Cultural glitches: Why does the Iranian community (and also the U.S. academy) demonize national self interest?

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By Sheda Vasseghi

The recent death of the late Shah’s twin sister Princess Ashraf Pahlavi (1919-2016) has caused an odd part of the Iranian psyche to resurface once again.

Under articles about the princess or the late Shah, some Iranians leave peculiar and negative comments on social media that are illogical, offensive, petty, and nitpicky. In hindsight after all the legacy of the Pahlavi family looks quite good in comparison to the catastrophic theocracy of the Islamic Republic which hijacked the national cultural heritage and may eventually push Iran into a another devastating and undesirable war. So why is it necessary to salute the legitimacy of the radical mullahs’ so called “revolution”?

The Pahlavi dynasty’s (1925-1979) main objective was to free Iran from a backwards and suffocating theocratic Islamic control under their predecessors, the Qajar dynasty (1789-1925), which had hindered the nation’s progress and civil rights especially for women and minorities.

Princess Ashraf Pahlavi in the 1950s.
Princess Ashraf Pahlavi in the 1950s.

The Pahlavi government reminded the world that Iranians were not Arabs, and as one of the oldest nations in the world, they have a special legacy in world history based on their unique ancestral heritage – Zoroastrian philosophy and the Cyrus Cylinder.

The original Cyrus Cylinder dated to 6th century BCE which is housed at The British Museum is considered the earliest known human rights decree.

On Oct. 14, 1971, a replica was delivered by the late Princess Ashraf on behalf of Iranian Pahlavi constitutional monarchy to the United Nations as a symbol of the ancient Persian Imperial grand strategy. That is, different peoples may live in harmony, cooperation, law, and order without facing cultural imperialism in erasing national identities, languages, and freedom of religion.

So what is responsible for this odd quirk in Iranian behavior?

The late professor of Iranian studies Mary Boyce writes in her 1979 book on native Iranian religion Zoroastrianism that legendary Persian king “Cyrus died fighting against fellow-Iranians – the Massagetes.”

The ancient Iranian philosopher Zoroaster (1400-1200 BCE?), whose concept of dualism (battle of good v. evil) still permeates western psyche today, was killed by fellow Iranians. The 4th c. BCE Persian king Darius III was not killed by the invading Macedonian king Alexander, but by a fellow Iranian. Such is the pattern seen in Iranian history throughout the ages.

This example of a historical pattern may explain the enigmatic fall of a modernizing, secular Iran in 1979 when its people – to a large part – did not support their king Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (1919-1980) at a critical time against an anti-Iranian Islamo-Marxists force supported by the Globalists.

The Shah of Iran and his twin sister Ashraf in their youth.
The Shah of Iran and his twin sister Ashraf in their youth.

Looking at how some Iranians are treated by fellow Iranians may explain why many peoples of Iranian stock remain divided, fall for mainstream misinformation and disinformation regarding their own ancestral connections and relations with the west, and seem to prefer or be indifferent to the success of non-Iranians than one of their own.

How could there be Iranian student demonstrations in Europe and America during the 1970s against the Pahlavi constitutional monarchy while in the past 35+ years with an unprecedented Iranian mass exodus there have been no major demonstrations in the West against the foreign usurping mullahs (Islamic priests), who have dragged Iran through the mud?

Since the fall of the Shah in 1979, Iranians are looked down upon. Iranian economy is in shambles despite the nation’s natural wealth and talent. Iranians are confused with Arabs because of Islamism so their national identity is in constant jeopardy. Iranian prestige has evaporated.

The Iranian embassy in the capital of the free world, Washington, D.C., has remained closed for decades. Iranians have been imprisoned and tortured by Islamists in Teheran for defying the foreign and draconian Sharia laws. Iran has suffered the biggest brain drain.

Now the West is facing the same socio-political problem on its own turf – Islamism.

But most importantly, despite the wealth among the Iranian diaspora, those who advance Iranian national identity, historical legacies, native beliefs, and universally appealing way of and love for life in challenging mainstream misinformation and disinformation about Iran and the West are not really supported by wealthy and influential Iranian patrons.

Their works which are centered on historical ancestral bridges and against Islamist propaganda move forward at snail’s pace since no movement is successful without proper funding.

This odd behavior among many Iranians may be spotted in family relationships where competition and jealousy that are tools for control are inadvertently encouraged between family members so that brothers or cousins may grow up jealous of one another. In looking at Iranian behavior in micro and macro perspectives, could it be that Iranians are inadvertently raised to be jealous of each other rather than supportive or even indifferent?

Further, could competing against your own people that is not in one’s national interests affect how Iranians act on the political scene?

Historical records show Iranians have played a role in the destruction or blocking of certain fellow Iranians in power even if it is to the collective demise. This rivalry is not really directed to non-Iranians in power.

This type of a cultural disconnect may also be observed in America where most educational institutions and publications are geared towards self-hatred teachings so that Americans do not feel patriotic about their nation (nationalism or wanting to serve one’s nation has been given a negative connotation), do not learn the founding principles of the nation (American History is being downgraded from college curriculum), and are taught that the American Constitution (a Constitution that the founder of the Iranian Pahlavi dynasty, Reza Shah the Great (1878-1944), believed a modern and rising Iran should emulate) is an old, useless piece of paper.

The main legacy of the Obama Administration will be its unprecedented fostering of anger, divide, and chaos among Americans. Many fear the outbreak of a civil war.

Growing up in the 1980’s, the thought of a civil war in America would have been shocking. A civil war tears up the fabric of a nation pitting brother against brother, cousin against cousin.

The majority of American textbooks directly and indirectly promote one-party system by favoring a Leftist Marxist agenda.

In ditching the Founders and the Constitution, those who are not patriotic are glorified as role models. Globalism or loss of sovereignty is promoted in various propaganda involving gun control debates, climate control, and workforce management. Many feel that the two-party system has merged into one which is the very definition of tyranny. If there is no viable opposition in a political system, then a people are doomed.

The adverse result of this disconnect in America may be seen in Iran’s history. We may wonder if the inexplicable success of various foreign invasions — both spiritually and materially — that have driven Iran to ashes over and over while resonating well beyond its borders have been due to a glitch in its cultural behavior that creates self-inflicted jealousy among members of its own stock? That is, a subconscious jealousy against some key traits that only matter within the Iranian culture, and if triggered, serve as a means of domestic blockage.

If so, the future Iranian national leader, who pulls Iran from the ashes again, should address this ball-and-chain.

Sheda Vasseghi is a doctorate candidate, historian, and educator specializing in Iran (Persia). She is a member of Azadegan Foundation in Washington, D.C.

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