05 July 2009

Iran: It Ain't Over...

Reports from Iran this weekend suggest that, now that the threat of a popular uprising has diminished, there's more room for influential people, at least, to question the results of the presidential election. Mir Hossein Mousavi is still pressing his complaints in the media, while a supposedly influential group of clerics has gone so far as to question the credibility of the Guardian Council after its endorsement of the "landslide" result in favor of President Ahmadinejad. All these people may be tempting fate, but we may also learn that the powers that be are either uninterested or simply unwilling to bother purging everyone who criticizes the election result. That might be a matter of not wanting to look worse than ever in international eyes, or they may have learned from the American example that advanced societies can tolerate a lot of grievance once people accept the right to complain as a substitute for taking real matters into their own hands. Iranians and authoritarian political cultures everywhere might yet learn from Herbert Marcuse's concept of repressive tolerance, along with other theorists' elaboration of the concept, according to which once you allow everyone to speak their minds and all opinions to be expressed it will look like bad form for anyone to insist to the point of revolution that their concept of right or justice must prevail. A closer study of the U.S. could help the Iranian leadership refine its style of repression to the point where it can be confined mostly to words. It's here, after all, where the implicit argument of reactionaries against criticism of the government or for radical change is: because you have the right to complain, you have no right to complain. I don't see why that idea can't be adopted everywhere on earth.

1 comment:

Crhymethinc said...

I'd go one step further and say "Because you have a right to vote and a right to complain, you have no reason to complain.