Monthly Archives: July 2007

Children have Rights

How much do we believe that Children Have Rights?

Do we all agree that children have rights?

Do we know the rights of our children?

How do we Iranian acknowledging children’s rights?

How do we at all respecting human rights?

Obviously, this topic is controversial. We have never in our history been given any rights

Although there are many child advocates among us, yet, we have hard time to think about the rights of our children that are being violated every day. Some of us are using more democratic style of parenting and our children are respected for their opinions. Another group of us believe that our children should be raised as we were raised.

This is a lengthy story…..

I want to acknowledge the Canadian Children’s Rights.

For more info about these rights visit:

http://www.canadiancrc.com/index.html

Reason for opening up this debate is to raise a collective awareness around how we deal with our children and other children.

It is time to bring that discussion to the level of a public discussion; a free, democratic, and reflective learning opportunity.

How do you think you have done so far?

How do you think we have respected our children’s right up to this point?

July 31, 2007

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Violent Jokes


Culture of violence creates its own spheres of interpersonal relationships.  Culture is around us and we live with it.  However, at times we forget how we create our own cultures. Part of this culture creation is how we tell stories or jokes.

We construct and perpetuate the notion of violence in ways we may not be aware of.  We promote a sense of  hopelessness, abuse, neglect, rape, and various deviations when we engage in telling narratives that only have violent contents.

We internalize violence and desensitize cruelty.

We compare, contrast, confront, label, stigmatize, and generalize negativity and violence enforced upon us.

Instead of rejecting these dark areas impacting our lives, we are incorporating them into our lives. What do I mean?

Have you noticed that war, killings, murders, death, hangings, executions, assassinations, and torture have found a way into our daily life?

How? I will tell you!

How many jokes we hear about the war and the way people were dismembered and disabled?

How many jokes we tell about the way people were killed by chemicals, gas, mass weapon destruction, bombs, rockets, missiles and all that?

How many jokes we share about how people are being punished and tortured in “Hell”/ “Jahanam” as we say?

How many jokes we know regarding how men and women would be punished differently due to adult life they choose to have?

How many jokes we tell about people who are being given choice for the way they want to be dead? (Those choices are about how less painful dead could be!)

How many jokes we make about clothes restrictions for women in our home country and what the responses of women would be?

How many jokes we hear about child molestation, addictions, prostitution, theft, and other social issues no one wants to deal with it in our home country?

The lists go on and on……

There is a certain pattern in all these jokes; they are projecting the hard reality caused by human caused disasters.

Why is that?

May be we try to make fun these horrible experiences that makes no sense whatsoever!

Now the question is:

When did killing and torture become this normal in our culture?

When did we lose feelings /emotions about people being punished for any reason?

Why should punishment be the response for everything?

Why we are this much discouraged and hopeless?

Why we have let a culture of violence encompass our daily life?

Why we are perpetuating what is not right, what is not humanistic, and what is not appropriate?

What do we think we are passing down to our next generations?

Think about this!

What is your idea behind all the horrible jokes we tell each other?

I assume we can not joke around topics such as happiness, joy, love, partnership, and kindness in our jokes?

I assume you would say Jokes are supposed to be this way!

But, haven’t we lost the point?!

July 26, 2007

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Defining our Healthy Identity


Healthy Identity is something that we need more than ever. Why?

Counselling and psychotherapy is rarely utilized in the Iranian culture; however more and more individuals are finding interest to get to know their inner world and the self.

Iranian value education highly and they would pay for learning new skills and new professions. Education belongs to the notion of success that Iranian families moved to Canada for. As much as mental health issues are scary for Iranian people, yet many families face the reality that they need education about how are mind is working.

Psychology is becoming the topic of interest for many Iranian women and men out there in the world. The sound of the word “mental” has a negative message to our people, however, having “emotional wellbeing” and “healthy mind” is the reason for the creation of small support groups getting together more than ever. People try to break the cycle of isolation and depression as they always have done it by being in a group “like” them. Men are more resilient and also resistant to the idea of asking for counseling why some would discourage wives to seek help. There is a huge need for raising awareness around the benefits of “mental health” in our Iranian community.

Therapists and psychologists coming in contact with Iranian people should be aware of the individual and group based perception of mental health issues and the traditional negative connotation associated to that. A culturally sensitive approach would be most appreciated and welcomed by many people right now.

