Monday, March 21

Still Waiting for Pasha

“I am writing to respond to your essay “The Emperor is Naked.” You should visit Iran. I assure you we have running water there. We even have modern cities just like those in America. Most Iranians love democracy and America. We don’t love the Western arrogance and condescension that your viewpoint represents. [Unsigned]”

Dear Unsigned:

Pundita’s regular readers know that she takes poetic license when steamed. But clearly Pundita is slipping if you mistook insults for condescension, so let me rephrase. You say you have modern cities like those in America. Show me the city in America where the residents gather 100,000 strong to watch the stoning death of children. Show me that city.

Pundita has met people in a remote region in Asia who live in caves and wear animal skins. They are just a few steps up from the Stone Age but they have more civilization in their social customs than the Iranians. So what does it matter if German engineers showed you how to make water run? You’d be just as well off drinking from a stream.

Iranians do not “love” democracy. They covet democracy, in the way a pasha covets an expensive bauble. Others have it, so why can’t you? You’re waiting for the whole package and if your leaders won’t give it to you, you’ll keep looking for a leader who will. That’s why Iranian students find nothing strange about prancing around in American jeans and discussing American cinema, then writing up a petition as their response to barbaric tribal customs including stoning deaths of children for the crime of nothing at all. They’re waiting for the democracy bauble to arrive, as if possession of this gem will purge them of tolerance for barbarism and restore conscience and dignity to their society.

You tell Pundita that most Iranians love Americans. Most Iranians don’t know Americans. Once you get to know us, I guarantee you’re not going to like us because we represent the inverse of the Pasha mindset, which is still entrenched in your part of the world.

Boiled down, the Pasha mindset is “Only slaves and women take out the garbage.”

In one sentence the American mindset is “Do it yourself.”

That’s the real reason the Persians had contempt for the Greeks, particularly by the time of Alexander’s era. They saw him running around taking soil samples and making notes and said to each other, “Only slaves and paid retainers work up a brain sweat. Real men write poetry and command others to do their bidding.”

Now in the old days, it wasn’t like that. Persian kings tilled their own field and busted their brains figuring out how to repair a plough. Then along came the 900 Lazy Bastards, who always appear on cue when a large group of humans show a spark of collective intelligence.

So it came down to a day in 1985, when Pundita met a German who earned money on his annual vacation by driving a German-made van from Germany to Nepal. His route took him through a part of Iran. He told me that the villagers were starving and praying for the return of the Shah’s son. Last year I recounted the story to an Iranian expat. He told me, “I’ve got news for you. The villagers are still starving and still praying for the return of the Shah’s son.”

Still waiting for pasha, after all those years.


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