image reflection

29 09 2009

Tehran has been going through many shakes in the last few months following the presidential elections. These shakes, have, of course been non-seismic! This blog is meant to address the critical issues facing Tehran’s infrastructure and vulnerabilities, so it stayed quiet. However, although, during this sensitive time, infrastructure and role of engineers may seem to many of us as un-important or the last item on our list of priorities, it is in fact a fundamental step toward the common goals of all Iranians, regardless of their political agenda or crises.

Tehran remains to be highly divided and the government seems more divided than its subjects. But that is not my concern, as I’m sure many others are working on that. I am actually concerned about that part of us responsible for our own daily actions. I hear that construction projects are more or less dead in Tehran these days but are starting to move forward gradually. In the past few months, we have all been shaken hard by the wave of excitement and tragedies of our fellow Iranians. We all feel like we’ve been hit in the head a few times every day, watching the news or video clips of new stories. It’s draining, I know. But I also know that we always have a tendency to criticize others and not ourselves – the easiest job in the world.

Let me start with myself: I am trying hard to, as we say in Persian, not forget my mirror when I want to criticize others, including my friends, parents, teachers, and leaders.

I have learned not to criticize my leaders, when I myself sometimes have the tendency to be a dictator at home and in my family, when I have a tendency to sometimes lie or hide my faults, and when I sometimes impose my opinion on others (very often in fact). Look closely. Look around you in your own circle of friends and family. Aren’t we each the same as our leaders in a smaller scale? Do we truly respect all others for their opinions and religious beliefs? Do we truly work hard for the benefit of our society as a whole and not cheat whenever we have a chance to do so (I know you are about to start justifying your cheatings)?

Tehrani teachers and professors, do you allow your students to criticize you freely with no fear of grade?

Tehrani mothers and fathers, do you really treat your son and daughter the same? Do you teach your children dignity, compassion, and respect for all (equally)? Do you teach your children not to steal, cheat, or lie even if it will cost them dearly?

Tehrani middle-class workers, do you work efficiently and honestly at your office or do you waste your time reading newspapers and complaining about politics?

Tehrani Civil Engineers and contractors (real and fake), do you build with respect for the environment and the lives of others? Do you feel responsibility for your title as an engineer when you sign the design that you know has flaws? Do you feel responsibility when you knowingly bribe the city inspector to disregard your faults?

I am writing this, because I know that this is a special moment in our history. I am inspired by Tehran’s (and Iran’s) incredibly bold actions and am humbled, as I know that all these brave men and women are restless for improvement, though at the cost of their lives. At the same time, I feel that this moment is a great opportunity to self-reflect and start from within. We owe this to the next generation. No movement is successful when its elements are individually suffering from what they are moving against. Lying, cheating, hiding, and even killing humans and our environment start from each and every one of us. Our leaders are only reflecting our own image, and we are not liking it.

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7 responses

29 09 2009
siamak

true. we, by default, are all dictators within, even we don’t show 😀 (sorry abt that, but i guess it’s somehow true!)

but if you needed reflection seismic image or imaging let me know 😀

30 09 2009
Deep Blue Sea

Dear shideh,

1} You ask very valid questions. But then there is gap in your argument. A lot of people are there , I am Sure , who when they do the self reflection like you said , will probably be on the right side of the law. written and unwritten moral laws. The real problem is not who deviate from law in very minor way. the real problem are those who Blatantly and aggressively deviate from the Law. So the idea is not to become saints. We are all Humans and make mistakes. But those who create these huge problems for humanity are big time offenders with consciously and even intelligently bend laws…

2} Self regulation is a good thing . But then Why would Law enforcement agencies be necessary if everybody was self regulating ? You ask Iranians those questions. If all Americans were self regulating then Why would America need such high tech Law enforcing Agencies. A self reflection of the kind you suggested is not feasible on a national scale. The fact is that the state plays a role in regulating a citizens. Yes citizens need to involve. But there are people who cannot be depended on to play constructive role.They have to be regulated .Problem arises when Government itself is made up of such people.

