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April 17, 2007

The Thing You Have To Understand About Iranians Is They Have Two Legs

Jim Hoagland has some important insights to share with us about Iranians:

Iran is after all a place where reality usually comes not in words but in meaningful details that underlie -- and often belie -- the words. Fooling foreigners and adversaries is an ancient Persian art form. Saying exactly what you mean is a crude and dangerous way to talk, or to negotiate.

One thing I've learned in my time on earth is that whenever someone says "What you have to understand about [some group] is that they're [some description]," the description always applies to all humans everywhere.

• What you have to understand about the Persians is that for them fooling foreigners is an ancient art form

• What you have to understand about the Danes is that they get really angry when you punch them

• What you have to understand about the Koreans is they try to eat food every day

• What you have to understand about the Americans is they breathe oxygen


Posted at April 17, 2007 01:41 AM | TrackBack

Ah yes, we shall be ever watchful for the Fiendish Orientals and their scheming ways. Remember, though, that only Buck Rogers and his Starship Stormtroopers has the wherewhital to defeat the Asian Menace once and for all!

Posted by: Non Nato at April 17, 2007 03:12 AM

david duke: PSYCH!!!

Posted by: hibiscus at April 17, 2007 04:18 AM

Fooling foreigners and adversaries is an ancient Persian art form

heh. i guess hoagland lost a haggle with his rug salesman or something.

Posted by: almostinfamous at April 17, 2007 05:04 AM

What you have to understand is that the media, being a branch of the government, always will peddle the official line. Iran is bad, and we should worry some more about it. And it's not our fault!

You did understand that, though. I wish knowing really was half the battle.

Posted by: at April 17, 2007 06:03 AM

Yeah, I'm glad the shah was able to tell Hoagland about this ancient truth about the Iranian people before he died of cancer. Of course the shah understood it; that's why his Savak secret police had to torture so many Iranians to death.

Posted by: stinky flamingo at April 17, 2007 06:51 AM

Well, gee, Jonathan. I dunno. If I were approached by earnest, well-meaning Jim Hoagland, I wouldn't hold anything back!

Posted by: Aunt Deb at April 17, 2007 08:26 AM

Hi Jonathan, this is to let you know I have nominated you for a "Thinking Blogger Award". This, of course, is a sign of my appreciation of your blog - consistently great! All the details are available on my blog:

Enjoy if you so care!


Posted by: Karl Lindgren at April 17, 2007 09:18 AM

Was that in the Week in Review section, fluxisrad? (I'm too lazy to go through the NYT registration process.) The Week in Review is where the NYT likes to publish countless deep-thinking pieces warning us About Those Devilish Foreigners Who Keep Interfering With Our Noble Efforts to Do Good. This sounds like another example of the genre.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 17, 2007 12:03 PM

Just got an Email from my Congressional Representative (Barbara Cubin). The Administration is still concerned over the Iranians and ANYTHING they are doing and are concerned about NOTHING the AMERICAN CITIZENS are thinking or needing. (Good news indeed as always)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 17, 2007 02:21 PM

A few legitimate reasons for Iran to hate the West.

Posted by: John Angliss at April 17, 2007 03:05 PM

While I agree that Americans breathe oxygen, I think the US foreign policy of trying to breathe all the available oxygen may be what distinguishes us.

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 17, 2007 05:29 PM

Jonathan Versen - We're not trying to breathe all of the oxygen! We have plans to use a great portion of it in hydrocarbon combustion reactions.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at April 17, 2007 06:54 PM

What we have here with Hoagland’s comment is an extremely thinly disguised piece of racism. Very few people have ever discussed the racist aspect of this so-called Iraq War yet it is a thread that weaves its insidious way throughout the whole sordid history of the Iraq War.

Our national leaders create enemies for us and the reason is the real war is between national leaders and the general populations of all countries. The only real enemies are our national leaders.

Posted by: rob payne at April 17, 2007 11:19 PM

The oxygen in the air is an essential component of the science-fictional (possibly to become to some extent science-factual) and notionally carbon-free "hydrogen economy". If we do end up running our cars, etc. on hydrogen, the energy-releasing chemical reaction is when the hydrogen is combined with oxygen to produce hydrogen dioxide, a harmless (even beneficial) compound which will be released into the atmosphere.

This reaction is carbon neutral - in fact, entirely carbon-free. Unfortunately, the energy one makes at the oxidation end of the hydrogen cycle is equal to the energy it takes to reduce the hydrogen (free it from the oxygen in the hydrogen dioxide) at the other end of the cycle - so hydrogen is NOT an energy source here, but only a conduit for energy (electricity, specifically) derived from some other source - sunlight? wind? coal? uranium? There's the rub.

Posted by: mistah charley, sb, ma, ph.d. at April 18, 2007 10:21 AM

Iran will do as it has done since before the dawn of the Roman Republic... Outlast their enemies, and get stinking rich off of them.

Posted by: at April 18, 2007 10:49 AM

Mistah Charley sbmaphd, I hope it's dihydrogen oxide you're discussing - or I'm way worse at chemistry than I thought!

On that note, it's actually worse than what you portray. The most highly-touted source of hydrogen is (wait for it!) natural gas. That system isn't carbon-neutral.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at April 18, 2007 11:00 AM

Well, figure out out to use methane hydrate (estimated to be somewhere between 2 to 10 times as much as all known reserves) and combine that with fuel cells (which are three times as efficient as internal combustion engines) and you have something practical.

Google "Honda FCX" and "methane hydrate" if you want to.

Posted by: strawberry blueberry raspberry at April 18, 2007 11:29 AM

Thanks fluxisrad. Some perverse desire is urging me on to look at the Free Republic "discussion".

Posted by: Donald Johnson at April 18, 2007 11:57 AM

Thanks, Aaron Datesman - you are right - it is dihydrogen oxide I was referring to (I misspoke by anology w. CO2).

Posted by: mistah charley, sb, ma, ph.d. at April 18, 2007 12:21 PM

Bravo Jonathan. People do this all the time and it drives me batty. Sweeping generalizations about society based on a few weeks travel, and political analysis based on supposed "cultural insight--argh. So annoying. It just takes a little bit of experience in a diaspora to drive home the fact that all of that is usually bollocks.

Posted by: Saheli at April 18, 2007 02:19 PM

mistah charley; !.29 volts separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. If the ambiant air temperature is 80 degress and above around the separater cells then it only takes 1.28 volts, but yet produces 1.29 volts worth of hydrogen and oxygen.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 18, 2007 02:25 PM

What you have to understand about Russia is that many of the citizens don't really want a democracy.

Posted by: atheist at April 19, 2007 06:32 AM

What you have to understand about Iran is that, while it has democratic institutions, they are secondary to other power bases.

Posted by: atheist at April 19, 2007 06:34 AM

What you have to understand about the Italians, is that many of them don't realize how strong the fascist elements in their culture still are.

Posted by: atheist at April 19, 2007 06:36 AM

What you have to understand is that Ethiopia has strong theocratic elements who act stealthily.

Posted by: atheist at April 19, 2007 06:38 AM

"the media, being a branch of the government"
should say
"the media, being principally owned by and government, being heavily influenced by corporate capital"
Not as snappy, I know. But the first is the basis of false notions of political symmetry.

Posted by: me at April 19, 2007 06:44 AM

Actually anyone who has read anything at all about the Mideast knows that Iranians have a very complex system of etiquette known as taarof. According to taarof, no often means yes, among other things. It is also true in many cases that Iranians expect foreigners to learn this on their own. Are the Iranians lying when no means yes? Not really... but if you don't know the game, they might as well be. And yes, as I understand it, taarof WAS one of the ways Iranians acted in order to confuse the British when Britain occupied their country.

So, one thing you have to know about Iran is, their social rules are very arcane and you are at an extreme disadvantage in dealing with them if you don't bother to learn what they are!! For a reference on taarof, see below.

Posted by: Sunlight at April 19, 2007 07:03 PM

And don't get me started about Backwards Day!

Posted by: Kip W at April 19, 2007 09:46 PM

Ah, yes, the wily oriental gentlemen...

Here in England, we have a lot of foreigners around, speaking English, but using the words in more-or-less unfamiliar ways, and with subtly different cues of body-language.

First they came along and started dragging lumps of stone around to make geometic figures. Then it was straight roads, burying ships, and building little hills to put their castles on. They come from stranger, more alien, places these days, and they say they're telling us what to do for our own good.

Places such as London, and Scotland, and some of the really weird ones come from Yorkshire.

The Danes weren't so bad. At least they knew how to make good beer.

Bloody foreigners...

Posted by: Hobdenius at April 20, 2007 03:57 AM