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Seeing Green


13 Dec 2009 23:5110 Comments
fall.jpg[ comment ] It's been a busy day of driving through Tehran in hired cabs. Heavy traffic afforded me time to ponder, an exercise I practiced almost Zen-like in order to reduce my intake of air, for this is key to surviving Tehran: avoiding the smoke and smog by breathing very little. I have not smoked for more than 100 days now and my lungs are just starting to open up, so Tehran's air really hits me hard.

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

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I don't agree with u..
it seems to be chaotic but it's not,the people are more organized that u can imagine,they want change and they want it soon!they are fed up with the islamic republic,they want to live freeee,with justice,rights like in the west!
we have 7000 years of civilization and 2500 years of documented history,we are PERSIA,we want to LIVE !And the solution is democracy,and our students know that!
vicory is ours,we r countless!

dokhtare aryai / December 14, 2009 1:18 AM

I agree with your interesting words...
What happens in Iran is a sample of Butterfly effect theory( I like to see it this way!), but it won't stop there and it shouldn't. The anger and hatred brought people to streets, if they leave the movement to grow by chance then they have to cross fingers for chance to lead the movement to the point they want.
we all have to change in order to change the system and People need change, they are tired, disappointed and betrayed...change is coming maybe not tomorrow or near future but it's coming and this time it comes for good!

ArezooNia / December 14, 2009 4:23 AM

We are going to have change.We are going to have it soon.If a bunch of uneducated Akhoond could take over the country in 1979, I am sure the educated and vibrant generation of today can manage better and ten fold. I don't need the Green movement. I need my cuase and that is the removal of Islamic Republic.I want democracy, secularism and modernity. I believe in me because I can.Death to the Islamic Republic or better said the Barbaric Republic.

Kaveh / December 14, 2009 7:36 AM

"It's the economy stupid" The regime will be broken by their mismanagement of the economy. Everyday basic good are becoming out of reach for the ordinary citizen.

PB / December 14, 2009 7:51 AM

Um, the Southbound lane on Vali Asr is not closed - it has been converted into a bus lane for months now and allows for cheap and fast transportation from Vali Asr Square all the way to Parkway and beyond. If Tehraners didn't "throw themselves" into the traffic as much then maybe it wouldn't be necessary. One should always double source one's cab driver theories in any country. Probably best to do that before you write that the city does "not provide any reason"?

Keyvan / December 14, 2009 3:40 PM

I am 57 years old and I lived through the revolution. "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." This statement is a total lie.The majority of people had no clue.They really thought everything is going to be free as Khomeini had promised.We didn't have financial problems to begin with.Some of the kids in my neighborhood went out because they heard they may get a gun or two. A months later somebody turned them in to the local komiteh. They took their guns and beat them up. It was blind leading the blind based on false promises. Please, I am talking to the young generation. Don't believe everything you hear or read. We did not know what we were doing. You can see the result today. It was based on ignorance and blind trust.They told us Khomeini's face is on the moon and people belived it. Please, think about what you are doing and elect those who care about you and the country, its history and culture and most of all its future. Don't be taken by the same lies. We had no idea.That is the truth.

Kimia / December 14, 2009 7:17 PM

many of us iranian-americans that live abroad in afree society can not imagine the hardship and pain ,that these couragous young people feel.they no longer can hope or dream,they have all already sacrificed so many lives,they are at the end of their rope.they need change and are wiiling to take this movement into their ownd hands,i just hope that some special interests like mojahedin and the royalsts alike,do not abuse these honorable kids to advance their own agendas.iran needs freedom and democracy that they deserve,by the people for the people.

fay moghtader / December 14, 2009 9:13 PM

Fay, The only abuse these kids suffer from is A> at the hands of the Barbaric Republic and B> The regime's lobby in U.S. and Europe whose job is to misinform, divert attention and buy time for their masters in Tehran.Mojahedin and Royalists have nothing to do with anything right now.Stop lying to people.Iranians are a lot smarter than you give them credit for.God I hate liars.

Fay's concious / December 15, 2009 4:39 AM

The fact that Greens are leaderless, have not defined their demands, have not written a manifesto, have not stated their targets and goals is not the sign of their weakness. Instead, it demonstrates how authentic the movement is. Greens will be the movement of the new generation. It will be the new hegemonic project of the people who try to shake off the previously discussed, explored and exhausted political and social projects. What Greens demand will become apparent in the course of their resistance and fight. All the passive energies, all the suppressed subjects will contribute to the formation of this project while it is shaping. This is the way any original movement is shaped.This is how 1979 revolution happened and all the other authentic uprisings. In the course of mobilisation they will arrive at a newly articulated meanings, terminology, demands and targets. Unlike what many people think, I believe that Greens will shape our new political horizons. In acting out the resistance, they will find a form, not before the act. Trust them and be hopeful. Greens massages is "throw yourself into the act. Trust your desire and faith. Be faithful to your desire".

Didaar / December 16, 2009 12:11 AM

No Didaar here, you are blind."Throw yourself into the act. Trust your desire and faith. Be faithful to your desire". What act? You don't know. What faith? You don’t have one. What desire? You have no idea. But just throw yourself in and everything will be grand. Yeah, right. If I am deaf, dumb and stupid.
Dear friend, in 1979 he was a mullah by the name of Khomeini who made a lot of promises (Refer to YouTube for viewing).Contrary to your claim, people gathered around a false leader with false promises and for a false cause. Result: 30 years of misery for the Iranian people and where we stand today. Now, geniuses like you are asking us to commit ourselves blindly to another falsehood, better yet this one doesn't even have a leader, but we are to assume it will auto magically find a leader (in the case of Iranians a million leaders, everybody chief no Indians), a cause and a direction. My dear friend, there is a great Persian saying that goes like this: If you haven’t P... yet beware, the night is long (as in length of time). Any other thoughts genius? This is the movement of the Green, wake up son.Death to the Islamic Republic.

Tutty fruity's brother-in-law / December 16, 2009 4:25 AM