22 August 2008

2569) I Am Constantly Attacked For Being A Defective Or Bad Armenian, A Turk In Disguise

ARMENIAN PECULIARITIES AND PARADOXES
Most of my readers are Armenian and they read me not to enhance their understanding or to consider a worldview different from their own, but to settle a score with me.
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After insulting me daily for several years in an Armenian discussion forum, a reader called to apologize – that's another Armenian peculiarity: insulting publicly, .
apologizing privately. His apology was so verbose and disarming that I believed him. I completely ignored the old saying, “If you hear a mountain has moved, believe it. If you hear a man has changed, believe it not.” And sure enough, shortly after his apology, this reader reverted to his old ways and he is still at it.
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The Armenian paradox: Even as he behaves like swine, he considers himself a superior being, and he believes the only way to assert his superiority is by looking down at his fellow men.
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It happened in Athens at the end of World War II and at the beginning of the Greek Civil War. Very early one morning the rumor spread that there were three corpses in a ditch less than a block from our house. I was eight or nine then, and I joined the small crowd to view the unusual sight. Later we were told both the victims and their killers had been members of rival Armenian political gangs.
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There is a dark side to our story, and the older I grow the larger the darkness grows. And the prevalent misconception among us is that it is the duty of every patriotic Armenian to cover up this darkness and to pretend it doesn't exist.
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I am constantly attacked for being a defective or bad Armenian, a Turk in disguise, a traitor to the Cause, and so on; even though on several occasions I have stated in no uncertain terms that my ambition in life is not to be a good Armenian (whatever the hell that means) but a decent human being, and to think of others (including Turks) not as members of a different nation or tribe but as member of the human race.
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
What do Georgians and Armenians have in common? They both thought they were invulnerable because they had the verbal support of the great powers of the West, which they mistook for military alliance.
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I was born and raised in a ghetto where it was common knowledge that books drove men mad. It was said of the local idiot that in his youth he spoke seven languages.
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Whenever I speak of tolerance I am told in no uncertain terms that we Armenians are in no need of lectures on the subject. Armenians can be very intolerant in their defense of their own tolerance.
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If it were up to theologians, lawyers, and the average Armenian know-it-all, everything that is written can be interpreted to mean the opposite of what it says.
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It has been calculated that a good Armenian speechifier can produce more manure in an hour than ten circus elephants in a month.
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If you ask any one of our dividers why he supports divisions, you will be told that he is for solidarity, it's the opposition that is for divisions.
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“You should write more like Mark Twain,” I have been told on more than one occasion. To which I can only say: How many American problems did Mark Twain solve? How many Armenian problems did Baronian, Odian, and Massikian (our three most brilliant humorists) solve? In a world where messiahs are crucified, recrucified, and dismissed as blasphemers, who can save the damned?

Empires may rise and fall but the loud-mouth idiot who thinks he is smart is indestructible.
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The Armenian who verbally slaughters his fellow Armenian does not have the right to say he does not harbor homicidal feelings towards the Turks.
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It is difficult to doubt, question, or dislike someone who tells you what you like to hear. Hence, the popularity of political charlatans.
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Russian saying: “The heart of another is a dark forest.”
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If a Jew says anything remotely critical about his fellow Jews, he is accused of Antisemitism. If a Turk dares to agree with an Armenian, he is accused of insulting Turkishness. If an Armenian says anything that is honest and objective, he is accused of insulting Armenishness. Now then, in what way are we different from them?
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It is an unfortunate fact that my ideal reader no longer cares to identify himself as an Armenian not because he is a bad Armenian but because he is a decent human being.
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The more unwavering a man’s commitment to his own self-interest,
the more altruistic the principles he pretends to espouse.
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The words of an honest man don’t need definitions; but the commas of a crook should be carefully examined under a microscope.
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Even when our predictions come true, they do so in such an unexpected manner or context that their accuracy becomes irrelevant.

WHY I WRITE THE WAY I WRITE
Writing for Armenians is a waste of time, I am told.
I agree. But I don't write for Armenians.
Neither do I write about them.
I write for human beings some of whom happen to be Armenian.
I write about intolerance and violations of human rights.
I write about ignorance parading as knowledge.
I write about slaves whose ambition in life is to enslave.
I write about propaganda and its dupes.
I write about victims who victimize.
I write about the death of a thousand cuts that until the 999th it's called survival.
I write about power and its abuse.
I write about speechifiers and sermonizers who speak in the name of God and do the Devil's work.
I write about readers who have been so thoroughly moronized by propaganda that they believe honesty and objectivity to be unpatriotic.
In short, I write about things that transcend racial, national, tribal, and partisan barriers.

FASCISTS AMONG US
There are many ways to violate someone's fundamental human right of free speech,
from a bullet in the neck and the Gulag to censorship and a steady barrage of insults. In the case of insults: if you fall silent as a result of them, they win. If you continue to exercise your right of free speech, they lose.
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Free speech allows fascists to expose themselves as fascists. That's one of the many beauties of democracy. Free speech allows even a garbage-mouth inbred moron with a negative IQ to parade as a genius (self-assessed of course) and to bray like a jackass pretending all the while to be Pavarotti singing “Nessun dorma.” Have I said this before? Probably. What else can I say to a fascist except that he is a fascist and that his days are numbered as surely as those of his predecessors.
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For a long time I couldn't understand why Germans had embraced Nazism, Italians fascism, and Soviets (including my fellow Armenians) Stalinism. How could ordinary law-abiding, decent citizens, I would ask myself, allow themselves to be taken in by the belief system of thugs, sadists, and cold-blooded-murderers? I have my answer today. There is a killer in all of us. The post-World War II French slogan “Nous sommes tous des assassins” (We are all assassins) could also be rephrased as “We are all fascists.” Only in a society ruled by laws, rather than men, that is to say, only in a democracy, our inner killer or fascists is exposed and checked. Which is why I say “God bless America!” As for Armenia and Armenians: may all our fascists (of which we have more than our share even in America), I say, “May they all go to the Devil!”

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
Had Charents known someday he would be betrayed by his fellow Armenians and die an early and harrowing death in a Yerevan jail, would he have written “Yes im anoush Hayastani” (To my sweet Armenian)?
Was his patriotism based on deception and false assumptions?
What about the patriotism of our speechifiers, sermonizers, and partisan propagandists?
To what extent our own patriotism is based on misinformation?
If we knew all there is to know about our leaders, their motives, and sentiments, would we still be patriots or, like so many of our compatriots, we would choose to be born again as human beings and hit the road leading to assimilation?
Why is it that both Siamanto and Totovents found life in America so unbearable that they returned to Istanbul and Yerevan respectively only to be slaughtered like sheep?
Why is it that when warned not to return to Istanbul by his German fiancée, Roupen Sevag told her, in effect, she didn't know what she was saying and that deep down Turks were wonderful folk, only to go back to Istanbul and share the fate of Siamanto, Zohrab, Zartarian, Daniel Varoujan, among many others?
What about Zabel Yessayan, one of our most sophisticated, Sorbonne-educated writers? Why is it that she chose to ignore Zarian's clear warnings, establish herself in Yerevan only to disappear in the Gulag shortly thereafter?
If you say Marxism deceived some of the greatest intellectuals of the West, among them Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Antonio Gramsci, André Gide, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty, the question we must ask then is: What about Ottomanism? How many intellectuals of the West were taken in by Talaat's Ottomanism?
Also to be noted: not all our intellectuals were taken in by Kremlin's Stalinism parading as Marxism. Zarian and Bakounts saw clearly its aberrations and dangers, but their warnings fell on deaf ears.

INSANITY
A friend tells me, one of our partisan academics was heard stating recently that consensus and solidarity should not be seen as key ingredients in our collective existence. The only way to explain such an assertion is by quoting an Armenian saying that predates Freud, Jung, and Adler: “There are 49 kinds of insanity.” Make it 50.
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No one can be as transparent as he who is not in the habit of questioning his motives. And when such a one is analyzed, he feels as naked and vulnerable as an earthworm after a rainfall.
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Only readers who know little or nothing about Armenian literature, and the little they know is filtered through anthologies and textbooks subsidized by political or religious institutions accuse me of harboring anti-Armenian sentiments.
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One way to define a commissar is to say that he knows better what you should write and how you should write it though he has himself published not a single line.
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Memo to those who verbally abuse one another on the Internet:
Ask yourself the following question and for once in your life try to be honest: What weight does the word of a coward have when delivered anonymously and from a safe distance.

THE ARMENIAN WAY
History teaches us that fascists lose even when they win. No one has ever said military victories are moral triumphs, or censorship and violations of human rights promote consensus and progress.
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If you say anything that is worth saying, you will be attacked by those who speak a great deal but avoid saying anything.
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It is not easy for an Armenian to say “I disagree with you.” “Fool” and “idiot” come more naturally to him. I have even been called a “coward” by readers who write anonymously and from a safe distance.
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How to express your patriotism? Verbally abuse anyone whom you deem less patriotic than you. That's the Armenian way.
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Like all tribal people, when we say nation, what we really mean is tribe – my political party, my church, my backyard, my chickens.
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To be an Armenian writer is to be a perennial loser. And yet, compared to my predecessors, I am just about the luckiest of them all. Most Armenian writers never made it past forty.
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It is silly for an Armenian or Turk to justify the actions and policies of their respective political leaders. Politicians are a species apart for the simple reason that those with power and those without it share nothing in common.
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There was a time when I would wonder what kind of Armenian would betray his fellow Armenians to the enemy. I now have my answer: the kind of Armenian we meet every day on our discussion forums – dogmatic, self-righteous, brainwashed, infallible, with the ego of a giant, the brain of a midget, and the moral compass of a whore.
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Once upon a time I thought to understand the past, you must study eyewitness accounts, official documents, novels of the period, statistics, biographies of key players, and so on. But I know now that the best key to the past is the present, that is to say, human nature. Times may change, fashions may change, names may change, but some things never change.

INTERVIEW
QUESTION: Is it true that your enemies outnumber your friends?
ANSWER: If they do, it may be because I don't write to make friends. As for aiming at best-sellerdom: There is no such thing as a best-selling Armenian writer.
Q: How do you explain that?
A: We don't have independent publishers or, for that matter, a competitive literary marketplace. All our publishers and book distribution centers are in the hands of political and religious institutions with their own sets of dogmas -- which means their own walls of censorship.
Q: What made you decide to become a writer under these conditions?
A: A combination of ignorance and hubris. Plus the fact that I happen to be an unemployable misfit.
Q: You are tough on yourself and tougher on your critics, why?
A: Critics? You mean kibitzers. We don't have critics, only meddlers who insult me.
Q: And you insult them back?
A: On occasion, yes. Why not? You may not be aware of the fact that writing for Armenians is a blood sport. In the 20th century alone, two generations of our ablest writers were betrayed to the authorities by their fellow Armenians and slaughtered by fascist regimes. Also, in our environment, good manners is sometimes confused with weakness and rudeness with strength. I think it was Bismarck who said, “With a gentleman I am a gentleman, with a pirate, a pirate-and-a-half. But there is still another reason why I don't hesitate to insult those who insult me. Sometimes, that's the only way to acquire a faithful reader. Armenians hate to read. They believe they are too smart to need the two cents' worth of a scribbler. That's why they have consistently starved their writers. Not that I enjoy insulting people and being hated by them. But for a writer, to be hated is preferable to being ignored. Luckily, most of my readers are not aware of this fact.

AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF INSULTS
If you want to enhance your understanding of human nature, the urban jungle, and what's goes on in Armenian discussion forums on the Internet, read THE DEVIL'S GUIDE TO HOLLYWOOD by Joe Eszterhas (New York, 2006), which could be subtitled “An Encyclopedia of Insults” by individuals whose work has shaped several generations of people around the world.
Some typical entries follow:
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Marlon Brando to Zsa Zsa Gabor: “A man can do only one thing with you, Zsa Zsa – throw you down and f*** you!”
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An insider on two of my favorite directors: “Sam Peckinpah is a prick and Robert Altman is a cunt.”
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A director to a starlet who is offering him a blow job for a bit part: “What's in it for me?”
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“Angry at Roman Polanski, Faye Dunaway peed in a coffee cup and threw it into his face.” (We are not told where she did her peeing: in the loo or in his presence?)
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Anna Magnani to Marilyn Monroe: “Putana!”

ON THE IRRESISTIBLE CHARM OF ARMENIANS
“You are a pessimist,” a friend tells me, and goes on: “The only predictable thing about life is that it is unpredictable. We don't know what's going to happen next.
I for one will not be astonished if we enter another Golden Age. Our literature enjoyed a Renaissance in Istanbul at the turn of the last century. Why not another Renaissance in the Homeland or Diaspora or both?”
“Cultures, civilizations, empires, nations – once dead, they stay buried,” I explain. “Consider the history of such empires as the Roman, the Ottoman, and more recently, the Soviet. To think that a new Alexander the Great will be born and raise the Macedonian Empire from the grave is an impossible dream, an illusion, a plot for a science fiction novel... To speak of another Golden Age of Armenian literature and culture in our context is not optimism but megalomania run amok. Let us therefore be more realistic, shall we? Let us aim at common sense and decency.”
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Because I write against dividers, they call me a divider. Because I write against fanaticism, they call me a fanatic. And because I make fun of sermonizers, they call me a sermonizer.
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Until I visit Armenia, I do not qualify as an Armenian, a reader tells me. To him I say, “If Armenians in Armenia are as nasty as you are, telling me to go to Armenia amounts to telling me to go to hell. To which I can only say, no, thanks. I prefer to stay in my own gulag.”
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If a man is both ignorant and stupid, he will also be stupid and ignorant about all the evidence against his self-assessed status as a genius.
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In his novel, A PARTISAN'S DAUGHTER (New York, 2008) Louis de Bernieres writes about “an emperor who blinded all his prisoners except for one in every hundred, who was supposed to lead the others home, and when the opposing king saw what had happened to his troops, he died of the shock.” What he doesn't say is that both the emperor (Basil II Bulgaroktonus [Bulgar-slayer]) and the Bulgarian king (Czar Samuel) were of Armenian descent. For more details, see my book, THE ARMENIANS: THEIR HISTORY AND CULTURE (New York, 1981).

METAPHYSICS
Whenever I lose a critic – in our context, a euphemism for an enemy who is out for blood – whenever I lose a vampire, I also lose a source of inspiration. The only solution to that problem is to enter a new Armenian discussion forum, and bingo! presto! – it never fails: before you can say Jack S. Avanakian, I run into half-a-dozen new avanaks.
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The best way to combat depression is to count your blessings. I do that all the time and it never fails. Things could be much worse, I say to myself. I could be a Chinese living in China, or a Russian living in Stalin's USSR, or an Armenian in America before the advent of the Internet.
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When I was silenced by the editors of our weeklies, two friends sprang to my defense: one, an employee of IBM in San Jose, sent me a computer; the other from Toronto, sat down with me and with great patience taught me how to use it.
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I believe God created my friends, and the Devil created my enemies. I also believe God created man and the Devil created woman. For it takes a diabolical imagination to think of all those curves and secret interstices that will reduce any man to an irrational bundle of desires, urges, and drives.
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If God created man, who then created Talaat, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and Mussolini? Good question. My tentative answer: nobody. They were not creations but reincarnations of the Devil.
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Finally, which came first, the chicken or the egg? It was the rooster, of course!

FROM CRADLE TO GRAVE
For a thousand years we dreamed of freedom but we at no time asked ourselves if we are worthy of freedom. For a thousand years we dreamed of free speech, and now that we have it, we rant, bluster, curse, and reduce our discussion forums into cesspools of verbal abuse. We brag about survival but we don't know how to live. How long before we are born again as human beings as opposed to being bundles of mutual contempt, intolerance, and hatred?
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The very same Armenians who brag about out heroes, hide their identity behind false names as if they were important enough to be targeted for assassination; and to make sure no one will locate them, they pretend to live in remote corners of the globe. And what do they do with their newly acquired sense of invulnerability? They hurl insults and profanities at anyone who dares to question their infallibility...
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Some people learn from their mistakes. We cover up ours or pretend we never made them. It was all someone else's fault, beginning with Turks; and armed with that conviction we behave like Turks. Even in a civilized country, when Armenian meets Armenian, it's the Ottoman Empire all over again.
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If you say I am wrong, I say, sure why not? But if you say you are infallible, all I can say is, go ahead, make an ass of yourself.
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“Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I am free at last to make an ass of myself!” Is that all there is to freedom? You want solutions to our problems? Make yourself worthy of freedom, and then we will exercise our human right of free speech and talk. Until then we are not the cradle of civilization but its grave.

