Pahlavan Syndrome

Lessons from the Bhutto assassination


Pahlavan Syndrome
by bahmani

Recent events in Pakistan have raised awareness of the all too commonly obvious pitfalls of putting too much hope in one person, rather than allowing a simple self regulating system to run a social order of a people. The cowardly assassination of Benazir Bhutto is the vilest example of man's continuing inhumanity to man. Regardless of now re-surfacing claims of the corruption of the Bhutto family and their political infamy, the bottom line is that, in 2007 with the existence of writ of habeas corpus, the right to accuse someone and their right to defend themselves against that accusation, no one deserves to die like this. It is simply uncivilized. And in 2007, even in Pakistan, no especially in Pakistan, there is absolutely no excuse for it. This is especially and all the more important for us as Iranians to pay particular attention to, as we of course, have been possibly the most susceptible and gullible people on the planet, eagerly and naively putting our collective faith in the slightest possible hint and rumor of a savior. We call them Pahlavans. And we are in effect, diseased by the "Pahlavan Syndrome".

Looking back on our ever gloried past (and it gets more and more glorified as each year goes by), our history is nothing more than prime examples of ultimately failed Pahlavan-led social experiments. Not once have we EVER exercised our free will as a people. Not once. Historically those captors that knew this about us, would stifle ANYONE that even remotely looked like a Pahlavan.

Mossadegh? I'll grant you he was the closest we came to rule by the people, but he was another Pahlavan to be sure. Even after years of house arrest, not one replacement took his place. On the day of and days after, few if any stood up in protest to object to the illegality of Mossadegh's overthrow. After Mossadegh was done for, everyone (or at least more than didn't) put faith back onto the timid, soft, Swiss-raised shoulders of an uninspired Shah. Until Khomeini came along, then we ALL jumped onto his bandwagon of disco era Shi-ism. I say ALL because the insignificant few who recognized the folly of Pahlavan-worship, are just that, a wholly (holy?) insignificant tiny minority.

As Bhutto's example shows us, being party chair for life, not establishing ANY kind of leadership chain, and leaving no coherent legacy of her party's policies or advocacy of issues, has it's weaknesses. Just look at the result, out of all of the heroes in Pakistan no one better than Bhutto's 19-year old traumatized son can be found to pick up the baton and charge towards a Musharraf-free Pakistan. Now that this latest "one with all the good ideas" is gone, it foretells the downfall of free choice for Pakistanis. The option of ridding themselves of a brutal, corrupt, and more importantly proven inept Napoleonic leader, has all but disappeared. It is unlikely elections can take place at all. Leaving Musharraf firmly and conveniently in control. The even more convenient lack of an autopsy (in 2007!) to explain the real cause of Bhutto's death, all the more reason to mourn Pakistan's great lost opportunity.

Bhutto was by no means the ideal candidate, but as many, too worried about being politically correct will only admit privately, it was a "good enough" next step for Pakistan, at least establishing something closer to elected civilian rule instead of decades of military dictatorship. But all the more clear evidence of how military in today's world is utterly and entirely obsolete, given the tragedies and disastrous outcomes, using military force has caused in the world.

The best example of military obsolescence is staring us right in the face today. Virtually all experts agree, that the primary centers of Al Qaeda, and the Taliban are located between the borders of Pakistan (specifically, the tribal territories of Vaziristan), and Afghanistan (specifically, the Afghan tribal regions that border on Vazirestan, incidentally not 100 miles from Kabol!). This is also the most likely location of God's other bad son, Osama Bin Laden.

Yet for some mysterious reason, the best and brightest military leadership in the world can't seem to get this relatively simple job done. Not American nor any other military. Not even utilizing equipment that can distinguish an orange from a grapefruit from outer space. Not even with weapons so smart they do not even need men to operate them. Note even with soldiers so enthusiastically skilled in warfare, that they use beetles and bugs like relish on a hot dog, and can singlehandedly wipe out entire villages with a rock, some bubble gum, and a cell phone. And never mind all of that, with nuclear weapons so accurate they can turn this entire infested region to glass with the push of a button in Alaska, in 18 minutes! And still, with all of this holy power at their disposal, with everyone holding giant red cartoon arrows pointing and telling them "They're Right Here!", they still apparently cannot find this most obvious geographic container that holds the true gates of hell, from which the real Satanic Verses we hear today, whine from.

Maybe they are simply deafened by the screams of the Iraqi people, and just can't hear (or handle) the truth.

But from all of this, what we as Iranians now need to learn and accept, is that we cannot apply a commonly found personal stress management technique, to run the bus system, international currency exchange, or even to control women's fashions in Tehran. Especially when we know beyond any shadow of a doubt, that we really are smaller than a speck in the scientifically proven cosmic expanse of the universe, whose purpose and reality are too befuddling to fathom and digest. First of all, it is completely unholy and irreverent to the very reasonable concept of religion to impose religious rule on people as a whole, but then to have priests running around setting social, economic, and infrastructure policy, is far beneath their more important station and duty to help us individually (privately), to keep our sanity, stay good, now that the secret is out, and we all know the very daunting truth and surety of the physics and origin of space and time.

Priests are like therapists really, they help you deal with your own problems and reality by providing plausible deniability as you comfortably and voluntarily confide in them. The only difference is that priests think they actually work for God, while therapists think they actually are God.

