MG — Suspension of the historical time or still trying to reach a contact

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Every revolt is a fight, yet a fight in which you decided to participate. The instant of the revolt determines the lightning realization and objectification of the self as part of a collectivity. The fight between good and evil, survival and death, victory and failure, in which everyday everyone is committed, identifies itself with the battle of the whole collectivity: everybody has the same weapons, everybody faces the same obstacles, the same enemy. Everybody experiments the epiphany of the same symbols: the individual space of each, dominated by its own personal symbols, the refuge from historical time that each one finds again in his own symbology and his own individual mythology, they amplify, becoming the commune symbolic space of a whole collectivity, the refuge from the historical time in which a whole collectivity finds a way out.
Each revolt is clearly defined by precise boundaries in historical time and space. Before and after stretches a no man’s land and the length of each one’s life in which unbroken individual fights take place. The concept of permanent revolution reveals –instead of the interrupted length of revolt in the historical time- the will to can suspend in every moment the historical time to find refuge in the symbolic time and space of the revolt.
You can love a city, you can recognize its houses and streets in your own most distant and dearest memories; yet only in the moment of the revolt the city is really felt as your own city: own, because of the “I” and at the same time the “others”; own because field of a battle that you’ve decided and that collevtivity decided; own, because clearly defined space in which the historical time is suspended and in which each act is of use on its own terms, in its absolutely immediate consequences. You make a city proper fleeing or advancing in the alternation of the attacks, much more then when you played on its streets as a kid or walking later with your girlfriend. In the moment of the revolt you are not anymore alone in the city.
Suspension of the historical time, Spartakus, Furio Jesi
In Iran, holiday and protest set stage for high drama
Celebrations of Ashura, always a dramatic street ritual among Shiite Muslims, are expected to include an element of political theater this weekend, fueled by Iran’s postelection unrest.
By Borzou Daragahi
December 26, 2009
Reporting from Tehran – The haze from burning esfand, a Persian weed, and the scents of thick-brewed tea and rose water fill the black funeral tents that have bloomed across Tehran. Sweeping black banners of mourning and small green lights hang outside mosques.
In the Grand Bazaar, thousands of new customers have descended on the stands selling paraphernalia for the upcoming holiday. On the streets, at bus stops and on the subway, young Iranians ask one another: What mosque are you going to for the holiday? Are you planning to wear opposition green, or bring a green ribbon to flash when it’s safe?
Ashura, the most emotionally charged religious holiday on the Iranian calendar, is almost here.
Wearing green and black, the Shiite faithful will beat themselves in ritual self-flagellation Sunday and perform elaborate passion plays reenacting the doomed 7th century battle of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad, to retain the throne of Islam.
“Ya Hussein!” the faithful will chant.
And this year, the chant will have an echo: “Ya Hossein! Mir-Hossein!”
Year after year, the Islamic Republic has appropriated the themes behind the centuries-old reenactments of martyrdom for its own ends, a grand political theater.
But a new force has appeared on Iran’s political stage. Supporters of Iranian opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi are determined to graft the green-themed movement born out of Iran’s disputed presidential election onto Ashura, the culmination of the first 10 days of the Islamic month Muharram that marks Hussein’s martyrdom.
“I’ve always gone to Muharram,” said a 33-year-old Tehran actor and opposition supporter who asked that his name not be published.
“But this year is very special for me. What Hussein did, the pursuit of justice, the goal was the same.
“This year, you will see unexpected things on the street.”
Theatrical history
Iran’s political culture has long been interlaced with the theater of the streets, pavement morality plays pulling at heartstrings and loyalties, high-drama attempts to seize control of the political narrative.
Rowdy street battles accompanied the unrest surrounding the 1953 U.S.-backed coup that ousted Iran’s democratically elected government. Rolling street protests swept away the shah’s rule in the months leading to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Street theater has also defined Iran’s year of domestic political turmoil.
It was on the streets near Azadi Square that hundreds of thousands of Iranians showed up in February to mark the 30th anniversary of the revolution, a defiant demonstration of strength and unity to the world.
On those same streets in the spring, supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mousavi faced off to demonstrate their magnitude in the days before the election. At one point, supporters of Mousavi formed a human chain along Vali Asr Street — the longest street in the Middle East — all of them wearing the green that symbolizes the campaign.
It was on the streets again that hundreds of thousands, some say millions, poured out in protest in the days after the disputed election in June.
Realizing the power of Iran’s theater of the streets, a black-turbaned supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took to the podium amid the protests, put on his sternest demeanor and demanded that the protesters leave the scene, or suffer the consequences.
For good measure, he began weeping at the end of the speech — the aggrieved, aging patriarch, a theatrical signal. The Basiji militiamen picked up their batons, threw on their war colors and took to the streets against demonstrators.
A tentative outcry
Stage fright struck as she emerged from the subway station onto the street and into a crowd of bearded, helmeted militiamen. They eyed her menacingly, she said, and for a moment she considered heading back home to her parents, who had no idea she was here, alone, with a little green ribbon stuffed into her pocket.
But Mariam, a 25-year-old clerk at a shipping company who spoke on condition that her last name not be used, had rehearsed this role a hundred times in her mind as well as in previous encounters along Tehran’s streets. So, on this September day, she waded nervously into the crowd of hundreds, not knowing who was friend or foe.
Suddenly, a single cry went up. “Marg bar dictator!” — Death to the dictator. She looked around before hearing another voice: “Allahu akbar!” — God is great.
Then two more voices. “Marg bar dictator!” A dozen more chimed in. She looked around again, noticing that hands were holding green ribbons, and pulled out her own, wrapping it around her fingers. The fear dissipated. She joined in the chanting, now a roar. The police officers and militiamen stepped back from the huge crowd arrayed against them.
