… the first law was to repeal the Family-Protection law, which guaranteed women’s rights at home and at work.

The legal marriage age for women was lowered again to 9 year-old, sort of 8.5 lunar years… Adultery and prostitution were punished by stoning to death, and women were considered to have half the worth of men

And why this 9 year-old cut-off standard?

Prophet Muhammad had officially married Aicha at the age of 9. Aicha’s father was Abu Bakr, later to become the first Calif of the Moslems.

Muhammad didn’t have intercourse with Aicha until she was 13, but they didn’t beget any children. Aicha was the most beloved of wives and the most educated.

This terribly jealous wife used to throw tantrums when exposed to injustices. As Muhammad announced his desire to marry another wife (9 in total), Aicha shouted: “This God of yours has the habit of satisfying all your desires in verses…

Aicha was in charge of transcribing the verses during Muhammad’s bouts of epilepsy.

And the Moslem clerics want to emulate their prophets, particularly in life-style that pleases their pleasures and comfort…

Sanaz was to meet with her long-time preferred Iranian young man, accompanied by her family, across the border in Turkey: The beau was settled in England for the last 6 years and decided to give it a shot and get engaged with Sanaz. The discussion among the girls was on how to discover the compatibility attribute, after so many years of absence, before Sanaz agrees to get engaged.

Nassrine suggested that “The first thing you should do to test your compatibility is dance with him

This suggestion was a reminder of the “Dear Jane Society” idea of forming dance sessions: Teacher Azar had gathered the girl students after class following a lecture on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to dance in the style of Austen’s period (the Napoleonic age). But that is another story.

Note 1: The story is taken from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

Note 2: If interested in a biography of Aicha, check https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/aicha-la-bien-aime-du-prophet-by-genevieve-chauvel/

Forget that there are colonizers and colonized? Just two sides at war in Gaza?
Ghassan Hage, professor at the Univ.of Melbourne Australia, wrote:
The good unbiased westerner just told me: “Forget that there are colonisers and colonised, what there really is are two sides”.
Forget that there are people losing their land and people stealing it. What we have are two people with different histories.
Forget that the Israelis have killed tens of thousands of Palestinians, while the Israelis killed by the Palestinians can be counted in the hundreds.
For what there really is are two people prone to violence.
Forget that in terms of actual capacity to cause violent destruction the Palestinians are to the Israelis what a single ant is to an Elephant.
For what is important is that both sides ought to show restraint.
The good unbiased westerner is adamant:
“We don’t want to talk about the fact that one side is filthy rich and technologically over-equipped while the other is getting poorer and poorer; Nor do we want to talk about injustice, dispossession, racism and apartheid, for this doesn’t allow us to see what is wrong with both sides…
For the most important thing that one should always remember is that both sides are sides.
And if both sides did not side, there would be no side.”

Is that one of the fucked up Aristotelian logic, uttered by people sitting in comfortable peaceful conditions?

And what the American author Henry James wrote a century ago?

Henry James lived in England for 40 years and died there in 1916. Not until 1914, Henry James avoided being socially and politically engaged and kept aloof from the actual passions of existence. He was blamed for his “Mandarin” attitude toward life…

It was the start of WWI that got James in overwhelming intense activities and involvement, in his old age. He was everywhere, in Belgium, in France… visiting the hospitals, comforting the injured soldiers, raising money for belgian refugees, haranguing the US government to get engaged in the war…

James wrote: “hadn’t it been for the War, I should certainly have gone on as I was, taking it as the simplest and easiest and friendliest thing: but the circumstances are utterly altered now…” 

He wrote to a friend: “I have an imagination of disaster, and see life as ferocious and sinister… The war has used up words… We are confronted with a depreciation of all our terms, speaking with a loss of expression through increase of limpness, that may well make us wonder what ghosts will be left to walk… I eat my heart out alone… the paralysis of my own power to do anything but increasingly and inordinately feel...”

James was aware of the toll such cruelty takes on emotions and the resistance to compassion during these absurd instances, insensitivity adopted as a way of survival…

James had witnessed the US civil war, but didn’t participate because of physical problems in the back, and filled his time reading and writing. His two younger brothers did fight.

