Sadness to me is the happiest time
When a shining city rises from the ruins of my drunken mind
Those times when I’m silent and still as the earth,
The thunder of my roar is heard across the universe.
It has now been almost six months since those fateful days in June when the people of Iran shattered the false image that the government of Iran had cast of them–that stark image of women clad head-to-toe in black chadors, and bearded zealous men punching their fists into the air chanting slogans of death to the world and holding Americans hostage. Six months ago, the blatant rigging of the presidential election in Iran in the favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, galvanized the people after thirty years of forced, fear-induced slumber to stand up for themselves and assert their will. The world saw a new image of Iran–that of vibrant, intelligent, modern and dignified people, young and old, hand-in-hand, peacefully asserting themselves.
Millions of people bravely entered the streets and in a peaceful, dignified manner they asked, “Where is my vote?” And they received an answer in the form of brutal, barbaric, hate-filled violence. The so-called “supreme leader”, Khamenei, basically said that if the people dared question the results of the election again via street protests, they would pay a heavy price. In his Friday prayer speech on June 19, Khamenei basically intoned that anyone who questioned the results of the election would be considered an enemy and dealt with accordingly. In the lingo of the Islamic Republic, this is akin to a mafia don threatening to kill anyone who questions him and it serves as a green light to his brain-washed goon squads that it’s okay to violently crack down on the people.
But the people ignored him and continued their protests. Again and again, they have demonstrated their resistance to tyranny in a way that every human being who values freedom and human dignity can be proud of. And we have repeatedly seen the regime respond with sickening disregard for the most basic human rights.
TIME has listed the Iranian protesters as a candidate for TIME Person of the Year. You can even vote for 2009’s TIME Person of the Year here.
We all saw the brutal murder of Neda Agha Soltan, when she was shot in the chest by a Basij militia goon. The look in her eyes as she passed is seared into our collective memories. We will never forget it.
So many others have been beaten, tortured, raped, and even killed. And their families have been threatened with detention and violence if they voice any complaint, or if they mourn publicly.
Every single Iranian has felt the talons of this regime tearing into their being in one way or another. Of course, the regime has its supporters and proponents. People who are willing to compromise their dignity as human beings for recognition, money and hand-outs from the regime. Sycophants essentially. But the vast majority of Iranians know that they are being held hostage by this regime. The majority of Iranians know that the regime does not represent Iranian interests. The majority of Iranians feel their country and culture are on the brink of destruction by a group of zealous islamists and their mercenaries who don’t even want to acknowledge that Iran has centuries of proud history before Islam.
Let’s be clear about something right here and right now: the movement that is called the Green Movement in Iran, is the Iranian people! The Green Movement belongs to all Iranians who stand for fundamental human rights and dignity. The Green Movement, at is core, wants the same thing that all free peoples have: freedom, dignity, respect and representative government. It is not ideological. It is at its heart, a civil rights movement.
It has been interesting for me to see how every time there is a break between street protests, people start to doubt the veracity and viability of the movement. This is understandable. There is so much pent up energy in the movement. People are literally itching for more action, and when it is not as visible as what we saw in the initial weeks after the election, with millions in the streets, then they start asking whether the movement has died down. Rest assured: the movement has not died down. It is alive and well and moving surely and steadily towards a free Iran that respects and enshrines the civil rights of its citizens.
In less than two days, on December the 7th (16th of Azar in Iran) we will see once again that the people are resisting the regime on National Student’s Day. Students inside Iran are planning major protests throughout the country. We will inevitably see the mainstream media outlets catch onto what is happening too late, with pundits and commentators acting surprised that the movement is still alive.
I will attempt to shed some light on the nature of the movement.
The Green Movement is different from what most people living in free nations associate with a movement. It is not organized in the way that a political party or group with centralized organization and leadership is organized. Such organization is not possible because of the repressive machine of the Islamic Republic. The movement is highly decentralized, and led from the bottom up rather than from the top down.
The Green Movement is fractal in nature.
What is a fractal? Wikipedia states:
A fractal is “a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole,” a property called self-similarity.
Stemming from Chaos Theory:
An object whose irregularity is constant over different scales (“self-similarity”) is a fractal…
Nature produces examples of fractals in abundance. One example is a fern plant:
Notice how each “leaf” of the fern looks similar to the whole, but each one is slightly different. This is what is meant by “self-similarity.” And notice how each leaf has its own leaves, each looking similar to the parent leaf, which looks similar to the larger leaf. The larger fern leaf is composed of self-similar leaves that are composed of self-similar leaves, and so on.
