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Sex, drugs and Islam
February 24, 2009 6:18 AM   Subscribe

"Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran's birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers have sought in vain to explain Iran's population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy. But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy. Second, according to a recent report from the US Council on Foreign Relations, "Iran serves as the major transport hub for opiates produced by [Afghanistan], and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran has as many as 1.7 million opiate addicts." That is, 5% of Iran's adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates. That is an astonishing number, unseen since the peak of Chinese addiction during the 19th century."

For more on Iranian prostitution, see this NYT article on the ironically named "Chastity Houses" and this piece on "temporary marriages". The opiate of the Iranian masses is opium.
posted by 445supermag (72 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Perhaps this is what killed off the Tehranosaurus Rex all those millions of years ago?
posted by MuffinMan at 6:21 AM on February 24, 2009 [17 favorites]


Acai Berry?
posted by pearlybob at 6:27 AM on February 24, 2009


Now I'm no sexpert, but maybe, just maybe, women don't want to have sex with men who have the legal right to stone them to death because the sex happened out of wedlock. I think that might be a greater factor than the fact that these bluestockings can read.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:31 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pastabagel: if I'm correct, there is a temporary form of marriage called Sigheh available in Iran that sorta covers those bases.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:41 AM on February 24, 2009


What the hell?

First of all, Iran had an enormous population boom after the Iran/Iraq war, so of course you would see the birth rate drop afterwards, just like you saw the U.S. birth rate drop after the Baby boom here.

Secondly, doing a little googling it's clear that Iran has been trying to reduce it's birth rate:
Recent figures show that in little more than a decade, Iran has scored a stunning success in reducing its population growth rate, thanks to a vigorous state-supported family planning campaign.

It means that in the year 2006, the country's population is expected to be 37 million less than it would have been at the birth rates prevailing in the late 1980s, when the campaign began.

.
.
.

Contraceptive pills for women are also on sale. No questions are asked.

These and other contraceptive methods - along with advice - are also dispensed, free, at government primary health centres all around the country.
Finally what is up with the bizarre assertion that a low birth rate is somehow a symptom of "spiritual decay" That just makes no sense at all.
posted by delmoi at 6:44 AM on February 24, 2009 [40 favorites]


Now I'm no sexpert, but maybe, just maybe, women don't want to have sex with men who have the legal right to stone them to death because the sex happened out of wedlock.

God, I know. How stupid are they in killing all those mothers? See, if they merely shamed the women while simultaneously forcing them to have the baby, they'd be able to continue population growth and punish women for being whores just like the ever-growin' U. S. of Jesus-Loves-Ya!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:44 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


It seems a little odd to me that this article keeps using the term "fertility", i.e., "low fertility", "decline in fertility", "rural and urban fertility". Surely the writer really means there
is a decline in the birth rate, which is not the same thing at all.

People will choose to stop having children in hard times if they can. The Russians did during the Stalin era. Another possibility to explain a low birth rate is that perhaps there is or has been a discrepancy in terms of male: female ratio in the adult population. The Iraq-Iran war raged for years and must have killed off countless young men, which means that there must have been corresponding numbers of young women who were not able to get married and have children.

And the idea of educated women choosing to be prostitutes really startles me. I can't think of many other high water marks for how difficult life must be in a country or culture than that.
posted by orange swan at 6:46 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, just read demloi's comment. The writer of that article obviously has his or her head up his ass.
posted by orange swan at 6:49 AM on February 24, 2009


if I'm correct, there is a temporary form of marriage called Sigheh available in Iran that sorta covers those bases

I think his wider point - about women not being attracted by the options - still stands. I would imagine that in such a society entering a relationship which can be dissolved by the man at any time (an hour later, even) would not attract women who have to deal with the stigma attached to being unmarried but not virgins. Besides which, according to you link there are many in Iran who see said arrangement as tatamount to prostitution. This line is the kicker:

if a man came to ask for the hand of his daughter in marriage, would he willingly tell him how many temporary marriages she had had


There's still a very strong implicit double standard, one which will place participating women in a deeply unpleasant societal position.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:51 AM on February 24, 2009


