03 October 2008

2606) We Have Very Strong Case Against Turks, Provided Necessary Amount Of Funds Is Forthcoming

CONSENSUS?
Our Turcocentric ghazetajis, international lawyers, eminent historians, and statesmen tell us we have a very strong case against the Turks, provided the necessary amount of funds is forthcoming. Deep in a dark corner of my mind however I cannot help suspecting that the nation is being victimized for the second time. Consider some of the relevant facts in the matter. Our politicians have been of no political use to us. Lawyers will be on the side of anyone who pays them for their services. No one trusts in the judgment of nationalist historians except their brainwashed dupes. As for ghazetajis, the less said about them the better. And now a question: Why is it that the only time these gentlemen develop a consensus is when they want to raise funds? . .

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ON TRADITIONS
Whenever I hear talk of tradition or traditional values, I think of Winston Churchill's retort to an English admiral: “Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.” And Mahler's dictum: “There is no such thin as tradition. There is only stupidity and genius.”
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WHERE I STAND
I am not pro-Turkish. Neither am I anti-Armenian. I am for human beings regardless of race, color and creed, and against hoodlums, ditto.
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SCHOOLS OF ARMENIAN CRITICISM
There are two main schools of Armenian literary criticism: the first consists in calling the writer a damn fool, and the second in stating that what he says is a lot of crap.

THEM AND US
One of the obscenties about our genocide is the average Turcocentric ghazetaji who has convinced himself and his dupes that our welfare as a nation depends on bloodthirsty subhuman savages. He at no time is willing to consider the possibility that not all Turks are savages, and that some of them may even be more civilized than he.
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Like most Armenians, I have followed many controversies in our media,
but I have at no time heard an Armenian say: “I was wrong!” or, even better, “I was dead wrong because I placed my own ego, interests, family, political party, church, or tribe above the interests of the nation or, for that matter, humanity as a whole.”
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“Hatred,” Gandhi said, “injures the haters, never the hated.”
Marx said capital dehumanizes not only the worker but also the capitalist himself.
And now listen to Pope Pius XI: “Dead matter leaves the factory ennobled and transformed, whereas men are corrupted and degraded.”
It is safe to assume that by “men” the Pope didn’t think of the workers only but also their exploiters and society as a whole.
All this to suggest that we dehumanize the Turk at the cost of dehumanizing not only ourselves, and our communities, but also our relationships with one another.
To see evidence of this all one has to do is follow any intramural controversy in our press or discussion forum on the internet, including this one.
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Assessing oneself as infallible may well be the surest symptom of terminal cretinism.


Only crooks and barbarians fight. Sooner or later all civilized men reach a consensus through compromise.
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An Armenian with a highly developed spirit of contradiction doesn't feel the need to think. He contradicts first and comes up with reasons next, even if these reasons convince no one but himself.
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You may have noticed that people who screw other people, unlike their victims, always have good reasons for doing what they do.
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As soon as rules and criteria are established, there will always be those who will exploit them to their advantage, and in time assume key positions. In human affairs evil always triumphs – from commissars in the USSR, and televangelists in America, to holier-than-thou sanctimonious child-molesting pricks everywhere.
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On their way back from the Homeland my mother and sister were approached by one of their elderly travel companions, who said to them: “Please, don't mention our bad experiences to Ara, he may write about them.” It is beyond me why some people think covering up misconduct or abuses is patriotic, when obviously it is the exact opposite. Who after all benefits from filthy washrooms and unsanitary hospitals? Surely, not our tourist industry.
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What I do is a waste of time, I know that now. Even if I were to succeed I would fail. Consider the life, work, and influence of even the greatest reformers like Luther and Marx. What have they accomplished? They simply replaced one form of exploitation, abuse, and corruption with another. Which is why I have lowered my sights. My aim now is to give our riffraff insomnia, even if the insomnia lasts no more than a fraction of a second.
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In the biography of an English writer (Simon Gray, 1936-2008) I read that he deplored “the ugliness and bad manners of his contemporaries,” he thought “we live in exceptionally stupid times,” and “State education was controlled by savages who should be strung from lampposts.” Nothing further, Your Honor!


YOU WANT A FRIEND?
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You have a far better chance with a dog than with Homo sapiens.
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YOU CANNOT ARGUE WITH A BISHOP
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Church unity has become a Utopian illusion because so far no one has been successful in convincing two bishops that one of them owes his position of eminence to the KGB and the other to the CIA.
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YES, SIR! (I)
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Everything a man says to a tyrant is driven by cunning and hypocrisy. Tyrants know this and they are flattered. They prefer dishonest brown-nosers to honest critics.
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YES, SIR! (II)
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The two most hateful words in my dictionary. To those who say “Yes, sir!” are fine words because they stand for respect for authority, I say, maybe so, but you cannot solve problems by dropping your pants and bending over.
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MUCHO MACHO
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They believe God to be on their side and, as long as they follow the Guidance and regardless of what happens in this life, they will spend the next deflowering virgins, and no one speaks in defense of defenseless virgins.
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NOT GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANTIY
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Once upon a time there was a fearless driver who, when warned to avoid certain neighborhoods and to drive more defensively, would say, “As long as I follow traffic rules I have nothing to worry about.” And now, after the inevitable, all he does is stare into space with expressionless eyes and say, “It wasn't my fault. It wasn't my fault.”
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SITUATION/SHITUATION
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To be a posthumous success means to be a living failure, and for every writer that fails there are at least a dozen bishops who succeed.
In the Ottoman period, if it wasn't the Turks, it was TB.
In the Soviet period, if it wasn't a bullet in the neck, it was the Gulag.
In the Diaspora today, if it's not being dependent on the charity of swine it's the death of a thousand cuts.


POLITICS AND LITERATURE
All politically motivated assertions contain a fraction of bias and bull. If a politician tells you the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, or two plus two makes four, ask yourself, “What's in it for him?” and if he shakes your hand, make sure there are no missing digits.
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There is a type of charlatan who not only pretends to know all he needs to know but also what's good for the rest of us, even though he has at no time even bothered to ask what is it that we or any one of us wants.
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What could be more naïve for a Turk than to believe Turkish politicians on the grounds that they are Turks. Likewise, what could be more naïve for an Armenian to believe Armenian politicians on the grounds that if they are Armenians they must be honest.
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They resent me because I speak of reality. What they want me to do is sing a lullaby. Literature to them is nothing but variations on “Yes im anoush Hayastani,” which is itself a variation on a poem by Pushkin; which, by the way and in passing, is an excellent proof of the literary theory that says, the greatest source of inspiration for poets is not reality but other poets. But then, this is true of all literary activity. Aristotle is unthinkable without Plato, or Plato without Socrates; or Marx without Hegel; or Dostoevsky without Dickens and Gogol.
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I remember once many years ago reviewing a collection of poems by one of our bishops. It was such a transparent imitation of Verlaine that it qualified as a clear-cut case of plagiarism and I said as much in my review, which was published in an American literary periodical. As far as I know, the good bishops never published another bad poem after that.
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I also remember to have reviewed a volume of poems by one of our political bosses. It was incomprehensible avant-garde trash, but to my eternal shame I praised it highly on the chauvinist theory – yes, I was once a dealer in chauvinist crapola – if it's Armenian it's bound to be good.
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Speaking of politicians and poets: If Zarian is right, Ottoman sultans have inspired more poetic tributes by Armenian poets in Istanbul than Armenian politicians in Yerevan.


TENTATIVE ANSWERS
There are no final answers. Final answers are only for popes, ayatollahs, and fascists. If an answer does not raise two more questions, it cannot be right.
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To be slaves of former slaves (our case) also means to allow ourselves to be brainwashed by brain-damaged dupes.
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We like to say that nations that question the reality of our genocide are motivated by self-interest, thus implying nations that are on our side are morally superior. As for our own moral superiority: we take that for granted and we expect everyone else to do so.
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You cannot judge the conduct of a war by authorized press releases. Neither can you judge the past by authorized textbooks. For the very simple reason that those in authority care much more about their image than the truth.
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To silence dissent means to prepare the ground for a generation of executioners.
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There is a type of charlatan (Bush and Chaney come to mind) who will always be against compromise and for war, provided of course someone else does the killing and dying.


JOHNSON SPEAKS
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President Johnson to Henry Kissinger as quoted by Arthur Schlesinger in his JOURNALS: “Okay, we will do it the professor's [Kissinger's] way. But (glaring at Kissinger) if it doesn't work, I will personally cut your balls off.”
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HOMELAND
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When our patriotic writers in the Ottoman Empire spoke of “homeland” they meant Istanbul. Does anyone know how many of them actually set foot in Armenia?
In the 19th century, even writers born and raised on Armenian soil, preferred to live and work in Tiflis.
In the 20th century, anyone who was someone in Armenian literature in Armenia was betrayed to the authorities and either was shot or exiled to Siberia.
Zarian was the only major writer from the Diaspora who repatriated after Khrushchev's Thaw, and after being treated as a leper, he was either murdered or died as a result of an accidental fall.
The fate of another writer, Navasartian by name, the son of an eminent Tashnak leader in Egypt, was even more tragic if only because he was much younger than Zarian. He either committed suicide, was pushed, or (according to Zaroukian who wrote a book about him) got drunk, lost his balance, and fell to his death from a hotel balcony in Yerevan.
I met Navasartian twice: first time in Greece in the 1940s or early '50s, second time, about ten years later, in Canada. He was a mesmerizing speechifier.
As for writers after Independence, since they are alive and active on the Internet, I will let them speak for themselves.
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FINAL REMARKS
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The Irish say, “Ireland is a good place to die.”
Something similar could be said of our own beloved homeland.
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American political leaders may speak like thugs but ours live as thugs. So please, let's cut out the b.s. when we speak of our homeland.


ON LEADERSHIP
Arthur Schlesinger in a 1967 entry: “It is depressing to think that three of the great world leaders of 1967 – Mao, de Gaulle, and Johnson – are slightly crazy (and most of the rest are mediocrities).
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On Nixon: “He was the greatest shit – probably the only shit – ever elected President of the United States.”
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If I were to write a text on our recent history, a good working title would be “A regime of shits.” In all fairness to our leaders I should add that some of them were well-meaning shits. The fact remains however that none of them was equal to the task. I say this to warn all our politically ambitious upstarts that not everyone is cut out for the job. To surround oneself with like-minded yes-men is easy. To seduce an audience with rhetoric is also easy. But reality is a cold bitch. The rest is bull and bias, and I for one happen to be a born-again anti-bias fanatic.
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The chances are he who believes in God will also believe in the existence of honest politicians.
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Our genocide happened as surely as World War I and World War II; but its reasons, like the reason of both world wars are not as one-sided as Turks and Armenians assert them to be.
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An atheist who think is closer to God than a believer who doesn't.


BURNING QUESTIONS
Was Jesus the son of God, a prophet, or a blasphemer?
This is not exactly a burning question for me. As far as I can remember, I have not wasted a single moment of my adult life worrying over it.
The burning question for me is how can Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders go on brainwashing and propagandizing entire continents and get away with it? How can reasonable men allow themselves to be manipulated to the point of killing and dying with the unshakable conviction that they will be rewarded in an afterlife? How can decent and law-abiding citizens surrender their minds and souls to these charlatans who are no better than moral morons or intellectual midgets, and probably both, simply because they quote from a so-called Holy Book which they say it's the Word of God?


LIMITATIONS
Since I have spent most of my life in the company of books, I don't mind admitting that I know very little or nothing about life, reality, and the world at large. As a result, I have many more doubts than certainties. But one of the very few certainties I feel qualified to profess is that we are not a race apart. We should be judged as human beings and not as Armenians, whatever that may mean to our chauvinists and holier-than-thou charlatans. I refuse to be taken in by academics and pundits who expect me to believe that, since they know more about our history and culture, ordinary standards do not apply to us. Neither am I easily taken in by ayatollahs, popes, bishops, and the verbiage of so-called charismatic politicians. To those who quote Holy Books and speak in the name of the Almighty, I say: Only if you reach a consensus among yourselves, may I consider listening to what you have to say. Until then I question your authority to hang a label on me as a heretic, an infidel, or an atheist. If I am an atheist, it's because I am against all theists who speak in the name of God and do the Devil's work. And to those who speak in the name of patriotism, I say: If your patriotism justifies the murder of innocent civilians, the hangman's rope is too good for you.



ARARAT
About Frank Westerman's ARARAT, we read the following in THE SPECTATOR (London, August 30, 2008): “...a book of stupendous richness and complexity, a cornucopia or jumbled facts about geology, history, and since, woven into personal memoirs and travelogue that combines stories with information about religious belief, academic rivalry, portraits of fellow travellers, mountaineering history, politics, personalities and an abundance of lesser uncategorisable side-detail.” The author is described as “a clever, talented 43-year-old Dutchman of Puritan stock, [who] from his early twenties ceased to pray...and [whose] books have won important literary prizes.”
On the genesis of the book: “He first saw Ararat, the great mountain-volcano, from the Soviet side. It seemed to pull him.”


COMPASS QUOTATIONS
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I call them that because they tell us where we were, where we are, and where we are heading. I for one never get tired of rereading them.
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“What kind of people are we? What kind of leadership is this? Instead of compassion, mutual contempt. Instead of reason blind instinct. Instead of common sense, fanaticism. They speak of the cross and nail us to it again as they speak.”
ANTRANIK ZAROUKIAN, (1912-1989), Poet, novelist, critic, editor.
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“All our religious, political, and cultural institutions share a single aim, the survival of the nation. If the nation perishes, neither Echmiadzin nor Antelias, not even God in his heaven, can be of any help to us.”
SIMON VRATSIAN, (1882-1969)
Statesman. Last Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, (1918-1920).
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“We Armenians are products of the tribal mentality of Turks and Kurds, and this tribal mentality remains stubbornly rooted even among our leaders and elites.”
NIGOL AGHBALIAN, (1873-1947), Statesman, literary scholar, educator.
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“A familiar figure in our collective existence is the prosperous and arrogant community leader who, by obstructing the path of all those who wish to reform
and improve our conditions, perpetuates a status quo whose sole aim is his own personal profit and aggrandizement.”
LEVON PASHALIAN, (1868-1943), Athor, editor.
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“The Armenian Diaspora is losing its character. Our language, our literature, and our traditions are degenerating. Even our religious leaders have abandoned their calling and turned into cunning wheeler-dealers. Our publications thrive on meaningless controversies. I see charlatanism and cheap chauvinism everywhere but not a single trace of self-sacrifice and dedication to principles and ideals. What's happening to us? Where are we heading? Quo vadis, O Armenian people?
SHAVARSH MISSAKIAN, (1884-1957), Author, editor, critic.


ON SURVIVAL
If we are survivors, what would you call cockroaches – an endangered species? Am I comparing Armenians to cockroaches. No, of course not! I have never heard a cockroach brag.
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If our destiny was to be extinct, we are a success story. But if our destiny was to be an empire, we are a miserable failure.
I remember once when I said as much, one of my most combative, sriga detractors said: “We are a civilized, peace-loving people; we are not bloodthirsty imperialists.”
If that's what we are, why is it that we are taught to brag about our empire under Dikran the Great, and our political and military leaders in the Byzantine Empire?
As far as I know, there has never been a nation that voluntarily gave up its imperial ambitions and chose to be subservient to ruthless foreign despots. Neither have I heard of a pack of wolves that converted to vegetarianism and adopted the lifestyle of sheep.
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One reason I don't always reply to my garbage-mouth critics is that in their efforts to silence me they make themselves so repulsive that arguing with them would be like killing someone who is committing suicide.
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In a previous entry I mentioned an Armenian forum in which Turks outnumber Armenians. Some damn fool on this forum has been deleting my things probably because he recognizes himself in what I write. If this anonymous and cowardly fool is an Armenian, I say, shame on him. If he is a Turk, he must be a direct descendant of Sultan Mahomet “whose Turkish troops took Constantinople in 1453 and paused in the butchery long enough to burn most of the library books and toss 120,000 manuscripts into the sea. (See Fernando Baez, A UNIVERSAL HISTORY OF THE DESTRUCTION OF BOOKS.)


I believe there is a special place in hell reserved for people who think what they know is good enough for them and no one and nothing can change that.
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Freedom and patriotism are weasel words: they can be defined in a number of contradictory ways. Freedom could also mean the freedom to exploit and enslave. And what could be more absurd than to say my patriotism is good but my enemy’s patriotism is bad?
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How much of what we know today would be reduced to ignorance if we were to see reality through the eyes of God?
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My ambition as an Armenian is to be a human being.
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Patriotism does not mean joining our leaders in covering up their blunders.
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As slaves of former slaves, we are double underdogs, and we need a double revolution to emerge from our cage within a cage.
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What is the value of an insult delivered anonymously and from a safe distance? To put it more bluntly: Why should anyone give a damn what a garbage-mouth cowardly nonentity thinks?
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When I went into this business, it never occurred to me that some day I would be wasting most of my time trying to teach manners to hoodlums.
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Johnson on Gerald Ford: “So dumb he can't fart and chew gum at the same time.”


