Posts tagged Westoxification

Jalal Al-e Ahmad: Westoxified


controversial Iranian intellectual

controversial Iranian intellectual

 I did my research for my Middle East History class on Jalal Al-e Ahmad. Among other works he is most known for Gharbzadegi. This was an essay of sorts distributed in 1962 in Iran and its most general translation is Westoxification. Although he did not coin this phrase, he is responsible for the circulation of this idea and greatly influenced the political discourse that led to the anti-western revolution of political Islam in Iran. The basic tenants of this concept are:

…western influence is toxic

…people have become stricken with an obsession with all things western

…the result is an inorganic imitation of western culture and a loss of an authentic Iranian identity 

He has been criticized as being overly naive about other cultures, romantic in his writing and overly sentimental for what he deems to be the real Iranian identity that he thought existed in rural villages. But the fact is that he was very widely read by intellectual circles and clerical circles. Some of the roots of Iranians not liking the West can probably be traced to this ‘westoxified’ notion developed by Al-e Ahmad.


doesnt he just look like an anti-western intellectual?

doesn't he just look like an anti-western intellectual?


The reason why I think this is interesting and important: Well for one, I myself have often felt westoxified. I think that our consumer culture is extremely toxic for authentic identity. How much of who we are (westerners) is based off of what we buy. We buy things that we see advertised. We can’t imagine out lives without the cell phones and cereal and shopping malls. I say that generally and I admit that it is a little over the top, but I grew up feeling like it was never enough. I always wanted more, I wanted to be more beautiful, have more cute shoes and cute clothes and be skinny and happy and have a car when I was sixteen and all this bullshit. I still want it. I just got a new flat screen tv even though I already had a tv that still worked. None of this shit makes me happy and it is fed to me by consumer culture. And this is what I was born into…imagine if some foreign power overthrew your one shot of a democracy to better suit their oil needs and ideas about the evil communist influence, and in stead gave you a secular dictatorship under some idiot Shah who spent more time partying in Paris then caring about the country. And to top it all off they flooded markets with western bullshit goods, mechinized all their industries creating job loss, and created a secret police not unlike the CIA and cointelpro called SAVAK.  


my point being that one might be pissed…i think Al-e Ahmad was even more pissed about the fact that so many Iranians seemed complacent to it. Many were sick of the Shah, but were into all of the excesses of western culture. Neon lights in Mecca and Medina (although not in Iran) was the final straw. The disease of Westoxification was seeping into everything sacred. 


Although not super religious, Al-e Ahmad eventually found his way back to religion because it seemed the only thing that could get people motivated to become strong against the influence of the West. He advocated the return of intellectuals to Shi’ism.

This man, sort of a hero of mine, hated the west, and I kinda get him. I am totally a Westerner, no denying it, but I do feel like there are parts to modern western culture that are just awful, yet I seem to be eternally a part of the problem. But the one thing that does make me feel more authentically me, and not a shadow of an image of womanhood I see on TV is spirituality. So although I am not so sure I will feel authentic turning to some religion ( in fact I am sure I would not) I am going to try to find out WHO I REALLY AM…something I think Alan Watts might be able to help me out with…that will be a different post i guess…

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