Iranian Medievalism

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a week now, because I’ve been hard pressed to come up with a joke that can compete with the actual quote. You’ve probably heard that the President of Iran, Mr. Ahmadinezhad, has accused the U.S. and other Western nations of being “medieval” for not wanting Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

I know that I don’t need to tell you that medieval literature and law is full of attempts to stop people from acquiring nuclear weapons. During the First Crusade, both the crossbow and the LGM-118A Peacekeeper nuclear missile were banned by Innocent II’s Second Lateran Council.*

Cheap jokes aside**, it’s refreshing to see that Middle Eastern leaders can mangle references to the Middle Ages just as well as their Western counterparts. Here is the best part of the mangle in question:

It is not right for you to make something up [the Holocaust] and then say “no one has the right to speak about this, everyone should repeat what we say”. These people think they are living in the medieval age when they could call a scientist and tell him “abandon you ideas for the earth is not moving.”.The scientist would say “I swear by the prophets I have the scientific argument that the earth is moving.” They say: “No! Here is the guillotine . Either abandon your views or go under the guillotine.” This is the same form of thinking. The difference is that they have nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The situation is therefore more dangerous. In those days they only had the sword and the guillotine, today they have nuclear weapons.

As I learned a long time ago in the Choose Your Own Adventure book Blade of the Guillotine,*** guillotines weren’t invented until the eighteenth century. But, as I repeatedly tell my undergrads, there’s nothing more medieval than a good anachronism, and Ahmadinezhad goes that extra mile toward medieval authenticity by working in an allusion to the trial of Galileo, which happened in the seventeenth century. He’s a very committed medieval re-enactor, President Ahmadinezhad.

*Or maybe just the crossbow. My Latin is not the best. [Return]
**Though not for long. And hey, check the new handy footnote index system.[Return]
***Actually, it was a Time Machine book (from the Publishers of Choose Your Own Adventure!), which, according to a review I read just now on the Internet, is hampered by
the pointless inclusion of “the option before the story begins of bringing or not bringing a red scarf.” Isn’t so much of life similarly hampered? [Return]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dr. Virago

    as I repeatedly tell my undergrads, there’s nothing more medieval than a good anachronism

    Hee hee. Yes.

    But man, that Galileo one bugs the sh*t out of me, because it so frequently comes up as an example of “the control of the medieval church” or, worse, “the dogma of the Dark Ages” (don’t get me started on Dark Ages). Ack!

    OK, I have to go break something now.

  • wil

    Much like the term “classical” as it applies to music (def. 1: an 80-yr era, 1750-1830, encompassing Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven; def. 2: orderly, formal music in the educated European tradition), “medieval” has a broad definition and a narrow – def. 1: of, relating to, or typical or suggestive of the middle ages or their art, literature, or institutions; 2: antiquated, outmoded.

    And, if historians can’t even agree on the medieval period’s start and end dates, can we really blame our world leaders for getting confused? 😉

  • LLCoolCarlIII

    I think he’s more going for def. 3: of, relating to, typical of, or suggestive of guillotines or their art, literature, or institutions. Thus the reference to the Choose Your Own Adventure book.

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