Iranian people are a diverse, multicultural and multi ethnic group. Our racial and cultural identity as a group and as individuals has to be defined by each one of us in order as we have lost a group identity.

We should proclaim our identity as who we are, if we are Fars, kurds, Turkes, Baloches, Khosestanies, and what other ethnical groups we belong to.

We should redefine who we are as Iranian Bahaies, Jews, Muslims, Assyrians, Christians, and what other religion we identify with. We come from various beliefs, values and practices. We have to appreciate the fact that we are this rich people with all the different style of life.

We need to prevent more harm, prejudice, racial biases and preconceived notion of who we “really are” by remarking our ethnical and individual identity.

Let’s remember that our experiences are subjective, embodied, and real for us, yet, we have to realize other people’s different version of same experience.

It is to be understood that the complex situation back home and the mass immigration of Iranian people are many times unbearable for many men and women leading to various sort of psychological disturbances.

We Iranian have been persuaded for decades and centuries to be something we are not. We have been disabled to know that we have the rights to claim our “rights”, a hard concept to grasp.

Sense of community and social identity has up to this point been rarely exceeding the cohort of family members, relatives and people from same community. Now the life in migration means that people have to find companionship in social occasions while rising above and beyond their well known cohort. Iranian women value education highly and they would pay for learning new skills and new professions. Education belongs to the notion of success that Iranian families moved to Canada for. Let’s make best of what we have and what we do not have!

July 24, 2007

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Iranian Youth perspective

How much do we know about Iranian Youth perspective?
In year 2000 I attended a meeting for Iranian parents and youth.  This meeting was arranged and held by Public Law School.  The meeting was an effort to start a dialogue where parents and youth could sit together and articulate their feelings about the new life in migration and the culture shock for both of parties.
This workshop was about dealing with youth from a “youth perspective” undefined in our Iranian culture. Many of the attending parents had concerns about the challenges of handling their youth requests and expectations.  Both mothers and fathers expressed their emotions about their youth who are:
“Not listening”, “not following the rules at home”, “acting angry”, and “not talking to parents with respect!”
I was there and observing some youth who were shaking their heads, raising their eyebrows, and showing their frustration of the “adult world” that did not understood them.
After some heated discussions, an 18 years old brave young man started to talk:
“Our parents brought us here to Canada and they always say we came because of you, my family do not accept me as I am and at this point they ask me to move out.  Where can I go?  I have no money, no jobs, noting, because my father have always said I should only study and become an engineer or something, now…”

This young man was obviously frustrated was telling the group that his parents complain about everything.  He said that his father gives him lots of stress with putting pressure on him about how he does at school, peer contacts, and everyday life.  This young man did not know that his dad also was in the meeting.  The father had hide in a corner away from the son’s view. Eventually the son did see the father and he left the meeting.
Now it was father’s turn to talk about his concerns and complaints.  The story unfolding from the father’s point of view pictured a chaotic life, daily anxiety, loneliness, regrets, avoidance, hate, resentment, and also love for one another.  The father started crying after he finished his talk.  It was not clear what role the mother had, if there was any mother in the picture!
Some one continued the discussion by saying that:
“Young people need respect and attention in a healthy way.  We sometimes give excessive attention and try to “fix” everything for our children, while not teaching them being independent and experience life.”
Another father insisted that:
“We as adults know better and we have to ask our children to listen to us, because we have at least “torn a couple of shirts more than them” and we are more experienced than our kids (young children he meant)!”
These Iranian parents were trying hard to learn how to deal with their young children.  However we were missing one point, one important factor.  We do not try to understand our teenagers mind and way of thinking.
Youth and children today are under pressure.  Adding to this, our Iranian youth has to deal with the cultural differences both at home and out there, at the same time that they are dealing their own physical and psychological development.
We miss seeing the fact that the more advice we give our children, the less they become independent.
We miss the point that coming to Canada may have been for a better future for our children; yet, it has not been their choice.
We miss the reality that our children and youth have to deal with many contrasts; parents bringing them here for a better future and at the same time giving them hard time for having brought them here.
Why not start distinguishing between our world view and our youth’s perspective.  Time has changed and the way we were brought up can not compare to today.  We culturally use a “back door policy” in order to discipline our children; we make them fearful. Fear of being punished by god, go to hell, fail in school, not be loved by us and be a bad person.
Our children have different needs, they are stressed out due to the negative impact of media, migration, dislocation, parent’s unemployment, and all other issues parents are dealing with. Our children deal with uncertainty of their physical body which creates many emotional challenges.
Our children (if they are older at the time of our migration) suffer a great deal in the first years of our migrant life, they may be excited about the new opportunities, yet they have feelings for the lost friends and hobbies back home.
Please let go of the blame and seek help if you are unsure how to deal with your children, particularly your youth.

July 24, 2007
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Prayers for Peace

 

An Open Letter to God and Prayers for peace

Dear God:

* You know that we Iranian people are working hard to make sense of the unfolding events back home that hurt our souls constantly …….

* You know that we are trying to comprehend the tyranny forced upon us, the bemoaning culture put on our shoulders, and the intricate retrogression……..

* You know that we are fearful about the continuum of the miserable and much complex life back home, about the hardships caused by some rigid, impenetrable, and complicated people who are willing to sacrifice more human life for the sake of ideology……….

* You know that we are suffering as a nation and as individuals who are tired of the embezzlement and wretchedness of those who are careless and those whose actions are harming us excessively……

* You know that our people are in emotional and spiritual pain as our home country is in pain, we pray for peace in Iran, the region back there, and the world…..

* You know that we need to remain hopeful, optimistic, and joyful, happy, and grateful for the things that we have and do not have….

Please God:

* Enlighten those who are precluding joyful life in Iran and around the world….
* Strengthen us to embody humanism and humanity….
* Enforce kindness in those cheerful of power and reinforce trust for those without….
* Let us use reasoning, wisdom, and logic….
* Provide us with love, compassion, and passion for the mother earth….
* Let us appreciate freedom, choice, humility, and pride….
* Allow our children inherit laughter, tears, and healing……
* strengthen us to forgive and be forgiven
* encourage us to learn be happy again
* let us raise above and beyond for those in need
* And eventually let us grow both inside and outside….

Sincerely and always grateful

All of us and the rest of us………

July 23, 2007

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Our Mothers Recycling Business

Our mothers knew about Recycling Business long before us.  How? Read this.
Culture is the sum of behaviours, thoughts, perceptions, ideas, life styles, events, habits, and knowledge that are shared among a group of people.
One of those shared ideas is the everyday life of people, the implicit and the explicit form of it, the unfolding and the connections, the type of existing relationships, and the members of the groups.   Our mothers had a huge role in the quality of our everyday life back then.
Back in Iran and in our childhood (the good old days), there were special people, only men, who visited our neighbourhood regularly.  These men had particular business offers for our mothers; they basically targeted women in general, since our fathers were out there working.  Women were enjoying that little unique trade, an exchange of goods and a right-at-the- door-business that was both fair and practical in its form.
Who were those men?
NAMAKI (SALTMAN), KOT-VA-SHALVARI MAN (JACKET AND PANTS MAN), KASSE-BOSHGABI MAN (BOWLS AND PLATES), SABZI-FOROSH (VEGTABLE SALES-MAN), ABHOZI / BARFPAROKONI (POND CLEANING, SNOW SHOVING), and not to forget our ASHGALI(GARBAGE MAN)…
Indeed depending on the city you lived in and status of the citizens in that area, these services would be more or less appreciated.
You could tell that these men did their more than full time jobs.  They did this to make a living. However, the mystery is whether these types of trades would really pay enough for a living? How would these men support their families with this type of jobs? Who knows?

