So every time I have complained about copyright issues in Iran people have said to me, Look, it’s all legal; Iran has not signed the copyright act.’ Of course not having copyright laws is great for the average Iranian who is not an artist of some kind. And most people are quite proud of the Islamic republic for not having signed the International copyright laws or whatever and see it as a kind of ‘Zerangy’ (being clever) as the Crazy Chef (aka Roya) pointed out in a comment on my last post.
Nevertheless if you ask these exact same people how they feel about the law that says people could be stoned to death for adultery, even though most of them have never committed adultery and are not planning to do so either, they will no doubt tell you that they are completely appalled by it. Or if one of these same people is complaining about being whipped seventy times for having drunk alcohol and I say, ‘Well that’s the law, isn’t it?’ they will no doubt look at me like I am a completely crazy person who has escaped from the loonybin just that morning and needs to be put back there as soon as possible.
But exactly how are we to know which laws are good and which ones are bad and which ones to follow and which ones not to?
As a child growing up in Iran it was sometimes very hard for me know exactly what was right and what was wrong. For example one day people were going out to bars drinking shots of Vodka and munching on assuages, the next day consuming alcohol was illegal and people would be punished for it. Or when we got older and started going to school, we were told over and over again by grownups not to ever tell anyone at school that we went to gatherings where we heard music and danced.
We got used to seeing weird things like my grandfather one day sitting down with my grandmother’s nail file and to my little cousin’s horror, filing down the willy off the statue of a little boy peeing, ‘Was it even a crime to have a peepee now days?’ I remember thinking whilst giving my horrified cousin a sympathetic look. Or when my grandmother brought out all the pictures one day and sat there with a pair of scissors, cutting out all the women in swimwear or revealing dresses or anyone holding a drink.
The way I saw it either everyone around me was a criminal or a lot of the laws could be broken and it didn’t matter as long as you weren’t found out. But how was I to know which laws could be broken and which ones could not?
After thinking long and hard about this, I came up with my own rule that I found helped me get through life without always worrying about what was wrong and what was right.
My rule said that just before doing anything, I always needed to ask myself two little questions. If the answer to the first question was ‘yes’ and the answer to the second question was ‘no’ it was ok to do that thing regardless of what the law said. And those two little questions are:
1- Would I like it if this was done to me?
2- Am I hurting anyone by doing this?
In short my whole life philosophy is simply, in the words of Samuel L Jackson (Jules) in Pulp fiction, ‘Don’t do shit, unless-’
Harvey Keitel (The Wolf), ‘-unless what?’
Shirin, ‘Unless the answer to the first question is ‘Yes’ and the second one ‘No’
The best thing I find about this way of thinking is that suddenly everything in life is not so black and white anymore. For example even though I would never in a million years think about taking the life of another human being, if I come across a group men raping and torturing a girl and I have a gun in my hands, I will shoot those bastards down one by one regardless of what the law says.
Or for example even though drugs are illegal, I don’t see anything wrong with smoking a bit of something and taking a bit of other every now and then. However by my rules, if I become addicted to say Heroin then that’s wrong because that will surely hurt the people around me.
So the reason that I do not steal or lie or cheat or blow myself up or use someone’s artwork without telling them, or flirt with someone else’s boyfriend or pee in people’s drinks when they are not looking, is not because I will or will not be punished by law if I do these things, it’s simply because I do not like any of these things to be done to me and also I know that by doing those things I will be hurting other people.