While the death of Bhutto may be shocking to the world at this time. To me it is only another example of how my own country refuses to put aside useless hope for a consistently absent Pahlavan (or deity), and instead for a change, take the screamingly obvious step towards self rule, and rule through transparent accountability, rather than the ultimately flawed social religious experiments that defy their own nature and patent function, namely that you cannot take what is a personal voluntary moral governance of a man or a woman, and use it to govern all mankind.


more from bahmani

Good to see you back!

by bache porroo (not verified) on

Hi Bruce, good to see you back on stage after a relatively short absence. I was getting worried that you may have been virtually blown off by your friend GBR! Sorry, no need to get panic attacks, I promise not to mention him/her again. I can see that you are struggling to understand the complexities of Iranian psyche and thought to share your understanding of the subject with the commentators. OK, let me taell you that this issue was first discussed on this site by the late Freydoun Hoveyda and his theory of Iranian's fate being decided by their mythological belief in a saviour
Again, this was not his idea as the impact of mythology on political fate of countries has been studied in detail by many philosophers and sociologists (from Nitche and Weber to Derrida). Anyway, if some people find your writings unclear, it is because you are not clear about them in the first place. For example when you say "As Bhutto's example shows us, being party chair for life, not establishing ANY kind of leadership chain, and leaving no coherent legacy of her party's policies or advocacy of issues, has it's weaknesses.", you are ignoring the most obvious fact here that Bhuttos, curiously like Bahmanis" are the product of a tribal feudal system. In the same system that a Qashqai khan would assume the leadership of his tribe based on seniority or a line of succession, without any party political nonsense like voting — and please don't tell me that there is a liberal voting mechanism among the tribes in Iran (or anywhere for that matter) — the Bhutto clan which constitute the core of the PPP cannot accept anyone but a Bhutto at the helm. This is known, for the want of a better expression, a Feudal Democracy. You keep applying your absolutist ideas based on your "liberal" American views to the rest of the world. Ironically this is the same doctrine that another absolutist American has been following for the last 8 years. Do you know who?


To Hoochi Goochi Hooshi Hitchi!

by Nader Vanaki (not verified) on

If comprehending Bahmani's material is too difficult for you, try reading Knowitall's comments. And for every work of literature you are about to read, I recommend Monarch Notes.


a side note

by Monda on

Dear Mr. Bahmani, I enjoy reading your articles from time to time.

However on this one, the short Woody Allenesque paragraph comparing and contrasting priests and therapists (as cute as it may sound) does not read relevant or appropriate to your criticism of the leadership ideologies in the Middle East.

The God-like, omnipotent and removed position you refer to above, brings to mind the psychoanalytic psychiatrists of the old Freudian school of practice. Maybe that has been your only experience with therapeutic work. But I assure you that nowadays you can choose from a pool of Humanistic, Transpersonal, Cognitive Behavioral or Existential psychotherapists, among many other types, who actually invest much of their lives to learning and remaining authentic empathic humans that their chosen therapeutic modality demands.

If your therapist ever sounds or feels to you like God, confront him/her and/or terminate your sessions immediately and be looking for one who feels respectable, nonjudgmental and human-like.


All good points. So what is

by beyondpersia on

All good points. So what is the solution?  


I agree

by mahmoudg on

What we lack in our area of the world is clear delineation of leadership.  Our leaders are so petrified of their own shadows that succession planning is viewed as a suicide attempt as opposed to an orderly transfer of power. 



by Troneg on

Your point is exact. I thought about other examples : Arash Kamangir : Even if I realy love this story but still it show we beleive only one hero can save everything! But we confuse story with reality ! If you look US TV, you believe without Jack Bauer US is lost :-) but they know it is just a fiction and in reality every body should play a role in a country life !

To finish, it is not about East and West. It is about Success and Fail ! Look at Japanese they are from East but they work like Fourmiz ! Do you remember the name of a Japenese Chief ?!

Just to reload discussion : What about Kennedy assasination ?! We cannot avoid needing some Pahlavans but only Pahlavans is not enough.


He's right...

by Knowitall (not verified) on

One thing this article underscores is the fact that those not raised in the West have yet to learn about the chain of command and the legacy of proper business practices. Governing a country is no different than running a large business. (Look at the US for an extreme example.) Bahamani is right in that in the East, we tend to hero worship our leaders, and place them so high on that pedestal as a deity that we can't begin to fathom reaching them. This of course leaves us all in shambles when they eventually expire for whatever reason (as CEO’s always do).
And that's because we don't know the systematic (but relatively easy) steps it takes to work at building a team, imparting knowledge to those under us, and empowering those who are on that same team. We have no concept of teamwork, or the discipline it takes to serve the greater good. As a collective we tend to be self-absorbed, (tak-ro) and suspicious of others, and so the only way to get ahead and become a leader is to resort to self promotion and trickery (making deals with the West helps too).
This is our nature, our Achilles heel, and this, our greatest weakness has been systematically fanned by the West to keep us in a state of confusion and inertia because we're easier to manipulate that way.
Nothing illustrates our pathos more than the story of Mossadegh (a good but melodramatic man, who came closest to standing up to the British) who was overthrown by the masses who rioted when they were literally bought for less than $10 each handed out by Kermit Rosevelt.
They do it to us, quite frankly because they’re better at getting it together, and good or bad, they make better teammates. They do what it takes to harmonize (read: homogenize) their people so they think alike and help each other rather than attack each other (like we do, even here on

That’s all!


It's clear to me

by mahtab (not verified) on

I don't agree, his point couldn't be more clear. Read it again. It's a fantastic piece as usual.


rambling aimlessly

by goochi (not verified) on

"Priests are like therapists really, they help you deal with your own problems and reality by providing plausible deniability as you comfortably and voluntarily confide in them. The only difference is that priests think they actually work for God, while therapists think they actually are God."
Mr. Bahmani, what the hell are you talking about, exactly? First you talk about Bhutto, then link it with Iranians, then priests and therapists? It's obvious that you need an editor.


It was the west who caused it

by Alborzi (not verified) on

By making a person so vital, you make that person the target. She became the only hope for democratic reform in Pakistan, now that could not be true, but I guess the guys who
killed her believed this propaganda.