“Our generation had a lot of fear instilled in us,” she said later. “You went to a party, you’re afraid. You have a boyfriend, you’re afraid. You don’t dare speak out.
“These prohibitions are broken. All the complexes and resentments of the last years are pouring out into the street. It’s a joy. It’s the feeling of being free.”
Tensions building
Jittery security forces have lined most of Iran’s main squares in preparation for this year’s Ashura. Authorities are clearly nervous. Even in calm years, security forces have struggled to prevent the faithful from expressing their love for Hussein by striking their skulls with swords until they draw blood. Khamenei abhors the practice.
The death a week ago of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the high-ranking cleric who had become the opposition’s spiritual guide, only added to the sense of a coming storm, placing the religiously significant seventh day of mourning exactly at the peak of Ashura, which will begin this morning with ceremonies marking the ninth day of Muharram and continue into Sunday.
Authorities have warned protesters in the direst terms of the consequences of using Ashura to promote their agenda.
“Both sides appear to be pushing for some kind of climax on Ashura,” said one Tehran journalist and analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The parallels between the opposition narrative and that of Imam Hussein are uncanny.
Just as Iranian opposition supporters believe Mousavi was robbed of his rightful leadership role in the presidential election, Shiites believe that Hussein was unjustly denied his rightful role as the leader of the Islamic world after the murder of his father, Ali, who was Muhammad’s son-in-law and the fourth caliph.
Just as Mousavi refused to acknowledge Ahmadinejad as the winner, Hussein refused to swear allegiance to the Caliph Yazid.
Mousavi left the political establishment with his supporters. Hussein took to the desert with his band of followers. Just as the opposition employs the color green, Hussein tried to raise an army to fight Yazid under the green flag of Islam.
That’s where the parallels end, at least for now. Mousavi has hundreds of thousands of supporters, who lead him as much as he leads them. Hussein managed to persuade only 72 men, women and children to stand with him when he confronted Yazid’s army of 30,000 in Mesopotamia in the year 680. Despite a valiant fight, he and his followers were slaughtered, and he was beheaded.
But Mousavi’s loyalists continue to turn out in the streets, holding their green ribbons in peaceful shows of force.
And they climb to their rooftops night after night, sending haunting cries of defiance into the darkness.
‘A strange unity’
Few were surprised that Iran’s authorities cracked down on an opposition movement they view largely as a foreign-backed tool to pressure the country in its fight against the West. Iranian authorities employed similar tactics to quell domestic troubles in the early 1980s and late ’90s, when street violence and televised confessions were used to subdue and discredit the opposition.
But what even the most die-hard supporters of the opposition didn’t predict was that a movement lacking a clear leadership, organization or agenda would survive and grow.
Over the last six months, the opposition has become adept at turning the theater of the streets to their advantage, challenging the Islamic Republic at its own game.
Largely through the dramatic sway of its peaceful mass protests, the movement has expanded from its base of middle-class urbanites to include many walks of life. Ethnic Kurds and Azeris, both historically key, restive minorities, have begun to identify with the movement.
“There’s a strange unity among the people, something that hasn’t been seen in decades,” said a Tehran social scientist and opposition supporter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Ali, an Iranian graphic designer in his late 20s, said he was on a business trip to a desert village near the city of Kashan, where he hitched a ride with a man in his 40s, who immediately asked him about the situation in the capital.
“He turned toward me while he was driving and said, ‘Bless you! We are all here watching you. We are frightened because they are monitoring us closely. But we are waiting for the right time,’ ” Ali recounted. “He looked like your typical religious kind of guy.”
Last week, homemakers, taxi drivers, bazaar merchants, mechanics and repairmen voiced sympathy for the green movement, if not outright admitting that they took part in protests.
“We are planning to protest on Ashura,” a twenty-something blacksmith said, his hands and face covered with soot outside his shop in Narmak, the east Tehran neighborhood were Ahmadinejad grew up.
“They will try to stop us and arrest us,” he said. “But we’re not just one or two people they can pull out. We’re many.”
Lessons from stage
Amid these months of sporadic mass protests, Ramin Mostaghim, The Times’ correspondent in Tehran, often referred to the play “The Memoir of the Supporting Actor.” Written amid the fallout of the Islamic Revolution in the early 1980s, it tells the story of a group of jobless men recruited to play the role of demonstrators marching in favor of the government.
But they get carried away by their roles, and a couple of them die in clashes.
“We are the workers of the theater,” the men announce during a Brechtian chorus at the tragedy’s end. “A miniaturized picture of the world, even if humiliated and broken, we are the reflected picture of the circumstances.”
Today’s protesters don’t want to die like Imam Hussein or the characters in the play, at least not in the early acts. They see the struggle as a long one, and even as they plan for the protests, they continue to go to work and classes. A veneer of normality hides the political unrest. They’ve mastered the concept of the living martyr.
By making it home after the protests, perhaps bruised and battered, they combine the emotional potency of victimhood with the practicality of not getting killed.
Though he makes it to most political rallies, the 33-year-old actor also attends rehearsals almost daily. He’s getting ready for an anticipated staging of Brecht’s “Galileo,” about the Italian astronomer who is forced by narrow-minded religious leaders to publicly recant his scientific conclusion that Earth circles the sun and not the other way around.
At the end of the play, Galileo is a broken man. But he hands one of his most important manuscripts to Andrea, the prodigal son of his housekeeper, who takes his master’s treasured learning to the rest of Europe, salvaging it from the pyres of intolerance.
“One cannot fly through the air on a broomstick,” Andrea admonishes a pair of boys. “It must at least have a machine on it, and as yet there is no such machine. Perhaps there never will be, for man is too heavy. But, of course, one cannot tell. We don’t know nearly enough. . . . We are really only at the beginning.”