DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL, PERSIAN STYLE

If one could apply one rule to describe a the social behaviours of a whole nation, I suppose this would be it, for us. For us Iranians.

You can find articles describing Iranian foreign policy by disgruntled  Western analysts using words like “sophisticated”, “tricky”, “deceit”, “manipulative”. I would like to assure the Gentle Reader that these are not just apt descriptions of our nuclear policy. Our entire social discourse is marked by our gentle ability to say “yes” when we mean “no”. By our slippery smooth wriggly skin, impossible to grasp or clutch. By our obsession with “face”.  By our meaningless yet vital courtesies, repeated again and again during the course of each day, between friends and enemies and colleagues and relatives – “may I sacrifice myself for you…” you are my soul…” “I swear on the  spirit of my father…”

Hypocrisy is a national value and an art, as well as a tool of survival. Children are schooled in it from their first days at school. The necessity of saying something while doing something entirely different. The necessity of pretence. A lot of it is driven by brute force: women have to cover up in public whether they believe in it or not; they will be prosecuted and punished if they don’t. You have to say prayers in schools, you have to be drilled in religious and theological lore as a believer. In the morning, you are required to say that you think Fatemeh the daughter of Mohammad is the true and only role model for women, and then you go home and watch Madonna and Britney for the rest of the afternoon.

Women especially- the cover is not just literal, but metaphorical and spiritual. They cloak not just their hair and bodies, but their thoughts and desires, their actions and their comings and goings too. It is an ongoing, sad joke: Western men marry their girlfriends, Iranian men marry other men’s girlfriends. It is not funny- it is too true.  Every young Iranian girl I knew had a boyfriend, if not several. Every single one of them hid it from their families. All of them invented elaborate lies and fantasy characters to conceal their doings.

And even sadder and trickier: their families know perfectly well what is happening. But it is not to be discussed. Everybody buys into this huge joke of respect, virginity and religion.  So long as it is not spoken out loud, what is happening, then it doesn’t exist. If we keep repeating that everybody is virtuous, a believer, religious, then everybody is. The mother of a friend of my mother taught them, a hundred or so years ago, when they were young girls, “a lady  does whatever the fuck she wants (har ghalati…) only no one ever sees her do it.” This was years before the revolution.

A culture of courtesy, of deceit and hypocrisy, infused with religiosity and cheap mysticism. Our birth right, our heritage.

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8 comments

  1. FoXy

    So true :(. Couldn’t have said it better

  2. sarv

    این چیزهای که تو با وجود ایرانی بودن به انگلیسی راجع به قوم خودت نوشته ای هیچ بنی بشری از قوم دیگر راجع به ملت خودش به زبان بین المللی ننوشته.پس یک خصلت دیگر هم به همه این این خصایل که برشمردی اضافه کن: هیچ ملتی نیست که مثل ایرانی ها جلوی دیگر اقوام اینقدر از خودش بد بگوید و جلو جلو انتقاد کند و خودش را کوچک کند. فرصت کشف هم به آنها بدهیم بد نیست! تو خواننده خارجی کم نداری چه اصراری داری که اینها را به انگلیسی بنویسی؟

  3. thenewcomer

    Oh yes, I forgot the rules. When we are talking in English, we must pretend we come from a beautiful, calm, peaceful land full of love and hope… we mustn’t say anything is wrong otherwise “aberoomon mireh”- we lose our ‘face”. Our damn “face” and aberoo is killing us. Your comments is exactly demonstrates this culture of hypocrisy and our obsession with pretending everything is perfect.

  4. sarv

    اصلا تو راست می گویی. این ایرانی ها همه شان دورو و ریاکار و پشت هم اندازند. اصلا در فرهنگشان ارزش است. خودشان هم به این خصوصیتشان اذعان دارند.احمق باشد اگر آدم بخواهد بهشان اعتماد کند

    • thenewcomer

      I am talking about characteristics which have become encouraged, institutionalised and normalized in Iran, not about individual Iranians who may or may not be hypocrites. Please read the post carefully and make sure you understand it well before commenting, otherwise you just end up looking extremely stupid. Also, please repsect my right to blog about whatever I want, in whichever language I please.

    • ماندانا

      سرو جان حالا شما چرا انقدر بهت برخورده؟ نگارنده ی این پست به یه سری نکاتی در فرهنگ ایرانی اشاره کرده. به نظرم نکاتش درست و منطقیه. دلیل حرفاشم آورده. درسته که به عنوان یه ایرانی ما باید ازین موضوع ناراحت باشیم، اما خب بدون اجازه ی نقد کردن که نمیشه یه مشکلی رو اصلاح کرد. به نظر من خیلی خوبه که آدم شجاعت نقد کردن فرهنگ سرزمین خودشو داشته باشه و به فکر چاره باشه و به دروغ هی تعریف نکنه. چون تا حقیقت رو اعتراف نکنیم، جای اصلاح و تغییر هم وجود نداره.

      • thenewcomer

        bebin nokteh khaz-e majara ineh ke in Sarv Khanoom kari nadareh enteghad dorose ya na, hala masalan system education va family irani-ha doroughparvar hast ya na, ya moghavegh=e riakari hast ya na (albateh dar in ke hast ke shaki niss!) In bandeh khoda migeh chera miai inharfa ro be ingelisi mizani ke masaln gharibeh va khareji va na mahram befahmeh. Khoob niss. Khoobiat nadarh. har gohi mikhai be hamoon irani bokhor ke digaran nafahman. mesl-e hamoon harf oon naneh bozorgeh be madaram 50 sal pish. Nazar baghiyeh befahman. be engelisi nagoo. Nazar baghiyeh befahman, badeh.

  5. expat

    daghighan hamoon chiziey ke baghieh donya motevaje shodan.

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