Friday, August 11, 2006

Ganji Goes to Hollywood

Read about Ganji's talk on the Middle East at the palatial home of movie producer Mike Medavoy in the Time magazine. I have not had access to Ganji's full speech so I can not comment much. All I can say is, this was yet another rare opportunity for Iranian dissidents to reach the international public opinion and influence the opinion makers.

Shirin Ebadi had such an opportunity when she won the Nobel Prize, yet she utterly wasted it by talking nonsense about Guantanamo etc. that get so much publicity any way. It is a mystery to me why old generation Iranians who owe so much of their present day prosperity, education and social success to the way things were before the Islamic revolution, when faced with an international audience lose their bottle and rather than talk about the plight of their own people in Iran, rant and rave about other issues and causes that already have so many advocates in the waiting.

It reminds me of once when we were staging a play based on imprisoned Iranian student, Ahmad Batebi's letter from prison. I bumped into an old Iranian acquaintance of mine in the street. I told him about the play and asked him if he wanted to come along. He refused saying he had been on an anti US invasion of Afghanistan march all afternoon and his wife and kids were waiting for his return home!
"How many people attended the march?" I asked him
"Oh thousands" he said triumphantly.
"So if you had not turned up, it would not have made that much difference. We have had little funds to advertise our event, one more person in the audience will make a difference to us." I reminded him. He shook his head saying "Its more important to help the Afghan people to resist the US invasion".
I could not be bothered to argue with him further, but it was typical of the old generation Iranians. They enjoyed the years of propsperity and progress, got government scholarships for their education in the West, returned to Iran and instead of applying what they had learned, stirred up the mass frenzy of 1979 and backed the reactionary Ayatollahs. Now in a nostalgic way they protest every chance they get against the US, as if they had no other causes for protest.

This attitude is best described by Vali Nasr in his review of Shirin Ebadi's memoir, Iran Awakening :

"As commendable as her efforts on the part of the victims of injustice in Iran have been, Ebadi's confused rendition of Iranian history, which vacillates between celebrating the revolution and condemning its consequences, makes it difficult to regard her as a symbol of democracy....
.....What led Ebadi and her generation of educated Westernized professionals to get themselves into this bind, to be "hypnotized" by the ayatollah's revolution? Why were their rights and their freedoms so cheap in their eyes that they so hastily traded them for the will-o'-the-wisp promise of a revolutionary utopia? "I'd rather be a free Iranian than an enslaved attorney," she cavalierly told a baffled judge who reminded her that the revolution she was championing would destroy her career. What accounts for the tragic mistake of her generation, for the grand delusion that subjected the Iranian people to the ignominy of discrimination and tyranny? "

Like I said, I have not read the full text of Ganji's talk in Hollywood, other than what the Time article has reported. The article mentions how Ganji condemned Christian and Jewish fundamentalism as well as Islamic fundamentalism, and it is at times like this that I have to despair at such missed opportunities. For right now, our enemy is Islamic Fascism, it is the religious apartheid in Iran. Jewish fundamentalists are not telling our people how to live and Christian fundamentalists are not legislating draconian laws in our country and Hindu extremists are not the ones who are involving our country in international terrorism and the threat of war.

For God sake, when you get such opportunities and such audiences, don't get your knickers in a twist when you see Warren Beatty in the audience, focus on our own problems. As the English say, charity begins at home, or as the striking workers and teachers shouted in the streets of Tehran, "Leave Palestine alone, Think about our miserable situation"


Winston said...

He is another moderate Islamist. And I regret allocating couple of posts to him during his hunger strike simply because I didnt know him then. He disappointed me and many others.

Azarmehr said...

BUt whetehr we like him or not, he was on hunger strike for 75 days in Islamic Republic prisons. As a result of this sacrifice, he has a platform which you or I don't. Therefore where we can, we should utilise his platform as we did during the hunger strike. So I dont think you should regret allocating a couple of posts to him.
We have to get out of this habit of either liking someone 100% or not liking him at all.
The important thing is Ganji does not talk about preserving or reforming the Islamic Republic, he says clearly that the Islamic Republic must go.

monica zandi said...

yes azarmehr, you're right. despite the fact that ganji seems to lack ...i don't know a sense of passionate fervor when it comes to regime change, he is still getting out the message- BUT TO HOLLYWOOD?! what the hell, what can they do? that our own president cant. ganji just doesnt seem to be in tune with the youth of iran....but atleast there is fakhravar, i wonder what he is up to?

Azarmehr said...

Well Monica, a lot of the opinion makers are actors and movie makers and Hollywood is the place for them. I really dont see anything wrong about Ganji seeing these people in Hollywood. If I had the same opportunity and the same platform as Ganji does, I too would have talked to Hollywood stars.
I see nothing wrong with talking to Hollywood but I would have used the opportunity to focus on Iran's issues not Christian and Jewish fundamentalism etc..
But then again Ganji has to go back to Iran, I live in comfortable surroundings and enjoy the priviliges of a free counrty, its hard for me to criticise someone who has been on hunger strike for 75 days and has to go back to the SS-lamic Republic of Iran.

Cyrus Ferdowsi said...

Dear Potkin,

It is indeed hard to criticise someone who has to go back to Iran, but this situation should not turn into an excuse and a cover to overlook mistakes. Ganji himself has always insisted we must be courageous and transparent and pay the price for what we want. He has chosen to remain in Iran and that is admirable, but if he is afraid of going back he is the one who has to say that, not us. If we do when he doesn't, it would become an act of double-think, in Orwell's 1984 terminology.

There would be nothing wrong in going to Hollywood if he had also met with some people of real and actual influence, instead of spending time with the likes of Chomsky. He has indeed missed this great opportunity.

I have commented more on this here: Ganji's Assumptions.