Ara Baliozian is one of the most controversial Armenian contemporary writers, but unfortunately most Armenians do not know about him or his works. He has published close to 20 books over the last 20 years and is acclaimed highly by the foreign media, like Gosdan Zarian and Shahan Shahnour before him, which goes to prove that our antiestablishment writers are not rejected because of the literary quality of their works, but only because of their ideas and their criticism of the Armenian establishment. Armenian papers used to publish his commentaries/book reviews, but lately he has been ignored by most of them (Armenian Life Weekly and New Life [Nor Gyank] which had been publishing his writings for years, among other papers, have been turning down his works lately).
"Armenian by ancestry, Canadian writer Ara Baliozian was born in Athens, Greece, and educated in Venice, Italy. Widely published in English and Armenian, he has been awarded many prizes and grants for his literary work. He is a regular to many publications in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. His books include THE GREEK POETESS AND OTHER WRITINGS, ARMENIA OBSERVED: AN ANTHOLOGY, FRAGMENTED DREAMS: ARMENIANS IN DIASPORA, and the best-selling study THE ARMENIANS: THEIR HISTORY AND CULTURE. His translations of such Armenian classics as Grigor Zohrab, Zabel Yessayan, and Kostan Zarian have been described as "valuable", "eloquent", "brilliant" contributions to world literature. He has himself been translated into French, German, Greek, Spanish, and Armenian."
The death of an illusion
When I went into this business, my ambition was to share my feelings, experiences and convictions with my fellow Armenians: to be, in a sense, a tiny piece in a vast mosaic of other feelings, experiences and convictions have since come to realize that some of my readers (surely the most persistently hostile and vocal) are quintessentially anti-mosaic: one color (brown for recycled crap?) is good enough for them. If it were up to these bigots, Armenia would be better off with a single political party and leader whose title would be neither "nakharar" nor king but sultan: His Serene Majesty Sultan Jack S. Avanakian. As the old saying goes: "You may take an Armenian out of the Ottoman Empire but you cannot take the Ottoman Empire out of an Armenian [make it, Turkish gypsy]."
To those hungry for solutions, I say: If...
How To Achieve Peace And Prosperity
By evoking only blood-memories, the word "Turk" paralyzes my reason, and whenever I say anything remotely positive about them (such as, "Turks too are human beings") I experience deep inside somewhere in a dark corner of my subconscious what may best be described as a shiver of intense self-disgust.
If this is true with all Armenians, then I suggest we may have to disqualify ourselves as negotiators and allow outsiders to handle the job. One reason the Israelis and Palestinians have so far failed to reach an agreement is that they insist on handling their own negotiations. I have every reason to suspect that they will have a much better chance if they allow negotiators from neutral or non-aligned countries to represent them.
The same applies to Armenian and Turks. If so far we have not adopted this method, and we may never adopt it, it’s because we continue to think with the blood and the blood is not equipped to think and adopt the British slogan: "Our country has neither enemies nor friends, only interests."
Ara Baliozian: words with meanings
Azad-Hye, Dubai, 14 October 2006: After knowing the work of Ara Baliozian (born in Athens 1936, lives in Canada) and the depth of his writings, a question pops up: Why this author is not a celebrated personality amongst the Armenians? The answer is not difficult to guess. He has been an ardent critic of the Diasporan institutions, never compromising on his principles and always courageous in telling the truth. These are virtues rarely applauded in our society, where preserving the national identity is equal to keeping old-fashioned traditions. Hence, it is not strange that someone like Baliozian is not known to the wider public.
Below is an interview with Ara Baliozian, followed by brief biography, list of publications and samples of his most recent reflections and quotations.
You are known for your opposition to the traditional way of leading Armenian public life in the Diaspora. Do Armenians in Canada (or anywhere else) lead a different kind of community life, enjoying the benefits of the democratic countries where they have settled?
My anti-establishment views are not exactly mine alone. They belong to our literature from Khorenatsi (5th century) to Zarian (20th century). As for the Armenian community in Canada or anywhere else: they are run by authoritarian and anti-democratic institutions that belong to our political parties and churches. It is an unfortunate fact that we have not yet been thoroughly de-ottomanized and de-sovietized.
Much of what you say is common and known facts but still when it is phrased bluntly it is not appreciated. How do you explain this? Is it something psychological?
Dupes and brainwashed partisans may refuse to see facts, but not Armenians with the minimum degree of common sense and decency.
How many words do you need to describe a present day Armenian? Do you need to use the same vocabulary that used to describe an Armenian of the 1950s or 1920s?
There are basically two different species: The Ottomanized and Sovietized on the one hand and the born-again human beings.
Is there a magical way of solving the existing problems in Armenia? Has there been real diagnosis of the problems?
No magic is needed. Only an enlightened community.
Do you think a strong Armenia will remember the Armenian Diaspora or it will only care for the tax-payers?
I don’t have much trust in politicians and nations as much as individuals. I expect little or nothing from our politicians, whose ethics are lower than a snake’s belly full of buck shot.
What is the most effective way to support Armenia?
By refusing to support the corrupt.
You are known to express lots of ideas in few sentences, but don’t you think that sometimes details could shed more light on a particular subject?
Since I have published 30 books and written literally thousand of commentaries I find there is an overabundance of detail in my writings.
Young Armenians need to see things more clearly: how they can achieve this?
By reading more of our great writers as opposed our self-appointed pundits and academics who have no interest in our literature, only in our Middle Ages and in the massacres.
Do you think that we should work diplomatically with Arab or Islamic countries to explain them our historical presence in the area and encourage them to recognize the Genocide, or this is something that will automatically follow as the World recognizes the Genocide?
The alternative of being diplomatic is to be undiplomatic – not a viable option. As for Genocide recognition: Nations do whatever is in their own best interest. Ethics is for individuals not, it seems, for tribes, nations and empires. The British have a slogan: “We have neither friends nor enemies. Only interests”.
You have translated a lot of literature work into English. Do you think by translating Armenian works into Arabic we gain the attention of the Arabs? What kind of work should we translate?
The best works, of course. But as I said, don’t expect literary masterpieces to change a politician’s mind.
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF ARA BALIOZIAN
Ara Baliozian is an Armenian – Canadian author, translator, and critic, born in Athens, Greece, 1936. He received his education at the Mekhitarist College of Mourad Raphaelian in Venice, Italy, where he also studied economics and political science at the University of Ca Foscari. He now lives in Ontario, Canada, where he devotes his full time to writing. He has been published in both Armenian and English. He is also the winner of many prizes and government grants for his literary work, which includes fiction, drama, literary criticism, and translations from Armenian, French and Italian. He now mostly posts his works on different Armenian internet discussion boards.
Ara Baliozian's writings
Memoirs and Fiction
- The Horrible Silence: An Autobiographical Novella (Maral Press, 1982)
- In the New World (Voskedar, 1982)
- The Call of the Crane/The Ambitions of a Pig (Voskedar, 1983)
- The Greek Poetess and Other Writings (Impressions Publishers, 1988)
- The Armenians: Their History and Culture (AGBU Ararat Press, 1980)
- The Armenian Genocide & The West (Impressions Publishers, 1984)
- Armenia Observed: An Anthology
- Portrait of a Genius and Other Essays (A/G Press, 1980)
- Views/Reviews/Interviews: Critical Articles, Conversations (A/G Press, 1982)
- Voices of Fear (Impressions Publishers, 1989)
- Perseverance: Ara Baliozian and the Armenian Cause (Impressions Publishers, 1990)
- That Promising Reality: New Visions & Values, The Armenian Revival (Impressions Publishers, 1992)
- Definitions: A Critical Companion to Armenian History and Culture (Impressions Publishers, 1998)
- Unpopular Opinions (Impressions Publishers, 1998)
- Fragmented Dreams: Armenians in Diaspora
- Intimate Talk
- Undiplomatic Observations
- Pages from my Diary: 1986-1995
- Conversations with Nazali Bagdasarian
- Puzant Granian, My Land, My People
- Puzant Granian, Selected Poems / 1936-1982
- Zabel Yessayan, The Gardens of Silihdar & Other Writings (Ashod Press, 1982)
- Gostan Zarian, The Traveller & His Road (Ashod Press, 1981)
- Gostan Zarian, Bancoop & the Bones of the Mammoth (Ashod Press, 1982)
- Gostan Zarian, The Island & A Man (Kar Publishing House, 1983)
- Krikor Zohrab, Zohrab: An Introduction (Kar Publishing House, 1985)
- From Plato to Sartre: Wisdom for Armenians
- Armenian wisdom : A Treasury of Quotations & Proverbs
- Dictionary of Armenian Quotations (Impressions Publishers, 1998)
Copyright © Azad-Hye, 2003-2007
Selection From Ara Baliozian
Two reasons why, henceforth, we should refer to Turks as our brothers:
A MODEST PROPOSAL
Two reasons why, henceforth, we should refer to Turks as our brothers:
If most Turks don't know and most Armenians no longer care what happened at the turn of the century in the Ottoman Empire, it follows that Armenians who preach hatred and Turks who lie by denying the reality of the Genocide, are only a small and non-representative minority, notwithstanding their claims to the contrary. It also follows that if the silent majority on both sides had its way, it would choose to move beyond the present stalemate of lies and hatred and towards compromise and cooperation.
If most Turks are, like Sultan Abdulhamid II, half-Armenian, it would be preferable to have them on our side in time of war; and in time of peace, to have their cooperation and support. Who among us would be suicidal enough to disagree?
