Anarchy, Despair etc.


I think the despair is not really the cause, but it is the consequence of a more general attitude which has been widespread in the current Iranian society. I think the problem is anarchy in mind. Contrary to democracy which helps the growth of the mind, anarchy helps one to fall deeper into despair. Please bear with me.


Have you seen the adolescents? They feel so powerful to find flaws in the authorities: Parents, teachers, priests, police, judges, etc. They consider all the authorities as bunch of judgmental assholes. Actually the adolescents are right that the authorities are judgmental; because to make decisions, you need to make judgments. The issue is not whether to have judgments or not to have them, the issue is to recognize false judgment from true judgment, and that is not easy.


The period after the revolution has been a time of self-examination for many Iranian educated people. It has been negating one thing after the other. Negating religion and longing for secularism, which is like a common thread in most Iranian intellectual circles. Negating ideologies and wanting total freedom of everything and anything.


Would anybody mention how come the state became so big in Soviet Union; because it had to compensate for the moral force of the religion? Yes some people may try to find secular ethics such as Bertrand Russell's work, but it is not that easy, even for its advocates to follow.


Thus they say, yes common people need to keep their religion, but the educated folks can live with a secular moral theory. But they know that it is hard to advocate for ordinary people to keep their religion; when the advocators themselves think of religion as gibberish.


The same goes for state. All the states in Iran's history are not even remotely acceptable. The MKO's ideal state is even a retrogression. Then negate any state. But that means in practice not to have an alternative and thus live with whatever there is.


Then family. The attitude of a person who has come from a dysfunctional family. All families are abusive, down with the family, it is reactionary. Why even bother to form and work to grow something which has no future.


Next is self. If all these institutions and all these authorities are my chains, then self which needs all of these is the reason of this bondage. Hate the self, as an individual or a collection. Self-doubt to be the last skepticism before total annihilation.


Actually this whole chain starts from one wrong premise. The premise is that because of the whole dictatorial system (call it a dysfunctional family of Iran), one incorrectly is concluding that everything has been forced on him/her. The authority of Ferdowsi, Saadi, Rumi, or Hafez seems to be as compulsory, as the authority of Shah Abbas Kabir.


But we all know the former really is not true. Many kings tried to make their favorite poets the authorities of Persian poetry and were UNSUCCESSFUL. Many kings tried to make their religion, the religion of Iran and failed. For example, Nader Shah, himself a Sunni, tried to turn Iran back to Sunni religion but was not successful.


So many of the choices we have made have not really been forced on us. And many of them have really been good choices; and we really do not need to change them or to break down every authority. Actually it is OK to try to question issues; but if like some adolescents, picking and laughter on parents becomes more important than learning from the parent's wisdom, then one is making a grave mistake.


Many of our historical personalities, such as Avicenna are rightly revered. They actually went for the state-of-the-art of their time; and that is why they were so highly respected worldwide. It is not them who are holding us back, it is probably us who are not doing what they did.


My father used to respect a lot of things as sacred. If my father saw a piece of bread on the street, he would pick it up, kiss it, and place it somewhere that it would not be stepped on.  That is paying respects to life.  I remember Chogyam Trungpa is teaching the same attitude in his SHAMBHALA to the modern man. Losing respect for the things that me and my ancestors have voluntarily chosen is losing dignity, roots and everything that comes with it.


I am not talking only about valuing cultural heritage, I am talking about believing in these achievements and not just limited to Iran. Does this mean blindly accepting it? No. I do not think our ancestors had blindly accepted things either; or that they were tricked by politicians. Let's give them more credit.


It is like explaining everything as conspiracy of politicians and tricks of capitalists. If we talk to politicians and business people, we may find out the reverse, i.e. how much they actually follow people's decisions. Of course in matters of politics, in Iran, dictatorship has been the rule, but no despotism can and has ever been total.


Look. I cannot independently follow every field of inquiry, but I can be keen enough to find out authorities who are reliable. It is like finding a good dentist.  If one has had a bad dentist, one should not give up going to dentists and letting his/her teeth fall off. One needs not learn the skills of a dentist, but one needs to learn the skills to find a good dentist.  Then you will love to recommend your good dentist.


One of the reasons of the tyranny of State apparatus and the Cult of Stalin in Russia was because the Marxists shared this belief with the anarchists; that state will vanish soon (their difference was on how soon). So they really did not think much about advancements regarding the structure of state, party, head of state, etc.


Thus the intellectuals did not have the skills to define a good state system in contrast to the bad one, define a good set of powers for the head of state in contrast to a bad set; in a way they did not have the skills to find a good hospital and dentist when it came to politics.


For example, many people, including myself, accept Stephen Hawking's authority when it comes to Time and Space in modern physics. Now what do I think if someone comes and says, s/he does not believe in any authority in Physics because Newton was wrong and Einstein was wrong, and that s/he is free of all those problems?  I would say that by de facto that person thinks his/her ignorance is more valuable than the knowledge of Newton or Einstein. Is that person right?


IMO, no s/he is not. Newton was also right(79%) and Einstein was also right (89%) and to the best knowledge of our current data, Stephen Hawkings (99%) gives us the best picture of the truth. Tomorrow, when we find better theories, we may change the figures for Stephen Hawkings to 5%. I am just playing with %'s to make a point.


