With the warmest and most sincere greetings, and thanks for providing answers to Crises Bulletin’s questions.
Crises Bulletin: Crisis is a phenomenon which is derived from the methodical failure (In nature and process) of supply against the non conventional (And unpredictable) increase in demand. When the demand for a commodity cannot be matched by the supply, crisis arises at different levels and layers; and if the supplier is unable to meet the demand (Requests), and as a result, the consumer feels the shortage and the scarcity, in some cases this would lead to the consumers’ protest and may even result in turning their backs to the required commodity on the market and start looking for alternatives.
In order for the supplier to prevent the exacerbation of the protests or market contention which could lead to loosing the consumer to the competitor, they make use of different tactics and techniques (Depending on the position and the nature of the supplier) to find a way out of the continuing crisis.
During the past 1400 years, the Iranian people have been known as a Moslem nation and therefore, parts of the dominating traditions within the society have been formed under the influence of Islam (Religion) and its jurisdictions (Principle). Nowadays, we are witnessing a noticeable lack of respect and uproar against both Islamic traditions and its jurisdictions amongst the Iranian youth. Imposing restrictions on relationships between boys and girls, the Islamic dress code and the veil, and the discriminations against women, which at some point in time were adhered to and respected by the parents and the previous generations, are no longer endured by the youth. Having said that, the younger generation doesn’t show any signs of wanting to exchange the metaphysical ideology with the materialistic one either. Is the overt reluctance towards a non-religious contemplation influenced by the dominant atmosphere of repression and the lack of opportunities to realise one’s aspirations? Is the society going through an ideological metamorphosis and will it return to the previous morals and traditions once this phase is over? Or is the rule of ideology over the younger generations losing its momentum and the current generation is passing through the times to find its self-esteem; times when ideology and regimes based on ideologies, no longer are in demand as once they were favoured by the older generations.
What we are aiming for here, apart from other discerning and influential factors over a society, is to discuss the current crises by examining the effects of ideology on the society.
Crises Bulletin: Is the society facing an ideological crisis? Are the various individuals in the society reviewing their own beliefs and those customary traditions within the society, and the expectations deduced from their deliberation has risen above the potential the ruling power finds in itself? Are these expectations copied from other societies, and because they are mimics and not established as newly discovered ideals, the demands have overtaken the intellectual potential of the society and this mismatch has lead to crisis within the society? Is it possible for the ongoing ideological crisis within the society to push the people towards other ideologies or ideals? Or is it possible for the society to get itself into a state of limbo; neither can it give up its old ethics nor can it constitutionalise its modern beliefs. What is the way out of this state of limbo?
Ali Fayyaz: Undoubtedly, the society is going through ideological crisis. This can also be observed at international level. However, these disengagements and the crises would result in fresh incitement for exploration, curiosity, and rummaging in order to attain alternative scientific theories and solutions; which would not be without allegiance. Evidently, one of the consequences of disengagement from beliefs and ideals and disbelieving them would be bemusement on the one hand, and doubtfulness on the other which incidentally, should be taken as a good sign. After all, doubtfulness leads to “certainty”! One can most explicitly express that such spiritual and ideological crises would lead to open mindedness, the revisiting and the criticism of what has been taken as gospel amongst the intellectual and inquisitive sections of the society.
New ideals, ideologies and beliefs are not easily adopted, particularly, if they are to motivate the masses for any social movement. What can be expected however is the restructuring and invigorating of the existing ideologies, and amending, revising and enriching them which in itself promises to open up a lustrous future for humanity. But as far as the present circumstances in Iran and its tyrant rulers are concerned, the situation is quite different. The present conditions have taken us back to the medieval times, and hence one mustn’t surrender to this “gross deception”. The reason being that medieval times were the medieval times; concepts such as democracy, equality and liberalism had not been experienced. But we are going through a process at this point in time during which one mustn’t allow deception to conquer. Undeniably, implementation of democratic proceedings and cultivating liberal persuasion will shine its light over our society which has one foot in the medieval times and the other in the modern era. This process will prevail! Acquaintance with the new world order started a century ago with the constitutional movement. Let’s not forget that we were the vanguards of Controlled Governing and legislative parliament in the Middle East. Hence, we mustn’t doubt that the international developments have deeply influenced our people and new discernments such as socialism, democracy, equality, freedom, etc. have always been keenly pursued by our people and its intellectual, cultural and political vanguards. Therefore, it must be clearly said that not only our people are not in a limbo, but they are going through the process of finding their true aspirations. Along this process, outdated beliefs and intellectual tendencies will encounter serious challenges. These intellectual-cultural challenges would inevitably lead to no other outcome than the establishment of democracy and equality.