Henry James wrote to the newly wed wife of a husband who died in the war:

“I am incapable of telling you not to repine and rebel, because I am incapable to tell you Not to Feel… Feel for all you’re worth, even if it half kills you, for that is the only way to live…”

To his old friend Rhoda Broughton, Henry James wrote:

” I am sick beyond cure to have lived to see it. You and I, the ornaments of our generation, should have been spared this wreck… we have seen civilization grow and the worst became possible… this crash of civilization… the funeral spell of our murdered civilization…”

James’ idea of home was bound up with the idea of civilization. Culture, humaneness, civilization, and independence of thought were everything to James “We must for dear life make our own counter realities...”

Note: The part on Henry James was inspired from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

“These are my memories at the University of Oklahoma…”: From another person recollection…

I wrote extensively in my autobiography on the city of Norman and the University of Oklahoma during two periods of higher education. And here I am reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and am taken aback that Iranian author Azar Nafisi also studied and lived many years there, and may have joined the same demonstrations that I participated in…

Azar started her studies in English literature early in the 1970’s, when the US students were demonstrating against the war in Vietnam.

I arrived in the summer of 1975, and the Vietnam war had ended, and the demonstrations were headed by the Iranian student movements against the Shah of Iran, and I had started my MS degree in Industrial engineering…

What follows is Nafisi’s recollection (and whatever comments I might butt in are in parenthesis).

“Red earth and fireflies, singing and demonstrating on South Oval lawn, reading Melville, Poe, Lenin and Mao, reading Ovid and Shakespeare on warm spring mornings, singing revolutionary songs…

(I read all of Lenin, Mao, and even the North KoreanKim Il Sung in Lebanon before I left to the USA. The civl war in Lebanon had just started. On several occasions, I had to rely on the Red Cross for news on my family safety status, and mails were dispatched via Paris where I had relatives…)

At night watching new films by Bergman, Fellini, Godard, and Pasolini… (I watched their movies in Beirut, and kept watching all the European movies on Friday evening, organized by the film student association, usually in the microbiology department by the main library. It is in one of these Fridays that I saw what I thought was the most beautiful girl in the wide world…)

One of my radical professor David singing on his guitar:

“Long-haired preachers come out every night

And they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right

And when you ask them for something to eat…

Work and pray, live on hay, you will get pie

In the sky when you die.

That’s a lie!”

Four of my favorite English professors were of different political leaning. Dr. Yoch was conservative, Dr. Gross was a revolutionary, and the two liberal Dr. Veile and Dr. Elconin.

Taking over the administration building, occasional streakers running across the green toward the redbrick main library…

The suffering ROTC students trying to ignore our presence, while we were protesting against the Vietnam war. (After 1975, our demonstrations were mainly against the Shah of Iran, since most of the radical students were Iranians of the two Marxist factions of Mujahideen Khalk and Fedayeen Khalk…)

Later, I would go to parties with my true love Ted, who introduced me to Nabokov, and gave me “Ada”, writing on the flyleaf “To Azar, my Ada”

I reluctantly joined the Iranian Students movement: I was more of a rebel than a politics activist, and I never fully integrated into the movement…

In the Univ. of Oklahoma at Norman, the Iranian movement was a chapter of the World Confederation of Iranian Students. The militant branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party RSB and the Third World Committee Against Imperialism were created later on.

The Marxist elements in the movement came to dominate the group and the male members wore Che Guevara sports jackets and boots. The women cropped their hair short, no makeup, and wore Mao jackets and khaki pants… I insisted on wearing long dresses, I didn’t cut my hair, and loved reading “counterrevolutionary” authors such as TS Eliot, Austen, Plath, Fitzgerald, Nabovov…and occasionally delivered speeches in rallies.

The Iranian students held study groups, reading Engels‘s “Origin of the family, Private Properties, and the State“, and Marx’s “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”.

The mood was revolutionary and the romantic atmosphere infectious, and the Iranian students were at the forefront of the struggle…(Eventually bringing Ayatollah Khomeini to power, who ultimately instituted a theocratic system… I was there as a few secular and radical factions supported the return of Khomeini, and I attended a few of their meetings)

In the fall of 1977, I got married with Bijan Nadiri, whom I met 2 years earlier at a meeting at Berkeley.

I felt nostalgic about places in Iran and famiyl, but the meetings mostly tried to reconstruct another Iran.