REFLECTIONS
They are calling it a tsunami. It's nothing of the kind. Tsunamis are natural phenomena. The present economic crisis is man-made – a result of deregulation, mismanagement, and greed. The greedy should be exposed, named, tried, and penalized, not rewarded, promoted, or trusted to solve the problem.
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There is an Armenian forum on the Internet in which Turks outnumber the Armenians and which consists mostly in exchanges of insults and profanities. Turks verbally abuse Armenians, Armenians abuse Turks, and – you guessed – Armenians abuse Armenians. After a while you can't tell who's who because they all sound alike, which reminds me of what Granian once told me: “Scratch an Armenian and find a Turk.”
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Call someone ignorant and condemn yourself to learn horning from him.
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The smaller the country, the greater the number of its self-assessed geniuses.
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I know how to write for idiots. As for writing for lesser idiots: I leave that to far better men than myself.
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Driving half an hour to a golf course, playing golf for an hour, having a drink afterwards with the boys, or watching a hockey game on TV – that's my idea of hell.
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Whenever I have been exploited, abused, and insulted, it's been with my consent and cooperation. To realize this is to be born again.
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Winston Churchill (on being told several of his fly-buttons were undone): “No matter. The dead bird does not leave the nest.”
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If I am as bad a writer as some of my readers are eager to inform me, why even bother reading me when there are so many good ones, among them patriotic academics, historians, pundits, and poets?
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Why is it that believers persecute non-believers? Is it because believers may believe they believe but they don't really believe, and in silencing infidels they hope to silence their own doubts?
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During the Soviet era dissidents were persecuted, exiled, and shot. Did that prolong the existence of the USSR by even a fraction of a second?
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Great nations produce great writers. Shakespeare wrote for kings and queens, not brainwashed fools and fishwives.
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An Armenian could never have said “You can't fool all the people all the time,” because Armenians have been successfully fooled for more than 1500 years now.
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What happened to our Bagratunis who denied their Armenian identity and claimed to be Jews descended from the Biblical King David? What happened to our Mamikonians (of Chinese descent) who claimed to have fought the heroic Battle of Avarair, which, according to some historians, not all of them odar, never took place?
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Nations need myths. Only deceivers need lies.
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The more brainwashed they are the lower their IQ, the higher their intolerance, the deeper their ignorance, the greater their fanaticism.
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I can recognize a brainwashed dupe when I see one. I was one myself most of my life.
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Harry Truman on Richard Nixon: “I don't think the son of a bitch knows the difference between telling the truth and lying.”


NOTES / COMMENTS
An American pundit on chief executive officers: “The government cannot place limitations on the salaries and bonuses of CEO's. These are smart people. They know how to handle money. If they don't make it one way, they will find other ways.”
In other words, the net of our justice system can catch sardines but not sharks, because it was designed by sharks.
Or, if you are going to steal, go into banking and leave petty larceny to criminals.
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If we ever let loose a forensic accountant into our organizations, I suspect he will suffocate in a pile of manure as big as Mount Ararat.
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Capitalism: socialism for the rich, free enterprise for the poor.
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If I am against everything that I believed thirty years ago, it only means that I did not waste my last thirty years because I learned things I didn't know.
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What makes a loser think he is morally superior is a psychological maneuver known as compensation. But there is compensation and there is overcompensation, as when an inbred moron assesses himself as a genius.
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If I repeat myself it's because when I am misunderstood, I don't mind trying again.
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Think of a dissident as someone who says “I refuse to be brainwashed.”


FORGIVE MY FRENCH
Even senile old men who can't get it up refuse to die. How does one go about convincing boys and girls in their teens and twenties to go to war, to kill and die? Leave it to the elites, the educated classes, the leaders – the true creative forces in human history. Beside them writers, poets, and philosophers are nothing but hopeless mediocrities who deal in empty verbiage.
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By ridiculing our elites, I am told, I alienate the young, the naïve, and the innocent, thus threatening the survival of the nation. To which I can only say, a nation that has survived centuries of corruption, incompetence, ruthless oppression, wars, massacres, dispersion, and subhuman existence in foreign slums should not have any trouble surviving the opinions of a minor scribbler.
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When asked why he drank so much, Odian, an alcoholic, is quoted as having said, “To drown my sorrows.” Was he successful in drowning them?” he was asked next. “No,” he replied,”the buggers are excellent swimmers.” So are our bosses, bishops, and benefactors. For over a thousand years our writers from Khorenatsi, Raffi, Baronian and Odian to Shahnour, Zarian, and Massikian have exposed their dirt to no effect.
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And consider what's happening today in America. We are expected to trust the judgment of a bunch of millionaires telling us -- including slum-dwellers like myself -- that the economy is in deep shit and unless something is done pronto we may be in deeper shit.
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Dupes have no use for their brains because they believe everything they are told by someone with a beard, a title, and a degree. Somewhere Shakespeare writes “life is a tale told by an idiot.” It would be more accurate to say that it is a tale told by smart operators to a bunch of retards.


A LAND OF 1001 WATERGATES
A Watergate-style scandal is unthinkable in Armenia. When told the President had lied to the people, an Armenian is quoted as having said: “So what? They lie to us all the time.”
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MEMOS TO A YOUNG WRITER
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Never insult readers who insult you. Analyze them. No insult can be as lethal as a good analysis.
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Once about ten years ago I called one of my borodakhos and anpardavan detractors “an inbred moron.” Ever since then he has been trying to get even by reading and contradicting everything I say even when doing so means proving me right.
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Early success means early death. Mozart, Schubert, Chopin – dead in their thirties. Shakespeare, Beethoven, Dostoevsky – dead in their fifties. Another disadvantage of dying young is that you will never had a chance to read the obituaries of your detractors. Aim therefore at posthumous immortality.
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ON BELIEF SYSTEMS
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They are all alike in the sense that they teach the brain to be a useless organ and thinking for oneself a dangerous enterprise that may lead to heresy and eternal hellfire. In that sense fundamental fanatics of all religions are more vegetable than animal, and more mineral than vegetable.
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ON GENOCIDE RECOGNITION
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We have a better chance of achieving our goal if we appeal to the conscience of civilized Turks. To do so, however, we must first civilize ourselves.
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ON BEING POLITICALLY CORRECT
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The only reason we have not yet become a recognizable object of ridicule is that we keep talking about massacres, and massacres, as everyone knows, are no joke.
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QUOTATION OF THE DAY
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Noel Coward: “How would I like to be remembered? By my charm, you silly bugger.”


ON HONESTY
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Because some Turks enjoy reading me, I am accused of anti-Armenianism; and because some Armenians enjoy reading Akcam and Pamuk, they are accused of insulting Turkishness. And this according to bureaucrats who take their marching orders from politicians, for whom honesty is a hostile concepts and truth enemy propaganda.
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ON PRAISE
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Praise I suspect because it makes me blind to my own failings. Criticism, even when motivated by prejudice, ignorance, or revenge, I welcome because it makes me stop and think, even if the interruption lasts no more than a fraction of a second.
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MONEY TALKS
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A publisher once sent me a review copy of an Armenian WHO'S WHO in which the average entry on benefactors was seven times longer than the entries on writers. I did not review it. Let the benefactors review it, I thought, with their calculating machines.
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ON JUSTICE
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Is there such a thing as a Supreme Court in Armenia? Who are the Justices? Does anyone know their names? Why is it that they never make headlines in our press? As things stand, not only are they anonymous but also invisible, and they might as well be non-existent.
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VAMPIRES
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There is a type of Turcocentric Armenian who judges his fellow Armenians by how much they hate Turks. To him the ideal Armenian is he whose favorite breakfast drink is neither coffee nor orange juice but Turkish blood.


© This content Mirrored From  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com MEMOIRS

Because I was born in Greece to Armenian parents in a multicultural ghetto of refugees from the Ottoman Empire whose common medium was Turkish, I learned three languages without any effort on my part. I never asked anyone about the meaning of words or their definitions: I just knew. Something similar happens in the realm of ideas dealing with religion, ethics, and justice. I accepted them as facts rather than as prejudices, misconceptions, assumptions, fallacies, theories, or hypotheses. As a result, ideas that I encountered later in life – ideas like atheism, agnosticism, the brotherhood of all men, democracy, and passive resistance – appeared at first as alien, sometimes even as incomprehensible. Which is why intolerance comes naturally to all of us. It is tolerance that must be taught and learned, and more often than not, it is neither taught nor learned.
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In my twenties I tried to teach myself Japanese and Zulu, among other languages. Today I remember only one word in Zulu -- “kitab” (book), and I remember it because it is the same word in Turkish.
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And now allow me to tell you my favorite Nasreddin Hodja story: . .
It is said that in his youth the Hodja made a fortune as a smuggler. Everyone knew this but but no one knew what was it that he was smuggling, not even the border guards who would search him and his donkey thoroughly every time he crossed the border, which he did frequently. Many years later when one of the border guards met the Hodja and asked him what was was it that he was smuggling, the Hodja replied, “Donkeys.”
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Speaking of smugglers: When an American customs officer asked Oscar Wilde if he had anything to declare, Wilde is said to have replied: “Only my genius” -- no doubt one of the most dangerous commodities known to man.


A TRUE STORY
A friend sent me the following:

A conversation between sheriff's deputy and an inmate, through cell's bars (this is not fantasy - first-hand story of someone I know very well):

SHERIFF: "Are you Mexican? Here for wife-beating, again?"
INMATE: "No. I'm Armenian."
SHERIFF: "O! What is it, then? Fraud?"


JACKASSES
I learned to read in time of war when books were luxuries beyond our means. We had only one in the house – a dilapidated elementary school anthology with black and white drawings. The story on page one was not so much a story as an exchange of insults:
A street urchin to a donkey driver:
“Good morning, mother of jackasses.”
“Good morning, my son.”
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An exile is someone who lives in an alien country.
A double exile is an exile whose homeland is ruled by aliens,
and no one can be as alien as one's fellow countrymen.
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You cannot speak of freedom to a slave
who cannot see or feel the weights of his chains.
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A fool who fools another fool
thinks of himself as smart.
*
Don't think of me as a writer or as an Armenian.
Think of me as a fellow human being
who writes not for readers
but for his younger self
when he was brainwashed, manipulated, and abused.
*
A few years ago I wrote a series of short stories whose central character was named Jack S. Avanakian – an Armenian-American variation on Odian's Panchoonie.
Once when asked by an interviewer what I was working on, I replied I was planning to write an autobiography titled “The Swan-Song of a Jackass.”
“Why a jackass?”
“Because only an obstinate jackass would go on writing for thirty years hoping against all hope to make a difference.”


Criticizing odars is a waste of time.
They have critics of their own.
They don't need our 2 cents.
They might even tell you to go back where you came from.
I speak from experience.
If by criticizing others we try to cover up our own problems
on the grounds that nobody is perfect,
we delude ourselves.
*
We may not know all there is to know about our past.
Nobody does.
But we should know one things for certain
even if it may be hard for some of us to admit it.
We should know that what we were told in our formative years,
what we read in our papers today,
and what our speechifiers and sermonizers tell us,
is irrelevant nonsense.
We should know that the dark pages in our history
are not tragedies but blunders,
and only when we see them as such
may we arrest our downward spiral
and be born again as a nation.


ON ARMENIANS
There is a brown-noser and a bastard in all of us – the brown-noser is reserved for odars, the bastard for our fellow Armenians. Somewhere between the two there is a human being, but he is well-hidden.
*
We will think twice before contradicting an odar, but we will contradict, insult, and crap on a fellow Armenian as if it were our patriotic duty.
*
An Armenian is never as smart as he thinks he is. But that's not his real problem. His real problem is that he is incapable of imagining how unspeakably stupid he can be.
*
Nikol Aghbalian is right, we are a tribal people; or, in the words of Gostan Zarian, our concept of nation begins and ends with our mountain, our valley, our village, our church, and our chickens.
*
Dissatisfied with what you have just read? Your refund is in the mail.


PLATO, OSHAGAN, AND ZARIAN
Everything I write is a paraphrase. I am as original as a cook who combines ingredients available in all supermarkets. If the result is edible or if what I say make sense, I am satisfied. I leave originality to my betters.
*
Plato was a great philosopher, and according to some, the greatest. A 20th-century English philosopher (may have been Whitehead) once said that all of philosophy is nothing but footnotes to Plato. Was Plato an original thinker? We know that most of his DIALOGUES are based on the conversations of his teacher, Socrates. As for Socrates, very probably most of his ideas came from predecessors, who, like himself, never wrote a single line. To say otherwise is to imply that for almost a thousand years Greeks did not think, speak, discuss, and contradict one another.
*
According to the Oshagans (pere et fils) Zarian was a plagiarist. What was their intention in saying that? To warn the nation not to be taken in by a charlatan or to establish themselves as the alpha males of 20th-century Armenian literature? If Zarian was a charlatan, what about the bosses, bishops, and benefactors whose support they (the Oshagans) enjoyed?
*
An academic by the name of Stern (I forget his first name) once wrote a detailed study with copious footnotes and a bibliography, in which (unlike the Oshagans) he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything Sartre wrote can be traced to an illustrious predecessor. Result? Who speaks of Stern today?
*
If you want originality, read the Oshagans (whose works are being translated into English, I am told). But if you want to understand what's happening to us today, read Zarian.


ARMENIANS SPEAK WITH A FORKED TONGUE
I don't believe everything I am told.
Neither do I believe everything I read in the papers,
especially if it's favorable to someone;
in which case what I want to know is:
How much is he being paid for saying these things?
People lie.
People lie all the time, not only because they don't know the truth
or if they know it, it happens to be against them,
but because they feel more comfortable when they lie.
*
We all lie when it comes to our problems,
and the greatest liar is he who says,
“We need solutions.”
Because that's the last thing we want.
Have you ever met a bishop willing to resign his position
or vacate his cathedral for the sake of solidarity?
Have you ever met a national benefactor
who is willing to utter a single word
against the worship of money?
Have you ever met a boss
who was not a loud-mouth megalomaniacal narcissist
all sound and fury signifying nothing?
*
I doubt if there is a single Armenian today
who doesn't know what our problems and their solutions are.
Even a child knows where divisions are the problems,
solidarity is the solution.
Where worship of money is the problem,
respect for ideas is the solution.
*
Our greatest intellectual of recent times was no doubt Gostan Zarian,
whose life and work prove that we have no use for intellectuals and their ideas. What we need is a messianic figure willing to be crucified.
But even then there is no guarantee that will be the end of our problems. Remember the brief life and career of another messiah who was accused of blasphemy by his own people, and continues to be rejected by them even today, after they have had two thousand years to reconsider their position as God's chosen people.


REFLECTIONS
Man is at his most creative in his invention of lies.
*
The biggest lies are half-truths.
*
If you speak against those who speak in the name of God,
they will accuse you of speaking in the name of the Devil.
*
To be brainwashed means not to question the honesty and wisdom of your abusers.
*
A nationalist historian writes about his nation and its enemies.
A historian writes about the past and the conflicting interests of nations.
*
Nothing offends me more than being insulted by a fool who has been brainwashed to believe he is smart.
*
If you don't have an agenda, everyone with an agenda will be against you.
*
Self-esteem is not a reliable index of worth, in the same way that dogmatism is not an index of certainty.
*
It is a universally shared human weakness to prefer flattery to criticism, but it is a dangerous addiction to prefer lies to truth.
*
To those who accuse me of having a very low opinion of my fellow Armenians, I can only say, nobody really gives a damn what I or anyone else thinks. What matters, what really matters, is whether or not I can tell the difference between fact and fiction.


ONE DAMN THING AFTER ANOTHER
In their efforts to advance a new thesis, some odar academics – those we like to quote – have made such extravagant claims on our behalf that even some Armenian scholars (among them Sirarpie der Nersessian) have rejected them as unjustified, unverified, and erroneous.
*
Our bruised egos are so hungry for flattery that sometimes we take a disguised insult as a compliment. Case in point: “It takes seven Jews to fool an Armenian.” Translated into ordinary parlance, this simply means: “If you think Jews are bad, I've got some news for you: Armenians are seven times worse!”
*
There is a big difference between being God's children and being the dupes of charlatans who speak in the name of God.
*
If history is “an unending dialogue between the present and the past” (E.H. Carr, WHAT IS HISTORY?), what has been our contribution to this dialogue beside victims?
*
Everything that I say today stands in direct contradiction to an early conviction which was instilled in me by individuals with a narrow and dogmatic agenda that distorted reality and perverted my judgment.
*
We like to brag about our genius for survival. The irony here is that those who did the actual surviving did not brag about it. I know because I grew up surrounded by them.
*
The sad truth is, those who do more harm on their fellow men are the least aware of it.
*
If there is a god, he must be a thirsty one.


BARE-FACED BIG LIES
“God's chosen people.”
“Superior race.”
“The Cradle of Civilization.”
Do you know who popularized the idea of Armenia being the cradle of civilization? A hard-up odar alcoholic academic who got himself a fat check from an Armenian foundation and hoped to get another.
“God's chosen people”?
Chosen for what, may I ask? To be scattered, insulted, abused, and periodically slaughtered by, among others, the self-assessed “superior race” of Aryans?
*
Flattery, especially self-flattery, needs no proof. And if you tell a dumb person he is smart, he will not ask you to prove it.
“It is written”?
All that means is that some megalomaniacal idiot confused his illusions with the voice of God. It happens all the time. The inspired loud-mouth charismatic charlatan is a routine occurrence in history and its latest manifestation is the televangelist in the “Land of Liberty,” where one of the bloodiest civil wars in the history of mankind was fought in defense of slavery.
*
What I find incomprehensible is not that some readers disagree with what I say but that they don't disagree with the state and direction of our collective existence. They are eager to question the words of a scribbler but not the actions and policies of those who are in charge of our communities and the nation. Figure that one out, if you can.


