A World Vision from City of Heretics
If in 15th Century Europe, Calvin's Geneva was called City of Heretics, in the 21st Century, all cities of Iran and Iranian communities abroad, can be called cities of heretics. If in 1600, Giordano Bruno is burnt at the stakes in Rome, today Salamn Rushdie not even an Iranian, and living outside Iran, was condemned to death by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Iranians questioning the tenets of Islamist theocracy have not had a better fate either. Not just the dissent within Islamism, but dissent in all other groups, whether religious or political, is the everyday reality of Iran, despite the harsh response of the orthodoxies.
It is as if the theocracy of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has taught the people to reexamine their own principles, regardless of what political or religious views they adhere to, and thus the growth of dissent among Iranians of all walks of life, whether within Iran or abroad. Here is a description of Rome of 1600 at the time of burning of Giordano Bruno, which reminds one of Iran of 2000, and can explain how any sane individual would end up questioning all basic tenets of his/her beliefs, when witnessing such cruelties done in defense of a dogma:
"For Holy Year 1600 more than three million persons were crowded into Rome. There were parades of pilgrims, processions of flagellants. The city was in turmoil, as robberies and murders multiplied., The number 1600, composed of a nine and seven, had magical meaning: perhaps it signified that the end was near. Prophets prophesized. In the meantime, the penitents who expected to amass the necessary absolutions from sin before it was too late were fleeced by the noble Romans. One of the minor attractions of February 17 was announced in fly sheets. The Nolan [Giordano Bruno], a most stubborn heretic, was being burned in the Piazza Santa Fiore. A witness was a German converted to the Catholic faith, a scholar who never missed a major theological contest, Gaspar Schopp. He hovered over the final days of Bruno, vulture-like, picking up his last words and spreading them about. To him we owe the report of Bruno's defiance of his judges in Santa Maria sopra Minerva: "I daresay you are more afraid to hand down the sentence against me than I am to receive it." And after the burning, Schopp dispatched a gloating account to the rector of the University of Altdorf: "Thus he perished wretchedly by roasting, and he can go tell in those fantastic worlds he dreamed up how in this world impious blasphemers are dealt with in Rome." Schopp would reappear in Campanella's cells a decade later and dish out promises to work for his deliverance, while plagiarizing the manuscripts he could get hold of". [Frank R. Manuel and Fritzie P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World, 1979, P. 241]
If the reactionary Islamist vision of 1979 Revolution of Iran was a representation of a return to the past, in response to the crisis of industrial society, in contrast, today's vision of the world, from the perspective of pro-democracy movement of Iran, represents the most thorough endeavor to go beyond the industrial paradigm, to understand the global events.
If basically the progressive movements in the West have been neglecting the atrocities of regimes such as IRI, by focusing only on the demerits of ultranationalist interventionist political factions of the West, the pro-democracy movement of Iran, not only has shown the Medieval nature of regimes such IRI, but has also reminded the West of upholding its own achievements in the areas of human rights values, democracy, and justice when countering Western ultranationalists, rather than sacrificing human rights values for the exigencies of doing business in the undeveloped countries of the world, appeasing Medieval regimes like IRI with the pretense of fighting colonialism.
Iranian pro-democracy movement has opposed interventionist currents of the West, but not like the anti-war groups of the West, which have used the so-called anti-imperialist anti-American slogans of regimes such as IRI, to justify their silence about the atrocities of such regimes. This does not mean that the pro-democracy activists of Iran support interventionism views of U.S. ultranationalists who want to attack other parts of the world as a solution to the crisis of old industrial society. But it does mean that Medievalism of regimes like IRI is as much of a Dark Force in the world as the ultranationalism of the Western interventionists.
Iranian pro-democracy movement sees the progressive forces of the West as its ally, but until the time this ally understands the geopolitical changes and sees that we are not in an era of colonialism, anti-war forces will continue to miss to come to grips with the new world realities.