The movement started discouraging alcoholic beverages, dancing or playing “decadent” music during Iranian celebrations: They wanted us to avoid the “bourgeois” habits of studying

The most radical faction “The Confederation of Iranian Students” convened a conference in Oklahoma City. One of the members, a former running champion, was suspected of being a SAVAK agent (the Shah’s secret services).  This suspect war lured into a room at the Holiday Inn and tortured to “extract” the truth… He manged to escape.

The next day, several FBI agents barged into the conference. As the suspect reached the “culprit” or the leader, he broke down and cried and asked in Persian “Why did you treat me so cruelly?”, but he refrained to expose his tormentors, and left with the FBI agents.

The news were reported in the Univ. “Oklahoma Daily” and there were heated discussions engaged in coffee shops and the Student Union…Many boasted of the “power of the masses“. Many others quoted Stalin on the need to “destroy once and for all the Trotskyites, the White Guards, the termites, and poisonous rats…” Many defended the right of the masses to torture and physically eliminate their oppressors…

Azar warned: “Be careful what you wish for. The Islamic revolution will answer the wishes of the radical students and destroy the left-leaning and westernized citizens…Could my former comrades have predicted that one day they would be tried in a revolutionary Islamic court? Tortured, humiliated, put in jail, and executed as traitors and spies? They could not have predicted these outcomes, Not in their wildest dreams…”

I wanted to do comparative study of the American literature of the 20’s and 30’s.  I thought Fitzgerald represented the 20’s generations, but I had difficulty selecting a counterpoint in the 30’s, like Steinbeck, Farrell or Dos Passos..

And here I come across the real proletarians, whose spirit was best captured by Mike Gold, the radical editor of the popular literary journal “New Masses“. Gold was a big shot in his day: Even Hemingway took notice. Gold had called Thornton Wilder “the Emily Post of culture

“The Great Gatsby” book on trial: In Iran Islamic Republic?

In the early 1980’s, waves of makeshift trials were levied on all kinds of “criminal elements“, those employed in the Shah of Iran institutions and the “westernized” citizens…Many were sentenced for a few years of prison terms, only to be eventually executed in jail…

Nyazi was a student in the English literature class of Azar Nafisi, and he proclaimed that the book “The Great Gatsby” of Fitzgerald was a representative of the kinds of poisons that American novels disseminate in the Islamic Iranian society…

The English literature teacher at the university of Tehran, AzarNafisi, suggested that the book be put on trial in class.

Nyazi would be the prosecutor of the book, another student Farzad was appointed the judge, and the girl Zarrin was to be the public defense. Since no student agreed to be the defendant (representing or the witness of the book), Azar had no choice but to accept this role.

Maybe it was not proper for Azar to be cornered into the role of the defendant (the book), on the ground that she is opening the way for the students to question her judgment as a teacher, but Azar loved these kinds of drama and anxiety. In any case, Azar sincerely believed that this “subversive” book trial is a necessary step in the right direction to confronting the trend of a totalitarian and theocratic sentiment that highjacked the revolution…

Nyazi sat in the middle of the classroom reading from papers he had prepared, and began his “opening” statement:

“Imam Ayatollah Komeini, the leader of the revolution, relegated a great task to the poets and writers. Khomeini is the shepherd of the flock and the writers are the watchdogs to counter the western materialistic ideology and culture.

In the battle against the Great Satan (US imperialism, a reminder of President REAGAN proclaiming the Soviet Union as the Great Evil) that is disseminating its immoral poisons of cheating on wives, encouraging prostitution, adultary going unpunished, illicit relationship the norm, fornication… a culture meant to rape the islamic moral value system, thus the western fiction novels must be banned…”

After the long speech of Nyazi that never touched on the book and talking generalities of western fiction harms done to the revolution, Zarrin took her turn as defense lawyer, and said while walking around and turning around Nyazi:

“Our dear prosecutor committed the fallacy of getting too close to the amusement park. He can no longer distinguish fiction from reality. Nyazi leaves no space, no breathing room between the two world. He demonstrated this weakness of inability to read a novel on its own terms. His judgment is crude, a simplistic exaltation of right and wrong

Is it bad if characters in a novel stray from Nyazi’s moral values?