Story of Namaki
How many of us recall the voice of namaki early summer days when we still were laying down in our cool beds or were giggling around with our siblings.  Many of us have memories of the namaki who really added to the relaxed life back then.  Namaki was a multifunction man who was welcomed by our mothers and our women in every street.  He asked for noting but our old, uneatable, and mould bread.  However, some kind women like my mother would offer him a taste of the food that she had made for our lunch or simply give him a glass of cold water.
Our namaki who would come week after week and he would never forget yelling: Namaki-namaki!  He would arrive in different time of the day, some afternoons when the summer heat had made everyone withdraw for a nap in a cool place of the house.  In winter time, as we children were in school, we would not notice namaki and his existence.
Our namaki had an extra ordinary loud voice, which he used as a way to announce his arrivals to the neighbourhood.  His voice had a song, a tone, a pattern, a specific rhythm that was well-known for the women. His voice would somehow encourage women to come out of their houses and give him all the old bread that was indeed saved for him; bread from the day before or days before.
Namaki was usually an older man, hard working one, who visited our quarters with a horse carrying all his belonging, one sack of salt on one side and the sack of old bread on the other side.  I am not sure how long he would walk every day, if he had a type of agreement with other namaki and they had one or several street each?!  Most probably these men would know each other and had business amongst them.
Typical namaki was a man, usually illiterate man who had most likely moved to a large city such as Tehran and leaving a farmer life behind.  Namaki could also be a man who did not find any other job and he found the liberty of having his own business.
As a child I used to wonder what this man would do with all these bread.  Would he eat them all? Or would he make big dough and bake more bread?  Later on it was explained to me that he would go and sell all those bread to the local farmers who had cows, lambs, chickens, roosters, and other animals.
Namaki was anyhow a man who would be known in every neighbourhood and in cases of his absence our mothers would wonder what is making him for visiting our street.  Another characteristic of this namaki would be the fear that our mothers would instil in us children, saying that if we did not behave, namaki would take us away.
This was a bluff anyway and we children would notice soon, because no mother would give her child to a namaki, yet younger children would fear namaki.
Other days when namaki was not there, we would have kasse-boshgabi man and another day would other men come.  Our mothers would always be happy to see these men who were willing to take our old clothes and unfit shoes, or fathers’ shirts and suits, and instead give us some salt, plastic baskets, or household items.   The good thing was that a natural recycling business was happening and no one wasted any bread, any food, any clothes, or any household items. We used and re-used everything!
This phenomenon is still going on, however, namaki or other men in that business are much more organized, they come with their trucks and they visit neighbourhoods while using a speaker; to announce their daily business with housewives who would get rid of things they do not want! The question is whether these men still can provide for their families with this exchange business!
Our mothers were real business people in this whole circle. We do agree?!  They kept the peace and helped the environment by saving things for Namaki. Oh, our mothers!

July 22, 2007
www.middlepeace.com
This article was published in Goonagoon, August 17th 2007. See goonagoon.ca

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Relationship (Rabete)

Let’s see if we could evaluate our relationships?
In every relationship there are ways to fall into darkness of doubt and anger.  Evaluation or checking out our ways of behaving in a relationship is a good measure for ourselves, if we are interested to know what is going on.

We can also evaluate how our partner’s behavior, thoughts, and acts impact us.  If we honestly can answer these questions, then we should know what is right and wrong to do.

However if we believe we have concerns about our partner we may want to talk to some people and do not confront the person without having a plan for safety.  These are just some ideas in assisting us to get to know our relationships.
Good questions to ask ourselves:
What is a partner (wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend) relationship?
How my relationship working / not working are and what does it mean to me/us?
How much do I love/praise/encourage/ like/dislike/hate/resent/tolerate my partner?
How much respect do I really have for my partner?
How much choice do I have in this relationship?
How my behaviors, thoughts, expressions, and emotions impact this relationship?
How much do I enjoy this relationship?
How do I wish to be seen by my partner?
How do I see my partner?
What kind of daily life do we have together?
How much efforts do each one of us put into this relationship?
How much our bigger families (parents, siblings, relatives) impact the quality/shape of our relationship?
How much do I let others (parents, siblings, relatives) intervene in my relationship?
How do I keep boundaries in my relationship? Me-us?
How much commonality do I have with our partner?
Where do I differ from my partner?
How do the differences between us make the quality of our life better/worse?
How much migration issues, adjustment problems, and separation from our home land have impacted my relationship with my partner?
What kind of culture my partner has?
What is my self-understanding of my own culture and how it has shaped me?
How much do I fight/argue/disagree/or agree?
How much do I respect the individual needs of the other?
What is that bothering me when we argue or fight?
What is the role of my child / children in my daily relationship with my partner?
In case of “fights” between us how do I protect my children?
What do I want to achieve by getting involved in fights?
Do I use any violence in dealing with our partner? How?
How do I keep the peace inside my home?
How do we individually and collectively deal with the relationship problems that happen in every home?
How much do I care about the needs of my partner?
Am I self-interested or relationship oriented?
What do I need of this relationship?
If we can answer these questions and be honest with ourselves, then we can improve a lot in our daily relationship with our partners and with everyone else….
July 21, 2007
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Mental health issues and Depression