God, I know. How stupid are they in killing all those mothers? See, if they merely shamed the women while simultaneously forcing them to have the baby, they'd be able to continue population growth and punish women for being whores just like the ever-growin' U. S. of Jesus-Loves-Ya!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:44 AM on February 24


No no, you have it all wrong. You're supposed to depict women with impossibly high standards of physical beauty and sexuality in the media first, then you convince mothers to obsess over their daughters physical appearance until they figure out that they can eat whatever they want as long as they throw it back up. Only then, with their self-esteem and body image completely shattered, can you shame them into having the baby. You know, sometimes it's like you people don't know anything about oppressing half our species.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:51 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here's another article that goes over more of the history, it looks as though the Iranian government actually encouraged procreation as a government policy from 1979 to, until after the war when the high growth rate was seen as a problem.

It looks like my earlier comment was wrong and the baby boom happened during the revolution and the Iran/Iraq war. And not only that, Iran's population actually doubled between 1968 and 1986.

I don't know why anyone would be surprised that population would drop if you went from a government policy encouraging lots of babies to a government policy encouraging family planning and low birth rates. And Iran's birth rate is still higher then the U.S's.
posted by delmoi at 6:55 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The birth rate thing seems kind of ridiculous, and a red herring compared to the other things discussed in the article. If you look at Iran's population break down by age it's crazy how many people are under the age of 30. Stupid crazy. I think Iranians could stop having kids for a good long while and coast along on that last boom. Also, post revolution, a lot of women that wouldn't have gone to school (or would have stopped early) started getting educated, so you have lots of University educated women now that you didn't have prior to 1979. A lot of people think/thought this would result in a new revolution to punt the theocracy, which isn't very youth friendly. Though that doesn't seem to be the case, I'm guessing such women probably don't want to pop out babies like they are going out of fashion. Maybe it's easier to get abortions/condoms now?

As for the other points, they aren't that surprising.
posted by chunking express at 6:59 AM on February 24, 2009


Here are some more interesting bits about Iran's family planning (from this article again):
Religious leaders have become involved with the campaign for smaller families, citing them as a social responsibility in their weekly sermons. They also have issued fatwas, religious edicts with the strength of court orders, that permit and encourage the use of all types of contraception, including permanent male and female sterilization--a first among Muslim countries. Birth control, including the provision of condoms, pills, and sterilization, is free.

One of the strengths of Iran's promotion of family planning is the involvement of men. Iran is the only country in the world that requires both men and women to take a class on modern contraception before receiving a marriage license. And it is the only country in the region with a government-sanctioned condom factory. In the past four years, some 220,000 Iranian men have had a vasectomy. While vasectomies still account for only 3 percent of contraception, compared with female sterilization at 28 percent, men nonetheless are assuming more responsibility for family planning.
Also, "From 1986 to 2001, Iran's total fertility--the average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime--plummeted from seven to less than three."
posted by delmoi at 7:03 AM on February 24, 2009


Also, this seems to have far more to do with Iran than Islam, so i'm not sure what the deal with your title is. It's not like you can get temporary marriages in any other Islamic state, for example, they are specific to Iran.
posted by chunking express at 7:05 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, it's worth bearing in mind that Spengler is nuts.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:06 AM on February 24, 2009


Thanks for that material, Delmoi.

I have no interest in defending the Iranian regime, but this article is pseudo-sociological nonsense written by an ideologue. I'm flagging it for removal.

As if the pen name of "Spengler" didn't already suggest that something was amiss, basic logical errors about here: the conflation of the fertility rate with the birth rate, the seeming lack of awareness of the population explosion due to the war and the recent efforts of the government to control the birth rate.

But wait, there's more. His arguments are based on his "study" of prostitution in Iran, in which he tells us that "Anti-regime sociologists claim that at least 300,000 women are whoring in Tehran alone." Gee, no leading language or possible bias there. And no links to any studies- just a quote from an Italian newspaper.

If you read on, you'll see that his argument is that the Islamic regime has led to moral decline and decadence, the sign of social decay and chaos. This guy is basically Oswald Spengler-- oh yeah, that's nom de plume.