The human race is fractal. Each person has similarities in many ways to every other person, but each of us is unique and different in myriad ways.
Society is fractal. Each person belongs to a group of friends, possibly a group of work colleagues, different groups with people that share a common interest, and so on. And each individual, each group becomes a part of the whole of society. Think back to the fern and you get the picture.
Without getting too deeply into the mathematics behind Chaos Theory and fractals, suffice it to say that very simple formulas, in a feedback loop, lead to very complex fractal patterns. In dynamic systems, minor variations in initial conditions can cause vast changes in how the system behaves, making the system unpredictable beyond a certain point. This is also known as the Butterfly Effect. The concept is that a butterfly can flap its wings (the initial condition) in one location and this can lead to a tornado somewhere. This is what makes weather unpredictable beyond a few days. This is also what makes the Green Movement both unpredictable and powerful. Think about it. Every single individual that comprises the movement has the potential to influence its direction.
I have seen this first-hand, and will write about it in the future, but suffice it to say that because of the totalitarian nature of regime via its obsessive focus on keeping power at all costs, the people of Iran have had so few options and tools at their disposal to coordinate and communicate freely, that once they found the means to do so the regime has been in serious trouble. This is because the means for communicating, the means for coordinating, and the means for getting the message out to the world fell into the hands of individuals on the ground, via a combination of technologies and creative uses of these technologies that the regime simply cannot control, let alone understand. Mobile phones that can capture video and pictures, combined with the Internet via social networks and websites like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, were used by the people to capture in real-time the abuses of the regime as it cracked down on the people.
The regime has always relied on its ability to prevent real news from getting out to the world to prevent the story of Iran from being told. They had the world convinced for the most part that Iranian people support their worldview. They had everyone frightened to even think it was possible to dislodge their tyranny. The people of Iran didn’t know how vast the opposition within Iran to this horrible government was.
It took a blatant, obvious lie to bring the people to the realization that they were all together in opposition to the regime. That was the catalyst that unleashed thirty years of pent-up energy and frustration. It was a big-bang, “AHA!” moment for the people of Iran and the world.
It was the awakening of the world to the real Iran and the awakening of the people of Iran to their own power.
It was the awakening of what we call the Green Movement. The moment in which people declared, in unison:
“NO! NOT THIS TIME! NEVER AGAIN!”
Now for a little bit of theory…
All matter that exists is energy.
Consciousness is a form of reflection, and has the ability to direct energy to exert force. This can be thought of as conscious energy.
Conscious beings or entitites are attracted to other conscious beings with thoughts and reflections that are similar to their own, because together multiple conscious beings can amplify the strength of those thoughts and reflections.
In other words, united conscious beings can direct conscious energy together with more strength and force then separated conscious being. But there will always be slight differences in the reflections and thoughts of each of the entities that form the whole or group. This means that conscious beings (entities) are self-similar, but different. They are fractal.
All entities are attempting to define and understand themselves and the universe around them. All conscious reflections are fractal.
Self-aware entities are essentially fractal reflections of entities that exist higher up in scale (such as a group of individuals). The relationship between entities and entities higher or lower in scale is symbiotic. If the higher entity’s reflected values are in harmony with the lower entity’s, the higher entity can be said to be a strong one, with a high level of autonomy. This can be seen in the real world in the case of a government that is supported by the people because it reflects their values. Such a government has a high level of autonomy because the people support it. It basically gets its autonomy from the people in this sense. It can be confident in its actions because the actions it takes are in line with the values of the people.
If, on the other hand, the higher entity’s reflected values are not in harmony with the lower entity’s, there is more variability in values and less autonomy of the higher entity. In such a case you have a less cohesive higher entity. This can be seen in the case of a government (higher entity) that does not support or reflect the values of the people it governs (lower entity). Obviously in this case, the government does not have a high degree of autonomy. It is stymied or restricted in its actions because the actions wants to take are not in line with the values of its people. It can attempt to reflect its own values by taking actions against the wishes of the people, but it does so at a very heavy cost because it is going against the grain.
The more the actions of such a government diverge from the values of its people, the higher the likelihood of rebellion in different forms. As this rebellion builds up, if the government wants to continue taking actions that don’t mesh with the values of the people, the more it needs to rely on repression, brutality and the application of force to keep control. But these measures cause the people to become even more estranged from such a government, so a vicious cycle forms that leads to a schism or separation between the government and the people. A united nation forms multiple entities. You have multiple-personality disorder on a national scale in such an instance.
