15 September 2007

1967) The Rat and Pitbull - Diplomacy 101 . . .

THE RAT AND THE PITBULL
Once upon a time there was a pitbull, a rat, and a little mouse sharing the same backyard. These three didn’t particularly care for each other but they coexisted in relative peace for many years until the rat fell seriously ill and was diagnosed with terminal old age. Whereupon the pitbull decided to put him out of his misery by delivering the coup de grace. When the rat realized what was about to happen, he fought like a demon. It was at this point that the little mouse committed the serious strategic blunder of siding with the pitbull. And when the pitbull, for reasons of his own, left the field of honor, the badly mauled rat fell on the little mouse and tore him to shreds.

Ever since then historians of this occurrence have been divided into two, the pro-mouse faction asserting the rat had behaved like a rat and in total contravention of the Marquis de Queensberry rules. It is to be noted that most of these pro-mouse historians happen to be direct descendants of the pitbull.


DIPLOMACY 101
- “Don’t get mad, get even.” (American folk wisdom)
- “Just the facts, ma’am.” (Jack Webb)
- “He who loses temper, has wrong on his side.” (Chinese saying)
- If, god forbid, you happen to be one of those rare Armenians who starts foaming at the mouth whenever Turks are mentioned, . . I have one or two suggestions that you may find of some use.
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- Never get emotionally involved in an argument because when the gut speaks louder than the brain, reason exits, unreason enters, and unreason might as well be synonymous with insanity.
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- One of the fundamental principles of diplomacy that is common knowledge even among non-diplomats with a single-digit IQ is that, if you want something, anything, from someone, anyone, one way to get it is by pretending you neither want it nor need it. And the best way of not getting what you want is to make it clear that what you want is the most important thing you ever wanted in your life and that if your demands are not fully and unconditionally met, your life will no longer have any meaning.
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- When engaged in negotiation, you either do so from a position of strength or weakness. If weakness, do not give in to the temptation of losing your equanimity or resorting to name-calling, if only because name-calling is easy and more often than not totally ineffective. History is on my side on this. After a century of name-calling, what have we accomplished? Number of victims: not a single resurrection. Reparations? Not a single red cent. Territorial claims? Not a single inch of dirt. On the other hand, if you think you are negotiating from a position of strength or moral superiority (because god and truth are on your side) no need to go down into the gutter if only because doing so may expose your claim of moral superiority as bogus.
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- You may do whatever your little heart desires and minuscule brain dictates in the privacy of your own home and behind closed doors, but in public or on an open discussion forum on the internet, try to be cool, objective, and impartial; and if you can’t be cool, be silent. For there is more wisdom in silence than in empty verbiage.
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- To the question, “Why is it that you don’t always practice what you preach?” I can only say, I am not a very good sharpshooter. I aim high when I write, but I don’t always hit the bull’s eye when I live. Isn’t that a common failing in all sermonizers, speechifiers, and, sometimes, scribblers?



PERSPECTIVES
When I first read a thick volume on the history of Christianity in which Armenians were not even mentioned in a footnote, I began to have second thoughts about what is remembered, what is thought of as relevant, and what is worth mentioning.
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To those of my readers who take me to task for being consistently nasty and deliberately malicious, I say it is all a charade, and that in reality and deep inside somewhere I am much worse, and that even when I feel good and at peace with the world, a more accurate description of my disposition would be like that of a scorpion surrounded by a ring of fire.
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I once met an Armenian who said he loved his fellow Armenians but every other word he uttered dripped with the concentrated venom of ten Turkish vipers.
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If memory serves, it was Baronian who once declared: “I love mankind but I hate people.”
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A buried head in the sand is not a defense but an invitation.



MICE THAT ROAR
A good example of an irrefutable argument, Armenian style: What I say is right not because it is right but because I say so, and if you dare not to take my word for it, you deserve to die.
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There is a Pope of Rome in all of us. We assume to be infallible when we argue, and we argue as if what we say not only matters but it may also change the course of history.
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I have yet to hear an Armenian say, “After reading Naregatsi, Raffi, or Zarian, I changed my mind about my fellow Armenians.” If our greatest intellects cannot change anyone’s mind, what can we hope to achieve, except perhaps to expose ourselves as pompous asses.
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There is this about a pompous ass: no need to deflate him. Leave him alone and he will inflate himself until he self-destructs.
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When Shakespeare coined the phrase “full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” I have no doubt whatever he had an Armenian discussion forum in mind. How do I know this? The way you know everything: I feel it in my gut.
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My take on the human condition in general and ours in particular: crooks feel more at home in a crooked world and they will do their utmost to keep it that way.



“YOU REPEAT YOURSELF!”
Who doesn’t?
First nation this, first nation that, “Mi kich pogh oughargetsek” (Send us a little money)…At least when I repeat myself I don’t send you a bill.
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I repeat myself? When was the last time you heard one of our sermonizers or speechifiers speak in favor of sin or Turks. Why single me out? Because I refuse to flatter your ego? Is that how you classify your fellow men and their ideas? Only brown-nosers are welcome because they speak the truth? Everyone else is either an enemy or a liar?
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Our speechifiers and sermonizers never give up telling us we are right because god and truth are on our side. Isn’t that what their mullahs do too? What if both them and us are brainwashed by identical sets of charlatans who speak with a forked tongue?
I am not casting aspersions. I am only asking questions.



