by CORRESPONDENT in Tehran
13 Dec 2009 23:51
In this Zen-like state, my mind seeks no answers and asks no questions as the driver complains of how "they" have closed the southern end of Vali Asr (formerly Pahlavi) Street from the Parkway intersection on down. Since the city does not provide a reason for this event, any explanation, regardless of how conspiratorial, seems plausible. The driver's explanation today was at least clever: "They wanted to make sure the demonstrators can't use Vali Asr as the point of connecting the north to south. And blocking all the side streets prevents the crowds from joining each other on Vali Asr Street."
I feigned a little surprise and said it was all hard to believe, but he argued that the mayor intended to become the next president and needed to make sure he was very close to the Rahbari, which in the end seemed as good a cause as any.
As we continued down a series of byways and thoroughfares only taxi drivers know how to negotiate to any logical end, my mind wandered to a meditation on democracy and its demise here. In what felt like a bit of an epiphany, I looked at the chaos of Tehran traffic and suddenly saw a system beautifully at work in it: Man-machine interface, the exchange between the industrial beasts and the self-absorbed operators proved that this cyclical process does constitute a non-circular movement towards a goal, just as the serpentine route of the cab would eventually lead me to my own destination.
You see, democracy is not the goal in Iran. The green wave is not about democracy, it's about demanding respect and rejecting an unjust order imposed without explanation. The generation of the Revolution was given reasons and explanations why a new "Nezam" should be put in place; the reasons and explanations made sense, so they revolted. The next generation also understood the reasons for the war with Iraq, and its impact and consequences. But the new generation has not inherited any of these, so they seek chaos, and in fact thrive on it in much the same way people deal with traffic in Tehran.
In fact, the traffic is an appropriate metaphor for how many Iranians feel about life in Iran these days. They hate it, they complain about it, they blame others for it, but they also throw themselves into it with an unbridled passion. They venture out when they don't have to (most of the single passenger cars are driven by young people who are going for a ride) and they drive risking life and limb with music blasting into the night, their hands and legs working the clutch, gear, brakes and steering wheel in an exhausting frenzy.
The Iranian green movement is a leaderless movement without any stated platform, yet it demands change. It seeks to reform the ruling structure (Nezam), however it has not defined this change in any manifesto that would qualify as a political platform. The movement is directed by no one, yet it has gained momentum. It manages to communicate mostly through technology and when it can it employs bus stop shelters and the mountainside signs to write its slogans or vent its anger.
I have spoken to many young people, and there is no organization, no commonality of vision, no political stance or ideology. Their most common catchphrases are "this has to end," and "the regime is a goner." When I ask if they will participate in the 13 of Aban demonstrations, they generally say 'Yes,' but without any real expectations.
I am constantly amazed at how simply they talk about it. The killings, the torture and the demonstrations are merely the explanations for the urgency of the need for change and not cause of the urgency. Ultimately, the urgency is the required need for freedom that exists in chaos. It's hard to explain, but I see it clear as day. The green movement is the obligatory explanation/representation for "seeking" democracy.
This movement is not about gaining what people have in the West. Nor is it any longer about getting "my vote" back, but it is becoming about change through chaos, with intelligence, bravery, empowerment, and consensus fueling the flames in a most amazing dance. Chaos for any dominant social structure suggests a greatly feared anarchy. But chaos also points to a beautiful and complex intrinsic order that exists beyond our notions of logic. Maybe the green movement is that beautiful chaotic order and that is why it is striking such a chord for almost everyone who comes into contact with it.
Every time I get into a car in Tehran, I am filled with hope, and the conversations take me to places so fresh and new that life feels green by definition. And so is this green revolution, so new that I wish I could write it a manifesto, a manifesto for an ancient people betrayed by recent events. A manifesto for chaos as a new system of order.
Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau