The news from Syria seems to have dwindled to nothing in the last couple of months. The hawks have focused their continued, never ending ire on the peace process between Tehran and Washington that the Obama administration has courageously initiated. The lack of news is too bad, of course, since the (quite unintended) consequences of Western meddling in the region are now beginning to be felt by everyday Syrians. PRI (“you’re listening to The World”) reports on the misery Syrians are now forced to endure:
It’s been a trying week for Syria. The United States and Britain suspended providing even non-lethal aid to the country. A prominent Syrian opposition leader has gone missing. And now winter has brought snow and cold weather.
The cause of suspended aid? Why, the fact that the anti-Assad national socialists have lost out to the Islamists militarily, politically and economically, of course. Instead of letting the anti-Assad national socialists fight it out with the pro-Assad national socialists and the Islamists – which would have produced a quick winner and thus reduced the suffering of Syrians – the West remained content to heavily arm the least prominent faction involved in the fighting (the anti-Assad national socialists). The result, of course, has been the continued bleeding of Syrian society as a war that could have ended years ago continues to drag on.
In Iran, a mild brouhaha has emerged over the censorship of most of the World Cup draw in Brazil (Iran’s national soccer team made the World Cup, and the draw – a huge deal in most of the sporting world – was held in Brazil, which is hosting the event next year). According to PRI, the state-run media in Iran had to censor most of the draw’s coverage due to the lack of coverage on Brazilian supermodel Fernanda Lima’s big, beautiful breasts.
While the effects of the state-run media are fairly straightforward, I find the cultural implications of this episode to be most fascinating. PRI reports:
The Islamic Republic doesn’t allow women deemed to be dressed immodestly on television, so every time the camera focused on Lima, the picture was dropped on Iranian TV.
This made for terrible viewing for Iranian soccer fans waiting to find out who Iran was going to be playing at the World Cup.
So, who do Iranians blame for this debacle? Lima or FIFA? The many abusive messages left on Lima’s Facebook page seem to suggest they are blaming her.
Comments ranged from insults to suggestions she should have worn a hijab, so everybody around the globe could watch the draw.
The abuse got so bad Lima had to take down her Facebook page. But then, a lot of Iranians started to apologize for the abuse, saying Iranians are not really like this. This, in turn, triggered posts by Brazilians saying, not to worry, Iranians are still welcome in Brazil.
Nationalism is prevalent in Iranian society, but so is a yearning to open up to the world. In my anecdotal experiences, I have found this nationalism to be very common among all young men in the non-Arab Muslim world. I suspect this nationalism is also prevalent in places like the Balkans and Arab Mediterranean world as well. I have no reason for suspecting this, except for the fact that in each of these parts of the world, relatively young states exist but nations are still being defined.
In Western Europe and, to a lesser extent Japan and South Korea, states and nations have long ago melded together through wars, policy battles, trade and sophisticated diplomacy. Along the peripheries of these areas the narrative of nation and state has not occurred, and may never occur (this type of nationalism is altogether absent from the New World republics for a number of fascinating-but-digressing reasons). I think the factions that encourage this narrative, national socialists all of them, are just as bad for their respective societies as are the conservatives (Islamists in the Muslim world, monarchists in other parts, Confucianists-cum-communists in China, etc., etc.). Only liberalism can bring about peace and prosperity to these societies.
The people apologizing for the actions of their fellow Iranians are a natural fit for liberalism’s humble creed. Unfortunately, I think the national socialists and the conservatives know this, and therefore advocate for policies that will keep their societies insular (and apart from the world of ideas that only liberalism has produced).
This brings me to a final thought for the day: What can I do about this, if anything? The regimes that hawks wish to destroy are bad guys, to be sure, but I have yet to see a regime that has been destroyed by an outside power give way to a regime that is benevolent and just. In fact, often these new regimes are worse than those they have replaced. The battle for ideas can only be won with the pen, and wars will only ever be won by ideas.
This realization, I think, is why I continue to write and to blog. Thanks for reading and, more importantly, for adding your thoughts to my own in the ‘comments’ section.