A fiction can be called moral when it shakes us out of our stupor, and encourages us to confront the absolutes we believe in. Gatsby has succeeded brilliantly in creating such a controversy…

Gatsby is on trial because the book disturbs us. Many controversial books were put on trial by societies, and they all won their cases…

It is true that Gatsby loves to get wealthy and he recognizes that money is one of Daisy’s attractions, but this novel is NOT about a poor young charlatan’s love of money. This fiction is NOT about “the rich are different from you and me”. It is about how wealth corrupts

The most corrupt characters in the novel are the rich and wealthy people, those careless people who smash up creatures and things and then retreat back into their money, and let other people clean up the mess they had made

The wealthy Jordan Baker admits she is careless and lightly responds that she counts on other people to be careful…

The dream that the wealthy classes embodies is an alloyed dream that destroys whoever tries to get close to it

This carelessness is a lack of empathy and it appears in all great novel works. Imagination in these great subversive works is equated with empathy. We can’t experience all that others have gone through, but we can understand even the most monstrous characters in great novels…

Gatsby novel shows the complexities of the characters, and each character is given the opportunity to respond, to express his opinion, to has a Voice. The biggest sin is to be blind to others’ problems and pains.

Not seeing the pains and frustrations in the characters means denying their existence. This behavior is significant of those who tend to see the world in black and white, drunk on the righteousness of their own fiction…”

At the end of the trial, Zarrin said softly: “Why students bother to claim to be literature major? If they fail to be wary of the consequences of the in unusualdreams they value? If they fail to look for integrity in unusual places…? I enjoyed reading the Great Gatsby. Can’t you see?”

After the class was dismissed, the students were arguing vehemently, and NOT over the US hostages (the personnel in the US embassy during president Carter), the recent demonstrations or Rajavi (leader of the Marxist Mujahideen Khalk) or Khomeini… The students were discussing the Great Gatsby…

Note 1: Inspired from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

Note 2: Do you think people have gone on strike or the citizens in the Dust Bowl headed west by reading Steinbeck?

Did people go whaling or stopped whaling after reading Melville?

Note 3: In modern times, many books faced trials such as Madame Bovary (Flaubert), Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lolita…

What to expect from Iran Islamic Republic as “Ayatollah” Khomeini had proclaimed:

Ayatollah Khomeini, the original, not the current Khamenei, said: “Criminals should not be tried. The trial of a criminal is against Human Rights.  Human Rights demand that we should have killed them in the first place, as it became known that they were criminals…

They (International Human Rights Organization) criticize us because we are executing the brutes… We all made mistakes: We thought we were dealing with human beings.  It is not evident: We are dealing with wild animals... We will not tolerate these criminal and corrupt elements anymore…”

And who are these criminal elements, the wild animals, the brutes…?

They were the “Westernized” citizens, brought up in a westernized family, having stayed too long in Europe and the USA to study, smoking US cigarette brands in Iran, displaying leftist tendencies in not wearing the traditional Islamic attires, reading subversive foreign books like The Great Gatsby of Fitzgerald, or Farewell to Arm by Hemingway, all those non-politically motivated, considered monarchists, employees who worked in institutions during the Shah’s regime…

Khomeini went on: “The turbaned (militias) are about to execute in public the corrupt elements and burn them, and the story will be over… The corrupt elements are not allowed to publish newspapers…We will close all political parties except the One (Hezbollah?), or a few acting in a proper manner…”

Ayatollah Shariatmadari was heading the most popular party of Muslim People’s Republic Party and this party was disbanded.  The second in command, Ayatollah Muntazeri was blown up in the hotel where his party convention was being held, along with a hundred of the leaders…The irony is that the Communist Tudeh Party and the Marxist Fedayeen Organization sided with Khomeini. Why? Khomeini was against the US imperialist!

And successive waves of makeshift trials executed thousands of Iranians, and the communists and marxists were diligently persecuted and massacred.

Women were forbidden to dance and sing in public, and going to movie theaters, and going out without veil and long nails…

Azar Nafisi wrote in her book “Reading Lolita in Tehran” a fitting similarity between radical ideals and their consequences when grabbing power.

Mike Gold, the American radical Marxist of the 20’s, wrote about his American dream in his newspaper New Masses: “The old ideals must die…Let us fling all we are into the cauldron of the Revolution.  For out of our death shall arise glories…”

Iran Islamic Republic “Revolution” applied Gold ideals, adopting exactly the mechanism that should lead to glory… and did much harm to Islam by manipulating the religion to its political ends…

For example, Mike Gold wrote an essay in 1929 titled “Toward Proletarian Art“:

“Art is no longer snobbish or cowardly. It teaches peasants to use tractors. gives lyrics to young soldiers, design textiles for factory women’s dresses, writes burlesque for factory theaters, does a hundred other useful tasks. Art is useful as bread…”

I was under the impression that this long statement was being utterly sarcastic: Gold was damned serious.

Compare the above proclamations with Conrad‘s description of the artist in his preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus:

The artist appeals to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives, to our sense of pity, and beauty and pain…and to the subtle and invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear which binds men to each other, the dead to the living and the living to the unborn...”

Do you have a past? What of generations who grew up without a past?

We take it for granted that every individual must have had a past, that he can recollect bits and pieces of his past, can make some sense of his past…

Many societies take it for granted that their generations had a past, it always had…

There are generations of people who had a past, good or bad memories, and then an “iron curtain” of a theocratic or totalitarian regime fell down and transformed lives. These generations with a past could feel the loss and the void in their current life-style.  They can compare, evaluate, analyze the past and the present situations, they may eventually master this lever to forecast how the future will unfold if no change and reforms are attempted, confronted and grabbed…

What of generations born and living within theocratic and totalitarian regimes?

These generations cannot have any memories and images of a different system and life-style, except if they had a few opportunities to watch foreign movies, documentaries, books, and listen to foreign music, poetry… of other alternative cultures and life-styles.

What if all “imaginary” alternative cultures are banned and you cannot construct different versions of possible existence and life-styles?

The generation with No Past to remember can only talk of stolen kisses, films they had never seen, lack of cool breeze on their bare skin…

The generations with No past long for the ordinary, the taken-for-granted aspect of a peaceful life… They loath mostly the absurd and arbitrary acts of transgression on their ordinary life, the trampling on their open spaces… like the desire of wearing pink socks, dropping the veil in public if they feel uncomfortable, using a comfortable swimming trunk, lounge freely on their balconies, read whatever books that strike their imagination, listen to varieties of music…

The generation with No Past keep dancing with their arbitrary jailers, and never feeling that they have the power to protest and confront the jailers…

How could you internalize your individuality and describe the image you have of yourself if society move, act, speak and dance identically, as delimited by strict regulations?

This section was inspired from a page in “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi.

Talking of a society indoctrinated in a cult, the self-effaced individuality, and evaluated on the degree you match the “dominant normal people”, evolving within a closed circle of like individuals…

With the exception of the Catholic Church theocratic dominance for 10 centuries in Medieval Europe, most of the theocratic and totalitarian systems were established in the 20th century, increasing, and expanding eastward…  Iran Islamic Republic took power in 1979, and The Moslem Brotherhood cults are established in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, and shortly will take control in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Communist regimes that flourished since 1917 in the Soviet Union, China…had their fascist counterparts in Nazism, Fascism, military dictatorship… with their cultist versions.

Theocratic and “civic” totalitarian systems share many components and diverge on a few:

1. There are all “radical”: They want to impose their value and moral structure on the society

2. They ban all reading and knowledge sources that diverge from their “world view”

3. They do their best to obliterate the past, (the Evil Past), in order to institute the future life-style and concepts…

4. Religious abstract notions, implicitly and explicitly, are the basis for their projects: They want the eternal and absolute and go the extra miles to force the citizens to pay the heavy price of their absurd and arbitrary outlook to commemorating their everlasting achievement

Theocratic regimes are straightforward: Here is the archaic Book, you behave according to the prescription of the Book, don’t hurt your brain interpreting the Words of God… Otherwise, you are a criminal element and only execution is your lot for disturbing the decency and homogeneity in the communities.  This radical leftist woman who proclaims that she is willing to wear the veil if it can secure the Independence of Iran is basically aware of the coming persecutions and want to be “covered” and isolated…

Totalitarian regimes are more subtle: Their ultimate goals are fundamentally of the religious-kinds in seeking the absolute and the eternal, but the mechanism is camouflaged under “scientific processes” for the progress of mankind, in peace, equality, comradeship…. The main brainwashing technique is to make alternative materials very scarce to obtain, and listening to alternative opinions even harder to hear. It is no longer natural and work an individual reflective opinion, and seeking an individual “open space” to regain your freedom