This is what happened on that fateful day, June 12th, 2009, when the government discarded the last vestige of its covenant with the people of Iran. A vast entity in opposition to the oppressive regime came together and found its voice. The Green Movement.
The thunder of their roar echoed across the universe.
So how can the Green Movement, an entity that has a high degree of variability in the views and values of its constituents, an entity with a leadership (Mousavi, Karoubi, Khatami, Montazeri et. al.) that does not have a great degree autonomy (for a number of reasons) defeat the current leaders of the Islamic Republic, an entity that has for thirty years projected the illusion of being more cohesive and monolithic, with a (perceived) strong centralized leadership?
How for the past thirty years has this government and its paid supporters and mercenaries controlled the entire population of Iran? How can such a government attempt to counter the millions that comprise the Green Movement?
The answers to these questions can be found in the concept of cohesion.
How similar are the reflections, thoughts, values of each person to his/her counterparts in the greater entity (nation, movement, etc.)? How similar are the values of each member of the Green Movement? The answer to this question equals the level of cohesion in the group. If the level of cohesion is low then the action potential is low for the group (the movement). If the level of cohesion is high then the action potential is high.
So the answer to how an entity like the current government of Iran, the current leaders of the Islamic Republic, can control the people of Iran and the Green movement is that it has to disrupt the cohesion of the movement. In fact, the only way the Islamic Republic can control the people of Iran or the Green Movement is by disrupting and weakening the cohesion.
It’s critical to understand the significance of this, because the action potential of an entity can be instantiated into real action: real, decisive, effective, forceful action! This is what happened when we all realized that the election was brazenly stolen before our eyes. It was a moment of collective shock that triggered the cumulative action potentials of the Iranian people into one very powerful force in the form of millions of peaceful protesters in the streets asking “Where is my vote?”. That moment was a moment of crystalline cohesion between the majority of the individuals that comprise the nation of Iran. That cohesion amplified our collective action potential into a massive outpouring of righteous action. This action was a massive blow to the regime, a blow it is still trying to recover from.
Cohesion is an action-potential multiplier.
What does all of this mean for the Green Movement? What are the aspects and characteristics of the Green Movement that provide it with cohesion, thereby making it a very active, powerful force that will bring about change?
If cohesion is so important, then we know that the movement must amplify its cohesion, so we need to understand those factors that contribute to strong cohesion. Obviously if everyone decided to pour out into the streets and risk life and limb to bring down the regime it would happen. But at what cost? We saw after the Shah was brought down that what can come after the ousting of an existing government can be terrible. We have seen what has happened in Afghanistan and Iraq when their governments were brought down by external intervention. The peoples of both those states have suffered extremely tragic losses in the deaths of so many of their people and in the loss of so much of their national treasure. While obviously the regime uses the fear of violence against its citizens to disrupt the cohesion of its citizens, there is also a genuine fear in the people of Iran, based on past experience, for the unknown that will come after their government falls. This kind of sudden change in Iran is not what the people want. At least they appear to want to change things without sudden, unstable upheaval that can lead to something worse.
What can the people do to amplify their cohesion? The green movement is tailor-made to be cohesive despite the regime’s attempts to disrupt this cohesion. This is what the people that doubt the Green Movement’s potential, or think that the movement is leaderless or weak don’t understand.
The Green Movement is based around the shared frustrations of all of the Iranian people. When there is no cohesion between the values of a people and their government, then it is very safe to say that the government is imposing itself on those people. This is exactly the situation in Iran. What you have is not one cohesive entity. What you have is two entities, one imposing itself on the other by force.
The regime is a symbiote to Iran, a bloodsucking symbiote that threatens to kill the entire nation if the people attempt to dislodge it. It has declared itself to be the enemy of the people.
The supporters of the Islamic Republic share certain values to a high degree of cohesion. They also have a complete monopoly on weapons and the ability to inflict violence readily and easily. They also have had, until recently, a monopoly on another very important tool needed for cohesion, the ability to communicate a message rapidly to the majority of the people via television and radio communications.
Of course the Iranian people have gotten around this problem in different ways. They get different views from the official views of the Islamic Republic via satellite and radio broadcasts from the outside, but these are mostly one-way mediums. The variable that shocked everyone when it manifested itself after the rigged June 12 election was the Internet and social networking mediums of communication. Nobody could have predicted the cohesion that these new Internet-powered mediums and the tools they provide would give the Iranian people. Because the government of Iran tries to disrupt the cohesion of the opposition (the entire population of Iran), the people have to be creative in forming their own cohesion. This is how, all of the sudden, all of the disparate entities (people, groups, NGOs, political affiliations, rich, poor, young, old, everyone) contributed to the awakening and formation of the entity of great force called the Green Movement.