INTELLECTUALS AND ACADEMICS
An intellectual is someone who dedicates his life to ideas.
An academic is someone who dedicates his life to his career.
Once upon a time we had intellectuals but no academics.
Today we have no intellectuals but over a thousand academics.
Which may explain why in literature even the Turks are ahead of us.
*
Likewise we have many nationalist historians but not a single historian.
A nationalism historian is one who places the interests of the nation above the interests of mankind. In other words, he makes of history a branch of political propaganda.
*
In the following two quotations, a 19th-century German philosopher and a 20th-century British historian reflect on historians.
Arthur Schopenhauer: “Clio, the muse of history, is as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis.”
A.J.P. Taylor: “Human blunders, usually, do more to shape history than human wickedness.”
*
There is an old saying: “Historia magistra vitae” (The past is our great teacher).
There is another, even older, saying: “Omnis homo mendax” (All men are liars).
*
I have two kinds of hostile readers: those who say they don't understand me, and those who understand me too well. As for the brainwashed: they are like parrots, disposed to understand only other parrots.


ACADEMICS
If the overwhelming majority of our academics stay away from Armenian studies, it may be because they have no desire to submit their intelligence to someone who may not have enough of its himself – namely, bosses, bishops, benefactors and their flunkies. As for the very few who get involved in Armenian studies, they invariably end up recycling the propaganda line that says, we did nothing wrong and the rest of the world did nothing right. To say otherwise would amount to biting the hand that feeds them.
If history is the propaganda of the victor, these academic charlatans seem to be saying, we will make ours the consolation of the loser.
*
What have we learned from history?
Only this: power means above all the power to cover up blunders and to misrepresent defeats as moral victories.
*
Because 2500 years ago Herodotus introduced his book with the warning that he intends to speak of the great deeds and accomplishments of both Greeks and barbarians, he was torn to shreds by Greek critics (among them Plutarch) as a lover of barbarians.
*
“If you are nice to them, they will be nice to you.” This is a rule that works with gentlemen but not with bastards -- and the world is full of them – and I don't mean gentlemen. And the trouble with bastards is that you can never be nice enough to them. Lower your pants and they will resent you for not bending over.
*
Three things to remember: (one) a fruitful failure is better than a sterile success; (two) “Thou shalt not” does not always work; and (three) Sooner or later a prejudice will bite your ass.
*
What I write may best be described as a digression in a footnote of a book that I will never write.


WHAT ABOUT US?
“There is a lot that we don't know,” a friend tells me speaking of our past.
And whose fault is that, may I ask?
Ours or theirs for failing to share what they know?
We will never know everything.
Nobody ever does.
Does that mean we should withhold judgment or submit our intelligence to those who may not have enough of it themselves?
Who benefits from our ignorance?
*
Most of my readers don't like me. That's because I hold a mirror up to them and they don't like what they see. They blame the mirror and they blame me for holding it up to them. They never blame themselves. That's the beauty of the blame-game. It allows you to paint yourself all white and the opposition all black.
*
A regime with enemies will have enemies even among its own people.
A regime that speaks of exterminating the enemy will invariably start by killing its own people. Isn't that what's happening in Iran today?
And what about us?


It's an old trick familiar to all religious leaders: whenever they want to do the devil's work, they speak in the name of god.
*
It took a world war to prove Hitler wrong; and it took the collapse of the Soviet Empire to prove Stalin wrong. It is the fate of an immovable object to meet an irresistible force.
*
“There is corruption everywhere.” That's the kind of talk the corrupt love to hear; and they will call anyone who repeats that line a true patriot.
*
A suicidal man should not brag about surviving still another attempted suicide.
*
If it can happen to someone else, it can happen to me. Even if I am god's chosen, I am not the only one.
*
Every Armenian should carry a sign with the warning: "Contradict me and make an enemy for life!"
*
Two Armenians were having a quiet conversation. It can happen.


TOURIST PRIDE
“I am proud of my Armenian identity,” I am reminded by readers once in a while by way of questioning my own loyalty to the Homeland. We live in a world where everyone is brainwashed to be proud of his ethnic identity, even when we vote with our feet and choose to live on foreign soil and consider our homeland as “a nice place to visit.”
*
JERMAG CHART
Only the naïve and the blind believe because the Turks are not massacring us today we are not being exterminated. Who is doing the extermination? To put it differently: Who is at the source of our alienation? Who else but Turks, of course! What else is Armenianism if not Turcocentrism? Michael Arlen (Kouyoumdjian) saw this clearly when he warned his son to stay aware from Armenians because “they dwell too much on Armenian problems...distant repellent events...They are sweet people, but you can't let them too close. They end up boring you to death.”
*
ROOSTERS
The nice thing about our brand of politics is that when we do something right, no matter how insignificant, we behave like roosters who believe if it weren't for their vocalizing the sun wouldn't rise. But when we do something wrong, no matter how catastrophic, we blame it on others. A win-win situation if there ever was one.


QUESTIONS IN SEARCH OF AN ANSWER
Chekhov: “If I cannot answer the most important questions, am I not fooling the reader?”
Why do things exist?
What is the meaning of life?
Why did Socrates say, “The only thing I know is that I don't know”?
If “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” are our dividers with us or against us?
If our house collapses, who must be held responsible?
If not our dividers, who?
Who benefits from our divisions?
What is the meaning of our genocide?
If the Turks are bloodthirsty barbarians, why is it that it took us six hundred years to figure that out?
How smart are we if we believe in the propaganda of our dividers?
Why is it that for every Armenian who says one thing there will be another who will say the exact opposite?
Why is it that a fully grown adult feels the need to repeat what he was taught as a child by his schoolteachers and parish priest?
Why is it that “the cradle of civilization” has become the grave of common sense and decency?
Why did Zarian say “Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another?”
Why is it that we have many poets but not a single philosopher?
Why is it that Armenian stories end with the words “Three golden apples fell from heaven”? Is that why we suffer from an advanced case of collective concussion?


THE WAGES OF SIN
Hannah Arendt: “If we do not know our own history, we are doomed to live it as though it were our fate.”
*
At the beginning we were divided by deep valleys, high mountains, and long winters. What divides us today? Nothing but habit. Habit compounded by ignorance. Habit so deeply entrenched that it might as well be in our DNA. If two Armenians on a desert island build three churches (the third being the one they stay aware from) they will feel as though they had a monkey on their back.
*
One reason solidarity has eluded us so far is that we pretend to be ignorant of the consequences of tribalism. It is not easy to convince a tribal people to become a nation by submitting their will to a centralized authority. But the alternative – that is, allowing geography or habit to shape our destiny – is infinitely harder. We know now that the alternative has been defeat by a smaller but better organized tribe, followed by centuries of degrading subservience, mass deportations, and massacres (both “red” and “white” -- that is, alienation and assimilation). Knowing this we continue to stay divided and to waste valuable energy, resources, and emotional investment on genocide recognition, a cause that so far, and after almost a century, has failed to resurrect a single victim or to annex a single square inch of historic Armenia.
*
It is said of masochists that if they fail to find a sadist, they become their own sadist. That, it seems, is the alternative we have chosen – to wallow in self-pity and to beg others to support our cause, as if others supported us when we needed them most. As if others support anyone that is not in their own interest.
*
There are two kinds of failings or sins: those we commit knowingly and the others. But sooner or later we are punished for both. And the wages of sin is death.


WHEN THE RICH FIGHT
IT IS THE POOR WHO DIE
When the fat cats on Wall Street made a mess of the world economy, they gave themselves a fat bonus, as the poor lost their jobs, their savings, and their pensions. Worse was to follow. The top dogs in Washington bailed out the fat cats with the money of the very same victims who had been skinned alive. It's always the same story.
*
To identify a people – any people – with the regime – any regime – amounts to identifying the victim with his victimizer.
*
We either parrot the words of cunning manipulators or we learn to think for ourselves.
*
If you think slavery in a democratic America was a mistake that has been corrected, consider the legitimacy of the Vietnam and Iraq wars. All men are created equal? If true both Bush Jr. and Chaney would be among the dead now.
Closer to home: after leading the people to genocide our own “best and brightest” blame it on the rest of mankind, as if mankind had suddenly changed the rules of the game on us; and what is even more unbelievable, they are believed. Speaking for myself: I have trouble deciding which is more reprehensible: the massacres or the cold-blooded and calculated deception.
*
A smart Armenian is one who says, “I don't want to be like my people. I want to learn from my mistakes.”
*
In our case, “Know thine enemy” and “Know thyself” might as well be synonymous statements.
*
In this morning's paper I read: “...much of the world remained an unwelcome place for many...” You may now guess who the “many” are and who are responsible for driving them out.
*
To paraphrase Saroyan: “Empires may rise and fall but bloodsuckers hang in forever.”


OUR FAVORITE MANTRA
A reader writes: “They massacred us because they hated us.”
That's racist talk and that's nonsense.
Not all Turks hated us. Some even risked their lives to save some of us, in the same way that today some of them are willing to risk their freedom to support our cause. No doubt Talaat and his gang of cut-throats were racist, but then, who wasn't? Even Americans of “all men are created equal” fame were racists. They didn't massacre all their minorities, true, only some of them. They were smarter than Turks. They divided and exploited them mercilessly. Where would America be today without its cheap labor? Empires are raised by brute force but maintained by divide-and-rule manipulation.
We are better at dividing ourselves – or rather, allowing others to divide us -- than dividing our enemies. This may explain why almost all talk of Armenians by Armenians ends with the mantra, “Mart bidi ch'ellank.” And because I explain and expand on this mantra, I am silenced. We want flattery, not criticism no matter how objective and honest. But flattery does not solve problems, it covers them up. Flattery does not build character, honesty does.


ETCETERA
The temptation to contradict is one that no Armenian can resist. It is a mental aberration and a pathological condition that only a radical shift in our educational system may cure. To begin with, we should teach our children that far from being smart, we may well be the dumbest people on earth. One reason: for more than a thousand years we have been the slaves of some of the backward and brutal people on earth, Stalin's USSR being the latest. How can I forget the fact that during the Soviet era I would receive letters and phone calls from Armenian-Americans (I called them chic Bolsheviks) trying to convince me that the Russians were our Big Brothers (literally rather than in the Orwellian sense of these words), Solzhenitsyn was a traitor, the Nobel Prize committee a Jewish conspiracy, Paradjanov a syphilitic black marketeer and pederast, and Zarian a hireling of the CIA. I have myself been accused of being an agent of every secret organization on the planet, including the KGB, the CIA, the Mossad, and the Gray Wolves, whoever the hell they are.
*
In our environment, fanaticism, ignorance, stupidity, and malice speak louder than their counterparts. As for actions: they speak louder than words only when they are directed against defenseless fellow Armenians, the more defenseless the better.
*
If that's what I think about Armenians, why do I bother writing for them?
I go on writing for them because I refuse to believe that only brown-nosers and propagandists qualify as writers, and because I believe no one is beyond redemption. I speak from experience. Once upon a time I too shared all their prejudices, blind spots, and arrogance. If I can see the light, so can anyone else. If this is an illusion, may I never lose it.
*
Michel Sardou: “God? I believe him when I need him. Like the rest of mankind. And if he fails to respond, I appeal to another.”


ODDS AND ENDS
If I am for honesty it is not because I love truth (which I will never know) but because I hate all those who deceived me when I was young, gullible, and could not yet think for myself.
*
Am I a failure if so far the world has failed to provide me with a friendly audience?
*
A good speechifier knows what the people want to hear and he doesn't mind submitting his intelligence to the rabble.
*
Sometimes our first impressions are more accurate because they are based one a wider and therefore more balanced set of data. Afterwards we can be easily swayed by words.
*
To attack and insult someone from a position of self-assessed infallibility is to openly declare oneself to be unteachable, unreasonable, and unspeakable.
*
Long live fools and fanatics! If it weren't for them, I would run out of inspiration.
*
We like to say there are always two sides to every story after which we readily give in to the temptation of believing our side.


ON KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING
Socrates: “Know thyself.”
The Koran: “He who knows himself, knows God.”
The Bible: “The Kingdom of God is within you.”
Three synonymous statement.
Three different ways of saying the same thing.
*
“The Kingdom of God is within you,” and “Our Father Who art in heaven”:
I see a contradiction here. Which may suggest that the Bible cannot be the word of God. God does not contradict Himself. Neither does He speak with a forked tongue. Men do.
*
Men contradict one another because they don't understand; they can only hope to move in the direction of greater understanding.
*
I do not have a quarrel with God, only with men who speak in His name after which they legitimize crimes against humanity.
*
God does not issue licenses authorizing men to speak in His name. Licenses are issued by men to other men against other men.
*
Faith can be an asset as well as a liability. It is an asset when it leads to a greater understand and compassion for our fellow men. It is a liability when it makes as dogmatic and intolerant.
*
Diogenes Laertius: “When Thales was asked what was difficult, he said 'to know one's self.' And what was easy, 'To advise another.'”
To advise another: in modern parlance, to sermonize and speechify.
*
Sartre: “We believe that we believe, but we don't believe.”
*
If I bore you, I apologize. If I challenge you, I consider my mission accomplished.


WHEN THE BLIND LEAD THE BLIND
Baudelaire on the idea of superiority: “a satanic idea, if ever there was one.”
I have said many nasty things about self-assessed moral superiority, but I have never gone as far as calling it satanic. It takes the daring of a genius to see things as they are. The rest of us might as well be blind to reality.
*
Give a nobody authority or make him feel superior and he will speak in the name of god or historic necessity or greater wisdom and go on the warpath against infidels or inferiors or anyone else who stands between him and more power. Megalomania is a hungry monster that is never satiated. Even the popes of Rome, whose job was to preach love of the enemy, went to war.
But then, where would authority be without dupes? To believe in someone else and to ignore “the kingdom of god” which is within us, might as well be the source of all crimes against humanity.
*
Flaubert: “To be stupid, selfish and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.”



***************************************************
READING PEGUY
**************************************
“Out of ignorance and a sense of duty most decent people are liable to turn into criminals.”
*
Charles Péguy (1873-1914) is closer to my heart than any other writer you care to mention. Unlike Toynbee and Sartre, he is as accessible to the ordinary reader as, say, Chekhov. Like Chekhov, he was an honest man and he said what he thought. Organized religions have their saints. Literature does not. If it did, I would name Peggy as one of the greatest.
Has he been translated into Armenian? I don't know. I doubt it. I don't think so. Probably because he was quintessentially un-Armenian. We are not brought up to appreciate honesty and straight talk. After centuries of subservience to brutal regimes, we have learned to be cautious and calculating in our speech – a diplomatic way of saying, we are born liars.
Enough by way of introduction and warning. Let Peggy speak for himself:
*
“It is vulgar to want to be right and still more so to want to be in the right against someone else.”
*
“The man who doesn't bawl out the truth when he knows the truth becomes the accomplice of liars.”
*
“When people become established they become intelligent.”
*
“Let them leave us to our work. But if they disturb us, then we shall see to it that we shall not have been uselessly interrupted.”
*
“The life of the decent man must in some ways be one of continual apostasy; he must continually be a renegade and in this sense his life is one continual unfaithfulness.”
*
“Destitution is not a pumice stone by which people can be polished and made to shine. If it were it would be worth preserving. Destitution weakens people and thereby makes them incapable of getting out of it. Destitution not only makes people unhappy, which is a serious matter, it makes them bad, ugly and weak, which is also a serious matter.”
*
“Tyranny is always better organized than freedom.”
*
“One does not have the right to betray even a traitor. Traitors must be fought and not betrayed.”
*
“What is most contrary to salvation is not sin but habit.”
*
“Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”
*
Once, I remember, when I said as much to one of our Panchoonies who headed one of our major charity organizations, he explained: “If we assume a critical stance towards the regime in Yerevan, we will not be allowed to help the people.” To which I could only say: “You mean, they would allow the people to starve? If you know them to be so evil, why legitimize them with your support?” At this point he hung up on me and thus I acquired still another enemy in high places.



***************************************************
READING ZOHRAB
**************************************
“Oppression corrupts everything it touches, even the highest moral principles.”
*
“We all of us condemn prostitution; yet, how many of us engage in it! Lawyers who perjure themselves for a few pieces of silver; ghazetajis who sell their conscience to vested interests; physicians who prolong a useless treatment; young men who marry wealth. In what way, may I ask, are these individuals different from common whores?”
*
“My code of ethics: Between the real and the imaginary, choose the real; between truth and falsehood, choose truth – at all times, everywhere.”
*
“A newspaper is not a chameleon. It should not change colors to please its readers. It is bound to make enemies. I would measure the moral success of a newspaper by its willingness to make enemies.”
*
“In the same way that nature abhors a vacuum, literature abhors the absence of ideas.”
*
“As impressionable as soft wax, the Armenian acquires indiscriminately the virtues as well as the vices of the country in which he happens to be living.”
*
Which may explain why Armenians from the Levant are more Levantine than Armenian, and Armenians from the former Soviet Union are more Soviet and less Armenian. Hence Sylva Kapoutikian's boast (and this after the collapse of the USSR) “I am proud to have been a member of the Communist Party!” -- the very same party that slaughtered two generations of our best intellects and awarded her the Stalin Prize.
*
Krikor Zohrab (1861-1915) was a victim of the Genocide. Has anything changed since then? Or rather, what have we learned from the Genocide? Are we not at the mercy of lying whores who will sell not only their bodies but also their souls to anyone for a few pieces of silver?
*
If we “dzour nesdink, shidag khossink,” we shall have to admit that “mart bidi ch'ellank!”


***************************************************
Q/A
**************************************
Q: What makes an Armenian happy?
A: To crap on a fellow Armenian, what else?
Q: Isn't that what you have been doing too?
A: If I do it's only on brainwashed dupes who consider crapping to be their patriotic duty.
Q: Do you think you are always right?
A: Hell no! On the contrary. Everything I say may well be wrong. I don't know the truth. Only God does. All I ever hope to do is expose lies and in doing so to take a tiny step in the direction of truth which I may never reach in this lifetime.
Q: If you have such a low opinion of Armenians, why do you continue to identify yourself as one?
A: I identify myself as a human being. I consider my national identity an accident of nature. I don't see any inconsistency here perhaps because after being dehumanized by our propaganda I am now a born-again human being and as such I believe all men are brothers, which happens to be an assertion we make every time when we repeat the Lord's prayer -- “Our Father Who art in heaven...”
Q: No one denies that we have problems. But isn't it a fact that all men and all nations have problems similar to ours?
A: They do, yes. But that doesn't mean the best way to deal with them is to cover them up or to ignore them on the grounds that time or the Almighty will solve them for us. Time has never been on our side. After a thousand years of subservience to tyrants we were rewarded with a series of massacres. Am I saying something or anything that has not been said before by far better men than myself? Of course not! I will go further and say, everything I say is either a quotation or a paraphrase. I have at no time hidden that fact from my readers. I quote as a challenge to those who accuse me of of being anti-Armenian or even pro-Turkish. On the subject of Armenians crapping on fellow Armenians: I am reminded of a passage in Zarian's TRAVELLER AND HIS ROAD, in which, speaking of the new generation of Soviet-Armenian writers, among them Charents (who at first swallowed Kremlin's propaganda hook, line, and sinker), Zarian wrote: “They are spitting on Raffi. They are spitting on Derian. They are spitting on Aharonian. Danger! Danger! Danger!” Armenian worldview at the time Zarian wrote these lines was shaped by Lenin's and Stalin's commissars. Our worldview today is shaped by Jack S. Avanakian charlatans and arav-pakhav mi-kich-pogh Panchoonies who have been more than successful in raising a wall between us and reality by saying all we need to solve our problems is more money. As for ideas: they are empty verbiage and irrelevant commodities. Which may suggest, the more things change, the deeper we sink in our own merde.


***************************************************
WHAT WE ALL WANT
*******************************************
The maximum amount of respect for the minimum amount of effort to earn it.
*
LIES AND LIARS
**************************
According to an old saying, “All men are liars.” But whereas the poor and the weak lie in defense of their survival, the rich and powerful lie in defense of a power structure that allows them to deceive, exploit, and oppress the poor and the defenseless. Only the blind will not see a difference there.
*
ON HISTORY AND HISTORIANS
**********************************************
Where there are two version of the past, both can't be right, though both may contain fractions of truth. What happened, what is described in a book, and what is understood by readers are three different things. Which is why every historian disagrees with every other historian. Which is also why even the greatest historians – from Herodotus to Spengler and Toynbee – have been torn to shreds by other historians. Which may suggest that historians, even the very best, are as fallible as popes, imams, and rabbis.
*
ON REINCARNATION
*********************************
I see reincarnation not as a concept or occurrence that may happen after death, but as a ceaseless, ongoing process in life. The air we breathe and the food we consume are constantly being recycled by our bodies. Which is why scientists tell us we all have within us atoms that once belonged to Socrates and Alexander the Great. In Toynbee's version of the story: “Every human being now alive has links, however tenuous, not only with every one of his contemporaries, but also with every other human being that has ever lived.”


***************************************************
CONTEXTS
**************************************
In a NEWSWEEK commentary I read the following about THE NEW YORK TIMES: “Could America's greatest newspaper really be led by such vicious, untrustworthy people?” I have been asking that same question about our own weeklies which, compared to THE NEW YORK TIMES, are as nothing!
*
Am I poisoning the well?
You cannot poison a well of lies with a drop of antidote which may contain particles of truth.
*
Whenever I am told a self-important Armenian is too busy to answer his mail – that is to say, to behave like a civilized human being or to do what he is paid to do – the first question that comes up is: “Busy doing what -- beside pulling his d*ck?”
*
Literary immortality, including that of Dante and Shakespeare, lasts only a fraction of a second when placed in the context of cosmic time. I read this in a book on death by Julian Barnes titled NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF (New York, 2008).
*
Are Armenians smart? Maybe, But it is a mistake to use that line as a license to behave like an inbred moron. As Yanks are fond of saying, “That's my philosophy.”
*
"Truth shall set you free," we are told. Not always. Especially not in an Armenian context. An Armenian who thinks truth is on his side behaves more like a slave to his Ottomanism.
*
An assertion and its contradiction are only two steps on a road that stretches to infinity. But in an Armenian context, they might as well be dead ends.


***************************************************
COMMENTS
**************************************
“This Western Sun-King's [Louis XIV] palace at Versailles weighed as heavily upon the land of France as the pyramids of Gizah weighed upon the Land of Egypt.”
My first thought on reading this passage in Toynbee's STUDY OF HISTORY: “and as our own four religious denominations (Protestant, Catholic, Etchmiadznagan, and Anteliassagan) weigh upon our communities everywhere.”
*
An infallible man or institution does not have to be proven wrong because nothing can be as foolish, to the point of being asinine, as claiming infallibility.
*
I knew Armenian literature and culture were bankrupt on the day I heard the words of a national benefactor and patron of the arts spoken to one of our poets: “I hire and fire people like you every day.”
*
We can truly say of the brainwashed: "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they say because they understand nothing and they know even less."
*
Writes Shahan Shahnour in a letter to a friend (I am now translating and paraphrasing from memory): "Dupes have been the source of our downfall. What we need most today is the kind of common sense that can discriminate right from wrong, and good from evil. What we don't need is the empty verbiage [i.e. propaganda] of partisan rhetoric. In the words of Arpiar Arpiarian, 'If we can't be useful to this nation, let us at least refrain from doing it any harm'."


***************************************************
READING SARTRE
**************************************
“History is the result of conscious but often shortsighted decisions made by men in face of the problem of scarcity.”
At the turn of the last century in the Ottoman Empire, the problem of scarcity for the people was human rights or freedom, and for the revolutionaries, power. And now that they have the power, what are they doing with it? They run schools and educate a new generation of “decent” Armenians who will support their “cause” (that is to say, their power).
*
And here is Sartre again on the subject of decency in a political context:
“The decent man will make himself deaf, dumb, and paralyzed. He is the most abstract negation. He will define himself narrowly by tradition, by obedience...”
Now you may be in a better position to understand why when Talaat and Stalin felt threatened, the first thing they did was to systematically eliminate the intellectual class. Now you may also be in a better position to understand why under the sultans we had a vibrant literature, and under our own so-called revolutionaries we have nothing.
*
“In order for reality to be revealed, it is necessary for a man to struggle against it.”
The Ottoman and Soviet realities revealed themselves to us when we undertook to struggle against them.
What about our present reality?
It will never reveal itself as long as we allow those in power to brainwash us into being “decent” Armenians – that is to say, deaf, dumb, and stupid dupes who cannot think for himself.


vandals
***************************************************
AS I SEE IT
*******************************************
Negotiating from a position of weakness might as well be synonymous with defeat.
*
We cannot see the dead, but can the dead (or their immortal soul) see us? If they can see us, is it with the indifference of Reality or God? Does our misery spoil their bliss (assuming they are in heaven)?
*
An ideal explanation combines truth (or a semblance of it) with consolation. Hence the popularity of religions – notwithstanding their many contradictions.
*
My views of my fellow men (beginning with myself) are so unflattering that I look forward to the day when someone will prove me wrong.
*
Do I write because I like to annoy the hell out of dupes, bigots, and charlatans?
Why not? Isn’t that as good a reason as any?
*
Where a part-time janitor makes more money than a full-time writer, there will be an abundance of recycled crap and a total absence of ideas. When, in such an environment, they say “We need solutions,” you can be sure of one thing: that's the last thing they need.
*
In all political movements, lust for power is invariably hidden beneath noble slogans: the greater the lust, the nobler the slogans.
*
There are many forms of cowardice, surely one of the worst must be fear of free speech.
*
It is not easy being civil to individuals who in a different time and place would have been my executioners.


***************************************************
FROM ABC TO Z
*******************************************
Abovian committed suicide, Bakounts and Charents were betrayed to an alien regime and “purged,” and Zarian died with the conviction that he had been murdered. The enormity of this crime against humanity is such that it needs to be repeated again and again and as often as the other great crime committed against us at the turn of the last century. Remember that next time you speak about Armenian literature and culture.
*
When top dogs fail to reach a consensus, the interests of underdogs cease to be a priority.
*
Because I am against a divided, incompetent, and corrupt regime, I am treated as an enemy of the people on the assumption that the people are too alienated or dumb to recognize a friend when they see one.
*
Just because the stars are not visible during the day, it doesn't mean they are not there. Likewise, just because our “betters” are unreasonable, it doesn't mean reason should be abolished.
*
If you insult someone anonymously, you may expose more your cowardice and less your target's failings.
*
Henri Barbusse: “The real and the supernatural are one and the same.”
So are the reasonable and the absurd.
*
Baudelaire: “Life is a disease. This is a widely known secret.”


***************************************************
VANDALS
*******************************************
To practice medicine, you need a diploma. To drive a car, you must have a license. But any charlatan can be a politician and proceed to dismantle the nation. This is a well-known historic fact. There are still millions of people who believe Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam were great leaders, in the same way that there are many Armenians who believe what they are told by our bosses, bishops, and benefactors, who, after vandalizing the nation's most important possession – namely, its solidarity – dare to speak in the name of patriotism and God. If that's not speaking with a forked tongue, I should like to know what is.
*
At the end of his life, Arthur (DARKNESS AT NOON) Koestler was so disgusted with politicians that at the beginning of every interview he would say, “No politics.”
*
When, a few days ago, I posted a short commentary titled “Metaphysical Speculations,” several readers said such speculations are a waste of time because they never lead to believable final answers. But according to Toynbee: “Comprehension sometimes consists in just a correct understanding of questions that are unanswerable.”


***************************************************
METAPHYSICAL SPECULATIONS
*******************************************
Perhaps Existence or Reality and God are one and the same
if only because they share one very important quality in common,
namely, total indifference.
One way to explain this indifference is to say that
if we were to add up the positives and the negatives in a man's life,
the result will be zero.
*
The end of being is nothingness,
and from nothingness to being again.
From stardust to existence
and from existence to stardust again.
From here to eternity.
A cycle whose beginning is shrouded in mystery
and whose end is invisible and inconceivable,
very much like God Himself.
*
Scientists speak of the Big Bang.
But so far no scientist has ever ventured to speculate
about the nature or dimension of existence before the Bang.
*
The dead enter a timeless realm
in which a second is as long as a billion years.
In cosmic time, a life lasts no more than a fraction of a second.
The purpose of life – assuming it has one –
is to experience the human dimension,
and of dimensions there may well be an infinite number.
*
Nothing is impossible to an Almighty God,
the creator of the Universe only a small fraction of which
we can see even with the most powerful telescopes and microscopes.
*
Am I trying to explain the meaning of life?
No! Only doing my utmost to come to terms with Reality,
which is beyond our comprehension
and will remain so until we die, perhaps even after...
assuming there is an after.
The rest is propaganda.


***************************************************
READING TOYNBEE
*******************************************
“Private intellectual enterprise, unlike private economic enterprise, lives by co-operation not by competition.”
Translated into every-day language and applied to us, this simply means, Armenian writers dig their own graves if they continue to crap on one another as Oshagan did on Zarian, and as Oshagan's disciples continue to do so to this day.
*
“It is always easier, both intellectually and morally, to debit one's ills to the account of some outside agency than to ascribe the responsibility to oneself.”
What Toynbee is saying here is this: if you paint the opposition all black and yourself all white, as our dividers and Turcocentric ghazetajis tend to do, you will be believed only by those you have brainwashed and no one else.
*
What follows is one of my favorite passages from THE STUDY OF HISTORY:
“In the life which Man has made for himself on Earth, his institutions, in contrast to his personal relations, are the veritable slums, and that taint of moral obliquity is still more distressing in the least ignoble of these social tenements of the Human Spirit – for instance, in the churches and the academies – than in such unquestionably malignant institutions as Slavery and War.”
As I see it, what Toynbee is saying here: wars and massacres are extensions of the lies taught in schools and preached in churches (including temples and mosques); or again, there is more evil in legitimizing and promoting intolerance than in violations of human rights and in crimes against humanity, including genocide. But whereas war criminals are occasionally arrested, tried, found guilty, and punished, or are assassinated, hanged, or commit suicide, rabbis, bishops, and imams go on preaching their venom unmolested.


***************************************************
VOODOO
*******************************************
In his VOODOO HISTORIES: THE ROLE OF THE CONSPIRACY THEORY IN SHAPING MODERN HISTORY (New York, 2010, page 340), David Aaronovitch writes, conspiracy theorists are masters of writing “history for losers” in which they try to prove that “their defeat is not the product of their inherent weakness, let alone their mistakes; [but] it is due to the almost demonic ruthlessness of their enemy.”
*
Understanding reality is an endless process. After millennia of thinking and research some of the most important questions in science and philosophy remain unanswered. A partisan (and it makes no difference wheter he is a religious or a political partisan) is one who operates on the assumption that he knows all he needs to know; he has understood reality or its most important aspects, and all that remains to be done is to gather more evidence in order to strengthen his case. He confuses a fraction of reality with reality, his nation with mankind, and one side of an issue with all sides. He is a dogmatist and like all dogmatists he is intolerant, narrow-minded, self-righteous and prone to violence. Even when he speaks for peace and the brotherhood of all men he is prepared to kill and die. He is more of a preacher and propagandist than an observer and analyst. Which is why arguing with a partisan might as well be synonymous with making an enemy.
*
Reason unites. Emotion divides. Reason unites because it is predictable and it obeys laws of universal validity. We all agree that 2+2=4.
Emotion divides because it is unpredictable and inconsistent.
We all do not and cannot agree on matters of taste, faith, or anything else that is outside reason’s orbit.
Even when we disagree, reason tells us "to agree to disagree," because consensus
(which means working together rather than thinking alike) is better than conflict.
I say therefore, Let us reason together.


***************************************************
TAKING CARE OF
1
*******************************************
A power structure is as invisible as a glass wall. You feel its presence only when you bump into it and shatter your glasses or flatten your nose. That is why, from a very early age, you are taught obedience and respect for authority. That is also why you are constantly reminded you can't fight City Hall, it is heresy to contradict those who speak in the name of God, don't rock the boat, the law is the law...
A power structure knows the only way to take care of itself is by controlling the educational system, and by rewriting history.
And yet, every single privilege we enjoy today as citizens of a democracy we owe to dissenters like Socrates (who dedicated his life to proving those who pretend to know better are ignoramuses), Martin Luther (who dared to question the infallibility of the Pope), and Solzhenitsyn (who by exposing the criminal nature of Soviet despotism, undermined its legitimacy).
What about our own dissidents?
The short answer is: they have been ignored, buried, and forgotten by our commissars, who, with the blessings of our “popes,” continue to be in charge of our destiny as a nation today.
I suspect one reason we are constantly reminded of massacres is to let us know that we owe the fact that we are no longer being massacred to the statesmanship of our leaders. As for the fact that we were massacred at the turn of the last century: we should in no way ascribe it to their abysmal ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence.
They assert their legitimacy is by painting themselves all white and their enemies all black; and their dupes, who invariably outnumber those who can think for themselves, are more than willing to believe them. Hence the popular adage: “There is a sucker born every minute.”


***************************************************
OLD-TIME RELIGION
*******************************************
What does the average Armenian know or understand about the reasons why we are divided? I suspect most Armenians follow the old-time religion routine: if it's good enough for my father, it's good enough for me. It follows the son of a Tashnak will be a Tashnak, the son of a Ramgavar will be a Ramgavar, and so on. It also follows, our divisions are based not on facts or values but on habit and tradition. Which may explain why even our revolutionaries are right-wing conservatives. As a result, instead of renewal we have stagnation, instead if progress paralysis, and instead of dialogue two monologues that never cross.
*
To join a group means to surrender a fraction of one's individuality and uniqueness.
*
In a group it is not always the best that rises to the top but the most cunning and ruthless.
*
Even the most absurd slogan will make sense if it flatters our ego.
*
Sometimes I am accused of repeating myself. If you agree with a slogan, you don't mind to have it repeated countless times. But if you disagree with an idea, being exposed to it even once, it will be a source of annoyance, irritation, and hostility.
*
Who is more guilty? The leader or his dupe (who assesses himself as smart)?
*
The 11th Commandment in the Armenian Decalogue: “Thou shalt not be a dupe.”


