John Says His Piece

As I keep telling you, it is never a dull moment in Berkeley. As I was leaving work this afternoon, I ran into this man, John, who is a nurse at a hospital. On his day off, he is an activist for the rights of workers, he said. In the few brief moments that I stopped by to see what he was up to, he said he believes that true "freedom," "rights," and "liberation" should come from within groups and nations, not handed out to them by others, especially governments. He was walking around good-naturedly, advocating his cause in what was a beautiful sunny afternoon after the fog burnt off. Though there wasn't enough time to really find out more about his message, I thought the picture might convey something about the kind of place Berkeley is. I was grateful he agreed to be photographed, and with a smile at that!


Siahُ said...

Some people don't understand how amazing the freedom is. so we have to go into their countries kill many of them, torture the rest, ruin the whole country and finally bring them freedom.

Since we are doing the work for them we will take some of their oil back.

thats how it is done and we are doing it.

jeerjeerak said...

And who is to define "freedom"? It could be the freedom we treasure in west is far from what Iraqis have in mind.

And thank you Nazy jan for your comment. You are very kind.

serendip said...

Bringing democracy was never really among initial justification of going to Iraq. The chief justifcation were only at the outset were 1)to protect American people from imminent threat of WMD. 2. To enforce UN Resolution.
The "democracy crusade" mission emerged as the casus belli only after it was clear that the Iraq war had become a 'catastrophic success'. That is how President Bush described it in 2004.

In the United States, almost all of our civil liberaties were hard fought battles. Abolitionist movement, child labor, labor, womens suffrage/rights, civil rights, etc were not benevolently granted by the government or sponsored by big business; rather the opposite: the fundamental rights that we enjoy were struggled for - sometimes militantly - by peoples movements (that alot of times consisted of socialists, radicals, anarchists and communists) who constantly met resistance by the government and business sector. It took decades of organizing and struggling to force what is now basic rights to be achieved. The constitution didn't protect the rights of workers, poor people, Native Americans, people of color or women, it was movements built and led by communist or socialist who helped get equal rights, who fought for the rights of collective bargaining so workers can have a say and not be constantly jerked by greedy companies and bosses.

All of these rights were won in the context of a democratic system of governance and the American constitution provided the basic foundation for this maneuverability within the system.

Sadly, in a religious theocracy wherein the legislator is God through his prophet, any other rights but religious rights are automatically void and null.

Before democracy could be introduced anywhere a country's literacy rates and social and political maturity should be at an optimum level. If that readiness level is not there, then people can be used as tools by foreign powers or enemies within albeit religious colonialism, Imperialist colonialism or Communist colonialism.

Winston Churchill was profoundly accurate in his commensensical simplicity when he said his famous quote: "the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter" - note that this quote refers to the average voter who presumably has achieved some form of political and democratic readiness and sophistication.

Here are some of my favorite quotes by Thomas Jefferson:

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

"Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day."

"A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

More brainy quotes from Thomas Jefferson:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/thomas_jefferson.html

serendip said...

I have to add this, nazy jan, and then I'll shut up...LOL

Don't ever forget ladies and Gent.: Your Democracy is not a spectator sport.

ا. ش said...

دموکراسی، واژه‌ای با تناقض ذاتی؛ تحفه‌ی اندیشه‌ی غرب به بشریت ..... ‏
آن‌چه در تصویر می‌بینم سخن از آزادی‌ست؛ واژه‌ای اصیل و پرمحتوا:

Freedom a marvelous word originated from Indo-European Root “prai” (to love) cognate ‎with friendship in English, and Fari (doost va mahboob; zibaa va pasandideh) and Afarin ‎‎(blessing, praising; do’aaye nik, sa’aadat-khaahi) in Persian.‎

برون کن ز دل درد و آزار و کین
پس آنگه دعا گستر و آفرین

serendip said...

Tradition of Democracy in Iran. Abbas Milani's "Lost Wisdom" dispels the myth that democracy is a construct of 'western thought'. What is Western or Eastern anyway? Who makes up such arbitary and artificial division and who benefits from this divisions?

AT any rate, here is a review of Abbas Milani scholarly work investigating the tradition of Democracy in the "East":

Lost Wisdom: Rethinking Modernity in Iran challenges the hitherto accepted theory that modernity and its related concepts of democracy and freedom are Western in essence. It also demonstrates that Iran and the West have more that brings them together than separates them in their search for such modern ideals as rationalism, the rule of law, and democracy.

These essays will reward the scholar and the general reader alike, and will go far toward explaining the enigma that is Iran today.

From the Publisher
"Milani shows that long before the European Renaissance generated the radical ideas that eventually reshaped Europe and the United States, Persian statesmen, artists, and intellectuals had formulated ideas that strikingly anticipate those of modernity.… Lost Wisdom is not only a powerful work of historical analysis; it is also a moving and eloquent account of a series of remarkable individuals, depicted with rare sensitivity and precision."—Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University

I highly recommend this book and here is where you can order it:


ا. ش said...