THE ARMENIAN WAY
If they can't see what you see, their first instinct is to gouge your eyes out.
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We know the names of the writers who were shot by our Stalinist commissars. What we don't know are the names of the commissars. That's the way it is with executioners – they prefer to be faceless and anonymous. They are probably dead by now, but I suspect their offspring are among us and they speechify as superpatriots, sermonize as defenders of the faith, and parade as role models.
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If a future scholar writes a history of contemporary Armenian literature, I suspect it will be the shortest book in the world and it will bear the subtitle “The Age of Commissars.”
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There is a commissar in every boss, bishop, benefactor, and their dupes who recycle their propaganda in the name of patriotism.
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There are two ways of committing suicide, by killing the body and by poisoning the mind. He who cannot think for himself is a walking cadaver.
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An insult is a silent cry for flattery.
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There is no prejudice, lie, misconception, or absurdity that was not at one time or another part of my belief system. Neither Armenianism nor Ottomanism is a terminal condition. We can overcome! (And they say I am consistently negative!)

THE WISDOM OF DIOGENES
Once upon a time when I was gainfully employed first as a stock boy in a department store and later as a clerk in an insurance company, they would ask me: “Do you like your job?” and I would lie and say, “Yes, like it very much.” I wonder, has anyone ever asked a garbage collector if he likes his job? Another question that is seldom or never asked: Where would civilization be without garbage collectors?
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So far no one has ever bothered to ask me if I enjoy writing for garbage. But I shouldn't complain. In all fairness, I should mention the fact that I also have a handful of civilized readers who, whenever they disagree with me, they say “I disagree with you,” as opposed to calling me a senile old man who should commit suicide by banging his head against a wall.
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To be hated by an Armenian is to have a foretaste of immortality. My friends may forget me, but my enemies never will. Among us, hatred has a longer lifespan than any other emotion. Like Pollyanna, I see a blessing even in a curse.
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To my friends who criticize my critics, I say, “Please, be gentle with them. They are my bread and butter. I need them the way a garbage collector needs garbage.”
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On entering the home of a wealthy Greek and warned not to spit on the floor, Diogenes is said to have spat on his host's face saying he couldn't find a meaner receptacle. I dare anyone not to love such a man!

THE DARK SIDE
Politicians belong to a different species. What they hate most is projecting the image of losers. That's why when they lose, they claim victory on some other level; and what's even more astonishing, they are believed. Turks believe Talaat was a great statesman, and we believe all our misfortunes must be ascribed not to our kings, princes, warlords with dynastic ambitions, nakharars, and bosses, but to our geography, to our bloodthirsty neighbors, and I once even heard one of our eminent poets – a notorious brown-noser parading as a fearless critic – blame the Good Lord Himself.
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About the fearless critic: He was fearless towards defenseless underdogs, vodanavorjis like himself, and lowly priests, but at no time did he dare to publish a single line against any one of our bosses, bishops, and benefactors. There is a saying in German: “Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.”
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If you want to understand politicians, don't read their dime-a-dozen hirelings and partisans. That would be like reading a former member of the Communist Party in order to understand our Soviet era. The very same people who say, “Who in his right mind would do that?” read Tashnak ghazetajis to understand Tashnaks, Ramgavar wheeler-dealers to understand Ramgavars, and Armenian nationalist historians to understand Armenian history. And when Turks do the same , they call them dumb.
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“After reading you I feel ashamed of being an Armenian,” writes a reader; and he feels ashamed not because he is exposed as a dupe, but because I expose the dark side of the moon and because I dare say there is something rotten in the State of Denmark. I don't write to promote shame. I write to challenge readers to confront the forces of darkness that have shaped and continue to shape our destiny as a nation.

What Do Politicians Want?
It is said of Hitler that he had two favorite subjects: the loyalty of dogs and war.
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What do politicians want? Power, and power is like money, they can never have enough of it. Politicians need loyal subjects as much as capitalists need workers; and a loyal subject is one who says “Yes, sir!” even when what he is told makes little or no sense. . . . .
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Patriotism is defined as love of God and Country, and love of God and Country has nothing to do with defending the blunders of politicians. And yet, in the minds of naïve dupes, love of God and Country is often equated with loyalty to a regime.
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After being subservient to a long line of sultans and commissars, some Armenians see nothing wrong in being subservient to their own leaders. But subservience is subservience and it means “submitting one’s intelligence to someone who may not have enough of it himself” (Santa Teresa of Avila).
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Left to their own devices, people are not disposed to hate their fellow men simply because they live on the other side of a river or mountain, unless of course their political leaders convince them otherwise; and if there is one thing politicians are good at, is promoting and legitimizing prejudice, hatred, and ultimately war in the name of God and Country.
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Armenians and Turks share a common enemy: their political leadership.

Criteria
Like most people, I judge a nation not by the number of its speechifiers, sermonizers, and propagandists, or for that matter by the number of its millionaires, multimillionaires, billionaires, and wheeler-dealers; I judge a nation by the number of tongues it cuts out or writers it silences.
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If one hundred or even a thousand dupes say one thing and a man who has acquired the skill to think for himself says another, who will have more credibility in your eyes?
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Can a collection of barbarian tribes ever hope to achieve the status of a civilized nation on the grounds that sixteen centuries ago it converted to Christianity or a century ago it experienced genocide?


If The Shoe Fits
Since we can’t settle our score with the Turks, we call each other nasty names, preferably from a safe distance and anonymously.
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Politicians and lawyers share a tendency to make their side look all white and the opposition all black, which may explain why they are the least trusted people on earth. So much so that if you say, a lawyer or a politician told you that the sun rises in the east, no one will believe you.
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To know how to read is not the same as knowing what deserves to be read.
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To be a commissar in a democracy or a nationalist in America is almost as bad as being a vegetarian among Armenians – meant to say, cannibals.
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Nothing can be more arrogant than to speak in the name of God, and since arrogance is an attribute of the devil, to speak in the name of God is almost as bad as speaking in the name of the devil.
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To believe means to believe only one side of the story even when you know there is another side. We believed historic Armenia to be ours. We believed the Great powers were on our side. We believed the Ottoman Empire was about to collapse and disappear. It is now time that we believe our believers less and our dissidents more.
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Armenians who believe in Mount Ararat and Vartan Mamikonian will believe anything.


How Do We Survive As A Nation?
For the unemployed and the poor, questions of national identity might as well be irrelevant. What matters to them more than anything else is a good job. They want to work and provide for their families, and who can blame them? Entire continents today are populated by people who left their homeland and now live a more or less comfortable life in America and Australia. According to recent statistics, most of Europe is now populated by non-Europeans.
How do we survive as a nation?
By creating decent jobs in the Homeland would be one answer. By asking fewer dumb questions whose obvious answers we pretend not to know would be another.
And speaking of dumb questions, here is another one for you: what does the average Armenian-American philistine know about Armenian history and culture beside massacres, shish kebab and pilaf? How do we convince such an Armenian that our music, literature, and art are expressions of our identity and to ignore them is to promote assimilation?
How do we survive as a nation?
By behaving as a nation as opposed to a collection of unruly tribes led by bloodsuckers and gravediggers whose number one concern is number one.
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Samuel Johnson: “The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.”
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Unawareness of one’s failings is an infinitely more dangerous condition than Alzheimer’s.
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Whenever an angry reader unloads his inner filth on me, I can’t help think I must have hit paydirt.
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Where there is an honest man, there will also be holier-than-thou idiots who will call him an idiot.



Wittgenstein, Marx, Jesus, & Hitler
Wittgenstein was one of the most influential philosophers of the last century; and yet he advised his fellow philosophers to give up philosophy. On meeting the greatest literary critic of his time, he is quoted as having said, “Leavis, give up criticism.” Had he been an Armenian, I suspect he would have advised his fellow Armenians to give up Armenianism and be born-again as human beings, on the grounds that their so-called Armenianism is nothing but disguised Ottomanism.
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If Jesus and Marx had known the way future generations would abuse their teachings, they would have kept silent and we wouldn’t even know they ever existed.
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It is to be noted that Wittgenstein and Hitler were contemporaries and as boys went to the same school, but neither ever mentioned the other.
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There is nothing wrong in thinking you have all the answers as long as you are prepared to face the fact that all of them may well be wrong.
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An Armenian today nurses more wounds inflicted on him by his fellow Armenians than by Turks.