A CASE OF MUTUAL MISUNDERSTANDING
Armenians don't understand Turks because they don't understand themselves. I speak from experience. For many years I did not understand not only my fellow Armenians but also myself. I confused what I had been taught (misleading platitudes, clichÃ©s, and slogans, that is to say propaganda) with reality. And now that I can tell the difference between a half-truth and a lie, I am misunderstood by self-assessed patriotic readers. This much said however, let me add that inability to understand others and oneself is not a peculiarly Armenian failing.
* What we (regardless of race, color, and creed) really mean when we speak of understanding is the kind of misunderstanding that supports a specific self-serving political agenda. And when we speak of being understood, what we really mean is being misunderstood in a manner that reinforces our image of ourselves. Like dog owners who say "Love me, love my dog," even when the dog happens to be a drooling, crutch-sniffing ugly mutt with menacing fangs, we say, in effect, "Love me, love my failings, and if you can't love them, pretend they don't exist."
* When it comes to misunderstanding others and themselves, Turks are no different. If Armenians accuse Turks of being guilty of genocide, Turks retaliate by accusing Armenians of inventing a genocide and believing it for a hundred years. (I wonder, does this have a parallel in human history?) They go further and accuse Armenians, if not of genocide (even they wouldn't dare to go that far) than of committing indiscriminate massacres of innocent Turkish civilians. It follows, Armenians, unlike Turks, must be born liars motivated by raw hatred. It also explains why, as civilized, compassionate people, Turks are outraged whenever the world fails to understand them, or misunderstand them in a manner that supports their political agenda and reinforces their image of themselves.
* Armenians and Turks don't hate one another, they hate reality.
If I have not said this before I will say it now: I have been wrong most of my life
and the chances are I am wrong today. I am certainly wrong in thinking that what I write matters and that it may even make a difference. * Illusions don't die; they adapt and reappear under a different disguise. Once upon a time I thought I was the center of the world. Once upon a time I was also led to believe Armenians were God's chosen people. The ancient Greeks would say that it is for this egocentric arrogance (hubris) that we were punished (Nemesis).
Why do I go on writing? I wish I knew. My only tentative explanation: writing has become a habit and habits are easier to keep than to give up.
In so far as I make assertions, I am very probably wrong. But in so far as I question the validity of the assertions in which I believed, I am very probably right.
Title of a poem by Francis Jammes (1868-1938), French poet and mystic: "Priere pour aller au Paradis avec les anes" (Prayer for going to Heaven with the donkeys."
In Michel Houellebecq's THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ISLAND (New York, 2005) I come across the following phrase: ".bullshit [is] the death of civilization."
Once more I stand accused of plotting the ruin of the nation by promoting miscegenation - a word I have never used if only because it is a favorite by the likes of Nazis, members of the KKK, and racist bigots in general.
The overwhelming majority of Armenians today are very probably of missed parentage. If it were up to our racists, they should be classified as lesser Armenians or second-class citizens.
What destroys a nation is not miscegenation but intolerance, racism, arrogance, prejudice, and ignorance.
What defines a man is neither his race nor his nationality but how much he has contributed to the welfare of his fellow men regardless of race, color and creed.
If miscegenation were such a bad thing why is it that some of our most ardent nationalists, from Abovian to Zarian, married odars? And how does one explain the fact that some of the most popular political leaders were either foreigners or the offspring of mixed marriages: Napoleon was not a Frenchman but a Corsican, Hitler was not a German but an Austrian, Stalin was not a Russian but a Georgian; closer to home, the Mamigonians were of Chinese descent and the Bagratunis identified themselves as Jews.
Throughout world history, from Alexander the Great to our own, the ruling classes and elites (the very same individuals who promote nationalism) have practiced miscegenation as a matter of course. Neither the czars of Russia nor the kings of England were pureblooded Russian or English. The Greek royal family was not Greek but German.
I have said this before and I will go on repeating it: I find all assertions of moral or racist superiority odious and I'd rather deal with a good Turk than a bad Armenian.
Once upon a time in the good old days when everything I wrote was printed in Armenian weeklies on the continent and in the Middle East, whenever I came across a positive remark about us, I would quote it in a review or an article, and needless to add, I would do the same with every negative remark about Turks.
Much later I learned that this was exactly the method employed by anti-American propagandists in the USSR. If I remember correctly, it was Mike Wallace who exposed this fact during an interview with the editor who handled Pravda's (may have been Izvestia's) anti-American department. Asked to identify her sources, the young female editor showed him the latest issue of the NEW YORK TIMES. All she did, it became apparent, was to select and edit the negative news items -- things like murders, rapes, strikes, riots, demonstrations, homelessness, corruption in high places, and so on. Result: the average comrade in the street was convinced he lived in a Soviet paradise, while Americans were condemned to burn in their own hell, and serve those blood-sucking capitalist bastards right.
Like Moliere's bourgeois who spoke prose (as opposed to verse) and didn't know it, I was a practicing propagandist and didn't know it. With one difference: unlike the young Russian editor in her tiny cubicle, I wasn't paid for my work. I did what I did because I loved Armenia and hated Turks.
There are many things in life about which no one tells you anything. Case in point: no one ever bothered to tell me that the secret of living a comfortable life is to be a flatterer, not a critic, and that there is more money in kissing ass than in kicking it.
Some years ago, after Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on Salman Rushdie, many publishers and bookstores around the world, including America, refused to have anything to do with his SATANIC VERSES. More recently, American newspapers were afraid to reprint the Mohammed cartoons in the name of political correctness. And the Pope of Rome, because he dared to quote the testimony of a medieval Byzantine emperor about Muslim militarism, has now been effectively neutralized and gagged. The message of jihadists is clear: "We set no value on human rights and the free speech of infidel dogs. Step out of line and we will riot, burn, and kill." (Today's victim: a young Catholic nun if Africa.) As for anti-jihadist moderates: I sympathize with their silence because I have learned the hard way that you cannot reason with fanatics who speak in the name of god and patriotism.
Faith and fundamentalism, fundamentalism and fanaticism, fanaticism and collective insanity: not always easy to tell where one ends and the other begins.
There is a beautiful English expression which is easily translated into Armenian but as far as I know it is seldom or never used by us: "Throw out the rascals!" - meaning, "Vote against the incumbents," as if our incumbents were morally superior to American incumbents. In this connection perhaps I should add that until very recently we in the Diaspora couldn't even identify our incumbents.
On the Internet it is not always easy to tell if those who attack you anonymously are children or adult retards. Perhaps I should have a warning label on everything I write that says: "What follows may not be suitable for young audiences. Parental guidance is advised."
To generalize about Muslims may not be politically correct, but that should not prevent us from speaking of their mistreatment of women and their megalomaniacal imperial illusions based on the fact that, since they had an empire in the Middle Ages, they can have another in the near future, provided they follow the Guidance, which says, infidels have the same status in the eyes of Allah as dogs.
Speaking of collective illusions and ambitions: in what way is our claim on historic Armenia any different?
And speaking of generalizations: Let others think of us as a nation of cunning rug merchants. We see ourselves as heroes and martyrs; and heroes and martyrs don't learn from their mistakes because they don't make them.
My favorite epitaph: "Here lies someone who tried to screw his fellow man as little as possible." (Camilo Jose Cela.)
FROM MY DIARY
"Not so loud, please!" Verdi said to an organ grinder who had planted himself beneath his window; and forever after the organ grinder sported a sign that said, "Student of Verdi."
Frances Mayes dedicates her latest book, A YEAR IN THE WORLD: JOURNEYS OF A PASSIONATE TRAVELLER (New York, 2006), "To the forgotten new yellow panties and bra left drying on the rim of the hotel bathtub."
A Chinese GI's complaint to his sergeant: "Sarge, hey keep calling me Sneeze but my name ain't sneeze. My name is Hep Chou."
In so far as criticism shows what can be done as opposed to what's being done, it is always constructive.
Can a dupe really speak of self-interest if his views are not his but someone else's?
You cannot reason with tyrants because they value their power above reason. Likewise, you cannot reason with men of faith because they value their religion above everything else, including their own survival.
Since most Christians are Christian because they were born in a Christian country, and most Muslims are Muslim because they were born in a Muslim country, it follows, what determines a man's choice of religion is geography rather than the merits of their belief system. It also follows, most believers, like most patriots, are dupes of an unthinking factor, namely real estate. Which also means, to say my religion or my country is better than yours amounts to saying my mud is better than your mud.
We brag about our facility with languages; and yet, Karzai speaks better English than Kocharian; some of our ablest translators are re-translators; most Armenians born and raised in America cannot speak their mother tongue, and most of those who speak it can't read it.
To love man means to hate exploiters, crooks, propagandists, dupes, charlatans, moral morons, tyrants, brown-nosers, flunkeys, hirelings, know-it-all smart-asses, liars, rapists, child molesters, thieves, killers.Perhaps to love man means to hate mankind.
By the time you subtract the PR, spin, doubletalk, and propaganda factors, what's left from the palaver of a politician may very well be not just nonsense but dangerous nonsense, the kind that starts wars and massacres.
We may not cut out tongues and burn heretics at the stake, but that does not prevent us from making it clear that's what we would like to do if we could get away with it.
If all human utterances have a margin of error, dogmatic assertions can't be right.
On the subject of our genocide, when I attempted to explain the Turkish side of the story, an outraged reader countered: "Some stories have only one side!" thus echoing a sentiment first expressed by Albert Camus (who was himself, be it noted, in the eye of several controversial firestorms). But isn't that what the Turks are saying too? - that their side of the story is the only true one and all others must be lies? Is it not inconsistent of us to repeat a line or to adopt a mindset of people whom we consider bloodthirsty savages?