Take a look at his footnotes. One piece from a German newspaper, one study of the possible effect of higher education on fertility rates, and one study of 400 participants on morale among Iranian citizens.

Have you taken a look at his other writing? Check out these gems:

"Islamist radicals (like the penny-a-marriage mullahs of Iran) are the world's most prolific pimps. "


"The Persian prostitute is the camp follower of the jihadi, joined to him in a pact of national suicide. "

"Iranians already behave like a defeated people. That is why they are so unstable, and so dangerous. The new Persian Empire masquerading as an Islamic Republic is a wounded beast."


What's truly pathetic isn't just that this guy is getting published. It's that as soon as this transparent combination of pseudo-science and blatant agenda-mongering gets put on Mefi, people immediately take the opportunity to take it as the Gospel and start making ignorant generalizations about Islam and Iran.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:13 AM on February 24, 2009 [12 favorites]


Underlying the crisis is the Western world's repudiation of life, through a hedonism that puts consumption or "self-realization" ahead of child-rearing.

Somebody has quite an ax to grind .....
posted by blucevalo at 7:16 AM on February 24, 2009


Finally what is up with the bizarre assertion that a low birth rate is somehow a symptom of "spiritual decay" That just makes no sense at all.

Plus, the 5% addiction rate may not be that important. I've been told that opiate addiction is much less catastrophic than many other drugs. I had a friend who grew up in the 70s drug culture, and she claimed that many heroin users are perfectly able to maintain normal lives pretty much indefinitely. She thought methadone was a terrible, deeply evil thing, much more addictive and much more destructive than the original drug.

I don't know how accurate her claims were. She was more than a bit inclined to magical thinking, but she was also a lot closer to that scene than I ever was. I'm inclined to take her word more seriously than that of the government, for the simple reason that that same government claims that pot is insanely addictive and just awful awful awful. I know perfectly well from direct experience that it's just no big deal, and thus I have some distrust for their other claims.

She didn't, by the way, make it sound like heroin addiction was great or anything, just that it was quite possible to maintain a normal life while addicted.

So, a 5% addiction rate in Iran? It may not matter in the slightest.
posted by Malor at 7:20 AM on February 24, 2009


Data for 2000-2008
Pop graph shows increase followed by decrease
Birth rate is more or less constant in that time period with a slight decline
Death rate has climbed
Infant mortality in particular rose sharply in 2003

2003 is when a war started in a nearby country. So the only logical conclusion is that factor to blame is the factor to blame for all bad things: George W. Bush.
posted by DU at 7:21 AM on February 24, 2009


I think a little Occam's razor is necessary here. When I looked up "birth rate" and "Iran" in Google Scholar, I found an abstract to a scholarly paper with a much simpler explanation. According to the abstract, "...during the period 1986-96 the census [in Iran] revealed a sharp decline in the population growth rate and crude birth rate. This declining trend accelerated between 1991 and 1996. Demographic factors affecting fertility change were the increase in the average age of marriage, the decrease in the proportion of the population that was married, and the increase in age-specific fertility rates for women aged >25 years." Iran is basically experiencing a phenomenon known in any basic demography textbook as the demographic transition, in which a developing country moves from high birth rates/high death rates to low birth rates/low death rates as it modernizes. As the abstract suggests, Iran is going through a standard demographic transition abetted by Iranian women marrying and having children later in life. The decline is just faster than normal, because Ayatollah Khomeini's theocracy banned family planning programs, which delayed a demographic transition that was going to happen anyway. Khomeini died in 1989, and the accelerating decline in birth rate started in 1991. No need for speculation about opium or "spiritual decay" is necessary.
posted by jonp72 at 7:21 AM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Dude, all I have to say is


OCTOMOM FOR PRESIDENT















OF IRAN
posted by Mister_A at 7:22 AM on February 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


foxy_hedgehog: as soon as this transparent combination of pseudo-science and blatant agenda-mongering gets put on Mefi, people immediately take the opportunity to take it as the Gospel and start making ignorant generalizations about Islam and Iran

Uh, I'm not sure what thread you're reading, but in the one I see, these claims are being dissected and quite thoroughly repudiated.

