Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

The Pick 'n Save was doing landmark business in last-minute bouquets and cards tonight, LOL!  It was absolutely hilarious, although standing in a line three times as long as normal wasn't much fun since I only had a few items and wanted to get out of there, but boy oh boy, that store is raking in the cash today!  EVERY MAN IN LINE - young, old, tall, short, black, brown, white, dressed up and grunge - ALL HAD FLOWERS AND/OR CARD IN HAND.  Some guys were going for the gusto and having BIG arrangements made up by a clerk who was stationed at the florist's desk (there is rarely anybody there, normally). 

I happened to catch this article today that was originally published in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal.  Enjoy!

Iran Bans Valentine's Day
The regime's posture turns the smallest gestures into thrilling acts of subversion.
February 11, 2011

In another sign of its ever more improvisational approach to governance, the Iranian regime has outlawed Valentine's Day. "Symbols of hearts, half-hearts, red roses, and any activities promoting this day are banned," announced state media last month. "Authorities will take legal action against those who ignore the ban."

Some 70% of Iran's population is said to be under the age of 30, so it seems natural that Valentine's Day has caught on in a country where the young keep trying to find non-state-mandated rituals to call their own. The state, for its part, continues to respond with a Whack-a-Mole approach to any social ripple not dreamt of in its philosophy.

Theocratic regimes invariably suffer from the same besetting sin: As the world evolves, they must either revise their antiquated doctrines or try to hold the world rigidly in stasis. Iran's ruling mullahs keep choosing the latter option. And with mosque and state firmly conjoined, there's no stray detail of daily life so arcane that the scriptures can't be mobilized to rein it in.

The Iranian state has pronounced against unauthorized mingling of the sexes, rap music, rock music, Western music, women playing in bands, too-bright nail polish, laughter in hospital corridors, ancient Persian rites-of-spring celebrations (Nowrooz), and even the mention of foreign food recipes in state media. This last may sound comically implausible, but it was officially announced by a state-run website on Feb. 6. So now the true nature of pasta as an instrument of Western subversion has been revealed.

The regime's posture turns the smallest garden-variety gestures into thrilling acts of subversion. Slipping a Valentine card to a girlfriend takes on the significance of samizdat. Every firecracker set off during Nowrooz diminishes the police state's claims to omniscience. The mullahs have appointed themselves the enemy of fun; as a result, wherever fun herniates into view, it is a politicized irruption of defiance.

In "Rock 'n' Roll," the playwright Tom Stoppard proposes that rock music more than anything else—the arms race, dissident intellectuals, economic decay—brought down the communist system because it came from an unanticipated source for which the politburo theorists had no answer. Their enforcers could counter explicit resistance, but their ideologues never prepared defenses against the onslaught of pure fun. No one in charge knew how to neutralize this entirely new category of opting out through the delirium of music. In the play, the rigid communist edifice crumbles in the face of a mysteriously apolitical impulse to freedom embodied by young folk who simply "don't care about anything but the music."

Iran's theocrats scramble daily to apply systemic tourniquets to spontaneous outbursts of nondenominational fun. They must find—or conjure up—an authoritative category of evil for each unforeseen flare-up. Indecency, immodesty, un-Islamic behavior, alien Western customs, insulting God, insulting the Supreme Leader—the ideological fabric is made to stretch way beyond its natural limits.

The mullahs can offer no specific dogma against the widespread underground rock scene in the suburbs of Tehran and elsewhere. They often arrest those at basement shows or garage performances with improvised expedients—for the blasphemous nature of their gyrations, or for illicit socializing between the sexes. In being able to justify their prohibitions on religious grounds they have an advantage over their communist counterparts of old.

But under what rationale could the consumption of foreign dishes constitute an offense? Nationalism, we are told. Yet the regime expends considerable energy suppressing the Persian, as opposed to Islamic, identity by discouraging Nowrooz and other elements of the culture that date from the pre-Muslim era of jahiliyya, the so-called time of ignorance. [Frigging arrogant bastards - some day they will be hoisted on their own petards - preferable driven through their groins.]

In the end, Iran's rulers face an impossible task. Their genesis myth of a society based on a codified schema of sacred laws looks neither codified nor sacred. It convinces no one. Instead, the regime seems dedicated above all to stamping out joy wherever it may accidentally arise—a sour, paranoid struggle against irrepressible forces of nature, change, the seasons, music, romance and laughter. The Iranian people can take comfort: No earthly authority has won that particular contest for long.

Mr. Kaylan is a writer in New York.

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