7/04/2007

Independence Day

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.” Thomas Jefferson Today is July 4th, which is Independence Day in the US. This is a national holiday in which Americans celebrate America’s independence from British rule. In cities and towns across America, there are celebrations and spectacular fireworks on this day. I wished I could encourage all politicians in the world, including contemporary American politicians, to go back and to read Thomas Jefferson’s writings and thinking about government, people, and politics. I believe he was a genius most of whose thinking is even more relevant today, globally, than when it was originally written. Happy Fourth of July!

15 comments:

SERENDIP said...

Happy Independence to you too. We're blessed to have lived in the U.S.

Assal said...

Nazy Joonam: Thank you so much for your insight into Thomas Jefferson. I wish more Iranian-Americans were like you and would dig deeper into the knowledge and wealth of this country that has become their second home. America isn't just hot dogs and Hollywood. It was shaped by some of the most enlightened minds that have ever walked this earth. Who else but Thomas Jefferson and the likes of him could have built the foundations of this dream nation where it's people and it's values are valued as it's greatest resource?

Some people might criticize me, but I am proud of this country, just as much as much as I am proud of Iran. America was built and shaped by people who valued hard work, brotherhood, and freedom; and Americans deserve credit for the country that they sustain, especially on their (our) Independence Day!

Mehran said...

I love Thomas Jefferson, he was not only a good president also he was a great philosopher that I DO admire. If America is America today is because great people like him.

Nazy said...

Yes, Serendip, I agree!

Nazy said...

Assal Jan, It is possible to love both Iran and America!

Nazy said...

Mehran, I agree with you. To read the things this man said in late 18th and early 19th Century, and to see what some other people in the world, and even in the US, are saying today and how backwards they sound, I am convinced that Thomas Jeffeson was a genius. Yes, a country that has founding fathers who are genius philosophers, is a very lucky country indeed, destined, as we have seen, to become the place which has given and continues to give the world technology, science, medicine, and new knowledge. As we know, Iran has also given the world so much with scientists such as Abu Ali Sina and Biruni, just to name a few. I think this is one of the many things the two countries have in common.

Mina said...

Amen to all of you, and especially Nazy. To read the Federalist Papers and great philosophers like Thomas Jefferson and then listen to the current residents of the White House is to see how far our adopted country has declined in brain power.
Instead of sophisticated philosophers we have ignorant rozeh khans. Instead of people who could write the English language beautifully we have someone who can't utter a single sentence in good English and is proud of it!
Yes, the vote is not restricted to white men of property and we no longer have slavery and women are more or less present in all layers of society, but when I read what the Founding Fathers wrote, I weep for America.

Majid said...

With hello to all - I must post here Thomas Jefferson’s famous quotation that I love the most and is about liberty. He said: “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”

Nazy jaan, I am still waiting to hear from you as when I can deliver Makhmalbaf’s books to you. Bests, Majid

Nazy said...

Mina Jan, Salam and thanks for coming! I am delighted! My friend Nancy always tells me that when in the company of first generation immigrants, she becomes more inspired about being an American, as she feels immigrants pay closer attention to things that might either be taken for granted by some Americans, or otherwise be completely ignored. I have often talked about how conscientious immigrants can have "the best of both worlds." In your passion, I see the sense of responsibility all Americans should feel in safeguarding a pioneering democracy, unique and different from any other in the world. As politics and political races have changed shape all over the world, more people feel un-inspired by happenings around them. It is our responsibility to share our interpretations of what "liberty" means, as defined in earlier American history. The effect will be pleasantly surprising in our immediate circles, I can attest.

Nazy said...

Majid Jan, Salam. What a wonderful surprise you have been today! Boy, that Jefferson really brought everyone out today! I will call you tomorrow to see about getting together to exchange those books over some coffee next week. Thanks for coming.

ا. ش said...

صیانت از دموکراسی پیشرو و پیشگام خانم نازی عزیز؟ شاید صحبت من در این فضا به جا و شایسته نباشد و از این بابت از پیش عذرخواهی مرا بپذیرید، ولی
کدام دموکراسی پیشگام؟
توسعه و ترویج فلسفه ی حصول گرایی (پوزیتیویسم)، ابزارانگاری (اینسترومنتالیسم) و عمل گرایی (پراگماتیسم و اندیشه ی بَراشایی (فرگمنتِیشن) از میوه های درخت اندیشه ی غرب در قرن بیستم بوده که وقتی در حوزه ی قدرت و سیاست تسلط یافت تروریسم از دل آن زاده شد و جهانی را به ورطه ی بی هویتی سوق داد. هویت ایرانی ما سرخورده و سرگشته است.
از فرهنگ غنی خود فقط نام ها را به خاطر سپرده ایم تا شاید روزی
دوباره مولانا و عطار را از زبان اندیشمندان غرب بازبشناسیم

Nazy said...

