Archive for May 2007

Diaspora for us Iranian mean living all over the place.

We Iranians live all over the world now. Our lives are influenced by this diaspora, this dispersion of our people, our language, our culture, to which we have all become accustomed.

This new style of life has changed our world views forever. In the good old years, families and particularly mothers, made a big deal when a daughter or son would attend university in a city other than the home city; it was considered to be too far. If a girl were to marry a man from another town, it too was a big deal. Mothers used to say, “we do not give our daughters to ‘strangers.’” Life in gorbat, or diaspora, was considered to be damaging and dangerous. Our ancestors used to say gorbat is hard.

We called it going to a ‘stranger’s’ city or garibeha, which was the unknown life for us. The Iranian literature has the schema of how gorbat is bad for you and kills you. Rumi, Hafez, Saadi, and our contemporary poets use this topic of gorbat, which is an embodied experience and a hard reality for many families and individuals today.

It is interesting that, no matter where we live, we always refer to the host country’s citizens as ‘strangers’ or ‘foreigners.’ These are the terms we’ve kept from the time when going to strange countries was almost unknown, and the Europeans or Americans coming to our home country were coming from ‘outside’ so they were ‘foreigners.’ Now we are the one who are ‘foreigners’ in the countries in which we have chosen to live or in which we have been given the opportunity to live.

Maybe this is the reason for our ability to adjust very quickly to the societies we enter. We can almost immediately refer to ourselves as ‘we’ and to the others as ‘foreigners’; others meaning people from outside of our new geographical and also psychological borders!

The positive aspects of this diaspora are how we have learned about various cultures all over the world.

Diaspora refers to any group of people who is forced to leave its home country. People from the Middle Eastern regions are a good example here. People from these areas all have been forced to experience the bitter taste of migration when no other options have been offered. And yet, many families choose to migrate because of the unstable socio-political situations in their home countries.

In almost every Middle Eastern family you will find members living in at least four or five different countries: a mother here in Canada, a son in Denmark, grandparents here and children in the States, an aunt in Germany and an uncle in England, one cousin in Sweden and another in France. It is interesting to see the family interactions when they live in different parts of the world. Some ‘prefer’ not to teach their children their mother language. They will discover that their children will find it difficult to interact with cousins who know persian or other languages.

It is time for us to write and document the multifaceted experiences of this diaspora. Our next generations will have a hard time understanding why this happened and may not discover how to resolve the identity crisis if we don’t.

What is your experience like?

May 31, 2007
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Democracy, what does it mean? How does it look like? When are we going to attain that?

What do we really know about democracy?

When my daughter was five years old, she attended a kindergarten in Stockholm. One day, in middle of the day, I arrived at the school to take her out to some activity. I noticed that some of her classmates were sitting in a circle and that the teacher was sitting with other classmates within that circle. The topic of the day was Democracy and they were taking turns talking about things that were related to their daily activities and relationships. Once the class was over, I asked the teacher what was going on. She said, “We are just practicing democracy.”

Wow!

I was stunned. I was also excited to know that my daughter was learning about things I’d never, ever heard of in my childhood.

I remember back in Tehran, around age 14 or 15, I was reading a book where the word democracy was used somewhere (I guess by accident or because of translation errors). I took the book to school thinking that my teacher, who was a very educated gentleman, would know about this word, and I expected it to relate to science or biology or math! When I asked my teacher about “democracy,” his face turned red and he advised me to forget about that word!

I could not forget. I went home and asked my father, hoping that he would help. He did not give me the answer either, but he thought that since this word did not relate to our lives in anyway, why learn it?!

Now, looking back on the life changing events that resulted in this Diaspora of Iranians it is fair to say that what is still happening is due to the lack of tolerance and acceptance for various perspectives and world views.

Still, today, we try to raise our voices to get our words heard!

Democracy and love for others goes hand in hand.

Democracy and respect for others is interconnected.

We were never taught how to listen to each other. Our Iranian culture has never even come close to this notion of letting others win! We were never educated about the simplest thing in the world: human relations. Let’s try it now! It is never too late!

What are your experiences with this topic? Share it with others! Share it with us!

May 30, 2007
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Stories is part of our daily lives. All of us.

Remember those old good days? We would hear the stories of Princes and Princesses from our grandparents…

I remember many summer nights when the heat of Tehran was cooling down and our beds were offering a resting place from the daily childhood games and the plays outside on the street. Oh, how many games I can recall: leiley, tanab, keshbazi, these are just a few.

My grandmother would try to quiet us and make us go to sleep sooner, so our pleas for a gesehe or story would be met with a ”khob, bashe” or a hesitant “Okay,” on the condition we lie down in our beds and not to say a word!

There were only three of us children in our home with me being the eldest. I would use my authority to get my siblings to listen while they were giggling!

The story of the kind, generous, and beautiful Princess who would go out and find the world without falling for her status or name, would always amaze me. This Princess would go and sit with people living in faraway places and just enjoy the sharing of little food yet much happiness!

I wonder what my children will tell their children about the stories they heard from us, we being caught in the sorrow of migration, drawn in ourselves, with the guilt of having left our parents behind, and the nightly tears for missing home! I’m not sure about myself, yet I am sure that I have at least tried to keep a happy face and present a hopeful life for my children who were growing up away from our real home.

How about you? What stories have you told your children? Share them with us.

May 27, 2007

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Gender Identity is a concept we have misunderstood.

Even in today’s world, we have many families who literally die to have a baby boy! We have families who believe only a baby boy can carry on the family name and make the generation run!

We still have women who are being blamed for giving birth to girls. This happens even though science has shown that the power imbalance between the male XY chromosomes and the female XX chromosomes is where a baby’s gender is determined. A woman can only ever contribute an X (female); it is the man that can contribute and X (female) or a Y (male). So men are to be blamed for the female babies, not women!

Now, once we have children, of either sex, it is important to raise them properly.

The universal problem is, boys are raised to fight, and girls are raised to care for the fighters. We have to let our girls as well as our boys learn about their gender roles and those of the opposite sex in a fair and respectful manner.

If you want to raise healthy minded human beings, be careful about how you define the gender roles. Confusion in gender identity causes massive psychological problems later on!

· Let both your sons and daughters express their emotions! Boys who are silenced in order to be manly and who do not show emotions, learn that being tough is suppressing emotions and not paying attention to their inner feelings.

· Reverse the roles sometimes: let your sons play with dolls and your daughters play with cars.

* Ask your sons to wash the dishes while your daughters are cleaning the car!

Remember that children act upon their gender roles, if you want to avoid having an angry boy and a submissive girl, teach them both how to be proud of their gender identities! Raise human beings; boys and girls!

April 24, 2007

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How our communication with our children look like? Are we able to answer there weired and straight questions?

As children, many of us asked our parents: “How did I come to this world?”

The answer was always wrapped in a cloud of words that made no sense.  Most of us Iranian women learned how we were born when we ourselves gave birth to a child.  Our beloved Iranian culture makes our families ashamed of getting in touch with the topics of body and mind. Both areas are taboo and are explained within the notion of religion and mystical forces.

Now how many of us gave a better answer to the same question when our children asked us: “How did I come to this world?”

Again, we may find ourselves repeating our parents’ vague answers.

Many of us were told: “These talks are not good for children, go and play.” “You will learn when you are adult.” “These are bad questions, you are being impolite.” “These questions are not your business,” and other confusing responses that are well known in our culture.

What happened to us when we did not hear any rational, clear, educated responses to our childhood questions? Some may say: “Nothing, we survived.” Yes, we survived; yet, wouldn’t that information about our bodies and about how we came into existence have been helpful down the road?

How many of us started to learn how our bodies work in our adulthood? How many of us are wondering, “Who are we as individuals stuck in a collective that does not let us be who we can be?” Wouldn’t it have been helpful to know our bodies, our minds, and ourselves at a time when we were most confused about who we are and what we do in this world?

I guess answering our children is the main point here. It is also important to know how our children grow into healthy persons. What is our role? Are we only the breadwinners? Is that all?

Today it is known that human development is influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, socio-cultural, and environmental factors.

All the recent researches about brain development show that the right side of the brain is a center for emotions, feelings, connections, empathy, humor, coping mechanisms, and the representation of the self.  The child being born is not a blank paper but has already non-visible imprints that are being evolved in a personality and character growth process.

The truth here is that the level of communication and interaction with our children would help them to value the self more. The healthy evaluation of own body and mind would help children to move from a concrete way of thinking to an abstract way of thinking, which is the source of creation and art.

Some important aspects of healthy parenting are:

* Valuing the child for being an individual separate from us.
* Recognizing gender aspects; boys and girls have various needs, yet, they need to learn to respect certain boundaries.
* Gender sensitive care; both need equal care.
* Recognizing that babies have not only basic needs but also attachment/bonding needs.
* Recognizing that babies have their own connection with the caregivers; verbal and non verbal.
* As caregivers, providing healthy, positive, and caring attention as babies seek relationships with adults.
* Ensuring children don’t get mixed messages, which will make them only uncertain and confused.
* Paying attention to the cultural barrier/strength used in rising our children

… much more to think of….

May 11, 2007

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What qualities do we intend to model for our children?

What qualities do we teach our children and which ones do we want them to value most? Why do we do that? What are the cultural values we wish to modify or change for the next generation?

Too many times, we advise our children to be kind, to listen to us as parents, to be nice to their friends, to be generous to their siblings, and so on. What about the intra personal qualities, for instance, being kind to themselves and valuing their own sense of belonging?

Many parents wonder which are the appropriate qualities we can teach our children. I think we have to provide them with a balanced weight of qualities and values including some of the following:

Friendliness, Cautiousness, Openness, Discretion, Generosity, Frugality, Warmth, Rationality

Experiencing excitement, A sense of calmness, Strength of character, Self-assurance/Self-esteem/Self-confidence

Dependability, Independence, Honesty, Integrity, Sincerity, Trustworthiness

Orderliness, Dealing with rejection, Reliability, Developing their own ideals

And Self-control.

Now, back to the original question: which one of these qualities do we teach our children? I think we need to define each quality based on our children’s personalities and abilities.

It is good to have it all, but it is not easy to balance all these things, and having balance in every aspect of life means having a healthy mind!

So, where do we go from here?

May 10, 2007

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Vancouver, May 6, 2007 was the Marathon day.

There is so much to learn from Vancouver, the cheerful people of Vancouver, and beautiful British Columbia. The Vancouver Marathon/half-Marathon on May 6, 2007 was an extraordinary phenomenon for me as a first time half-Marathon walk-run participant!

It was joyful. More than 15,000 people were sharing a rainy day and making it sunny by just by being out there.

Young and old were jogging for a better body and a greater community feeling. People were out there without their masks on: they were who they were, enjoying Nature, and the run, becoming better people than they were before.

Health is an activity, an action, something to be achieved by doing things, going out, walking, running, or just breathing deeply. Health should be a goal and a desire for all of us to work towards and not just something for which to hope. Healthy bodies provide the basis for healthy minds—at least that’s what we know!

The cheerful men and women who came to watch the Marathon are all my heroes. They did not run, but came out to encourage, to inspire, and to cheer on the participants despite the rain. We could learn from them! We can always cheer on others! That is part of being human.

May 10, 2007
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Why our Youth are often forgotten? Am I serious? Yes.

We tend to forget our youth!

A baby is cute, and a teenager is difficult, why? Is that because a baby does not talk, but a teenager talks!

Some parents tend to forget their teenagers. They say; our children are grown up now and these children are supposed to take care of themselves!

A couple of years ago I heard of a teenager who was suicidal. When I talked to him, he said, that his parents came here, bought a big house, put him and his sister in that house, gave them the car-keys and visa card, told them this is Canada and here is the college you want to go to and there is university after that……….. and parents disappeared. This young man, who was 20 at the time, had lived here in B.C. many years by himself along with a younger sister. Both of them had taken good care of studies and else, yet, both suffered from depression and loneliness.

Their teen age years had gone to responsibility for a big house, government contacts, the car insurance, bills, taxes and more, while parents calling them every other day. What did this son miss: The love of his parents, the close connection to a caring mother and a father figure, having a sense of family and belonging?

When I asked this young man if he worked, he answered: no, we have enough money to live with. I wondered what about enough love! But, I did not say anything.

I am not suggesting that the parents of this young man were bad or irresponsible; they probably thought this is the best for their children. However, the question is whether we need to be more involved in our teenager,s life.

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May 7, 2007

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We are mirrors for our children.

We know that our way of communication affect a child and influence what he or she will become. Children are our mirrors, they look into these mirrors and they see the self into your way of being, they do precisely as we do, so if we want them different, we have to be aware of how we do as parents.
Our Iranian way of talking to a child has many colors, indeed a rainbow of hidden words, gestures, metaphors. We talk to our children in verbal and non- verbal terms.  We teach them from day one how to act, what values to hold on to, what to think, and how to be. Children do what we do and think what we think. I am not suggesting that we are different than any other parents in the world, yet our cultural way of parenting is the topic we want to discuss.

Some of us are more encouraging than others, some more blaming and shaming the child more than others. There is nothing more hurtful to a child than make him or her feel guilty for not doing things that we ask them to do.  We gave them birth, but we cannot force them to let go of their free will. However at times we Iranian parent do blame our children for what a big job we did to give them birth! It was not their choice to be born, we have to understand.

We have to know that raising a child is the most difficult job in the world.  We cannot bring children into this world and then make them feel guilty for having done that.
Many Iranian parents who are immigrating, they blame children for being the reason for coming to Canada:  I came here because of you, so now you have to do what I say to do  Children cannot carry this heavy load, they did not choose to come here, we dragged them elsewhere with us and we promised them a better life.

Now, if you as parent fail in your personal or interpersonal relationships (divorce, unemployment, financial problems or more):
PLEASE DO NOT PUT THAT ON YOUR CHILD OR YOUR CHILDREN, this will make things only WORSE.

Children learn to learn from us. If you wish to give your child a healthy, happy, and positive childhood with lots of learning opportunities, this is the way to go:
Exchange of appropriate information about your life situation, let your child know what is happening.

If you have problem do not hide it, say you have hard time right now, but you will be able to figure things out as you are an adult.

Create meaning for your child; family life, school work and positive rituals at home would give successful learning opportunities.

Reward your child for every little positive work.

Give your child self-confidence and self-esteem.

Be part of your child life, tell your child about your feelings for the child, your life, and others.

Many of our fellow Iranian people, may think that if we tell our children how much we love them they may become spoiled or porru, while we tend to show the children what
we do not like about them.

Many family problems are because of poor communication style among family members:

Lack of information giving to our children about changes or events that our happening in our life No shared meaning, or shared value

Child is upset about something and we do not ask why

Negative rewards for a child who is seen as failure

Name calling, blaming, making child to feel guilty, making the child to be scared of devil or other scary figures

Lying to a child to make him or her do what we want

Giving a child mix messages; dad says yes- mom says no

Not being able to explain things properly

Allowing a child be pressed in the middle of divorce and all the adult problems

Letting the child be witness violence, inappropriate language, and anger

Referring the child to others and much more¦

These points are only a few examples of how we do collectively and individually.  There is of course much more to this……………….

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May 7, 2007

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Did you know that some of our jokes have racist content and meaning? No?

Have you ever noticed that our daily life activities and hobbies could be damaging to other people? Many times we engage us in racial comments without meaning being racist or against others. Just think of how our communication in a regular day looks like.

We meet people, talk, eat, walk, and say jokes. Jokes belong to our everyday life; we say jokes in every context, work and home, here and there. We say jokes at the dinner table, in our parties, via internet, in our phone conversations and even in our meetings within our communities. We may ask what is wrong with that.

