Listening to: “Drops in the River” – Fleet Foxes

I just finished reading the two Persepolis books, Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel about growing up in Iran and Vienna. They’re incredible–informative, funny, true, beautifully drawn. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but that’s next.

I learned so much about Iran (in large part because prior to reading it, I knew fuck-all about Iran). It’s amazing how we’ve been conditioned to think of other countries, particularly Middle Eastern countries, as these massive blocks of population with goals concurrent with those of their governments. I didn’t even know that Iran wasn’t culturally Arab. I suppose if Cheney and co. had their druthers, we’d all think that Iraq and Iran were the same country. Probably a lot of people do.

I found this Salon interview with Satrapi, from 2005. She has some really amazing things to say about Iran, America, religious fundamentalism, sexual liberation, women’s rights, government, life… She says that in Iran–unlike in conservative America–sex, divorce, and abortions aren’t considered sins. I could go on, but it’s better if you just read the interview. Some things that stood out for me:

On religious fundamentalist governments: They are the same! The secular people, we have no country. We the people — all the secular people who are looking for freedom — we have to keep together. We are international, as they [the fanatics of all religions] are international.

On coping with the Islamic revolution: Suddenly there’s this really big change and nobody was expecting it. Talking and laughing was the only way to survive. Either we had to laugh or we had to die.

On how fear has changed us: First, people have stopped talking about pleasure. Eating is a pleasure, but they will tell you if you eat you’re going to get high cholesterol. If you make love, you’re going to get AIDS. If you smoke, you’re going to get cancer. But smoking is a pleasure — I’m a smoker, I can testify. Eating is a pleasure. Making love is a pleasure. OK, it’s a risk sometimes.

The fact is, the world is very fearful, because we don’t know who the enemy is. The world is at war, but at war against who? Bin Laden turns into Saddam and Saddam turns into someone else. They all the time talk about security. Security, security, security. But when you talk about security, then everything is about being safe. And being safe also means having less freedom.

It makes a society much more conservative, looking for security. If you have freedom, then you have more risks. It goes together. Myself, I prefer to take some risks, and once in a while it’s going to hurt. My grandmother always said the saddest life is to be born a cow and to die a donkey. That means you are born stupid, and you’re going to die even more stupid.

In your life you have to experience things; you have to see things. What is the interest of life if you’re always scared and you don’t see anyone and don’t go anywhere? What is the point in living? Just eating and shitting and making money?

On democracy: Democracy, contrary to what they try to tell us, it’s not a paper that you hang on the wall and then you have a democracy. Democracy is a social evolution. It is something cultural. Iranians, they have become much more secular, and they are ready for democracy, but they have to fight themselves for democracy, and the only thing that other countries can do is to understand their fight and help them in their fight.

On the US: For the people who think that America will come and liberate them, I invite them to read the history and see what America has done. I’m not talking about American people. I’m in love with American people. I love going to the United States of America. I’ve been for several book tours; I’ve come for vacation with my husband. For me it’s an amazing country. I love the enthusiasm of Americans … I love the pop art, I love the American cinema, there are so many things that I love about America! I love Coca-Cola, you know?

My criticism is not towards America — it’s towards the American government, which to me are two different things. The America that I know is not represented by George W. Bush.

On combatting fundamentalism: If I have any advice, it’s that every day that you wake up, don’t say, “This is normal.” Every day, wake up with this idea that you have to defend your freedom. Nobody has the right to take from women the right to abortion, nobody has the right to take from homosexuals the right to be homosexual, nobody has the right to stop people laughing, to stop people thinking, to stop people talking.

If I have one message to give to the secular American people, it’s that the world is not divided into countries. The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian, we don’t know each other, but we talk together and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me.