In our Iranian culture

In those old good days, our Iranian culture considered depression being a “luxury illness”, something just for the “rich people” who were tired of all the privileges in life and did not know what to do next!” a type of illness just for the upper middle class !
Now we know that it is not true, we know it well that depression today is an everyday problem around the world and it happens to anyone despite race, class, ethnicity, status, and gender.
I do not recall anyone talking about depression in our average type of families. People kept busy and searched for meaning in various ways. Those who had mental health issues were being kept away from others or send to institutions away from families and away from love.  We have just heard stories of the “crazy home” (how we call psychiatry clinics) places distanced from communities and with minimal social interactions.
Some people report having children or relatives who were sent to those homes and they never heard from again. There is no blame on those families; for sure we did neither have the knowledge or the resources to care of people with mental health issues. I do not know how it is now in our home country. Now let’s talk about our views on some aspect of mental health concerns today and here.
We many times use the word that someone died of a broken heart (degh kardan) meaning she or he carried excessive amount of sadness that made the person die. This is certainly one area that researchers have confirmed that you can die of a broken heart. All the studies of people with excessive amount of grief have helped research world to understand what happens physiologically and psychologically and why it result to dead.
Now the idea of depression:
In regular family life back in Iran you could hear that your parents or grandparents or someone was “eating ghosse” meaning that the person was depressed and sad because of something.
Now, I acknowledge the fact that we cannot generalize anything about our diverse group of people name: Iranian people! However, I give myself the liberty for using the metaphors in order to get to the base of the issue.
I also acknowledge that I might be biased, yet these are experiences that many of us share. This is just a cultural based view of depression as a problem! Just a play with the words that are deep rooted in our Iranian culture! Let’s see what is behind “eating ghosse”!
When someone dies, the survived ones have “ghosse” to how live the life without the person. Also in many other areas of life such as having financial problems, being in family conflict, divorcing husband, separations, and various disruptions to our regular life, we feel a sense of grief and sorrow meaning “eating ghosse.” the situation is the same when we have health problems, parenting issues or if we lose jobs or not able to find job, these are all circumstances that we “eat ghosse.”.
The idea of sometimes grieving too much and too long for the dead ones are and have always been depressing for many people. It has for the least taken our right to happiness away.
Sometimes we let go of our rights to be happy and cling into areas where makes us really angry, sad, upset, unhappy, and dissatisfied.
Maybe it is easier to be angry and upset than happy and energetic. Maybe we sometimes choose to have reasons for being depressed. Maybe we sometimes let go of taking care of ourselves because we do feel guilty or shameful for many reasons.
Now, let’s take a moment to think literally how it is to “eat ghosse”,
* it means that we swallow the grief,
* that we internalize sorrow,
* that we carry the loss with us to the most deepest and darkest places inside our soul,
* that we feel angry and hurt,
* that we see ourselves being helpless, isolated and fearful,
* that we are in shock and denial,
* that we have lost our sense of safety,
* that we have lost ourselves,
* that we do not have the support we need
* that we are violated: physically, emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually
* That we have many other issues that are not expressed in a healthy way……………..
This list goes on and on………………
When we “eat ghosse”, we physically take in the pain and emotional problems
* meaning that we hide it inside,
* meaning that we culturally are raised to take in issues to ourselves and hide it from others,
* meaning that we have to pretend being strong and happy in order to keep the face of “abero” or grace,
* meaning that we accept the pain without opposition and without fight,
* Meaning that we suppress our emotions and we internalize what is going on outside of our life,
What happens then? After we have eaten all these “ghosse” or pain, we feel overwhelmed, we have no energy to fight, we cannot focus on the everyday life tasks, and we cannot be the person we want to be!
What can we do? Definitely talking to mental health professionals is a great help. In addition we need to learn to how to keep positive.
Whatever has happened to us that make us sad, we can always talk about them. Talking about feelings and unexpressed emotions help us to find peace with ourselves. This is not the regular talk we have at parties; we need to do it with the support of professionals. This is why people in western cultures seek therapy.
This is why all the research shows that therapy is effective in dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and fear that is common among us. We have to fight the culture of grief and substitute it with culture of happiness.
We need to focus on our strengths and build upon that. Our culture of grief is sometimes complicated and does not let us breathe a fresh air.
Seek help and find ways to keep happy! So now, do not eat any ghosse! If you have issues to talk about, find the proper help and do not let depression take you!
Be healthy

January 26, 2008
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Salamati Roh va Ravan

Our mental health or salamti roh va ravan has a direct relationship to something that has been forced upon us and has been taken away from us: Our personal choice!

In our Iranian culture, usually we do not have many choices. We are constantly forced to do things that we do not like; we are forced to choose partnerships that we do not appreciate and to choose faulty ideas that are not always healthy.