I would suggest that you maybe read a little more and project a little less.
posted by Malor at 7:22 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have no interest in defending the Iranian regime, but this article is pseudo-sociological nonsense written by an ideologue. I'm flagging it for removal.

Sure, the opinion part of the article has that (mefi forbidden) anti-population control slant, which is why I filled in with more articles from the NYT and Washington post. I figured that people could ignore the opinion and still find out some things they might not have known (ie, the natural gas shortage this winter, etc) and (like me) induce some personal research.
posted by 445supermag at 7:28 AM on February 24, 2009


I would blame this on homosexuals, but Ahmadinijad has made it clear that Iran is a no-gay zone.
posted by wabashbdw at 7:29 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy"

I hope that was meant ironically....wow, just wow!
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:30 AM on February 24, 2009


Oh, and read the "temporary marriages" link, fascinating piece about prostitutes, pimped by mullahs, for mullahs, who operate in a cemetary...
posted by 445supermag at 7:33 AM on February 24, 2009


445supermag, maybe you should have mentioned that the lead article is kind of crazy, instead of assuming we'd all pick up on that.

One of the books I have on Iran has a piece talking about war widows who prostitute themselves to make ends meet. That was a depressing read.
posted by chunking express at 7:38 AM on February 24, 2009


orange swan: "Another possibility to explain a low birth rate is that perhaps there is or has been a discrepancy in terms of male: female ratio in the adult population. The Iraq-Iran war raged for years and must have killed off countless young men, which means that there must have been corresponding numbers of young women who were not able to get married and have children."

According to the CIA World Factbook the gender ratios are pretty darned close in all the sampled age ranges.
posted by Science! at 7:56 AM on February 24, 2009


Prostitution is a form of psychic suicide; writ large, it is a manifestation of the national death-wish, the hideous recognition that the world no longer requires Ukrainians or Moldovans.

wait a minat. wat.
posted by sidr at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's invade the infertiles!
posted by Vindaloo at 8:01 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is a great example of how even if I find the links in a MeFi FPP weird, the commentary (and links provided therein) is awesome and illuminating.
posted by pointystick at 8:03 AM on February 24, 2009


This is a strange, weird article based on a bunch of generalities, probably ripped off of watching too much Iranian cinema. The country deserves better than this FPP.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:04 AM on February 24, 2009


This is a strange, weird article based on a bunch of generalities, probably ripped off of watching too much Iranian cinema.

or because they're probably watching too little Iranian cinema.
posted by sidr at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sex, drugs and Islam

Some rock and roll to with it. (God, that pic makes me smile).
posted by jonmc at 8:27 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Uh, I'm not sure what thread you're reading, but in the one I see, these claims are being dissected and quite thoroughly repudiated.

Hey Malor, you're right- I should have previewed. The silliness was more limited than I thought and I was mostly pissed to see the article posted on MeFI.

I would suggest that you maybe read a little more and project a little less.

You are right - my post was an expression of my own long-repressed ignorance and Islamophobia...?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:36 AM on February 24, 2009


Dont developed countries want negative population growth at some time, or are we still working under the assumption that there will, never ever be a "population bomb" scenario and more will always equal better?
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:51 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Elsewhere on the web, Iranians are the friendliest people in the world.
posted by K.P. at 8:52 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


You are right - my post was an expression of my own long-repressed ignorance and Islamophobia

Precisely. Let it out, foxy_hedgehog! This thread is an intervention!
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:52 AM on February 24, 2009


The decline is just faster than normal, because Ayatollah Khomeini's theocracy banned family planning programs, which delayed a demographic transition that was going to happen anyway.

What's key here is that the pattern requires the mortality rate to drop before the birth rate, leading to a sudden (but temporary) population bulge*...I haven't looked up when it is, but it would be useful to know when mortality started dropping in order to gauge how "delayed" the overall transition is.

