Taken for granted

12 07 2009

I am deeply disappointed with my countrymen. It seems that interest in liberty can be extinguished by the passing of time and an abundance of cheap entertainment. The American people have turned their collective backs on the sacrifices of their ancestors. The men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor would weep with shame at the self-indulgent parasites their descendants have become.

Liberty in this country is taken for granted. With a few noteworthy exceptions, none of the people living in the US today have had to exert the slightest effort to enjoy the blessings of liberty. They take their basic freedoms for granted, and ignorantly assume that the same happy state of affairs is the natural state of humanity. When they are inevitably exposed to the harsh realities of life in much of the world, Americans may write a few letters to Congress or send a few dollars to some charity or another and consider that they’ve done their part … until something more interesting is on TV.

Those to whom liberty is anathema have come to count on America’s miniscule attention span. Despite the extravagant way the last administration expended American goodwill, much of the world looks to the United States for leadership. The fact that the American people will reliably lose interest in anything in a matter of hours means that the enemies of liberty need only wait until the next television extravaganza to continue committing atrocities. The tyrants of the world will be very careful to keep their excesses out of view of the American imbeciles as much as possible. They will also take great pains to avoid directly threatening or attacking the US. We may be jaded, overweight dullards, but our patience and willful ignorance has limits.

Sadly, the villains ruling Iran have not yet grown so stupid as to push Americans beyond those limits. The government there has expended enormous resources trying to shut down the flow of information out of the country- to the point of making journalists, politicians, and anyone else who might become a threat just disappear. Possession of a cell phone or computer is not illegal in Iran, but those who own such devices risk arrest, beating, and death at the hands of the Basij.

Despite the vicious crackdown on all forms of dissent or protest, the streets of Tehran were filled with protesters again yesterday. In a sign that the protesters are growing increasingly annoyed with the Basij, more and more protesters are openly confronting them in the streets. Protesters make a point of taking pictures of Basij, then posting them online for others to help identify them. There is a growing dossier of Basij available online, with home addresses and photos. Whenever the government shuts the websites down, new ones pop up- often hosted on foreign servers and protected by Americans and Europeans who object to the Iranian government’s tyranny. Government websites doing the same thing for protesters are identified almost as quickly as they appear, and just as quickly shut down by foreign hackers.

A worrying sign for the government is the fact that businesses and the large merchant class in Iran is beginning to side with the protesters. Passive strikes- where the shops are open but not selling anything, and shoppers are present but not buying- are one way of getting around government prohibitions against public gatherings. Shopkeepers close their shops during protests, but allow injured or hunted protesters to take shelter within. The extensive middle class in Iran is sending more and more of their money to overseas banks, further robbing the government of desperately needed funds.

In their increasingly frantic attempts to shore up their position, Khameni and Ahmadinejad are destroying their own legitimacy, and the legitimacy of the Islamic Revolution. The protesters originally did not want to throw out the Islamic Republic. They wanted the government to follow the rules. When Khameni started taking the position that any dissent was equivalent to apostasy, he undermined the very heart of the Revolution. One of the core principles of Shi’a Islam is the requirement to protest apparent injustice. By declaring dissent a mortal sin, Khameni is violating one of the most cherished tenets of the religion he professes to protect. This declaration puts Khameni in company with the Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia, and definitely against the principle of the Revolution.

Despite the chaos and violence in the streets, the future of Iran will probably be decided in the Holy City of Qom. Many powerful men- all survivors of the Revolution- are watching the antics of the Supreme Leader and feeling the winds of change blow about them. If they support Khameni, they are becoming the same as the Sunni rulers of the old Caliphate. This would almost certainly mean another Revolution, sooner or later, where the clerics would lose all of their power and privileges.  If they support the protesters, they risk losing some of their power and privileges, but will retain enough.

The big question is how many of the supposedly Holy men have grown accustomed to the economic benefits of being on top. Rafsanjani may be a Grand Ayatollah, but he is first and foremost concerned with his business empire. So long as he retains that, he probably wouldn’t mind much if his political power were diminished. Many of the senior clerics are in similar situations. Many of these men are possible supporters of the current unrest.

Some of the clerics- including the universally revered Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq- are philosophically opposed to clerics having political power. Many of these clerics are also likely to support the protesters.

For the sake of an entire generation in Iran, let us hope the changes which will inevitably result from the unrest (sooner or later) are in the form of a step forward, and not a backslide into barbarism. That would lead to problems far outside Iran.

Not that the bulk of the US population would even notice.

Current status: Alert

Current music: Hazy Shade of Winter by the Bangles

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