Monday, September 24, 2012

Iran & Occupy Wall Street

The president of Iran, according to a recent report, wants to meet with the proponents of Occupy Wall Street. This meeting will occur as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad goes on a media tour during his visit in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

In a sense this is an understandable political move because such a meeting with American activists will give him an opportunity to highlight discontent within the United States. On the other hand... it seems as if Ahmadinejad may not understand the Occupy movement any better than American politicians. Who exactly would he plan on meeting with? Occupy Wall Street has never had any centralized leadership and having a hundred members of that movement asking him questions or having a dialogue with him would really not be representative of that movement as a whole. This is even assuming the particular occupiers he meets with are not somehow screened in advance for the purpose of political theater.

Occupy Wall Street was largely initiated by anarchists and with anarchistic principles. To a large extent the movement remains anarchistic despite being watered down with milquetoast liberals and Ron Paul fanboys. So what in the world could the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran expect to find in common with such a movement? The corruption of Wall Street and the U.S. government does not at all suggest that the movement is on the same side as, or in favor of, a repressive theocratic government. And let's face reality... if this sort of movement had manifested in Iran it would have been attacked by the government of that land, and it's media, just as the movement was attacked by the U.S. government and it's media. Quite arguably the attacks on such a movement would have been worse in Iran. Also, certainly, the participation of women would have served as extra motivation to crack down on this movement if it had manifested in Iran.

Don't get me wrong... I'm sure there are plenty of freedom-loving people in Iran. I suspect that many Iranians haven't even had their ethics or morality corrupted by theocratic interpretations of religion. Iranians deserve peace and prosperity just like all other populations. But the national leadership of Iran, the theocratic rule of the so-called “Leader of the Revolution,” is undoubtedly just as corrupt as the leadership offered by the politicians in the United States. Overt criticism of Ali Khamenei, within the borders of Iran, is likely to be even more risky than overt criticism of politicians within America. Insomuch as the Iranian government works to stay in power by keeping the Iranian population repressed... the Iranians have much in common with those living within the borders of the United States – who are also repressed by politicians doing whatever they can to stay in power. So while I find the government of Iran to be corrupt and abusive of Iranians, I am in solidarity with the common population of Iran in the same way that I am in solidarity with the common populations of all lands.

The issue at hand isn't whether or not I believe that Iran is threatened by the military forces of the West, it is. And the issue isn't whether or not Iranians should have self-determination in the lands where they dwell. My point of contention is with the Iranian government – the destructive projects it undertakes and the oppressive tactics it uses to suppress the Iranian people. This is, as an anarchist, the same issue I have with the U.S. government. And so, when the President of Iran wants to meet with a group of representatives from a movement that I've generally supported... I am very skeptical of the motivations for any such meeting.

It seems to me that such a meeting is not at all intended to really help either the people of Iran or the people within the borders of the United States. On the contrary, I see such a meeting as detrimental to both populations. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this meeting will give the opportunity to present the United States as a corrupt entity to the people back in Iran. The state media in Iran can point out all the corruption that people in the United States must deal with and the generally flawed system under which they live. No mention of the similar corruption in Iran will be mentioned in such a propaganda piece and, therefore, the United States will be presented as a lesser nation than Iran. The idea will be that “things are rough all over and even if you are a bit discontent with this government... the government elsewhere is just as bad or worse.”

In the United States... the Occupy movement, just because a few supposed representatives of that group intend to meet with the representative of such a corrupt and abusive Iranian system, will be painted as naïve (and possibly as being proponents of such a system themselves). And, truth be told, it probably is pretty naïve for members of a liberation movement to meet with a corrupt leader of a foreign government. Sure, he'll agree with them about every criticism of the United States that is put forward, and yes, the United States often takes an unnecessarily hostile position towards Iran, but the President of Iran is not an ally of humanity. It's as simple as that. The enemy of your enemy is often not your ally.

In fact, the government of the United States and the Iranian government have much more in common with each other, and work much more closely together, than is often considered. Even the incessant sabre-rattling and talk of war between these two nations may be little more than a tool used to control the populations in these countries. Such posturing would certainly serve to pump up arms sales. And the relationship between the governments of Iran and the United States, as hostile as it may often seem, actually serve to stabilize and control the price of oil. The fact of the matter is that the governments within both nations actually profit (both politically and financially) because of the positions they maintain relative to each other. They shine a bad light on each other to make themselves look more moderate by comparison and, in so doing, they reinforce their own power and control.

If I didn't know better... it might even be possible to suspect that the American banking industry was financing Ahmadinejad's meeting with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Hell, they could even hire their own stand-ins for the movement to ask all the same old questions and present all the same old legitimate critiques. And, again as stated above, this would play out on Iranian television to serve the Supreme Leader's propaganda interests and in the United States it would be presented as the Occupy movement cozying up with the authoritarian leadership of oppressive governments. However... this meeting does offer some better possibilities.

A real line of questioning from the Occupy movement in the U.S. would go something like this... “How has the Occupy movement manifested itself in Iran and how has the Iranian government dealt with it?” If Ahmadinejad denied it's existence there, a follow up could be about more general protests there and how the Iranian Assembly of Experts deals with such protests. And, at this point, any proponents of the Occupy Wall Street movement should repeatedly ask about things like “The Chain Murders” and the execution of political prisoners in 1988.

The effect of such a line of questioning, while perhaps seen as impolitic by some, would be to actually show solidarity with the people of Iran. We could show that we know about their struggles and in many ways, they are the same as our struggles. This would solidify the Occupy Wall Street movement as an international movement and not something merely looking for a few reforms in the United States. We can show that we recognize the harm that Wall Street is doing around the world and how it acts in coordination with oppressive governments around the world.

Because of modern social media technologies, it's likely that these questions and this information would still reach the general population of Iran. Such a line of questioning would serve to undermine the propaganda model that is currently in place which works to keep people under all governments ignorant about ideas of freedom, peace, and revolution. This is a general project which needs to be undertaken while the opportunity is at hand – because we don't know when new forms of media will come under tighter control by the controlling powers.

And, finally, I should point out that this proposed meeting between Ahmadinejad and the proponents of Occupy Wall Street first came to my attention on the Drudge Report – which continues to be a very popular source of news and which is generally considered to be right wing website. So the negative association between the Occupy movement and the Iranian government is undoubtedly already being put forward.

No comments: