Content note: Disorganized rambling ahead
It looks like 2018 is going to be a pretty wild ride. The protests in Iran are continuing and all the signs are that this is more significant than the 2009 protests. Which makes mainstream media coverage of them very odd. They were going on for a couple of days before I realized anything was happening at all (and I found out that through…. non-mainstream internet sources).
What’s also weird is that mainstream media and ‘expert’ analyses (like juancole.com) are fixated with the economic aspect of the protests even though there are lots of signs that they’ve grown and expanded to target the nature of the government itself which is yuuuuge and everybody’s pretending that’s not happening.
This makes me think that this is not in line with elite and/or deep state preferences and might be more or less genuine.
In any conflict like this there are three options that determine the fate of the protest.
The army (or proxies) shoot citizens until they give up.
The army (or proxies) sit it out (which usually means regime change).
The army (or proxies) join the people (which also means regime change).
So far in these protests it looks like there has been some of all three with some members of the revolutionary guards shooting civilians others not getting involved and others joining the crowd. Rumor has it that the government is flying in foreign muscle which is very bad in the short term but could also be a sign of a collapsing government.
Over the last few years I’ve read (and had confirmed by some Iranians) that people are sick of the dominant public role of religion. Hardly anyone goes to mosque (I’ve seen the 2 % figure bandied about). While almost everyone still identifies as Muslim it’s much more in line with modern western practice where religion takes a back seat to lots of other things rather than being the center of private (much less public) life.
They are more and more unsatisfied with the continued poor economic performance of successive governments which keep promising and failing to deliver on reform. Supposedly this is the original cause of the protests (backed originally by hardliners for some reason….) but once started mass protests have a habit of becoming organic and going places no one dreamed of…..
Blasphemy has become common at street level with swear words involving Mohammed and the Koran. Usually swearing related to blasphemy rises when established religious institutions are felt to be too powerful or too aligned with state power (like Quebec and Spain until the 1960s or 70s) and tends to be low where religion and state are further apart (like Germany) or religious institutions oppose oppressive state power (as in Poland through the 1980s).
I’ve long felt that Iran has huge potential if it can rid itself of the ridiculously stupid theocratic rule that it’s hobbled itself with for the last 40 years or so. It’s long been clear that the regime will not reform itself and so it’s a question of when and how it’s gotten rid of.
Interesting times, let’s hope we all survive…..