How can I translate Mahfalgarayi? I suppose sectarianism is the nearest thing to it. Although Mahfal is on a smaller scale than sect. A narrow-minded and parochial outlook to decide who is within our circle and who is outside it.
This trait is common to almost all old generation Iranians, in the Iranian ruling oligarchy, the Iranian opposition, the celebrities, and media personalities alike. Mahfalgarayi is a tendency to form small closed circles where members only look after and promote their own close associates. So the prime objective is not whether a certain goal, cause or action is worthy of support but whether the individuals concerned belong to your parish circle or not.
This harmful trait has historical roots in Iran. For example in a similar fashion to today's football hooligans, Iran was a scene of Haydari versus Nemati clashes more than 100 years ago. No one knows how these sects started or why they fought each other.
Interestingly Mahfalgarayi is almost synonymous with Manghalgarayi. For most of these close parish associates in the Mahfals have a tendency to smoke opium. Its like a ritual ceremony where the members bond together and the action of smoking opium itself serves as a secret members must keep.
Most of Iran's so-called intellectuals, writers, poets, media personalities and those who refer to themselves as "journalists" smoke opium.
So for example you find various mahfals in all Iran's institutions, from Ministry of Intelligence, to the prison authorities, armed forces, and all the way down.
The same is true with the Iranian old generation outside Iran. They may even seem to debate opposite points of view in public, but when it comes to protecting the Mahfal, they are always united.
This old generation has stifled all new initiatives by the younger generation of Iranians. They continue to promote their old boring and ineffective agenda which only massages their own inflated ego and they diligently stop any new inventiveness.
The old generation that got us in this mess in 1979 still continues to choke back any step forward, through their instinctive Mahfalgarayi. Then they wonder why the Iranian opposition is so remote from the masses and the young, and why the Iranian opposition is described as a closed circuit TV, where only they themselves listen to each other's tiresome speeches.
Is it any wonder that six years after the 1999 student uprising in Iran which spread to 19 cities, and brought so much hope to all of us, the old generation that jumped on the bandwagon, especially through the LA based TV stations, and within six years made the young generation of today so indifferent and so nonchalant in the destiny of their country?
When I started this weblog, one of my intended audiences was the second generation Iranians who are born or brought up outside Iran. I wanted them to feel good about having Iranian heritage, to know that those who rule Iran today are nothing to do with the essence of being Iranian.
That being Iranian should be a real source of pride and being bi-cultural is one of the greatest gifts one can ever have. What more luck than being able to enjoy two cultures?
However as with any culture, as well as good things, there are always some bad things, we should strive to keep and promote the good aspects and do away with the harmful habits.
Mahfalgaryi of the old generation is one of those harmful habits we should actively get rid of. We should promote causes and individuals on their merits and not on their Mahfal ties.
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