***************************************************
OPIUM
*******************************************
Marx said religion is “the opium of the people.”
The word assassin comes from the Arabic “hashish” (opium).
Voltaire: “Since it was a religious war, there were no survivors.”
*
As a nonbeliever I respect equally both believers and nonbelievers– both Sartre and Schweitzer (who were cousins).
Sartre, the atheist, writes in his memoirs: “I depend on people who depend on God.”
A contradiction?
Walt Whitman: “So what if I contradict myself? I contain multitudes.”
*
Nationalism is defined as an ideology by nationalists, and as pathology by those who have studied its history.
*
Some are too big to fail, and some are too insignificant to register on the consciousness of the world. You may now guess to which category we belong.
*
Incompetence and intolerance of dissent is a lethal combination that might as well be a death warrant.
*
What makes life bearable is the idea of death.
*
Whitman: “Nothing can happen more beautiful than death.”
*
Optimism? Nothing wrong with it, provided you are prepared to be disappointed.
*
Why do I write in short sentences and paragraphs?
The short answer is, fear.
Fear of boring my readers.


***************************************************
ON PATERNALISM
*******************************************
Our genocide is not only a symptom of man's humanity to man but also of our own misplaced and naïve trust in an alien power structure that we were led to believe to be paternalistic because that is how it had (mis)represented itself to us for 600 years. One reason we don't emphasize this aspect of our past is that paternalism continues to be our favorite mode of perceiving our own leadership.
*
Xenophobia blinds us to the virtues of our adversaries to the same degree that it blinds us to our own vices.
*
In our traumatized partisan environment you are safe only if you parrot the partisan line. But if you dare to think and speak for yourself – that is to say, to give expression to your own thoughts. convictions, and experiences – then prepared yourself to be verbally abused by dupes who know and understand even less than their “educators” -- meaning, those who brainwashed them.
*
Oliver Goldsmith: “The laws govern the poor, and the rich govern the law.”


***************************************************
SLOGANS
*******************************************
To be brainwashed is bad enough.
What is infinitely worse is to be brainwashed by idiots who pretend to be smart. And what could be easier for an adult than to appear smart to a child, which is when they get you – when you are a child and cannot yet think for yourself. And they get you not with logic or sentences that make sense or have any connection with reality, but with slogans – slogans like “America the Beautiful,” “The Land of the Brave and the Free,” “Deutschland uber alles.”
Massacres and genocides come naturally to people who are brainwashed to parrot slogans like “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
All slogans should come with a warning or a counter-slogan, such as “Under capitalism man exploits man. Under communism it's the other way around.”
“Workers of the world unite, provided you don't drop your pants and bend over to murderous morons.”
“Allawa akhbar!”
God may be One.
God may be Great.
God may even be Almighty.
But God is also Incomprehensible, and to speak in His name is to bluff and blaspheme.


***************************************************
QUESTIONS
*******************************************
Toynbee: “When prophets disagree, are we to give credit to either of their opposing voices?”
Likewise, when our dividers disagree...
*
The difference between an agnostic and a man of faith: the agnostic will not kill and die in the name of an entity whose existence is based on hearsay evidence.
*
Simone Weil: “It is impossible to forgive whoever has done us harm if that harm has lowered us. We have to think that it has not lowered us but revealed our true level.”
*
A noted French philosopher (Merleau-Ponty) once described the German occupation of France during World War II, as being “raped by history.”
How are we to describe our own experience?
After being gang-raped for 600 years we were eviscerated?
Are we dead or alive?
*
Questions that I ask myself seven times every day (which is how many times a pope is said to doubt his faith every day):
Am I wasting my time?
I am.
Why do I go on?
I don't know.


***************************************************
IF YOU LIE DOWN WITH DOGS....
*******************************************
If you lie down with cannibals, you are sure to end up in their digestive tract. Perhaps genocide was the price we had to pay for being not only subservient to them for 600 years but also their “most loyal subjects.”
*
Winners say they won because God was on their side or it was their “manifest destiny” to win. Losers say they lost because their enemies were predators who spoke with a forked tongue.
*
Prejudice comes as naturally to men of faith as extremism to fanatics and big lies to dupes.
*
The greater the number of divisions, the great the number of panchoonies and letters that end with the words “mi kich pogh.”
*
Who benefits from our divisions? Only our dividers.
*
I plead guilty to the charge that I recycle ideas as opposed to propaganda, and to propagandists, recycling ideas might as well be a capital offense.
*
Our crypto-sultans and neo-commissars are so insecure that they will promote any mediocrity that knows how to flatter them, and silence anyone who dares to question their infallibility.
*
I am not personally acquainted with any one of our leaders but I have dealt with some of their underlings and I am appalled by their intellectual mediocrity (which I am willing to forgive) and moral moronism (which is at the root of all crimes against humanity”).
*
Incompetent leaders might as well be shepherds who drive their flocks in the direction of ravenous wolves.
*
A belief system or faith is a product of man's creative mind as surely as the composition of a great symphony, and man has created many more gods than great symphonies.


***************************************************
THIS & THAT
*******************************************
The Irish like to say, “There are two kinds of people: the Irish and those who would like to be Irish.” How many kinds of Armenians are there? I would say, as many as there are Armenians; but I could also say there are also two kinds: dividers and their dupes.
*
If I am wrong, I can be corrected. But if those who are in charge of our destiny are wrong, the result may be another massacre – if not “garmir” (red) than “jermak” (white).
If I have said this before, I apologize. I happen to be an addict of reiteration. Or, as Socrates used to say, “To know is to remember.”
*
Awareness of ignorance is better than false knowledge.
*
When an American politician needs a dedicated aide, my guess is, he says: “I need a Young Turk.” I doubt if anyone of them says “I need a rug merchant.”
I read recently that Khrushchev referred to Mikoyan as “my rug merchant.”
*
My English dictionary defines “Young Turk” as “a young person eager for radical change to the established order.”
*
If what you say makes sense,
let your words speak louder than your emotions.


***************************************************
TOYNBEE
*******************************************
One reason I love to read and reread Toynbee (sometimes more than twice) is that so much of what he says, and the authorities he quotes, are anti-authoritarian and apply not only to me personally but also to mankind in general, including – or should I say, especially – to Armenians.
Random examples follow:
Volney: “The source of man's calamities reside within him; he carries them in his heart.”
Saint Cyrian: “If the foreign enemy were to cease from troubling, would Roman really be able to live at peace with Roman?”
Rabbi Agus: “'Uniqueness' as an innate quality of being is exclusive in character, invidious in intent, invariably offensive.”
Walter Bagehot: “The very institutions which most aid at step number one are precisely those which most impede at step number two.” In Toynbee's own words: “Progress would not have been the rarity it is if the early food had not been the late poison.”
And I think of our own political parties whose step number one was love of freedom, and step number two fear or hatred of free speech.” Our own Garabents put it more succinctly when he said: “Once upon a time we fought and shed our blood for freedom. We are now afraid of free speech.” And to think that Garabents was a thoroughly pro-establishment writer beloved by all.
Another quality that makes Toynbee attractive to me personally is that he quotes the Bible (and he does so frequently – more frequently than any other historian I have read) not as a believer but as a non-believer. In his own words: “I believe that the answers to the questions that matter most to us can be found only beyond the reason's limits, if they can be found at all.” Please note that final “if.”
When asked why he had devoted thirty years of his life to the writing of his magnum opus, STUDY OF HISTORY, Toynbee is said to have replied with a single word: “Curiosity.”


***************************************************
BLUNT TALK
*******************************************
“The United States was not the golden land of opportunity people thought it was. Blacks were oppressed. The poor were downtrodden. The press told lies. Truth existed nowhere. Everyone was motivated by money.” (THE SHOT, by Philip Kerr. New York, 2000, page 62).
Blunt talk.
That's what I like.
I wish we had more of it.
*
People who are afraid of open spaces are said to suffer from agoraphobia, a word that combines two Greek words – agora (space) and phobia (fear). It seems to me, collectively, we suffer from alithophobia (fear of truth) and pragmatophobia (fear of reality). Which may well be why there are a great many people out there who don't believe us even when we speak the truth, probably because they think we suffer from psematolatria (the worship of lies).
Next time you hear or read one of our pundits or “patriotards” (baloney artists parading as community leaders), I urge you to keep these words in mind even if you can't find them in any dictionary for the simple reason that I just made them up.
*
Please note that Philip Kerr, the author of the above quotation, is not a historian, sociologist, or academic, but a writer of thrillers who was greatly influenced by Raymond Chandler, the only American writer I have enjoyed reading three times – see especially his FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. Like Chandler, Kerr has a brilliant sense of humor. At one point, for instance, his central character, who happens to be a professional assassin, says: “I'm the real careful type. Ava Gardner offered to suck my c*ock I'd probably ask what was in it for me.”
*
The only other American writer I have read three time is Hemingway -- not his novels but his short story “The Killers.”
I don't mention LOLITA because Nabokov was less American and more Russian cosmopolitan.


***************************************************
REFLECTIONS
*******************************************
My two ambitions in life as a writer:
(one) to explain why many Armenians are alienated, and
(two) to expose the arrogance and incompetence of those who alienate them in the name of patriotism.
*
If rabbis, imams, and bishops were to renounce their monopoly on truth, would the number of their followers go up or down?
Hard to say.
But one thing we can say with certainty: they would be promoting tolerance instead of intolerance.
*
As a reader, I prefer bad dialogue to good descriptions. I should like to read a work of fiction that begins with the words: “In what follows, I will not speak of the appearance and wardrobe of my characters on the assumption that what's most important about them will emerge in what they say.”
*
The trouble with some of my critics is that
they don’t consider me worthy of criticism.
Instead, they insist that I either give up writing
or change my views in such a manner as to jibe with theirs.
In short, they demand that I become a disciple and an echo.
Their disciple and their echo!
My critics are not literary critics in the usual sense of these words,
but messianic figures whose message is
“Abandon your ways and follow me,
for I am the only path to wisdom and salvation.”
To such an Armenian to say anything but “Yes, master!”
would be heresy leading to eternal damnation and hellfire.



i believe
***************************************************
WHAT I BELIEVE
*******************************************
Just because we understand and explain some things, we think we can understand and explain many other things. But so far, and after millennia of speculation by theologians, philosophers, and scientists, we have failed to answer the most important questions and we fool ourselves when we think some day we may at last grasp the meaning of life and the nature of God.
Because in our arrogance (hubris) we think it is within our abilities to do so, we are punished (nemesis) with intolerance, jihads, fatwas, papal encyclicals, ten thousands commandments, belief systems and as many heresies and contradictions that suggest even the wisest among us is no better than a damn fool.
I believe or I would like to believe God to be inaccessible, incomprehensible, and indifferent to both believers and nonbelievers alike. I suspect any Being or Power that can create the universe, only a fraction of which is visible to us, must be too busy creating other universes in an infinite number of dimensions only one of which is accessible to us.
What are the chances that after we die, the incomprehensible will be comprehensible? I would say 50/50. I would also add that after we die we may no longer care whether life makes sense or not.


***************************************************
REFLECTIONS
*******************************************
Why is an Armenian another Armenian's Turk?
My only tentative answer is: Because his worldview is based on prejudice, propaganda, and lies.
*
Sartre: “Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.”
Or silences them.
Remember Milton's celebrated words in defense of free speech: “Who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature. But he who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”
*
I am beginning to see the truth in the old saying, sooner or later our blessings become curses, and everything that contributed to our good fortune, returns to destroy us.
*
There are prodigal fathers as surely as there are prodigal sons.
*
Propaganda is more dangerous than ignorance because it is identified as knowledge -- the kind that paralyzes the mind and moves crowds.
*
The bigger the lie, the greater the number of its dupes.
*
About the protocols: If history is on our side, why are we afraid of historians?
*
Ever since Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, our benefactors have been building churches in the hope of bribing God, thus adding blasphemy to their previous list of sins.


***************************************************
METAPHORS
*******************************************
“An eye for an eye.”
“If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.”
“When the blind lead the blind...”
“In the country of the blind, the one-eyed is king.”
These metaphors – assuming that's what they are – explain so much about human nature and history.
And consider the following by Toynbee: “Any man of forty who is endowed with moderate intelligence has seen – in the light of the uniformity of Nature – the entire Past and Future.”
*
It takes less than a second to see the light. But compared to what we can't see or what God sees, the light we see may well be another form of darkness.
*
The unspoken threat of all authoritarian leaders to dissidents: “Since you refuse to see me as I see myself, I will pluck out your eyes and cut out your tongue.”


***************************************************
POWER & GREED
*******************************************
What I put into words is the obvious, which may or may not be perceived as such by others, who may or may not wish to jeopardize their position within the power structure. As for our press: it is too dependent on the goodwill of our bosses, bishops, and benefactors for its survival to print anything that may not be flattering to their colossal egos.
*
The French have an untranslatable word for obnoxious, ignorant, brainwashed, narrow-minded, loud-mouth patriots: they call them “patriotards.” I call ours Panchoonies, Jack S. Avanakians, Turcocentric ghazetajis, and during the Soviet era, “chic Bolsheviks.”
*
The only time they are willing to admit blunders is when they want to assert their humanity (“Nobody is perfect”), never their abysmal incompetence.
*
I am resigned to the fact that I will never be popular with our brown-nosers and the source of the brown on their nose.
*
In his POWER & GREED: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD (London, 2002, page 189), Philippe Gigantes writes: “The Christian Armenians in the Caucasus regions of the Muslim Ottoman Empire favoured the Christian Russian Empire and were slaughtered by the Turks, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. How many were slaughtered? The numbers are in dispute, varying between 500,000 and I.5 million.”
This passage has a footnote that reads:
“My father's uncle, Dr Nicholas Vassiliades, living in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and conscripted as a colonel in the Turkish army's medical corps, saw the massacre in Armenia. From the records of the Turkish army's medical corps, he placed the slaughtered at more than 1 million.”


***************************************************
ON A VARIETY OF UNRELATED THINGS
*******************************************
When someone you love dies, death ceases to be just another word in the dictionary and becomes a special kind of hell designed especially for you by a diabolically cunning sadist who knows you better than you know yourself, and is thus in a position to tell what will hurt you the most. He doesn't just behead you with an ax. Instead, he cuts your throat with a rusty knife and watched you bleed to death in a garbage can.
*
To say “Yes, sir!” to superiors has nothing to do with respect for authority and everything to do with cowardly subservience.
*
As far as I know, no one has ever heard anyone saying that a nation with the ablest Oriental carpet dealers is in a better position to make a valuable contribution to world peace and progress.
*
It is twice as hard to remain silent in two languages; and because most Armenians speak more than two languages, they suffer from chronic verbal diarrhea.
*
Insanity could also be defined as a process in which emotions are allowed to define thoughts.


***************************************************
CONNECTIONS
*******************************************
Whenever I read about oppression, I hear echoes, see parallels, make connections: Martin Luther King: “It is a strange and twisted logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for its continuation.”
It is almost as strange and twisted as preaching Armenianism and practicing Ottomanism.
*
I see connections where none exist: first genocide of the 20th century and none of the Three Wise Men was Armenian. But then, they also say everything is connected to everything else.
*
Our version of democracy: Say what you like provided you believe what you are told by wiser men than yourself even when they happen to be damn fools.
*
Some of my readers enjoy using me as a punching bag. After Turks, an Armenian's favorite target is another Armenian.
*
Solidarity is a nation's greatest source of wealth and power.
*
If you are defenseless, you will be exploited and oppressed by men who will pretend to be your brothers, protectors, and benefactors. But you will make a big mistake if you think the only way to liberate yourself is by exploiting and oppressing your brothers.


***************************************************
COMMENTS
*******************************************
If freedom enlarges the usefulness of our faculties (according to Kant), millennial oppression narrows them down to such a degree that it is not at all unusual to see a fool parading as a genius.
*
Dealing with fools is hard enough; infinitely harder is dealing with a fool who has been taken in by another fool.
*
Assessing oneself as infallible may well be the surest symptom of terminal cretinism.
*
The more unwavering a man’s commitment to his own self-interest, the more altruistic the principles he pretends to espouse.
*
Politics is the second oldest profession and in many ways it resembles the first. Fascists agree but they think this does not apply to fascism.


***************************************************

1
*******************************************
When it comes to my own self-interest, or taking care of
1, I have an instinctive drive to work against it on the grounds that the difficulties that confront me will become more challenging, and the greater the challenge, the greater the rewards, even if the rewards come not in this life but in the next, and I don't believe in an afterlife. Figure that one out, if you can.
*
It takes faith to see meaning in the meaningless or the incomprehensible. Has anyone ever been successful in explaining if God is love, why does He allow the massacre of the innocent?
*
When the mother of a good friend died a few years ago, to console her, I said: “Think of it this way: God has given you two lives – one with Mother and another without her.”
When my own mother died I said and repeated the same thing to myself, but it didn't work; and I now think of it as one of the dumbest things anyone can say to a friend who has lost a loved one. It's like saying to a blind amputee: “God has given you two lives – one with your eyes and limbs, the other without them.”
*
How easy it is to bear another's grief! And how impossibly hard it is to come to terms with one's own.


***************************************************
CRITICS
*******************************************
The function of a critic is not to know better or to speak in the name of a superior brand of patriotism or loyalty to the nation, but to expose contradictions. To say, for instance, that it makes no sense to brag about survival when it is the best that perish and the worse that survive. Or, to praise freedom in theory and to ban free speech in practice.
Whether we like it or not, whenever we make an assertion, more often than not we speak in the name of an ideology or belief system whose fundamental principles we refuse to question or doubt.
It is not that ideologies and religions can be wrong, but that they are never right because there are no final answers or answers to the most important questions. And as everyone knows by now, for every belief system there is another that contradicts it.
Which belief system is the best?
It depends where you were born and educated – make it, brainwashed. Which means, belief systems are an extension not of reason but of geography. Mountains, valleys and climate have more to do with what we believe than our brains.
Am I advocating skepticism? No! Only reminding my readers that none of us is infallible, not even the Pope of Rome or, for that matter, the Catholicos of Etchmiadzin or Antelias.
*
It is not easy to see meaning in the meaningless. But what is even infinitely harder is to question the validity of meaning itself. A philosopher (I no longer remember his name) once wrote a book titled THE MEANING OF MEANING. It seems to me, in a historic context, it would be far more accurate to speak of the meaninglessness of meaning, in view of the fact that countless innocent victims were slaughtered in the name of a belief system or heresy that is no longer a heresy.


***************************************************
...AMONG OTHER THINGS
*******************************************
If a hundred million people believe in a lie, it doesn't follow that lie ceases to be a lie.
*
On more than one occasion I have been given to understand that if my income is below minimum wage I am in no position to negotiate or to say anything but “Yes, sir!”
*
Not all Turks are enemies, and not all Armenians are friends. Some Turks saved our lives by risking their own, and some Armenians betrayed us to the authorities.
*
Think of me as someone who is doing his utmost to be an honest witness in the eyes of an honest jury that may or may not exist.
*
Dividers don't like to speak of solidarity, or bankers of usury, or cannibals of vegetarianism, or pimps of castration.
*
Anyone who trusts someone else's judgment more than his own is a potential dupe.


***************************************************
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
*******************************************
If you want to teach yourself how to lie and deceive, write your memoirs. Even better, if you are a nationalist or a patriot, write a history of your nation. I speak from experience: I have done both.
*
To brag about the fact that we have oppressed no other nation is like a lizard asserting his moral superiority on the grounds that he has never killed and devoured a crocodile.
*
Too many chiefs, no Indians: that's one way to explain our divisions.
*
Memo to readers who like to compare me to Mencken: Please, take the trouble to learn how to spell his name.
*
I am not a good or even a mediocre pianist, but I can brag about one thing: I have been murdering Mozart's and Beethoven's complete Sonatas and so far no cop has ever laid a glove on me.
*
Disraeli claimed he had read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE eighteen times. May I confess that I have read it only three times.
*
A critic once said of Gore Vidal: “He exudes despair and cynical misery and a grudge against society which is really based on his own lack of talent and creative joy.”
I am reminded of Churchill's World War II remark: “Some chicken! Some neck!”
*
No complete bastard ever wrote a decent line. Believable lies, yes!


***************************************************
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
*******************************************
Jean Rostand, French biologist and son of Edmond, author of CYRANO DE BERGERAC: “Afterlife? It is the body that survives the mind, for several hours.”
*
John Crowe Ransom, American poet:
“In all the good Greek of Plato,
I lack my roastbeef and potato.”
That's like going to hell for a cold beer.
*
The best I can say about our benefactors and their flunkies is to quote Pushkin's line: “Where there is a trough, there will be swine.”
*
Chinese proverb: “Behind an able man there are always other able men.”
The reverse is also true: Behind a failure...
*
I don't remember any references to Armenians in John Updike's works. I am a little surprised therefore to read the following in TOWARDS THE END OF TIME (New York, 1997, page 124): “The Armenians of the region [Asia Minor] remained loyal to Christianity but were savagely slaughtered during World War I.”
The only other Armenian connection to Updike that I can think of is Cher starring in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK.
*
In the mind of most odars Armenians are invariably associated with slaughter or hunger.
*
Armenian arguments polarize. When two Armenian friends start an argument, the chances are not only will they disagree but they will also end up as enemies. I speak from experience.


***************************************************
ON POWER
*******************************************
Capitalism is the best system for capitalists.
So is Marxism for communists.
The same could be said of all organized religions and ideologies.
It never fails. As soon as a religion or an ideology is established, it creates and persecutes heretics. That's because men of power hate to share it. Power and corruption might as well be synonymous. To cover up this obvious fact, men of power in a democracy call themselves public servants. But one man's public servant is another's fascist dictator. In the eyes of right-wing racists, Obama is another Hitler.
*
It has been said that a good diplomat can charm a cobra. If only our diplomats had been as good as our carpet dealers.
*
Confucius: “Oppressive government is worse than a tiger.”
*
We disagree like people who have tasted blood. We behave like sharks even if our opponent is a sardine. Which may explain our abuse of writers. I am not voicing a theory, just summing up the history of our literature.


***************************************************
PLAGIARISM
*******************************************
Shahnour once accused Siamanto of plagiarism and quoted chapter and verse.
Oshagan accused Zarian of plagiarism too but without quoting chapter and verse.
Perhaps because Oshagan thought of himself as the best and refused to consider the possibility of anyone else being as good or even better without foul play.
Sometimes I too am accused of plagiarism minus chapter and verse. But I don't mind pleading guilty as charged.
Nothing I write is original.
Everything I say has been said before if not in the Bible than by Plato.
All I do is paraphrase, expand, and emphasize.
Bertrand Russell used to say that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato. Plato has been accused of being a fascist. There are those who believe Heidegger to be the greatest philosophy of the last century. Not only was he a fascist but also a member of the Nazi party. A coincidence?
It has also been said that if you want to have an idea of infinity, think of human ignorance. Even better, think of human history where ideas are translated into action – that is to say, wars, revolutions, and massacres.
No one wants war, except of course deranged megalomaniacs and their dupes who seem to have their way every time.
How to explain that?
Or rather, what must be done?
This simple question has a simple answer but no one seems to listen or care. Homo sapiens seems to be more easily seduced by lies than by truth – namely that, all men are brothers. And because I say and repeat as much, I am accused of plagiarism. But I shouldn't complain. Far better men than myself have been crucified or assassinated for uttering that blasphemy.


***************************************************
AUTISM
*********************************
There is an element of autism in even the mildest form of nationalism or patriotism, and autism is defined as “a state of mind characterized by daydreaming, hallucinations, and disregard of external reality.”
It is autism that leads some people to believe they belong to a superior race or they are God's chosen people.
It was autism that led our revolutionaries in the Ottoman empire to believe we were invulnerable because the Great Powers of the West were on our side.
It is autism (what else?) that makes us believe we are survivors par excellence. So what if the best perished and it is the worst that survived?
*
Since I have been a dupe most of my life, I don't particularly care to be duped even if it is for the enhancement of my own self-esteem or for some other nebulous or poorly defined term whose aim is to make me disregard or ignore my perception of reality, and reality tells me in no uncertain terms that God doesn't choose, men do, and when men do the choosing, they invariably choose themselves.


***************************************************
COMPROMISE
*********************************
To reach a consensus, one must compromise, and compromise has been defined as “the introduction of inconsistency to closed minds.”
The key qualifier here is “closed minds.”
Another symptom of closed minds is to think of criticism as negative and of propaganda as positive. Or to view political speeches and flattery as patriotic and to reject objective assessment and analysis as treason. Also to think of free speech not as a fundamental human right but as a crime against humanity.
Our history is clear on this point.
No writer has ever been in a position to silence a boss, bishop, or benefactor.
And now consider the manner in which we treated our best writers from Abovian to Zarian.
A nation addicted to lies may survive, but can it live?
*
We have become a nation of cynics as defined by Oscar Wilde – people “who know the price of everything but the value of nothing.”
I doubt if there is a single Armenian today who has not heard of Gulbenkian, Kirkorian, or Manoogian. But how many have read or even heard of Massikian, one of our three most brilliant satirists – the other two being Baronian and Odian.
Once more I am reminded of my favorite literary anecdote which I never tire of retelling because it so beautifully exposes the dark side of our ethos. When on his deathbed, community leaders asked him to leave his estate (Massikian was also a successful lawyer, a wealthy man, and a lifelong bachelor) to an Armenian educational foundation, he is said to have replied: “I'd much rather leave it to a Cairo bordello.”


***************************************************
THERAPY
*********************************
How do you convince someone that he may be smart in the marketplace but a retard in politics?
In psychology, there is a school of thought that believes in “aversion therapy,” which consists in exposing the patient into repellence against his neurotic convictions.
By saying and repeating that we have been moronized into thinking we are smart not just in the marketplace but in all fields of human endeavor, I emphasize not the negative, as some of my critics accuse me of doing, but I engage in the practice of aversion therapy.
I do this because that's how I acquired my objectivity on this issue.
Once, when I said “Armenians are smart” to an alienated Armenian academic (may he rest in peace) whom I respected, he for the first time in our many conversations literally lost his temper, and that made such a powerful impression on me that I suddenly saw very clearly the absurdity of my assertion and the systematic way in which I had been turned into a dupe by our propagandists.
If so far I have failed to expose the lies of our nationalists by aversion therapy, it may be because most ideas, even the best, fail. Violence continues to be popular in films as well as politics notwithstanding Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.
And consider what happened to Marx and his ideas.


***************************************************
POLITICS
*********************************
To support a leader simply because he is “our” leader is a fascist concept. So is obeying laws because “the law is the law.” To be subservient to a system because “you can't fight City Hall” is not good citizenship but cowardly subservience. We owe all our freedoms and privileges today to men who dared to say “No!” to incompetent or corrupt leaders.
*
LITERATURE
*******************************
We have two kinds of writers: those who look backward (Mesrob Mashdots, Vartan Mamikonian, Turks and massacres) and those who tell us looking backward has turned us into “pillars of salt.” This has been said before and it bears repeating. And I will go on repeating it even if it means being ostracized, unpublished, called “consistently negative,” and “an enemy agent.”
*
PROPAGANDA
*******************************
Propaganda does not solve problems, it creates them. The illusion of moral superiority, for instance, or the illusion that God takes sides in human conflicts is worse than propaganda; it is a Big Lie and a curse that has destroyed nations and empires and continues to do so in our own days. We are people like any other people because “all men are brothers.”
*
RELIGION
*****************************
In POWER AND GREED: A SHORT HISTORY OF THE WORLD by Philippe Gigantes (London, 2002) I read the following: “Very early in human history, the autocrat with the big club and the witch doctor with his potions and maledictions, became natural allies. The one with the big club organized the hunt and the defense of the territory. The sorcerer took care of the uncontrollable, the unpredictable and the inexplicable – he took care of God, in other words. The two, king and priest, in modern parlance, ran the tribe through the fear of violence and the fear of 'God.' In that tribal system, they each took a much bigger share of everything.”
To which I will only add: “Nothing further, Your Honor.”


***************************************************
INFIDELS
*********************************
Muslims call us infidels. But, it seems to me, the real infidels are Muslims who slaughter other Muslims, and I am not talking about Muslim warriors killing other Muslim warriors but bloodthirsty fanatics killing innocent women and children.
*
Imams share with our bishops and bosses the false assumption that to divide and rule might as well be synonymous. They are too blind to see that their real enemy is themselves; and that a war fought on two fronts against a united enemy is doomed to end in defeat.
*
Let others speak of the long arm of the law. Ours, which was short to begin with, has been amputated.
*
Winston Churchill: “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”
Where were our “rough men” when we needed them most?
Did we ever have them?
*
The fewer the number of “rough men,” the greater the number of sermonizers, speechifiers, and ghazetajis.


***************************************************
REFLECTIONS
*********************************
We live as though we will never die
and when death knocks on the door
we pretend it's Beethoven's 5th.
*
You want to know why I stress the negative?
Because whenever I take a closer look at a positive,
it reveals itself as propaganda.
*
There are no shortcuts to Golgotha.
*
Civil wars too are fought in the name of patriotism.
*
In theory – truth.
In practice – lies.
A great deal is lost in translation.
*
The difference between mathematics and life is that
in life to solve a problem very often means
creating more of them.
*
Literature: Art irritating life.
*
Life is a harsh taskmaster and being a fool
is a luxury no one,
not even the most powerful man on earth,
can afford.


***************************************************
IT HAS BEEN SAID...
*********************************
“He who speaks does not know.
He who knows does not speak.”
Does that mean mankind would have been better off
without Socrates, Plato, Christ, and Gandhi?
*
It has also been said:
“Take everything you hear with a grain of salt.”
Why salt? To make the lie more palatable?
*
“He who speaks does not know?”
What if that's only in reference to propagandists and their dupes?
*
There are those who say God does not speak
because He has already said
what must be said, and if our problems persist
it's not His fault but ours.
Does that mean both victimizers and victims
must share responsibility for their (in)actions?
Does that means a child that is raped and murdered
by a cold-blooded serial killer
must share the killer's guilt?
*
Instead of saying
“Give us this day our daily bread,”
the rich should say
“Give us this day our share of compassion.”
And we should all say:
“Our Father, Who art in Heaven,
why don't you come down on earth once in a while?”


***************************************************
DEMONOLOGY
*********************************
If you are not with us, you are against us.
If you are against us, you are against God.
If you are against God, you are with the Devil.
That's not theology but demonology.
One could even say, theological dogmas are the inventions of the Devil.
Hence the countless innocent victims...
*
Loyalty, when it is obedience of the powerless to the powerful, it is a one-way street.
*
Idiots who think they are smart: they are my favorite sources of inspiration. Our world is full of them...and they are full of it. I speak from experience. I was one of them myself. In the eyes of God I still am -- I use the word God as a point of reference that is invisible, inaccessible, incomprehensible, but Almighty.
*
The most powerful people in the history of mankind – those who changed the world and continue to do so -- men like Christ, Marx, and Einstein – were born, raised, and lived without power. They did not command armies and they were not part of a power structure or bureaucracy. Think about that next time you say you cannot cook pilaf with words. Remember, it took a three-letter equation to incinerate Hiroshima.


***************************************************
UNDERSTANDING HISTORY
*********************************
Some of our ablest writers lacked the faculty of understanding history or of seeing “the other side of the hill” (to use a military metaphor) or “the angularity of time” (Sartre). Face to face with history, even our realists remained romantics at heart. They were more influenced by French literature and less by real events that made headlines in the international press. I am not talking of prophetic insight or vision but simply of deciphering the writing on the wall. I am talking of a myopia so advanced that it might as well have been blindness.
Consider Zohrab as a case in point, without any doubt one of our most sophisticated, experienced, and politically savvy observers of the Ottoman scene. And yet, instead of warning his readers of the coming catastrophe, he wrote fiction about adulterous women, golden-hearted prostitutes, and the death of a salesman. He wrote a pamphlet about the Hamidian massacres, true, but he saw them not as preludes to a greater tragedy but as aberrations that if exposed may not be repeated. His naïve faith in the Ottoman power structure was such that he even saved the life of the future architect of the Genocide by risking his own. If one were to compile profiles of famous Armenian dupes, surely Zohrab would qualify as the greatest of them all.
As for Baronian and Odian: they wrote about the moral bankruptcy of the Armenian community and ignored the apocalypse looming on the horizon.
If the sins of our intellectuals were sins of omission, those of our political leadership were sins of commission. Instead of doing their utmost to prevent the coming catastrophe, they did the exact opposite: they did their best to provoke it.
History repeats itself today. Our academics and pundits prefer to speak of past massacres and are blind to the “spitak chart” (white slaughter) or assimilation in the Diaspora and mass exodus from the Homeland.
It seems to me, we worry too much about our identity and not enough about our soul, and “what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”


***************************************************
NOTES & COMMENTS
*********************************
Talaat and Stalin murdered two generations of our best writers. We cannot forget that. But it seems we have forgotten or we don't even like to mention the fact that there is more than one way to slaughter a writer and we are not as innocent as we pretend to be.
*
There are two kinds of Armenians: those who think and those who recycle propaganda. Those who recycle propaganda speak louder and they are never wrong; and armed with that conviction, they persecute and silence anyone who dares to think for himself. Examples from the past: writers from Abovian to Zarian.
*
You can always rely on an Armenian to justify his selfish interests with a verbal avalanche of noble principles and ideals. In the words of a friend: "After fattening themselves on the blood of the innocent and the helpless, our Count Draculas are good at delivering lectures on the virtues of vegetarianism."
*
Celine was a notorious anti-Semite but he is viewed as a great writer even by some Jews (among them Philip Roth) because he had enough hatred in him to cover most of mankind, including his fellow countrymen, about whom he had this to say: “Vicious and spineless, raped, robbed, gutted, and always halfwits. That's France and that's the French.”
*
Beethoven suffered horribly over his deafness, but I doubt if anyone listening to his music thinks of it. I don't. The things that mean most to us may not even register on someone else's consciousness.


***************************************************
MISTAKES
*********************************
Because I was not a gentleman, I assumed everybody else was. That was a big mistake.
*
If instead of ten thousand belief systems mankind had adopted the Socratic dictum “The only thing I know is that I don't know,” or “Of the gods we know nothing,” history would not have been an endless horror story.
*
The two most frequently abused words in all languages are “I think.” When a brainwashed idiot or, for that matter, a man of faith (but I repeat myself) begins a sentence with the words “I think,” he should be interrupted and informed that perjury is a serious criminal offense.
*
The exercise of power over the powerless is an insult. Hence Hamlet's phrase “the insolence of office.” As for law and order: I am reminded of the Roman saying: “They make a desert and call it peace.”
*
No matter how you describe me, there will be some truth in it. But this is true of all men. We are not a single person but a crowd. There is a particle of all men, both dead and alive, in all of us.


curse
*************************
COMMENTS
****************************************
The history of deceivers and their dupes has a beginning (the Serpent and Eve) but no end.
*
If we have not been taken in by Patagonians and Zulus it's because we have at no time dealt with them.
*
In the latest issue of the NEW YORKER dealing with the Internet I read: “...pervasive anonymity (which encourages bullying and moblike behavior)...”
*
When I was young I went out of my way to make friends. In my old age I am much better at making enemies. The friends I made were not always worthy of friendship. As for my enemies, I will say this: they make solitude a glorious experience.
*
How much of what we know today would be reduced to ignorance if we were to see reality through the eyes of God?
*
Greed makes a man more cunning as well as stupid: more cunning in his employment of means to achieve his end, and more stupid in thinking he can hide his greed.
*
THOREAU SPEAKS
**************************************
“The man I meet with is not often so instructive as the silence he breaks.”
*
“Society: Pigs in a litter, which lie close together to keep each other warm.”


*************************
ON LEADERSHIP & NATIONAL IDENTITY
*********************************************
Unlike American “birthers” who believe Obama is a Muslim double agent born in Kenya, I have no interest in questioning the national identity of our leaders some of whom may well be of mixed parentage. But I have every right to question their honesty. So much so that the expression “an honest Armenian leader” sounds to me as absurd as saying the sun rises in the West or one plus one makes eleven.
Speaking for myself: I'd much rather be ruled by an honest Zulu, Patagonian, or even Turk than a pure-blooded Armenian (assuming such a one exists) who speaks with a forked tongue.
*
About the irrelevance of national identity in political leadership: some of the most competent Byzantine emperors spoke Greek with a foreign accent for the simple reason that they were of Armenian descent.
*
To repeat what we have heard is not to say what we think.
*
Honest Armenians prefer to be silent. The louder the speech, the bigger the lies.
When one of our sermonizers died of cancer of the tongue, a friend who was personally acquainted with him said: “That's because he spoke too many lies.”
*
To quote someone does not always mean to agree with him but to point out a different perception of reality.


***************************************************
THE OTTOMAN CURSE
*********************************
Like all imperial powers, the Turks adopted divide-and-rule tactics in their dealings with us and they appear to have succeeded so brilliantly that we remain divided long after their empire collapsed. Think about that next time you say Armenians are smart.
*
Explaining a phenomenon is easy. What is hard is dealing with it. Armenian literature has failed to convince our leaders in that endeavor. Hence the contempt for our vodanavorjis and scribblers.
*
The dumbest Armenian is capable of inflicting the deepest wounds and the smartest Armenian can voice the dumbest opinions.
*
One reason why our wheeler-dealers – unlike our writers -- have prospered and no doubt will continue to prosper is that they can pretend to be idealistic, committed, and principled much more convincingly than honest men.


*************************
EXPOSING A MYTH
*************************************
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie – deliberate, continued, and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, pervasive, and unrealistic.” John F. Kennedy
*
There is a type of Armenian patriotism that believes in covering up the incompetence, corruption, and even the criminal conduct of our leadership on the grounds that, if exposed, our image as a nation may be harmed in the eyes of the world.
*
Earthquakes, we are told, are acts of God. But victims of earthquakes are not. Earthquakes don't kill people. Buildings do. How many of our contractors and commissars in charge of constructions are in jail today? What guarantee do we have that the next earthquake, which may happen in ten or twenty years, will not kill many more victims?
*
Our phony patriots are against hanging our dirty laundry out in the open for everyone to see. Americans, on the other hand, believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Who is right?
Who knows better?
*
To those who say I should write in Armenian for Armenian papers, and not in English in open forums: Our writers from Khorenatsi and Yeghishé (5th century) to Zarian and Massikian (20th century) have done exactly that without any discernible results.
When Zarian assumed a critical stance, he was silenced, driven out of the United State and into Soviet Armenia, where he became an abominable no man. There are even those who accuse him today of having been an agent of the KGB and the CIA, and worse, that in his final phase he went mad.
*
Generally speaking the average Armenian dupe respects our bosses, bishops, and benefactors much more than our scribblers and vodanavorjis. Bosses, bishops, and benefactors are perceived as men of power, God, and capital (make it, Capital and god). What do scribblers and vodanavorjis do? They try to cook pilaf with words. Let the buggers shut up; and if they refuse, let them starve! Serve them right.
*
In our environment today Turcocentric ghazetajis are more respected and compensated than writers, even if after a century of verbiage (letters to the editor, commentaries, essays in the foreign press, not to say treatises, documentaries, symposia, and textbooks), they have failed to resurrect a single victim, annex a single inch of historic Armenia, or collect a single red cent as reparation.
When writers fail, they do so on their own and at their own expense. The same cannot be said of our ghazetajis, speechifiers, propagandists, and their assorted fund-raisers and bloodsuckers who survive and prosper by victimizing victims all over again, as if, once a victim, always a victim were their jagadakir.
Amot!


*************************
DIARY
*************************************
Asked if he had seen Mozart's DON GIOVANNI, Casanova is said to have replied: “Seen it? I have lived it.” Which reminds me of a similar line in reference to Reagan's longevity as president. When asked if he had heard of Marco Polo, he is said to have replied: “Heard of him? I knew him!”
*
An old tactic that seldom fails: when cornered in an argument, assume the air of someone with a large store of inside information not available to ordinary laymen like your adversary, and proceed to lie your head off.
*
Free and fair elections are probably known by corrupt regimes (like our own) as an American disease.
*
It is fashionable to blame the Yanks for dropping the first bomb on Hiroshima. No one says, Thank God the Japs didn't have it first. And some day in the near or distant future if history repeats itself and the bomb is dropped on Muslim fanatics, they will call it a crime against humanity until they realize the only reason Muslims didn't drop the bomb on New York City or Washington or Paris is that they didn't have it.
*
An unspoken Armenian mantra: “Tell me what I want to hear and I will believe it even if you happen to be an habitual and compulsive liar.”
*
A nation that places propaganda above literature is doomed.


*************************
WINNING AN ARGUMENT --
ARMENIAN STYLE
*************************************
Another tactic that never fails is to make an assertion so untenable and asinine as to make your adversary give up in despair and disgust. Three examples of such assertions that have been leveled against me follow:
“Armenians are incapable of hatred.”
“The only reason people quit their homeland and emigrate to foreign countries is greed for more money.”
“Criticizing Armenians in English in an open forum on the Internet is akin to treason.”
*
Armenians cannot engage in dialogue because their aim is not to get at the truth or to learn from one another's experience and understanding but to assert their intellectual prowess by being invincible in argument. So what if in the process they expose themselves as inbred morons? For perennial losers, victory trumps all other considerations.
*
We like to speak of “the Armenian wound.” What we carefully avoid mentioning is that more often than not this so-called wound is self-inflicted.
If we are at the mercy of unprincipled mediocrities today it's because we betrayed two generations of our ablest men to alien authorities. We could not betray all of them because in the Diaspora free speech is not thought of as a capital offense.
As a result, those who survived were either silenced or treated as parasites and nonentities whose sole contribution to our welfare as a nation has been empty verbiage. After all, who has ever heard of a chef who can cook pilaf and shish-kebab with words?
*
It has been said that for the shoeless, happiness is a pair of shoes, not the complete works of Shakespeare. Likewise, for the starving, happiness is a loaf of bread, not the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. And now that we are neither shoeless nor starving, can we really say we are a success as a nation or a diaspora because we are progressive, civilized and smart? And if we are smart, why do we take pleasure in uttering inanities?


*************************
ARE JIHADISTS PARAGONS OF VIRTUE?
****************************************************
How does a jihadist justify the slaughter of innocent civilians?
Easy!
“My imam tells me if I act in the name of Allah I will be rewarded with a harem of virgins in paradise.”
*
ARE ARMENIANS SMART?
*****************************************
How does an Armenian justify his stupidity?
Easier.
“Everyone knows Armenians are smart. Whatever I say must therefore be smart. Those who disagree with me are ignoramuses.”
Correction!
Everyone does not know Armenians are smart for the simple reason that everyone does not even know we exist because they tend to confuse us with Romanians and Aramaeans. The very few who think we are smart, they mean smart only in the marketplace or as rug merchants.
*
WOMEN IN LOVE
**********************************
In a biography of Patricia Highsmith, author of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (filmed by Hitchcock and partly scripted by Raymond Chandler) we read: “For most of the 1940s Pat never stops falling in love with women – sometimes for no more than an hour or an evening.” (See THE TALENTED MISS HIGHSMITH: THESECRET LIFE AND SERIOUS ART OF PATRICIA HIGHSMITH, [New York, 2009, page 569].)
*
In a recent issue of LE POINT (Paris, January 2010) one of Brigitte Bardot's old lovers reminisces: “I was 18 when I first met her. She was then a famous star pursued by paparazzi. At one point she whispered to me: 'Listen, I don't go to bed with someone I am not in love with.' Ten minutes later she added: 'But, you know, I can fall in love three times in a single day.'”


*************************
BORN-AGAIN
****************************************
Somewhere Sartre describes the process whereby a man passively accepts values invented by others as “kneeling down like an animal to be loaded with them.” In other words, to die as a man and be born again as a jackass.
*
In everything I write I try to understand and explain myself hoping thus to understand my fellow men and the world around me. As for changing the world: even when one succeeds in that particular endeavor, one may fail in many others. Consider Marx's dream and the reality of the Soviet Union. If Marx had been a contemporary of Stalin, my guess is either he would have committed suicide or written a treatise in praise of capitalism.
*
Whenever I am insulted anonymously, I say to myself: Let's give the devil his due. Obviously the man knows how to read. He may not always understand what he reads but he has taken an important first step. It would be a mistake to give up on him. In a year or two, or in ten or twenty years, his understanding may catch up with his reading skills. Rome wasn't built in one day. My own understanding took longer than twenty years to reach the present point. What right do I have to make greater demands on others?


*************************
THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
****************************************
The most valuable thoughts are those that contradict our emotions.
*
When I wrote what they wanted to read, I was happy and they were happy, until I read Einstein's remark to the effect that to aim at happiness at the expense of truth is to entertain “the ambitions of a pig.”
*
ON SOLUTIONS
********************************
The first step is the realization that, like the kingdom of God, solutions too are within you.
*
MEMO TO READERS
WHO INSULT ME ANONYMOUSLY
************************************************
Your own shadow is a much more serious threat to you than I could ever be. But then, cowards don't need a real threat to experience fear, for their greatest enemy is their own imagination.
*
TOYNBEE'S CONCEPTION OF REALITY
*************************************************
“Every human being now alive has links, however tenuous, not only with every one of his contemporaries, but also with every other human being that has ever lived. In this sense human history is one single seamless web, and any dissection of it is an arbitrary misrepresentation of Reality.”
*
MAX WEBER ON MODERN MAN
*********************************************
“Specialists without vision, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved.”


*************************
MIKOYAN
*********************
In his 1959:THE YEAR EVERYTHING CHANGED (New Jersey, 2009), Fred Kaplan devotes an entire chapter to Mikoyan's 1959 visit to America. A man of “blunt words, crackling wit, and unfailing good humor,” Mikoyan is also said to have been followed by Hungarian demonstrators who called him “mass murderer!” We also read here that Khrushchev affectionately called him “my Armenian,” and my “rug merchant.”
*
ON NATIONALISM
***********************************
The trouble with nationalists is that they will be as divided as multinationalists because everyone will have his own conception of nation and patriotism that will stand in direct contradiction to another's. Hence the frequency and inevitability of civil wars.
*
SPENGLER ON DEMOCRACY
**************************************
“A small number of superior heads, whose names are very likely not the best-known, settle everything, while below them are the great mass of second-rate politicians selected through a provincially-conceived franchise to keep alive the illusion of popular self-determination.”
This may explain the popularity of conspiracy theories.
*
VERSIONS OF THE PAST
****************************************
Nationalist historians tend to be good at telling one side of the story: their own. The same applies to historians with an ideological or religious ax to grind. Which is why there are as many versions of the past as there are ideologies, religions, nations, tribes, and schools of thought, all of whom assert to have a monopoly on truth.
To say therefore that our own version of the past is true but the French, Russian, American, British, Patagonian, or, for that matter, Turkish versions of their own past is false, is to bury our heads in the sand.


*************************
MORE ONE-LINERS
****************************************
To be a fool means to be at the mercy of worse fools who think they are smart.
*
The lower on the totem pole you are, the more subject to checks and balances you will be.
*
Faceless bureaucrats follow rules not because they believe in them but because their only concern is their source of income.
*
When sacred cows are in charge, they will criminalize the consumption of shish-kebab.
*
The truth? Let us say, we may never know it and as human beings we were not meant to know it. All we can hope to do is move in its direction by discarding half-truth and lies.
*
Everything makes sense if you find the right explanation.
*
The aim of all religions and ideologies is to make you say "Yes, sir!"
*
In theory, religion is meant to civilize; but in practice what it does is legitimize barbarism.
*
To acquire a faith is not the same as to see the light.


*************************
DIARY
****************************************
There are two Armenians mentioned in Cheever's biography: one of them is a loud-mouth phony and the other Saroyan and his “tax problems.” Elsewhere we are informed Saroyan was popular in communist countries and “all but forgotten in the West.”
Cheever and Updike were thought to be good friends but in his diary Cheever had this to say about him: “He describes erections so exhaustively that he's beginning to look like a big prick with a hair-piece” -- a remark that probably hastened Updike's death.
*
Those who say “We need solutions,” want nothing of the kind because solutions may expose them as dupes or frauds.
*
Politics seems to attract the kind of people whose role model is not Gandhi but Don Corleone.
*
A good fraction of mankind today makes a comfortable living by deceiving their fellow men.”
*
One should judge a religion not by its theology but by its history, which also means, by its crimes against humanity.
*
If I repeat myself it may be because our blunders keep repeating themselves and not repeating myself would amount to either giving up or covering up.


*************************
IF...
****************************************
If the West were to adopt the methods of the Ottoman Empire, all Muslims within its borders would be deported to Siberia, Sahara, and even Antarctica. This may still happen if things get worse instead of better.
When civilizations clash it is not always the most civilized that prevails but the most ruthless. Democracy and respect for human rights may be noble principles, but life-and-death situations demand not moderate measures but ruthless tactics.
It is true that most Muslims, perhaps even the overwhelming majority, are not for terrorism, they may even be against it, but so were Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I and Jews in Europe during World War II.
Some of us may not live long enough to witness this apocalyptic denouement. That does not mean it may never happen. On the contrary, it may even be thought of as inevitable.


*************************
FRAGMENTS
****************************************
As children we are brought up not to questions the words and conduct of adults. The trouble is, some of us never quite grow up. That's the only way to explain the popularity of men like Hitler, Stalin, and Mao (who is said to have slaughtered more people than the other two combined, or so I read in today's paper).
One could sum up the work of all great thinkers with two words: “Grow up!” Or, as the Scriptures tell us: “When one grows up, one should put aside the toys of one's childhood.”
*
I am a man without a country and without a neighborhood, if one defines a neighborhood not as a collection of houses but of homes. Every house in which I have lived at one time or another has been torn down by either war or real-estate developers; only my alma mater stands but it is no longer an educational institution but a cheap motel. As for my present neighborhood where I have lived for fifty years: the old are either dead or in nursing homes; the young have moved on to better neighborhoods or have been arrested on drug charges and taken away never to be seen again, and the immigrants have returned to their homeland.
*
Gresham's Law, named after the 16th-century English merchant Sir Thomas Gresham, states, "Bad money drive out good money," meaning: adulterated gold drives out pure gold, for the simple reason that it is cheaper. By extension, opportunists drive out men of principle, and mediocrities drive out those who seek to achieve excellence.
*
An extension of Gresham's Law: Evil knows how to organize itself because it appeals to the selfish instincts of the majority.
*
Likewise, recycled crap drives out objective judgment, and hoodlums and their verbal abuse drive out dialogue.


*************************
AN HONEST ANSWER
***************************************************
Asked how he had managed to survive the Stalinist purges when so many of his contemporaries had perished, Avedik Issahakian is said to have replied: “By applauding the murderers.”
For more on this remarkable interview, see Antranig Chalabian, DRO (DRASTAMAT KANAYAN), page 269.
*
To be read by friendly readers: nothing unusual in that.
To be read by hostiles: That’s where the money is,
because it means being allowed the opportunity
to introduce thoughts where none exist.
*
Even after you prove to him that his position is untenable,
an Armenian will go on defending it to the bitter end,
like a captain going down with the ship.
That’s his way of asserting his manhood.
I don’t write for readers whose central concern is their own manhood.
That would be like writing about hallucinations.