Crises Bulletin: In the preface of his book, “The Islamic perception of religion and state”, by Mohammad Soroosh, 1998, we read: “The principles and the basis of any state, including its policies and strategies are derived from its dominant ideologies and doctrines. These characteristics define the identity of the states and differentiate them from each other.” And in order to highlight the disagreements amongst the Islamic researches, he adds: “About this, one of the political analysts expresses that: The particular affairs and the circumstances of the current times, seeds the thought with this temptation and enticement that ideology is an unreliable, unwise and even dangerous criterion to do politics. Looking at the contemporary history, we can see that the aspirations and the expectations of the thinkers, and the ambitious ideological motivators, have been profoundly different from those ideological inspirations achieved in practice. Concepts such as equality, brotherhood, positive freedom as in public participation in running the social affairs, presumptions about classless society, common ownership and such like that have existed and been emphasised upon so much, not only to a large extent have proved to be futile in practice and have never delivered what they promised and never materialised, but themselves were the roots of many adverse consequences. In other words, in addition to exacerbating huge malfeasance and causing the misrecognition of peoples’ own limitations, they have paved the way for the simplistic justifications for cruelty and intimidation…”
By referring to few examples of the views about the hegemony of ideology over society and politics in the West, the writer adds: “Ideology cleansing has taken such an upward trend in the West, which right now it has become one of the most significant characteristics of these societies; In such a way that even the political parties and groups that once established themselves on the basis of a particular ideology, have been gradually retreating from their ideological stance and instead, are concentrating and emphasising on recruiting more supporters to pave their own way into power.”
Without paying any attention to the writer’s intentions in composing this book, is the Iranian society heading towards such (Ideological cleansing) goal? If so, what are the evident instances?
Ali Fayyaz: As pointed out, contrary to what has been expressed here, ideological cleansing in the West does not necessarily disown every ideology. The concept and interpretation of ideology is also understood and applied in many different ways. In many political debates and rallies in the West we encounter thinkers and politicians who talk about liberal ideology, conservative ideology, or Marxist, left and socialist ideology, or Christian Democrat ideology, etc. Both Neo-liberal and Neo-Conservatives, who allegedly renounce “Ideology” and its advocates, pursue specific ideological agendas in order to accomplish their desired political or even cultural aims. However, in order to deceive the masses and invalidate the radical and leftist ideology, they pretend as though ideology has an adverse effect on humans. The only thing that differentiates these ideologies from each other is the level of their extremity. Many legendary icons in history pursued a particular allegiance and ideology and despite any “state action” jurisdictions, they have sacrificed their lives and existence for their ideals. They not only didn’t impose any adversaries on the society, but on the contrary, devoted their lives to the society, history and the advancement of humanity.
Many contemporary human achievements, undoubtedly, have been accomplished as a direct payoff of allegiance of these icons which in turn have helped on the ever evolving human history. Let me give you some examples in relation to this; the reduction of workers’ working hours, exposing the existing types of exploitation, renouncing all types of slavery and servitude, equality in the face of the law, freedom of expression about political systems, limiting the powers of rulers, instating legislative laws, etc., at one time were the aspirations and the wishes of societies. All these concepts were materialised and converted to reality by the thinkers and vanguards of different ideologies.
