I am dismayed with our homogenous approach to gathering information using search engines, specifically the overwhelming use of Google. How often do I hear, “I Googled this search term” instead of, “I tried various search engines to learn more about my query”. One of the lessons drummed into my mind during high school and beyond, is the importance of multiple sources when researching a topic. Ideally, libraries are still the best place to go (notice the plural) to learn more about a given topic. Hit the stacks, look up the books (including those next to the ones you have the call numbers for), along with related periodicals and glean from different perspectives on the topic. These days, most opt for the ‘net instead. If you do so, why just Google?
For instance, when one queries topics, she might notice that Google and Yahoo! yield different results. Both search engines use different algorithms to achieve this. Unfortunately, using different search engines such as Yahoo!, Google, and Bing! (Microsoft) turned into a popularity campaign rather than an opportunity to get different information on a topic of interest. The documentary Google: Behind the Screen by Ljsbrand Van Veelen for VPRO Dutch television highlights just how dangerous it is use only one search engine exclusively over others. I am not saying that Google is a bad search engine, but I am saying you are placing the pursuit of knowledge at risk when you hand the task over to just one source. Consequently, we empowered Google with more than what they deserve and in the process placed our freedom on the internet, privacy, and acquisition of knowledge at risk. Please see Google: Behind the Screen in its entirety. Here is an excerpt of the documentary and if you are pressed for time please skip to 7:45 where founder of Archive.org, Brewster Kahle speaks on the importance of using different sources, be it a book or the interweb.
Since we are on the topic of search engines, allow me to propose some really cool alternative ones I now use.
Bryn Jones took-on uncomfortable subject matter through his music which us occidentals continue to struggle with, especially those not familiar with history. Consequently, Jones was often mistaken to be “pro-terrorist”, “pro-dictatorship” or whatever unsubstantiated adjective his less informed detractors came up with. A key theme in Muslimgauze music is anti-colonialism, particularly among disparate regions like Afghanistan, Pakistan/India, Tibet, Chechnya, Lebanon, Iran/Iraq and occupied Palestine among others. On occasion Jones’ anti-colonialist view points aligned with Western interests such as when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and the subsequent Afghani struggle for autonomy. (How many are aware that Ronald Reagan compared the Mujahideen to America’s founding fathers and even declared a national “Afghanistan Day”?) More often, however, Jones’ anti-Colonialism clashed with US and British foreign policy.
Given America and Israel’s current sabre rattling and evident desire to invade Iran, with the aid of attendant European allies, some reflection on Jones’ stance on Iran is warranted. During his life, Jones professed an admiration for post-Islamic Revolution Iran (circa 1979) led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. This is evidenced in album titles like Iran (1988), the cover of Hajj (1986), Muslimgauze promotional posters featuring the Ayatollah, as well as stickers, fliers and track title references like “Shroud of Khomeini” off of Uzi (1989).
Such references are mistaken by detractors as adulation which is both incorrect and missing the point. Bryn Jones was non-religious though he had a traditional upbringing in a Christian household so it is doubtful he concurred with the Ayatollah on faith-based grounds. Rather, Jones was impressed with Iran’s struggle for and maintenance of autonomy. Iran was under colonial rule by the United Kingdom with help from the USA, namely for her abundant oil resources. During the 1950′s, Iranians democratically elected their own prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh who nationalized his country’s resources. By way of response, the US and UK coordinated a coup to overthrow Mossadegh and empowered Reza Shah Pahlavi with weapons and espionage resources to lead the country and maintain Western interests though it may not be in the best interests of the Iranian populace. Despite considerable resources, funding, and a green light by the USA for the Shah to be as brutal with his populace as he wished, Iranians finally managed to shake off their colonialist influences and attain a measure of autonomous rule under Ayatollah Khomeini subsequent to the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Granted, most occidentals would object to being under Shiite Islamic rule, including Bryn Jones, the fact is this is what the majority Iranians wanted at the time. That is what Jones was responding to, a country’s right to self-determination without forced intervention by outside interests who could care less about the well being of Iranians. After the revolution, by way of punishment, the West helped facilitate Iraq’s invasion in 1980 in what became Gulf War I, followed by numerous sanctions over the decades, and now threats of armed conflict by Israel. And no, Iran is not a threat. At current count, Israel has over a hundred nuclear weapons so they really have nothing to fear. Rather, Israel should be more concerned with the ongoing abuses against and murder of Palestinians as well as neighboring Lebanon.
By no means is Iran a bastion of human rights, free expression, or lifestyles that emulate the West, but this is for the Iranians to work out on their own. I doubt whether they can be bombed into a feminist state, for example. Moreover, it is difficult for any country to engage in meaningful social reform when they are under a constant state of emergency due to war or threats of war. It is beyond the scope of this post to get into the full colonial and post-colonial history of Iran, rather I leave that job to an excellent BBC multi-part documentary series titled “Iran and the West”. In viewing this, you may better understand why our policy officials unfairly demonize Iran as a “pariah state”. This has nothing to do with concern over human rights, rather control of resources. Khomeini, by his own admission did not consider himself to be the best leader and was riddled in faults, but he was a considerable sight better than who the West had earmarked to control the region.
Bryn admired Iran for her successful ability to resist colonial rule and foreign resource greed, even with the weight of almost the entire world against them. At least the Iranians can say for now, “Iran for Iranians”. It was Bryn’s belief that all countries deserve autonomy and the right to work out their own destiny.
letter to Richards on music and passing of Khoneini