Monday, December 23, 2002

While randomly trawling the net, I came across an Iran hostage's recollections. Are there any lessons about or for the Iran of today there?

"[Hossein, a captor] began by telling me that it was all over, that we were all going home, and that Iran was finally going to be free from outside interference so Iranians could have the kind of country they wanted. I responded that it sounded good, but that I was sure it was not going to happen because, in my view, Iranians lacked the necessary self-discipline to keep the past from repeating itself.

Hossein said he did not understand. I noted that governing a nation and permitting at least some degree of freedom (which Hossein and his cohorts always maintained would be the case in Iran) required great tolerance on the part of the authorities. I said that the government of such a country could not lock someone away or execute them just because someone with the power to do so did not like something the person said or did. I told him that rules and laws had to be applied to all citizens equally and that it took governmental and personal self-discipline to make this work. Looking him directly in the eyes, I told him that nothing I had seen, heard, or experienced in my time in Iran gave me any indication he and his fellow Iranians had any understanding of this. The revolutionary government was unwilling to grant its citizens any measurable degree of true freedom, and there was not, in my opinion, a snowball's chance in hell that it would.

Hossein rebutted my comments, using the same idealistic revolutionary rhetoric that I had heard so many times, from so many Iranians. He ended by repeating that all Iran's problems had been caused by outsiders, most notably by America, and that now everything was going to be good in Iran. I did not carry the debate further. He tried to chitchat for a few minutes, but, when he realized that I had no interest in a congenial farewell, he said he had many things to do. He then stood and wished me good luck. I shrugged, and he left."

What was that Santayana quote again?

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