power of incentive

14 11 2008


[By Shideh]    My thoughts on the concept of “incentive”…

What do you think would give Tehranians enough incentives to do what’s good for their city? What would give any person enough incentives to care about her surrounding? To cheat less whether in school or in trade, to respect the rules, to drive properly, to keep her/his street clean, to use public transportation, to turn off the lights when not used, to respect order in lines, to build ethically, and finally to come out in the morning with a smile and a loud “good morning, isn’t it a beautiful day” to the neighbors?




Photo courtesy of Hamed


Why do I see this attitude in some cities, and the opposite in others? Is there something in our genes that make us care and cheat less? Is it cultural, deeply rooted in our training as we grow up and if so, can we change that? Or is it purely a matter of the circumstance? I hear my economist friends talk about the fact that there is little evidence to prove that it is a matter of culture or genes (I’m sure some would disagree). Some believe that most people cheat when they can, any where they can, with any background. What is it then that makes a city like Berlin or Tokyo so clean and progressive in public awareness and that makes Tehran and many other cities (i.e. New York City, Mexico City, Cairo, Istanbul, downtown Los Angeles,… the list goes on forever…) the way they are?

I would argue that “incentive” is the main factor. Incentive is what makes me evaluate the cost/benefits of my actions and make a decision on whether it’s worth perusing and taking the risks.  This automatic cost/benefit analysis that takes place in my head is not only economic (money related).  Much of it has to do with my fear of social embarrassment, punishment of various degrees, and my own social awareness of the influences of my actions on my own future and that of others,…

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a nation’s battle for life

9 11 2008

[By Shideh]   We watched an amazing silent movie last night, produced and directed by Cooper, Schoedsack, and Harrison in 1924, named “Grass.”  I highly recommend it as it is an invaluable record of history and tells us quite a bit about the culture and extreme hardships faced by nomads in Persia for survival. It is as if this documentary is not so much of present, but of an ancient past, an unchanging “forgotten” group of brave people. Since many believe that Arians migrated from east to west as nomadic tribes some 4000-5000 years ago, studying the culture of these remaining nomads might be a guide to a deeper understanding of the sometimes misunderstood behavior/desires of our nation as a whole.



Photo courtesy of IranChamber

“In 1924, neophyte film-makers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack hooked up with journalist and sometime spy Maguerite Harrison and set off to film and adventure.  They found excitement, danger and unparalleled drama in the migration of the Bakhtiari tribe of Persia (now Iran). Twice a year, more than 50,000 people and half a million animals surmounted seemingly impossible obstacles to take their herds to pasture. 

“The filmmakers captured unforgettable images of courage and determination as the Bakhtiari braved the raging and icy waters of the half-mile-wide Karun River. Cooper and Schoedsack almost froze when they filmed the breath-taking, almost unbelievable, sight of an endless river of men, women and children – their feet bare or wrapped in rags – winding up the side of the sheer, snow-covered rock face of the 15,000-foot-high Zardeh Kuh mountain.

“Although many documentary historians consider GRASS second only to NANOOK OF THE NORTH, few people have actually seen this legendary film…” Georgia Brown, Village Voice