Alef Shin Jan: Salam. Don't worry my friend! You can say anything you want here! I am grateful for your input.

I want to know why all the hopelessness Alef Shin? "...jahani ra be varteye bi-hoviyati sogh dad..." is not a productive statement! The world is what it is and however it happened that way, we can go on and on analyzing it, blaming ourselves and others, and even developing conspiracy theories, but we can't change the facts, can we? Then what? How will we fix this world? Should we just roll over and die because "sogh dadeh shode im?" I believe the root of terrorism in fact IS hopelessness. Those who feel they have nothing to lose attempt hurting others and bringing loss upon everyone.

My personal favorite choice is to take stock of what we have today and to build on it. This requires hope. This also requires optimism and a "can do" attitude. Some people think I am stupidly optimistic about this, but I can't help it, I am.

Regarding what I said about Thomas Jefferson, I believe in what I said. We may be unahppy with politicians these days, and totally disagree with policies that for the past several decades have affected the world, creating an unsafe world burning in fires of hate. But we must not forget the significance and importance of men who did think and say the right things even under adverse circumstances, and who have benefitted humanity and science in the process.

Thank you Alef Shin. You should know that I am not a historian, nor a philosopher. I am a business school graduate whose thinking on this issue is very simple and deeply affected by an American idiom and a quote by a US President. First the idiom: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Now the Quote by John F. Kennedy: Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

Some might think this corny, but I actually believe in both sincerely and try to face adversities in life and politics the same way.

serendip said...

Nazy jan: great reply. I wish Iranians stopped talking about "Hoviat". All identities are constructed. None of them are primordial in any sense. Westerners vs. Easterners identity are arbitrary concepts which has been exploited to divide and conquer by all religions and power brokers of all stripes. Many Westerners in the 1800 were very much like the easterners; just as dogmatic and repressive; for instance; in the victorian era, men according to some social norms were allowed to beat up their women, or another taliban-like practice wherein the legs of tables were covered because they were deemed too sexual and "arousing". There is a great little commentary by Andrew Coyne that you might be interested in reading:

http://andrewcoyne.com/2006/02/cartoon-violence.php

ا. ش said...

خانم نازی عزیز، صحبت کردن در خصوص این گونه موارد همیشه برایم خیلی سخته، چون آدم این احساس را ‏داره که روی لبه‌ی تیغ حرکت می‌کند. من به عقیده‌ی شما احترام می‌گذارم و برایتان آرزوی توفیق دارم، چون ‏بینش شما را درکل متعالی (و در مواردی بسیار متعالی) می‌بینم. اما همیشه در این گونه بحث‌ها انگاشت‌ها و ‏فرض‌های پیشینی در مخاطب وجود دارد که موضوع را درهم می‌پیچد. ‏
مشکل من با عبارت گُزیرش قبلی شما بود:‏
‎[A]ll Americans should feel in safeguarding a pioneering democracy, unique and ‎different from any other in the world.‎
این که چرا فکر می‌کنید چنین دموکراسی پیشرو است و چرا یگانه و متفاوت در سراسر جهان؟ شما به این پرسش ‏من پاسخ ندادید. در صحبتم به شما نسبت خوش‌بینی یا بدبینی (یا هر چیز دیگری) نداده‌ام، فقط نظر شما را نقد ‏کرده‌ام. حالا هم نمی‌دانم چرا از گفته‌ی من نومیدی را برداشت کرده‌اید. من احساس امیدوارانه‌ی شما را ستایش ‏می‌کنم و فکر می‌کنم راه درست نیز همین باشد. گفته‌ی جفرسون نیز برای من نیز آموزنده و تامل‌برانگیز است و ‏از خواندن آن لذت بردم. بخش مهمی از صحبت‌های شما را هم قبول دارم. ولی تفاوت من با شما در نقطه‌ای‌ست ‏که به آن چشم دوخته‌ایم. حرف من این است که دموکراسی را نمی‌توان از متن و بستری که در آن رشد می‌کند و ‏بارور می‌شود مجزا کرد. می‌گویم این نوع نگاه ما را به سمت حقیقت و اصالت انسانی پیش نمی‌برد. شما ‏نمی‌توانید تفکر دموکراسی در امریکا را به گفته‌های جفرسون، واشنگتن، لینکلن و ... محدود کنید و آن را الگویی ‏یگانه و متفاوت در جهان معرفی نمایید. کما این که نمی‌توان اندیشه‌ی سوسیالیزم را در گفته‌های مارکس خلاصه ‏کرد و آن را رهنمون یا پرانمونی (پارادایمی) برای عدالت اجتماعی دانست. دموکراسی یک فرایند است که در ‏طول تاریخ و در بستر اجتماعی خود پویایی و حرکت و ثمره دارد. نمی‌توان آن را از متنی که در آن واقع شده ‏تفکیک کرد. آیا شما می‌توانید دموکراسی امریکایی را از تفکر ابزارانگارانه و نتیجه‌باور و حصول‌گرایانه‌ای که ‏در عمق باور اکثریت نخبه‌ی آن رسوخ کرده (نمی‌گویم همه، چون اندیشمندان بزرگی هم در آن جا وجود داشته‌اند ‏که بزرگ‌ترین نقدها را همان‌ها مطرح کرده‌اند) جدا سازید؟ ‏
حال دوباره از شما می‌پرسم قصد صیانت از کدام دموکراسی پیشرو، یگانه و متفاوت را دارید؟ آن که بمب اتم بر ‏سر مردم ناکازاکی و هیروشیما می‌ریزد و مردم ویتنام را به خاک و خون می‌کشد؟ یا دموکراسی که مردم بدبخت ‏عراق باید شب و روز برای پذیرفتنش کشته بدهند؟ البته یقین دارم که هیچ یک از این موارد با دموکراسی مورد ‏نظر شما هم‌خوانی ندارد. ولی شما نمی‌توانید دموکراسی را از عنصر قدرتی که مروّج آن است جدا سازید. ‏محصول آن مقتضیات خودش است و مقتضیات آن محصول آن. و به همین صورت بوده که تروریسم در بدترین ‏شکل خود از آن زاده‎ ‎و هویت انسان در فرآیند پیچیده‌ی دگردیسی‌اش گم شد.‏
من هم مثل شما بسیار خوش‌بینم و به زاینده و فرآور بودن باور دارم، اما نه به فرآوری برخاسته از شعارهای ‏سیاسی و اجتماعی، بلکه به زایندگی باورهای باطنی و حقیقت انسان بودن. چون به بودش انسان باور دارم، برای ‏فهم چگونه انسان بودن تلاش می‌کنم، در پی درک همین گفته‌ی زیبای آغازین شما هستم که مرا تا این اندازه جذب ‏فضای شما کرد:‏
I am a citizen of this planet, who believes there is a purpose and mission to our existence.‎