*An acquaintance of mine co-authored a report arguing that this part of the transition, with what frequently involves large numbers of underemployed youths, can lead to all sorts of trouble.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2009


Er, wasn;t there a massive spike in baby-making during the Iran-Iraq war?
posted by Artw at 9:02 AM on February 24, 2009


Forcing theocracy on a population seems like it has to be unworkable in the long-term. Why? Because it is human nature to resent that which is forced upon you. If someone tells you that you *can't* watch porn, then you want to watch porn. Even if you don't know what that even means. And if someone tells you that you *must* eat lima beans, suddenly lima beans look 1/100th as appetizing as they did before you learned that you HAD to eat them.
posted by jamstigator at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2009


You can call that: Jamstigator's Lima Bean Theory Of The Unsustainability Of Forced Theocracies. I should publish!
posted by jamstigator at 9:14 AM on February 24, 2009


More than 20 minutes from FPP to US bashing and tacit approval of women's rights abuse in Iran? For shame, Metafilter! This should have been done in the first comment.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:14 AM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Funny, before I came and read the comments in the thread - very insightful comments, BTW, as another poster pointed out, one of the things I love about MeFi - but before I came and read the comments, I skimmed the article and found my BS detector going off.

Glad to see I have the settings right on my BS detector :)
posted by Xoebe at 9:21 AM on February 24, 2009


On temporary marriages in Iraq, from yesterday's NYT:
Still, only about 120,000 widows — roughly one in six — receive any state aid, according to government figures. Widows and their advocates say that to receive benefits they must either have political connections or agree to temporary marriages with the powerful men who control the distribution of government funds.“It is blackmail,” said Samira al-Mosawi, chairwoman of the women’s affairs committee in Parliament. “We have no law to treat this point. Widows don’t need temporary support, but a permanent solution.” The latest plan, proposed by Mazin al-Shihan, director of the Baghdad Displacement Committee, a city agency, is to pay men to marry widows.
posted by 445supermag at 9:33 AM on February 24, 2009


Actually, I think foxy_hedgehog has a point. There are some people making ignorant generalizations and she's the only one who called them on it. Kudos.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:51 AM on February 24, 2009


Krrrlson, calling out the FPP for being a pile of horse shit is tacit approval of women's rights abuse in Iran? For reals? Are we supposed to eat up crap from crazy people? Please. Try harder.
posted by chunking express at 10:06 AM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Good news from the front lines of our baby war with Eurasia!
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:52 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to work up some sort of proposal where anyone who thinks population decline in any country is anything other than a blessing is sterilized or locked away or something. Still roughing it out.
posted by maxwelton at 11:45 AM on February 24, 2009


Elsewhere on the web, Iranians are the friendliest people in the world.

Well that's not surprising, given the availability of condoms, birth control, and opium!
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I figured that people could ignore the opinion and still find out some things they might not have known

Who's going to trust anything said by such a foam-at-the-mouth crackpot? You should have found better sources or forgotten the whole thing. That Spengler piece is a turd floating in the MeFi punchbowl. It's especially reprehensible because most people are so ignorant about Iran that they're liable to believe bullshit they'd reject about countries they knew something about; I'm glad delmoi and others were so quick to jump on this.
posted by languagehat at 12:12 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Iran is a no-gay zone.

But, oddly enough, Iran is also a transsexual-tolerant zone, at least as far as the government is concerned.

Despite the fact that way back in 1963, the Ayatollah Khomeini himself was arguing that there was nothing wrong with corrective surgery (for hermaphrodites), oppressive laws were put in place after the revolution. Those laws stood until Khomeini was confronted by a trans activist. Here's how it happened:

I couldn't continue like this," she says. "I knew I could get the operation easily enough in London, but I wanted the documentation so I could live." Desperate for the religious blessing that would confer legal protection in staunchly Islamic Iran, Molkara decided on a fateful step.

There, Molkara - then bearded, tall and powerfully built - hysterically tried to explain her predicament. "I was screaming, 'I'm a woman, I'm a woman'"...

..."I was taken into a corridor," Molkara says. "I could hear Khomeini raising his voice. He was blaming those around him, asking how they could mistreat someone who had come for shelter. He was saying, 'This person is God's servant.' He had three of his trusted doctors in the room and he asked what the difference was between hermaphrodites and transsexuals...Khomeini didn't know about the condition until then. From that moment on, everything changed for me."

Molkara left the Khomeini compound with a letter addressed to the chief prosecutor and the head of medical ethics giving religious authorization for her - and, by implication, others like her - to surgically change their gender. It was the fatwa she had sought.