When I was a child, we had a crazy man in our neighborhood in Tehran, in the Behbodi area, who lived on the streets. He was famous for being Ali Divaneh. This man, who was in his thirties at that time, had obviously “lost his mind” to use public language, by having a mental illness. I remember all the kids were afraid of him; yet, some of the boys would chase him and make fun of him by bullying him and calling him Divaneh. What choice did this man have but to defend himself and get these bullies off his back by scaring them more? His chances to find support or to get help was minimum.

One day around lunch time, this Ali Divaneh appeared at our door, as he had seen the entrance to the backyard being unlocked. My mom gently offered him food since he seemed hungry. He ate while looking at us with wondering eyes and then disappeared from that door. I am still wondering what he thought that day and think that what he probably missed the most was having a family and living with a family.

Now that I am becoming a therapist, I’ve come to think of how we treated this man and all our mentally ill people: with cruelty and bullying. To this man I would say today: I am sorry for all the suffering you had to go through, for the lack of understanding we had for you, and for the lack of support you had from your family and your community.

In our culture, we usually treat mentally ill people with rejection, avoidance, and disrespect. Why? Because we have no idea what mental illness is–we are still not sure about it. It is time to learn!

Mental illness is not the absence of health; it is the disturbance that happens in our minds, in our brains, in our lives, and in our whole personal being. Mental illness comes to surface when we are not able to express our fears, our shame, our guilty feelings, our hatred, our love, and even our discouragements about various aspects of life.

The reality of life in Iran, the emotional baggage that we carry, the amount of horrifying experiences that we have gone through, the pain and anxiety of separation, all and all can cause one healthy body to become numbed and to not function. We need help then and even long before that time.

Mental and physical health is connected to the presence of love, connection, belonging, affection, respect, and healthy interpersonal relationships. Many physical illnesses and somatic symptoms are due to our emotional and psychological burden. Becoming a new immigrant, shifting gears so many times in life, changing lifestyles if we have to, feeling the pressure to adjust to many things at the same time, and being in an emotional pressure to deal with the everyday anxiety of separation, all are reasons for psychological disturbances.

The problem intensifies when we have to pretend that “everything is all right,” we have families to support and we have to manage many things at the same time. We usually, (that is, we Iranians), do connect all the anxiety and emotional pain to the physical body, we see doctors to get medication to sleep, to lose weight, to walk, to talk, to think, to function, and to live. The most that we do is see a psychiatrist who can diagnose us and prescribe more medicine.

· We need to learn to find support groups for ourselves.

· We need to be more open and talk about what is bothering us

· We have to learn to express our feelings and thoughts.

· We need to let go of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that do not work.

· We need to let go of a past that is haunting us to death.

· We need to let go of being right all the time and instead, learn to listen.

What else can we do to stay healthy in all aspects: physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and cultural?

Hope, prayers, connection to god, and the feeling of being loved and cared for–these are all aspects that positively affect our mental health.

Many families and individuals lose that hope for one or another reason and live a lonely, isolated, and alienated life. We can find them and help them find resources and bring their hope back!

July 15, 2007

www.middlepeace.com

For a Persian translation of above article please see:

http://rooyeshgroup.blogspot.com/

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Happier Iranian Life

 

 

How to Live a Happier Iranian Life

A few years ago, we went to see a rental apartment that was advertised in a Persian newspaper. Since we had made an appointment with the owner, we arrived at the door on time and rang the door bell. The door was opened by a middle aged Iranian man who did not waste any time in introducing himself. My first impression of him has been imprinted in my mind forever. Usually when you see someone for the first time either you say your first name or both your first name and last names together. This gentleman introduced himself with his full name along with all his the titles: “Mr. …X and Y, Professor in Brain and Neurology Surgery from University Z…”

Wow, it took us a short moment to catch our breaths and realize that we were not in a hospital and that we had not asked for any brain surgery. We ended up not renting his place, yet, I am still wondering why he introduced himself that way. I am wondering what it is that we are missing. Why is it that we are not able to let go of positions, status, labels, and masks? I am sure this man was a doctor or something, yet, he was lost here in my mind. He was suffering from “not being recognized,” in the notion of being a newcomer and an immigrant like the rest of us.

