I hope, that the courageous young women and men who have begun to valiantly rebel against the authoritarian male dominated regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran have started to realise that male control over women is no different in essence whether it wears a religious form of clothing, a military uniform or a business suit. Whether, the males in power, read, the Torah, the New Testament, the Qu’ran, the Business News, the Police Gazette, the Musical Express, Hollywood Gossip journals or Military Manuals, male culture is about extreme control, particularly, (but not exclusively), of women. Putting a different set of men in power changes nothing as was glaringly discovered not long ago in Egypt.
The continuing street protests in Iran have been triggered by the death in custody of young women who have quite rightly asserted their rights as human beings to dress and act how they see fit, not how some wealthy, influential or dogmatic male elite dictate. Young women in Iran, as everywhere, are quite capable of making sensible decisions on issues concerning themselves. Their struggle there and elsewhere should be supported. Let us hope they are soon successful in being rid of the so-called morality brigades. However, I suggest this frustration and anger with how young women are being treated by those in power in Iran goes much deeper and wider than simply over keeping their hair covered.
Patriarchy in its various inhumane guises, from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Yemen, Russia, China, Europe, Africa, America, Asia or the global South has also no idea how to solve the many basic economic, social and climate problems facing humanity. Indeed, I suggest the protests in Iran are best viewed as part of a long-running, global feeling of oppression, exploitation and disrespect, which keeps on surfacing. It has done so in the Arab Spring Uprisings, the Yellow Vest disturbances, the Me Too movement, the Anti-Vax protests etc. and the current organised workers strikes here in the UK.
The situation now facing humanity transcends purely local and national boundaries; there is an ascending spiral of authoritarian administered inhumanity and crisis around the planet. The current economic systems are not only globally failing to maintain the health of the planet but failing everybody outside of the ruling elites and a few fortunate families. The only reflex that elite males around the globe have left to jerk them into action is to utilise the Dark Side power of their armed police and military to control their citizens. Beating citizens into passive submission whenever they protest is now standard operating procedure for regimes everywhere. Thus it is not the type of men (or women) in charge that needs changing, but the entire system which allows such symptoms to persist.
The Bright Side of humanity is the spirit of solidarity and mutual support ordinary people can give each other in the coming struggles. Beating people into submission will no longer work, because the stakes are much too high and much too global. Humanity faces an existential crisis for which the nihilistic brutality being simultaneously unleashed upon Ukraine by Putin’s mob and the young women of Iran by its gang of Clerics are terrible precursors of elite culpability, but the growing resistance to this elite domination and destruction of nature and of people is also a precursor of better things to come.
It is possible to be cautiously optimistic because the historical record indicates that elites frequently direct the socio-economic system they are in control of into a cul-de-sac which is both damaging and destructive to a majority of those living within it. And at that point (and beyond), a struggle begins between those who control the system (crudely the rich) and those who are suffering from it (crudely the poor). We are beyond that point. Global humanity is now stuck in such a literal as well as metaphorical dead end and the pressure for change is building up.
In previous periods of history, such struggles between rich and poor, took place within particular countries because the main means of production and consumption were located within each separate country so the struggle was mostly resolved there. Those in previous generations who lived by exploiting Slaves and Serfs (the rich) were fought against by the poor and their supporters. Therefore, those previous forms of enforced poverty, oppression and exploitation were ended in different countries at different times.
This time the socio-economic system is global and the struggle is between those who live only by working precariously (when they can) and those who can live without ever working. That is to say the struggle is once again between the rich and the poor but this time it is not only the majority of people that are being economically, physically or emotionally damaged by the current mode of production. Indeed, many are also dying in wars of annexation or between rival elites, or from floods, fires and from lack of even the basic means to live.
This epoch the struggle is also radically different because the air, the climate, the water, the land, the trees, the insects, the birds and the animals are also being seriously damaged and even destroyed by the same elite controlled economic system. This list of sufferers are not just abstract entities, but the very mineral and organic foundations of all forms of life on earth. So the struggles against female oppression in Iran and everywhere, as the struggle against racism everywhere, needs to become part of the struggle between rich and poor everywhere and not just against inhumane things but for a healthy planet.
For humanity to survive humanely, the 21st struggle for human rights now needs to include rights for all human beings; female, male, dark skinned, light skinned and all the earths life forms from Aphids to Zebra. This struggle for humanity to become what it can become if it acts as a fully cooperating species, rather than as groups or gangs of ruthless cut throat competitors, begins exactly where we are – and it begins now! However, we should not forget that it also exists where we are not and all these other struggles need at least our intellectual if not practical support.
We also need to constantly remember that such revolutionary struggles now also needs to be on behalf of every living thing that has contributed to life on this amazing blue dot situated in the midst of a vast spiral galaxy.
Roy Ratcliffe (October 2022)