In the Beginning III… June 25, 2010Posted by contrapuntalplatypus in Iranelection, Poetry, Saving the World.
…the beginning of #iranelection that is…
A lot of this blog is going to relate to online activism, most specifically the Twitter #iranelection hashtag, so here’s some quick background about how I got involved with these issues. I posted a few thoughts a week ago on the #iranelection hashtag and got a good response so…here it is again. Looking back from June 2010 to June 2009, when it all began…
A year ago this evening, I read these words and my life changed forever.
“I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…” – an Iranian blogger, with more courage than most of us will ever know.
In the short time it took to read those words, so much changed in my own mind and heart. I saw in a single flash how utterly self-absorbed and detached my own life had been up until that point: focused on my own goals and wishes and assumed needs. How little I had cared for the suffering and struggle of others for the most basic human rights: liberty, peace, freedom of speech and religion, food, water. How much I could have done to help our world and had failed to do…
If I, not the nameless protester who wrote these immeasurably brave words, had died the next day, what could be said about my life? What had I done to truly help even one of the millions of people on our planet in need?
I had always thought I was a fairly good person. I didn’t exploit people or start wars. I wasn’t particularly greedy for wealth or power over others. I was a law-abiding citizen who bought fair-trade coffee and recycled most of the time, even donated to charities now and again when the urge struck me. I did my “fair share” and, I felt, a bit more. I was “nice”…
It was only when I read these words that I realized: being nice is not enough.
A few months later a close relative was to ask me, “Why have you become so driven to make a difference? Isn’t it enough to do one’s part and let others do theirs?” My answer was an absolute no: that there is no such thing as “good enough”. That if we truly care for our world, we must not act merely out of a sense of duty but out of love: love for our planet and for every being on it. Otherwise our own half-hearted, “nice” efforts will be overwhelmed by those who do not care: who actively exploit and prey upon other human beings and on our environment, or are simply apathetic. If we are not as passionate in our defense of freedom and peace and humanity as this young blogger was, then NOTHING will change in the long term. We cannot simply do “the minimum” out of a sense of duty, always holding ourselves aloof and untouched by the desperate need of others on this planet, people just like us but not lucky enough to be born into our affluent and secure Western society.
If we truly wish to fight the evil, indifference and greed that we see in the Iranian regime and everywhere else in our world – from famine to genocide to the BP oil spill – then we must be prepared to sacrifice whatever is necessary. Our money. Our time. Yes, even our lives if we find ourselves in a similar position to the blogger who wrote these words. But most of all we have to be willing to keep caring – not only to feel emotionally moved by others’ suffering but to act. To actively and consciously work, every day of our lives, to bring about positive change in our world. Or else it is simply not going to happen.
It was around the same time that I read the famous Saadi poem that has been so often quoted on #iranelection in response to the Iranian regime’s violent repression of those seeking freedom from tyranny. If I had read it even a few weeks before, I think it would have left me more or less untouched. But now I truly understood what it expressed:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
بنی آدم اعضای یک پیکرند
که در آفرينش ز یک گوهرند
چو عضوى به درد آورد روزگار
دگر عضوها را نماند قرار
تو کز محنت دیگران بی غمی
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی
June 19, 2010