Some aspects of these joke-telling as a social activity have hurt many people forever. Many of our jokes are placing many different races, ethical groups, and families in various categories, where no one wants to belong to. You are questioning this, let’s talk more!

Why are our jokes sexualized and racially motivated?

Why do our jokes lean toward dehumanizing, devaluing, and belittling certain groups and especially women?

What’s so “funny” about these jokes?

Our jokes start with someone from an ethnic background who is either dumb, perverted, or an abuser, and he does or says “funny” things in order to make a point. Each one of us knows at least a dozen jokes, where women are sex objects and men are the active player, the abuser. How many jokes we have heard where children are being molested from the man from ‘some’ city and ‘……..’?

How many jokes do we know where women or children are slaves for many things? Sometimes the character does things that sound “funny,” yet most of the time by what we’re saying we victimize someone or some group!

Don’t you think these jokes have other, hidden functions and that they project something else into our culture?

Have some dignity and stop telling those jokes!

Some people complain about “white” people being racist, we have to explain how we are NOT racists ourselves!

There are many, many websites created by our “funny” people and they are having “fun” by spreading this germ of racist and sexist jokes.

Be human and value your people even when you want to be funny!

Many years ago, Stockholm University had a guest speaker from the former Yugoslavia. He was analyzing the war and the suffering of his people. One of the areas he discussed was regarding the decades of racist jokes among various groups, each about the other. The jokes indeed reflected the hatred and segregation, while creating more conflicts. We all know what happened next in that country.

Jokes are words, words are our thoughts, our thoughts are our beliefs, and our beliefs reflect our inner world. Be careful with what you say!

Being funny can occur in the realm of respect and protection of others’ rights!

I have many times heard our fellow Iranian talking about prejudice, isolation, hostility, and racism that was practiced by some groups, special the ‘white people.’ We should remind ourselves when we try to be funny and use those jokes that is destroying many souls and much trust in various ethical groups.

Social hostility, social isolation, and prejudice has found a natural way in our language when we use jokes about various ethnic groups.

Social hostility is constructed by those who need to control others. This social hostility creates more fragile beliefs, broken hearts, and exposed individuals. We need to clean our cultural luggage if we wish to remain whole.

We need to bring peace into our language, into our communication, into our families, into our communities, and eventually hopefully to our Iranian way of living.

These jokes have for decades caused social hostility which destroys respect, trust, kindness, communication, and relationship. Jokes makes us be WE and Them! We do need to be WE, in order to survive the invasion of our culture.

In our fragile world we hide behind walls of nations, religions, groups, and classes! The sense of isolation for a group creates distance and contrasts with others, by becoming different than the other! Do not let jokes become those walls.

Think about those individuals who isolate themselves in a group of people by establishing language or behavior to show how they are better than others, nobler than others, and have more ”class” than others. Using jokes for many individual brings this feeling, that they come from a different planet. Jokes telling in this way causes social hostility as a natural way for some individuals to elevate themselves. Sometimes we do not mean anything else than being funny with telling those jokes, yet, we forget how much impact it has on many souls.

Some groups or individuals use jokes as element of social isolation, as a defense mechanism to mark the differences in social class, religion, races and nations. Isolation and conflict goes hand in hand, with a resolution into “noting”. Sometimes the isolated group becomes a spiritual one, better than neighbors, some one who uses a hostile mood and prevails gossip, insecurities, mood changes. We know how many various ethnic groups of us feel being socially isolated as their ethnic background has been subject to racist and sexist jokes.

Once using racist jokes we try to find superiority by using a latent antagonism, to set one group against another in order to command and to satisfy their own personal vanity. Racist and sexist jokes could be ”useful” for those of us who try to attain goal of becoming superior! We can not afford to let hostility become our way. Not again!

Prejudice and hostility is about how we naturally have the tendency to be willing to degrade others in order to elevate ourselves, nations towards nations, group towards groups and so on. If we do not like to be treated different then we need to stop saying those jokes as they cause prejudice and hostility among our nation. We need to stop this trend! Now or it will be late!

August 28, 2007

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