No one's version of the story is Holy Scripture. And even if it were, not all of us are fundamentalists.
There is an entire library of writings (poetry, prose, criticism, fiction, drama, epic poem, moral treatise, dialogue, etc.) that consists in telling "the devil's side of the story." Three literary masterpieces that come readily to mind: Milton's PARADISE LOST, Goethe's FAUST, and more recently, Thomas Mann's DOKTOR FAUSTUS.
Speaking of Thomas Mann: during World War II he published an essay on Hitler (who had tried to assassinate him) titled "A Brother."
I doubt if there will ever come a time when Armenians will develop Mann's degree of detachment and call Turks their brothers, but consider some of the arguments in its favor: For six centuries we were their most loyal millet (ethnic group), and since intermarriage was a common practice, it is not at all unreasonable to suggest that a good fraction of Turks today, perhaps even half of them, may well be our half-brothers.
If this is bad news to some of my readers, blame historic reality, blame facts, blame statistics, blame even God (as some of our poets have done) but do not kill the messenger, because if you do, you may run the risk of being a Turk's brother not only in thought but also in deed.
Even an august institution like the Catholic Church finds the concept of the devil's advocate useful. If we are to the right of the Vatican, can we be too far off the left of Genghis Khan? That may be a comfortable position for some, but not for others, among them myself.
One of my problems is my total inability to communicate with teenage hooligans or, for that matter, adults, or even seniors who happen to be clear-cut cases of arrested development.
An Armenian editor from New York recently visited the editorial office of another Armenian paper in Paris and was given such an unfriendly reception that it bordered on the hostile. I know now why we have no use for critics and dissidents: we don’t need them because every Armenian is another’s critic and dissident. What we need now is peacemakers, negotiators, compromisers, harmonizers, and coordinators.
We said “Yes, sir!” to sultans and Stalin for almost 700 years; and we now compensate by saying “No, sir!” – but only to our fellow Armenians.
I once met a Turkish student who spoke Armenian fluently but identified herself as a Turk. She probably thought she would get more respect that way.
An Armenian will criticize a writer for repeating himself and a speechifier, sermonizer, or propagandist for not repeating himself.
There seems to be an unspoken theory among us that says, you can tell how good an Armenian is by how much he hates Turks.
When confronted with the issue of hating Turks, an Armenian will rationalize it by saying, “I don’t hate them; I just want them to acknowledge the Genocide.” Which raises the following questions: What if being dependent on Turkish justice is almost like being a subject of the Ottoman Empire? What if by rationalizing our hatred of Turks we also rationalize our intolerance of fellow Armenians? What if our hatred pollutes our relations with our fellow men? What if Gandhi was right when he said, “Hatred harms the hater more than those he hates”?
And if you were to ask me: “What about you? Don’t you hate anybody?” My answer would be, “Of course I do! I was born and raised as an Armenian.”
When I criticize Communists our crypto-Stalinists accuse me of McCarthyism. When I criticize Muslim fundamentalists our anti-Semites (meant to say anti-Zionists) accuse me of racism. And when I criticize Armenians, I am described as a self-hating pro-Turkish whining ignoramus. If I am to believe my critics, verbal abuse is the most legitimate school of criticism or the only good critic is a dead critic.
I am all for analyzing and understanding hatred, intolerance, and prejudice, but may I confess that I feel helpless with individuals who combine prejudice, hatred, and intolerance with perversion, as when an Armenian expresses nothing but visceral contempt for Americans and Jews but has nothing remotely unkind to say about Bin Laden, mullahs, ayatollahs, and fundamentalist fascist fanatics who hate not only Jews and Americans but also modernity, the West, an important fraction of their fellow Muslims, and women in general (which amounts to about 90% of mankind), and in whose eyes all Christians are infidel dogs unfit to share the earth with the children of Allah and the followers of the Guidance.
When asked in a televised interview about Muslim terrorists killing defenseless civilians, Bin Laden replied: "Americans have killed many more innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki." I find that many pro-Muslim and anti-American Armenians from the Middle East use the same argument to explain and justify Muslim terrorism, which may suggest that there are self-assessed smart people out there who find Muslim propaganda more credible than its American counterpart. What Bin Laden and his followers forget is that Americans dropped atomic bombs on Japan only after calculating that civilian as well as military casualties on both sides of the conflict would have run into millions had they continued the war with conventional weapons, and that even after Hiroshima the Japanese refused to surrender because to them surrender is worse than death.
Diplomacy and dialogue become inadequate tools when one's adversary values death more than life. Muslim extremists believe they will win in the end because, in their own words, "You [in the West] love life; we love death."
Europe thinks "that to achieve peace no price is too high: not appeasement, not massacres on its own soil, not even surrender to terrorists. Europe is impotent, a foul wind is blowing through [it]. the idea that we can afford to be lenient even with people who threaten us. This same wind blew through Munich in 1938. It could turn out to be the death rattle of a continent that no longer understands what principles to believe." This is not Oriana Fallaci speaking but Marcello Pera, President of the Italian Senate. See WITHOUT ROOTS: THE WEST, RELATIVISM, CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM by Joseph Ratzinger and Marcello Pera (London, 2006). Please note that Pera's co-author is today's Pope of Rome.
When I ignored his repeated insults, a reader complained that it was getting increasingly difficult to insult me, implying perhaps that I have a thick skin. I don't. I am as vulnerable as anyone else, but I also make allowances for youth, inexperience, ignorance, poor upbringing, Ottomanism, and a taste for the gutter.
My most cherished illusion, which so far I have been unable to shed, is that Armenia is a state and Armenians are a nation -- as opposed to being fragmented and scattered collections of disoriented tribes without a common language, purpose, and character.
In our environment, the very same people who created our problems and are now actively engaged in perpetuating them say, "What we need is not criticism but solutions." But since doubletalk is their only medium of communication they see nothing inconsistent between their actions and words.
Never trust anyone who knows more about the law or can afford a better lawyer.
And nothing annoys me more than to be contradicted by someone who recycles the kind of nonsense I was taught as a child. . .
Unanimity is easily achieved among moral morons and mental midgets.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Armenian translation: Scream at the top of your lungs and carry a toothpick.
Hating is easy – any child can hate. What’s difficult is understanding.
We begin to think only on the day we learn to think against ourselves.
Our partisan weeklies print 99% anti-Turkish propaganda and 1% nonsense and they tell me I am consistently negative. In their eyes all talk of Turks, massacres, hatred and intolerance is positive, understanding and truth negative.
I chose Armenian literature for the same reason that some people choose suicide.
Because the dead cannot speak, our “betters” say, “We did what’s best for the people.”
Never trust the judgment of a nation whose perennial best sellers are cookbooks.
We all like to bend reality in our favor, but reality being much older and "cunning" (Hegel) than us, has its own ideas. Had he lived long enough to witness Stalinism, Marx would have been the most disappointed man on earth. It is said of Elias Canetti that he was disappointed to realize that his book, CROWDS AND POWER, failed to prevent a single war. And think of Napoleon spending his last years in exile in a rat-infested villa on the island of St. Helena in the middle of the Atlantic and at the mercy of a sadistic English governor. And then there is Einstein: when he learned he had helped invent the atom bomb, he is quoted as having said, "If only I had known, I should have become a plumber."
We like to portray ourselves as innocent victims of Turkish atrocities, but in our relations with one another our first priority seems to be to verbally abuse, humiliate and insult anyone who dares to disagree with us, and we do this without any sense of guilt or doubt as if we were on a mission from god. I shiver to think what may happen to the rest of the world on the day and by some satanic miracle we become an imperial power.
To be able to smile once a day is worth a small fortune.
The decency of a people can be judged by the way they treat their pets and poets.
The encounter of the ruthless with the inept: our history in a nutshell.
It is incorrect to say that Einstein proved Newton wrong, or Jung exposed Freud's fallacies. Newton and Freud explained one fraction of reality, Einstein and Jung another. To understand all of reality is to read the mind of god, which amount to saying to be gods. It will never happen.
André Gide: "If you want to understand something you must begin by loving it, after which you must distance yourself from it. This applies to countries, to people, and to oneself." The trouble with most people is that they find it very difficult to distance themselves from what they love or from what they believe, that is to say, themselves.
"Some people," writes Paul Valéry, "kill themselves because they don't know when to let go of their umbrella." Or, because they are too obstinate in their refusal to distance themselves from an insignificant object, they allow themselves to be run over by a bus.
If you believe what your government tells you, it may be because it flatters your ego even if in the process it makes of you a certified dupe.
The first and most important priority of all power structures is to maintain and whenever possible to increase their power. Everything they say, and even more important, everything they don't say or everything they cover up, is adjusted to that project and nothing else. What they say may be true, but what they avoid saying may be even more true. There is only one way to avoid being a dupe, or being systematically moronized, and that is by not believing anything that someone in power tells you; and when a layman, who is not a member of an organization, tells you something, ask him where he heard it from.
What I said above applies not only to political but also to religious leaders. I once met a smart Armenian "khaliji" (rug merchant -- I use the Turkish word because that's how he liked to identify himself) who dismissed the Pope as "a biscuit eater" but who was convinced that his bishop was a saint.
Speaking of smart khalijis and saintly bishops: according to Darwin, it is the most highly developed organisms that are least adaptable. This may explain why it is the elites of nations or our "betters" that eventually lead the nation to destruction, and they do this because they are so infatuated with their own privileges based on lies and half-truths that they refuse to adapt themselves to new truths or reality. Their gods are not gods but idols; and they lead their subjects to the slaughterhouse because they refuse to let go of their umbrella.