They keep on seeing the danger of Western ultranationalist industrial attack on globalization, which is one side of the coin, but at the same time they continue to miss seeing, and at times are ally with, pre-industrial attack on globalization from backward forces of the undeveloped countries, which is the other side of the coin of reactionary attempts for return to the past, blocking the ushering in of a post-industrial societies worldwide.
What is it that the West's anti-war movement, in its vision, has lost sight of, which has ended in missing the atrocities of regimes such as IRI? Why do the Iranian apologist and lobbyist groups and individuals living in the West, have been whitewashing the atrocities of IRI, all these years, under the banner of fighting foreign aggression and neo-colonialism? Haven't they seen the cold-blooded slaughter of Bakhtiar or Boroumand in Paris? Haven't they heard of terror of Ghasemloo and other Kurdish leaders? How about the slaughter of Forouhars in Iran by IRI information ministry agents? Are all these errors simple negligence? Haven't they seen books of people like Steven Emerson about atrocities of Islamists inside the U.S.? The problem is not ignorance, especially after Sept 11, 2001, the problem is that the world view of anti-war and peace movements is an obsolete view, which has ended up in them siding with regimes such as IRI or Saddam.
In response to the views of anti-war groups in the West siding with fascist regimes of Milosevic and Saddam, some authors like Karl Popper, in 1993 before his death, emphasized war on war in Kant's essay entitled Perpetual Peace, and thus showed the legitimacy of UN intervention in the Balkans. Moreover there are those who reject U.S. unilateral action in cases like Iraq, but they support UN intervention in cases like Afghanistan as legitimate. Some others condemn even UN intervention in cases where an undeveloped country has cruelly violated all standards of human rights. All such options were brilliantly enumerated by Kant in his Perpetual Peace and they became the theoretical foundations of League of Nations and later the UN.
The reason all these views are not explaining the issues we are facing today, is because we are not living at the time of flourishing of nation-states, when all these alternatives made sense. We are living in the era of the death of nation-states as political entities of the future.
I explained this shift in 1989 in a paper entitled "A Futurist Viewpoint". I wrote that just as tribes and families lost their *political* significance in the Modern Times, in the post-industrial era, the nation-states are increasingly losing their importance in political life of their citizens. Reviving political rule of religious communities or families are attempts to return to the past in search for finding an answer to the present reality of demise of nation-states as political entities.
I should note that the demise of tribes and families as political entities did not mean the demise of love of one's family. In the same way, demise of nation-states does not mean the demise of love for one's nation and, as I have explained in details elsewhere, the national sentiments will continue to exist.
But the political importance of nation-states will diminish, and leader of an international organization like UN can have more impact on the life of an individual, than the head of state of his/her own country. Thus the need to have a global alternative for *political* life of the world, beyond the industrial paradigm of nation-states and their confederacies.
This vision of going beyond nation-states is what is needed for progressive forces that identify themselves as anti-war or peace movement, to achieve universal human rights ideals that have been clearly formulated in this century.
Just as confederacy of tribes and families could not help, when nation-states were ushering in, the UN or confederacy of nation-states cannot solve the issues of today's world, and the new values must create new organizational forms that are beyond nation-states.
From economics to science, new international organizations have been popping up every day in the international arena and the new communications media and the Internet have helped this development a lot. Even before the spread of the Internet, at the time of US-Soviet tensions, Beyond War organization in Palo Alto of California, which my late friend Jack Li was a cofounder, was an example of international endeavors to go beyond the war and peace paradigm of nation-states.
Cultural relativism which is popular in the current anti-war and peace movements, negates universal human rights ideals that have started these movements in the first place, and this mindset has been a major block for the progressive forces in the West, to form new international alternative to war and peace of industrial world, and has ended up helping retrogressive forces in the undeveloped countries.
