17 December 2006

1313) Let's Talk Turkey

Common sense tells us, when two witnesses contradict each other, both can't be right.

Experience tells us, to say all politicians lie except ours, is to declare oneself to be a certifiable dupe of nationalist propaganda.

Warning: If you question the validity of these two assertions, no need to read any further. . .

Since some of my Armenian readers are convinced I am a pro-Turkish denialist, and some of my Turkish readers take it upon themselves to correct my occasional pro-Armenian and anti-Turkish lapses, I must conclude I am on the right path. It is not part of my agenda to please, mislead, or accuse anyone. There are already more than enough hirelings who make a comfortable living (thank you very much) by doing these things.

"The Armenians were punished because they sided with the enemy," a gentle Turkish reader reminds me. By "punished" he probably means deported and not massacred. Which is it? Since both of my grandmothers survived and both my grandfathers perished, I must conclude some were deported, others "terminated." As for siding with the enemy, this may indeed be true of Armenians on the Russo-Turkish border, but definitely not of Armenians on the mainland, except for the very few agitators and revolutionaries who may have acted in the name of the people but who represented no one but themselves, very much like the Talaat, Jemal, Enver troika. The overwhelming majority of Armenians in the ghetto of refugees where I grew up were both illiterate and devoid of political awareness. To accuse them of harboring secret territorial ambitions and betraying the Empire is not just wrong but absurd. I don't remember my father saying anything remotely kind about our political parties or remotely unkind about Turks. I write these lines not as an Armenian but as a human being, and my intention is not to assert moral superiority but to understand why two people who lived side by side for six centuries prefer to believe their political leaders and to ignore the testimony of witnesses who value honesty and objectivity above prejudice and nationalist propaganda.

How can any tribe, nation, or race assert moral superiority and believe in it? Even worse: How can it also believe that in doing so it will not arouse the contempt and hatred of all men? The ancient Greeks knew better. They believed that pride or arrogance (hubris) is punished by the gods (Nemesis). And yet, in their eyes, all non-Greeks were barbarians. What happened next we know. They were defeated and colonized by Macedonians, Romans, and last but far from least, Turks. And unbelievable as this may see, even after centuries of enslavement, even in their present bastardized condition, they continue to cling to the notion that they are the real Chosen People. Figure that one out if you can.

Hubris And Nemesis
Ignorance of the law, including the moral law, especially the moral law, is no excuse. If you commit a transgression you can't plead not guilty by reason of ignorance or unawareness. When the Greeks were defeated, humiliated, and enslaved by such "barbarians" as Macedonians, Romans, and Turks, it may not have occurred to them that their hubris in assuming to be the most civilized nation on earth may have provoked the retaliation of Nemesis. Have these catastrophes of millennial duration taught the Greeks a lesson? I don't think so. Even in their present bastardized condition, they think, as the offspring of the greatest people on earth, they have every right to brag about their many contributions to world civilization.

To justify their hubris of considering themselves the Chosen, some learned Jews explain that they don't mean it as an enviable privilege but, on the contrary, as a heavy burden and a thankless responsibility. But I agree with Toynbee: no matter how you slice it, baloney is baloney. Greeks, Jews, Brits, Nazis, Armenians: they are chosen by no one but themselves and no amount of sophistry can cover up or justify their arrogance. Which is why I shiver with disgust when I hear an Armenian bragging about how smart we are, how many languages we speak, how successful we have been in surviving where many others perished, first nation this, and first nation that. Why would anyone brag about being slaughtered by "bloodthirsty savages"? And smart in what? Selling Oriental rugs? It seems our need to brag is such that when we run out of positives, we brag about negatives.

How smart are we when we say the best and only way to solve our many problems is to sit on our collective ass for two or three generations until our problems solve themselves. Human problems do not solve themselves. It takes hard work and sometimes even blood, sweat, and tears. An average idiot with the minimum of political awareness knows this. But leave it to smart Armenians to pretend ignorance and unawareness.

International Thinking At Its Best!
Question: What is the truest definition of Globalization?
Answer: Princess Diana's death.
Question: How come?
Answer: An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend crashes in a French tunnel, driving a German car with a Dutch engine, driven by a Belgian who was drunk on Scottish whisky, (check the bottle before you change the spelling) followed closely by Italian Paparazzi, on Japanese motorcycles; treated by an American doctor, using Brazilian medicines.

This is sent to you by a Canadian, using American Bill Gates' technology, and you're probably reading this on your computer, that use Taiwanese chips, and a Korean monitor, assembled by Bangladeshi workers in a Singapore plant, transported by Indian lorry-drivers, hijacked by Indonesians, unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen, and trucked to you by Mexicans That, my friends, is Globalization

Toynbee, Descartes, Zarian, And Others
If you say you disagree with Toynbee, you disagree with Descartes, and you disagree with Zarian, don't be surprised if those who agree with Toynbee, Descartes, and Zarian disagree with you, and they disagree with you not because they are prejudiced against you or remotely interested in questioning your intelligence or honesty but because they respect more Toynbee's understanding of history, Descartes' philosophical judgment, and Zarian's familiarity with recent developments in Armenian affairs, in most of which he was himself a participant in addition to being personally acquainted with the main players.

