19 July 2007

1821) If Talk Of Turks, Massacres, And Atrocities Will Make You A Better Person, More Understanding And . . .

Memo To Our Turcocentric Pundits And Their Readers
If talk of Turks, massacres, and atrocities will make you a better person, more understanding and compassionate, by all means, go ahead, knock yourself out, make a career of it. But if it will make you more vengeful and prone to hate not only your enemy but also your fellow countrymen simply because they do not share your hatred (I have seen this happen), then I suggest it may be in your interest as well as that of your “cause” to leave the field to others better equipped to deal with it. . .



AD HOMINEM
At no time have I been remotely tempted to silence fellow Armenians who hold views opposite to mine, not because I am tolerant by nature or morally superior to anyone, but because I never had the power to do so. Which is why I suspect all power. If I don’t trust myself with power, I see no reason why I should trust anyone else, least of all the scum of the earth parading as la crème de la crème.



AN ARMENIAN CREDO
I believe in one God who may or may not be on my side.
I believe as a human being I can be wrong, and I have been wrong more than once.
I believe it is also conceivable that like most human beings I have been wrong more often than right.
I also believe as an Armenian it is my patriotic duty to do my utmost to learn from my mistakes. Whether I have been or shall be successful in this endeavor is not up to me to decide but up to more impartial and objective observers.



MAFIA-DEMOCRACIES
Many great writers were misunderstood and neglected because they were ahead of their time. That’s not my problem. Nothing I say is difficult to understand, or original, or new. My ideas are not mine but the common currency of literature, including our own. They have been around for centuries, even millennia. My great liability is that I write about our problems and no one gives a damn about us, not even us. The only thing we seem to care about is Turks and their stonewalling and indifference – an indifference that we understand very well because we share it.
*
In his most recent book, TO THE CASTLE AND BACK (New York, 2007), Vaclav Havel calls the present political and economic structures of former Soviet countries “Mafia-democracies.” Now, why I didn’t think of that? Mafia-democracies! That’s like saying the law of the jungle.



PAPER TIGERS
Writers tend to take themselves seriously; and the more mediocre they are the more seriously they take themselves. It follows, if you tell a hopeless mediocrity he is not another Shakespeare, you are liable to make an enemy for life.
*
It may matter to writers what they write but to the vast majority who read him or to the millions who don’t, it makes absolutely no difference. Something similar could be said about our controversies. Since the majority is silent, each side may think it is on his side when in fact the world is too busy with far more important matters to give a damn one way or the other.
*
Of the one million Armenians in America (Canada and the U.S. combined) my guess is only less than 1% read our weeklies and most of the 1% read only to see their names in the paper. Now then, go ahead and take yourself seriously.
*
When friends ask me if I am working on a new project, I tell them I have given up writing. I don’t consider writing for the Internet writing. But if it is writing, it is more like writing on water.



DEFINITIONS
Politics: the art of manipulating the masses by means of lies.
*
Literature: sharing perceptions.
*
Chauvinist: a fanatic with 20/20 vision for his enemy’s failings and total blindness for his own.
*
Turcocentrism: a school of thought that says our most important concerns, hence our welfare, inner balance, and identity, revolve around Turks.
*
Which reminds me of a friend who, after urging me to change my last name, delivered the following comment: “As long as you bear a Turkish surname, you admit to having been branded by them.” And I thought: If only it were that easy to erase six centuries of subservience and all traces of Ottomanism by acquiring a new name!



NAPOLEON AND GANDHI
They fascinate me because they pulled the rug from under potentates, that is to say, bloodsucking mediocrities parading as leaders of men and representatives of God on earth. The means they employed were different but the end result was the same.
*
Only moronized people idolize leaders. Like all rules, this one too has its exceptions – Lincoln and FDR come to mind. But they too sat on a throne of blood. As for Napoleon and Gandhi: I see them less as leaders and more as destroyers of emperors, kings, princes, maharajas and similar riffraff.
*
I am not in the business of solving problems but in exposing those who stand to lose the most if our problems are ever solved.
*
Paul Tillich: “Life could not continue without throwing the past into the past, liberating the present from the burden.”



