Dr. Dawg

Iran--less monolithic than we imagine

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Here is an interesting development in Iran: the arrest of several pro-Ahmadinejad bloggers. The wheels within wheels portrayed in this account are fascinating: a scandal reaching into the top ranks, the extremist Revolutionary Guards, and the two Larijani brothers, one heading up Parliament and the other, the Iranian judiciary.

Reading reports like that makes me reflect on our “views” of other countries, particularly those that are in disfavour. We tend to turn these states into reified monoliths in our minds, whereas they are wracked by schisms and factions and intrigues just like all of the others.

I’ve been watching The Tudors of late, perhaps for want of anything better to do. It’s lavishly-produced pop history with so much raw sex in it that even I find it gratuitous. The character of Henry VIII is unflattering: he is, in this series and in the popular mind, the apparent living proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely. And yet there are so many resonances of much later dictators—I’m thinking of Stalin in particular, and what seems to be a shared approach to opposition (including the alleged injunction that neighbours and family members spy on each other, and report doctrinal dissent)—that I cannot avoid thinking that the historical Henry has here been constructed of far more recent materials.

Not only do we regard some states as monoliths, but we reduce those states in our propaganda and our imaginations to single leaders. It makes things so much easier when the proverbial drums of war are being banged and hammered to apply every defect of such men to the country that they lead. In this respect, The Tudors is just another “great man of history” interpretation, the same mistake repeated.

But a second-rate historical drama can cause little real harm. The homogenizing and reduction of states to half-mad figures like Ahmadinejad, however, can lead to war. And it’s precisely the same shoddy inventions that are helping to bring it about—minus, of course, the sex.

[H/t Dominique]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on July 31, 2012 12:00 PM.

The International Olympic Committee's sickening double standard was the previous entry in this blog.

The Speech Warriors™ will be all over this one is the next entry in this blog.

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