JoÃ£o Pereira Coutinho
October 03, 2015
SAO PAULO â€" Is it OK to use the expression "to violate the law" during university law studies? Or could the word "violate" be considered offensive by students both male and female, perhaps invoking traumatic memories that should remain locked away in the dungeons of their conscience?
Most readers will think I've gone mad by asking this question. If only that were true! But, no, this isn't a hypotethical scenario. This actually happened â€" at Harvard. Students who were "uncomfortable" with or indeed "distressed" by the term asked their professors to stop using it.
A story entitled, "The Coddling of the American Mind," was published in the September issue of The Atlantic, and according to the article's authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, this hypersensitivity to everyday language isn't limited to "violations" of the law.
According to the reporters, cases of "microaggressions" â€" words, concepts or mere allusions that threaten the students' "emotional well-being" â€" are growing in the United States. Students believe they have a right to "emotional well-being" at universities, which must be "safe places" where what they don't like should never be heard.
Its for exactly this reason that university professors are advised to alert students before they teach something that might be potentially offensive to some. These alerts are called "trigger warnings."
One of the examples highlighted in The Atlantic explains that where F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is concerned, a professor must warn his class that "misogyny" and "physical abuse" are part of the story. Should the professor fail to issue such a warning, a sensitive student might just pass out in the middle of the lecture, which could mean the end of the professor's career.
How on earth did we get here?
The blames seems to lie with the parents of today's students, who educated their children with an obsession for safety that didn't exist among previous generations. A recent book, entitled How to Raise an Adult, was written by Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former student at Stanford University and Harvard. Her conclusion is chilling: Parents used to prepare their children for real life, but today they prefer to shield them from the reality they are bound to face in way or another.
It starts early in childhood, when parents are so cowed by the dangers of pedophiles, kidnappers, passing traffic (and Martians?) that they keep their children at home and so strictly limited in movement that they have virtually no autonomy. Among other things, this has led to the childhood obesity epidemic. Sedentary lifestyles have become much more dangerous for this generation of kids than the typical kinds of accidents that might occur when children are allowed to be children.
But this obsession with safety of the so-called "helicopter parents" (generally those born between 1946 and 1964, with a tendency to hover over their offspring) continues beyond childhood â€" and even apparently to their university days.
The result for these kids who are now in university is that many feel adrift and suffer from insomnia, depression, anxiety or indecision. They have an almost psychotic fear of failure. And when a decision is inevitable, many turn to the same solution: a quick call to mom and dad so they can decide for them.
Lythcott-Haims believes "modern" education has turned today's young "adults" into "existentially impotent" people. Parents, in their anxiety to protect and control everything, have encouraged in their children a victim mentality, turning them fragile and frightened people who simply don't know how to cope in the world that exists beyond their own bubbles.
Nobody should be surprised that since they've been treated like small children all their lives that today's university students see "microaggression" in every sentence, class or professor. Everything's a threat for anybody who's been constantly protected from any potential discomfort. A book, a sentence, a word, a concept, and of course, a stereotype.
In her book, Lythcott-Haims laments that today's sons and daughters don't behave like their predecessors did, that they lack this sort of existential rebellion against their progenitors' authority, a crucial condition for them to build their own identity and one day fly with their own wings.
Instead, the wings no longer exist, destroyed in the suffocating parental love that keeps their children locked up in a golden cage.
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The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.
October 21, 2021
LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.
Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.
The role of the nuclear pact
Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.
It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.
He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."
The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.
Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020commons.wikimedia.org
Riyadh's warming relations with Israel
Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."
The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."
Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."
Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.
If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.
Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.
Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.
For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.
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Kayhan is a Persian-language, London-based spinoff of the conservative daily of the same name headquartered in Tehran. It was founded in 1984 by Mostafa Mesbahzadeh, the owner of the Iranian paper. Unlike its Tehran sister paper, considered "the most conservative Iranian newspaper," the London-based version is mostly run by exiled journalists and is very critical of the Iranian regime.
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