A Whiff of Sulfur from the Rulers
History is unkind to mutation. Usually societies do not gradually evolve from one form of government to another. Something wrenching -- war, revolution, occupation -- is the most frequent form of transformation by far. So although I would like to be optimistic about Iran's transition from theocracy to democracy, I think it unlikely without upheaval at best, cataclysm at worst.
The alliance of governmental power with religion has a long, uneasy history. But separation may be more difficult for Islam, even in theory, than for Christianity. Christianity arose in the Roman empire. Secular functions of government were already served by Rome -- thus, "render unto Caesar." Both Islam and Judaism arose in the desert, where government was not already in place. Civil legislation and religious legislation were not distinguished. The laws of government and the laws of God grew up as one. To disentangle them will not be easy.
How dissatisfied are the dissatisfied of Iran? There is a sulfurous whiff from the rulers of this theocratic tyranny. This is not an incompetent regime alone, but an evil one. As a rabbi who has a large Iranian population in my congregation I understand how different is the mindset of Persian culture -- the culture of poetry, urbanity, beauty -- from the single-minded certainties and ironclad cruelties of canny provincials like Ahmadinejad.
Maybe, maybe the expansive qualities of the people of Iran can overcome the stultifying hand of the rulers of Iran. History provides less encouragement for that than one would wish. Talking to one's enemies is both unavoidable and urgent. My one hope, however, is that the administration makes clear that it sides with the people who, after whatever fire will come, will be those whom we will be proud to stand beside.
Posted by: ccnl1 | June 19, 2009 3:49 AM
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