Zarian: "Our political parties have been of no political use to us. Their greatest enemy is free speech." Why free speech? Because it may expose their blunders and lies, which may spell their political and moral bankruptcy.

Tell me what you are afraid of and I will tell you who you are.

If you say your version of the past is the only true one, you do nothing but repeat the words of those who say exactly the same thing about their own version of the past, which may contradict yours.

The problem with partisan versions of the past is that there will be other partisan versions.

The statement "My party is infallible or morally superior," will convince only fellow partisans and no one else. If I say I am a great writer, I may succeed in convincing only my mama at the cost of making myself ridiculous in the eyes of the world.

If you write history with an ideological, religious, or nationalist bias, you can be sure that it will not be as objective, accurate and credible as that written by someone without an ax to grind.

The trouble with people with an ax to grind is that even when they bury their ax, they remember where they buried it.

Last night I heard an interview with a Catholic theologian who said, among other things, "All present wars are fought in the name of religion. Our only chance of preventing this from happening again is to alter our view of religion." And I thought religions have had that chance for much more than a thousand years. Is there a single religion today willing to consider its history as one of failure?

The Secret Of My Success
Readers - they are my only secret:
gentle readers, avid readers, concerned readers
willing to correct me
when I stray from the righteous path,
eager to remind me that
honey catches more flies than vinegar
(so does manure, but never mind about that now).
Writers of the past were not as lucky as I am.
During the Soviet era, for instance,
the only advice our commissars had for our
was a bullet in the neck.
Under Talaat in Istanbul
at the turn of the last century
things were no better.
But what's done is done.
Let bygones be bygones,
and as my readers keep reminding me,
it doesn't pay to dwell too much
on negative things;
and as the Good Book says,
"Let the dead bury their dead."
After centuries of brutal oppression
we have finally emerged
from the darkness of the past.
We have seen the light
and no power one earth
can thrust us back into darkness.
My success is not mine alone
but that of Armenian literature as a whole,
and by extension, that of the nation.
For readers create great writers
as surely as great writers create masterpieces.
I have no doubt whatever in my mind
that we now stand on the verge of a Second Golden
beside which the First is as nothing.
A new generation of great writers is about to
from the ashes and soar
like a phoenix into the stratosphere
where masterpieces are born
and Nobel Prizes awarded.
All because of gentle readers
who are committed body and soul
to the welfare of our literature and culture.
When during a visit to an Armenian community
I was asked why so far I had shown
no interest in encouraging a new generation of
but preferred to live in solitude in the middle
of nowhere,
I was dead wrong to reply:
"What the nation needs more today
is not writers but readers."
The truth of the matter is
I have many more good readers than I deserve,
avid reader, concerned readers,
able literary critics all,
whose sole aim in life
is to raise our esthetic and moral standards.
My gratitude to them knows no bounds.
I am what I am because of them.
My success is not mine but theirs.
I say to them what Samuel said to God:
"Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening."
God bless you.
God bless Armenian literature.
God bless Armenia.

On A Popular Delusion
When it comes to god, there are three schools of thought: (one) god created man in his own image; (two) man created god in his own image; and (three) there is no god. In THE GOD DELUSION (New York, 2006), the American biologist Richard Dawkins seems to support the second and third schools. Here is how he describes the god of the Old Testament: "a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully" -- which could also be a fairly accurate description of an average Yankee redneck or a fundamentalist Muslim jihadist.

In her book, THE FORCE OF REASON, the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who like Tolstoy, described herself as "a Christian atheist," asserts that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. Dawkins goes further and says fundamentalists of all faith exist because moderates legitimize and promote faith as a good thing. Which means, moderates create fanatics as surely as man creates god.

He explains the popularity of religions by saying children are "programmed" to believe anything their parents and elders tell them, which happens to be an undeniable biological fact observable not only in man but also in many other forms of animal life. According to Dawkins, a religious education is a form of brainwashing and as such should be equated with child abuse. This may explain why other forms of child abuse come naturally to those directly involved in organized religions.

It is to be noted that the above-mentioned Oriana Fallaci died recently (September 15, 2006) of cancer, aged 77. Her close friendship with Pope Benedict XVI, echoes that of Gandhi's, a devout Hindu, with Tolstoy.

For more on the god of the Old Testament and Christianity, see also Bertrand Russell's WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN.

QUESTION: Would you agree with me when I say that our critics and dissidents have been consistently negative, perhaps even hostile and prejudiced towards our political leadership?

ANSWER: To say that is to completely ignore the fact that our political leaders - be they kings, princes, nakharars, and ideologues -- have been much more negative and hostile towards one another.

Q: What would you say to those of your readers and critics who say you are consistently negative in your judgments?