It is significant to realize the loss of identity when we first come to a new country, who knows who we were or what we did before? Nothing matters, unless and until we challenge our own resources and we take the baby steps that have to be taken. First taking courses, finding a lower status job, sending out résumés, until one day, after all the emotional crises and family conflicts from being unemployed or not having enough money, we may find the job we are dreaming of, and maybe not.

Another aspect of introducing ourselves with the “status” and “title” is that we have not developed enough to realize that behind those titles, we are all human beings, all equal, and all regular people who try to take care of the tasks of our lives. All of you who are working in the Canadian institutions and organizations, you notice how people use their first names while they have heaps of education and many titles. A family friend of ours, who is a physician, tells us how embarrassed he was when in the first day of his work as a doctor, he introduced himself as Dr. X and the person who was his supervisor and had two PhDs used his first name: “I am Joe!” I think we need to learn how to let go of our status as it causes problems sometimes.

Once I was in a court for a family dispute case (as a victim services worker) and the man called himself “professor” trying to take advantage over the beaten wife. This man worked hard to show that the woman was a “mental hospital ward” and she was the one who beat him! The judge realized this man’s belittling attitude and asked him to keep his “psychological diagnosis to himself.” It was an embarrassing moment to see that our respected professor from a known university had not learned how to deal with conflicts and used physical violence instead of arguments that could match more his status as a professor. Why do we do that? Why do we need status that badly? Although our multicultural grocery store in North Vancouver respects us by calling us Doctor and Mohandas (Engineer), we do know who we are behind our closed doors. We need to let go of names and instead improve our human skills, relationship skills, and professional skills for becoming a more relaxed group of people and thus happier of course.

In the discussion of human development, we have to dig deep within our own community to find a healthy discussion about how we live our lives and how we develop into who we are. How do we raise our children to grow and to be the best human beings they can be? I do not mean of course, how we produce more engineers and doctors, I am talking about how we encourage our children to grow into the people they want to be with the skills required for being good, honest, decent human beings, whether they attend university or not.

Here I would like to acknowledge all the hard working men and women, parents, and individuals who are real humans working for the benefit of others and the self. My example of Mr. X is a preface for a bigger discussion.

Looking back to our cultural heritage and how we were raised, we can think of a mixed pot of anecdotes, myths, values, facts, and metaphors defining how nature and nurture would be both important in development of a child. With nature, I mean the cultural and financial resources and with nurture, I mean the love and affection we were raised with and with which we need to raise our children.

If we were the lucky and healthy child to be born into a middle class or average rich family we would have the chances for learning a bit more about life compared with many disadvantaged children and families. Our parents would encourage us to attend university and get to the engineering and medical programs. If we talked about being interested in art, music, dance, theatre, film, books, poetry, and not talking about politics (because there was never any career there anyways), we would be in trouble and had to fight a huge battle. Although after 1979, those careers were not going anywhere anyways and you could not make a living by getting into those areas without being labelled for this and that “ist.”

Now being a newcomer in this country or elsewhere, we miss the love, connection, acknowledgment, validation, and affection that we might have had through our families and our communities. We may miss many things, yet, we have to be able to let go of things that are not working any longer. Long advice to our children about how we suffered as children and how spoiled they are today, does not help our children to find the real meaning of life. However, we know that we can find new communities here if we choose to. How many of us have been out of Canada and missing the lifestyle we have here? Myself included, we get attached to the community we come to, however, we need to let go of many masks we carry throughout our lives. Those masks do not help us at all and indeed prevent us from developing into our new skins. There are many of us who are doing well; however, we need to be more of a community! In our culture, we have thousands of masks that we need to let go of, yet, for one or another reason we are clinging fast to them and carry those with us everywhere we go. Doing charity work is much appreciated and encouraged in our culture, however, we sometimes do it for the wrong reasons and in the wrong places. We need to spread the power of love and respect for one another and help those in need, here and there.

We need to share our resources with newcomers and let them in. Without feeling of belonging, we are lost. Although we all belong to the community of human beings and the world, we need to find our own little communities! My hope is that we could help our younger generation to know about the positive values we have in our lives and let them use the positive values of being individuals in the Canadian Society.

In the discussion of adjustment, we can find a place of significance in this society if we join groups and work for the benefit of the less privileged. Canadians value volunteer work and this is the reason for the success in many areas of life here. We could do more if we let go of our status and live a more relaxed life!

July 12, 2007

www.middlepeace.com

This article was published in Goonagoon, July 20,2007. See www.Goonagoon.ca

 

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