30 09 2009
Shideh

Dear Deep Blue Sea:
Thank you for your comment. I really enjoyed reading it and agree with you to some extent. I know what you mean.
Here’s my response, though I completely understand your side of the argument:

I think that a nation as a whole, or the majority of the people living in a given area, determines its fate, laws, and leaders. For example, the US has many criminals and out-laws of course, but the majority of its people have in fact come to respect their rules and regulations. The system here is very often based on trust, simply because most people are worthy of trust. Having criminal laws in place is always good in order to scare those who are the minority out-laws. And yes, the state plays a major role in regulating those citizens who need to be regulated. But the state can never regulate all of its citizens. It just cannot have the resources to do so. Therefore, it relies on the majority of citizens being self-regulated. Otherwise, chaos will follow (like many developing countries).

However, let’s go back to the most basic part of it: our leaders are leaders because we let them lead. If there is lack of balance between the characteristics of leaders and those of the followers, then with time things will change or improve and will come to equilibrium. That is why, in my opinion, the most powerful and sustainable way to improve as a whole is to improve from within. Then improvement will only become a matter of time, but patience is required.

I feel that no malicious government can lead a nation whose majority are aware, ethical, and conscious citizens. It just can’t happen. Those citizens will never allow it. You mentioned the US, well in my opinion America is far from being ideal. The majority of people here have many problems, such as ignorance and lack of care for other human beings in the world. Whenever there is a weakness in the general public, we see the outcome in the democratically elected government (e.g., the disastrous foreign policies of the Bush administration). And yes, the state might have a role in brain-washing the people through the media and keeping them entertained with unimportant things, but it’s the people who allow it. The positive here in the US is that people are generally ethical in their daily lives. Of course there are always many exceptions both in the general public and in the US government where lying and cheating occur, but those are not the norm (like it is a given in almost every case in Iran).

I feel that we tend to forget our own responsibilities when our country goes through a crisis. We might be more naturally drawn toward a sudden change in the system, and that can’t be sustainable if there is imbalance. You mentioned that self-reflection is not feasible on a national scale. I understand the boldness of this wish, but why not? I’m afraid though, that as long as our nation as a whole (majority) doesn’t self-reflect and change from within, it will always end up with big time offenders that you talk about (regardless of who comes to power, leaders will adjust to the common state of their people). For example, when the people of a nation as a whole bribe each other every day, steal from their own sisters and brothers often, lie 24/7 in personal and impersonal matters, have no respect for any law, involve in actions that may take other people’s lives (e.g., un-ethical engineering), and do not allow criticism in their circles, then how can they deserve to have a government who is the exact opposite? The government will end up doing the same things but in a larger scales, as it is a representative of its people.

Don’t get me wrong, however. I am optimistic for Iran. I think our nation as a whole is actually conscious now and there is hope for much improvement on every level, but with time.

I hope I make sense. I thank you again for your comment and though my arguments seem against yours, I see your point and agree with you.

1 10 2009
Deep Blue Sea

Hi dear Shideh . Thanks For the Reply..

I guess the truth lies somewhere in the middle . I agree with your reply..

But how about the following angle..

Genes ??? Don’t you think genes play important role ??

I first want to say that the following is not an assertive argument but something I am just placing on the table for your views on it..

Why are people more trustworthy in some places and not so much in others ? Is it something they evolved or inherited ??

How did some places become scientifically more advanced and others not ??
I mean scientific and industrial revolution are mainly west’s achievements.And even though of late we do have been achieving academic Brilliance, majority of concepts and ideas are essentially western.. We have learnt and helped ourselves. But we were not the pioneering force {You might disagree or maybe even angry.But like I said these are my questions. Not Theories.} You may say we have old and great civilizations. But so did west {like greek and roman etc.}But the modern scientific achievements are the real deal. And I don’t think we have much to show off.

Finally on self -reflection ? Do you think people can change who they basically are {{here’s where genes come in}} in a forced manner ?

I mean isn’t ” BE YOURSELF ” one important thing we learn and also a very frequent advice we give others .. Why ? Because to carry off something you are not isn’t possible for a long time. After sometime the effort that goes into not being yourself makes you saturated ..

So what if we are Lazier , more inefficient , more unscrupulous by nature as compared to our European counterparts… Maybe its the hot weather that gets us irritated 😉 ..

I want to say I don’t mean to be self-denigrating or pessimistic.. Maybe I just like to hear answers to worst possible scenarios..