A: I would say that our "betters" are even more negative in their judgments as well as policies against one another, hence our perennial divisions that have crippled the nation and reduced us to the status of perennial losers. If I am wrong, I can be corrected and contradicted. Can we say the same about them?

Q: If you are right and they wrong, why is it that they have many more supporters, followers, and hamagirs (sympathizers) than you have readers?

A: One reason, they control the media. Another reason, bad ideas make perfect sense to dupes who are easily satisfied with slogans and clichés that flatter their vanity. As for good ideas: history tells us even the best ideas can be manipulated and perverted by cunning operators to such a degree that they become their own contradictions. Hence, such phenomena as dissidents who are labeled as "enemies of the nation," and contempt for ideas in the name of ideology.

Q: A final question: Why should the average reader trust your ideas more than the ideas of -to use your own expression -- our "betters"?

A: Let's have the honesty to admit that none of our ideas is original or new. We are all in the business of recycling old ideas. A 20th-century English philosopher has gone as far as saying that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato. Our choice is between the received ideas of politicians with an ax to grind on the one hand, and on the other, the received ideas of thinkers who have dedicated their lives to the selfless and thankless labor of enhancing our understanding. And now, allow me to ask you a question: Can you think of a single memorable sentence spoken by any one of our leaders during the last fifty years?

If The Blind
When it comes to what to write and how to write it, I find my guidelines not in the speeches and sermons of our bosses, bishops, benefactors and their assorted flunkies and hirelings, who will say and do anything for an empty title or a regular salary, but in our literature. Not everyone who speaks in the name of God acts with His wisdom; and some of the most dangerous fanatics in history have exceled in the art of speechifying in the name of patriotism.

I remember during the Soviet era whenever I published a commentary critical of the regime, I would receive nasty and abusive phone calls and letters by our chic Bolsheviks who would remind me that we owe our present prosperity and existence to our big brothers to the North, and if they ever withdrew their support, the Turks would have us for breakfast. Whenever I cited violations of human rights, I would be informed that such violations exist everywhere, including Canada and the United States. They would explain and justify every Soviet crime against humanity the way denialist Turks explain the Genocide by saying even the most so-called civilized nations on earth have been guilty of similar crimes, and like rape and murder, genocide is an integral part of the human condition. It follows no one can afford to adopt a morally superior stance. Ramgavar editors would go further and accuse me of disseminating Tashnak propaganda. That's the problem with liars and propagandists: they think everyone is either a liar or a propagandist.

Let's not have any illusions about our "betters" who are better only at creating problems rather than solving them. If you have not understood that much about our history and present situation, it may be because you are a product of an educational system whose aim is not to raise consciousness but to lower it by making you say "Yes sir!" when common sense and decency tells you to bellow "A plague on both your houses!" And if you were to ask why I blame Soviet purges and Ottoman massacres on our own leaders, I would reply by saying, for the same reason that sectarian violence in Iraq today is blamed on Bush. Political leadership is a demanding discipline; mediocrity and politics don't mix; mediocrity in times of crisis may even spell disaster for the nation. Leadership is much more than popularity, charisma, and patriotic speeches. Leadership means the ability to see what's on the other side of the hill. Our leaders have been better at speechifying than seeing the other side of the hill. The source of all our misfortunes is to be found in their blindness.and "if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."

Cannibals And Christians
To say that I attack or criticize Armenia and Armenians in my writings is a gross distortion of what I have been doing. I write in defense of all victims, underdogs, and men of goodwill (regardless of nationality). To write in defense of victims also means to expose their victimizers, and I don't mean past victimizers (as our Turcocentric self-appointed pundits do), but present ones. We cannot change the past, but we may have a better chance to change the future.

If I write more on wicked men and less on good ones, it's because they (the wicked) have taken over our leadership. My writings are an expression of concern rather than hostility. To criticize is to expose contradictions. A critic is someone who tells you if you want to travel south, you should not board a northbound train because then you may end up in Alaska where you may freeze your butt. If you want to live to be a hundred, you should not mix yourself a cocktail of arsenic and rat poison. If you want to impress others with your high IQ, you may have a better chance of doing so if you keep your trap shut, because if you open it, you may run the risk of exposing yourself as an idiot. If you are in a hole, you should stop digging.

If you worry about Armenians being few, you should not support or defend leaders who have no interest in checking the exodus from the Homeland and the assimilation rate in the Diaspora. On the contrary, you should do whatever you can to expose their corruption, incompetence, lies, and wickedness; and if you cannot do that, you should not obstruct the path of those who are trying. This much said, let me conclude by saying that none of us can claim to be beyond criticism, because being human also means being a bundle of contradictions. And speaking of contradictions let me confess one of my own many contradictions: If I want to lecture on the advantages of a vegetarian diet, why do I choose doing so to an audience of cannibals?

