Chicago A little more than a decade ago, Azar Nafisi, an Iranian professor, author, and now ex-patriot, wrote a very enjoyable book called Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. It was a memoir obviously so it was about her own experiences before, during and after the revolution and what it was like to live with those changes, but, fascinatingly, she told the story in sections looking at authors she and a small group of women, many of them former students, read in her behind-the-doors book club of sorts, including works not only Nabokov, but also by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Jane Austen.
All of this came to mind when I noticed something interesting about who was now reading my daily blog, the Chief Organizer Reports at www.chieforganizer.org. As opposed to those who listen to it daily on KABF radio or get it on a feed to their emails or via Facebook, Google Analytics is a great, free tool that gives you more than you might ever want to know or could possibly understand about how your website traffic works. For the first time in seemingly forever, I scrolled down the monthly figures recently that list in rank order the readership of the Chief Organizer Reports by country and saw that predictably the United States was the big leader with 40% of the readership, but solidly in the #2 slot with more than 11% was Iran. With another click at the readership by city, Tehran was now the single largest city where I had regular readers and in the #13 slot was Mashhad, with 2.8 million people the second largest city in Iran. Now they had my attention? What’s up with that? Is there a behind the screens interest in building community organizations now in Tehran?
Mentioning this to some brothers and sisters, they’ve cautioned, that it’s best not to even ask, but obviously that’s not me! Of course some of this may just be pure volume and coincidence, but that really doesn’t explain enough because even with 77 million people, Iran is only the 17th largest country in the world by population.
According to US Institute for Peace, “Iran is one of the most tech-savvy societies in the developing world with an estimated 28 million internet users, led by youth.” Boasts between 60000 and 110000 active blogs, one of the highest numbers in the Middle East, led by youth.
Young people could be part of it though? Google tells me that the Chief Organizer’s readership is 27.5% between 18 and 24, 33.5% between 25-34, or over 60% less than 34 years old, with another 15.5 less than 44, meaning 75% of my readers still are knocking on the door and ready to rock!
So, as ACORN’s first President Steve McDonald used to always caution, we don’t want “to get the big head.” A friend and fellow organizer with long ties to Iran, when queried, cautioned that with little for young people do in their Iran, once people are up and surfing and get around the nominal internet controls there, they spend a lot of time surfing. Of course they have to because internet speeds are very slow: Internet speeds in Iran rank 164 out of 170 countries.
Nonetheless when I look at the readership from various countries and cities, it’s overwhelmingly where we have ACORN International affiliates and partnerships, and broad, deep ties to organizing and change, all of which says to me that something somewhere in Iran, and elsewhere, is stirring. I’m a half-full, rather than half-empty, guy, so I have to believe it’s not just boredom, but folks trying to figure out if there is something here that speaks to keeping hope alive and making change PDQ…pretty damn quick! At least I hope so, because it’s part of why I do this every day.
If we can be a part of that happening in Iran, then we want to help! We’re sending the same message to folks in Ethiopia, Pakistan, Turkey, and tens of other countries as well!
Ps. For readers curious about the geography of the Chief Organizer Reports readership, here’s more for you, and if you have thoughts or ideas about what to make of it, you know how to find me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rank of readership by top 10 countries
1. United States
3. United Kingdom
Rank of readership by top 20 cities
2. New Orleans
3. New York City
4. Washington, D.C.
7. Addis Ababa
8. Little Rock
10. Los Angeles
18. San Francisco