ON POPULARITY
Marquis of Halifax: “Popularity is a crime from the moment it is sought.”
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If those who promote hatred (sorry, I should have said justice)… if those who promote hatred are more popular than those who speak of understanding, it may be because hatred appeals to the gut, understanding to the brain, and in all primitive societies the gut rules the brain.
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Anyone who disagrees with us is either an ignoramus or a liar is an argument that succeeds only in undermining our own credibility.
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There is something Ottoman in our anti-Turkishness. Surprised? I don’t see why. It took less than sixty years for the Russians to Sovietize us and for the Yanks to Americanize us…
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More often than not the sentence “I know it for a fact” is followed by fiction.
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It is not at all unusual to deceive oneself all one’s life and remain totally unaware of the deception.
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I may be wrong on specific points but you are wrong on the most important things if you don’t allow me the freedom to be wrong on the assumption that you support a position, or an ideology, or a religion that happens to be infallible.



MAN THE QUADRUPED
Ask a specialist in any field, from astronomy to zoology, and from ethics to politics, and he will tell you the average layman is a total ignoramus about his subject. What he may not volunteer to admit as readily is that he is himself a total ignoramus about countless other subjects. In that sense we are all ignoramuses at the mercy of other ignoramuses who only pretend to be infallible. Shaw was right when he said, “all professions are conspiracies against the laity.” Long before Shaw, Socrates spent a good part of his life in exposing the ignorance of charlatans whose sole expertise consisted in pretending to know better. For every political leader or pundit who says one thing, there will be another who will say the opposite. Who is right and who wrong? Marx was right when he spoke of the machinery of capitalist exploitation. But he was wrong when he failed to see that his own theories would be mercilessly manipulated, perverted, and exploited by gangs of operators even more ruthless than the most ruthless of capitalists. After a lengthy interview with Hitler in the 1930s, Toynbee declared to the press: “I am now convinced Herr Hitler wants peace.” If a power-mad loudmouth demagogue can deceive one of the greatest political pundits and historians of all time, who will protect us from deceivers? A dog, it has been said, knows his master but not his master’s master. My question is, in what way are we different from dogs?



MORE ON THE SAME SUBJECT
If you think I have a mighty low opinion of our political leaders and their dupes, you are absolutely right. And if you want to know more on this subject, I suggest you have a talk with one of our leaders – assuming you can find one willing to come down from his high jackass. Once in my salad days I did exactly that and published the resulting give-and-take in one of our periodicals. That’s when the doodoo hit the ventilator. Since the leader of my interview was a Tashnak, one of his Ramgavar counterparts reacted by writing a vitriolic letter to the editor. My Tashnak responded by accusing the Ramgavar of being more Bolshevik than Stalin.
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To say a good Armenian is one who respects and trusts our leaders, amounts to saying to qualify as a good Armenian it is necessary to be a brain-dead dupe. What’s the difference between brain-dead and dead? And to think that they have the temerity to accuse me of harboring anti-Armenian sentiments.
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I am more interested in the Turk within us than the Turk within Turks. As for the Armenian within the Armenian: I do hope one of these days I shall have the privilege and good fortune of making his acquaintance.
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Speaking of politicians and jackasses, there is a well known and widely quoted exchange between a Republican presidential candidate (I forget his name) and a heckler that goes something like this:
HECKLER: My father was a Democrat, my grandfather was a Democrat, I am a Democrat.
CANDIDATE: If your father were a jackass, and your grandfather were a jackass, what would you be?
HECKLER: A Republican!



TOWARDS A RAPPROCHEMENT
Homo sapiens is a selfish and self-centered creature. Selfless specimens like Mother Teresa exist, but they are the exception rather than the rule, and you can count them on the fingers of one thumb. And speaking of thumbs: a small cut on our little finger matters more to us than the death of ten or a hundred thousand peasants in China. When the Turks count their victims, even two of them are two more than our two million. We may all believe in our statistics but we also know that one man’s believer is another’s infidel.
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Nothing could be more abysmally naïve than to say, their politicians lie but ours speak the truth and nothing but the truth. “A bourgeois is a bourgeois, regardless of nationality,” Lenin once said. So is a politician.
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If Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Mussolini continue to have their defenders and admirers today it’s because “even the gods cannot compete with human stupidity.”
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I trust our politicians and their version of the past as much as I trust theirs. And by extension, I trust an academic who enjoys political support as much as I trust a politician. Most politicians are either lawyers or operate like lawyers. They emphasize the strengths in their own case and expose and concentrate on the weaknesses of the opposition. Lawyers do it for money, politicians do it for power; and it is power and money that make the world go around, not love and truth. Love and truth may be favorite subjects for Sunday sermons but they don’t carry much weight beyond the sacristy, and sometimes not even as far as the sacristy. In politics as well as in may other lines of work (from organized religions to advertising and public relations) concepts like objectivity, honesty, and impartiality are not thought of as assets but as career-wrecking liabilities. I speak from experience.
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A wise man once said, “the lie on the lips becomes the lie in the soul” -- another way of saying, if in our formative years we are not brainwashed by vested interests, we end up brainwashing ourselves. Which is why, after being exposed to our own propaganda year in, year out and ad nauseam, I don’t mind giving the opposition a chance for the sake of breaking the monotony more than anything else. And if cooperation and harmony are ever established between them and us, it will be because of individuals who place their humanity above their nationality, individuals moreover who are fed up playing the role of dupes to their speechifiers and sermonizers with an ax to grind.




Ara Baliozian



Readers Comment

Dear Ara Bey
Thank you for bringing the “essence of thinking and looking into the mirror” with your ironic essays. This one is so good that I am sending cc’s to some friends, to enable sharing your “logic when evaluating”.

There is nothing I would disagree with such an Armenian’s (though very few indeed, and I am happy to have quite a number olf such friends) philosophy of life. Please excuse my added remarks:

a- Your philospy sounds more factual compared to Harry S. Frakfurt’s and sometimes reminds:

b- New truth is often uncomfortable, especially to the holders of powers; nevertheless amid a long record of cruelty and bigotry, it is the most important achievement of our intelligent but wayward species (Bertrand Russell)

Sukru S. Aya

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