Diagnose And Adios
Confronted with an incurable disease, some doctors offer no hope or consolation to the patient. This MO by MDs is known as "Diagnose and adios." As a veteran of many verbal confrontations, I have learned the hard way that it never pays to contradict an argumentative person whose central concern is to prove his brain, or some other organ more closely connected with his manhood, is bigger than yours. Nothing disarms such a person more than telling him he is right, especially when he is dead wrong. Tell him he is wrong and he will come up with more reasons why you are a damn fool. If Freud were alive today, my guess is, he would diagnose Bush's intransigence as an extension of his defective manhood. As for Armenian intransigence, he would diagnose it as a trauma sustained during centuries of subjection to brutal foreign tyrants, after which he would say "Auf viedersehen." I look forward to the day when I too will see the light and say adios to our


On Belief Systems And Related Atrocities
It is an undeniable fact that some of our most cherished ideas about God and Country, or religion and patriotism, were instilled in us at a time when we had not yet mastered the demanding art of thinking for ourselves, and as such they should be rejected as "prejudicial" and "hearsay" because not to do so would mean allowing geography to determine our belief system. It is another undeniable fact that geography or mountains, valleys, and flatlands do not and cannot think. It follows; to allow an unthinking factor to define our thinking is not just wrong but absurd. And yet, this is what the overwhelming majority of mankind does. Result, intolerance, conflicts, wars, massacres, and atrocities with no end in sight; or, to put it more bluntly, lies in the name of truth, and the Kingdom of the Devil instead of the City of God.

Having seen this clearly, the eminent historian Arnold J. Toynbee concluded his monumental STUDY OF HISTORY with an appeal to mankind to reconcile all known religions into a single universal religion by granting equal status to all scriptures, prophets, and messianic figures. Needless to add, he was labeled a mystic, a prophet of mumbo jumbo, and a utopian daydreamer.

Was Toynbee a utopian mystic or a realist and pragmatist? He was, I believe, both. He was a realist in so far as he saw that what moves tribes, nations, empires, and civilizations is a belief system rather than self-interest, and as long as there are conflicting belief systems there cannot be lasting peace. He was a utopian mystic in so far as he thought man, as a reasonable being would be more than willing to give up his arrogant, not to say, groundless belief that he had a monopoly on truth for whose sake he would rather see the world go down in flames rather than to live in perpetual peace and prosperity.

In Denial
Even when I behaved like an idiot I thought I was being smart, and I thought I was being smart because I was in denial. And I am in denial today at this very moment when I think my words may change someone's mind.

To be in denial is an easy concept to understand but difficult to detect in oneself. Censorship is a symptom of denial that masquerades as dedication, respect, and love of truth. If you say 2 plus 2 makes 4, and I say it makes 22, you don't feel threatened. You may even smile. That's because when truth is on your side, you don't feel threatened by lies. But if you believe in an ideology or religion and someone questions its validity, you are tempted to punch him in the nose because you are afraid to be exposed as a jackass who has been betting on the wrong horse.

Tribes, nations, empires, and civilizations can be in denial as surely as megalomaniacs (which means being in denial of one's mediocrity). I have a Jewish friend who is as close to me as a brother that I never had. We have exchanged hundreds perhaps even thousands of letters and e-mails. But whenever I question the validity of Jews being God's Chosen People he refuses to talk to me for months.

The USSR was harsh on its dissidents not because it valued truth over lies but because it saw truth as a threat. How could a few words by (in their official estimation) harmless eccentrics and misfits in need of psychiatric care shake the foundations of a mighty empire?

To believe in propaganda amounts to saying all propagandists are liars except ours, who are men of honor and butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, or anywhere else for that matter.

The aim of propaganda is to legitimize, promote, and reinforce a state of denial, but since everyone, except perhaps a handful of individuals who have mastered the demanding art of thinking for themselves, subscribes to a propaganda line, being in denial is considered a perfectly normal and healthy condition.

Under normal conditions murder is a capital offense, but in time of war soldiers are brainwashed by propagandists to believe that 2 plus 2 makes 22 and if anyone dares to disagree, he will be accused of treason, which happens to be a capital offense too. There you have it, another case of Catch-22.

I think it was Aldous Huxley who once observed that our planet is the insane asylum of the galaxy. If you reject or question the truth in this observation, it may be because you happen to be in denial.

Assertions And Contradictions
Confronted with an assertion, I think of its contradiction and if I see any merit in it, I know the assertion to be full of holes. The roots of some of the most important ideas are not to be found in life or reality but in contradictions. Hating the enemy comes naturally to all of us, but only a revolutionary of genius could come up with the idea of loving the enemy. For centuries kings were thought to be representatives of god on earth, until someone had the brilliant idea that they may well be representatives of the devil, and as such they deserved to be "strangled with the guts of the last priest." Closer to home, the loudmouth dupe who preaches Armenianism and practices Ottomanism.

I look forward to the day when the English language will acquire a new verb - "to iraq" (pronounced I rock), meaning to make a royal mess of things in the name of god, freedom, progress, justice, and everything else that is good in life. After Saddam sodomized Iraq, Bush iraqed it. But when it comes to iraqing things, no one can beat our "best and brightest."

