The Nuclear Thing & Other Persian Riddles
09 Sep 2009 23:29
Over the years, everyone has heard the chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" coming from the streets of Tehran, but those outside Iran never hear those chanting in the streets as they laugh and tease the organizers about the quality of the tea being served on the parade routes, or how after a while, the chant becomes all about how the chanters wish Iran was more like the United States. In Farsi, "Death to" takes enough of one's breath that one has to take a second breath to utter "America."
The brainwashing force of Farsi is so overwhelming that even our most eloquent poets and writers used it in code and with hesitation so as to not reveal all the powers to the uninitiated. Farsi and Iran are like trapped lovers who use the chains that bind them together in such a delicate way so as to not let non-native speakers see how one uses the other to describe the trappings that each feels.
Persians claim their language as the source of their strength, as the sweetness of their lives, and yet they also suffer from the power it imposes upon them. Iran has suffered much because Farsi provides a multi-dimensionality, a language that allows its speakers to deny truth in a most truthful way. Its speakers use the language to describe their ideals and pride themselves in achieving those ideals through lying about them.
One may think it simply as propaganda, but it is Farsi's magical dimensions that allow propaganda to take on powers that other languages could only hope for. As recently as two years ago, the street chants in Tehran claimed, "Atomic energy is our undeniable right," which seems simple enough. However, when repeated in Farsi the emphasis shifts to "our undeniable right" and the rest does not matter because the focus is on the "our... right" and a lot of people educated or not can be attracted to their "right."
These days in Tehran and most large cities in Iran, the chants of "God is Great" -- "Allah o Akbar" -- is heard starting at 10 p.m. from many rooftops. It is in Arabic but the chanters have chosen well since it says to those who speak Farsi of the strength of our beliefs in our "rights" and has nothing to do with our religiosity. Since the ruling religious hierarchy cannot deny the chant or prohibit it, the religious elites undoubtedly shake in their hearts when they hear it or worse yet when they have to repeat it themselves, as this revolutionary chant has been turned against the teachers by the students.
Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini and President Ahmadinejad are two of the finest examples of how the use of Farsi can be the most powerful tool of public manipulation. One spoke and one speaks Farsi at a 5th or 6th grade level; both men made sure their native accents were not hidden or corrected; and, they both made sure their audiences heard of their humility, which can be done masterfully in Farsi and with great impact. Their use of nuance is almost zero. Nuances are for a different class of Farsi speakers who are not their audience. They combine their peaceful declaration with loud and hearty threats against foreign powers that are presented as the single source of misery of all Iranians.
These days, Farsi writers inside and outside Iran, pro and con, are at it again. They are writing to report the truth or maybe to cover up the truth. Farsi at its best is courteous and genteel. Native Farsi speakers who have been reading the articles and stories about Iran in recent weeks are often amazed at how this writer or that writer describes his point of view and then makes sure that it comes out as the only truth. They attack each other with respect and the chivalry of 17th century Europe. They write for an intelligentsia who has long forgotten Iran in the comfort of their villas in Tehran or southern California, and yet they write of the tears for the youth and deceit by the elders in power.
The power elite in Iran also write in Farsi but for a totally different audience. They write about the "Velvet revolution" in a way that makes a man think twice about his wife wearing velvet since it would mean being molested by a stranger and worse yet a foreigner. They write about righteousness and virtues as simply water for cleaning one's hand and as a place to rest one's head. And they write for the analysts at the foreign service offices of western countries hoping to manipulate them in ways that the poor analyst must know and suffer from by now.
What the power elite and their writers here have not yet figured out is that soon or later righteousness and virtuosity show their double-edges and then who knows even the "wretched of the earth," as Frantz Fanon called them, or the Mostazafin, as the "Islamic Republic of Iran" calls them, will come to understand the multi-dimensionality of Farsi.
As they say here everywhere, "Ensha Allah," which is the Arabic for "God willing," but understood here in Farsi as "God Wanting!"
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau
Photo: Parviz Tanavoli sculpture.