Deception
Nothing fascinates a man more than a woman provided she is unattainable or she belongs to another man.
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The war described in the ILIAD by Homer was all about the abduction of a floozy.
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It is the ambition of every man to be taken seriously. The more ridiculous the man, the greater the ambition. Consider some of the most feared and influential names of the 20th century: Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco – the scum of the earth
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René Descartes on his critics: “Two or three flies,” whose books are good only as “toilet paper.”
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One should not behave like a fanatic even in one’s opposition to fanaticism.
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If the Pope is right (and he is never wrong, or so he wants us to believe) shall we then assume all other non-Catholic religious leaders to be usurpers and frauds?
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The aim of nationalist historians is to unite the nation in its hatred of the enemy.
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The reason why the 11the Commandment is not “Thou shalt not take anyone seriously,” is that Moses wanted to be taken seriously.
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According to Freud, Moses was an Egyptian because Moses is an Egyptian name and monotheism an Egyptian concept (see his MOSES AND MONOTHEISM). And according to many Hebrew scholars and rabbis, Freud, like Marx, was an anti-Semite, and Christ a heretic and a blasphemer.
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Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there are no honest men. What I am saying is that honest men are as marginalized as criminals.
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Wittgenstein: “The hardest thing in life is not deceiving oneself.”


Reflections
We survived 600 years under the sultans. We will be lucky if we survive that long under our own Ottomanized bosses and Stalinized commissars.
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One can become an addict of lies and propaganda as surely as to nicotine and opium.
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A true assertion, like a great work of art, paralyzes our critical faculties.
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In the same way that authority allows one to behave in an irresponsible manner, a high degree of intelligence allows one to blabber like an idiot.
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You don’t have to go out of your way to make enemies in our environment. All you have to do is state clearly and honestly what you think.
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One reason we are a failure as a nation is that we refuse to discuss our failings, and when someone dares to mention them, we make him feel as though he were insulting Mount Ararat, shish-kebab, and pilaf.


Of Cabbages And Kings
A headline in the SPECTATOR (London, March 2008) reads: “If God proved he existed, I still wouldn’t believe in him.” It seems to me, whenever bad things happen to good people, or the innocent are victimized, or evil triumphs, God (if he exists) is trying to prove to us that he doesn’t exist, or we can’t count on his existence and that we should conduct our affairs as if he didn’t exist, and that our petitions and prayers will fall on deaf ears.
*
To readers who are afraid that my kind of criticism in an open forum on the Internet may damage our image as a nation, I say: The Tourian assassination in 1933, and more recently, the terrorism of our so-called “freedom fighters,” and the riots of March 1 have done infinitely more harm to our image than all our past, present, and future critics combined if only because none of them so far has made a single headline in the international press. Compared to our kings who parade naked on Main Street, the voices of our critics is more like the whisper of the kid in the crowd who says they have no clothes on.


From The Memoirs Of Hercules
“Of all my labors, the hardest was separating an Armenian from his prejudices. After trying seven times and failing, I moved to less demanding undertakings, like moving mountains, draining seas, and capping volcanoes.”
*
From A Recent Biography Of Elgar
King Edward VII “was one of the more cultivated royals of recent centuries, displaying definite evidence of brain activity.”
*
Memo
To the editor who suggested I write longer pieces if I want to be published in his weekly: “As a child I was exposed to countless longwinded sermons and speeches against sin and for patriotism. As an adult, whenever I begin to read a commentary, I seldom last beyond the first paragraph.”
*
Memo II
To a reader who verbally abuses me from a safe distance and anonymously: “You don’t even have the courage and honesty to admit your cowardice, and you expect me to take what you say seriously?”
*
Definition
Patriotism: “Love of God and Country, not to be confused with love of lies and propaganda.”


Notes & Comments
If you want to understand our past and the manner in which it has shaped our character and identity, read our writers, not our ghazetajis. What you get from our ghazetajis, especially the Turcocentric variant, is not history but political pornography whose aim is not to understand and explain but to propagandize and dehumanize.
*
On more than one occasion I have been described as “controversial.” I reject the label. I maintain what’s controversial is our reality as it is perceived by our sermonizers and speechifiers.
*
Sometimes the very same people we trust most deceive us; which could be rephrased as, because we trust them without reservation, they deceive us.
*
If you don’t understand the lines, don’t try to read between them, because if you do, you may see things that are not there.
*
A question to our editors and Turcocentric ghazetajis: If a member of your family is molested or raped, do you feel the need to speak of molesters and rapists every time you open your mouth? Why do you discuss Turks whenever you put pen to paper? Doesn’t the nation deserve the same degree of consideration as members of your own family?


Shouts And Whispers
How does one humanize the dehumanized, especially if they are in denial of their condition?
*
Armenian problems and their solutions: they have as long a history as Armenian literature. Perhaps I write to save myself and no one else. If I succeed, I may be an example to others. If I fail – and so far I have, like so many of my predecessors – I may be remembered by a handful of readers as a mental masturbator. But then, no one said being an Armenian writer was a win/win proposition.
*
We are brought up to believe speaking of Turkish criminal conduct is a patriotic duty, but exposing our own violations of human rights is treason.
*
Zola wrote only one “J’accuse.” Our Turcocentric ghazetajis write nothing else.
*
Freedom means participation in power. The only freedom we have enjoyed since independence is to respond to Panchoonie’s S.O.S. of “mi kich pogh” in the Diaspora, and in the Homeland, to emigrate and riot.
*
Because the shouts of my predecessors have dwindled to inaudible whispers, I am accused of being shrill.


Dzour Nesdink, Shitag Khossink
We like to say that Israel and the U.S. are denialist states because they don’t want to offend a friendly nation in the Middle East, which happens to be a hornet’s nest of hostile tribes that threaten their vital economic interests or survival. What we don’t say is that nations that are on our side may also have unspoken political motives, which have little or nothing to do with what’s right and wrong. What we also hate to admit is that which even a major pro-Armenian historian like Toynbee has said, namely that we were wrong to make territorial claims on Turkey, because if every nation did that, the world would become an unrecognized place and many nations (including Israel and the U.S.) would lose their right to exist. It’s all politics? So what else is new? Was there ever a Golden Age in the history of mankind when nations behaved against their own interests or for purely idealistic reasons? What about our own political parties? If any one of them is righteous, upright, and honorable, why is it that so far it has failed to convince the other parties?


The Root Of Our Problems
Our ghazetajis, sermonizers, and speechifiers have combined to create an atmosphere in which even the hint of dissent is equated with anti-Armenianism.
*
In the eyes of some readers I seem to have developed a quality peculiarly unattractive in an Armenian, namely, an obstinate, perhaps even an obsessive, need to see not the best but the worst in us.
*
Whenever I am urged to be more positive in my approach to our affairs, I immediately raise the question: To what extent our weakness for the positive has contributed to our status as victims? Consider our genocide as a case in point. To what extent the optimism of our revolutionaries and their blind faith in the verbal commitments of the Great Powers were contributing factors to the final catastrophe? To what extent our blind faith in the Kremlin contributed to our Soviet nightmare? To what extent our own chauvinist crapola (“we are smart, we are progressive, we are civilized”) contributes to our arrogance, dogmatism, intolerance, authoritarianism, divisiveness, fragmentation, and ultimately to our self-inflicted “white massacre”? It seems to me what we need is not a more positive approach to our affairs but the exact opposite.
*
Naregatsi, our Dante and Shakespeare combined, did not see the best but the worst in himself, and by extension, in his fellow men. I suspect our need for optimism, far from being a solution, is at the very root of our problems.


As I See It
“To serve is to rule.” All other forms of rule lead to oppression.
*
In the eyes of our leadership, our greatest enemies are neither the Turks nor the Azeris, but the Armenian who thinks for himself.
*
Nothing could be more naïve than to think if you read only Armenian sources, you can form a more or less balanced view of our history, culture, and identity, on the grounds that no one knows and understands Armenians better than an Armenian. My own impression is that when Armenian scholars write or speak publicly about Armenians, they stress only half of what they know and cover up or ignore the other half. But then, this is true not only of Armenians but also of all nations. Americans are known for their pragmatism and energy, Russians for their capacity to suffer, the French for their love of argument, the English for their cool, and the Italians for their excessive love of la dolce vita and bella figura. No nation is known for its love of truth.
*
Freud once said that the aim of analysis is to replace hysterical misery with common unhappiness. If what I say depresses you, it may be because I deal with reality, and our reality is not exactly an invitation to joy.
*
The saying “It takes seven Jews to fool an Armenian,” is to me less a compliment and more an insult, because its hidden message is a warning to all those who contemplate dealing with an Armenian in the marketplace to keep their eyes open or even to count their fingers after shaking hands with an Armenian.
*
Speaking of identity: whenever I identify myself as an Armenian to a fellow Armenian, I immediately sense a note of caution in his body language, as if I were about to make unreasonable demands on him and force him to say, “Sorry, what you are asking me to do is against the law.”


