Monday, November 24, 2008

When I first heard that Iranian businessman, Harvard graduate, and former Chief Executive of the Iran Heritage Foundation, Farhad Hakimzadeh had taken a knife to 150 books in the British library, I had a whole jumble of reactions. They were, in no particular order, as follows:

1. What kind of an animal would destroy books? (that was the nerdy part of me)

2. Great, another shameful blot on the record of Iran and Iranians (that was the nationlistic part of me that I try to suppress and pretend doesn't exist)

3. The Iran Heritage Foundation, it figures. (that was the part of me that is suspicious of all Iranian diaspora cultural and political activities).

4. The rich bastard, couldn't he just buy himself some stolen treasures instead? (this is the Marx-101 part of me that romanticizes the working class and believes that only the rich are capable of evil).

I'm still not sure what to make of the whole thing, though what was of interest to me was the reactions to the story as covered by the Chronicle of Higher Education. I saw that Khashayar had already mentioned the reactions on Iranian.com and how people were trying to justify what this man has done. But that is Iranian.com, and it hosts all kinds of crazed regulars. But it was surprising to see similar responses as those found on Iranian.com in the Chronicle, which as far as I know is usually only read by geeky academics. For example, in response to a commenter who had said that "Perhaps they will re-think their opposition to capital punishment," another reader had angrily responded that You mean capital punishment for tearing out a few pages from a place that was not even a real country till a few centuries back, or for shamelessly stealing monuments from a several-thousand year old civilization, such as the first monument of Human Rights by Cyrus the Great, now at the British museum, or all priceless Indian treasures?"

And you know, yes, granted, the Brits have most of that stuff because they outright stole it, but would one justify, say, the smashing to bits of the Kooh-e Noor using the same logic? I find the whole thing sad, but I am quite morbidly interested in uncovering what made the guy do it.