Some time ago I went to a BunkerTalk in Amsterdam about Iran's political situation and human right issues. The words that are being said in such events should be pretty clear to you, so I will rephrase it in the easiest possible:
it is bad. Iran is moving fast toward becoming one of the most suppressive governments in the world and things are not looking good for the people living there.
Given the context, you can imagine that this gathering in Amsterdam among Iranians living here would be pretty much straight forward: Everyone agreeing that Iran sucks. Except.. I was also there and almost toward the end, after an hour of bashing Iran's right-wing politicians, I raised my hand to add a comment.
I started by saying that I totally agree with everything said about Iran. Of course, everyone forgot about this about 30 seconds later. Anyways: I continued by arguing that: We must remember that everyone is to some extent deluded and affected by what story and fiction we decide to believe in. Me and most people who are reading this probably agree on human rights, equality, no gender discrimination and freedom of speech. Iran's version of Islam is to some extent against all of these. But we should not forget that they are also merely putting their faith in some story. Same as I am doing. Same as you are doing. In other words, they also deeply believe that they are doing the right thing. It is merely a matter of opinion.
I can elaborate a bit more. I grew up in Iran. Islam and the absolute necessity of belief in it is put into your head from the day that you are born (literally). This, eventually, becomes your framework of life. Luckily, I was able to break out of this from a young age. Nowadays, thanks to the internet and more and more information being circulated, more and more people break out. But still, Many don't. All of those who join the IRGC, those that become the moral police, they simply never break out of this framework and it is all they know to life. And if you don't, In such a society, you never grow the wisdom to think outside of this framework. This is how regardless of how horrible someone's actions might be, in the eyes of me or you as a liberal person, they still think they are doing the right person. Those forces who attack demonstrators in the streets of Tehran pretty frequently (and very often killing a few dozens), they also think they are doing the right thing. They surely believe that god will forgive them for doing this. Same goes for many of our politicians who still make wrong decisions. Same probably goes for the poor person who mistook an airplane for a missile and accidentally killed 176 people in a second.
Now, I am not saying these people are not to be held responsible for their actions. Nor do I claim that what they do is justifiable. What I am saying is that we should confront them, in any way that we are confronting them, whilst remembering what I said above: Most often they have simply been fed the wrong story (if you want to be more objective: just a different story). And they are probably miserable deep down, but can't break out of their current mindset.
If we really think that they are wrong and we are right, the burden of enlightening them is actually upon us. We should not fight back as if they are our enemy and as if they are wrong and we are right. We should not claim the moral high ground. No, they are just wrong, and remember, miserable.
I don't recall the words that I said that evening, but the gist it is the above few paragraphs. And the response that I got was: "I cannot think about enlightening someone one a gun is being held at my forehead". I had two counter arguments to this response, but sadly the tone of the night was such that I decided to not continue. After this answer, everyone applauded the response and I was asked by another attendant to not continue and that my comment was misplaced. But the answers that I would have told:
- This is a pure emotional reaction, not a rational answer. That man who said that was an atheist. And I know living in Iran must have been hard for him. And maybe at some point a gun was being pointed to his face. But not that day. And in that day, now that no gun is being held at anyone of us, we should decide to think rationally rather than clinging into past emotions.
- But all in all, I see that what I am proposing is against what we do by default. If someone harasses you, you don't think about them with compassion. If someone steals, you punish them. You don't think about how to fix them.
Well, my question is, why not? take the extreme case aside. If you are threatened by an imminent danger, sure do whatever you find best. But that aside, when was the last time that you treated someone who was doing something "wrong in your opinion" with such a mindset?
70 years ago, we were about to bring about WW2. And do you really think we have gotten better over the last 70 years, as species, with a higher level of consciousness, or are we the same, except we don't go to wars anymore because we have too much at stake?