And now, let us go down on our knees and pray: "Our Father Who art in Heaven, give us humility and strength - the humility to admit that as wretched human beings we cannot read Your mind, and the strength to value your most precious gift to us, our life, above that of a lousy umbrella."
Honest Armenians don't brag. They know better. Like all human beings we no doubt have our share of good qualities; but my guess is, the negatives in us far outnumber the positives, and this is especially true of our sermonizers and speechifiers who parade as role models and leaders. The only thing these charlatans have succeeded in doing so far is to teach us to brag, and to brag even about what others have done to us, such as being the first nation to experience genocide in the 20th Century.
When we discuss writers like Baronian, Odian, and Massikian, we treat them as humorists and not as objective observers and competent analysts of our character and ethos. As for writers widely recognized as nationalists and patriots: it is in their correspondence with close friends and diaries, only a small of which has been published so far, that they reveal their true sentiments and thoughts about their fellow Armenians - see above all Varoujan's correspondence and Zarian's notebooks, both published posthumously in Yerevan.
The only place Armenians are portrayed as loveable characters are in Saroyan's fiction. In biographies of Saroyan even Saroyan himself emerges as a nasty piece of business who hated his own children. As for his relatives and friends: none of them may be remotely described as Saroyanesque.
If you want to meet real unSaroyanized Armenians, ignore their holier-than-thou pundits, folk dances, and cuisine; visit instead any Armenian discussion forum on the Internet.
Balzac: "Customs and traditions are a nation's hypocrisy."
Baudelaire: "Life is a disease. This is a widely known secret."
Is friendship between Armenians and Turks possible? I am not sure. Some day in the distant future we may be able to bury the hatchet, but I suspect we will never forget where we buried it.
To say all our misfortunes are due to our geography is to imply that Armenia is a good place to die.
Never argue with a man whose most powerful argument is his bad breath.
The certainty of being right is what’s wrong with most people. All crimes against humanity begin with the conviction on the part of the perpetrators that they are right and their victims wrong.
As a rule, fanatics who say God is on their side are not in the habit of wasting any time worrying whether or not they are on His.
The more ignorant they are, the more patriotic they pretend to be, as if to say, “We may know less, but we love the flag more.”
A small group of thoughtful, committed men can change the world; but an even smaller group of thoughtless fanatics can destroy it.
Dying is easy. Writing for Armenians is hard.
There is more truth in the advertisements of our partisan weeklies than in their commentaries and editorials, and I have never even been remotely tempted to buy anything they advertise.
As children we are brought up to trust our fellow Armenians and to suspect odars. As adults we learn to trust crooked odars more than honest Armenians.
I invent nothing. When I observe a tendency or a contradiction in myself (such as, to brag or to wallow in self-pity, or to pretend to be better than I am by ignoring my shortcomings in the hope that others will not take notice of them) I make sure that these are results of my Armenian upbringing and education rather than personal failings.
The trouble with fanatics is that once they get hold of an idea, they cease asking questions and entertaining doubts. As a former fanatic, whenever I subscribe to an idea I now consider its opposite and invariably I see some merit in it. When Marx said, "I am not a Marxist," I suspect that's what he was doing too. It is such a pity that his followers appropriated his assertions but rejected his doubts.
On the day they reject the validity of doubts and the importance of dissent, empires begin to dig their own graves. You may now draw your own conclusions about nations and tribes or, for that matter, collections of tribes that pretend to be nations. .
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), German philosopher and historian: "Real historical vision belongs to the domain of significances in which the crucial words are not 'correct' and 'erroneous, but 'deep' and 'shallow'."
Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975), British historian: "It is unlikely that a writer will not retract some of his previous propositions if he has reconsidered them genuinely."
John Constable (1776-1837), British painter: "No two days are alike, not even two hours; neither were there two leaves alike since the creation of the world."
Every ideology has its declared (as well as undeclared) agenda and propaganda line clearly discernible to others but not always to its adherents, especially not those who confuse ideology with theology.
When assessing yourself it's useful to remember the meaning of the first syllable of the verb "to assess."
To rely on your instinct in your judgments means to allow your human brain to become an instrument of your animal drives.
When dealing with dinosaurs a crocodile skin is no defense.
A charlatan is a dupe with a college education.
If you wouldn't argue with Genghis Khan, why would you even consider arguing with someone to the right of him?
Jilly Cooper (b. 1937) British novelist and critic, in her review of THE HITE REPORT, on American women: "They certainly know how to rape the language. One girl said she was 'devirginized' at twenty-five, another found it hard to resist married men, 'because all my friends are adulterizing.' My favorite was the girl who described her private parts as 'plain but with charisma'."
C.G. Jung (1875-1961), Swiss psychiatrist quoting an African chieftain's definition of good and evil: "When I steal my enemy's wives, it's good. When he steals mine, it's bad." We echo this chieftain whenever we say, "Our propaganda line is right, my enemy's propaganda line is crooked."
Marcel Proust (1871-1922), French author: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." It could also be said that real understanding consists not in the reassertion of old arguments but in the acquisition of a new self.
In disagreements very often the clash is not between two sets of ideas but between two incompatible selves.
I suspect all explanations whose aim is to legitimize a propaganda line.
The aim of propaganda is not to promote understanding but to advance a specific political agenda.
One begins to understand history only after exposing the half-truths and lies of propaganda.
Not to lose an argument should never be an a priori decision.
The purpose of an argument is not to win it but to lose it and in losing it to enlarge our horizons.
One does not reason in order to legitimize irrational conduct, and what could be more irrational than prejudice, hatred, and ultimately war and massacre?
You may have noticed that when leaders promote war or revolution they do so on an assumption of ultimately victory, which history has proved to be a Big Lie 50% of the time.
It is no exaggeration to say that wars are lost even when they are won.
And very often all a war succeeds in doing is to lead to another war.
Do politicians lie if they believe in their own lies? An irrelevant question, because an honest politician is as inconceivable as a truthful propaganda line.
"Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another,"
Zarian tells us; and I suspect they will go on cannibalizing until the day laboratory tests reveal they contain dangerous levels of carcinogens.
A nation that relies on propaganda digs its own grave.
To be a sermonizer or speechifier means to speak of immortality during the day and to work as a gravedigger under cover of darkness.
I am beginning to identify men not as members of this or that race, color and creed, but as either dupes or deceivers.
When tolerance allows deceivers to deceive and dupes to be duped, is it really tolerance or conspiracy?
A dogmatist is a failure who has been successful only in suppressing his own doubts.
Whenever you understand them better than they understand themselves, they say you don't understand them.
To be insecure, or in Saroyan's expression, "without foundation" (dabansez in Turkish), means to be eager and willing to swallow the most absurd propaganda line provided it flatters the ego.
We call wise the man who has acquired the skill to hide his foolishness.
I would have gone away, if only they had ignored me. By insulting me they challenged me to reiterate my position and to make a more convincing case.
We are taught to respect a man's convictions or beliefs, provided he is sincere. But according to Harry G. Frankfurt in his book ON BULLSHIT: "Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial -notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit." Frankfurt is right: if sincerity were a reliable criterion, we would have to respect suicidal terrorists and fanatics.
NATIONS, TRIBES, CLIQUES AND GANGS
Nikol Aghbalian (1873-1947), Tashnak leader, scholar, and educator: "We Armenians are products of the tribal mentality of Turks and Kurds, and this tribal mentality remains stubbornly rooted even among our leaders and elites."
We tend to confuse tribalism with patriotism. In reality, they have contradictory meanings. When we place loyalty to the tribe or party above loyalty to the nation, we also divide, fragment, weaken, and thus make the nation more vulnerable to the enemy. It follows, to be loyal to the tribe or party (that is, a fraction of the nation) means to betray the nation; and because I have been saying this I have become an enemy of the people in the eyes of our partisans.
What have we learned from history? Answer: to sermonize, to speechify, and to propagandize, that is to say, to misrepresent reality and to be accountable only to an abstraction like the people, the nation, or god. To be accountable only to a god whom we have created in our own image is to be accountable to none.
I learn something new every day and I cannot help reflecting that I must be just about the luckiest man alive for managing to survive for so many years with so much ignorance.
Nikol Aghbalian: "When man does not submit himself to the rule of law, he will have to submit himself to the rule of men, that is to say, cliques and gangs.
Where everyone believes he is among the chosen, being unchosen becomes a privileged condition.
Why should I be on the side of little men if their sole ambition in life is to be big men in order to oppress little men?
Unlike some of my fellow Armenians, I will not pretend to know everything there is to know about Jews, but I can make the following assertion with some degree of certainty: even at their worst, they are not as bad as those who hate them.
The more accurately I describe our tribal ways, the greater the number of readers who would like to cannibalize me in order to prove they are better Armenians.
"If you gaze long into the abyss," Nietzsche warns us, "the abyss will gaze back into you." Elsewhere: "Nothing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment." And: "No one is such a liar as the indignant man."
There is a price to be paid for writing too much about Turks and massacres. Or, writing about Turks is not the best way of de-Ottomanizing ourselves.
More quotations from Nietzsche: On benefactors: "This is the hardest of all: to be modest as a giver."
On bishops: "After coming in contact with a religious man, I feel the need to wash my hands."
It's not easy writing for an audience of laymen who think they are wiser than writers if only because, unlike writers, they deal with reality every day.
Since we can never be sure to be right, let us at least make an effort not to be catastrophically wrong, as we have been in the past.
