Monday, January 22, 2007

Anecdotes Instead of Research

A friend forwarded me an article by Ali G. Scotten, a PHD student in anthropology at the University of Chicago and a former Fulbright scholar, published in the Christian Science Monitor, for my perusal. For some reason I am just not keen on most academics of non-scientific subjects and the mega tonnes of "research" they produce. Perhaps its because of my engineering background, I like building things and changing things, not just writing essays about things. Right or wrong, I also seem to have a different view of what research is.

So this was my reply once I read the above article:

"The unfortunate thing is, these guys (think tanks/academics) call a few anecdotes and interviews with Iranian people, research. One thing they all misunderstand is that Iranians will not talk about their true feelings and spill out whats truly in their hearts in front of someone they dont know well enough. Talking the truth and whats really in your heart has consequences in Iran.

I kept telling this to the American officials and think tanks we saw when we were in US.
At the end of the day, I can say for 100% that his conclusion of talking to the regime is just wishful academic windup. What Iranian people need is confidence. If they think they have a good chance of overthrowing the regime, the critical mass in the protests against the regime will be reached. Look at what Iranian refugees risk. They risk their dignity, their life savings, their life and limb to leave Iran and come to the West, but most of them are not political and won't take part in the anti-government protests, so why do they take the risks to flee Iran? Because they think there is a 10% chance of a better life at the end of the tunnel. But sadly most of them feel there is 0% chance of overthrowing the regime.

Some people may be impressed by this guy's academic credentials but when he quotes an opium dealer who says he will lay down his life to save Iran from foreign invaders, I just then think the Chicago PHD student, Ali G. is not familiar with Iranian khalibandi :) - empty gestures and boasting.
"
Those with a scientific background will understand that one experiment that disproves a theory will then make the theory totally redundant. The proposition of dialogue with IRI leaders has been exercised by the EU countries for 27 years now, why go down a path that has failed again?

Instead I tend to believe the confidential report prepared by Iran's foreign affairs and defence ministry obtained by Le Monde.
PHD students on a single trip to Iran, still have to learn a lot about Iranian psychology and proper research.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

No! Mr. Potkin.

You are wrong in your interpretation and have mistakenly analysed Ali G Scotten'a article.

You will find that in the end, the US and the Iranians have to sit around a table and sort out their problems, either before the start of hostilities or at the end of it.They still have to talk to each other to finish this mess.Bombs alone will not settle this argument.

In fact what Scotten is saying in this article is that, If one is committed to furthering the universally accepted shared ideals of universal life, liberty, and justice, then one is also obliged to take Iranian nationalism seriously when even Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, vows, 'We will defend our country to the last drop of our blood. We will not let an alien soldier set foot on the land of Iran '.

As an American he is advising his people and his Government that, 'The tragic cost of American misjudgement regarding the Middle East was made painfully clear in Iraq, when US soldiers were greeted with roadside bombs instead of flowers. Let's not repeat that mistake"
.
I agree with him no matter what casually observed or anecdotal evidence he quotes in his article to support this argument.

Winston said...

The only good thing in the article was to show us that Iranians love America more than any one else does in this world. Other than that the article was full of garbage of "TALK TO REGIME" thing.

Azarmehr said...

And I say the way to change things in Iran, is to give the people of Iran confidence that they can make change.

A meeting of US-IRI will solve nothing. The two sides will talk about their own interests and not about the interests of teh Iranian people. You think in such a meeting they will talk about accepted shared ideals of universal life, liberty, and justice? Give me a break!

Another Anonymous said...

Where was Shirin Ebadi's nationalism when an Arab culture took over Iran?? Where was her nationalism when our flag was changed with a non-Iranian symbol and with non-Iranian writing??
Where is her nationalism when the victims of the Bam earthquake are still living in squalor and the Islamic Republic instead continues to subsidise Hamas and Hezbollah??

Anonymous said...

