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Iran, A Lesson in the Making

January 7, 2011

Source:  Cartoon used with permission by creator, Iranian cartoonist, Mana Neyestani, (!/photo.php?fbid=10150350230670434&set=a.214762075433.281488.525825433 and and  

What’s this picture portraying about Iran?  Iran is a complex society.   Therefore, it is similar to all society.  In Iran, as in many States, there are people and classifications of people that are compelled to obey or conform to the system.  Those who obey often do so because failure to obey orders subjects them to sanctions.  Some sanctions encourage or “bait” us to go along with (or conform to) the system with few questions asked.  Others force us to accept and become part of the system out of fear.  While many may acquiesce, obey, or conform to pressures, we may find hope in each society that is presented through those people who are willing to persevere in spite of persecution and seek incessantly a better way of governance.  These self-compelling people, like the marathon runner, bear monumental hardship(s) in order to object to and change tyranny and social wrongs.  Much of Iran’s society today seeks what the American (revolutionaries) sought and fostered through the American War for Independence.  We must not forget to fear totalitarian forms of government, both those without and those that may through factions attempt to rear their heads from within.  As American’s we must support the cause of the Iranian common people that are seeking a better way of life.  At the same times we Americans must remember how important our own rights and freedoms are.  We must remember that corruption has many faces, as do victims also.  No doubt this picture gives us a view of only one dimension of Iranian society.  There are of course those that support the government.   There is no doubt, as in every society, a segment preferring the status quo.  For whatever reason, unlike the guard, they support the tyranny and act as direct instigators of strife.  These segments of society are unlike the jailer who is merely a puppet on a string responding to coercion.  For these folk there are different analyses to be considered and I have not considered those types in this article.  

As we may be able to see, in this picture, the prison jailer and the prisoner are both victims.  Which one bears the more constricting yoke of being chained by the governmental system?  They both are harnessed, but the prisoner is thinking, and importantly, I think, has important options.  He has some degree of latitude in moving portions of his body and in using his mind to contemplate his situation.  He already has taken the step toward freedom and now finds himself at a point of no other way out.  The prisoner objects to the system, attempts to make changes, and although momentarily confined remains thoughtful about the situation, both at hand while imprisoned and hopefully about the future if release is gained.  On the other hand the jailer is bound and without options.  Arguably, the prisoner could do the jailer some degree of injury.  But perhaps each realize their positions; and that perhaps, they are more similar than not.  Perhaps fear of the system dictates the jailer obeying the orders of the system.  Perhaps he has been enticed by the carrots of the system and finds that conforming to orders makes life at least seem less complicated. 

While we must recognize that there are at least two types of prisoners in Iran, we must remain thoughtful of the type depicted by the prisoner and the jailer.  While the jailer is “riding” the system for all it is worth, the prisoner is patient, calculating, and with one foot free and prepared to propel himself toward the finish line should circumstances dictate so.  The jailer, because he has sought to take the apparently less hazardous pathway and allow government to use him for corrupt and uncivil purposes, finds himself bound and with fewer options.  Sometimes, taking the path that seeks humanity and civility requires taking the more frightful path.  The one that our American seekers of freedom took is not all that fundamentally different from that path sought by the members of the Green Movement seeking freedom in Iran today.  The message, to all society I believe, is be vigilant.   

Malcolm L. Rigsby is a faculty member in sociology at Ouachita Baptist University, completing his Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas.  In 1979 he received his B.A.T. from Sam Houston State University, in History and Education with a minor in Sociology.  He holds his J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law (1989) and is a licensed attorney in Arkansas and Texas.

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