Sometimes to be understood can be much more painful than to be misunderstood.
Dissidents have been victimized not because they were wrong but because they were right.
As things stand, I suspect we are a nation whose writers and poets outnumber their readers.
Whenever I write "nation" I think "collection of tribes."
We have a rich literature but a destitute readership.
Under Talaat and Stalin, our writers risked their lives. Today our academics are afraid to risk their income brackets. Result, an abundance of books on massacres and Turks.
The need to ask questions can be irresistible, and the temptation to believe in answers, no matter how false, can be overwhelming.
There are three ways of going wrong: when you don't know, when you think you know, and when you think.
A conformist does not think of himself as a conformist, that is to say, as someone who has been indoctrinated to believe that subservience is a commandment from above and not to obey it is a capital offense.
I am single because I would never marry anyone willing to marry me. Consider my long list of liabilities: I am Armenian..
We inherit our parents' fears and acquire some new ones of our own. Which may explain why most of us view subservience to our mini-sultans and neo-commissars as ordained from above.
You don't have to be right to be influential. Logic and common sense are less popular than that which is false, accessible, and flattering.
"Literature consists in making crap look like rose jam," Jean Genet tells us. Since I have so far failed to acquire that magic skill, I have reconciled myself to being an unpopular failure.
In Michael and Ellen Kaplan's CHANCES ARE (New York, 2006) I read the following: "Once you know that daisies usually have an odd number of petals, you can get anyone to love you."
When it comes to understanding and solving our problems, we have two schools of thought: those who put all the blame on others (Turks, the West, Soviets, etc.), and those who ascribe them [our problems] to our own failings (intolerance, tribalism, lack of vision, incompetence, corruption, authoritarianism, misguided patriotism, etc.) The unspoken slogan of the first school is: "We are in good hands." The unspoken slogan of the second school is: "Throw the rascals out!" You may now guess which of these two schools is favored by our lobotomized leadership.
ON THE REALITY PRINCIPLE
What's positive and what's negative in life? This question interests me because sometimes I am urged to be more positive on the grounds that I am consistently negative.
An environment in which illusions, fallacies, misconceptions, lies, wishful thinking and, by extension, propaganda are dominant, he who speak of facts or the reality principle will be perceived as negative. And because I stick to facts, readers who are too cowardly or brainwashed to cross a specific propaganda line label me as negative.
Once upon a time I too had many illusions and I appreciate the ease and comfort they provide; I also know how hard it is to give them up. But give them up we must because challenging the reality principle may end in tragedy.
What could be more positive than the idea of a free, independent, and historic Armenia as proclaimed by our revolutionaries a hundred years ago? And yet, it resulted in wholesale massacres
Behind every tragedy there is an illusion; a tragedy may even be defined as the reassertion of the reality principle. Oedipus blinded himself because he acted on the false assumption that the old man he was killing could not be his father, and the old lady he was marrying could not be his mother. King Lear deluded himself into thinking that he could count on the gratitude of his offspring. Hamlet thought his mother could never marry a man guilty of fratricide. The Trojans deluded themselves into thinking that they should not question the integrity of Greeks bearing gifts. I think it was Einstein who once observed that sometimes we pay most for things we get for nothing.
Consider the mess in Iraq today: Bush went to war there under the misconception that as the head of the mightiest empire in the history of mankind, he could win an easy victory. And then to his surprise, the reality principle kicked in.
Consider our century-old campaign on the Genocide recognition issue: my guess is we have invested more money on it than we will ever recover in reparations. Am I being positive or negative? You decide.
Finally, may I confess that I continue to labor under the illusion that I can reason with my fellow Armenians notwithstanding the fact that two thousand years of history prove the contrary.
THE SOVIET EXPERIENCE
Like all conquerors in the history of mankind, what the Soviets did was the expose our tribalism in both the Homeland and the Diaspora by adopting divide-and-rule tactics.
In the Diaspora, Tashnaks opposed the regime and in doing so they identified the people (the victims) with the commissars (their victimizers) and ignored the majority of the people who were too busy trying to survive to have the luxury of political awareness.
The Ramgavars supported the regime because they saw the conquerors not as oppressors but as defenders against the bloodthirsty monster next door.
Others confused the regime with the ideology and the ideology with theology. In their eyes Lenin and Stalin were messianic figures and defenders not only of the Homeland but also of all exploited workers around the world. Communism was a religion for whose sake they were willing to betray the heretics to the authorities even if the heretics happened to be friends and brothers. That's bad enough, but what is infinitely worse is that even after the collapse of the regime, even after the show trials of the 1930s, even after the starvation of millions, the successive waves of purges and the Gulag, some of these "defenders of the faith" refused to give up their religion and openly declared to have been proud members of the Party. Were they "useful idiots" or cunning operators willing to sell their souls to a ruthless gang of criminals in exchange of thirty pieces of silver? Were they sleepwalkers who refused to wake up because waking up meant facing the reality of their betrayal?
In all fairness, I should also mention the fact that there were decent and selfless Armenians who refused to join the chorus of dupes even if it meant persecution, exile, and death, but as always in our environments, they were ignored. It is not my intention here to open old wounds but to ask: What have we learned from the Soviet experience? The answer is, nothing! We continue to be at the mercy of crypto-Stalinist and neo-fascist charlatans who believe they know better what's good for the people and armed with that article of faith they violate the fundamental human rights of free speech of anyone who dares to disagree with them.
FACT & FICTION
One reason we cannot see eye to eye on anything is that when one speaks of facts or experiences, the other recycles propaganda. Some day we shall have to agree that a single drop of fact is worth a Niagara of propaganda. At one time or another, we have all been exposed to propaganda, with one significant difference: some of us have eventually seen it for what it is and some of us continue to confuse it with reality.
It is not. It never was. It never will be. Propaganda is propaganda, at best only a fraction of the truth. Its aim: to promote prejudice, to legitimize intolerance, and to organize hatred. If we want dialogue, compromise, and consensus, we must learn to separate fact from fiction. None of us is qualified to say, my facts or experiences are more authentic or more patriotic than yours.
If we exchange experiences, we may have a chance to learn something from one another. But if we recycle propaganda, we are bound to end up in a downward spiral of mutual suspicions, accusations, and insults. It is as simple as that. But leave it to our partisans and chauvinists to complicate matters in order to assert their moral, intellectual, or patriotic superiority, which happens to be a figment of their own imagination and, in that sense, worse than propaganda.
CALL ME A CYNIC
Call me anything you want, but I like the old line, "It’s not the principle, it’s the money." I also like the slogan: "The British Empire has no friends, only interests." Friends may betray - and they often do; principles may be perverted - and they almost always are; but interests remain constant and predictable.
Whenever I hear talk of principles, ideals, faith, or a fine-sounding -ism, I narrow my focus on the speaker: Is he using these terms to cover his nakedness? What has he done to earn them? For every man willing to die for a principle or idea, there will be a hundred or even a thousand willing to kill for the very same idea or its contradiction – it makes no difference to the species. Sometimes, it seems to me, the sole purpose of these fine-sounding abstractions is to justify murder.
Consider the fact that for every cathedral or mosque that men built to the greater glory of God or Allah, they also murdered a thousand perhaps even ten thousand heretics and giaours. But I suspect ideals and principles for still another reason: they invariably attract ruthless operators who believe in nothing and are committed to one thing only: to satisfy their lust for power. If Christianity can produce a Torquemada and Marxism a Stalin, then I say, nothing and no one is safe. Which is why I don’t hesitate to make the following assertion: Next time you hear one of our bosses or bishops say: "We cannot compromise on matters of faith (or principle); it would be unforgivable heresy (or betrayal)," you may be fully justified in suspecting that what you are witnessing is charlatanism in action.
Only God (if He exists) see things as they are. The rest of us are condemned to view reality with some degree of bias. A prejudiced person is one who says: "I respect my bias because it is mine, and I have nothing but contempt for your bias because it is yours." And consider the following variant: "As an Armenian, I respect Armenian historians because they are ours, and I have nothing but contempt for Turkish historians because they are Turks."
Even if we were to assume that Armenian historians are more trustworthy than their Turkish counterparts, we shall have to agree that as human being they are bound to view the past with some bias. Let us therefore make an effort to see which part of their version of the story is more biased and which less, and let us choose the version that is less biased; after which we may, if we are interested to see things as they are, to eliminate as much bias as possible. Because understanding is a dynamic process: it either moves towards more or less bias. An understanding that is static is a symptom of a paralyzed mind and a fossilized brain.
In his book, ON BULLSHIT (Princeton University Press, 2005), the American philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt echoes Descartes' words on common sense when he writes, "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.
Everyone knows this." If we don't talk about it, he goes on, it may be because "most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize it and to avoid being taken in by it." Further down: "The realm of advertising and public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept."
Among the synonyms of bullshit, Frankfurt cites: "humbug, balderdash, claptrap, hokum, drivel, buncombe, imposture, and quackery." For some reason he fails to include baloney and propaganda.
In her book THE MIGHTY AND THE ALMIGHTY: REFLECTIONS ON AMERICA, GOD, AND WORLD AFFAIRS (New York, 2006), Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and, under Clinton, the first woman Secretary of State, writes that the central message of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism ("involved in most political upheavals today") are "compassion and peace."
Leave it to the b.s. of sermonizers and speechifiers to pervert compassion to murder and peace to war. * The Romans used to say, "Si vis pacem para bellum" (if you want peace, prepare for war." But the Romans were decent enough not to involve the Almighty in their imperial ambitions and bloodthirsty disposition. * George Orwell, himself an expert on b.s., went further when he coined the slogan, included in his science fiction novel, 1984, "PEACE IS WAR."