In “Democratic” States brainwashing is performed by the richest elite class who rules the institutions and the mass news media. One major difference is that the past is not obliterated “if you are willing to do your due diligence…” to extract alternative stories…

Can you control fear? Can fear of failure be controlled and managed

Fear, change, uncertainty, future, courage, perseverance… These words seem to be intricately connected: You select one of these terms and the rest follow in the same article…

Do you think that the source of most of our fear is a feeling of lack of control?

In her book “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, Azar Nafisi wrote: “During the day, I did not have time to think about all the dead relatives and friends…I was not afraid of following the (Iran) Revolutionary Committees…I argued with the Revolutionary Guards…and I felt brave. I paid the heavy price at night: I had insomnia, I internalized the fear, I roamed the house, read and fell asleep with my glasses on…”

How do you face your fears?

Do you prepare for future failures so you won’t end up caught in the snare of fear. Sort of Preparation prevents reaction?

People are used to say: “Focus on what you control; identify, understand and prepare for what you can’t…”

“One way to combat our fears is to hit them head-on.” Soren Kaplan in Leapfrogging: Harnessing the Power of Surprise for Business Breakthroughs,”.

On exploring your biggest possible failure, Dan Rockwell enumerated the following:

  1. What does your most disastrous scenario look like?
  2. What impact would this worst-case scenario have on individuals, teams, the organization, customers, …
  3. What would be the short-term impact on you personally? Long-term impact?
  4. What would you personally feel or experience?
  5. How could you rebound from this failure?
  6. What would you do next?
  7. In what way could the failure be used as a stepping-stone?

Step back after exploring:

  1. What insights have you gained?
  2. What new alternatives or options opened up?
  3. Did any of your assumptions or feelings about failure change?

Divide a sheet of paper down the middle. Create a bulleted list of items you control and things you cannot control. Explore, evaluate, prioritize, and consider the impact of each item.

Can you focusing on positive vision rather than possible failures? (I have lived 4 years with not a nickel in my pocket and no health insurance coverage, and I survived happily and healthily. Is that a foolish experiment?)

Do you think that exploring possible failures before they occur helps free you from the snare of fearing failure? (Got to experiment with your life and witness how far you can control your fear. I discovered that the hardest roadblock is “How can I safeguard my parents and relatives in cases of emergencies…?”)

Okay, you are handicapped with fear and the unknown…Can you Inspire Courage in Others, even when grappling with fear?

For example:

“People are not afraid of change, they are afraid of uncertainty…” Joe Tye. Create points of certainty…

“In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… in the real world all rests on perseverance.” Goethe

“It is physiologically impossible to be frightened when you are laughing: Lighten up and laugh” Joe Tye. (We have to discriminate among kinds of laughter: hysteric, freakish, good nature, under drugs…depending on the level of “lighten up”)

“You will never do anything in this world without courage” Aristotle

“If people are more afraid of the boss than they are of the competition, the competition is certain to win.” Joe Tye

Courage and fear always dwell together. Courage doesn’t eliminate fear, it answers it. Acknowledge the fears of others.

Success is persistently taking the next step. Taking the next step takes courage.

The real power of our courage and perseverance is that they inspire courage and perseverance in others.

Give fear a name and it becomes just a problem; it’s easier to solve problems than it is to conquer fear

Prepare for what you fear. Hurricane Sandy is on it’s way. You’ve been preparing.  You purchased gasoline and tested your generator, for example.

Courage translated fear into preparation…” (Dan Rockwell)

Why must you move forward? Face uncertainty by focusing on purpose…

Note 1: A 1: 1.5 minutes interview by Dan Rockwell with Joe Tye: Changing Your Metaphors.

Note 2: Inspired by two posts of Dan Rockwell

“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

I don’t recall when I first heard of “Lolita”.

One day, during my frequent visits to Barnes and Nobles in Montgomery County, I stumbled on the book “Lolita”.

Barnes and Nobles didn’t make it a comfortable place for people like me who could not afford to buy books, or the delicious pastries in the adjacent coffee shop, you go in from a door in the megabookstore.

It was hard to find a comfortable chair or table to read, and I sat on the floor.

I attended the talks of authors invited to publicize their recent books, sold at the store, in a corner, a dozen chairs set up for the audience…

Even at an advanced age, I felt uneasy to be discovered reading “Lolita”, and I am a slow reader, and I had to hurry to read as much as I could…I didn’t get the story: Just glimpses of what to expect…

Ten years later, I stumbled on the movie, in black and white, on one of the TV channels. I understood the story, and missed the interesting and most valuable treasures in the book…

And here I am, comprehending “Lolita” via “Reading Lolita in Teheran” by Azar Nafisi.

Basically, I am reviewing this book through the eyes, sensitivity, and comprehension of Nafisi…

Humbert Humbert is writing from jail on a murder charge, and not of the terrible harms he committed on Lolita…

Humbert is travelling and teaching literature in universities, maybe on sabbatical…He has an unfulfilled young love in Annabel Leigh.

At one of his sabbatical, he lands as a tenant at Charlotte Haze’s and rent a room. Charlotte is a bereaved middle-aged widow, and she suffered the loss of her 2-year old boy, and she has a 12-year old daughter Dolores or Dolly (Spanish for pain).

Charlotte marries Humbert and he treat her badly, as a faked southern cultured woman…The movie gave me the impression that Humbert planned the death of Charlotte…

Humbert arrives at Lolita’s summer camp to pick her up as her guardian father, and didn’t attempt to tell her the purpose of the visit. Nabokov writes on this visit of Humbert:

“Let me retain for a moment that scene…hog Holmes writing out a receipt, scratching Lolita’s head, pulling a drawer out of her desk, pouring change into my impatient palm, neatly spreading a banknote over it…photographs of girl-children, some gaudy moth or butterfly, still half- alive, safely pinned to the wall (nature study), the framed diploma of the camp’s dietitian, my trembling hands, a card produced by efficient Holmes with report of Dolly Haze’s behavior for July “fair to good, keen on swimming and boating”. a sound of trees and birds, and my pounding heart…

I am standing with my back to the open door, and I felt the blood rush to my head as I heard her respiration and voice behind me…”

This scene is the prelude to two years of captivity, during which the unwitting Lolita drifts from one motel to another with her guardian-lover. Humbert prevents Lolita to mix with children her age, watches over her so she never has boyfriends, frightens her into secrecy, bribes her with money for act of sex…

And all the while, Humbert parades as a normal husband, normal stepfather, normal human being

Humbert selected Lolita, Lo, or Lola for Dolly. She was Lolita when she sobbed on nights he had his ways with her. He tried all kinds of tricks to get in Lolita’s pants, drugging her, promising plenty of money and never delivering on his promises, threatening her and a few times beating her… As Humbert wrote: “She had absolutely nowhere else to go

The very first painful night, Lolita demands some money to call her mother. Humbert answers: “You can’t call your mother. She is dead” And in the middle of the night, Lolita came sobbing into Humbert’s bed, and “we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go”

Humbert wrote: “What I had madly possessed was not she, but my own creation, another fanciful Lolita, more real than Lolita…Having no will, no consciousness, indeed no real life of her own…”

But Dolly had a past, and she is in lack of her mother and her brother and a steady place to live and friends…

Humbert turned Dolly into a reincarnation of his lost unfulfilled young love…

Nabokov tells on Lolita through Humbert, an imaginary past…Humbert is solipsizing Lolita, attempting to orphan the child for a third time by robbing her of her past, a figment in someone else’s dream.

Lolita’s truth, desires, life…must lose colors before Humbert’s one obsession of turning a kid into his mistress.

A half-living butterfly, fixed on a wall…This perverse intimacy of victim and jailer.

Humbert is exonerating his terrible actions by implicating the victim: “It was she who seduced me…Not a trace of modesty did I perceive in this beautiful badly formed young girl whom modern co-education, juvenile mores, the campfire racket…had utterly depraved. She saw the stark act merely as part of a youngster’s future world, unknown to others…”

Or in other paragraphs: “the vile slut, her obscene young legs (sitting on his lap), engrossed in the lighter section of a newspaper, indifferent to my ecstasy, as if it were something she sat upon, a shoe, a doll, the handle of a tennis racket…”


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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