Iranian Perspective: No need for higher purposes

Ghazal dear, the following reply to a post of Bahmani I could have never written without experiencing the tightness of the relationship between you and your family and feeling how much a resistance this provides against any potential intruder (like myself).

In Iran, the frequently expressed demand to do something for the community/society is a compensatory reflex to the traditional 150% focus on familial relation as the only important ones. Neither the Shahs aristocratic wealth nor the religious dogma of Shia islam could provide any common framework for all Iranians. The aristocracy was always considered corrupt and only interested in rising the power and wealth of their own dynasty, and the islamic religion was from its very beginning alian and hostile towards the historic Persian values of the Archemenidian, Sassanidian and Parthians empires and their culture and faith.
So over centuries, the Iranians converted to their very own family worlds, which provided a sort of constant values, safety, and system of trust, pride, and historic continuity. But the rise of modern societies in the 19th and 20th century required a new social “contract”, and even though in both the capitalist and the socialist countries the economic models were so much different, in both cases the masses “sacrificed” their privat life to the socio-economic requirements. Japans rise to such a economic superpower would have been unthinkable without the devotion of the people to finally commit their whole life for the prosperity of their employer (or formerly to the prosperity of the shogun). In Europe the mostly benevolent dynasties had a similar function, or the republic values in France. All of these provide values systems to the individual, which could easily be transformed into the requirements of modern, anonymous, industrial societies.
But in a society where the main social relationships and values are provided by an extended family clan, this transformation is much more difficult. Because you can easily get rid of your faith (like in Russia) or loosen your devotion to the royal dynasty (like in England, where the Windsors became more or less decorative and cultural institutions), but you can never get rid of your parents, your grandparents and uncles and aunts. Everybody of us has them, and of course they will always try to keep the children, grandchildren, nices and nephrews as close as possible and as obidient as possible. And this in reality made any consense on a national or society scale very difficult. And because people deep inside are very aware of this, they invent the narratives of the hero who devotes his whole life for the sake of the society. These narratives are pure sublementations for the complex of lacking a minimal social responsibility. The second narrative that is reproduced again and again to satisfy this desire for a devotion of the individuum to the socium is the Shia victim mythology. Wunderful and so atractive to please god, if some martyres loos their life not to defend the family, but to spread the religion. These are the prototype of social workers: Giving their own life for the sake of a “higher” institution. But (thanks god) these cult of Shia islamic martyrdom could not supersede in primary family values in Iranian society neither. I was always fascinated by the observation that even though Shia islam has this dogma of the martyrdom, there were never suicide terrorists coming from the Iranian society. My guess would be that these very tight family relationships in which each person is imbedded, the idea to commit one family member to be sent out to give its life away for a “higher purpose” is extremely difficult to justify. The palestinians are always happy to do this, and the Iraqies and the Pakistany are always willing to do this. Iranians not. So they love these fantastic stories of Rustam or of Ali and Hussein, but the verve and absoluteness of this love says much more about their deep-down feeling that they lack such “higher purposes” in daily life.

regards, Michael

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