B.s. is not a favorite topic of discussion among us perhaps because we are such gargantuan consumers of it. Instead, we prefer to focus and emphasize Turkish b.s., thus implying we are devoid of it.
Consider the content of our weekly one-hour TV programs: nothing but singing floozies and hoodlums, sermonizing bishops, and speechifying bosses (mostly about Comrade Panchoonie's favorite subject: raising funds for this or that worthy cause). On the positive side, since the programs last only 45 minutes (60 minutes minus 15 minutes of commercials) the speeches and sermons are drastically edited.
The Romans had another saying: "Ride si sapis" (if you are wise, laugh).
In the following definition from THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY, Ambrose Bierce was not thinking of Armenians but he might as well have been: "RESPONSIBILITY: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star."
When asked what he knows now that he did not know on the first day of his presidency, Bush is said to have said something to the effect that he had learned to be more careful in his choice of words. It is to be noted that he did not say he learned to be more careful in his thinking or more objective in his judgment or more tolerant of opposing views and arguments, only more carefully with his vocabulary.
Don't tell me what you should think; tell me what you think. On second thought, don't tell me what you think because when an Armenian says what he thinks, out pops an insult.
By insulting another we also insult ourselves by exposing the absence of reason in our thinking, lack of manners in our conduct; and if we speak in the name of God and Country we also run the risk of exposing the moral bankruptcy of both.
ON OUR HISTORY, CULTURE, AND IDENTITY
If you want to understand the history of your people and the cultural forces that went into shaping your identity, forget everything you were taught as a child. I would say this not only to Armenian boys and girls but also to boys and girls of all nations.
Individuals may learn to be honest and objective, but not nations, perhaps because there is more fiction than fact in the concepts of nationality and nationhood.
Almost everyone who identifies himself as an Armenian today or, for that matter, as a Greek, Turk, Russian, Jew, or Palestinian, comes with a political and ideological baggage that is incompatible with objectivity. Take away objectivity from history and the result is bound to be propaganda.
The history of Armenia and the history of the Armenian people, moreover, are not one and the same. Until the Communist takeover the two centers of Armenian cultural life were Istanbul and Tiflis, not Yerevan, which was only a small single-factory town of no importance.
Even more to the point: Armenians played a much more prominent role in the Byzantine Empire than in Armenia, and more often than not they adopted an anti-Armenian foreign policy; that is to say, they were more loyal to the Greek Empire than to the Armenian nation. This pattern of conduct followed within the Ottoman Empire and more recently within the USSR.
Many years ago I remember to have read an old Mohammedan prayer that goes something like this: "O God, if I worship Thee in fear of Hell, burn me in Hell; or if I worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise." Is it conceivable that as a non-practicing Catholic I know more Mohammedan prayers than the mullahs who promise 73 virgins to sex-starved gullible teenagers?
It is true that some of the most important questions will forever remain beyond our reach, but we must keep raising them all the same lest we come to terms with falsehoods.
Born-again fanatics remind me of the Jewish proverb that says: "Men occasionally find a new truth, but never an old button" - the implication being that sometimes an old button may be worth more than any number of new truths.
On more than one occasion I have been verbally abused by born-again readers. To them and to all ayatollahs and mullahs I would like to quote the following passage from Pascal: "The worship of truth without charity is idolatry."
"From good books I learn how to write; from bad books I learn how not to write," I once read in an interview with a writer. One of our elder statesmen once said to me: "The problem with us is that we don't have role models." But where there are no positive role models, there will be negative ones, and from them we can learn how not to behave. In other words, if you are disposed to learn, you will learn; but if you are of the opposite disposition, you are destined to remain an ignoramus.
Dante is to Italians what Shakespeare is to the English, Cervantes to the Spaniards, and Goethe to the Germans, and like these writers he has had more than his share of biographers, the latest being Barbara Reynolds, who writes that in his INFERNO this celebrated Florentine portrayed his fellow Florentines "as thieves, usurers, sycophants and sodomites." As far as I know, no Armenian writer has ever dared to say as much about his fellow Armenians. It is true that near the end of his life Zarian called them "cannibals" but he was speaking metaphorically.
Nina Berberova (1901-1993) was a prolific Russian writer of Armenian descent who like all wise Armenians (Henri Troyat comes to mind, also Arthur Adamov, and Shahan Shahnour in his Armen Lubin phase) kept a safe distance between herself and her fellow Armenians. The only time she discusses her Armenian ancestors is in her autobiography, THE ITALICS ARE MINE (available in English) where we learn that Goncharov modeled his most famous fictional character, Oblomov, on her great-grandfather. Many of her books (short stories, novels, essays, biographies) are available in a number of languages and continue to be translated today, the latest being MOURA: THE DANGEROUS LIFE OF THE BARONESS BUDBERG, a shadowy character who became notorious as a spy and as the mistress of, among others, Maxim Gorky and H.G. Wells.
I am willing to plead guilty to the charge that sometimes I tend to underestimate my fellow men, but only in the sense that I don't underestimate them enough.
Those who violate someone's freedom of speech do so on the grounds that they know best what's good for the people, which is what all criminal regimes say.
Some of my Armenian critics belong to a school of thought that says, "If I cannot slaughter you, I shall do my utmost to massacre your self-esteem" - all in the name of Armenianism of course, that is to say, Ottomanism.
Somewhere Plekhanov observes, "Bourgeois scientists make sure that their theories are not dangerous to God and to Capital." He should have added: "Communist scientists make sure that their theories do not in any way question the infallibility of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. Closer to home: our pundits and academics today make sure that nothing they say may be remotely critical of our bosses, bishops, and benefactors on whose goodwill they depend for their survival and prosperity. Hence, the proliferation of massacre books in which all the blame is heaped on others.
Every power structure generates its own gods and bourgeoisie whose number one concern is number one.
Leadership, it has been said, consists in the ability to see "the other side of the hill." My question is: if our leaders could not foresee the Genocide, what the hell can they foresee?
An honest man will never say, "If you want to be right, you must think as I do." It is the mighty of this world that impose their ideas on others because they sense instinctively that they are wrong and only intimidation will persuade others to agree with them.
I read today that when slavery was legal, blacks owned black slaves, and whites owned white slaves. In other words, slavery was integrated.
Once upon a time when I was a loudmouth smart-ass know-it-all I couldn't understand those who took a sudden dislike at me. Now I don't understand those who liked me.
If I were a man of faith I would keep it a secret lest I offend others of a different persuasion. No one likes to be thought of as an infidel, a heretic, a blasphemer, or a deviationist on his way to the devil.
Nietzsche says somewhere "those who speak with a loud voice cannot have subtle thoughts." Something similar could be said of men of faith.
There is no conceivable reason why god and good manners should be mutually exclusive. If you discard good manners in the name of god, what's to stop anyone from using god as a license to kill?
People who value life over death may be relied on to do what's best in their own interest. But the same cannot be said of men of faith who believe they will be better off dead than alive.
All undemocratic ideologies and power structures value conformism, obedience, and subservience above freedom and creativity. All totalitarian regimes tacitly subscribe to the Orwellian slogan "Slavery is Freedom."
If what we believe shapes our character, it would be no exaggeration to say that very often faith creates hoodlums, vandals, and killers.
SPEAKING WITH A FORKED TONGUE
The chances are, the opposite of what we say contains more truth than what we say.
Our Father (but no one else's) who art in heaven, Halvajian be thy name. Give us this day our pilaf and shish-kebab (and stones to our enemies). Forgive us our trespasses on condition that you don't expect us to forgive the bastards who trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us straight to the devil, because he makes fewer demands on us.
FREEDOM OR DEATH
Freedom for us, death to everyone else, including our dupes.
Behind every heroic slogan, search for the cowards who formulated it. Or, as the Turks are fond of saying, "Among ten men nine are sure to be women." The Chinese have a similar saying: "Those who make idols don't believe in them.
SHADES OF GRAY
Chekhov: "There are no good people and no bad people in my plays, only people."
Ronald Harwood explaining why his characters are shades of gray rather than black and white: "If you color your characters in one or the other, you are dealing in propaganda."
SPEAKING OF PROPAGANDA
In her recently published biography of Magda Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, Anja Klabunde quotes her as having said: "Joseph is the greatest loud-mouth phony that has ever lived on German soil."
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), French composer on the ideal tempo for a song: "If the singer is bad -very fast."
If the subject is propaganda, reduce a complex issue to a cliché or slogan: Turks are bad, Armenians good. We are smart, progressive, civilized, everybody else is corrupt, backward, dishonest. We do the right thing, none of our enemies and their partisans are equipped to discriminate right from wrong. We touch the top, they scrape the bottom. God is on our side, the devil is on theirs. Heaven is our destination, hell is theirs.
What if some of our most cherished certainties are based on a transparent misrepresentation of reality, in the same way that some of the worst crimes against humanity are committed in the name of a god we only pretend to know and understand, but about whom "we know nothing" (Socrates)?
Contradictions and differences of opinion are useful only in a dialogue. Anywhere else they only paralyze the mind and poison the soul.
The stated reason is seldom the real reason. If the stated reason is altruistic, search for the unstated selfish reason.
When two men speaking in the name of god contradict each other, it only means that either one or both are charlatans, liars, and blasphemers with illusions of grandeur.
A chicken and egg question:
Is it dupes who create bad leaders or bad leaders who create dupes?
Hitler was a horrible human being. He behaved decently only once in his life -- when he committed suicide. If only he had done so at the beginning of his career rather than at the end. Even so, unlike some others, he at least made one good decision in his life.
When it comes to the injuries inflicted on us by others, we have the memory of elephants; but when it comes to the injuries we inflict on others, we behave more like advanced cases of Alzheimer's.
Universal education has its drawbacks. After a semester of algebra, biology, chemistry, history of philosophy, a couple of novels by Dostoevsky, and a play by Shaw, I was convinced I knew everything I needed to know. This may explain why for every two writers today we may or may not have a reader, and the chances are that reader will assume he knows better.
For every truth there are ten thousand lies because that truth pretends to be the whole truth, which is a lie.
Did you know that PRAVDA’s anti-American propaganda department was handled by a single young woman in a cubicle whose routine consisted in reading the NEW YORK TIMES and selecting and translating all the negative news?
I first came across the expression "dysfunctional national psyche" in reference to the Nazis. But it seems to me it could equally apply to any society whose worldview or understanding of reality is based on propaganda.
In your dealings with your fellow men, it may be useful to remember that whenever you are in a position to check what they say, they may speak the truth; otherwise the chances are they lie.
In politics, very often our choice is between a brainwashed majority that cannot think and a minority that cannot act.
The only way to understand some people is to think of them as denizens of a parallel universe in which laws governing reality are so incomprehensible that betrayal is seen as patriotism, apostasy as conversion, darkness as light, and vices as virtues.
I began questioning my interpretation of history on the day I realized that most of my misery was self-inflicted.
A good writer is also a bad writer you feel the need to go on reading.
To readers who complain that I repeat myself, I ask: Since no one is in a position to coerce you into reading me, why don't you read a thousand other writers who don't repeat themselves?
Another question: Why should I agree with views that I held thirty years ago when I was a brainwashed dupe?
If I have asked these questions before it may be because so far I have not received a satisfactory reply.
It was said of communists that they were slaves of former slaves. It could be said of us that we are dupes of former dupes.
There is no clearly marked yellow brick road leading to truth. Sometimes it is necessary to cross swamps. Truth can be a dirty business.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "Some people think getting to know someone is a waste of time. They prefer to buy things. But since there are no stores that sell friends, they no longer have any friends."
Jules Renard: "There are no friends, only moments of friendship."
Chamfort: "I gave up the friendship of two men because one of them never spoke of himself and the other never spoke of me."
Talleyrand: "Don't speak evil of yourself. Your friends will do enough of that."
QUESTION: IN YOUR NOTES AND COMMENTS OF YESTERDAY YOU SAID SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT THAT OUR LEADERS ARE GUILTY OF GENOCIDE BY OTHER MEANS. WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT?
ANSWER: There is genocide by massacre, and there is genocide by means of actions and policies that contribute to the destruction of the nation.
Q: SUCH AS?
A: Introducing divisions on ideological or religious grounds, for instance.
Q: BUT SUCH DIVISIONS EXIST EVERYWHERE, DO THEY NOT?
A: They do, yes, but with one important difference. In a democratic environment there are mechanisms designed to reconcile opposing views by means of dialogue and compromise. The majority has its way, provided of course it operates within the law. Throughout our millennial history we have at no time experienced democratic rule.
Q: IS NOT OUR HOMELAND A DEMOCRACY TODAY?
A: In theory, maybe. But in practice it's part oligarchy and part kleptocracy whose aim is not to serve the interests of the people but to perpetuate the prosperity and survival of the priviligentsia.
Q: AND IN THE DIASPORA?
A: Our political parties and their bosses in the Diaspora operate like authoritarian rulers intolerant of dissent, which means no dialogue, no compromise, and no consensus. Result: perpetual tribalism, unending conflicts and divisions, and monologues that never cross.
Q: BUT DON'T THESE POLITICAL PARTIES REALIZE THAT BY CONTRIBUTING TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE NATION THEY ARE COMMITTING SUICIDE?
A: That's a question that should be addressed to our bosses.
Q: DO YOU HAVE AN EXPLANATION?
A: Where there are no democratic checks and balances, leaders invariably end up digging their own graves. Empires, nations, and tribes that die by suicide are routine occurrences in world history. The only way to explain that is to say that unlike ideas and by extension ideologies that may evolve and adapt in an infinite number of directions, provided they move in an abstract dimension, the option of power, or men of power, are limited to only two: to increase their power, and if they can't do that, to cling to it for as long as they can even if it means acting in direct contradiction of the very same ideology that allowed them to assume power by popular support.
If national consciousness or solidarity is what makes a nation, all so-called ideological divisions serve only to legitimize tribalism and to implement the divide-and-rule tactics of the enemy. It follows, the ultimate aim of all our tribal leaders and enemies is one and the same: the destruction of the nation, or genocide by other means.
Our partisan pundits have spent nearly a century trying to convince the Turks to plead guilty, all the while pretending their own conduct to be beyond criticism, which is as big a lie as Turkish denial.
The life of a murderer as that of a liar is dominated by fear of exposure.
You cannot correct an error whose existence you refuse to acknowledge.
The wrong path may lead to the mirage of an oasis but not to the Promised Land.
What Oscar Wilde said of fox hunting, one could say of our ideologues and pundits: "The unspeakable in the pursuit of the uneatable."
When you undertake the task of exposing liars, it is always advisable to begin with your own lies.
The more you rely on luck the sooner you will run out of it.
Behind every story there is another story, and inside every person there is a labyrinth of conflicting reasons and unconscious drives most of which are destined to remain beyond his awareness even after decades of psychoanalysis. Never say therefore "I know and understand everything I need to know and understand," because to say so is to admit you have reached a dead end and you might as well be more dead than alive.
Understanding and self-interest move in two different dimensions and whenever self-interest contaminates understanding both are bound to suffer.
If you ever find yourself questioning the importance of objectivity in human affairs, consider that women are better judges of women than men because they can afford being more objective on the subject.
Most Armenians, except perhaps Armenian-Americans, have lived and worked in more than two countries and speak more than two languages. This allows them to assume to be better informed. I will never forget the Armenian who fully qualified as an inbred moron with a negative IQ and fluent in seven languages (or so he claimed) who once bragged being more "erudite" than everyone around. If I have mentioned this Armenian before it may be because I see myself in him - myself as a young whippersnapping windbag all sound, fury, and unmitigated b.s. signifying nothing, very much like our sermonizers, speechifiers, and pundits.
According to a recent best-selling book by an American sociologist, crowds behave more wisely than individuals. If true, how does one explain the fact that throughout history war-makers and propaganda have been more popular than peacemakers and objectivity? How does one explain the fact that in the name of such slogans as "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," "Workers of the World Unite," "Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles," and "Allahu akhbar," crowds have been moved to commit some of the worst crimes against humanity? Closer to home: consider the fate of best-selling books that no one remembers after a year or two.
My most popular book (sold over ten thousand copies), THE ARMENIANS: THEIR HISTORY AND CULTURE, is also my least honest book not because it contains lies - it doesn't: every assertion in it is footnoted - but because it emphasizes the positive and ignores or covers up the negative. Which may suggest that crowds value bias and flattery over honesty and truth.
A wise man - it may have been G.B. Shaw - once said there is only one way to end wars and that's by shooting the war-makers. And yet, consider the fate of war-makers like Alexander the Great and Napoleon (who died natural deaths) and that of peacemakers like Jesus Christ (crucified) and Mahatma Gandhi (assassinated).
Of all blunders, confusing ideology with theology is the most dangerous.
Generalizations about fellow human beings belong to the realm of propaganda and as such should be dismissed as lies.
A religious leader who says "believers are good and infidels bad," and a political leader who says "we are among the chosen and our enemies the scum of the earth," should be tarred, feathered, and driven out of every city, town, and village on the face of the earth. Then and only then we may have peace.
One of the most hilarious scenes in American literature takes place in the first chapter of Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN (New York, 1985). A total stranger interrupts a sermon in a tent in the middle of nowhere and calls the preacher an impostor, a fraud, a usurper, a fugitive from justice wanted in four states, a child molester, and a man who has been caught "having congress with a goat." "Hang the turd!" a member of the congregation yells. "Shoot the son of a bitch!" says another. Later, in a saloon, the stranger is seen drinking. When asked, "How did you come to have the goods on that no-account?" he replies: "I never laid eyes on the man before today. Never even heard of him."
THE WISDOM OF PROVERBS
It is not at all unusual for a smart man to behave like a fool. That's because to pretend to know is easy; to preach easier; but to do the right thing something entirely different.
We know, for instance, that "unanimity is the best fortress," but throughout our millennial history we have allowed tribal leaders (princelings, nakharars, and similar riffraff) to divide us; and they have divided us for one and only one reason, to satisfy their lust for power ("too many chiefs, not a single Indian"). Which amounts to saying, we were taken in by their empty verbiage.
We know that what tribalism does to a nation, nationalism does to mankind. We also know that preachers of nationalism are no better than mongrels (if not literally than morally) who speak with a forked tongue. We also know that "a maker of idols is never an idolater." And yet, we have shed our blood in the name of nationalism and we continue looking up to speechifiers who go on preach it to us.
It is an established fact that most of our nationalist leaders survived the Genocide to write their memoirs, some of which run to more than a thousand pages. We are told, "behind an able man there are always other able men." Likewise, behind a fool there are always other brown-nosing fools. And when their blunders are exposed, they write memoirs to explain why it was not they who were wrong but the rest of mankind; and as always, they find their share of dupes who are more than willing to be taken in by their regurgitated propaganda.
