I must remember
Not to say something that ruffles any feathers
Not to give any look that shakes any heart
Not to take a route, which is a detour
Not to write a line, which causes offence
I must remember that
The days and daytime are all happy
Everything is okay and fine
It’s only my heart, which is not actually a heart

Parviz Parastui (Photo: Cineplex.com / the man whose front view is not visible)

1- the terrible world we live in is full of irregularities. What’s the point in me complaining about them all the time when I can’t change anything, when I simply fail to correct myself, and I’m full of errors? I stopped complaining long ago, as quickly as I realised that the world is too hectic, too strange and too complicated to be changed by individuals and even big leaders.

There are too many bodies and entities that can change the world and improve it – they’ve got the power to do so. They’ve got the means to do so.There is the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and even Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). With all of these organisations being staffed with thousands of well-paid professionals, experts and white/blue-collars, THIS is the world we’re living in. Just let’s have a look at some facts and figures:

  • - Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population, more than 3 billion people, live on less than $2.50 a day (source)
  • - Preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia take the lives of 2 million children a year who are too poor to afford proper treatment (the same source).
  • - Venezuela, the world’s 11th largest oil producer, and better, the country with the largest crude oil reserves, is considered to be the most miserable economy of the world at the same time (source)
  • - Bam and its Cultural Landscape is on the UNESCO’s list of List of World Heritage in Danger, because there was an earthquake in the ancient city in 2003 that claimed (unofficiialy) around 40,000 lives – and after more than a decade, I can’t see any significance in how things have changed: nothing has changed significantly! 

So, journalism doesn’t mean that a journalist, whether practicing or being trained or educated, can change anything. We can't even improve things - I'm too pessimistic to be optimistic about any change. If I could change anything, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wouldn't have been the President of Iran for eight consecutive years. Even if The Huffington Post, New York Times (termed a 'national tabloid' by someone I adore a lot), Washington Post or ABC News could change anything, Donald Trump wouldn't have been the President of the United States of America to start an effort to make a number of things great again - to inflate them! 

The best thing journalism can do is to make the world less terrible and more inhabitable so that if there’s immigration, it’s domestic, internal and international, not galactic and extraterrestrial, in which case, people think of living on other planets. We’ve had Adolf Hitler in the far past. We’ve had Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the near past. We have Donald Trump presently. It’s a massive disgrace for journalism, BECAUSE with Ahmadinejad in office, I feel embarrassed that my words were so powerless and ineffective that even my fellow citizens didn’t listen to me. Being active in a very small community, at least I should have been able to influence my immediate friends and relatives. I failed. It means I haven’t learned anything. It’s horrible to be a prominent American (and even half-American) journalist (here and here) with thousands or possibly millions of followers on Twitter, viewers, readers and listeners, and then realise that people don’t listen to you, either – they elect Donald Trump. It’s not appealing. It’s appalling.

But at the same time, it’s also good to consider that Donald Trump’s being in office means there were other media organisations that did their job absolutely properly and effectively by smiling at the laughingstock’s jokes and putting his photo on the front-page everyday, until he developed such an aura of narcissism and self-importance that he is now thinking of an apocalypse (THIS is my favourite poem). He does have the power to do so. Ahmadinejad had similar views. He didn’t have the power. They can complement each other perfectly. I believe it’s called marriage of convenience. On Brexit, I’m afraid I don’t have any notes.

P.S.: I’m not an ‘expert on public affairs.’ This term is also very interesting and vaguely attractive because I know several people who practice expertise on general/public affairs. It means they literally know about everything. I even don’t know my city very well – I would always get lost in the alleys and streets of Rasht, not because it was too cosmopolitan and big (latest population figures: less than 800,000 – and I imagine the number of ‘foreign’ residents in the city doesn’t exceed 3,000 - optimistically). I was always lost because I was and continue to be an idiot, not knowing even how to find my way! And because wherever I happened to be or exist, I turned out to be a foreigner, even in the streets of Rasht! 

(Photo: myself)

2- being a journalism student provided me with lots of opportunities: things that I couldn’t even think of as a so-called practicing journalist. Being a Senior Journalists Seminar 2015 Fellow and having your name on the EWC’s ‘Hall of Fame’ doesn’t count. It’s worthless! It doesn’t make you entitled to anything. I happened to be somebody who would easily get irritated when people around me insulted Iran! Then, I had somebody in the White House who told me and people of my country, ‘I ban you, because ...’ Now, I even don’t laugh at him. I smile, because he says it in a very entertaining and nice way. Well, it's democracy. We give certain people undue power. We pay the price!

Being a journalism student means a lot of things: successfully applying for membership to Chatham House – a think tank I fancied visiting, simply because of its architectural beauty; getting a British Library reader pass; covering the Wold Forum for Democracy, among others.

Failure to learn things that you didn’t know, or you refused to know, because you were too arrogant and too self-important that you believed the entire world is deceiving you or getting it wrong, and you are the one who is good, because some random, trivial ‘papers’ have for example published you once or twice, and then it means you can rule the world, means that you had shut the door at being a student. No! Studentship doesn’t work that way. To me, it means keep your head down, not out of any artificial modesty; just because as student, there’s nothing that gives me priority over anything. Not even good marks. 

