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Iran: Why the silence?

Last update - Thursday, July 2, 2009, 15:56 By Charlie Johnson

“I’d really rather not.” “I’m afraid I’m really not the best person to speak to.” “I’m clueless, man.” “Go away.”

These are some of the highlights from my day pounding the pavement around Dublin city centre, trying to get responses to the weekly ‘Word on the Street’ section.
I had two questions scribbled across the top of my notebook, one pertaining to the recent violence against Romanians in Belfast, and the other reading “What does the future look like for Iran?”  Both, it seemed to me, were broad and timely questions about events that had received significant media coverage in recent days. This would be a piece of cake, right?
The former question proved easy enough to elicit responses, and I soon had more than enough.  But as for the latter – no matter who I asked, whether they be African, Asian, Irish, student or professional, no one was willing to offer up an opinion about the recent elections in Iran. After hours traipsing north and south of the Liffey, I had nothing. Zilch. Nada. 
The final straw came when I approached a man in the Garden of Remembrance and was greeted with a stout “Go away.” I decided to cut my losses, head back to the office, and change the question.
Some time later, I found no shortage of people of all colours willing to answer the query “Is democracy working well in the world?” In less than an hour I was at my desk typing up the responses and scratching my head, wondering why a question about democracy was so popular, but a question about a country struggling with its democratic process earned me glares.
I put it to you, Metro Éireann readers – why the hesitation to talk about Iran?  Why did nobody seem to feel their views were worthwhile enough, or interesting enough, or worth sharing with Ireland?
Could it be there is just a general lack of knowledge about the situation unfolding in Iran?  Is there a tension in speaking up about an injustice? Or is it that Ireland is just not a big enough player in the diplomatic game to make fussing over Iran worthwhile? After all, since when has Iran had beef with Ireland? Let’s just let the others deal with it (a philosophy that, as an American, I will attest has not been a wise one over the past few years).
Whatever the reason, there is one thing that can be said with confidence. In the increasingly globalised and interconnected world we live in today, there is very little that happens to one nation or one ethnic group that does not affect us all. Economic ripples in Africa can bring an immigration wave to Europe. Terrorist violence in New York City can turn the world upside down. And there’s no telling what the recent election backlash in Iran will mean for the rest of the world.
And until Ireland as a country – and the world as a whole – come to realise this, and we remain unwilling to discuss such issues of great importance, we can never hope to resolve them.

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