This is a guest post from long-time Peking Duck reader and contributor Bill Stimson. It’s not about China, but maybe there are some parallels?
Truth in Iran
by William R. Stimson
A fake president rants to a fake crowd about his administration’s mobilization to confront a fake enemy. Fake journalists are present to ensure that the fake story gets out. The real journalists are all in jail. The real media are all closed down. The real president gets attacked by thugs for trying to come out and speak to the real crowds that are trying to gather. The fake crowds have been assembled, paid, bussed in, and provided with flags to wave; but the real ones have been intimidated with arrests and even hangings and have had their means of communication cut. What few still do manage somehow to form are quickly chased down and attacked by the administration’s only real mobilization, the one against its only real enemy – its own people.
These descend from one of the world’s oldest and most magnificent linguistic, literary, and cultural traditions. In 13th Century Persian, its great poet Jalalud’din Rumi expressed the deepest and most utterly authentic pole of Islam. In lines still sung by schoolgirls all over Iran, he celebrated the intoxicating delight of the heart that breaks free from stale religious dogma and its niggling rules to flow with divine love emanating from the eternal now – a winged heart that heals everything it touches, and half the time doesn’t bother to categorize itself as religious, political, or personal. Many who sang and danced in the streets of Teheran prior to last summer’s election felt and expressed this heart that flies with truth and can see through the present order to a better world.
This joyous outpouring of people celebrating in the streets deeply alarmed Iran’s uptight supreme leader and his cohorts, who represent the diametrical opposite, most superficial and deadeningly fake, pole of Islam. For these sterile ideologues and harsh disciplinarians, religion is not an indwelling enlightenment dancing naturally out of the awakened heart, but entails forcing upon the mind and behavior of the populace an acquired belief system, outside authority, shallow legalistic codes, and (their own) political tyranny.
By rigging the election, the supreme leader thought to crush what he saw as a velvet revolution. But it wasn’t a velvet revolution. The velvet revolutions of Eastern Europe aimed to and did overthrow Communist regimes to install democratic ones. Iran’s opposition never set out to change Iran’s system of government – only make it function as it should according to its own constitution.
The green opposition movement could never have undone the supreme leader to the extent it has were it not for the fraudulent behavior he condoned and perpetuated, the mendacity, and the unbelievably cruel and brutal tactics unleashed against innocent civilians. Whatever in the end becomes of him and his cronies can only be what he and they deserve. That this victory is being won by a whole people, unarmed, standing together on the side of truth, will be seen as the defining moment of our times.
The unique power of Iran’s green opposition, and the reason it cannot be defeated, is that it is composed of so many disparate sectors of society, all sharing a certain core belief in a new and more wholesome direction and all acting from a deeply shared part of themselves. The government can take away the people’s Twitter, their Facebook, their Gmail, and even their cell phones. It can prevent them from gathering, it can imprison them, it can torture them, it can sodomize and rape them. It can even hang them. But it can’t seem to cut them off from their only real resource and means of communication – the heart that flies with truth.
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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.