I know that sometimes Talking just for the sake of TALKING is useless and pointless. but I think that if there is going to be any talking, it is better to talk before war than after war.

Azarmehr said...

But why have a war or a talk before war? Why not instead, break down this image of invincibility of the Islamic Republic amongst the Iranian people so they can gain confidence to make changes in Iran themselves?
Then there will be no need for war or pre-war talks!

The clerics are masters of talking and bartering. They fooled the Europeans, they will fool the Americans. They are more cunning than you will ever think. As Jack Straw, a supporter of talks with Iran, said, talking to Iranian authorities was like bartering in a bazaar, we would expect a table to be delivered but instead of what we expected a table without a leg would be delivered.

Talking to Iranian authorities will relay an image to the Iranian people that the world has reached a deal with the mullahs and they will stay in power for good.

If you could read the Iranian dailies you would notice how cocksure the Iranian authorities get everytime "Talks" is mentioned.
Because they understand the Iranian psychology better than you. They know what message is received by Iranian people, everytime some start begging, please talk to the mullahs, you have no other alternative.

Give me an example of what will be said in these "talks" that you have in mind?

Bahramerad said...

Politics is about WORDS and politicians job is to talk.
In order to break the cycle of War or talk of war before or after, we have to convince people like Shirin Ebadi and MARYAM, see below , of the perilous situation that we are all facing. WAR IS NO JOKE.
http://sharjiedarya.blogfa.com/

"گوش کن سگ آمریکایی که قصد حمله به ایران را داری ایران قبرستان توست.
ایرانیان آزاده در این محرم به پیروی از مولا و مقتدای خود حسین بن علی، یزیدی به درک می فرستند.
بیا که ایران منتظر توست. اگر گرگ هاری، ایرانی شیر ژیان است و مرد میدان.
اینک این ایران است که به تو نشان خواهد داد شجاعت چیست و ایمان چگونه بر کفر مشتی دنیا پرست بی آخرت پیروز می شود.
این را بدان آمریکایی غاصب که بیش از دویست و پنجاه سال است در سرزمینی غصبی که مال تو نبود زندگی می کنی.
این ایرانیانی که در خاک تقسیم شده ی امروزی زندگی می کنند فرزندان کاوه، جلال الدین، سربداران و تنگستانند.
ایران خاک مذلت و مدفن شما خواهد شد.
به زودی معنی پیروزی خون بر شمشیر را خواهید فهمید.
به زودی هیمنه ی ایمان ایرانی در ماه خون و قیام وجود پوشالی و ورم کرده ی شما را به نابودی و سخره خواهد کشید.
بدانید که ایرانی تا آخرین قطره ی خون از زن و مرد مبارزه می کند و تا نفس می کشد اجازه ی تنفس در هوای پاک ایران را به هیچ اجنبی خداناشناس و پلید نمی دهد.
یا همگی به شهادت می رسیم تا یادمان مانند مولا حسین و یارانش با عزت بماند و نشان شرف انسانهای واقعی باشد یا مام میهن را از وجود نجس و بی ارزش شما پاک می کنیم که تا دنیا برپاست فراموش نکنید.
." در هر دو صورت پیروزی باماست چرا که مرگ چاره ناپذیر است پس جه بهتر که با عزت باشد..."

Bahramerad said...

Politics is about WORDS and politicians job is to talk.
In order to break the cycle of War or talk of war before or after, we have to convince people like Shirin Ebadi and MARYAM, see below , of the perilous situation that we are all facing. WAR IS NO JOKE.
http://sharjiedarya.blogfa.com/

