We Iranians are so good at discrediting our leaders.  True that we have never had much of democracy, but every time we had a chance, for example if we were outside Iran and had all the freedom to express our opinion,  we used it to the fullest to discredit leaders of opposing ideas, rather than arguing their programs.


True, in the West, centuries after establishment of democracy, one may see many presidential elections in the U.S. to boil down to talks about personal life of Bill Clinton, when Republicans trying to derail Al Gore from US presidency.  But in the West, the basics of the social programs and the political parties embodying such programs, have been long established and current TV blips really are the showcase for media, and the underlying differences in economic, political and social programs have been argued for centuries.  Underlying issues of taxation, social welfare, and military spending are known in presidential elections.


In contrast, among Iranians, the underlying issues between various political parties and factions are hardly pronounced, and the differences are shown as personal virtues or vices of different leaders.  I do not care even if it is a leader we like or dislike, we hardly discuss their political programs to agree or disagree with them.  The strange thing nowadays is that everyone accuses the other of being anti-democratic, and nobody discusses why this or that political and economic program *is* democratic or antidemocratic *and* for what reason, if one is so much concerned about democracy for the future of Iran.


Being close to another presidential election in Iran, I think this is a very good question every Iranian should ask themselves.  If as a nation we are so concerned that we do not think much of our leaders, we should ask ourselves how we have treated our leaders, whether we thought highly of them or not.  Did we care to ask ourselves about their programs for Iran, and evaluate them on that basis, or all we cared for was to limit ourselves to discrediting them, albeit the ones we disliked, by talking about some imagined personal virtue or vice.


I think leading Iran and Iranians into the 21st century is more than just an issue of democracy, but if one thinks of democracy to be the central issue of Iran's future, it definitely does not mean if a leader is a nice guy or a mean guy. It is about how people will live, work, and enjoy life. It is about economic, social, and political program which each leader represents.


Sam Ghandchi, Publisher


April 14, 2001


Postscript March 27, 2002- Frankly contrary to popular views in the Iranian intellectual circles, I do not think Iranians really give that much value to their leaders and hardly do that much for their leaders. The reason for dictatorship in Iran has hardly been people doing a lot for their leaders. In fact, Americans in their revolution did a lot more for their leaders, such as Jefferson or Washington, than Iranians have ever done for their leaders.  Khomeini's money came from khoms and zakAt which the institution of Shi'a provided him. The monarchs or anybody who was at the head of state in Iran, personified the ownership of the state, and since oil discovery that ownership has even increased more and this has been their source of wealth. So in a way the state pays the people and not the people paying the state as taxes. In fact, Iranians hardly pay any taxes. The problem in Iran is the state ownership of natural resources, industries, and a lot of other property. So the government is not responsible to the tax payers. It can even live without taxation. A lot of talk in the intellectual circles in the last 23 years has actually caused the Iranian movement to get deprived of leaders.  The example of Sattar Khan in Tehran we all know. I do not want to name many individual leaders of Iranian movement who had to live with relatives or children or on tough welfare assistance of some Western countries when they were in their 70's escaping from Iran, after the 1360 crack down, because they had no money and none of the organizations could even afford helping them.  Even in the case of Reza Pahlavi, he is doing more himself and the monarchists are just clapping for him and one does not see much of real support by the monarchists for him if they consider him as their leader. Many of the disgruntled monarchists are the ones who are sad why Reza Pahlavi has not paid them in the last 23 years;-)  So it seems to me that folks have been looking in a wrong place when afraid of dictatorship of leaders and thus have been weakening the already weak leadership of the Iranian pro-Democracy movement. The problem is the *system* we have installed in Iran, i.e. the despotism which was based on the state ownership even before oil. The problem is the constitution which was not a democratic one. The problem is the checks and balances that has been lacking in Iran. The problem is the lack of secularism.  All societies have leaders and there is nothing wrong with having leaders. There is everything wrong not to have leaders. We need people to take leadership to write up new constitutions. To write up new plans for the future state structure of Iran.   To organize Iranians into democratic organizations and a lot lot more. We need leaders.



* The above article was first posted on SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on April 14, 2001 and the postscript was first posted on Jebhe BB on March 27, 2002.


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