This was in 1979. In Western countries, transsexuality was considered a mental illness until 1994.


(note: their policy is good for transgendered people, but bad for homosexuals, who are pressured to get sex changes)


My point: Iran has some evil laws on the books, but it's way more progressive than a country like Saudi Arabia.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:25 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


"A first analysis of the Iran 2006 census results shows a sensationally low fertility level of 1.9 for the whole country"

Stats:
Norway: 1.81
Sweden 1.75
UK: 1.74
Netherlands: 1.73
Canada: 1.59
Germany: 1.37
Italy: 1.33
Spain: 1.32
Greece: 1.29
Japan: 1.25

Well, I'm off to spend the afternoon mainlining heroin.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:38 PM on February 24, 2009


I read somewhere that 70% of Iran's population is under 30 years of age. The median age of Iranis is 26. It seems healthy to me that people have had not quite 2 children by 26. The entire human population of Planet Earth should be a quarter of what it is. Hooray for Iran.

It is a fact that literacy decreases number of births per household. Both partners have to agree on birth control. Maybe the people of Iran are waiting to move out of Iran, to have children.
posted by Oyéah at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2009


"It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran"

What kind of fool equates low birth rate with spiritual decay?
posted by Oyéah at 1:43 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran"

What kind of fool equates low birth rate with spiritual decay?
posted by Oyéah at 1:43 PM on February 24 [+] [!]


Several people have commented on the "spiritual decay" phrase (probably because it's in the quoted section), I took it as meaning "low morale", which he uses several times in the piece. While many mefites (rightly or wrongly) believe that a low birthrate is a good thing, it can indicate a lack of optimism about the future.
Just up thread someone linked the birthrates of several countries with lower birthrates than Iran, however, many of those countries have expanding populations due to immigration. Iran is losing population due to immigration.
posted by 445supermag at 2:17 PM on February 24, 2009


See, if they merely shamed the women while simultaneously forcing them to have the baby, they'd be able to continue population growth and punish women for being whores just like the ever-growin' U. S. of Jesus-Loves-Ya!

2/10. Base trollcraft. Exceedingly lame attempt to conflate the U.S. with Islamic nations that kill women for having sex out of wedlock.
posted by MikeMc at 2:20 PM on February 24, 2009


"Iran is believed to be the only country in the world where engaged couples cannot get a marriage licence unless they show that they have attended contraception classes. "

They should do this everywhere. Next time some conservative fundie blowhard starts ranting aobut the evil of Iran I'm going to trot this out and watch their head explode.
posted by Mitheral at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2009


5% of Iran's adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates

How does this compare to, say, the alcohol addiction rates in the country in which this poster lives?
posted by telstar at 3:11 PM on February 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


So. Iran has successfully lowered it's birthrate.

Hmmmm.

All I can say is: World - follow Iran's example.
posted by tkchrist at 5:22 PM on February 24, 2009


I'm with delmoi: I can't see how the decline in the birthrate is connected to spiritual decay. The whole article has a really strange and disconnected tone, as if it was written by a third-rate op-ed contributor at a minor regional paper...

I bet the 34 percent of young people who want to emigrate (cited in the article) is a really low figure for a third-world country. In Egypt, where I once lived, I am sure the figure would be twice that at least.

The steep decline in the Iranian birthrate is certainly in part a correction for the weird statistical glitch that was the steep INCREASE in birthrate after the revolution; now THAT was an unusual thing, demographically. The "demographic transition" (as economists call it) over the past few years raised far fewer eyebrows when I studied it.
posted by jackbrown at 6:30 PM on February 24, 2009


Beyond Sex, Drugs and Islam, Spengler's other contributions to human knowledge include "Sufism, Sodomy and Satan", "Jihad, the Lord's Supper, and eternal life", "Why Islam Baffles America" and more. I really am shocked to see trash this spurious on the front page.

He does know how to spin a nice title though. The image of John Wayne preaching the true meaning of prayer to a horde of muslims is also fairly amusing (illustration for the WIBA piece).
posted by BinGregory at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2009


Well it's obvious that Shrub's and evil Dick's strategy in Afghanistan was to keep the heroin flowing into Iran so that member of the Evil Axis would just disappear. sheesh.
posted by Buzzkilz at 7:55 PM on February 24, 2009


Oh, fuck, this is SPENGLER! That's what I get for not RTFA right away. Spengler is a singularly rabid neoconservative cook over at Asia times who spews weekly on subjects guaranteed to warm the cockles of Michael Medved's shriveled little heart. Like predicting that China will go Christian. Like bee-zarre analysis of the middle eastern conflicts which always portray muslims as evil doods and Israel as spotlessly innocent. Like absurd analyses of US politics in which Republicans are gallant statesmen and Democrats are laughable failures. Endless cultural rants in which religion is held up to be the cultural sine qua non. How Spengler doesn't get laughed off the web is beyond me.

Here's a typical example.
posted by telstar at 11:44 PM on February 24, 2009


Um, has he not noticed Israel's own demographic problem?
posted by Artw at 11:56 PM on February 24, 2009


Several people have commented on the "spiritual decay" phrase (probably because it's in the quoted section), I took it as meaning "low morale", which he uses several times in the piece. While many mefites (rightly or wrongly) believe that a low birthrate is a good thing, it can indicate a lack of optimism about the future.

No, that's a baseless speculation. Do you think that every developing country with a declining birthrate is suffering from "low morale"?

445supermag, you're still defending Spengler's article? I was willing to believe that it wound up in your post as a sort of careless accident and desire for a little "controversy," but now I'm feeling less inclined to be sympathetic. It's pathetic that this is still on Metafilter.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 12:49 AM on February 25, 2009


Yep. Spengler is an idiot bomb thrower.

Here are a couple of facts to chew upon...

1> Due to success of Iran's government programs, it's birth rate is #142 in the world... following closely behind #134, the United States, but actually ahead of China, France, Hong Kong, South Africa, Norway, Switzerland, the UK, etc.

2> If Iran does have 5% of its adult population addicted to drugs, compare that to the U.S., where over 10% of the adult population becomes addicted to drugs. Also note... a far greater percentage of Americans are incarcerated than in Iran.

If Iranian women sometimes turn to prostitution for education and social mobility, that's understandable... and indeed, beneficial. It really indicates that Iran as a culture is a lot different -- and more modern -- than most Westerners think.

One of my most intelligent online friends is a young woman from Iran who majored in Computer Science in Tehran, and who now has a full scholarship in the U.S., specializing in language recognition, a field which she's an absolute genius in. I don't care how she afforded her education, and I would hardly think less of her for her choices in life, because she's got great things to look forward to in the future, I suspect.

Only an fool would damn Iran if it were too repressive, ignorant, and overbred, and damn Iran if it's increasingly modern, surprisingly well educated, and had its population growth under control.

Spengler isn't just a fool... he's an anonymous coward.
posted by markkraft at 1:09 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here are a couple of facts to chew upon...
2> If Iran does have 5% of its adult population addicted to drugs, compare that to the U.S., where over 10% of the adult population becomes addicted to drugs. Also note... a far greater percentage of Americans are incarcerated than in Iran.

If Iranian women sometimes turn to prostitution for education and social mobility, that's understandable... and indeed, beneficial. It really indicates that Iran as a culture is a lot different -- and more modern -- than most Westerners think.
Spengler isn't just a fool... he's an anonymous coward.
posted by markkraft at 1:09 AM on February 25 [+] [
!]

WTF, you call Spengler a bomb thrower (probably rightly, for all I know, he's spreading CIA disinformation) and then you rationalize and mis-represent the facts in the very next breath. Your linked article says 10% of americans abused drugs at some point in their lives, not that 10% are current addicts. And prostitution is a sign of a modern and healthy society, AND a good way to pay for college? Here, I'll make it easy to click on, the "temporary marriage" link from the more inside part of the post (originally from the Village Voice, liberal enough for ya?), read that and tell me how that's a sign of a modern, sex-positive society.

So, when your daughter is ready for college, are you going to tell her to go out and turn tricks (or a son to hustle) for the tuition?
posted by 445supermag at 6:06 AM on February 25, 2009


If Iranian women sometimes turn to prostitution for education and social mobility, that's understandable... and indeed, beneficial. It really indicates that Iran as a culture is a lot different -- and more modern -- than most Westerners think.