But it has to be mentioned that the empiricism of the atrocious, murderous and tyrant regime of the “Islamic Republic” who has been ruling in the name of and under the banner of ideology (Religious) and has committed every crime, has played an instrumental role in amongst the present generation to abandon allegiance toward any ideology. By abusing the faith and the ideological concepts and renouncing all the aspirations and rightful demands of people who overthrew the Shah’s regime, and by massacring the opposition and vanquishing the “leftist”, radical, political, and revolutionary freedom loving organisations, they established a kind of depression within the society which will continue until the downfall of this system.
Crises Bulletin: In his book (The rights and responsibilities of the citizens and the governors; the chapter on the rights and responsibilities of governors) Javad Varei refers to one of the common definitions of the ruler’s stance “The guardian and the custodian” in Islamic culture and writes:
“…The other title given to the ruler of the society in the verses and narrations is “The Guardian” and other derivatives of this word. This title reveals the ethos of the ruling and governing system which is “Guardianship”. The ruler has a kind of guardianship or custodial role over the citizens. The guardian or custodian will always run the affairs based on the best interests of the people under his custody. The best interests of the citizens are the axis of his rule. If a father has custody over his child, the affairs of the child are decided based on his/ her best interests. The child is not allowed to behave against his/ her best interests. This is the most common title used for the ruler of the society which has been reflected in different religious laws’ debates. The implementation of guardianship always revolves around the best interests of those guarded and transgression from this responsibility would cause the downfall of the guardian…”
In the prefix of his book he writes: “…Through that magical and fascinating victory, the power of Islam, faith and the crucial role of religious leadership and the spiritual influence of clergy was revealed. So much that the decisive majority of people from different layers, i.e. university, educational, commercial, administrative, manufacturing workers, farmers, urban and rural populations who held an ancient desire for religion, demanded the rule of Islam with its lustrous laws and rules with great enthusiasm…”
Again, by ignoring the writer’s bragging and exaggerations, and just for the sake of argument, if we accept that the aspirations of the considerable sections of the society at the start of the “Islamic revolution” were what the writer is trying to convince the reader, but in order to use this to assess the current ideological position of the regime, how could the role and the concept of “Ideological leader”, “The clerical jurisprudence rule” or “Imam” could be defined in today’s society? Aren’t the past beliefs and their acceptance by the “Ever present on the scene believers” being questioned today? What are the reasons for this change of heart? Is the idea of creating a “leader” facing a crisis or is it just the part which concerns the concept of “The clerical jurisprudence rule” going under scrutiny?
Ali Fayyaz: The truth of the matter is that we are gradually distancing ourselves from the types of individual leadership with a charismatic character. Some of the reason behind this U-Turn is due to the fact that many of these charismatic leaders distance themselves from their own uplifted aspirations once they preached, when they clench the power and in a different way, they turn into another dictator and become self centred despite what they renounced previously. The other instance which is of utmost significance is the formation and the ever increasing development of the soviet cogitation within the leadership framework and structure particularly in the free world and its reflection in dictatorship bound societies. The “Ideological leader” and “Imam” along with their functioning can also be explained within the framework of “Ideological” and “Religious” ruling. The ideological leader will be seen as “The ideologue” if he/ she truly has the power to theorise his/ her beliefs prior to putting them into practice. Therefore, any criticism at this level remains within the boundaries of intellectualism and cognition and may not cause any actual harm to anyone and in fact may seem very remarkable.
But as these ideological leaders get into power and the situation changes, then they in turn, transform to one of the main elements of a ruling system who would be measured within the social practices. It is then when these leaders reveal their “Daemon” or “Merciful” nature and hence, it would no longer be subject to criticism but either rejection or acceptance.
The history passed its judgement in this exact manner on many charismatic ideological leaders.
In Iran, we have continually seen and experienced the consequences of individual leaderships. From “God’s gift” to “Shadow of God” and “God’s verse” to “Jjurisprudence Guardian” have been tested and neither the shadow of God nor its halo were seen in any of these self appointed Gods! On the contrary, in fact nothing but daemon and evil was found in these “Wise” leaders. This is the reason why the Iranian people are now distancing themselves from any of these “Anomalous” leaders as they have acquired a good understanding from them in the practical social and political process.