The cultural relativists are not respecting the progressive views of the undeveloped world, to condemn the backward forces of those countries alongside condemning of ultranationalists of the West, and their view of the non-Western world is very patronizing, when they stop to understand the outcry of progressive forces who are hollering from the City of Heretics about the onslaught of pluralists by the pre-industrial Medieval forces in those countries. Forces like Taliban and IRI. They think they know better by supporting states like IRI and ignoring the reports of killings of heretics, amputations, eye gouging, and other atrocities.
In fact, the issue is deeper than not understanding the outcries from the dungeons of Isamic Republic . It is an industrial vision of anti-war movement which is holding them back. The progressive forces of the West can learn from the Iranian cities of heretics, where people are questioning the basic tenets of the past ideologies of industrial society, in both its capitalist and socialist versions, when looking at the future.
Just being anti-war does not answer the issues of the present day world and one can end up supporting fascists like Saddam Hussein, as it happened with the anti-war forces, and as it is happening now when basically they are silent about the atrocities of IRI, and instead of these progressive forces of the West talking of atrocities of IRI, we see neocons doing more exposition of these Dark Forces. There are inquisitions, stoning, eye gouging, and amputations in Iran, and it is legal to murder and kill the heretics in the law of land of IRI, when the president and parliament of the country have called themselves reformists for over 4 years.
My goal is not to discard the progressive movement in the West. On the contrary, I see the anti-war and peace movements as potential allies of Iranian pro-democracy movement, but not with their current obsolete vision of the world that they have, which they carry from the era of colonialism, not realizing that what their view describes is a world long passed. Globalization has its own issues but definitely they are not the same issues of colonialism.
The post-industrial vision strives to end the state of majority of human beings living as intelligent tools for millennia and tries to plan economic and social life of the future around the new possibilities of AI and nanotechnology, rather than the opposite, which is prolonging the tool-like life of human beings, to accommodate the obsolete economic, social, and political views of human beings.
We have already spent three decades of intensive post-industrial development in some parts of the world yet the work week is still unchanged. True that some professions may even end up to have more work than the past workweek would assume, but the society at large should have come down to less than 30 hours a week of work in the developed countries by now. I have discussed the issue of social justice in the post-industrial world elsewhere which is completely different from the industrial age, and issues of taxation and welfare need to be restructured accordingly, based on these new realities..
The commitment to a world beyond the industrial society of the past, gets its primary opposition in the West, from the industrial forces, that are the foundation of ultranationalist political forces of the West, but in the undeveloped countries, the main opposition to post-industrial development, is coming from the pre-industrial forces, because of the weakness of industrial development in those countries. This is why these retrogressive movements in the undeveloped world have religious and ideological flavor more than what one would find in the developed countries.
Therefore the ultranationalists of the U.S. find their best allies among the Medieval forces of Islamism and Monarchy in the Middle East, from Taliban and IRI to Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as I have explained extensively in April 2002, in my paper entitled "Iran & Saudi Arabia: Monarchies & Islamism".
The progressive forces of the West should oppose the retrogressive alliance of the political forces of the past, which is aimed at blocking the future post-industrial global development. Supporting the pre-industrial forces of the undeveloped countries is just like supporting the ultranationalists of the West, and is not the way to achieve peace and human rights in the world.
Cultural relativism fails to understand the new reality because it still views the world in the framework of the socialist movement of the past, albeit a social-democratic version of it, and it patronizes the undeveloped countries, by not taking the progressive views coming out of countries like Iran seriously, when such views clearly contradict the ideology of the anti-war movement, that completely ignores the import of Dark Forces of Medievalism in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The progressive forces of the West are the natural allies of pro-democracy movement of Iran, if they separate the Medieval reaction to globalization, from the genuine attempts to democratize the globalization worldwide. The Western anti-war movement needs its own heretics, to come to grips with and help the progress of newly forming human civilizations.
Hoping for a Futurist, Federal, Democratic, and Secular Republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
February 5, 2004