Why Did I Get Involved With ICON, And Why You Should Get Involved Too written by: Kazem Ghouchani

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It was almost five years ago when I decided to change my life and quit my job back in Dubai, UAE to pursue my higher education. At that time, I had no idea where I was going to end up, well I was not that clueless too. But, I knew one thing, I needed to get away from all the discriminations against Iranians that was happening in Dubai due to sanctions against Iran. I came to Boston and after that New York to start from zero. From the moment I moved to New York, I considered it as my home. NYC has a lot in common with my hometown Tehran. Unfortunately, again, geopolitical developments continued to affect my life even in these United States of America and I couldn’t ignore it.

It was in late 2016, that I became familiar with Axel Honneth and his book “Struggle for Recognition.” It was the U.S. presidential election season which Iran was at the center of attention in presidential debates. I was uncertain of the new developments that would take place when the new president would take office. However, this uncertainty is somehow universal within my generation coming from the Middle-East. On the "Saturday" after President Trump received the office, I woke up to the news that the “Muslim Ban” was in effect. This was not “normal.” I was lost, scared, and furious by this new Executive Order. However, I was not alone. Many of us gathered at Alwan Foundation looking for solutions and hope. There it was! We needed to be recognized as members of this society and the city where we all live in and love. The concept of the Iranian Community of the Northeast (ICON) as a platform for Iranian/Farsi speakers was born. As a member of this society, I could not ignore what I have learned throughout the years I lived and experiences that I had in real life. I had to do something about it. So, I got involved with ICON.  I think it was the right thing to do. I wanted to be recognized. I had to show that I was not alone.  I also found that Axel Honneth’s solutions to my existence made a very rational sense. These solutions made me think of the following reasons to be engaged in a coherent, well established community:

It’s my instinct to be recognized

Honneth defines the struggle for recognition as the root cause of social conflicts. As individuals, we want to be recognized in the form of love (from parents, friends, and partners), our rights (civil, political, and social), and solidarity. As children, we go through a cycle of recognition and learn how love would be more efficient when it is in interactive forms. According to Honneth, love is a prior form of any recognition. As we grow, the political significance of love can emerge. By preparing the individuals for the political environment, one can express herself sufficiently. Therefore, as a human being, I am following my instincts.

We are more efficient as a community than individuals

Iranians are among the most successful immigrants’ communities in the U.S.. Yet, as a community, we are one of the least active. Our community is full of talents that performs very well individually but in comparison to other communities, we have performed poorly as a whole.

If we are indifferent, it becomes routine in the eyes of public

One of the takeaways from Axel Honneth’s book is that in modern societies, relations of social esteem are subject to a permanent conflict. In this context, in addition to the power of particular groups that controls these symbolic affections, public opinion also plays a significant role. Therefore, I did not want to be indifferent to what is going on anymore. I do not want to be left out alone with fears. I want to do something about it and create awareness.

Lastly, we are at the beginning of a very long path. We are individuals that come together and become a large family. But, I got involved and I want to encourage you to get involved today. Together we are powerful and efficient. As the saying goes in Farsi “one hand can not clap alone!”

Kazem Ghouchani