1 10 2009
Shideh

Dear Deep Blue Sea:

You questions are quite valid. Unfortunately I don’t know much about it and am afraid my answers will also be based on my own thoughts and understandings of the subject and have no proof or scientific background:

I think that genes might play a role. For example, in some regions people might be generally more physically fit than others or the geographic conditions might lead to the evolution of certain superiorities in some regions and other superiorities in other regions. The book “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” is an amazing book that sort of addresses this issue. I think that for example, many regions came to have strong navy bases purely because of their geographic location and need for survival (e.g., the UK). This alone, might have led to their superior military power that might have been one of the causes of colonialism, etc. (I’m not sure).

Now, I don’t think that the argument of certain genes being purely superior to others in every way makes sense. I think though that it is reasonable to assume that certain regions developed differently based on their needs for survival.

The geographic location of Iran is actually one with many advantages. The region as a whole boasts many great civilizations that existed far before Rome or Greece (traditionally defined as the west). I want to emphasize on the word “civilization” not because I am proud of our past, but simply to show that the formation of cities and great invention was in fact started in that region. The contributions of the region as a whole to the improvement of science, art, philosophy, literature, and pretty much everything continued for a long time – it’s not just the ancient past. Europe or the west was far behind the east until as recent as a few hundred years ago. Many of the scientific developments in Europe owe their success to the exposure of the Europeans with the near east either through the crusades or through traveling. So, for many thousands of years, the region as a whole (e.g., modern Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, India, etc.) was in fact far a head of the west in everything we consider important (science, art, philosophy, …).

Now, at some point in our history, the industrial revolution in Europe surprised us all. That happened at a critical time, while many of the leaders in eastern countries happened to be extremely weak. Having access to guns for example surprised many peace-seeking nations in Africa and east-Asia as well as some in the Middle East and over-whelmed other countries that were used to wars, simply because they could not fight against guns with sword. This simple invention, in my opinion, led to many complexities in the future of the world as we know it today. Colonialism started a new chain of slavery benefiting Europe only; even Iran that was never officially a colony suffered a great deal from the power of the British to this day.

To be more specific, I think the historically greater powers of the region (e.g., Persia, Egypt, and later the Ottomans) suffered a great deal due to loss of confidence in their own abilities. It was as if you make a king a servant, a huge psychological catastrophe that killed motivation and confidence for many generations to come. Even after the era of colonialism, we are still suffering and tend to follow the west in their scientific achievements. However, I must add that when we judge regions or countries, in my opinion, it is important not to be limited to science. The region as a whole is still contributing a great deal to art, poetry, philosophy, and music. It is, however, far behind in many other things.

So, many call this an identity crisis in the developing world, especially those that had a glorious past (not so ancient but in recent memory even). If you are interested in this topic, I definitely suggest reading some of Dr. Milani and Soroush’s works.

I apologize if any of this is inaccurate information. Again, this is mainly based on my own thoughts and understanding of the subject based on scattered readings and conversations with others and I’m no expert on this. I value such debates though, as we all question these things and our answers can in fact play an important role in our future. I think that there is no natural reason what so ever, genetic, geographic, or anything else for which Iranians should be lazy and follow the west. You have probably seen statistics on the success of Iranians who come abroad, probably falls in the highest percentile of any other immigrant group. The scientific achievements of the Iranian Diaspora and their contributions to art and philosophy throughout these years is astonishing and overwhelming. This shows that in the right environment and mental state, they do wonders and the genes have no problem but the opposite. Our culture is suffering from an identity crises, however, and may be our generation will begin to move the wheels forward. These same Iranians abroad cannot do any of this in Iran, in my opinion, not just because of lack of opportunities, but also because of their own state of mind and lack of motivation. Who is to blame? I think ourselves and not our leaders.

31 10 2009
Bahman Amrit

Dearest Shideh,
This is a fantastic debate btween tehranshake,deep blue sea,and siamak.
I like to join the game.
I am a U.S. educated Iranian civil engineer working since 1976 in 9 countries,and 4continents.
I am now in R&D for building a new fairytale cultural town in south of Iran.
Since we are not going to accept a penny from the government (any gov’t.),the topic of your debate here is very dear to me.I like to share what I know,and,
ofcource learn from youz guyz.
If you like me to join,please let me know by e-mail,with a simple “yes”.
I just might have guessed a few of the questions in the above comments.
My respect to all game players.
Tehran,Nov 1st.2009,
Bahman

1 11 2009
Shideh

Dear Bahman,
of course I’d love to hear your input and opinion. Please join the conversation at your convenience.
best,
shideh

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