Monday, July 19, 2010

Two Books from Iran Point to Its Degenerative State

It's indeed sad what a dictatorial regime can do to dissenters and minorities. What gives birth to dictators, regimes and corrupt militias? An absence of a watchful public. We in the social media take on, sort of watchdog status with our smart status messages, links to articles, and our smart quips. Rarely do we, if at all, aggregate these opinions and smart-ass rejoinders into something cohesive and definitive in terms of action, as the following two books that I am writing here about would indicate. The action is in Iran. We don't realize the full import of what's happening in that country to our west. "Ah, it's after two countries to our west no? I am least bothered, men" says my friend Anthonybhai. At least, Anthonybhai should read the two reviews mentioned in this article which made me think up this post. Iran (Persia of old) has degenerated from a land of plenty and prosperity to one of intolerance and bigotry. That means the whole region to our west is troubled – Pakistan, Afganistan and Iran. Not a happy thought.

One is Roxana Saberi's book "Between Two Worlds" in which she write about how, "For all their exhilarating potential, however, the new media can also warp a budding democratic movement, hurling it into premature confrontation with the state," as happened recently during an election in Iran. She was arrested in Iran for buying a bottle of wine.

In another book "Death to the Dictator!" the pseudonymous author Afsaneh Moqadam argues in that Iranians were at best profoundly ambivalent about technology's role in the protests: "Cellphone cameras, Facebook, Twitter, the satellite stations: the media are supposed to reflect what is going on, but they seem, in fact, to be making everything happen much faster. There's no time to argue what it all means."

We all who are in awe of the social media do not know if it can sow the seeds of peace or fan the flames of rebellion. We become addicted and carry on nevertheless, sharing mountains of information which sometimes confuses and confounds. Sometimes, as happened in India in the IPL imbroglio casual Tweets have dethroned ministers and excommunicated self-styled business barons.

We all in the new media are singing paeans to modernism. But it seems a part of the world we do not know about is descending into oligarchy and obscurantism. There seems to be no respect for fundamental freedoms and respect for basic human dignities.

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