The first four words from god's memoirs: "Big mistake - creating man."

To those who brag about being fluent in more than one language, I say: "What's the use of speaking seven or seventy-seven languages if you are going to make an ass of yourself in all of them?"

A nation needs heroes willing to die in its defense, yes, certainly! But what a nation needs even more are leaders who value peace over war, especially wars they cannot win.

On God, Etc.
Like most of my fellow Christians I was brought up as a believer. In my teens I lost my faith. Today I am not longer sure what to believe. I can say the same about so many other things, including my Armenian identity and everything that is connected with it. Lucky are those who are born, raised, and grow old with certainties, which they never question, doubt, or lose.

I agree with Descartes who once said the only way to reason and make sense is to assume that everyone, including an army of invisible cunning demons, were out to deceive you. One of my very few certainties is this: if I ever see the light and regain my faith, it will not be a belief in the god of our priests, televangelists, imams, and mullahs.

I don't mind admitting that I tend to simplify complexities, but my simplifications are more akin to counter-simplifications: I simplify to expose the simplifications of meaningless clichés and slogans of propaganda, which are simplifications twice removed from reality, and not so much lies as absurdities whose ultimate aim is to remove us from the demands that life makes on us.

As long as we say to our leaders "You are our best and brightest," they will never try harder, and even as we sink into oblivion they will continue to brainwash a new generation to brag about our genius for survival. And if you were to accuse me of always seeing the dark side of things, allow me to remind you that (one) optimism thrives in insane asylums, and (two) it was optimists who said if we rise against a tottering empire (with the blessing of the Lord and the support of the West) we will recover our historic lands and live happily ever after. What they didn't know or refused to consider is that the Good Lord may or may not care what happens to His Chosen People (which we may or may not be), and the mighty West may be too divided (very much like us) to be in a position to help us, or for that matter, itself. Our revolutionary heroes were too naïve and simple-minded in their simplifications to know what Herzen knew nearly a century before they went into action, namely that "nature and history are full of the accidental and the senseless, of muddles and bungling."

On Pride
"I am proud to be the offspring of a persecuted nation," writes a reader, thus proving that one can be or pretend to be proud of anything, including degradation. Speaking for myself, I can't say I am proud of anything, and I have every reason to suspect no one who has ever been persecuted, really persecuted, can be proud of it.

We were persecuted because we were defeated. We were defeated not because God made our enemies strong and us weak but because they were united and we were divided. We were divided because our wheeler-dealers parading as representatives of God on earth and leaders of men failed to unite us. To say we are proud of being the offspring of a persecuted nation amounts to bragging about being divided, defeated, persecuted, massacred and scattered to the four corners of the world like unwanted, uninvited, and useless autumn leaves. I have heard of people bragging about their success. Leave it to Armenians to brag about their failures.

"I am glad we never had an Ataturk," I read elsewhere. As a matter of fact we had several potential Ataturks, among them General Antranik and Nejdeh, but we also had many more mini-sultans and crypto-commissars who excel in only one endeavor - obstructing the path of all those who attempt to achieve solidarity. This minor detail is not stressed in our textbooks because that would amount to admitting incompetence. I say these things not to gloat over our failures but to point out the simple fact that only after we admit failure we may aim at success. To be satisfied with our incompetence and failures also means to perpetuate them.

Work In Progress
Identifying oneself with a fraction of mankind --be it race color or creed, or nation, tribe, and party -- means drawing a curtain on the rest of mankind and adopting a propaganda line; and as we know by now, for every propaganda line there will be a counter-propaganda line with all the familiar results - contradictions, conflicts, assertions of superiority, intolerance, and hatred leading to war, massacre, and atrocities. I see this clearly today but for a long time my "betters" did their utmost to make me an unthinking robot who will swallow their venom, ignorance, prejudices, and unsettled scores, and feel as though I were discharging my patriotic duty and acting in the name of a noble cause, as opposed to satisfying some imbecile's lust for power.

No one (except perhaps the Pope of Rome) dares to assert infallibility, because doing so would mean provoking ridicule; but everyone argues as if he were infallible in his judgment. The hardest thing for a dogmatist, fanatic, and patriot is to say, "You were right and I was wrong"; and the hardest thing for a self-assessed smart person is to say, "You are smarter than I am."

Some may call what I have been doing "masochistic self-examination," others "deconstruction," which may not be the same as destruction but shares something with it. But then, all creation begins with destruction.

When we argue perhaps our real goal is to assert some kind of superiority - if not in IQ than in wisdom or patriotism. But suppose we were to come right out at the beginning of an argument and say, "What I think is right because I am smarter and wiser than you": would anyone believe us?

If you think my views are unorthodox or anti-establishment or radical in any way, allow me to quote a passage from a recent commentary (September 30, 2006) by Rev. Frank Morgan, a local faith columnist who died last week at the age of 92: "Don't claim to have all the truth and don't claim that other faiths are lesser faiths than your own. And be very sure that if your thinking about God and His will has not changed since you were in public school, then you really need a spiritual refit." And from another commentary (June 15, 1991): "I believe the Bible to be the greatest and surest guide to faith and life. I am also convinced that if you take it literally, you will lose that guide. It [the Bible] is a story of people's growing understanding of God and His will for us. We still have a long way to go." In other words, none of us can claim to be a finished product because we are a work in progress.

On the subject of having a long way to go: I remember to have heard an old story about a man who went all over the world in search of something or other, only to come back home and discover it in his own backyard.

Before we engage in an argument, we should ask ourselves: "Is my central concern love or hatred? And worse, is it hatred in the name of love? What is it that motivates me, tolerance or intolerance, arrogance or humility?" If you can't answer these questions clearly and unequivocally, it only means one thing: you are in deep sh**!

Grandmasters Of The Blame Game
Shortly before she died, one of our self-appointed partisan pundits wrote me an angry letter saying I had ruined the Armenian-American community. There was a time, she explained, when everyone was happy. Now everybody was bitching. And everybody was bitching because my kind of writing had started the trend. She was lying of course. And she was lying because lying comes naturally to our pundits. Had I been born before the Tourian assassination in 1933, she would have pinned that on me too, no doubt.

The other day I read an editorial in one of our partisan weeklies written by still another self-appointed partisan pundit that said, in effect, Armenians are their own worst enemies because Armenians like Rouben Mamoulian had not helped a single Armenian in Hollywood. The implications were unmistakable: what had prevented the Armenian community from going down the drain had been the idealism, dedication, hard work, and vision of statesmen like him and his kind. As for legitimizing intolerance and promoting divisions and mediocrity: they must be ascribed to my kind of bitching, of course.

I could have written a letter to the editor but I didn't. I knew better. Once, many years ago, when I didn't know better, I wrote a letter to the editor of this same weekly pointing out some factual inaccuracies in an editorial, only to be told: "We don't as a rule publish letters that question our editorials." I did not ask why not because I guessed the answer: "Because we are infallible!" If the Catholics have their Pope, if Muslims have their imams, and Turks have their Ataturk, why can't we have a corresponding figure, and if we don't have him, why can't we pretend to have him, and by feeding him royal jelly, elevate him to the status of a king, that is to say, a representative of god on earth?

A Question Of Credibility
Why would anyone choose to believe a minor, disgruntled, and marginalized scribbler who can't make ends meet and ignore textbooks written by established academics? You may choose to believe whomever you wish of course (and I say this to readers of all colors, creeds, and races, including Armenians and Turks) as long as you keep in mind that academics are hirelings of the state, that is to say, politicians, and as such they are as subservient to the power structure as diplomats and bureaucrats. Even the mightiest empire in the world, like the United States of America, cannot afford to choose textbooks written by historians who emphasize its dark side and its crimes against humanity, or textbooks written from the perspective of its victims ("white man speaks with a forked tongue," or "white man is the devil"). Until the collapse of the USSR, Communist textbooks did not mention the Gulag; so much so that even Nobel-Prize winning intellectuals of the West dismissed all talk of the Gulag as capitalist-inspired anti-Soviet propaganda.

Textbooks, commentaries, editorials, and memoirs of the Genocide are safe because they stress what has been done to us at the expense of what we could have done and what we can do today to solve our many problems. When it comes to what we can do today, for instance, we are given to understand we can do nothing but wait and hope that in two or three generations the corrupt among us will see the light and solve our problems, after which we may live happily ever after. Our subservience to "the blind forces beyond our control" is such that we have become deaf and dumb to the fact that by adopting a passive stance we are committing genocide by other means (exodus from the Homeland, assimilation in the Diaspora). I am not advocating covering up and forgetting the 1915 Genocide. What I am saying is that we should not allow it to paralyze our will.

A Turcocentric view of life marginalizes the nation as surely as our bosses, bishops, and benefactors marginalize anyone who refuses to say "Yes, sir!" to whatever they say, no matter how absurd. As for the corrupt seeing the light and solving our problems: don't hold your breath; they will be too busy proving their integrity, statesmanship, self-sacrifice, patriotism, and moral superiority, not to say defending with everything they've got the source of their power, prestige, and wealth, to have any time left for solutions.

Before And After
For most of my life others set the terms and conditions and I had no choice but to accept them. (Sounds familiar?) I was born again as a human being on the day I decided to set my own terms and conditions; and even when I lost (which I did most of the time) I felt as though I had won.

Like parrots, the brainwashed have no use for free speech.

"Treason and betrayal are in our blood," Raffi tells us. So are criticism and dissent. Not even our toughest critics, including Gregory of Narek, have gone as far saying "Mart bidi ch'ellank!" (We will never acquire the status of human beings.) Compare this popular mantra with such propaganda lines as "first nation this" and "first nation that," and "Armenians are smart." How can anyone be smart who is also deaf and ignorant of what people are thinking and saying?

