Available in Spain from today. Soon in Latin America and the UK: my book “La Ola Verde. Crónica de la Revolución Espontánea en Irán” (The Green Wave. Of the Spontaneous Revolution in Iran), Los Libros del Lince, Barcelona, 2010. You can order it online from Casa del Libro or from Fnac! (you can also take a look of my second book, Asante Africa, in Casa del Libro and in Fnac)
In my university years, I was thrilled with Marshall Berman’s description of modernity as “a universe in which all that is solid melts into air” (he borrowed a Karl Marx’s phrase). Some people were longing for the safety of those good- or bad- old solids then gone, but they were gone anyway and the apparent possibilities just opened were powerfully alluring. It seemed to me that we were entering an exciting age of creative opportunities in all fields, a time of malleable matter ready to be transformed by our hands.
Yesterday, as Wall Street’s indexes were bouncing like a basketball and the global crisis abyss, from which they said we were emerging, opened its jaws around us again, I felt that possibly Berman (and me, with him) was wrong. Were there ever any solids to be melted at all? Isn’t it just that we always wanted to believe that there’s a firm ground to attach ourselves to? Wasn’t it all our own emotional creation? If there weren’t any solids ever, what matter could there be for us to transform and build?
Look at those Goldman Sachs’ fat cats defending themselves. The problem is not just them, of course, but the world we have, the one they inadvertently described: there is nothing solid, only financial instruments which represent nothing more than air, air trapped in a big bubble of bubbles, in which naturally the most important force is not love, but greed. They defended themselves trying to look genuinely surprised and aggrieved (probably they really were), because we hadn’t understood the reality and now that we are finally figuring it out, we blamed them.
Is that true?, I ask. Is that what we are, bubbly entities of greed?
Sensing this and other things, I’ve set off to ramble the world looking for material girls and material boys, people made of whatever it is that we could describe as human matter. I’ve seen a lot of pain, a lot of cruelty. I recently sat with this beautiful Kenyan actress, who having described herself as a born-again Christian suddenly became a terrible demon expressing with wild eyes how much she hates, really hates homosexual people. I also conversed with this sweet Israeli lady, who had me over for a delicious lunch with her family, telling me that taking Palestinian prisoners was a waste of resources, they should shoot and kill them.
I’m blessed by life for having seen the other side too. The Jews who put themselves on the way to be arrested and help the Palestinians to escape. The South African HIV positive man who stopped taking the drugs that kept him alive, in order to (successfully) force the government to provide them to all those who need them. And many others. Solid, material individuals who illuminate our world and give us hope.
Finding people like these is my mission in this world of us, so bubbly, and still so material.
And so, enter the Iranians. Peoples show themselves as what they really are in times of crisis, and what the Iranians showed me positively impacted the depth of my heart and all of what I believe in. They are brave and generous, welcoming and daring, and they’ve even put together all what is fun and epic in a just fight.
This green revolution of 2009 was unexpected for everyone, inside and outside Iran, though, as always, with hindsight you could see it coming. There were many hands in this, local and foreign, but they could have never organised these green movement of millions, actually leaderless, truly spontaneous, festive, passionate and dramatic.
I was lucky to be there, and this was the most important experience of my life. I wrote a book out of this and –remarkable in this time of global problems but local shortsightedness– it found an enthusiastic publisher in Barcelona, Los Libros del Lince (with some luck, it could even find one in English).
The book tells of the Iranian Green Movement from the streets. It tries to gently explain the main aspects of the Iranian politics, culture and history that help to understand what is happening there. It also profiles the most relevant individual and corporative actors. But the focus is on the people, women above all: who and why are staging this revolution? What happened in the electoral campaign time, and most importantly, during the weeks of street battles? How was it to be right there, where the tear-gas makes you choke and the bravest young girls chase away hardened militia members? (And how was it to be an undercover, short-of-money journalist who’d be beaten up and put in jail if the authorities found you?)
I’m hoping to get the readers to know the Iranians in big close-up, to feel them, to share the emotion of their struggle. And to translate to them their message, the one many Iranians repeatedly ask me to deliver to the world: “We are not terrorists. We are normal people of the 21st century”.
Normal people of a world that is still melting into air, that could or could not have ever been solid, but that for sure (and let me insist on this, for I have met a few of the most amazing material women and men in different countries) has a lot of matter available for us to transform and build.
Let the bubbles burst. We’ll put together the pieces of a better planet.
Con amor, Témoris
Istanbul, May 7, 2010.