"INDIVIDUAL vs. COLLECTIVE" Success:
It has always baffled me that in 30 years of living in the US, the Iranian-American community has produced jaw-dropping success "individually", while very little "collectively."
The starkest comparison for me is Anousheh Ansari making it "individually" as the first female tourist (super proud of her) vs. "collectively" as a group, us not even having a single community center, and gathering around little charming road-side style chelo-kababi's (although very grateful for the "Moby Dick" chain here in Washington, DC.)
I once presented this to Maz Jobrani. I don't know whether it was this thought or his own extrapolations, but a few weeks later,I was at an event where Maz Jobrani and Anousheh Ansari were on stage together. Maz was interviewing Anousheh. "So... Anousheh, is the next project for you Mars? Are we going to next see a "Moby Dick" - Mars?" in our lifetime?" The crowd roared with laughter. Maz is indeed bright and joyfully hysterical. But the joke was also really, really sad.
The amount of wealth that has been created by Iranians in the US is astonishing. We are literally rated as #1 in a recent Zogby Poll in terms of Education among 66 minority groups. But what do we have to show for it? Several chelo-kababis dotted around the United States? Do we have a beautiful community center in every town - a place where we can hold lectures, a place that has a theater for performances, has a gourmet restaurant to wow other cultures with our phenomenal cuisine, and more? No. Maz and Anousheh has to gather at George Washington University for the gathering. WE don't have a single place to even gather and celebrate our own home-made achievements. Oh dear.
HAFEZ: So, I turned to Hafez. "Hafez joon - what's the deal with this?" I found the below Beyt:
حدیث مدعیّان و خیال همکاری
همان حکایت زردوست و بوریاباف است
Hadiss-eh moda'ee-an o khial-eh Hamkari
Haman hekayat-eh zar doost o boorya-baf ast
The notion of cooperation from the self-rightoues
Is as far fetched a union as that of the (wicker) mat-weaver and the gold-embroiderer
Hafez is telling us to not expect cooperation from self-righteous zealots - those are the "moda'ee" usually. But in truth, the characters in these great success stories aren't self-righteous people. In fact, Individually, we are very honorable (well, mostly) -- Anousheh or E-Bay's Omidyar are not self-righteousness. (and I believe they both have contributed to foundatioons and academic research) Nonetheless, we have very little to show who we are communally. What on earth has caused this highly accomplished population to not cooperate one bit among themselves?
My observations tell me that there's a lot of "goodness" in Iranians, and it is often extended to their families. But ask them to come together and do or create something with an outsider and collectively, it will fall apart. In no time. After 30 years - our "success" stories are all individual. We made it to SPACE "individually" !!! But we only have chains of chelo-kababi's where we can gather "collectively."
They say this has a lot to do with milenia of dictatorship. Zero trust in society, outside of your own blood line. Whatever the reason, it's tragically sad. Here's to us embracign the "change" our entire history so deeply needs.
PAAIA Feature on "Learning from Hafez in DC": (Interview and YouTube clip)
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