Terry's blog

Iran 2009 — A New Kind of Revolution (4)

How can we help those who are demonstrating and dying on the streets?

I think that what we are already doing — paying rapt attention — is the most powerful thing Americans can do to empower Iran’s popular uprising. If the USA is preceived to be attempting to interfere, we empower repression. If we become a factor in the process, we muddy the waters. But if we simply pay attention, with open hearts and minds, and if we let ourselves be affected by what we see, and if we speak publicly about our human and moral perceptions, in public forums that Iranians can access, we help. It will be obvious that we are paying attention, that we are emotionally involved in witnessing their cultural confrontation, that we are moved and inspired by their courage, dignity, and restraint, that we are learning from their examples.

Mutual awareness involves taking new perspectives. That tends to serve growth into more nuanced structures of awareness. In this moment, the world’s simple witnessing awareness is making a subtle, but fundamental and benignly transformative difference. We are helping by sympathetically identifying with their symbolic martyr, Neda, her family, and her nation.

When the whole world is watching, heroes are seen, and thus empowered. (At least their sacrifice does not go unnoticed.) The world’s rapt attention makese a difference. The observed is changed by the presence of the observer. This intersubjective connection, this imperfect empathic urge unites us with Iranians in a larger “we-space.”

It is a subtle difference, and it doesn’t necessarily change behavior, except as new understandings naturally evoke new behavioral choices. But this simple shift might prove to be the "iota" of difference, the “straw” that tips the balance scales (which may tip only over months or years) in favor of reform and progress in Iran.

Iran 2009 — A New Kind of Revolution (3)

Integral Perspectives on Iran's Cultural Divide

In Integral terms, the demonstrators can be distinguished from the regime’s supporters by cultural qualities relating to states, stages, and relationships to shadow.

High states are part of the ethos both of the demonstrators and of the regime’s true believers. Most of these high states are evoked by acts of self-transcendence, whether they be self-abnegation or self-sacrifice, whether they be gross physical acts or subtle emotional or mental acts.

Persians are poets and revolutionaries, a heartfelt, brooding, noble, and passionate people. Each year, on Ashura, faithful grassroots Shia men go into a trance and beat themselves bloody to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hosayn Ibn Ali, in memory of whom Shiism originally emerged. Sufi mystics go together into trances in which they dance and sing and enter into ecstatic communion with Allah. Ancient Persian poetry is full of ecstatic mystic language, expressing a rich and passionate love affair with God. Modern Persian poetry is full of ecstatic emotional language, expressing a rich and passionate love affair with life, and pain, and death.

The structure of Iranians’ values are still centered in traditional agreements about symbols, tones, morés and resonances. But their values also now include certain modern and postmodern values like common sense, respect for the dignity of others, thinking for oneself, and the curiosity to observe the modern world directly. Their values are not altogether modern; but they are not exclusively conformist.

Their eyes have noticed a myriad of details and evidence and colors and shades of grey that the regime is telling them aren’t there. “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” Everyone “in their right mind” knows the regime has lied to them. Read more »

Iran 2009 — A New Kind of Revolution (2)

The uprising is fragmented. Its unity only concerns outrage against the clumsiness of the vote fraud. Ali Laranjani’s public statement questioning the vote tally was very mild, and buried in a series of denunciations of foreign powers for their public statements condemning the Iranian government. In the moderately arch-conservative no-man’s-land between Mousavi and Khamenei are perhaps dozens of potential kingmakers, including Laranjani.

Americans should not be confused into thinking that anti-Americanism will go away after this uprising reshapes the regime. Iranians have grown up hearing stories of how the U.S. plotted and financed the Shah before the overthrow of Mosaddeq’s fledgling democratic government in 1954 (after he nationalized BP’s Iranian oil holdings), how the US supported the Shah even when he brutally suppressed and exploited his subjects, how the US winked, financed, and even sold ingredients for chemical weapons to Sadaam which he used to maim thousands of Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war, including thousands of wounded veterans who are visible heroes who can be seen throughout Iranian society.  

