DATE: 7:35:00 PM
My friend, Pinkfloydish, started a discussion in her English weblog which caught my attention. The subject -knowledge of Iran among Westerners, particularly Americans- is what I have been involved with for a long time, both personally or professionally.
I have lived among Amricans on-and-off for the past 9 years, and due to spending parts of my childhood and adulthood in Europe (Germany, Switzerland, England, the Netherlands), I can say I have a pretty good idea of both the American and European attitudes and their knowledge.
Professionally, I have been studying historiography, economic history, and ancient languages. Again, I can see the level of knowledge and also bias in the academia. But more importantly, I encounter ideas and theories that try to explain and analyse what shocks many Iranians, and that is the lack of interest in anything beyond everyday life in many people.
For us, it is natural to learn about other countries, know the name of their capitals, and have some general knowledge about them. Unlike what one of the commentators in Pinkfloydish's weblog said, I find the Iranian knowledge of America much more accurate than the American information about Iran. For example, how many Americans on average can name the capital of Iran and two more cities, identify the Iranian flag, name the language we speak, and can add anything more about Iran? On contrast, your average high school educated Iranian can easily answer these questions about the US, and not only because of the Holywood! They can also do this for most European countries. I have never seen an Iranian who didn't know that Paris is the capital of France (believe me, I have met more than a few college educated Americans who told me they are going to Paris, and when I said they should also try to see other parts of France, they said they are not going to France, they are going to Paris!!!!).
Still, I am not suggesting that Americans are somehow stupid or have a hard time learning, what I think is the cause of this lack of knowledge is the general attitude of the American society. This attitude is the the absence of interest and a general mistrust in anything foreign, maybe going back to the famous Isolationist policies. Also, despite the theoretical possibility of writing and saying anything in the Media, American television and newspapers are largly uninterested in foreign affairs as well. Television, the most influential media source in the US, seldom mentions other countries. For an Iranian, or a European, it is usual to hear about different news from Zimbabwe, Australia, Argentina, or Mongolia. In contrast, CNN would only mention Columbia or Italy if a large coup takes place or if a lot of people die!
So, I have decided to tackle this issue from a fair point of view. I am tired of explaining different points of culture to people and sometimes I sound to myself as if I am justifying things. So, let's see if we can come up with a good way to reason and to describe, without being either offensive or defensive. Please let me know of your opinions.
DATE: 4:49:00 AM
This is AMAZING!
The denial of information, at least easily accessible information, to the public is not new in certain "democratic" nations, but this particular article: "Treasury Department is Warning Publishers of the Perils of the Criminal Editing of the Enemy" is amazing! This is a clear attempt to deny first hand account of the lives of ordinary people in other countries to reach the eyes and ears of the ordinary people in another. Please if anyone can suggest a solution or some kind of action, leave a message here.