Kapuściński: “An Army of Foreigners”

From Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book Shah of Shahs (about the last Shah of Iran):

When thinking about the fall of any dictatorship, one should have no illusions that the whole system comes to an end like a bad dream with that fall. The physical existence of the system does indeed cease. But its psychological and social results live on for years, and even survive in the form of subconsciously continued behavior.

A dictatorship that destroys the intelligentsia and culture leaves behind itself an empty, sour field on which the tree of thought won’t grow quickly. It is not always the best people who emerge from hiding, from the corners and cracks of that farmed-out field, but often those who have proven themselves strongest, not always those who will create new values but rather those whose thick skin and internal resilience have ensured their survival. In such circumstances history begins to turn in a tragic, vicious circle from which it can sometimes take a whole epoch to break free..

And yet how do we build [the Great Civilization] here, where there are no experts and the nation, even if it is eager to learn, has nowhere to study?

In order to fulfill his vision, the Shah needed at least 700,000 specialists immediately. Somebody hit upon the safest and best way out — import them…Tens of thousands of foreigners thus began arriving. Airplane after airplane land at Teheran airport: domestic servants from the Philippines, hydraulic engineers from Greece, electricians from Norway, accountants from Pakistan, mechanics from Italy, military men from the United States…

This army of foreigners, byb the very strength of its technical expertise, its knowing which buttons to press, which levers to pull, which cables to connect, even if it behaves in the humbles way, begins to dominate and starts crowding the Iranians into an inferiority complex. The foreigner knows how and I don’t. This is a proud people, extremely sensitive about its dignity. An Iranian will never admit he can’t do something; to him, such an admission constitutes a great shame and a loss of face. He’ll suffer, grow depressed, and finally begin to hate. He understood quickly the concept that was guiding his ruler: All of you just sit there in the shadow of the mosque and tend your sheep, because it will take a century for you to be of any use! I on the other hand have built a global empire in ten years with the help of foreigners.

This is why the Great Civilization struck Iranians as above all a great humiliation.

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