Nazy said...

Intelligent Alef Shin Jan, thank you for coming back!

Oh boy, you think you are on razor's edge?! I have to watch what topic I pick and what I say, because then I get visits from people like you who grill me and test me and quiz me, forcing me to defend what I said! What if I don't know how to do it? Hahaha!

Not to worry. I love the dialogue...and I am reminded of that Beatles song "With a little help from my friends,"( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poUoCggQZd0). In our own ways, we are all trying to make sense of this world.

1. When I said a "pioneering democracy" I meant it for the time it was conceived and implemented by the Founding Fathers of this country, including Thomas Jefferson. No other country in the world had a political system based on such ideals and thoughts. In fact it is my belief that there has definitely been a departure from those ideals over the years, and never as much as the recent years.

2. I hate wars Alef Shin. I do. I think the lowest, least redeeming moments of human history were the ones conceiving and starting wars. I think only when wars are over and governments settle down to take care of the disabled, maimed, widowed, orphaned, and destroyed, do they and their peoples realize the horribleness of what has transpired. However, This becomes a lesson to government for only a brief time, I'm afraid, and they do it again and again. That is sad. I do not condone any war regardless of who started it and who is fighting it, and what it is about, because deep down in my heart, I believe that no conflict is unresolvable, and that people are good, and that each person on this planet deserves a chance to live a life free of fear, loss, and destruction brought on by governments. Like I said before, my friends do tell me that I am naive and simplistic in my approach to complex issues of the world. They can't change my mind about this, though, as in my lifetime I have seen a few wars, too, each of which could have been avoided.

3. I believe that our world has changed and so much has to change in all political systems to address that change. It is no longer possible for any government to merely think about what happens in their own country and to their own people, to either provide a good system for those people, or to suppress and oppress those people, and expect no impact on the rest of the world. I believe the new struggle in the world is not about ideologies and borders, but it is about fairness in distribution of resources, fighting for eliminating poverty, illiteracy, disease, and hopelessness. I hope for all governments of the world, starting with the US as the richest, the most powerful, and therefore the best-equipped for it, to reach out and work on avoiding and eliminating poverty in the world. Nations that don't have to struggle to eat and to learn how to read, then become nations who will not tolerate dictatorships and will choose governments who will take better care of them. Elimination of poverty in the world will develop democracies. Those who think a democracy is a package you can throw into a country, thereby "exporting" it to that country, are sadly misguided. Much like the one in America, democracies should grow by the people themselves.

Remembering Thomas Jefferson and his partners in proposing and implementing a government formed on the ideals of respect for human liberty, is a good place for everyone to start thinking about the world all over again. That is what I think.