On Propaganda
There is no such thing as an original propaganda line. All propaganda is derivative. All propaganda is not only a lie, but also a big lie, and not just a big lie but also a plagiarized lie. If propaganda works it’s because it flatters the ego, and vanity, it has been said, is an omnivorous as well as a ravenous monster. To the humiliated and degraded, propaganda says, “You are God’s chosen people.” To the scum of the earth, it says, “You belong to a superior race.” To the dumb, it says, “You are smart, and maybe even smarter than anyone else!” (“It takes seven Jews to fool an Armenians”). That may explain why our bosses, bishops, and benefactors are more popular than our intellectuals. In their effort to understand and explain reality, intellectuals are more interested in exposing contradictions than in flattering egos – contradictions that exist between the lies of propaganda and reality; contradictions between what our speechifiers and sermonizers tell us (“we are progressive, civilized, and smart”) and the popular phrase “mart bidi ch’ellank!”


Myths
If you believe what your political leaders tell you, you can’t be very smart. “A man who believes in honest politicians,” is as good a definition of dumb as any you care to mention.
*
Armenians believe to be smart for the same reason that ancient Greeks (one of the smartest and most civilized and progressive people in the history of mankind) believed in their gods. Even after Socrates told them “Of the gods we know nothing,” they went on building magnificent temples to Zeus, the alpha male of their zoo of fornicating gods.
*
The first time I heard someone say Armenians are not smart (he was not an odar but an Armenian-American academic whose judgment and integrity I had no reason to question) my initial reaction was not disbelief but outrage and derision. And even today, many years later, I find it difficult to say Armenians are dumb. If I don’t mind saying it now it may be because I have come to terms with my own limitations, prejudices, and blind spots. Needless to add, what I just said does not apply to those of my fellow Armenians who happen to be without limitations, prejudices, and blind spots.


Resurrection
We began our career as a nation as Homo sapiens and eventually evolved (some would say degenerated) into Homo Ottomanicus, Sovieticus, and Americanus, among others subspecies. Our only hope now is to resurrect the Homo sapiens that lies buried deep in our subconscious.
*
In whatever I write my guide is neither nationalism nor patriotism but common sense and decency. More people have died in the name of patriotism than any other word, except perhaps the word God. In our cultural and environmental context moreover, the word patriotism has been abused so ruthlessly that it might as well be synonymous with treason.
*
During the Soviet era, I remember, some of the most venomous letters and phone calls I received were from chic Bolsheviks – wealthy Armenian-Americans who supported the regime in the name of patriotism.
*
The average Armenian is endowed with phenomenal powers of persuasion, but as a rule, these powers work only on himself and his like-minded dupes.
*
In our dealings with Turks, we might as well resign ourselves to the fact that we will never get 100%. But even if we do, it will amount to less than 1% since we cannot resurrect a single victim.
*
The role model of all bullies is God who does not threaten with personal injury but with eternal hellfire.
*
Armenians are united by little except mutual contempt.


Advice To A Young Writer
Work hard. Write every day. Concentrate. Rewrite. Delete more and expand less. Avoid writing at night when your critical faculties are down. But if you are an Armenian, find yourself another line of work.
*
I am not rejected because I am misunderstood. I am rejected because I understand and what I understand is not flattering to our vanity.
*
If you voice opinions that I held twenty or thirty years ago, I will not agree with you because agreeing with you would amount to deleting two or three decades from my life.
*
One problem with brown-nosers is that after spending a lifetime osculating derrieres, they are outraged when the same treatment is denied to them.
*
If you can reconcile belief in God with belief in the honesty of multimillionaire televangelists, you may claim to understand America.
*
Cioran: “Shakespeare: the meeting of a rose with an axe.”
*
Paul Morand: “Unpopular people fascinate me.”
*
Anonymous: “Contentment is better than wealth.”


Metamorphosis
The American conservative pundit, William F. Buckley, who died recently, is quoted as having said that Africans will be ready to run their own affairs “when they stop eating each other.” On reading this line, I immediately remembered the old saying, “One Armenian eats one chicken, two Armenians eat two chickens, three Armenians eat each other”; and Zarian’s dictum, “Armenians survive by cannibalizing each other.”
If Africans learn to run their own affairs before we do, no doubt it will be because their former masters and role models were European, unlike ours who were Asiatic.
*
To preach is to confess, because preachers tend to practice the opposite of what they preach.
*
Power seems to radically alter the DNA of most people, which may explain why Armenians with power behave as though they belonged to a different species.
*
I once had the following brief exchange with one of our notorious Turcocentric pundits who has succeeded in elevating Turcocentrism to a pathological monomania:
“You complain too much,” said he.
“Isn’t that what you do too?”
“Who asked you?”
*
No Armenian will ever praise with the same intensity as he reviles.
*
“I am a tolerant man…”
“Live and let live, that’s my philosophy.”
“I love my fellow Armenians, regardless of their political and religious affiliations.”
To describe oneself is to deceive oneself.
*
The ego is an extension of the gut.


A Ship Without A Captain
By emphasizing some details and ignoring others, one can speak the truth and lie at the same time. Likewise, by combining the letter of one law with the spirit of another, one can pretend to serve justice even when committing unspeakable crimes against humanity.
*
“Why don’t you leave us alone and busy yourself educating your Turkish brethren,” writes a gentle reader. I speak in defense of my brothers, all my brothers, regardless of race, color, and creed. To the fools who tell me to shut up, I dedicate the following lines by Walt Whitman: “Whoever walks a furlong without sympathy / Walks to his own funeral drest in his shroud.”
*
It’s astonishing the amount of crap people will take before they decide enough is enough.
*
The best I can hope to achieve is embarrass the bastards. Is it worth it? I am not sure. It keeps me busy thinking I carry on a tradition that goes back many centuries: that of calling a spade a spade and a baloney artist a jackass.
*
Again and again I am reminded that honey is more effective than vinegar. Yes, by all means. Let’s try the honeyed approach with the Turks for a change, not only because it is more civilized or effective but also because we have wasted vast amounts of vinegar without any tangible results.
*
Speaking of Whitman: when Lincoln was assassinated, he wrote one of his most celebrated poems titled “O Captain! My Captain!” which begins with the line, “O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done,” and ends with the words: “…on the deck my Captain lies, / Fallen cold and dead.”
And I reflect that, at the end of “our fearful trip” what lay “fallen cold and dead” was not our captain (did we have one?) but the nation, which happens to be one of those minor details that have been covered up by our nationalist historians.


ON POLITICS & POLITICIANS
There exists a wall between Turks and Armenians not because Turks and Armenians hate one another but because so far both sides have been at the mercy of politicians, that is to say, full-time professionals hate-promoters.
*
Politicians are megalomaniacs who are not masters of their own destiny but who think they can shape the fate of nations.
*
The Iron Curtain fell, the Berlin Wall was demolished, and if the Chinese Wall stands it stands only as a relic.
*
The birth of imperialism: if this mountain is ours, so is the valley next to it. It follows, so is the river that irrigates the valley, and so is the source of the river.
*
If Martin Luther King had been an Armenian, he would have said, “I have a nightmare!”
*
Have I said this before? No matter. Everything that’s worth saying is worth repeating.


THE CIRCASSIAN CONTRIBUTION
W.H. Auden: “Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.”
*
In the 19th century Russia conducted a long genocidal war against the Muslim tribes of the Caucasus. Armenians played a key role in this campaign as negotiators, translators, and soldiers. When the war was over, the defeated Caucasian tribes took refuge in Turkey. It was the offspring of these survivors for whom revenge is an article of faith and a religious commandment who in 1915 joined forces with the Kurds to massacre Armenians.
For more on the Russian campaign in the Caucasus, see Lesley Blanch’s SABRES OF PARADISE, and Tolstoy’s HADJI MURAD. This second is a work of historical fiction based on documented facts written near the end of Tolstoy’s life. Lesley Blanch’s fascinating work is a thoroughly researched study and the only historical work I have read and enjoyed three times.


FIRST LINES
************
SPEECH
**********
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Like you, I too was exposed to a great many sermons and speeches in my formative years. I know something I didn’t know then: they were all empty verbiage. Assuming we have a question here, what is the answer? I have no idea. I think Naregatsi (our Dante and Shakespeare combined) came close to a tentative answer when he decided to spend the rest of his life in a monastery meditating on his failings.
*
CONFESSIONS
***********************
I have been a source of disappointment to a great many people, beginning with myself. This may explain why I may never deliver a speech or write a memoir.
*
ON REVISIONISM
****************************
At the turn of the last century, the Ottoman Empire was like a wounded tiger: in its effort to assure its own survival, it struck indiscriminately at those it saw as its enemies without making an effort to separate the innocent from the guilty. What’s uppermost in the mind of a Turkish revisionist today is the memory of the wound rather than the innocent victims.


DEPRESSING OBSERVATIONS
**************************************
Our Turcocentric ghazetajis are interested in Armenians only as victims of Turks, which is a what’s done is done and cannot be undone situation. I too am interested in Armenians as victims but only as victims of fellow Armenians, which is an ongoing process. We cannot resurrect the dead but we can remind our dividers that a house divided against itself cannot stand; and whereas the Turks had a reason for trying to exterminate us, they (our bosses and bishops) have none!
*
Life is short, art long, and trash abundant. The very least we can do is not to add to the abundance.
*
The most pernicious prejudice is to think that we have none.
*
To commit a blunder – nothing easier. To admit it – nothing more difficult.


GREED
******************
Literary prizes and grants: I have had my share of them, but mostly from Canadian sources. If I am ever awarded an Armenian prize
I will say: “I accept the cash but I reject the honor.”
The trouble with our organizations (and the bosses, bishops and benefactors who control them) is that they are interested in art and I am interested only in money.
*
To be verbally abused by riffraff is almost to be praised.
*
To join a party and to view the opposition as the source of all evil must be an irresistible temptation to all simple-minded dupes.
*
Why is it that we like to explain and justify our shortcomings by mentioning the shortcomings of others? Imagine if you can a murderer or thief pleading not guilty in a court of law on grounds that all nations have their share of murderers and thieves.


MEMO
**************************************
After reading some of my critical articles, a Turkish friend assumes I have Kemalist sympathies. This is the very same mistake Armenian readers make when they accuse me of anti-Armenianism. If I am critical of intolerance, that doesn’t mean I am for Turkish or any other kind of intolerance.
Half-truths and lies come in all colors, sizes, and shapes and they are equally pernicious.
All ideologies and religions come with good intentions. Their true aim is to expand human consciousness by making us aware of the fact that we are not the alpha and omega of existence. But eventually they degenerate into closed systems by pretending to be the alpha and omega of human perception. That’s when critics and dissidents take it upon themselves to remind us we have been duped into thinking truth or god is on our side.


KAZAN IN ISTANBUL
******************************
While in Istanbul, Kazan writes in his memoirs (ELIA KAZAN: A LIFE, page 548), “I was heralded as the famous man from Anatolia who denied absolutely that he was Armenian. There was no mention that I was a Greek.”
Speaking of a recent riot, a fellow Greek explains: “They [the authorities] brought several hundred criminals from the interior, gave them plenty raki, the cheap kind, a bottle to each man, put them on the boat to Istanbul, and told them, ‘Go ahead, the city is yours. Take what you want, so long as it’s Greek or Armenian.’” (page 550). Elsewhere (page 558) Kazan quotes an angry Greek woman saying: “They [Turks] are animals, who tasted our blood many times and want more, like animals.”
The scandal is not that criminals behave like criminals, with the blessings of the authorities, but that respectable men say, such things don’t happen in a civilized country like Turkey. And I doubt very much if the orders to riot, or any other relevant documents, are housed in state archives for future scholars who specialize in the study of riots.
Riots happen everywhere, of course, even in the most civilized countries in the world. But I doubt very much if they do so with the encouragement and authorization of the state for the simple reason that as a rule riots in civilized countries are spontaneous eruptions by minorities against the state.


ONE-LINERS
*************************
We cannot understand that which we hate,
*
A military defeat is also a blunder.
*
Everyone sympathizes with victims except their victimizers.
*
The first condition of patriotism is to dehumanize the enemy.
*
A fool is an open book. He confesses even as he attempts to cover up.
*
All power structures, even the most democratic, depend on the ignorance of the majority.
*
If I were to write what is expected of me, I would probably enjoy both popularity and respect, but I would have nothing but contempt for myself.
*
When I said, “The rich are going to die as surely as the poor,” my friend replied: “Yes, but the poor die every day.”


AS I SEE IT
************************
People are not interest to know how smart you are but how smart you think they are.
*
I was brought up to believe we were white and they were black, until I realized there is neither white nor black, only shades of gray.
*
Propaganda thrives in an environment where freedom of speech is a privilege only of the ruling classes.
*
Parallels: those who declare wars and those who die in them…the misguided fools who rise against an empire and the defenseless, law-abiding civilians who are massacred…
*
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. As for the semi-tough: they are better at hiding, speechifying, and editorializing.


ON ANALYSIS
******************************
Even after the triumphs of ZAPATA, STREETCAR, ON THE WATERFRONT and EAST OF EDEN, writes Elia Kazan in his memoirs – ELIA KAZAN: A LIFE (New York, 1998) – he felt like a failure. So much so that he sought the help of a psychiatrist. He further writes that, the reason why Brando accepted to do WATERFRONT on location in New Jersey was that his analyst was in New York and he needed to see him every day.

Kazan’s final films are disasters. Brando’s films as well as private life became progressively worse. What a book one could write on the failures of analysis in America. Sartre is right: Freudian analysis, especially in its American context, has no principles. Its aim is to adjust patients to an essentially insane social order. As a result, instead of getting better they get worse. I shiver to think what would have happened to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky had they lived in 20th-century America instead of 19th-century Russia.

Kazan traces the roots of his neurosis to his Ottoman background. The only way for a Greek to survive in Istanbul was by being a sycophant and a coward, he writes, and most of his life, even in America, he was both. Elsewhere he explains that the massacres were the work not of Turkish neighbors but of outsiders who believed “you enter heaven and enjoy a beautiful houri according to how many unbelievers you’ve killed.” When he visits Turkey later in life, men line up to shake and sometimes even to kiss his hand. Comments Kazan: “I had to remind myself that my people had lived here in terror and were lucky to have escaped alive.”


REFLECTIONS
****************************
There are two ways to resolve a conflict: with the brain or with the gut. Human history may be said to be a tribute to the gut.
*
When I recycled nationalist propaganda, I at no time identified it as such. Self-deception begins with our choice of vocabulary.
*
Our nationalist historians tend to write what their readers would like to read. Not being dependent on our goodwill, odar historians can afford to be more objective and say things that may not be flattering to our collective ego. That’s one reason why I now find our historians unreadable.
*
My best readers are those who hate to read me because they find my ideas threatening to their comfortable view of life.
*
When you assess yourself, the chances are you will stress the positives. When others do the assessing, they will stress your negatives. The question then becomes: Who will be closer to the truth, which is more a point of reference and direction rather than an accessible and fixed concept.
*
Plot for a science fiction novel: 2984 AD. Overpopulation on the planet is such that even mild transgressions like spitting, swearing, or driving a fraction of a mile over the speed limit are considered capital offenses and punished on the spot by law enforcement brigades.


ON THE HUMAN CONDITION
************************************
Like an insect caught in a spider’s web, we live in an invisible network of human relationships and values, which existed long before we were born. The more freely we move in this environment, the more certain our fate of being captured and immobilized.
*
Desmond Tutu: “To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest.” If this were true, all prisons would be abolished.
*
I once asked a theologian what he thought of Gandhi’s definition of God as Truth, and he said Gandhi’s definition was empty verbiage. That’s when I lost all respect for theologians.
*
Cary Grant: “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”
*
To my denialist Turkish friends I say: Never trust the word of a state that criminalizes free speech, because to do so amounts to saying yes to violations of a fundamental human right.


READING
***************************
While reading THE ROUGH GUIDE TO FILM NOIR by Alexander Ballinger and Danny Graydon (New York, 2007) I am surprised to note that two of my favorite noirs – THE ROARING TWENTIES and ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, both with Jimmy Cagney, are not even mentioned.
*
Sidney Sheldon’s THE OTHER SIDE OF ME: A MEMOIR (New York, 2005) reads more like fiction than autobiography. Orwell is right: “autobiography is the most outrageous form of fiction.”
*
Edmund Wilson’s review of Saroyan’s 1946 World War II novel, THE ADVENTURES OF WESLEY JACKSON, is included in his LITERARY ESSAYS AND REVIEWS OF THE 1930s &1940s (New York, 2007). Its final sentence reads: “This is surely some of the silliest nonsense ever published by a talented writer.” Elsewhere (page 498) Wilson described Saroyan as “an agreeable mixture of San Francisco bonhomie and Armenian Christianity”—whatever that may mean (one is tempted to ask what the hell does Wilson know about Armenian Christianity?) Wilson is far more to the point when speaking of THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE, he observes “…[Saroyan] achieves the feat of making and keeping us boozy without the use of alcohol and purely by the stimulus of art.”
*
In an illustrated article in LE POINT (Paris, April 10, 2008) Larry Gagosian, 62, is described as a “silver-haired playboy,” the offspring “of a modest family of Armenian origin in Los Angeles,” “a ‘killer’ in business deals,” and the multimillionaire owner of three art galleries in New York, two in London, one in Beverly Hills, and another in Rome.”