Crises Bulletin: Due to technological advancements and the spread of the might of Internet, people and particularly the youth have been able to enhance their awareness and assess the world from their own perspective. On the other hand, since seizing power, the rulers have been trying to regress to 1400 years ago; when they carried out the religious pontificators’ interpretation and other annotations of the Quran. From divorce, stoning and other punishment laws to bank interest rates and jurisprudent rule have all been derived from religious orders. At least, this is how they portray themselves.
Is abandoning religion and faith amongst different layers of the society, as a result of the Internet exposure in enhancing their awareness with regard to the ineffectiveness of religion, or is it that, even if there had been no such facilities as the Internet and albeit such clerical rulers were governing the people, we would have still witnessed such anti-religious tendencies? Would it be true to assume that retracting from religion and in general from an ideological system is due to the essence and the nature of the self centred ideological system of ruling and not because of the advancements in information technology? If so, is it the awareness that drives the society against religion or, is it the essence of the religion that has caused the frenzy? In short, have people turned their backs on religion or are they turning against it?
Ali Fayyaz: In this respect both factors have played a role. The essence of the ruling system which is acting in the name of religion is based on atrocities and has caused irreligiousness. This in turn has invited us to review and rethink about religion. The ruling system due to its pseudo-ideological nature and by controlling the society at personal and social levels has laid out the basis for such reactions which have rarely been seen amongst the people. I don’t believe that irreligiousness in Iran has been caused by the Internet; as, if such a regime hadn’t existed, questions about undermining religion and its necessity would have never arisen in the first place and people would have never digressed from their “holy” beliefs. What happened during the Renaissance in Europe which pushed out religion, more than anything was due to the essence of the religious ruling system within which the Pops reigned and the history is ashamed of revisiting the crimes committed in that era; as this is the case about the mullahs. Therefore, the reason for people turning their backs on religion or turning against it is the nature of cleric-ideological systems. The case of the medieval times followed by the Renaissance which swept aside religion and the freedom of the European nations from the yoke of religious rule truly proves and reiterates the role of such systems in sewing the seeds of irreligiousness which can ultimately lead to atheism.
On the other hand, one mustn’t forget that such questions on religion, its role and its necessity lay the foundation to enhance awareness. The why’s and how’s in what was once taken for granted, and uncertainty in what used to be “holy” and meeting the challenge to find rational explanations, would also test many of our ancient culture, religion and historical background. Nevertheless, the Internet and the media have accelerated the finding of the answers to such questions seeded by the actions of such rulers in the first place.
Crises Bulletin: Undoubtedly the crises have affected both the ruling and the political oppositions’ dispositions and at times it even reflects itself within the political organisations. Different interpretations are stated about ideology and an ideological system. Is dispersion and division within the left wing organisations due to the ideological crisis, and if so, have the left wing organisations managed to conquer the domination of ideological crisis over their organisations? If not, why, and if yes, how?
Ali Fayyaz: What has become of the left wing political organisations is undeniably related to ideological crisis. The ideological systems claimant to socialism in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block which ended up in suppression and political deadlock and eventually crumpled in their entirety, not only caused dejection and adversity within the independent left wing movements, but at the same time, initiated the rethinking and the revisiting of the existing theories and the reviewing of their earlier readings amongst the majority of the leftwing organisations and intellectuals. Naturally, along this path, some forces cannot consider reforming as a solution and by abandoning their previous beliefs, they find other tendencies. Such development exacerbates the ideological crisis and consequently, on the one hand worsens the level of disappointment and dejection and on the other, paves the way to find an alternative path. A kind of resolve which incidentally, many would have liked to have experienced but the fear, shame, and regrets or the devotion to their efforts in their past had prevented them from splitting or taking up other options. In any event, one cannot ignore the multilateral effects of such events. Such crises continue to exist and will recur again. Although, these organisations will recover form the shock inflicted and will eventually proceed towards a relatively balanced position. However, one mustn’t forget that since the events of the 90s, from a historical timeline point of view, an extremely short period has elapsed. Based on this, it should be pointed out that this crisis still continues although, with somewhat diminished severity. The current states of affairs and political contemplation so far have been such that they have made it difficult for us to rid ourselves from these crises. The political and ideological pressures from the rightwing forces at international level and the introduction of new theories by these groups, particularly by pointing the finger to the weaknesses of the “Left”, either in theory or practice, have somewhat deviated the leftwing organisations from their objectives and in a way have prevented the left to re-organise themselves in their rightful thoughts and theories belonging to the left. Emergence from the crises is only possible by reviewing and correcting the adopted theories and of course, this is what many leftwing intellectual forces and thinkers are doing right now. Politically, and as far as the fate of the political parties and organisations is concerned, aggravation in the situation which has been causing the disintegration of the forces, still continues which certainly some of it is due to the prolonged reign of the regime, coming of age of the activists and settling down with families who belong to that particular generation.