"گوش کن سگ آمریکایی که قصد حمله به ایران را داری ایران قبرستان توست.
ایرانیان آزاده در این محرم به پیروی از مولا و مقتدای خود حسین بن علی، یزیدی به درک می فرستند.
بیا که ایران منتظر توست. اگر گرگ هاری، ایرانی شیر ژیان است و مرد میدان.
اینک این ایران است که به تو نشان خواهد داد شجاعت چیست و ایمان چگونه بر کفر مشتی دنیا پرست بی آخرت پیروز می شود.
این را بدان آمریکایی غاصب که بیش از دویست و پنجاه سال است در سرزمینی غصبی که مال تو نبود زندگی می کنی.
این ایرانیانی که در خاک تقسیم شده ی امروزی زندگی می کنند فرزندان کاوه، جلال الدین، سربداران و تنگستانند.
ایران خاک مذلت و مدفن شما خواهد شد.
به زودی معنی پیروزی خون بر شمشیر را خواهید فهمید.
به زودی هیمنه ی ایمان ایرانی در ماه خون و قیام وجود پوشالی و ورم کرده ی شما را به نابودی و سخره خواهد کشید.
بدانید که ایرانی تا آخرین قطره ی خون از زن و مرد مبارزه می کند و تا نفس می کشد اجازه ی تنفس در هوای پاک ایران را به هیچ اجنبی خداناشناس و پلید نمی دهد.
یا همگی به شهادت می رسیم تا یادمان مانند مولا حسین و یارانش با عزت بماند و نشان شرف انسانهای واقعی باشد یا مام میهن را از وجود نجس و بی ارزش شما پاک می کنیم که تا دنیا برپاست فراموش نکنید.
." در هر دو صورت پیروزی باماست چرا که مرگ چاره ناپذیر است پس جه بهتر که با عزت باشد..."

na said...

I make it short:who wanna talk to devil(islamic fashism)?

i realy love to see how Mrs."torosh" Ebadi defend her country or better said,her regime??

dear Ebadi for me are pasdaran,basiji,... alien soldier.

C.H. said...

Azarmehr -The only importance of the article, was to make people -Americans - aware that the Iranian people like them and are not their enemy. It's important for Americans to separate the Iranian people from their gov't and have them understand that despite decades of attempts at brainwashing, the regime has never been able to turn their citizenry against Americans.
Living here, I know how people talk about Iranians and how they may assume that since they have lived under this regime for 28 yrs, they must have been brainwashed by now.
That's why people -Americans- are always surprised at the hospitality and warmth and friendliness of Iranians when they travel to Iran.

Mr Scotten's suggestion of talking to the regime is a waste of time, naive and ignorant.

You are right - and I have made this same point myself numerous times - The Iranian people need confidance. They need support from outside powers. They need support from the media. They need to know that when they stage a demonstration, it will get world coverage, which in turn will encourage more people to show up for the next demonstration. And they need to know that the world will be watching the regime's response to protests and that the regime will be held accountable if they violently try to suppress the protests.

They need to know that they aren't alone and that their efforts won't be ignored. This along with money and materials will give them confidance.

But time is running out.

Azarmehr said...

I have no problems with his observation that Iranians love America, its just his final conclusion that Iranian people love Americans therefore Americans must talk to the Ayatollahs!
The signal that such talks would send to the Iranian people is that the mullahs now have the external support and are here for good.
Still no one has told me what will they talk about in these meetings, and who will talk with who?

پاشا said...

ملا نصرالدين را هر ايرانی به خوبی می شناسد. داستان لحاف او نيز زبانزد عام و خاص است. در زير سيطرة آخوندها، بر سر منافع ملی ايران همان رفته است که بر سر لحاف ملا نصرالدين رفت. يعنی آنرا دزديده اند. مسالة اساسی در اين نکته نهفته است که جمهوری اسلامی نمايندة ملت ايران نيست. از اين جهت پيدا نيست که سران رژيم اسلامی بايد در بارة کدام موضوع با آمريکا گفتگو کنند؟ آخوندها در پی آن هستند تا آن باقيماندة منافع ايران را که هنوز نفروخته اند در برابر تضمين امنيتی برای خود با آمريکا معاوضه بکنند. به زبان ديگر باز لحاف ملا نصرالدين دزديده خواهد شد. گفتگو با يک کشور خارجی تنها و تنها بر عهدة نمايندگان ملت ايران است و نمايندگان ملت ايران هم تنها و تنها در يک انتخابات آزاد و در شرايط دموکراتيک برگزيده می شوند. مشکل ايران و منطقه خود جمهوری اسلامی است و نه برگزار نشدن گفتگو بين آخوندها و آمريکا. هر زمان که آخوندها ايران را به ايرانيان پس دادند و دنبال کار خودشان رفتند، آنگاه می تواند با هر کس که دلشان خواست به گفتگو بنشينند.ـ

Amir said...

