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