The telecabins

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"So would you like to explain what brings you to Iran", I ask the forty-something German standing within my view finder. His voice adapts to a semi-serious tone as I played around with the video camera positioning, "I'm in Iran to cover the elections", he responds, explaining that he will do so as a photographic journalist as part of many politically orientated projects he's working on around the middle east. We stood almost halfway up a scenic mountain setting overlooking a hazy Tehran, I set our photographer-guest to the side of the frame to both catch the passing groups of curious Iranian tourists and the crossing telecabins hanging in the sky behind. He spoke with an impassioned frustration about his more prominent project, "I'm photographing walls, that is, walls of detention: the West Bank in Israel/Palestine, the Mexico border and Belfast for example".

The impromptu interview came to a natural close whereby I realised I should probably get the borrowed video camera back to its rightful owner. We squinted up and down the mountain in search of the group we'd arrived with yet a quick phone call confirmed my suspicions that the day's events had pretty much been called off and a regroup for tea and cake had commenced. With disappointment we set back down to join the group and with further disappointment I listened to the real meat of our guests opinions as the camera hung switched off and by my side.

The Big Green Spring-Clean: join us in clearing up the clog-up. In and effort to rid Iran of rubbish we are conducting periodic team cleans. Begins Friday 7th March (17 Esfand). Meet @Bam-e-Tehran @Tochal (end of Velenjak). 9am. Bring gloves, wear green & make a sign "People came & cleaned me". Pass it on.

"I know the leader of this certain NGO", interrupted one of the American raised Iranians at the cafe table, "and I could arrange coverage with this certain publication", she continued. This triggered others of similar culturing to add in, "oh, and I know this person, who knows this other person, who's involved in this certain group". Within a short period of time we'd amassed a list of potential-maybes to come to an event with no clear definition. "How about we just set a date; all of us here will attend; do this once and then take things from there", I suggested, conscious of putting talk into action for this proposed ongoing event. But supposedly one group needed to notified, another person needed to pull some strings, things needed writing and delegates needed to be found to delegate to the lesser delegates. Apparently I was not appreciating the dream; indeed I appreciated the hidden purpose by which Iranians can nurture their association to the land (that they may feel has been taken from them), yet my suggestion of leading by example was met with silence. "Next Friday, 9am we meet at this location, wear green, bring gloves, make signs and be ready to document the process", I put it, "I'll send a message around, please pass it on".

The Afghanis persist on undermining our efforts. We've still yet to find so much as a pistachio shell

"Day three of the Big Green Spring Clean...", I jokingly gasped as one of the group was rolling with the camera, "... and the Afghanis persist on undermining our efforts. We've still yet to find so much as a pistachio shell". We were fooling around, yet it was true, we came across a waste bin every 20-metres and an Afghan circling every 40, yet this didn't deter our 20-plus team. Headscarfs were held in place with one hand while plastic bags were grasped at in the other; contingents of mostly young women leaped off the beaten track to respond to the calling of a glinting ring-pulls. "Excuse me", interrupted a woman while I'd gotten to day four, "I just want to say, what you are doing is great, keep up the good work", she continued before darting off. "Did we get that on film?", I asked as I turned to the camera once again.

I tried not to read into the fact that only one of the three well-connected, American-raised conspirators turned up (and late at that) and instead enjoyed the abundance unfamiliar Iranian attendees wearing some shade of green. But I later learned that the successes didn't stop there, another mixed ethnic friend who also didn't attend informed me that the multinational company she works for awarded her with a prize for writing about green issues. She'd suggested some association within her writing, "I hope you don't mind", she smiled. Her prize was a trip to Malawi to take part in some kind of green activity – I can only guess that'll involve delegating tasks to locals on how to offset the carbon footprint her trip will produce.

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  • Having been following your writings and tracking the road you and your 'Semi/none-Iranian' group of friends seem to be taking, I can notice the pride in every line I read. I am afraid that I should mention that you sound more snob than proud, though. Is this pride because you think you are helping the people of Iran or is it because you are helping yourself to gain personal satisfaction and peace?
    I think idealistics like you is not what Iran needs. Iran does not need people who think they come from another world and are here to save the people. Or people who get together every now and then to smoke and drink in elite coffee shops and restaurants while holding their non-Iranian passports to run away from Iran in case of 'Emergency'! If you really are in Iran to be of some help, why not trying to do voluntary work in a deserted village in Iran? I am sure Iran has got lots of such places where you can help the poor and humbles take bread home for the night. People do not care about idealistic ideas and concepts when they are hungry. What they seriously need is bread, water and education. Let's remember that actions do speak louder than words.
    Such real attitudes are something that must bring people like you to Iran, not the fantasy of being the hero of a minority while drinking coffee and smoking cigars.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 AM  

  • Thank you to whoever wrote the above. I always appreciate feedback and certain critical feedback at that.

    I won’t deny that I’m a snob or proud, yet I think you cannot really apply this perspective in this case.