The reason we had a revolution in the first place was because the humanities were and are retarded in Iran. All the so-called intellectuals who participated in the revolution were either Physicians or Engineers, because in Iran if you didn't study Maths or Sciences in the High School you were considered slow. The very same people then took in some Marxs here and some Hegel there and voila... we are where we are. To say that humanistic research is no research is to disagree with the very foundation of renaissance, reformation, enlightenment, and all the various philosophical directions that eminated from it, which among other things led to the development of the industrial revolution to culminate in the holocaust conducted by the most advanced country in the way of engineering and the so-called hard-sciences, Germany. If you claim to be pro Democracy, you have to admit that democracy does not come from "building" things and putting numbers next to each other and drawing circles and calculating the area under the curve, it is the result of research into humanities conducted by men such as Jefferson and Hamilton and Humboldt and John Stuar Mill and others, none of whom had a masters in electrical engineering. Furthermore, to claim that because lots of bad research is conducted in humanities, that the hard sciences are better is not only a logical fallacy, but also ignores the fact that every year thousands upon thousands of science papers are written and presented only a handful of which lead to actual material things in the world outside of academia.

Having said all this, let me say I completely agree with you, Potkin, that there is nothing to be gained in talking to the mullahs. And it is true that Iranians love America - but not always for the right reasons. Still to this day reading philosophical treaties is looked down upon amongst Iranians, and not always among the usual suspects.

Bardia said...

Dear first anonymous,
Potkin have mentioned exactly on this point that what will be said in this TALK?
I think furthermore, the Americans don't know who are the behind of this table. but we iranian, know these politicians of Islamic regime are not Iranian so there's no need to argue with them. Americans must talk with Iranian people in IRAN as it happen in USA.

Bardia said...

but dear Bahramerad,
thank you for your alarm about this stupid article of sharjiedarya. these persons are arabs who have not any country so they are wrong in their nationality. they imagine that IRAN is their country and this is the reason that she use Iran instead of Arab or Iraq. however she has come wrong and late because US army attack her country last year. and my reason that is mentioned she is arab of iraq: hossein and all of things that she believes are in Iraq not in Great IRAN.

Azarmehr said...

I take your point about the study of humanities Amir. I think my objection to it in the post was just a knee jerk reaction to having faced years of "retarded" humanities graduates in Iran but having forgotten as you rightly say all those engineering graduates in Iran who suddenly by reading one book by Marx thought they know it all and the damage they did to the country!
I hadn't thought it through as well as I should have, thanks for correcting me.

Bahramerad said...

Dear Mr. Potkin

You say that `the way to change things in Iran, is to give the people of Iran confidence that they can make change. `You say that `The two sides will talk about their own interests and not about the interests of the Iranian people `. and you say that `in such a meeting they will NOT talk about accepted shared ideals of universal life, liberty, and justice. `