Crises Bulletin: Is it possible for the existing ideological crisis within the society to become a vehicle to drive the people towards other ideologies or ideals, or even be the cause to lead the society into a phase which resembles more like a limbo; the society neither wants to abandon its past beliefs nor is it able (Intellectually) to replace them with new ones. What is the way out of this limbo?
Ali Fayyaz: To answer this question, to a point depends on how we perceive the history and the society. Is it the generation belonging to the revolution era, when we refer to it as society? Is it the present generation or is it the future generation? Do we mean the present time, and if so, from a timescale point of view is it ending in a decade or a century? But if in general, what we mean is from the time of start of the revolution until now, and the present conditions, we may be able to provide a better answer. It’s worth reminding ourselves about what we mean by ideological crisis (Or crises) which is that of what started in the mid 80s. The relative opening up of the political breathing space amongst the countries claimant of socialism and the turbulence within the former Soviet Union and ultimately its downfall which also spread across most of its satellite countries on the one hand, and the emergence of fundamentalist and oppressive regimes such as the Islamic Republic, Afghan Mujahedeen and then the Taliban on the other, and the spread of fundamentalism across many other Islamic countries, to a great extent weakened these two postulant ideologies. What used to be considered as revolutionary Islam and liberating ideology attraction, professed by the Mujahedeen and Shariati, have run into isolation in the wake of regime’s crimes. In the meantime, the regime did not fall short of humiliating peoples’ beliefs and faith and it treated peoples’ sincere and faithful divination in such a manner that no other anti-religious regime would have been able to exterminate at such massive scale. Abandoning religion and atheism replaced what was being taken once as gospel and the mass of naive and religiously obedient people were driven into disbelief and weary of any kind of ideology.
The aversion caused by the regimes claimant of socialism (And communism) also embroiled the belonging ideology which in turn spiralled it into crises and the rise of many fresh questions about it. These aversions, in the absence of any fresh and attractive ideology or aspirations as a viable alternative have driven the masses into such bewilderment at this point in time, which as you mentioned rightly, could be considered as a kind of ideological limbo. But on the other hand, history and societies can never be generally forced into scepticism. History shows us that during every period and era a kind of belief or faith has always existed which has guided the humans and its history towards it which has been the ultimate cause of social movements and change. Without exaggeration, one must confess that the reason behind the identities of human societies and their lasting development has been ideological aspirations.
Undoubtedly, in the aftermath of such ideological crises, and freedom from the rulers’ suppression, there will be a return to one’s beliefs and ideology; but this time in tandem with thoughtfulness, deliberation, review and cleansing. Therefore, considering that this period of being in a limbo would be a tentative period, the society will review its aspirations with a fresh vision and the intellectuals as the vanguards and the critiques, and on its pinnacle as the ideologues, will move on towards fresh ideologies and shape the aspirations and the direction of the future generations. Returning to ideology and “Faith” after each period of crisis is a process during which humans once again begin their reasoning about it and rectify it in line with their needs and objectives. Hence, by considering this “crisis” as “temporary”, one can hope that it is viable to return to aspiring thoughts and ideologies. If based upon what has been mentioned above, that the pertaining disbelief and ideology cleansing is a direct consequence of the actions of the brutal and suppressive rulers, who claim to be ideological, then the answer to your question “What is the way out of this limbo” would be that; Recovery from this limbo is only achieved by the complete annihilation of those regimes which make use of such beliefs in order to deceive, suppress and exert their power. The collapse of “Ideological” regimes paves the way for conducive, intellectual and serious criticism of beliefs. It will be under such conditions that by ascertaining either their failure or accomplishment in one’s movement, emancipation and justice, one can make the affirmative decision. If we come to the conclusion that there is a “Use by date”, and the date has expired, then undoubtedly other allegiances, even assimilatory and “contradictory” ones will emerge.
Crises Bulletin: If we accept that the society is fed up of ideology and systems based on ideology, and is faced with ideological crisis, what would be the vehicle for the society to rid itself from the ruling ideological system? What would replace the present ideological system? A facial reform; i.e. a system based on the same ideology but dressed in modern clothing? Replacing the system with one with a different ideology, or one which is free from any ideology (Religious or socialist)?
Ali Fayyaz: The general and decisive mass movements supported by the progressive organisations and parties who believe in democracy, freedom and equality. This is the only weapon which can free this repression, injustice and poverty stricken society. Naturally, such a solution demands its own particular preparations which requires a more comprehensive and exclusive discussion. For instance ways of making connection with the masses, ways of making our influence, attracting their trust etc…
As far as the Islamic Republic regime is concerned, one must say that this regime cannot be transformed under any circumstances. Any regime’s ability to transform or reform can be assumed possible when its civil and constitutional laws which reflect the will of its nation and are “Earthly”, could be amended and put to vote. Since the laws of this regime are not “Earthly” but “Eternal”, in the view of its advocators these laws are resolute as they are considered as divine and religious. Therefore, in order to change this condition there remains merely one way and that is the overthrow of this regime in its entirety including the corruption, bribery, carnage, deception, fraud, repression, torture, prison, execution, poverty, etc. which all constitute as the integral and inseparable warp and woof of this regime. Any correction in one aspect shows up tens of other blemishes in other aspects.
Making a U-Turn back to the historical past is also meaningless and would be a backward move which cannot be accepted by any sensible mind. One must look to the future. The new generations demand fresh solutions and look ahead. Along this path, a democratic system based upon earthly civil and judicial laws which is elected by the unequivocal votes of the people can materialise the requirements of our society. A system in which, political parties and organisations can lay their fate in the votes of the people, and the masses determine their responsibilities.
Presently, it seems as though the future system would be without any ideological essence; At least as far as the civil and judicial laws are concerned. However, any system in its overall policies can have tendencies towards a particular ideology. Nevertheless, in order to manage any society, there is a need for a policy. These policies do not emerge in isolation either and therefore, must be based on an existing paradigm and the existing paradigms also in a way have their roots in some kind of recognised economic-political approach.
Crises Bulletin: Please accept my thanks for taking part in this brief discussion. I would like to ask you to summarise your thoughts.
Ali Fayyaz: Ideology and following an ideology has its roots in the humans’ aspirations and allegiance. In other words, one can say that ideology is some form of human forethought for its life. Therefore, this planning could be suitable, precise and free from faults or indeed the opposite. In a way, ideology is some kind of general human decrees for existence. A person without any ideology or aspirations is one who conforms to the status quo conditions and is content with the prevailing situation. The ambitious humans however, never conform to the prevailing dishonourable social conditions and pursue change.
So far as unscrupulous conditions rule the human relations, either in politics or economy, in culture or rulings rights, and as long as exploitation, plundering and the fleecing of the oppressed peoples’ national interests continue, unquestionably aspiring humans will continue with their struggle and along the way either reach out to fresh ideologies, or reconstruct and reform the available ones pertinent to the ongoing conditions.
Copyright: Crises Bulletin – September 2007