Random Observations from Manila
Well I guess in the classical sense Iran is part of Asia so I will take the political version of “literary license” and post a couple of quick thoughts about recent events there.
I won’t subject anyone to a long geo-political discourse. I am not an expert on Iran or Islamic politics so I won’t go there; but the past week presented the opportunity for a few observations:
Observation #1. There is a legitimate and moral difference between popular protest at an unfair, illegitimate and immoral election result as we have seen this past week in Iran and the self-serving, narcissistic mob rule that overturned legitimate democratic election results in Thailand and the Philippines. (I am not naïve; I don’t think that Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi is a shining beacon of enlightened leadership. However the protests in behalf of his candidacy represented the most progressive aspirations of an Iranian society that is more pluralistic, secular and global than many would suppose.)
Observation #2. President Obama’s behavior this past week may be a good case study in expending personal-popularity capital to move a policy agenda. It would have been the easy, popularity building thing to lead the public chorus of legitimate outrage at the behavior of the Theocracy in Iran. Obama would have been great at this. It could have been his Ronald Reaganesque “Tear Down This Wall” moment. He is undoubtedly the most skilled political orator of our time and no doubt he would have been up to it.
Yet he chose to hold his oratorical fire for a while. He gave up the opportunity for an easy popularity gain. He accepted the attacks and hits on his popularity and favorability ratings. And there were plenty of hits The Wall Street Journal; The Republican Party; many in his own Democratic Party and even among his legion of “Euro-Groupies” who had greeted his election as if it would signal the end of McDonalds and Disneyland. I believe that he chose to hold his oratorical fire; take the hits and in effect expend the personal political and popularity capital that he has built up, because he was able to discipline himself to see the situation inside Iran through the eyes of the Iranian opposition.
He understood and accepted that for Iranians, the situation in Iran is not about Barrack Obama, nor is it about the United States, or France or even Israel. It is about them. It is about Iranians. It is about the emptiness of a life isolated from the knowledge, and ideas, and opportunities that the world provides. And it is about the aspirations and hopes that are provided by that same global knowledge, and those same ideas, and opportunities. Only when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the incumbent Theocracy of Iran can divert the dialogue from a dialogue about Iran and Iranians to the real or fabricated sins of Barrack Obama, or the United States, or France or Israel or even Iraq, can their offer of hatred, ignorance and Theocratic dictatorship survive.
So Barrack Obama chose not to give them the opportunity to divert the dialogue. And he may pay a short term price for doing so. However in behaving the way he has; I believe he started to expose a fundamental weakness in the Ahmadinejads and the Theocratic dictators of the world. They can only exist through lies and distortions. In the long run, Obama’s investment of political and popularity capital will be rewarded, because sooner rather then later, the lies and distortions about the rest of the world will unseat Ahmadinejad and the incumbent Theocracy; and maybe Iran and Iranians can get back in the middle of the knowledge, and ideas, and opportunities that the world provides… And Barrack Obama will get some of the credit for that day.
Observation #3. My last observation might actually be the only one of any practical value to anyone and it concerns of all things! Football. No; not American football but real football. Soccer. News reports indicated that four members of the Iranian national football team had been “retired” in retaliation for wearing green arm bands in protest of the fraudulent election. This occurred during a world cup qualifying match with South Korea in Seoul.
Now if you know international football at all, you know that Iran and Iranians are football fanatics. The success of their national team is a source of pride and accomplishment and even national honor. Even Ahmadinejad is a rabid fan. So the “political” retirement of four starting players will reverberate and communicate the cultural illegitimacy of the ruling Theocracy far into the “Silent Majority” of Iranian society who are neither dissidents nor theocratic fundamentalists.
So I have a humble suggestion to those athletes around the world who believe in the purity of athletic competition. To those who believe in the meritocracy of sport; I suggest you refuse to play against an Iranian team that is selected not on merit or skill or spirit. Refuse to play against an Iranian team that is selected based on the distortions, lies, hatred and narcissism of the Theocracy.
I think that single act will do more to expose the illegitimacy of the Iranian Theocracy than all of the politicized denunciations emanating for many of the western capitals. And the decision not to play against the Iranians should come from the players of competing national teams. Not from national governments or politicized sports associations. It will only be effective coming from the athletes themselves. Is it realistic to expect this to happen? Probably not; but worth the effort never the less.