Well, WHO are these PEOPLE OF IRAN.
They surly include and consist of people like Shirin Ebadi (the embodiment of the educated, intelligent left leaning, Khatami camp) and Maryam, (who ever she is, Kha-maniac camp). And then there are PERSIANS. These are clearly different from the first two groups and believe and spend their life separate from what is going on around them in Persia and are just WAITING for things to happen and somehow make things better for them. (and perhaps LIBERATE them from the yoke of the mullah's).
We obviously do not want to encourage the nationalism of the first two type and are at a lost as to how to get the third type more aware of their predicament, hoping that they would rise up and destroy this shameful and dangerous state of affairs.
You say that `the IRI and their ideology is certainly not invincible. `
I agree with you there, look at how the Radical Islamise like the Taliban have been decimated in Afghanistan and how their brotherns are killing each other in Iraq. Sunni killing shia and vice versa. Indeed the seed of their destruction is sown right at the hart of their own religion.
You say that the `The clerics are masters of talking and bartering. They fooled the Europeans, they will fool the Americans. They are more cunning than you will ever think. `
I again, totally agree with you. Specially now that their total existence hinges on how they conduct themselves in the face of an all together a different predicament. An overwhelming power of shared ideals of universal life, liberty, and justice. (This is incidentally the shared views of all the PERSIANS enslaved and in a prison called I.R.of Iran.) In the last 27 years these miserable Mullah's have always TALKED to the US and made deals with them behind the back of all the three groupings mentioned above. They have lied to their own supporters that NO we are not talking to the Great Satan, and lied to the Khatami types that they would not abandon them BY talking to the US and all the while they have lied, cheated and imprisoned the PERSIANS and have said that they would leave them alone with a few scrapes of freedom to do this or that to keep them quiet. I reckon that the US must this time take the side of the PERSIANS and direct their TALKING and demands on the IRI for the sake of this oppressed camp.
You have asked, `Give me an example of what will be said in these "talks" that you have in mind? `
The US have said, (if you can trust what they are saying now after years of lying to the Persians) that this time around they are not only interested to talk about the WMD but that, that subject would only be the start of a host of other problems that the World community has regarding the rouge IRI regime, and THAT is what is stopping this new round of TALKS in front or behind the closed doors. The Mullah Mafia's are frightened that the game is up and if they even give an inch the other side would ask for miles. And this is Talking BEFORE the War starts. After the war, things would only get nastier for them.
Long Live PERSIA.
Sorry that this turn out to be so long.

serendip said...

Mr anonymous: We're all anxiously awaiting your response to reveal the content of this glorious talk with the Islamic Ummah? What does this talk should entail in your culturally/morally relativistic worldview of species of ME extraction??? How far and how long would you go in politicizing sufferings of millions of people in the name of "stability", "Realism and "pragmatism"?

You probably won't get this but it's worth a try:

"So let us regard this as settled: what is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables
you to make some gain that you believe to be to your
advantage. The mere act of believing that some
wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is
pernicious." Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

Azarmehr said...

I dont quite know what I am supposed to answer or comment on, bahramerad, but since you mention PERSIANS so many times in capital letters, let me tell you that in my view there are no Persian people. Persian is the common language of the Iranian people which binds them together.

Bahramerad said...

Until 1935, Our country was called Persia. Our ancient history and our real Culture is Persian Culture. Or at list mine is. This Mehdi business of Yah Ali Yah Hussain and so on is only part of being a Persian and not all of it. Persian as a language is hardly spoken if you go 100 miles out of Tehran. (in Any direction).

پاشا said...

بسياری از ايرانيان که در خارج زندگی مي کنند بر اثر تماس روزمره با زبانهای خارجی برخی از اصطلاحات اين زبانها را از آن زبان خود مي کنند که يکی از آنها همين واژه های پارس و پارسی است که در زبانهای اروپايی و انگليسی آمريکا در بسياری از جاها به جای ايران بکار برده مي شود و در بيشتر موارد منظور خاصی دنبال نمي شود. اتفاقا خود من ديروز در سخنرانی يک پژوهشگر آلمانی پيرامون موقعيت کنونی ايران و منطقه شاهد آن بودم که سخنران بارها از پارسيان و سياست پارسی سخن گفت که البته همه جا منظورش همان ايران کنونی بود. هر چند که مي پذيرم که کمی هم نوستالژی امپراتوری های کهن کشورمان اين قضيه را در بين برخی ايرانيان دامن مي زند. ولی اگر در متن نوشتة بهرام راد جای پارس و پارسيان گذاشته شود ايران و ايرانيان پيام نويسنده تغييری نمي کند. با اين وجود من فکر مي کنم که ما ايرانيان بهتر است که از ايران و ايرانی بگوييم و بنويسيم. پارس نيز بخشی از ايران بوده است و پارسيان بخشی از ايرانيان.ـ

Azarmehr said...

