In English, if you say of someone that they love life, or that they are a lover of life, you are generally complimenting them. You would like to be that person’s close friend, you are admiring their enthusiasm, their passion, their enjoyment of life. You would like to spend more time with that person, in the hope that some of those warm fuzzy lovey-life feelings will transfer to you and you will be lifted from your dull grey dreary drizzly daily boredom.
However, in Persian, (you know- the language which is spoken by people from the Cat-country, as well as in Afghanistan and Tajikistan), to call someone a lover of life or “joon-doost” is wholly pejorative- you are, in other words, calling them a coward. It is a loaded, sarcastic term, which implies that they are too attached to this life, too fond of living. So, if someone catches a cold and goes on and on as if they have typhoid or something, the exasperated family member who is nursing them will cry out: “Oh God- have you ever seen such a joon-doost?” Likewise, if someone refuses to, ahem, struggle, to protest, to complain loudly about the unpleasant events of life, but prefers to hide themselves in a quiet corner and pretend everything is much as usual, others will deride him or her- “what a joon-doost!” As you can see, our tradition of glorifying bloodshed is not something new from the past horrible forty days or so, it has ancient roots in our culture, unfortunately. We are supposed to be proud of the willingness to die, we are supposed to be embarrassed by clinging on to life.
Fat lot of good it has done us, historically speaking.
All I can say is, from the perspective of an immigrant staring at the dreadful events unfolding in her country, thank god my family is “joon-doost”. Thank god I cannot find my brother’s face, my sister’s face, my cousins’ faces, my uncles’ faces, my friends’ faces amongst those small bright square images of the missing and the dead, amongst those beautiful bright faces. Thank god they are all hiding behind their doors (in a couple of cases, literally gone into hiding)- they hear from us over the internet that there has been more unrest, more bloodshed. We, sitting over here in our guilty security can afford to indulge in following up accounts of horror, of torture, of despair and death, while they calmly go shopping, go to work and generally carry on the business of life.
These days, it seems that just by behaving normally, whether in Tehran or in Halifax, you are joon-doost.