To those who say, "We did not shed our blood for nationalism, but freedom. Our slogan was not 'Armenia, Armenia ueber alles!" but "Freedom or Death!" Yes, of course, no doubt about that, it goes without saying, I believe you. And what did we do after gaining our freedom, may I ask? We became the slaves of the Kremlin. We refused to convert to Islam to save our lives only to embrace atheism to advance our careers. And why? The answer must be obvious: after centuries of subservience to foreign tyrants, subservience has become part of our character, and "character is destiny" -- or, "habits are cobwebs at first, cables at last."
We know that tyrants oppress and liars deceive. The questions to be asked at this point are: Does it make any difference if the tyrant or liar is an odar or one of us? In what way are we better off in the knowledge that the enemy is not at the other side of the wall but among us?
A wrong answer that makes us feel good will always be more popular than a right answer that makes us feel bad.
There are two radically different ways of viewing our genocide: (a) as an unpredictable occurrence, or act of God (or the devil, depending on your credo) like, say, a volcanic eruption, a tsunami, or cancer; and (b) as an inevitable but foreseeable result of actions freely and deliberately undertaken by us, similar to those of a chain smoker who operates on the irrational assumption that he is invulnerable because God, or Right, or justice happens to be on his side. The first school of thought implies that we were innocent victims of satanic forces beyond our control, and the second, that all our actions were symptomatic (see below for a definition) because driven by death wish whose reality we denied or refused to acknowledge.
Examples of actions driven by death wish: tribal divisions, defeat, unconditional surrender, centuries of subservience, followed by a naive trust in the verbal support of the West, badly executed and catastrophically timed acts of isolated revolt against a ruthless empire fighting for its own survival.
My primary aim here is not to expose our blunders or to cover up the criminal conduct of the perpetrators, but to emphasize the fact that we have been and continue to be a far greater threat to our own survival than our worst enemies.
Freud's definition of symptomatic acts: "Acts which people perform automatically, unconsciously in a moment of distraction; and to which they would like to deny any significance."
Cormac McCarthy, in BLOOD MERDIAN (New York, 1985): "Do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? Others come in to govern for them."
In whatever I read these days I see references to Armenians even when Armenians are not even mentioned.
In a textbook on history: "A state controlled system of education aims at indoctrination as much as pragmatic instruction."
Once, many years ago, when I published an interview with a prominent Tashnak intellectual, a Ramgavar intellectual wrote an angry letter to the editor saying everything the Tashnak said was a big lie. The Tashnak replied by saying everything the Ramgavar said was a bigger lie.
The choice we confront today is between dead-end contradictions and creative dialectic. You may now guess what we can look forward to.
Heine's definition of aristocrats: "Asses who talk about horses." Something similar could be said of Armenian partisan intellectuals when they speak about one another.
To those who seem to have all the answers, Martin Heidegger has this piece of advice: "Try to reach the point from which the question can one day be asked."
I know now that it was my own assessment of myself as a good Armenian that allowed me to behave like a bad Turk – minus the fez, shalvar, mustache, and yataghan.
At all times and everywhere our ignorance far exceeds our knowledge, and we have a tendency to overestimate the value of what we know and underestimate the value of what we don’t know.
Only fools assess themselves as smart, and only swine represent themselves as noble specimens of humanity.
All that talk about 20/20 vision is nonsense, humbug, and b.s. I don’t demand infallibility from our leaders; but I have every right to expect honesty. No matter how you slice it, a military defeat is not a moral victory, and not all tragedies are acts of god.
On a radio program on children’s poetry this morning, I overheard the following quotation: “There is some shit / I will not eat!” That’s what I call good poetry – rhythm, music, and words that once heard are never forgotten.
We make better servants than masters. As masters we can be merciless, especially if our servants are Armenian.
We have made many more significant contributions to foreign empires (Byzantine, Ottoman, Soviet, American) than our own nation. I call that our "Gulbenkian complex" - give only 7% to your own people and 93% to odars.
When a friend of mine asked the late and lamented Sylva Kaputikian (may the blessings of Karl Marx be upon her) about the chances of having his translation of Nikos Kazantzakis published in Armenia, she replied: "We don't publish books written in West Armenian." A big lie that! I have seen many books in West-Armenian (by Zohrab, Baronian, and Odian, among others) published in Yerevan. Why lie? Is it because we can't handle the truth? We are not worthy of it? Is it more convenient to lie than to speak the truth? Masters are under no obligation to level with servants?
Pablo Casals to one of his students on how to play Bach: "Put some gypsy in him." I like that. He didn't say, "Make it more Germanic!"
Speaking of Bach: How to explain the fact that the greatest Bach interpreters were not German but Landowska (Jew), Glenn Gould (Canadian), Casals (Spaniard), and Schweitzer (French) --also the author of the most insightful and readable book on Bach.
Voltaire on democracy: "Le gouvernement de la canaille [riff-raff]." And yet, it was intellectuals like him who inspired and provided the impetus for the French Revolution.
Stendhal: "We commit the greatest cruelties but without cruelty." Perhaps because that which comes naturally to us we don't consider cruel or criminal or even abnormal. (A possible explanation of Turkish attitude towards the Genocide?) * There are three ways to wisdom: by way of books, by word of mouth, by one's own mistakes. The most painful of these is the third way, but also the surest - provided of course one survives.
God is on the side of bigger battalions and better lawyers.
WHAT IS AND IS NOT CRITICISM
Criticism whose aim is to prove the critic's moral, intellectual, or patriotic superiority is not criticism but hypocrisy whose sole aim is to mislead and deceive.
The function of a critic is not to solve problems but to expose contradictions. I recognize contradictions because I harbor them. To expose a contradiction also means to identify the individuals who are at its roots.
The problem with Nazi Germany was National Socialism or Nazism or Hitler. The problem with the USSR was Bolshevism. And the problem with both Nazism and Bolshevism was contempt for human rights and free speech. (What is the aim of Solzhenitsyn's magnum opus, THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, if not a detailed documentation of this aberration?)
Human problems should not be confused with abstract mathematical or scientific problems, which may be solved by a single mind on a piece of paper. To find solutions to human problems is easy (e.g. the problem with alcoholics is alcoholism), implementing them is not.
I once heard a preacher say that if mankind had followed Christ, there would have been no need for Karl Marx and other reformers who operated on the assumption that they could change the world by ignoring the Word of God. Whenever I am told, "We don't need critics, we need solutions," I think of this preacher and cannot help wondering: "If the Son of the Almighty could not solve our problems, what makes anyone think a minor scribbler can?"
Why do I go on? Good question. Two tentative answers follow: When you witness an injustice or a crime, you are confronted with two options: to expose the criminals or to join them in covering it up. Since this example may imply moral superiority on the part of the witness, here is a better and more selfish one: The house next door is on fire. You either ignore it and hope for the best or you call 911, which is what I have been doing - calling 911, even after being told repeatedly by the voice at the other end to shut up and mind my own business, as if my own home were not my business.
WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. TWO QUESTIONS. THE UGLY ARMENIAN. QUEEN MAMIKONIAN.
Bad things happen to good people. Everyone knows that. And smart people do dumb things. Everyone knows that too. What is less well known is that there may be secret and underground connections between these two incongruities.
Why do smart people do dumb things? Because they are never as smart as they think they are.
I have received nasty e-mails from both Turks and Armenians, and it is astonishing how similar in style, tone, and vocabulary they are. So similar in fact that they might as well have been written by the same person or identical twins.
Nobody is perfect, of course. So what if smart people sometimes do dumb things, and dumb people dumber things? That’s not a tragedy. Our tragedy or the tragedy of our condition is that we have been and continue to be at their mercy.
Why is it that in their efforts to prove they are smarter and better, some Armenians see nothing inconsistent in writing like dumb Turks? Another question: Is it conceivable that the cradle of civilization has spawned gravediggers of civilized discourse?
Behind every alienated Armenian there is an ugly Armenian who thinks, since he is smarter and better, he can do no wrong and self-criticism is self-hatred and therefore unpatriotic.
If being honest means admitting a major blunder and thus committing political suicide, an ambitious leader will invariably choose survival at all cost and forever after brag about his personal integrity.
Who can trust a politician who says “I can do no wrong and I am therefore beyond criticism”? And yet!
The only reason some politicians admit minor miscalculations is to cover up major blunders.
Only a certified dupe will say, “All politicians lie except ours.” And only a fanatic will say, “My party is always right and the opposition always wrong.”
Sometimes when two Armenians disagree, I cannot help wondering: Is the disagreement between two Armenians or is it between an Armenian and a Turk?
Sophie Audouin Mamikonian on Armenians (in a recent issue of PARIS-MATCH): “They don’t have enough to eat but they want to crown me Queen of Armenia. When I refused to mount on the throne, these monarchists threatened to abduct my children. We were placed under police protection.”
The Word of God: the quintessential hearsay evidence
You want to be objective? Begin by thinking against yourself. Question your fondest assertions in which the “I” is present. Your “I” may be your most valuable possession but to the rest of the world it is the least significant.
I don’t remember to have ever met a man about whom I could not say, “There by the grace of God…”
As victims of racism, racism comes naturally to us. For many years I instinctively denied the existence of good Turks, and to this day the combination of these two words – “good Turks” – has to me an oxymoronic aura, like “cold fire,” or “compassionate sadist.”
Charm and honesty are mutually exclusive concepts. In the kind of world we live in, being honest means being obnoxious.
Caravans are magnates for idle dogs and dung beetles.
Wars between men end, but wars between gods never do.
If their Allah and our God ever met, would they need a translator?
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