    My worry is that either you have misunderstood my sentiment or I have not made myself clear. Allow me to explain some of the background in the blog entry. The day’s events at Tochal were suggested by the friends of which I describe as being of American raised. It was this enthusiasm of which I often see from these friends that I myself tried to adapt from words to actions (as you rightly suggest). My forth paragraph tries to explain this discourse. Previous experience with these friends has taught me to try and channel this energy – regardless of the underlying intention. In part I was gauging their seriousness by getting them to commit to just one occasion. This I managed to bring about and the result of which proved my suspicion – only two of the three enthusiasts actually arrived and that one in them self turned up rather late. I try to turn this back on those enthusiasts by mentioning the devotion of those natives that joined. Not only do I do this but I bring in the bitter point about the additional mixed ethnic friend whom gained a trip to Malawi in some way off the back of this event, yet did not attend also. With this I guess I agree with you in some way for which this was the whole point about the blog entry – I’m taking a scathing look at the “idealists” as you put it and placing myself somewhere between it, possibly also taking myself to task.

    Yes, I live a very privileged life here in Iran compared with the majority of the nation and yes I frequent cafes and go to social occasions with many other such similar people. Some of these people feel they can bring changes to people’s lives that will help them, at times I’ve both spoke and acted like this. Yet, this is no different from those people doing the same in their otherlands. I myself have attempted similar such activities in England for example and both I and those otherlanders have had both successful and unsuccessful result and also both selfish of seemingly altruistic intentions. The location is not so important and maybe the Iranians don’t so much need your pity.

    Regarding the point you make about some kind of devotion to a cause and the ease of which we may drop our vein intentions should the going get tough, I guess we’ll see; maybe LA (its Iranian diaspora) is a good case example for us both here.

    Thank you for your suggestion of helping out in a village. In someway or another many of those I associate with help out where they can and some activity may be of more help than others but I’m not casting judgment. I think in our case we were presenting humility with those very people you cast judgment about. That we are these privileged people that take ourselves to clean rubbish on the floor is both humbling and symbolic in my mind. This I think helps in multiple subtle ways, one of which I mention regarding association. Apparently this activity goes on in America, more so in schools, and yet still there is dire poverty there in the world's richest nation.

    I have not come to Iran to be a hero nor bask in the relative position adjustment but you are right, my motives are selfish. I’m here when I don’t necessarily have to be because I wanted to learn the language and get to know my family while I can. Yet these days I’m here in Iran because I really like it here and some of the parts I like are indeed spent in cafes where I can enjoy the non-corporate tastes in an independent setting.

    Thank you again for your words.


    By Blogger ddmmyyyy, at 1:30 PM  

  • What a cock muncher. I don't mean 'anon' who has been taking great liberties with our dear writer's intentions. I mean our dear writer himself. I believe he is crediting us, his readers, with far too much intelligence.

    By Anonymous Raggle Taggle, at 12:43 AM  

  • David, you are my Brilliant Blogger Awardee! Please check back to claim ;)


    By Blogger Naj, at 8:53 AM  

  • I'm the video-camera owner! HAHA.

    PS, david message me on facebook if you want me to send you a copy of the film from that day. or i could bring it to iran in december.


    By Anonymous suad, at 10:09 AM  

  • To Anonymous,
    In response to your comment I won’t add anything because I believe the owner/author of this blog completely took care of that already.
    But I couldn't help but noticed your feelings toward people who you refer as ‘snob’ or ‘[too much] proud [of being Iranian]’ and I particularly found the term ‘Semi/non-Iranian’ rather amusing!
    Well, I have to say I understand the reason you wrote those words and I think more people would have understood with a little bit nicer tone. I personally think having an Iranian passport doesn’t make you Iranian, but the moment one can consider himself Iranian that he ‘lives’ and ‘works’ on his own in this country and deal with the problems that exist in any kind of business. The illusion of ‘one can make a difference’ in Iran is vividly noticeable. That’s why you can hardly find a dual nation who has equal opportunity in both countries stay more than a couple of months in here.
    But it doesn’t give us (Iranians who stuck in the country, that I assume you’re one of them) the right to blame them when I believe we both act the same facing countries big problems; choosing the easiest way: Blame government, blame other people, protest (jail included) and finally become an activist working in the smallest village in the countryside helping the locals milking cows, despite the PhD degree.
    So, I must say I completely disagree with your definition of helping. Because the people who escape being important, can never do nothing important. (e.g. I’d rather the world that Dr Chamran was a nuclear scientist not a wasted guerilla. ) I believe to help big, one should thing big and get big.
    That’s why I can never convince myself to go to ‘bam-e-Tehran’ and collect garbage because I believe what I do in my career will do this country better – much better. Meanwhile, I don’t condemn or blame (or even make fun of) the people with good intention to help, even if the help is much smaller than their real ability.

    Maybe because of my ‘little’ acquaintance with the author of this blog I shouldn’t say, but I respect him a lot as one of the few people who wouldn’t help, except for helping very big.



    By Anonymous TheStyx, at 7:00 PM  

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