I did my BA in English Language and Literature. And I did it in a university where I happened to have a professor who would voluntarily respond to an email I would send him out of despair, after three weeks. And when he would do me such a favour, I should have bowed down before him, because otherwise, there was the potential that our relationships could have been more horrendous and unbearable. That university could be safely considered as one of Iran’s top 10 publicly-funded universities. And in that university, where my classmates all came from the same province, excluding a couple of them, we couldn’t tolerate each other. We were fighting all the time! .... somebody liked somebody, and somebody else disliked that like-based relationship. So, dislike and detestation would come into play, and an absolutely uniform, diversity-haemorrhagic, unproblematic setting in which nobody spoke more than one language, but one that some had really come to just start learning (English) could conveniently turn into a terrible, disconcerting nightmare.

Administrators and officials in more diverse colleges and schools are supposed to be normally strong individuals. And I give them the benefit of the doubt. They develop some skepticism. Now, near the end of teaching season as I'm doing this degree, they still don't believe what I tell them. Fair enough.

... so, the thing is, when with no more than ten students to look after, an associate professor responds to an email of four lines after two months – and you don’t have any ability whatsoever to tell them that it’s not fair… well, it’s difficult, and again, I’m not lecturing.

3- I come from a country in which I did things, for which I expected recognition. I practiced some chess when I was nine – and for my first game, in which I was defeated, I received as a gift, a book written by Bobby Fischer. It was the most marvellous recognition I ever received, because the person who gave me that book was an Iranian grandmaster, who knew the place of the chess pieces by heart and could play chess with closed eyes. And I’ve got friends who were/are grandmasters or FIDE masters and are now running for local city council election. Evidently, they’ve made the conclusion that even without recognition, they need to run independent lives. So, they’ll join politics. It’s always more profitable and lucrative. Chess doesn't earn you trucks filled with IRR, but maybe GBP and USD! 

I come from a country, in which I did things, for which I DESERVED recognition. Doing interviews with 25 Nobel Prize laureates in physics, chemistry, peace and economics – not to break a record. Because I ‘simply’ loved it. Some people congratulated me. And some people would turn the pages, giving me pejorative looks up and down and say, “oh really? We don’t know this magazine! I’m so sorry darling.” And somebody else, who was happy to ridicule my intellect, because I always appeared to be a very submissive, meek fool, would cast the same disparaging, derogatory look at me and say, “well, it’s nice. But why didn’t you interview the Nobel Prize laureate in mathematics?!

I come from a country, in which I did things, for which I ABOLSUTELY DIDN’T DSERVE ANYTHING. For those things, I was recognised. And I was awarded. And I was applauded. And I was cheered. And even I appeared in photos on front-pages next to high-ranking people, and there was a great deal of clamour involved – I was becoming a small Donald Trump in my community. Trumpism starts from those ‘mischievous’ newspapers who want to sell copies and then end up manufacturing small dictators. And I’m at loss to explain how I feel. Now, I receive calls from those who recognised me and those who dilapidated my personality, similarly, to tell me how dearly they miss me. Thank you very much all.

4- Something I learned as a journalism student is that the terminology I tinker with and repeatedly use all the time becomes a significant part of my mentality and personality. I’ve been very much into complaining. Now, I’ve learnt that it’s enough. It’s better to be grateful about having a number of things I missed and maybe miss all the time in the future. However, at least with the more optimistic approach, I don’t regret missing things, because I’ve got other things to be unregretful about. I’ve got a ‘mug’, which can generate a domino of interesting complexities. I’ve got a victoria cake before me now, which makes my day. I’ve got brilliant people around me who appreciate that #FakeNews is what has caused the entire world this misery. Hitler, Brexit, Trump and Ahmadinejad are equally nice. Some of them can be democratically debated, and the debate can be tolerated. I have made a very brave(!) decision not to use the words that might simply change the course of my life. Euphemism is not always abhorrent. It helps you change your way of life.

Now, if I see things that are skewed and unusually crooked, I don’t take them personally. Now, I can give a call to the office of Prime Minister of Spain and ask for an interview, and it doesn’t matter if he grants or refuses. It is he who will miss an opportunity if he turns my request down. He will be at loss not because of who I am and what I do; mostly because of what I STUDY – the ‘place’ where you do it is also very important.

5- Those who study different subjects abroad appreciate that it’s by default difficult to study anything/everything abroad, be mindful of 400 different things, be mindful of 300 different dynamics to be successful in what you study and be mindful of 200 other things not to upset those who share the same ideals and ambition, while on different paths / taking different approaches. The calls continue to come from those who miss and those who pretend to miss me!

6- An eleventh-hour self-justificatory endeavour: Likes and RTs shouldn’t be read too much deeply. They mean the liker likes something and the RTer wants to promote something. And being the PR person for certain organisations is a massively different concept.

Easter is coming. Cheers! 

Journalism, Studying Journalism, Doing Well in Everything - Somehow