دموکراسی و آزادی از یک مقوله نیستند. به محتوای واژه ی آزادی و حوزه ی زیبای معنایی آن در غرب و شرق نگاه کنید! مبنای صبحت من با آن چه عباس میلانی یا دیگران می گویند بسیار متفاوت است. ما به دنبال تمایز در سرشت انسانی نیستیم (چه غربی باشد چه شرقی). درست برعکس، به دنبال نقاط مشترک و پیوستگی در بنیان آدمی هستیم. آزادی واژه ی مقدسی است که نقطه ی پیوند هر نوع تمدنی و هر نوع اندیشه ای با خاستگاه جغرافیایی متفاوت است. اما "واژه ی" دموکراسی فاقد چنین هویت معنایی است. این واژه در اصل خودش از معنی تمایز برآمده و ممکن نیست شما بخواهید به دموکراسی نگاه پیوسته ای داشته باشید، گسستگی در ذات آن است، در ذات آن تمایز بین انسان ها نهفته است. تفاوت طبقاتی در اقشار جامعه (در جایی) باید وجود داشته باشد تا دموکراسی به عنوان یک هدف مورد نظر قرار گیرد. از مفهوم تمایز و تقسیم، این واژه در تفکر غرب انتزاع شد (به استناد ریشه یابی کهن آن و پدید آمدن پسین کلمه)، بدون آن که مابه ازایی در اندیشه ی شرق بیابد. آزادی مفهوم مشترک میان همه ی انسان هاست، در همه فرهنگ ها، در همه ی سنت ها و اقول. مردم دنیا این واژه در می فهمند چون در خون و هویت آن ها وجود دارد، چون با آن انس دارند. دموکراسی نگاه انتزاعی و برش وار به مفهوم آزادی است.
درضمن این سنت تفکر درباره ی دموکراسی در ایران نیست (بسیاری امروزه از نوع دینی آن هم زیاد صحبت می کنند!) این حرف من است، بر پایه ی مفهوم و ریشه ی تاریخی واژه و نگاهی که به طور اجتناب ناپذیر به آن برمی گردد.
توجه کنید که حرف من در باره ی بار معنایی واژه است. دوست عزیز جهان نمی تواند راه سعادت خود را در مسیری بیابد که بستر مشترکی در هویت و نهاد انسانی در آن وجود ندارد.

Nazy said...

Dear Siah, Jeerjeerak, Serendip, and Alef Shin:

What a marvelous discussion took place in my absence! I'm afraid I can't add much to the interesting points you all raised. I know one thing--that the man who was on Berkeley's Shattuck Square yesterday, and the group who was there today, making fun of George Bush, and the ones who will probably go there tomorrow promoting another idea and ideal, all were allowed to say their piece. I doubt you can count on the fingers of two hands all the other places in the world where people can show up and talk about their thoughts, especially as it pertains disagreeing with what the government does, without legal consequences. Understanding what Serendip and Alef Shin are saying as best as I can, there is no disagreement between the two. As the lowest common denominator for all that people of the world want, the most basic human right, freedom is a cherished and unfortunately scarce commodity. Once freedom is attained, a democracy can be an ideal political system for those who choose it, and if there are other alternatives, those too can be put up to vote and chosen. For freedom to be achieved, nations have to first become empowered by literacy and knowledge. Where there is freedom, governments will be truly chosen by those nations, working to make lives better for the people whom they govern.

Thank you all for your lively conversation and for your thoughtful (and soulful) contributions. Be good y'all.

SERENDIP said...

Mr. alef, shin: I have to apoloigze in advance for not being able to write in Persian.

In an ideal world of angels, what you're suggesting would be most reasonable. However, from an evolutionary biology stand point, the problem is that our technolgoy and our culture in general evolves at a faster rate than our own species evolution. Sadly, our species lags behind in matching social/spiritual dynamics to pull off what you're proposing. If you like to discuss this issue further you can email me at deletion10p13@inbox.com

Sorry, Nazy jan. You already know my stance and I don't want to bore you with it again.

Nazy said...

Serendip: No need to apologize, as I do love observing the exchange even if I can't add much to it myself. Be good.

ا. ش said...

To Ms. Serendip:
قطعاً جای عذرخواهی نیست؛ شما به هر طریقی که راحت هستید بنویسید. فارسی نوشتن من هم برای این است تازه مدتیست فهمیده ام برای کشف توانایی های این زبان به تمرین بسیار نیاز دارم! بنابراین صرف نظر از این که انگلیسی نویس خوبی نیستم، گرایشم به نوشتن به فارسی بیشتر است. آیا شما نوشته های من به فارسی را به راحتی می توانید بخوانید؟
بله شاید دنیای فرشتگان! در فرهنگ قدیم ایران، همواره تکیه ی بسیاری به نقش پنداشت (1) در نگاه انسان شده؛ ناظر و نگرنده ی حقیقی در هر فردی کیست؟ "خودش" یا "پنداشت هایش"؟
وقتی به جایگاهی می رسیم که بخواهیم درباره ی مسیر سعادت انسان سخن بگوییم، فارغ از پنداشت ها و انگاشت های (2) صلب شده ی پیشین نظر دادن کار ساده ای نیست. به هر حال آن چه من گفته ام ناشی از باورهای من است، باورهایی که تلاش کرده ام تحت تاثیر پیش فرض ها و پنداشت های شکل گرفته از رخدادهای روزمره یا وقایع گذشته ی زندگی من نباشند. من حقیقت انسان بودن را در چنین شرایطی قابل درک می دانم. اما شاید مطابق با نظر شما، این دنیایی آرمانیست؛ دنیای انسان امروز تحت تاثیر فن آوری و فرهنگ و سیاست هایی است که در آن واقع شده، دنیایی که بدون پنداشتی غالب در آن نمی توان زندگی کرد.
از آدرس ای میل شما متشکرم. در جای خود مزاحم خواهم شد

1) Thought
2) Assumptions