For the brainwashed there are two kinds of propaganda - theirs and ours. As for honesty and objectivity: they might as well be subversive concepts. If honesty is subversive and objectivity an instrument of the devil, does that mean we have a marked preference for dishonesty and charlatanism? What's next? We might as well get out our shovels and start digging - and I mean digging our own graves. Toynbee is right: nations are not killed, they commit suicide.

Writers And Critics
The Catholic novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize (1952) Francois Mauriac (b. 1885) gave up writing fiction after Sartre, (b. 1905), a relative newcomer on the French literary scene and an atheist to boot, published an essay critical of his work. This may suggest that a competent critic has the power to deconstruct, demolish, and reduce to silence even a universally admired great writer.

I look forward to the day when someone with average or even below average intelligence will give me a similar treatment and I will quit writing this stuff and go back to writing fiction. But so far I haven't had much luck in my critics. If they are not brainwashed partisans or brown-nosing self-appointed Turcocentric pundits, they are intellectually challenged skinheads whose insults I find stimulating rather than wounding.

Are we heading in the direction of a new renaissance or are we on our way to the devil? If you answer this question by resorting to chauvinist clichés and platitudes, then we have nothing to look forward to.

I grew up with the notion that there was more truth in an Armenian lie than in an odar truth. It took me many years to realize that a lie is a lie and it makes no difference whether it is spoken in Zulu, Turkish, or Armenian. The same could be said of propaganda.

Ara Baliozian

Reader's Comment by Sukru Server Aya

Dear Ara the Hammer-man

As always your articles (# 1313) tickles my dormant thinking, and in as far that you prefer to talk about Turkey instead of New Year turkey, and knowing that 1 am among the few striving to understand your sense of humor and one’s self respect, I should like to give some of the reader comments with copy to Soda, to serve as an open letter, if you have no objection. Two weeks later I will be 77 (instead of your 2&2), and that should give me some edge of telling, what l think of your comments, in the same sequence of your paragraphs:

a- Your first paragraph, with pro-Armenian or pro-Turkish denialist (!) indications, gives a hint that you could not tree yourself from the nationalistic sneeze! The translation of General Bronsart von Schellendor’s article, draws a “good image for Talat”. Djemal, (at least all Turkish Armenians admit that) he was much protective to the Armenian deportees, he opened some orphanages, tried to give jobs, and he hanged a few Turkish rulers (and may be some Armenians) who were taking advantage of the situation. He was not part of the troika of this decision because he was already in Aleppo. Decision was taken by Talat and Enver, after the Van victory, and refusal of Patriarchate of the last warning. As regards Enver, he was a decent but ego-maniac youngster trying to match Napoleon. Ataturk never liked his ideas, although they were both from same academy in Salonica. I think that the most idiotic mistake the Dashnak fans are doing, is to insist on profiting by marketing hatred, instead of marketing business and friendship (like we still do here) and us inborn trading skills!

b- Hubris and Nemesis: I agree hundred percent with you. I get somewhat uncomfortable, arguments are pushed in the arena of religion or superiority of this or that race... or blood or sh I cannot stand those who brag, be it for their own or others’ doing, and you caught an extreme case, where some can even brag or negativity or victimization.

c- international Thinking and sample of Globalization is so excellent that I am sharing It with other friends.

d- Toynbee etc. The only good thing you can praise about Toynbee, should be only his Blue Book and other invented stories who made him famous, as the opposite of La Fontaine. I wish l could compliment that Catholic theologian and wish he could made a footnote on the biblical “revelations”. Regarding parties and politicians who kiss butts just have a soft seat for their own butt, name the good ones; will not count all your fingers! For almost Thirty years I do not vote, because our “democratic system (?)“or party crooks, made such a law that you cannot even pick up the barley from the dung you have to choose from. Which one you like best, iamb, goat, horse, mule, ass, elephant, cow, buffalo.., etc. all varieties you have the freedom to chose from and swallow all !

e- Secret of your success and Nobel Prize: Yes, you have to be negative and bully... Look at Orhan Pamuk, who was applauded by Armenians and all circles antagonist to Turkey, because he listened to the big brothers and all of the sudden said that Turks killed I million Armenians and 30.000 Kurds, Until that time he was unnoticed, even I could not read any of his books, written upside down, One historian, found four mistakes in a sentence of five words only... He hit the jackpot, became rich, being applauded by Kocharian, Oskanian, but not our president or those proficient in literature. Are you speaking of the “shiny flies” feeding on manure? He does not have a book translated in Armenian, yet all Armenians applaud him... Why? I enjoy reading your penmanship and objectivity. The “truth always needs to be re-discovered” and reconfirmed! I am not scared of it! What do they call, denialist? And then professors (?) at UCLA doctor and make a sadist poster of Ataturk in the name of scholarship, patriotism or charlatanism? I know “some” are making pro fits” on negativity! Who? I do not know that much but reading Heather S. Gregg’s paper gives a hint about the size of the negativity pool!