WHAT WE NEED
*******************************
We need editorials and commentaries that will remind us there is no such thing as freedom without freedom of speech, and that fear of free speech is the worst kind of cowardice.
We need psychologists who will analyze our phobias, expose the roots of our internecine conflicts, and the effects of long centuries of political oppression.
We need historians who will explain without nationalist or ideological bias what happened and why.
We need philosophers who will expose our contradictions and the gulf that exists between our propaganda and reality.
We need sociologists who will tell us the difference between a functional and a dysfunctional social order.
We need political scientists who will explain the difference between authoritarian and democratic power structures.
We need dissidents who will inform us that our speechifiers, sermonizers, and Turcocentric pundits are not in the business of solving problems but in perpetuating them.
We need literary critics who will tell us the central theme of our literature from Khorenatsi and Naregatsi to Raffi and Zarian has been our problems and their solutions.To say therefore “We need solutions,” is to admit total ignorance of our literature.
Most important of all, we need gentlemen who will say, “Gentlemen, let us behave more like gentlemen!”


FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
**************************************
A convincing explanation is one that flatters our vanity.
*
A dogma is an assertion in search of its contradiction.
*
The more intolerant a man is, the more tolerant of humbug he will be.
*
In a letter to the editor in our local paper I read the following: “The essence of democracy is the lone individual, protected and defended by law, against all injustice perpetrated by another individual, group, or government.” I should like to see such a sentence written by an Armenian.
*
One of the worst calamities that has befallen on Armenians after the Genocide is the Turcocentric ghazetaji who has conspired with the Turkish denialist to reduce our Tragedy to a game of political football.


BETWEEN POLARIZATION AND CONSENSUS
*******
The Turks will not accede to Armenian demands even if it means never qualifying as member of the EU for the simple reason that they stand to lose much more to the Armenians than profit from the Europeans; and the Armenians will never accept a simple apology for the even simpler reason that they consider it a worthless exercise in empty verbiage, and who can blame them? The obvious answer to this impasse is compromise, and the first step is a moratorium on all talk surrounding the controversy.

Before you say or write anything therefore ask yourself: will my words contribute to polarization or consensus? Polarization is not an option because it depletes valuable resources and benefits neither side. This is true not only of Turks and Armenians but of all divisions and controversies in general regardless of race, color, and creed.

One does not have to be a prophet to predict that sometime in the near or distant future all the nations and tribes of the Middle East will realize that it is to their advantage to follow the example of the U.S. and EU and live in peace and prosperity in a United States of the Middle East. This may happen around the same time that hell freezes over but it is bound to happen. Establishing who did what do whom is therefore not as important as what’s the course of action that will benefit both sides.
*
Thomas Fuller (17th-century English clergyman): “He that has no fools, knaves nor beggars in his family was begot by a flash of lightning.”
*
Ralph Waldo Emerson (19th-century American essayist): “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”


ONE-LINERS
***********************
Knowledge is for the wise, bliss for the ignorant.
*
Ideas have heads but no bodies. Propaganda has body but no head – that’s why it appeals to the brainless.
*
If the kingdom of god is within us, so is the empire of the devil.
*
After Socrates was tried, found guilty, and condemned to death, a mother was heard saying to her son: “This is what happens to disobedient boys.”
*
Memo to a Turkish denialist: “Not every Armenian born and raised on Ottoman soil is a compulsive and habitual liar.”


ON THE ORIGINS OF OUR CANNIBALISM
*****
Some of the e-mails I get from my self-assessed “patriotic” and “smart” readers (self-assessed, of course) are so offensive that I cannot help thinking a nation that is capable of producing such rifraff and scum faces insurmountable problems.
*
The problem with an Armenian assessing himself as smart is that sooner or later and inevitably he will run across another Armenian who has assessed himself as smarter than he, and that’s when the excrement will hit the ventilator.
*
Revolutions against tyrants generate worse tyrants. Hence the saying “mart bidi ch’ellank.”


PRESS RELEASE
**************************
VOYAGES EGARÉS (Meandering Journeys). By Denis Donikian. Bilingual edition (French/Armenian). Armenian translations by Nvard Vardanian. 132 pages. Yerevan: Actual Art. 2008 ($20.00 including postage).
*************
From Homer to James Joyce, the quest of Ulysses or the search for self-discovery has been a central theme in the literature of the West. It is this very same search that Denis Donikian undertakes in this elegantly produced volume of elegiac and multilayered prose poems. The book is divided into seven sections subtitled “Chronicles of Captive Years,” “Impediments (fragments),” “Meandering Journeys,” “Symptoms,” “Deviations,” “Persecuted Reasons,” “To His Brother.” The translations by Nvart Vartanian (who has also translated Proust, René Char, and Lautréamont) are so faithful to the original that this volume could serve as an ideal text for readers who would like to hone their linguistic skills in French and Armenian.
Denis Donikian is a prolific poet, essayist, multimedia artist, and journalist.


FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
*********************************
We like to say that capitalism defeated communism, but in reality it was communism that did the job. Ideologies, like nations and civilizations, are not killed, they commit suicide.
*
If you feel more or less comfortable in your conception of reality, be prepared for a rude awakening.
*
The trouble with assessing yourself as smart is that you will go on assessing yourself as smarter than someone else, and after that, as smarter than anyone else.
*
The mirage of happiness is the greatest source of misery.
*
A fraction of a second is also a fraction of eternity.


MORE ON SAROYAN
***********************************
In THE BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE (discussed yesterday), Senator Joe Lieberman names the Bible, after identifying himself as “a religiously observant Jew whose life has been shaped by the faith and commandments contained in the Bible,” and immediately after the Bible, he names William Saroyan. “As a child,” he writes, “I loved the books of William Saroyan for their faraway ethnic richness, idealism, and humanity.
*
More contemporary writers have been influenced by Saroyan than by Henry James and James Joyce combined, probably because Saroyan made writing as easy as a walk in the park. I have read many interviews with contemporary writers and the name that comes up as an early influence more than any other is that of Saroyan.
*
I first read Saroyan as a teenager. What fascinated me about him was the ease with which he connected. Compared to him, Henry James and Joyce seem to take pleasure in raising impenetrable walls between themselves and their readers.
*
Critics have attacked Saroyan for his naïve sentimentality and unwillingness to confront the dark side of life; they also saw his phenomenal international success as a liability. Who reads Saroyan today? Once in a while I pick up one of his books and try to reread a page or two, and what was fresh and full of life when I first read him now seems cliché-ridden and infantile. Critics are not always wrong.


ON IMPERIALISM
***************************
Of all human enterprises the most despicable, cruel, and criminal is that of building, running, and defending an empire. And yet, we all admire Alexander the Great, Caesar, and Napoleon.
*
When I understood nothing, I pretended to know everything. Now that I know one or two things, I understand nothing.
*
DUPES
*****************
A perennial victim will also be a perennial dupe of lies and propaganda.
*
FOOLS
*************
A fool, being a fool, will convince himself of anything, including being wise.
*
ARMENIAN CONTROVERSIES
***********************************
Following an argument in an Armenian discussion forum is “like floating down a sewer in a glass-bottomed boat.”
*
THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
*
If Wellington is right and “the secret of success in war is learning what lies on the other side of the hill,” then we have no choice but to assume that we have been at the mercy of blind men.
*
ON THE ORIGINS OF DENIALISM
****************************************
To quote Wellington again: “A battle is like a ball. Everybody sees something. Nobody sees everything.”
*
ON BEING POSITIVE
*****************************
The more brainwashed a man is, the more unshakable his convictions will be.
*
BOOMERANG
***********************
To exile or deport people against their will is to sow dragon teeth.