DEATH IN VENICE
What do I, a bookworm, know and understand about the real world? Next to nothing. This truth hit me again when I visited Venice recently and returned home a thoroughly disappointed man. The Venice I remember was a respectable old lady. She is now a bordello madam. Even Venetians are getting the hell out of there. In my time the population was 350,000; it’s now only 50,000. Everywhere you see boarded up windows and doors. My alma mater, Collegio Armeno Moorat-Raphael, is now a hotel. San Lazzaro, the island of the Mekhitarist order, has become a museum. Not a single seminarian or monk to be seen anywhere. Don’t get me wrong. In appearance Venice is the same – the bridges, the canals, the architecture, the narrow alleys, the gondolas, the vaporetti (water busses)…they are still there. What’s no longer there is the spirit of place, the soul of the city. Compared to the Venice of fifty years ago, the Venice of today is as lifeless as an embalmed cadaver. This is something I had not and could not have foreseen.

What do I know and understand about the workings of reality? But then, what did “the best and the brightest” under Kennedy know, or the neo-cons under Bush, or closer to home, our revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire know when they plunged the nation into conflicts that resulted in the needless death of countless innocent civilians? And what do our Turcocentric pundits know today?

What is history if not a long catalogue of blunders committed by arrogant, self-righteous, ignorant frauds that divide mankind into friends and enemies and implement a policy of kill or get killed?



WHAT IS ARMENIANISM?
***************************************
Observe an Armenian who has lived in the United States for sixty years and you may notice that he is more American than Armenian. Now consider what happened to us after six hundred years of life in the Ottoman Empire, and you may begin to understand why Turks prefer to call us as “Christian Turks.”
*
One way to classify an Armenian-American is to say that after being Ottomanized he has been Americanized. That doesn’t mean Americanization expunged Ottomanization. Identity is not a single-layer cake.
*
Armenianism: what is it exactly? I don’t know. But I do know that everything our propagandists tell us is wishful thinking and lies. We are not what we pretend to be. Nobody is!



OBSERVATIONS
*************************************
If there is one lesson that history keeps drumming into us is that we will be better off if we consider all politicians, regardless of race, color, and creed, guilty until proven innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt.
*
If Turcophile is a pejorative terms, why should Armenophile be any different? To an objective and impartial outsider, who knows little and cares even less about Turks and Armenians, both labels may suggest prejudice and as such of questionable validity.
*
Where there is an oversized ego there will be an undersized brain. I have said this before and I will say it again because an undersized brain also means an even more undersized memory; and, in the words of Socrates, favored by my Italian teacher of algebra, “to know is to remember.”
*
Like most people, I operate on the assumption that I am right. But I also know that to be right in one’s own eyes is easy. What’s hard to the point of being impossible is to convince oneself and others that, since truth is beyond our reach, we all of us engage in some form of charlatanism when we speak. As the old Chinese adage has it: “He who speaks does not know.” And according to a contemporary American philosopher: “Is love of truth itself merely another example of bullshit?” (Harry G. Frankfurt, ON TRUTH, page 14).


TRUTH AND PROPAGANDA
**************************************
According to Marcus Aurelius, "Our life is what our thoughts make it."

This may have been true two thousand years ago when the people were not exposed to mass media. Our lives today are shaped less by ideas and more by propaganda. Literature is praised but propaganda believed. Who reads books today? But everyone reads newspapers, watches TV, and listens to the radio. Many more Germans were shaped by MEIN KAMPF than by THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN. Many more Russians were taken in by Stalin than shaped by the ideas of Solzhenitsyn, or for that matter, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. It is an undeniable fact of modern life that we are, all of us, at the mercy of spin doctors, public relations men, advertisers, sermonizers, speechifiers, and phony pundits who expect us to believe they speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In the words of a contemporary American philosopher: "We live at a time when many quite cultivated individuals consider truth to be unworthy of any particular respect."

For more on this subject see Harry G. Frankfurt's (the philosopher quoted above) two most recent books: "ON BULLSHIT (New York, 2005), and ON TRUTH (New York, 2006).





Ara Baliozian

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