I am saying that sweeping negations are good for a while. Just as the adolescence is a necessary part of development. But if one stops in that stage, i.e. negating for the sake of negating (total skepticism), then it can develop into a disease which destroys a perspective that is necessary to see the achievements of humanity in all realms of life.


The predecessors to anarchists, the Cynic philosophers at the time of Fall of Greek Civilization, contrary to Aristotle, who lived during the rise of Greek Civilization; had no interest in achievements of humanity. Their leaders decided to live like dogs and this is why they were called CYNICS. For them the knowledge of Aristotle was as doubtful as the ignorance of a dog. Even the word cynical in English is from that root.


I am sometimes surprised that I read Aristotle's works so late, when I was 32, and even then because of the persistence of someone who knew that I was doing a research on pluralism. I had always thought that Aristotle would have nothing to offer me. To my surprise, after reading Aristotle's Metaphysica and Categoriae, I learned that Aristotle understood pluralism much better than anybody else I had



Aristotle's analysis of Empedocles' pluralism in contrast to Heraclitus' dialectics and Parmenides' monism is as if he is writing in our times. What was my problem? I had not distinguished between Aristotlianism and Aristotle's contributions. This is what I call cynicism.


The following is how Bertrand Russell describes the period of the Fall of Greek civilization when Cynicism was in abundance. He writes:


"Ages of prolonged uncertainty, while they are compatible with the highest degree of saintliness in a few, are inimical to the prosaic everyday virtues of respected citizens.


"There seems no use in thrift, when tomorrow all your savings may be dissipated, no advantage in honesty, when man towards whom you practice it is pretty sure to swindle you; no point in steadfast adherence to a cause, when no cause is important or has a chance of stable victory, no argument in favor of truthfulness, when only supple tergiversation makes the preservation of life and future possible.


"the man whose virtue has no source except a purely terrestrial prudence will, in such a world, become an adventurer if he has the courage, and if not, will seek obscurity as a time-server" (p.228-history of western philosophy).


But our time is in one way the decline of industrial and pre-industrial societies, but it is at the same time, the rise of a new post-industrial society. The achievements of industrial civilization is valuable; but a whole new set of achievements have been made in the last decades. Many authorities in various fields of inquiry, are actually offering new choices for an informed person to learn from. The PBS stations and their positive contributions are a very good example of what is available.


It is not really just a fall that we are witnessing. There is a great rise. And it is NOT true that the falling civilization is the religion and religious view of the universe; and that the rising civilization is a secular one. Actually I think most of this eighteenth-century division will seem redundant, once one starts to look at the world from a different perspective. Authors such as Krishnamurti are good examples in this regard.


One's viewpoint has a lot to do with what one sees and what one doesn't see. Once some years ago, I had a girlfriend, who had lost her father. She told me how sorry she was that she had never told her father how much she loved him. I learned from her.


I picked up the phone and called my father and mother and told them how much I loved them; and I am so glad that I did that. Maybe I would not get a chance to do it in my life. Choices we make not only influence where we will end up, but they also affect our family, friends, community, and humanity at large.  Anarchy will not get one anywhere. It is good for destruction but not for construction. I think we have been doing the former for quite some time (more than a decade!).


In the world scale, there are now many great new thinkers who have done tremendous contributions to various areas of inquiry. Learning from them can open one's eyes to see the world and Iran in a different way.


It may be as simple as me calling my old parents and remembering this time to tell them that I love them. Ashleigh Brilliant said: Lot of times it takes a genius to see the simple (In his book, he has the picture of Einstein or Newton next to this PotShot).


Sam Ghandchi

April 6, 1994






I posted this article on SCI on April 6, 1994. This article is about anarchy and the resulting despair. I thought it may be of interest to the ones who mistake anarchy for democracy.


Actually anarchists have always abandoned during the times of half-democracy and have helped the overthrow of democracy by the enemies of democracy, thru their animosity for even democratic controls and safeguards, such as proper policing, which is needed for a democracy to survive.


Anarchists advocate ultrademocracy, and disregard for any control, during the times of partial democracy, but once the democracy is lost because of such ultrademocracy, anarchists themselves go into despair.


The anarchists' hatred for any state, even a liberal state, leaves one at the mercy of despotic systems, although anarchists themselves are freedom-loving people. Anarchists do not think of individuals, as individuals within a liberal-democratic organization, and they think of any organization as dictatorship.


In this article, I discuss some basic assumptions of anarchism, about state, private property, and family. I should point out that Marxists, who were *not* Anarchists, had a lot of influence in the 19th and 20th century Thought.


I think the belief of Marxists, following Engels' s error, that Private Property, State, and Family are institutions that will wither away, was responsible for disregard of Marxists to improving them, or to search for advanced forms of these institutions.


Marxists in this regard, like the Anarchists, ended up with the worst of parties and states in countries that they came to power and they did not advance the liberal-democratic structure of parties and the state.


On the above issues, the only difference of Marxists with Anarchists was that the latter believed that the withering away of these institutions was immediate, whereas the former thought of it as not immediate, and as ultimate, nonetheless, they both shared the belief that these institutions were moribund and that there was no point in finding ways to advance them.


In contrast, liberals, a century before them, had proposed ways to advance such institutions. The best example, is the Lockean Theory of Division of Power into three and his Checks and Balances, which is still the most interesting theory to distinguish a liberal-democratic state from a despotic state.


Sam Ghandchi

03 Nov 1998








* The above article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on April 6, 1994.


















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