Thursday, November 6, 2014

Occidentosis by Jalal Ali-Ahmad


Parties in a Western democratic society are forums to satisfy the melancholia of unbalanced and mentally ill people who through daily regimentation before the machine, rising punctually and arriving on time, not missing the train, have lost the chance to express any will of their own.

Whatever the nature of this catastrophe, they sort into three types of melancholia:

1      The melancholia of grandiosity. Every little man is led to see his own grandeur in those grandeurs that are (falsely) associated with him: in the grandeur of the nationalistic demonstrations, in exorbitant celebrations, in the arches of triumph aflutter with rags, in the jewels of the National Bank, in the trappings on the horses, in the fine uniforms of their riders, in the army commanders’ tassles, in the huge buildings, in the yet huger dams (much has been said  about the immense amounts of the nation’s capital wasted in building them) and, in sum, whatever is an eyeful, an eyeful for the little man so he will suppose himself great.

2.  The melancholia of glorying in the nation’s remote past.  Although this follows from the melancholia of grandiosity, it has more to do with the ear. You mostly hear this kind of melancholia manifested: asinine self-glorification, with plentiful references to Darius, Cyrus and Rustam, the sort of thing that pours from every radio in the country and from there fills our publications. This melancholia serves to fill the ears. Have you seen how a tired young worker walks down a lonely lane on the dark of night? He generally sings to himself because he is afraid to be alone. He fills his own ears with his voice and thus dispels his fear. The radio fulfills the same function, just to make some noise, to fill the ear.

 3.The melancholia of constant pursuit.  You create a new imaginary enemy for the hapless people every day; you stuff the radio and publications with news of him to frighten the people and reduce them ever more to a state of anxious brooding. You make them feel thankful for what they have. This constant pursuit takes numerous forms. One day a Tudeh network is exposed; the next day a war on opium is launched, then a war on heroin; then the Bahrayn situation flares up, or a dispute with Iraq over the Shatt al-Arab, then a kidnapping, then the dread of Savak they sow into people’s  hearts.

The fascist parties and other groups that are extremist in principle and rabid in practice take the greatest possible pains to cater to the diseased state of mind of such people: from choosing the reddest or red for their banners, to employing symbols and devices –eagles, lions, tigers – that are in reality the totems of twentieth century savagery, to adopting rituals for initiation into their circles and expulsions from them, to abiding by their own strange customs.

These are the problems of the advanced societies. But we –who haven’t a machine, who are not in an advanced society, who need not face these consequences, who are not compelled to make submissive, tractable, homogeneous people, who have no need for prefabricated heroes – make the same sort of heroes as we award prizes, elect representatives to the Majlis, elect some villager to recite poetry at a ceremony. Worst of all, we read on page one of  codified education programs about “cultivating the well-balanced individual” and such fatuities. Of course, it will be exclaimed that this is another symptom of occidentosis. But is it enough to name the sore?

If one can maintain a role for our educational system, it is to disclose outstanding personalities who, in the midst of this social disorder can actually lead the caravan somewhere. The aim of our educational system, such as it is, must not and cannot be to conventionalize, to uniformize, to homogenize people so that they will put up with the existing situation and come to terms with it. Especially for us, who live in this age of transformation and crisis and are undergoing this period of transition, it is only with the help of self-sacrificing, self-surpassing and principled people (who in the usage of pop psychology are termed antisocial, rigid and unbalanced) that the weight of this transformation and crisis may be borne and that the social disorder described in this work may be remedied.

1 comment:

  1. Imam Khomeini is quoted as saying: I once saw Jalal Al-I Ahmad for a quarter of an hour. It was in the early part of our movement. I saw someone sitting opposite me and the book "Gharbzadagi" ("Occidentosis' -' Garbage-disease') was lying near me.. He asked, 'How did you come by this nonsense?" and I realized it was Al-I Ahmad. Unfortunately, I never saw him again. May he enjoy the mercy of God."