Exit poles in Israel show the new Knesset will have Likud 31, Yesh Atid (There is a future) 18 or 19, Labor 17, and Jewish Home 12, the new right wing party. That is a real change, with a new centrist party taking second place and Labor dropping to third and the new right wing party in fourth place. Two old parties and two new parties perhaps indicating a new direction in Israeli politics. One a television presenter, and another a former special forces commando. Netanyahu’s party has dropped from 42 to 31 seats in the Knesset but is still the number one party. The question is will he make a coalition with centrists and secularists or with the hard right and religious parties?
I have noticed that I have ‘friended’ a lot of people in Iran lately. They are mostly young, secular and into fashion and pop culture. Women looking like models, certainly not wearing burkas, chadors, or head scarves, perhaps this is private society, as a friend said who went there on a bike trip and was invited to parties at peoples homes that were anything but hard core conservative Islamic. Apparently fueled by contact with the Iranian diaspora, especially centered here in Los Angeles, the Tehran fashionistas and rockers are creating an underground where indoors and out of the sight of the governments agents, people let their hair down literally and party like its 1978, ie before the revolution forced a return to conservative so called Islamic values. Many of these young party people participated in the Green Revolution and are in their own ways maintaining resistance to the dominant culture. Civil society in Iran, especially among the middle class youth seems to be one of cultural resistance, an attempt to participate in the mainstream of world culture with an Iranian twist. It is not that they want to deny their own culture but that the want to break free from the artificial strictures created by the forced conservative Islamic version imposed by the Mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards.
Yet there are conservative, mostly rural elements in Iran, and probably groups that benefit from the current regime among the populace, Iranian red neck working classes, like the white working classes in the USA who support Republicans, a cultural conservatism that represents the other side of the cultural coin. Cultural conservatives of the more reactionary types seem to have a universal aversion to pop culture, cultural mixing and internationalism in general. Perhaps that explains the affinity between Ahmadinejad and the holocaust deniers in the West. Internationalism is seen as a Jewish plot… an old Nazi trope, transferred to the Great Satan, the USA which was originally a political force that dominated Iran by supporting the Shah and his repressive military apparatus. At the same time the liberalization of culture, the westernization of it if you will, offended conservative opinion among the religious elements in Iran and the political revolution of overthrowing the Shah became a cultural revolution of rejecting secular western fashion, especially those that liberated women from male control.
I am not Iranian, I am ethnically Polish, English and Texian, if there is such a thing, basically American. I have worked for Iranians here in Southern California and have Iranian friends. I have a history of interest in Iran, I organized one of the first protests against the Shah in New York when he came to the US in the fall of 1979. I had mixed feelings about the Green Revolution at the time, being somewhat convinced that the failure of the Iranian Revolution would lead to the Capitalist take over of Iran and the collapse of resistance in the Middle East. But with Al Qaeda as strong as it is, there is little to worry about a return to a secular Iran, with a popular democracy. Question is, how popular would a secular government be in Iran? The Green Revolution failed, it failed to mobilize the workers and reach out to the agriculturalists. Pop culture is not a revolution, it perhaps can provide an incentive to revolution, but noting like real political work on the ground will substitute.