Its not true. Foreigners called our country Persia, we always called it Iran. Even if you refer to Sassanid texts, you will see clear references to Iran and An-Iran (Iran and non-Iranians).
Again I dont agree with you when you say Persian is hardly spoken if you go 100 miles outside of Tehran in any direction. Which ever direction you go, people in Iran speak a dialect of Iranian languages and Persian as well.

Winston said...

it has always been Iran. Persia is a part of Iran and name of an ethnic group. And not all of us are PERSIANS. I am not a persian, I am Parthian. ;-)

Bahramerad said...

Dear whoever want to call yourselves.

In Farsi language, there are iranian people and Iranian nation, consisting of many different tribes, different ethnicity, and they come from many different background and have many different languages. The majority are Arians of one sort or another.
Foreigners have always called the Arian Nations as a whole, Persians. (the Greeks and the Roman's use to call them Perseiose or Parsaiose in their Latin Language)
We are Iranians, (IRANEE). We speak FARSEE.
We are PARS See IAN, (PERSIAN NATION) from their perspective and how they use their language to refer to us.
They have done this throughout their history and it is ingrained in their cultures.
Reza Shah tried to changed the perception of the foreigners towards IRAN and IRANIANS by trying to amalgamate and homogenise these two names into one and replaced the use of PERSIA and PERSIAN by the foreigners in their dealings with the government of Iran and called it the MODERN NAME OF PERSIA.
We Farsee speakers have always knew who we are and what to call ourselves.
Please do not get your knickers in a twist about this.
Many countries have a name that they use in their own language to name themselves and others call them by other names due to verity of reasons such as political and / or historical reasons, e.g. Germany - ALLEMAN - Deutscheland. or Holland - Netherlands to name just two.
Anyway, a name is just a NAME. It does not change or prove anything. The main thing is when we say PERSIAN CULTURE, PERSIAN NATION, it equates with FARHANG E IRANEE and MARDOM E IRAN.
I hope that I have explained this properly and have not got my knickers in a twist.

Bahramerad said...

Dear whoever want to call yourselves.

In Farsi language, there are iranian people and Iranian nation, consisting of many different tribes, different ethnicity, and they come from many different background and have many different languages. The majority are Arians of one sort or another.
Foreigners have always called the Arian Nations as a whole, Persians. (the Greeks and the Roman's use to call them Perseiose or Parsaiose in their Latin Language)
We are Iranians, (IRANEE). We speak FARSEE.
We are PARS See IAN, (PERSIAN NATION) from their perspective and how they use their language to refer to us.
They have done this throughout their history and it is ingrained in their cultures.
Reza Shah tried to changed the perception of the foreigners towards IRAN and IRANIANS by trying to amalgamate and homogenise these two names into one and replaced the use of PERSIA and PERSIAN by the foreigners in their dealings with the government of Iran and called it the MODERN NAME OF PERSIA.
We Farsee speakers have always knew who we are and what to call ourselves.
Please do not get your knickers in a twist about this.
Many countries have a name that they use in their own language to name themselves and others call them by other names due to verity of reasons such as political and / or historical reasons, e.g. Germany - ALLEMAN - Deutscheland. or Holland - Netherlands to name just two.
Anyway, a name is just a NAME. It does not change or prove anything. The main thing is when we say PERSIAN CULTURE, PERSIAN NATION, it equates with FARHANG E IRANEE and MARDOM E IRAN.
I hope that I have explained this properly and have not got my knickers in a twist.