Mostly Iranians are fiercely proud of Iran. Nationalistic rhetoric resonates. This uprising is one enacted by nationalists against other nationalists. But it is not united and fueled by resentment of foreign imperialism.  Iranians’ common cause is their stand for their human dignity, their refusal to be bullied to give lip service to what they see as transparent electoral cheating. Will this prove strong enough to prevail? We’ll soon see. Read more »

Iran 2009 — A New Kind of Revolution (1)

An Overview of the Transformative Events of June 2009

I think the events we have been seeing this month —June 2009 — represent a seismic shift, a great exclamation point in the punctuated evolution of the Islamic Republic. It is not just a political shift. This week of demonstrations, involving the shutdown of much of Iran, including the government’s intermittent shutdown of its whole communications infrastructure, have affected people who previously were not terribly activist, or reformist. Many have been radicalized. Many more have been forced to think. And feel.

Perceptions so far, politically:  

Ahmadinejad seems to have been weakened tremendously. He can no longer pull off his “man of the people” act in the same way as before. He appears suddenly crude to his countrymen. He can still do damage, but his larger influence will be in decline.

Khamenei has probably lost his aura of legitimate, overwhelming authority. He has been publicly discredited in the eyes of at least half the people, and many of the members of the clerical establishment. The very function of “Supreme Leader” is no longer secure.

Mousavi has become the man of the hour — the righteous leader wronged by corrupt authorities, the “Hossain” archetype of martyrdom that is the central theme of Persian Islam. This makes him dangerous, and puts him in serious danger.

Former President Rafsanjani is the wiliest and most powerful of the big players, and he's been the only one who has been publicly silent — and very active behind the scenes. Through the Assembly of Experts or the military, he could become the new kingmaker, or he may be in a difficult struggle for his political survival. Read more »

Integral In Iran - 2009

In spring 2007 I visited Iran as a member of a citizen’s diplomacy delegation.  The day after we arrived in Tehran, our meetings with former President Khatami, Grand Ayatollah Saanei, peace activist Emmadin Baghi, and Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi were abruptly cancelled. Our cell phone calls and emails had been (and would continue to be) monitored; our activities were reorganized and were strictly controlled by Ahmedinejad’s faction.

Most of the government officials, citizens, clerics, students, professors and wounded veterans, with whom I was able to meet were conservatives. Our every move was monitored by the Ershad secret police. Big brother was definitely watching. And yet this “curse” turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I confronted and explored the much wider gulf that separated the perspectives of Ahmadinejad’s faction from my western sensibilities. (And of course, I had encounters with many much freer spirits here and there along the way.) Read more »

What is a "post-ironic worldspace"?

After learning the postmodern lesson that every point of view is partial, we remember how to appreciate what's also true. We graduate from irony. Which performs an essential critical function, and then mostly outlives its usefulness. In a post-ironic worldspace, a sincerely positive conversation is possible. We can speak without a "but," without signaling always that we are cool and hip. Our language can become post-ironic. And then we are freed to say it simply, to speak the most fruitful, sincere and meaningful words we can.  A post-ironic worldspace dares to hope, almost as if naive, something like I did on inauguration day in "Obama Consciousness".

Integral Agency-in-Communion

Image courtesy of IntegralCreatives.com - Jana Espiritu SantoAlthough some individuals, organizations and worldviews privilege either agency or communion over the other, the Integral disposition fully embraces both.

I chose the URL and identity of this website, "The Integral Heart," in part to emphasize the healthy communion that is a natural expression of healthy Integral agency.

Structures of awareness always have special strengths and weaknesses. Since Integral consciousness has evolved so recently, there's no research yet that clearly identifies its tendencies towards limitations and pathologies. But most structures differentiate themselves from the previous one via a somewhat exaggerated reaction.

Some theorists suggest that the early indications are that Teal (the earliest Integral structure) can tend to give excessive weight to its mental maps and models—as powerful as they are—and lose some connection to the embodied, intuitive aspects of awareness that were cultivated at Green. It appears that some healthy, positive aspects of Green can be temporarily suppressed at Teal, as the self attempts to wrap its mind around a radically larger and deeper sense of reality.

With Integral discrimination, we can see much more clearly why every perspective is partial, and thus we can critique every point of view with a whole new level of penetrating insight. Read more »

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