We Have Been Noticed

We still won’t take sweeties from strangers, but we’ll gladly take comments from people we’ve never met before and plenty of them. Until recently, those commenting upon our humble blog have been people who know us in the flesh and weren’t too sickened by the experience to break off all contact with us. But we now have had an echt spontaneous, unsolicited, unprompted visit and subsequent comment from our new friend “Wokan,” who was even so good as to link to us on his own blog. (See reciprocal digital backscratch on right hand side, under “Shout-Outs”).

Responding to a post about activists’ efforts to secure women’s rights in Iran, Wokan writes:

“I hope we can find a way to help their cause that doesn’t involve the Bush crime family dropping nukes on Iran. Not much point in women having rights if they’re dying of radiation poisoning.”

In addition to the astute observation as to the futility of rights for the dead, Wokan’s comment raises an important question: how, in fact, can we help? The power to change matters on the ground at the disposal of mere citizens such as ourselves seems so limited.

(Not to mention the fact that, as in the case of this shabby correspondent, some of us aren’t even citizens. Indeed, this sorry scribbler was today obliged to see the good people at the Varick Street office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services so as to renew his green card, which – as every dirty immigrant knows – is actually pink. Rather disconcertingly, the first thing I saw on passing through the metal detectors were framed headshots of President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney leering at me like twin jackals. Come to think of it, Cheney’s expression was more of a Gargamel-esque smirk, as though a cotton-tail bunny had just stumbled upon the business end of his hunting rifle and he was savouring the moment. Otherwise, the visit was quite pleasant. The office was staffed by a lovely team of delightfully plump ladies, one of whom took my trusting hand in hers and affixed my fingertips to a digital scanner. Apparently ink has been phased out except for kids, which is a terrible pity as I was rather hoping to pop over to Iraq for the next election and give the nearest cameraman a thumbs-up. But I digress.)

But while our influence may be limited, this is no reason to call the fight in favour of what one Iranian correspondent of mine calls a “totalitarian system based on compulsion and violation of human rights.” First of all, we must hold fast to that old leftist saw of “solidarity.” Their struggle is our struggle, no matter how remote it might seem. I recently had the good fortune to hear an important intellectual figure in Lebanon’s so-called Cedar Revolution – a man whose close friends and allies are routinely assassinated – speak of the struggle for democracy and human rights in his country. I asked him how we in the West, so far away, could help secular and liberal democrats in Lebanon and other countries with repressive governments. “The first thing,” he said, “is to acknowledge that we exist.” In some small way, we are attempting to honour that instruction.

In the specific case of Iran and women’s rights, we can sign petitions in solidarity with women’s rights activists, stay abreast of news of their work via the news media and superior human rights blogs such as this one, and, though I consider its government an illegitimate theocratic tyranny, I am still prepared to write letters addressed to “his excellency” President Ahmadinejad (though, whatever the questionable merits of his democratic mandate, he does not in fact have final say on policy) to press for the release of feminist activists and independent journalists. Even vile despots often fear bad publicity. Activist outrage can at least bring some pressure to bear on their repression and let those fighting for democracy know their efforts are not being ignored.

Two more things I think we can do. The first is to ensure that our own governments are living up to the standards that we demand of others, not only for the sake of simple morality but so that hypocrisy does not blunt the effectiveness of moral suasion. The second is to campaign for the development of clean, cheap and renewable energy sources that do not rely on fossil fuels or other scarce resources. Oil gives Iran’s regime leverage against any international efforts to curb its authoritarian nature and gives it license to disregard the well-being of the Iranian people – as long as it can rely on oil, it need not concern itself with human resources.

As for nuking Iran, I am of course against it; though the mullahs tenacious campaign to develop nuclear weapons certainly makes that a more distinct possibility, if still rather remote – nuclear containment is an alternative to preemption, but still implies the possibility of nuclear retaliation. More troubling is the possibility that a successful nuclear weapons program will vastly increase the theocratic regime’s strategic leverage, threatening the security of other nations in the region such as Saudi Arabia (the House of Saud I would not weep for; its unfortunate subjects are another matter) and Israel, and perhaps even Western interests through apocalyptic saber-rattling and the emboldened use of proxy terrorism.

Worst of all, the nuclear endeavour is a clear attempt by the regime to bolster its flagging legitimacy and authority so as to continue the oppression of Iran’s people. We hope its gambit does not pay dividends.

Explore posts in the same categories: Iran

4 Comments on “We Have Been Noticed”

  1. wokan Says:

    Actually, I think the nuclear endeavor is partly self-defense.
    The U.S. history of dealing with nations with nuclear weapons is pretty clear…
    Afghanistan – no nukes – invaded and its government replaced, currently under occupation
    Iraq – no nukes – invaded and its government replaced, currently under occupation
    North Korea – nukes – talks and talks and talks, no invasion, no occupation
    Iran – developing nukes – we’d probably be invading if we weren’t so busy occupying other countries

  2. […] Apparently I can make a valid and coherent point between rants. And the author of that article asks many more pertinent questions and suggestions in response. […]

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