Liberalism Is Undergoing a Renaissance in Iran, and Reflecting Back to the West Its Radical Roots
Remember the Iranian Green Revolution of 2009? Three plus years later those times seem to have taken place a lifetime ago.
The murder of Neda Soltan, Sohrab Aarabi and up to 150 others (as asserted by CNN) have largely been forgotten. Indeed, there those today who insist we can and should treat as equals, a regime which demanded a $3,000 bullet recovery fee prior to the release of a protester murdered by the authorities. It should be no surprise to anyone by now that Iran is Syria’s most enthusiastic supporter and a long time supporter of terrorism.
Then there is the matter of Iran’s nuclear program, which has been decried by western nations and has resulted in crippling sanctions.
All the while, Iranian protest movements have refused to shrivel up, die and go away. Alone and without visible or media support these young Iranians plod on, driven by one idea: liberalism, the ideology that has birthed more successful revolutions than any other.
There is a lot we can learn and relearn from these driven Iranians- they are inclusive, tolerant and above all they demand human and equal rights for all, religious rights and a free market place for thoughts and ideas.
And they are willing to put it all on the line for those things we often take for granted.
Iran and the Future of Liberalism: As an Authority Against Authoritarianism, Liberalism Is Undergoing a Renaissance in Iran, and Reflecting Back to the West Its Radical Roots. « Sigmund, Carl and Alfred
IN her 2003 memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, the Iranian literary scholar Azar Nafisi tells the story of a group of her female students who surreptitiously gathered in her living room once a week to discuss works of Western literature deemed unfit for classroom instruction by the Islamic Republic’s censors. Over a period of close to two years in the mid-1990s, the women snuck into their teacher’s home every Thursday morning, removed the veils they are legally required to wear in public, and mixed it up over Nabokov, Fitzgerald, Flaubert, Jane Austen, Henry James and Saul Bellow.
Reading Lolita is about how these women experienced internal freedom amidst external repression - about a struggle to carve out a space for the imagination under the crushing weight of a regime committed to administering the totality of public and private life alike. It’s a story about the transformative power of great literature, its ability to connect and transport its readers to an outside world - in this case, a world that is prohibited, closed, off-limits. It is an attempt to contravene, however momentarily and precariously, what Andrei Codrescu calls “the disappearance of the outside”.
As Nafisi shows, the encounter with books under such conditions has a transformative effect not only on those who read them, but on the works themselves. The women in Nafisi’s clandestine book club see things in these novels that people on the outside are unlikely to see. Nabokov’sInvitation to a Beheading resonates differently for readers in the Islamic Republic of Iran than for those, say, in North America or Western Europe.
In turn, I think it’s fair to say that we in the West can discover a great deal about our own literature by seeing it reflected back through the prism of an outsider. Nafisi poignantly captures this two-way street by explaining that the West’s “gifts to us have been Lolita and Gatsby”, while Iran’s gift to the West “has been reasserting those values that they now take for granted…”. My contention here is that this insight may be applied to international politics.