That's a symptom of a degenerate, failing society and you know it. That's the patriarchal conservative disease in a nutshell: women are either property to produce heirs (and in this case, sequestered not just in the home but under veils), or whores to be used and abused for fun, and then disposed of.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:18 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Your linked article says 10% of americans abused drugs at some point in their lives, not that 10% are current addicts."

True, but I had to compare something with something. Keep in mind that over 1% of the US population is in prison in the first place -- if they weren't, presumably many would be addicts -- and that Spengler didn't provide the source for his assertions... so we're left comparing apples to invisible oranges, really... but we can safely say that both problems are large, and quite possibly comparable in scale.

"If Iranian women sometimes turn to prostitution for education and social mobility, that's understandable...
>>That's a symptom of a degenerate, failing society and you know it"


That must be why the same sorta thing happens over here in the US.

Of course, in some degenerate, failing societies like Japan, schoolgirls sleep with old men for money to buy things they don't need... or women work in hostess clubs -- oftentimes with prostitution on the side -- so that they can afford to buy time with the guys at the host clubs! In fact, that reason was specifically one of the reasons why Japanese police moved the hours of operation for the host clubs to later at night... so that fewer minors would feel motivated to prostitute themselves.

Of course, there's also Okinawa, where it was estimated that one in twenty women from 15-60 were prostitutes, primarily for US military Johns.

Of course, in the US, much of the prostitution happens so that people can afford drugs.

But if we're going to talk about sexual degeneracy, why stop with prostitution? I mean, the US has led the way for decades, and is the primary cultural exporter of pornography and sexual thought in the world!

This has been problematic in other nations such as Iran and China, both countries where authorities have tried in vain to block foriegn sexually-related materials from their shores, and where they have claimed that homosexuality and other "deviant behavior" is a "western thing" that doesn't exist in their countries.

On one sense, people on the US laugh at these claims, as clearly homosexuality exists in both countries. What *didn't* exist in these nations before, however, was a bold, sexual Western-influenced homosexual culture... and culture makes a fundamental difference in how people behave. Even though very little changed in Chinese society, what could once be largely ignored by the masses could no longer be ignored... and the new reality required new ideas, and imposed new pressures for change on the old status quo.

Small groups of people are quite capable of creating their own culture, which then become the source of media attention... thereby giving more individuals options of modifying their own personal identities, and of accepting or rejecting.

Culture is what created the "free love"/swinger culture of the sixties and seventies, operating under their own set of groundrules. Culture is what popularized bisexuality as a valid -- and even cool -- choice for millions. Culture is what allowed people like Madonna and others to commercialize BDSM, to the point that formerly obscure fetish girls like Bettie Page became sexual icons decades after their heyday. Culture is what led in the late 90s to the creation of polyamory / concentual non-monogamy as a kind of sexual identity, one originally codified in the US, and now a growing movement in most foriegn countries. Culture is what is currently popularizing pegging, especially amongst younger Americans.

So, when I hear about other countries having a "degenerate, failing society" because of prostitution, well... all I can say is that while I would prefer young women had better opportunities to afford an education that would give them more choices in life without having to be a prostitute, at least increasing modernity and exposure to more ideas is gradually allowing them more choices in life, even if they're choices we ourselves would not gladly make.

"read that and tell me how that's a sign of a modern, sex-positive society."

Did I say that prostitution is necessarily modern and sex-positive? As they say, it's the oldest profession. What's modern is women in Iran paying their own way through college, so that they can advance their lives and give themselves more choices. There is, in fact, change that is happening in Iran today, with women increasingly capable of criticising the role of men in their oppression. Ultimately, I think it's hard to judge women too much for the choices they make to live their lives.
posted by markkraft at 6:08 AM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It can't be the "world's oldest profession" and a symbol of modernity. The intersection of financial desperation and sexual frustration is not liberation of any kind. You rationalize like someone who needs their services.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:45 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously. War widows servicing mullahs is not a step forward.
posted by chunking express at 7:47 AM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


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