f- Popular Delusion: I have ordered right away “THE GOD DELUSION” to compliment my hand-book, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible”. Though Richard Dawkins is damn correct, I would not use the same “correct words”… I am getting Bertrand Rusell’s book from my friend. I already used some of his excerpts in my book waiting (for a courageous editor or publisher). If and when it comes out, you may be surprised that it is not the race, religion, nationality, and other virtues of circumcising or baptizing that counts, but it is only the brains and thalamus! But like the joke goes on, when brains were put in jars for sale, every one picked up his own old brain. Einstein’s did not sell! As Ataov says, “every human believes in what he wants to believe”. I believe in “not being sure”! Since I cannot follow those (I “can see they are blind”, that makes me an “infidel or trouble maker”...

g- Cannibals and Christians I do not wish to comment paragraph because I do not want to be “centric” for any subject, other than average and decent. However, what I fail to understand, is why Armenian people are so scared of assimilation! is that because some leaders will have no flock to drive and milk, or that the Armenians will be melted and disappeared ... there will be no one going to churches, no one left to hate, no one to pass the grand-ma stories and wet the Wouldn’t that be disaster? Cyrus Hamlin became famous by introducing and selling the leaven bread” to British soldiers in camps and hospitals, and since that time Turks learned about leaven bread”. Imagine what an excellent “Armenian yeast” can turn American or French barley and produce the best fancy-foamy-bully beer, more famous than Budweiser! Are some people afraid of ‘giving from them” or taking from others”… I am proud to have a daughter in law of Dutch American origin and excellent grand sons, intelligent, strong, self-depend ant with “open minds” (when they talk to me).

h- Diagnose and Adios: I am afraid I make a bad example and cannot compete with Bush s who runs the world on what God tells him to do… Likely, God does not know what the hack is doing in Iraq, he teaches Muslims not to surrender and to die fighting infidel Christians or “brother Muslims”... They all go to paradise anyway…

I- On belief Systems and atrocities, Suggest you have a look in the Lloyd A. Graham’s “Deceptions and Myths of the Bible” which shows in a sketch that “the Devil is God Inversus”.

j- in Denial: Can God be that mean to think and perform all the trickeries and cruelties, boasted in the first Testament? Enough of the chosen people brainwashing .. What made the Ottomans keep an Empire for six centuries, is to grant all people freedoms and choices they wanted to work and produce so they pay their poll tax for the Ottoman sitting on his butt, doing the body-guarding. That worked alright, until some colonial powers started to make faster and better use of Armenians and dump them when they were through... Propaganda?: That’s another “salesmanship qualities of Armenians, talk sweet, convince and sell”.. But now they quit this working secret and try to sell hatred... This has a market among diaspora, but for how long?

k- On Pride: There is a thick line between pride for being honorable and decent, versus being bully and boastful... Let others butter you, if you are that good and superior! Yes, it is strange that Armenians can brag even with their failures, because this is how they are brain washed by their leaders... Sorry Ara, but with little I know about Andranik (who started volunteering against Turks in Bulgaria, later with Russia, and finally working for HitIer), I see no similarity in the goals and means and of course the results... I finally got something I can disagree with you! Isn’t it nice ? Otherwise they would think I am buttering you, for some “reason”!

I- Work in progress: I have done my patriotic duty in’ e military service, and it is not my duty to kiss dirty butts of those holding the powers... I do what I think it is correct and righteous, and if I do a mistake I say sorry and try to correct my thinking and judgment. Regarding IQ, I would be scared to take any tests, after seeing so many idiots with high IQ running people like us, just because we stick to our own principles of thinking ourselves for ourselves and not renting any ones distorted or stupid (or even wiser) thoughts!

m- Grandmasters of Blame Game: The French say “Serche Ia femme”, I would say “Search for who profits” from this blame game and hit some compensation jack pots... I think that there are a few phantoms running this whole “blame, victimize, reward, penalize, and collect’ mechanism… Who ever are at the very top, they have my true and sincere appreciation for their success for milking such a large clientele, without hurting...

n- Credibility: Turcocentric etc… I have a confession to make Ara, Turks were so much incapable and disorganized that they could have never succeeded, even if they wanted to do it... Plus the fact that there was no reason + time + means to do such an act, even when they were up over their heads with the sabotages...

o- Before and after: Yes, you are so right... I share totally your view. We are born, on the day, we start to think that there is a huge lot of nonsense in what we read, hear or told... So, we have to learn the hard way! Which may be the long way, but that gives us peace of mind to look into the mirror or fall asleep.

p- Writers and Critics: I do not claim to be any ... I need not to be uplifted on shoulders, nor kicked in my butt fallen on ground. I want to look into every human at the same level of thinking, ethics and intelligence. The few that agree with me, is enough and makes my life enjoyable. Love to all (including all Armenians) S. Aya


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