THE BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate The Books That Matter Most To Them. Edited by Roxanne J. Coady & Joy Hogannessen. 197 PAGES. (New York, 2006).
****************
“The book that has meant the most to me in my life,” writes Bernie S. Siegel, a medical doctor and a prolific author, “is THE HUMAN COMEDY by William Saroyan.” Two pages of explanations follow. “Perhaps the most important words in Saroyan’s book for me were these: ‘But try to remember that a good man can never die…. The person of a man may leave -- or be taken away—but the best part of a good man stays. It stays forever. Love is immortal and makes all things immortal. But hate dies every minute.’” Elsewhere he paraphrases another one of Saroyan’s ideas: “The evil man must be forgiven and loved because something of us is in him and something of him is in us.” He concludes with the words: “If every child were brought up with the words spoken in THE HUMAN COMEDY, the world would be a very different place.”

Another writer included in this collection of essays is Christ Bohjalian, who chooses not one but several books by such best-selling writers as Stephen King, William Peter Blatty, Peter Benchley, Thomas Tryon, Harper Lee, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Speaking for myself, the two books that changed my life are Dostoevsky’s THE IDIOT and Turgenev’s FATHERS AND SONS.


A WONDERFUL BOOK
***********************
Paul Johnson’s HEROES (New York, 2007, 299 pages) is an eminently readable collection of profiles in courage from Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar to Churchill and De Gaulle. The reader will find here many insightful observations and entertaining anecdotes. Here is a typical paragraph: “The last celebrity executed in public at the Tower of London was Lord Lovat, hanged for his part in the 1745 rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Lovat, aged eighty-two, kept alive the tradition that a great man died with spirit. On his way to the scaffold, a hag screamed out: ‘They’re going to hang ye, ye old Scotch do,’ to which he replied: ‘I believe they will, ye old English bitch.’"
*
Once in a while gentle readers take it upon themselves to remind me that I am going about it the wrong way, I am a failure, and I will never amount to anything. They may be right. I suppose our options are limited: we either fail like a dog or succeed like a bitch.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT
*********************************
In his latest collection of essays, HOLD EVERYTHING DEAR: DISPATCHES ON SURVIVAL AND RESISTANCE (New York, 2007) John Berger writes that Nazim Hikmet was so tall that he was nicknamed “the tree with blue eyes.” We are further informed that he wrote half of his life’s work in prison.
They imprisoned their best in the name of Ataturk; we killed ours in the name of Stalin.
*
It is not always easy to separate what we think from what we were told to think.
*
Perhaps what I have been doing is writing fragments of our story or that of a nation that has been committing slow-motion suicide – a story whose aim is to convince our denialists who refuse to see the obvious by reason of our Oedipus complex (when reality is against you, blind yourself) and Ottomanization.


RISING FROM THE ASHES
****************************************
Just when our philistines begin to rejoice in the knowledge that they have been successful in burying our literature, some damn fool comes along and tells them, “Not so fast, friends!”
When in the midst of a catastrophic defeat, John Paul Jones said “I have not yet begun to fight,” an unnamed Marine is quoted as having remarked: “There is always one son of a bitch who never gets the word.” I may well be that s.o.b.
*
If time is on your side, you can afford to be patient.
*
Neither Socrates nor Jesus wrote a single line. Why? My guess is, they knew that politicians and lawyers could misinterpret the written word to mean the exact opposite of what they say.
*
If some day we rise from the ashes of degradation, it will be by means of reason and objectivity. To equate objectivity with self-loathing is therefore the same as equating reason with insanity. Reason is a gift and a blessing. It is not a curse. Objectivity is an asset, not a liability.
*
The secret of life is not coming to terms with the inevitable but using it as a springboard. Not easy, you say. Who said life in a rotten world was going to be easy?


COME AGAIN?
****************************
In the March 29 issue of the ARMENIAN REPORTER (page A9) and in a commentary titled “Reflections on the state of contemporary Armenian politics” by Yeprem Mehranian, I read the following random paragraph: “The elemental principles of recursive thinking necessitate that in order to explore the depths of social processes of change we allow the past and the present to reciprocate, and then to use results of this interaction to guide us closer toward the point of comprehending reality.”
I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, I consider inflicting this kind of prose on an unsuspecting public fully qualifies as a clear-cut case of man’s inhumanity to man. If Armenian readers don’t rise in self-defense against this type of verbal abuse, it may be because they come from a long line of victims and they are more or less reconciled to their status as perennial underdogs.
In the same issue of the REPORTER and on page B5 there is a photo of a man seated at the organ with both hands on the lowest of three manuals. The caption reads: “Maestro Mekanejian tunes the cathedral’s organ in preparation for Holy Week.” Maestro Mekanejian is doing nothing of the kind. What Maestro Mekanejian is doing is practicing. The tuning of an organ is done in a separate room where the pipes are housed.
*
Julius Caesar: “In writing, one should avoid an unfamiliar word as a ship avoids a reef.”




Ara Baliozian

1 comments:

Sukru Aya said...

- I know that these lines will not be a plus for Baliozian since it comes from a Turkish (human), neither to me because it is addressed to an Armenian (human). So no one can blame or butter any of us, other than degrading us for being the "black sheep or goat" in the flock!

- Attack for being defective Armenian: I just attained a young Turkish Armenian from Germany calling himself a "Leader and Guru" that I am tired of deleting his hate-premature mails in a terrible Turkish. I get 8 or 10 every day regardless that I told this guy to stop sending -if he has any honor or- self respect. So, you are not lonely!

- Lectures on Tolerance: Do what the teacher says, but don't do what he does...

- Man maneure: read further down for men competing elephants.

- Insulting Turkishness: I do not welcome any type of insult especially on nationality or faith beyond each ones control. I am not (yet) charged with Turkishness, but I am not liked for being too much blunt and outspoken as written in the review posting 2567.

- Writing for human beings: Hi, hello Ara... how nice to read you and share 99% of your thoughts! To me you come like a mental shower, relaxing my imagination and evaluations!

- Free speech: Why morons should accept speeches by humans with average IQ? So what's new?

- Golden age and Armenian literature: Apparently you missed posting 2552, item 3. Erciyes University in Kayseri is opening a department for Armenian language and literature. Do not ask me, who will teach whom and what if not a showcase! I do not even suggest that you apply as an excellent teacher!

- Memo of anonymous abuse: What makes us look as if brave, is the multitude of cowards!

- Religious institutions and dogmas: Suggest that you watch this excellent video conference which lasts 2 hours and which I am sending separately to TA. Have no idea. how they can put it into use. It is a must for average IQ

- Critic or kibitzer" I only share my opinion, be it positive or negative and if any of us is in the wrong, it is better than being nowhere or being a fly over elephant's maneure!

- Roman Polansky? Oh Ara, that's no news. if you read posting 2568 and the episode how Sevan Nisanyan, book writer and working at AGOS paper, collected his own sh..t in a jar, and poured it over his 17 years Turkish wife in the office in front of everyone! Was it not the manhood and bravery you are trying to explain?

- God creations: Watch video and conference and write after it.

- Learning from mistakes: When Enver was to launch his Christmas surprise attack on the Russian front, three cargo ships. with supplies, ammunition and one battalion of soldiers, were sunk by the Russian navy out of the Bosphourus. The attack was already lost in the Black Sea. But Enver "had no desire to learn! He wanted to become a hero" so he marched his bare-foot army of 110.000 men with only 5-day dried bread in their bag, over the mountains, who starved of hunger, disease and cold under -30*C. The attack started on Dec. 22nd, when it ended on Jan. 8th, 90.000 young men perished, with a record in world history for the largest death toll in the shortest time and without even fighting! Mistakes or an accidental genocide by a moron leader?

- Civilized readers: Since Turks are all barbarous, I will stick to stay sincere and friendly only!

- Talat: It is not my observation that he was a great statesman. He was an average, extremely decent, intelligent and brave man. He had to carry on a government decision and a military necessity. He was the best friend of Dashnakists Armenians until he discovered a plot to assassinate him. He did his job as "best as it was possible" meaning with almost no food. no medicine; no money, few gendarmes, bad planning, no roads etc...
What did you expect of a 'government" who lost a complete army 3 months earlier, because they could not dress, feed and made them sleep on snow and ice? Boy...luckily the deportation started in June and ended in late August or mid September. Imagine what would they have said if 90.000 Armenians were do freeze like statues?

- Dashnak ghazetajis; They are expert on wheeler-dealer transactions and modern Turkish ones are fast learning and cooperating...

- Ashamed? He who has no personality on self respect. badly needs to take shelter under nationality or faith since he does not have much the rest from himself to expose! In a world where scoundrels and criminals teach us morality instead of blushing, what have we done harmful to other humans to get ashamed?

Walk your way Ara bey...
Salute from Aya...

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