It sprung up from the ground via people who shared a common disgust for what happened, went into the streets to protest peacefully, and witnessed, in unision, and in the view of the entire world, the Islamic Republic crackdown and suppress them. They used cell phones to take pictures and film clips of what was going on. These were uploaded to the Internet via social networks and Web 2.0 tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. These were picked up via the mainstream international media and broadcast virtually live to the world.
Via the social networks, telephone, e-mail and other means, people communicated this phenomenon back to the ground level in Iran, and via broadcasts from the outside captured by satellite dishes on the rooftops of homes, people in Iran saw what was being done to them, saw their own people out in masses in the streets, saw that the world is aware of what is going on and realized their shared collective rage. This led to the realization that millions of them shared collective values and vision. This was the birth of the Green Movement. The entity became self-aware, but it did so in every single person who took any action in opposition to the repressive regime, however small. Everyone took part in they own ways, inside and outside of Iran, and their cumulative efforts was a gut punch to the regime.
Of course the regime still holds a monopoly on force and communications internally, so they used these with great zeal to suppress the people. Their strategy is to try to make people think once again that they can’t coordinate, they can’t resist. The regime will seek to violently disrupt the cohesion of the people. But unfortunately for them, the people have their own cohesion amplifiers in their social networks. I’m not just talking about the tools like Twitter and Facebook. I’m talking about the actual social connections that these tools and others helped to strengthen. The Green Movement has tremendous cohesion for the following reasons:
(1) We all saw and felt our collective power – so we are all aware that we are together and that we are powerful. This is very evident from the protests in which people in the thousands marched, chanting “Natarseed, Natarseed, Mah hameh bah ham hasteem!” (Don’t be afraid, we are all in this together!) This awareness is still very strong and active (high cohesion causing high action potential).
(2) We share very strong fundamental common goals. What makes us very unique though is that because we are a horizontally powered group where anyone can lead in their own way, and where everyone is taking whatever action that they can, we have a high degree of dispersion in our values. Or at least we have a lot of different beliefs and values, but at our core because of the Islamic Republic’s massive repression over thirty years, we have internalized some very strong values that we now know that we all share individually, and as a group. Our fear is lessened and diminished because we know that we share these values. These are freedom of expression, separation of religion from governance, innocent until proven guilty, love, compassion, music, beauty, culture and so many others. We know we are Iranian. That is a frequency of vibration that is very strong when you are a part of it. We also know what we DON’T want. We don’t want to use violence to obtain our objectives. We demand respect. That is what we are. This is who we are. This makes us strong.
(3) We have a strategy to keep amplifying our cohesion, and it is critical that we keep using it: Co-opt the regime’s own symbols and ceremonies. The color green. Qods Day. Anniversary of the Hostage Taking. Student’s Day. The nuclear program, etc. We can challenge them by usurping and using all of their symbols for our own cause.
(4) We are the government of ourselves. This is where Mousavi, Karoubi, Khatami and others come in. They have ties to this regime that makes it hard for the regime to go after them, and so long as they reflect our values back to us, we can reflect it back to them, amplifying the cohesion of the movement. Of course, they will diverge on some of the fundamental demands of the green movement at least publicly, and possibly in their own hearts, but this does not matter very much at least for now. Their success is contingent upon the people’s success more than the other way around. Because of the bottom-up and distributed organization and base of power that is the social network and fabric of the Green Movement, those who speak for the regime within the power structure of the Islamic Republic will only be effective insofar as they align themselves with the most important demands of the movement.
(5) Our strongest cohesion amplifier is this: we have a culture that dates back 2500 years to the time of Cyrus the Great. We have been Iranian for 25 centuries, with ceremonies and culture that date back this far. To this date, no force has been able to take this away from us. This thirty-year-old anomaly will be no different.
We are strong because we are cohesive in a way that the regime cannot control even if they have any chance of understanding it. We have higher cohesion and we have greater action potential and numbers. We are developing immunity against the measures the regime uses against us.
We are calm. We are assertive. We are distributed. We are individual and independent, and united. Every single cell that is the Iranian people, every single person, is a power center with the ability to tap into and contribute to the social network, reflecting and propagating its values in their daily actions and bravery. This is what makes us strong, and in the strong opinion of this author, this is what will ultimately lead us to the society that we want.
We are Iran.