*************************
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
****************************************
Even when we speak of others, we speak of ourselves.
*
Martin Luther (1483-1546): "I am more afraid of my own heart than of the Pope and his cardinals. I have within me the great Pope, Self."
*
If the Turks say what really matters is only their side of the story, we should not say the same about our side of the story.
*
The cruelest thing that has happened to Armenian writers after they were systematically and ruthlessly slaughtered by Talaat and Stalin was to become dependent on the charity of swine.
*
There are those who think membership in a party qualifies them as experts on Armenian history, culture, and human nature.
*
I believe in progress. I believe in human perfectibility. I believe in the ultimate triumph of reason. These are my three greatest illusions.
*
I wish God existed so that He would punish all those who dared to speak in His name.
*
To speak the truth privately but not publicly is to compound the felony of perjury with cowardice.
*
Gordon W. Allport: "Many studies have discovered a close link between prejudice and patriotism. Extreme bigots are almost always super-patriots."
*
It is only by confronting our dark side that we may see the light.
*
Commissars and mullahs are philistines, that is to say, killers who adopt an ideology or religion to legitimize their killer instincts.
*
It is the height of non sequitur to call Turks barbarians and to demand justice from them.
*
There will come a time when people will reject all religions and ideologies simply because imams and commissars believe in them.
*
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), political philosopher: "Under conditions of tyranny it is far easier to act than to think."
*
Kingsley Amis (1922-1995), English novelist: "If you can't annoy somebody with what you write, I think there's little point in writing."


*************************
ONE-LINERS
****************************************
A good diplomat can charm a cobra or it takes one to know one.
*
“Armenians of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your dividers.” What if this slogan succeeds only in producing our own Stalin?
*
My favorite genre: brevity.
*
To be self-righteous and to be wrong might as well be synonymous.
*
Arrogance allows a man to think he has all the answers even when none of them is right.
*
To be sure means to ignore one's doubts.
*
One way to define freedom of speech is by saying even the ablest statesman is not qualified to tell even the worst scribbler what to write.
*
The spirit of contradiction in some Armenians is so highly developed that if you were to agree with them they would disagree with you.
*
It is now time that we think of lamentation and hatred as experiments that failed and try another approach.


*************************
METAPHYSICS
***************************************************
Disagreement is inevitable when we search for meaning in the meaningless, or
when we reduce an infinite number of factors into only a handful.
*
We say God is on our side when we want to do the Devil's work.
*
The visible is one; it is the invisible that is legion.
*
Newspapers write more about criminals than law-abiding citizens. Doctors deal more with the sick than with the healthy. And critics deal more with deceivers than with honest men. I am not consistently negative; our reality is.
*
What will save us is neither our conception of patriotism nor our degree of self-esteem but our courage to confront and deal with reality.


*************************
A STORY WITH MORALS
***************************************************
Three friends in a tavern were arguing about the greatest evil in the world, and since they were not Armenian, they were able to reach a consensus: Death, they decided, was the greatest evil. Next they also agreed to search for Death and kill him. During their long search they met an old man who told them where Death lived. They followed the old man's directions but instead of Death they found a pot of gold. To celebrate their good fortune, one of them went to fetch a bottle of wine. While he was gone, the two friends decided to kill him to have his share of gold too. And as soon as he returned they fell on him and killed him, drank the poisoned wine, and they died, because the same idea had occurred to their victim.
MORAL I: If you look for Death, long before you find him, he will find you.
MORAL II: If after a long search you find what you were looking for, you will wish you had not found it.
MORAL III: Gold and friendship are mutually exclusive concepts.


*************************
ARMENIAN PHILOSOPHY
***************************************************
To express his contempt for me, one of our Turcocentric ghazetajis once called me a “philosopher.” It is true, philosophy has at no time been a favorite subject of ours. Our most famous medieval philosopher, David Anhaght, is remembered for his invincibility in argument, not his originality of ideas. And as far as I know, none of our academics (of which we have over a thousand) has ever produced a text on 20th-century Armenian philosophy, probably because it is not easy to write about nothing. If I were to sum up the dominant philosophical idea of the past century, it would have to be “I hate Turks, therefore I am.”
*
AN AMERICAN FALLACY
**********************************************
With big bucks, you can hire the best brains. But only the kind of brains willing to be subservient to big bucks.
*
THIS AND THAT
*********************************
I love my fellow Armenians as much as a good Christian loves his executioner -- with one difference: I am not a good Christian.
*
Speaking of good Christians: There are those who define a good Muslim as one who goes about murdering infidels. Christians used to do that too but not anymore. These days some good Christians murder only homosexuals, Blacks, abortionists, Jews, and Communists – remember the slogan, “Kill a commie for Christ”).
*
It is a well-known fact that swine don't have self-esteem problems.


*************************
INSANITY
***************************************************
Somewhere Jung explains that there is a woman in every man and a man in every woman, and that this becomes apparent when one reaches middle age.
I once had a friend (may he rest in peace) who believed one reaches middle age only by adopting some form of insanity.
Whereas I am of the opinion that we are born and raised into an insane world and we survive only by adapting ourselves to it.
(To be noted: Jung harbored pro-Nazi sentiments.)
*
Under the Sultan, our writers were free to tear our institutions to shreds. Under our own mini-sultans they are free to do so too but only to the opposition and to brainwash children into believing their side is good, the other bad.
*
I have never been psychoanalyzed. One could say avoiding shrinks is a luxury only the poor can afford.
*
Whenever I think I am smart, I remind myself of the number of times I have been taken in by idiots.
*
To believe in miracles is bad enough. To believe one is worthy of them is infinitely worse.


*************************
OUR REVOLUTIONARIES
***************************************************
Their dreams were too big,
their ability to realize them too small,
and their faith in the West misplaced.
Result: the perfect storm of genocide.
*
MY CRITICS
******************************
They are unanimous in letting me know that
I should bugger off,
get a life, and
mind my own business.
And may I confess that there are times
when I am tempted to do exactly that.
What keeps me going?
Perhaps Abovian knew better.
Instead of getting a life,
he chose death – either that
or death chose him.
*
CHILDHOOD
*************************************
They were so sure of what they were doing
and I was so confused and uncertain
as to why I felt as I did
that it never even occurred to me to ask:
“Why are you doing this to me?”


*************************
FROM THE MOUTH OF BABES & COMEDIANS
***************************************************
George Carlin: “Traditional American values: Genocide, aggression, conformity, emotional repression, hypocrisy, and the worship of comfort and consumer goods.”
*
RISE & FALL
******************************
In his STUDY OF HISTORY, Toynbee writes: “A growing civilization can be defined as one which the components of its culture [economic, political, intellectual, scientific, etc.] are in harmony with one another; and, on the same principle, a disintegrating civilization can be defined as one in which these same elements have fallen into discord.”
You may now decide whether we are growing or disintegrating.
*
TWO KINDS OF MEN
*****************************************
“Hell is other people,” wrote Sartre. But according to his life-long friend-enemy, Merleau-Ponty: “When a man takes an oath to exist universally, concern for himself and concern for others become indistinguishable for him; he is a person among persons, and the others are other himselves. But if, on the contrary, he recognizes what is unique in incarnation lived from within, the other person necessarily appears to him in the form of torment, envy, or at least uneasiness.”
Wars, revolutions, and massacres are committed by Sartrian men. By contrast, great spiritual leaders from Socrates and Jesus to Gandhi and Schweitzer conform to Merleau-Ponty's definition of men who choose to “exist universally.”


*************************
THE ARMENIAN MESSIAH
***************************************************
About twenty years ago I met a doctor who thought only a book like the Bible can save us. “Why do you think Jews have survived for five thousand years?” he demanded.
Shortly thereafter he sent me a thick bundle of typewritten pages. After reading a few paragraphs I put it aside.
Will he finish writing it?
Will he find a publisher?
And if he does, will he find readers?
We are a nation of writers, not readers.
Once, when asked why I did not encourage young writers, I had no choice but to reply: “We need readers, not writers.”
Neither do we need charlatans with messianic ambitions.
Consider the case of our Turcocentric ghazetajis who seem to be totally unaware of the following facts:
(one) by stressing the important role Turks have played in shaping our destiny, they may be degrading the nation;
(two) by reminding us of our trauma, they may be crippling our resolve to move forward; and
(three) by looking backward they may run the risk of turning us into pillars of salt.
*
A trauma should be discussed but only in the context of overcoming it, not of making it a permanent condition.
One of our Turcocentric ghazetajis once said to me: “All I am doing is defending our rights.” Our rights should be defended, but not by monomaniacal idiots who pretend not to see the obvious, namely that the Turks are not the only ones who have violated our human rights.
As for the possibility that a book may save us: The Bible is not a “Jewish” book. It is first and foremost a human document. The experiences and ideas discussed in it (see below) have universal application.
We don't need a “nationalist” Bible to see the light.
There is nothing “Jewish” in the dictum
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” or
“Man does not live by bread alone,” or
“Set your house in order,” or
“Even a fool, when he keeps his mouth shut, may be thought of as wise,” or
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”


*************************
CHARITY
***************************************************
Did you know that doing charity work can be as profitable a business as working on Wall Street?
Chief executive officers of major charity organizations make millions. The official explanation is, “They know how to motivate people.”
What is it exactly that motivates these bloodsuckers, I wonder.
And if you think Armenian charity organizations are morally superior, think again. Ask an insider – if you know one – how much one of our own fund-raisers makes and be prepared to foam at the mouth with outrage.
Why is it that those who rely on our compassion are themselves such greedy bastards?
Why is it that those who pretend to be our betters are such unspeakable sh*ts?
Why is it that those who abuse me verbally on the grounds that my thoughts and feelings do not echo theirs have nothing to say about this kind of atrocity?
Once a dupe always a dupe?
There is no law that says if you were born a jerk you will die a jerk.
Dupes and jerks of the world unite, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
My guess is, if we knew what goes on behind closed doors, we would cancel our membership in the human race and consider joining a club of serial killers.


*************************
OBSERVATIONS
***************************************************
If our bosses, bishops, and benefactors are humorless, it may be because to be a pompous ass and to have a sense of humor are mutually exclusive concepts.
*
For the oppressed, freedom means the freedom to oppress. Which may explain why there is a great deal of Ottomanism in Armenianism.
*
Even when we are subservient to no one, we may continue to be subservient to a false image of ourselves imposed on us by others.
*
Is success conceivable in our environment?
Charents's final message of solidarity is quoted and ignored.
In a recent encounter with one of our bosses, he said something to the effect that the nation would have been better off without Naregatsi.
And whenever I paraphrase Raffi, I am accused of anti-Armenianism.
*
On the day I come to terms with our reality, I will probably say, “To each his own,” and fall silent.


*************************
VOODOO
***************************************************
Every branch of learning and activity
has its voodoo counterpart.
There is voodoo economics,
voodoo medicine,
and voodoo history.
Conspiracy theories belong to the voodoo branch of history.
So does anti-Semitism – sorry! I meant to say, anti-Zionism.
There is a conspiracy theory that says
Dick Cheney directed the Mossad
to bring down the World Trade Center.
There is another conspiracy theory that says
the Young Turks were Jews
or puppets of Jews,
or student of Jews.
There is another one,
which happens to be a favorite of mine, that says
the serpent in the Garden of Eden
was a CIA agent in disguise.
Conspiracy theories attract lunatics
as surely as sh*t attracts flies.
Our Turcocentric ghazetajis pretend to know
all there is to know about Turks
and our anti-Semites expect us to believe
they know more about Jews than most Jews.
Our dime-a-dozen pundits, speechifiers,
and sermonizers, and activists are
past masters of voodoo.
Where solidarity is essential, they divide.
Where honesty is a must,
they engage in charlatanism.
Where free speech and dialogue are required,
they are dead set against both.
And when things go wrong,
our voodoo pundits explain it
by pointing their finger on alien agencies.
That may explain why
we have been going backward instead of forward;
and even as we advance towards the abyss,
we are brainwashed to brag
about our genius for survival.
Figure that one out,
if you can – and please, no voodoo!


*************************
WWIII
***************************************************
You cannot win a war against an enemy who loves death more than life. The Japanese lost because the Yanks dropped the Bomb on them. If terrorists succeed in staging more 9/11-style attacks, the Yanks will have no choice but to elect a more warlike president who will not only carry a big stick but he will also use it.
*
I say what I think;
you say what you were told;
after which we go our separate ways.
That's dialogue, Armenian style.
*
In our Ottoman phase, no Armenian would ever dare to contradict a Turk.
In our diaspora today, no Armenian would ever dare to contradict a boss, bishop, or benefactor.
As the French are fond of saying, “Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme merde.”
*
My guess is, one reason our revolutionaries lost is that they were brought up to believe they were so smart they could do no wrong. Positive feedback may work in Oriental carpet dealership but is bound to be counterproductive in politics and international diplomacy where the competition is much stiffer.
*
We have enough gold in our communities (think of Gulbenkian, Krikorian, Manoogian, & Co.) for two Golden Ages. Instead, we wallow in the recycled crap of our Panchoonies and Jack S. Avanakians.


*************************
THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
***************************************************
We are a failed state.
Our “brainless” leaders have been successful only in one endeavor, that of brainwashing us to channel our discontent in the direction of the enemy.
As for our press, whose main function is to expose corruption and incompetence: its favorite motto is, “No polemics, please!”
Who the hell is talking about polemics?
I am talking about facts.
But facts are not facts to those who refuse to acknowledge them.
Case in point: our genocide is a fact to us.
It is a controversy to them.
See what I mean?
I once wrote a letter to an editor questioning a fact discussed in an editorial and I received the following answer: “We don't, as a rule, publish letters that are critical of our editorial.”
Anti-Turkish venom, no matter how predictable, repetitive, and tedious is in.
Armenian reality is out.
What Jews were to the Nazis, capitalists to communists, and Armenians to the Sultan and Talaat, Turks are to us. Turks are the alpha and omega of all our problems. That's the way it is with all rotten systems. They need scapegoats and when they can't find them, they invent them.
The Turks are guilty of a crime that was committed a century ago. They have nothing to do with our divisiveness, incompetence, and intolerance of dissent and dialogue. Only the blind leading the blind and their dupes refuse to see this.


BOOKS RECEIVED
**********************************************
THE DARK VALLEY: SHORT STORIES by Axel Bakounts, translated from the Armenian by Nairi Hakhverdi. Preface by Victoria Rowe. (London, 2008).
*
SOUTHERN FEVER: SHORT STORIES by Abig Avagyan. (Yerevan, 2002). (In Armenian)
*
HOMO DEI or A BIBLICAL STORY: A NOVEL and
CAVE STORIES or 1993: NOVELLAS by Karen A. Simonian (Yerevan, 2006). (In Armenian)
*
COLORS OF THE PRISM: COLLECTED REVIEWS, ARTICLES, AND DRAWINGS by Krikor Keusseyan (Watertown, 2009). (In Armenian)
*
DRO (DRASTAMAT KANAYAN): ARMENIA'S FIRST DEFENCE MINISTER OF THE MODERN ERA by Antranig Chalabian, Translated by Jack Chelebian. (Los Angeles, 2009).


*************************
SARTRE ON ASCETICS
***************************************************
“The ascetic is a man rich enough to choose his poverty freely.”
Good point.
Gandhi enjoyed the financial support of a wealthy Indian industrialist by the name of Birla, who once complained that Gandhi's poverty cost him a lot of money.
As for Tolstoy: he was a multimillionaire.
*
SARTRE ON HIMSELF
***********************************
“I turned rebel later only through having pushed submissiveness to the extreme.”
In my case, I became a dissident through having said “yes, sir!” to too many idiots.
*
If I knew my words mattered, I would be more careful in my choice of them.
*
One reason Armenian writers are willing to work for nothing is that the job has other compensations, one of them being deflating noxious gasbags.
*
THREATS
*******************************
I don't believe in Armenians who send me threatening e-mails anonymously. I believe if an Armenian can do me harm, he would have done it already.
*
AN UNFORTUNATE DEVELOPMENT
************************************************
As a result of the Genocide, we have become self-righteous fanatics not only in our dealings with the enemy, but also in our dealings with our fellow Armenians.
*
ON SURVIVAL
******************************
Survival is important. But what is even important is survival with honor. To stress the importance of survival at the expense of honor is to legitimize cowardice, opportunism, moral degradation, even treason and betrayal.


**********************************
ARMENIAN ANTI-SEMITISM
***************************************************
You may have noticed that some of our anti-Semites prefer to identify themselves as anti-Zionists probably because they know anti-Semitism to be an undeniable prejudice with a long history; whereas anti-Zionism is a recent geopolitical development, and as everyone knows by now, in politics it is legitimate to take sides.
What these gentlemen ignore is the fact that whenever Israel is mentioned, the number of our pundits on Middle-East politics suddenly goes up dramatically. Armenians who know little or nothing about their own history expect us to believe they know all there is to know about the complexities of the Middle East, on the assumption that their interlocutors must be even more ignorant than they. These Armenians, it seems, miss the good old days when Jews allowed themselves to be persecuted and exterminated. What they are against is sh*t-disturbing Zionists who made a mess of things.
I see parallels here between what our anti-Zionists think of Jews and what Turks thought of Armenians at the turn of the last century.
“When Armenians were loyal subjects of the Ottoman Empire – when, that is, they allowed us to fornicate with their daughters and to conscript their boys to fight and die in defense of the Empire -- we had nothing against them. We got along just fine. But then, some politically ambitious whipper-snappers had the temerity to make territorial demands on us. Don't blame us for what happened. Blame these greedy and ungrateful bastards who did not appreciate enough the protection, prosperity and all the freedoms they enjoyed in the Empire. We are not prejudiced. Never were. We are not racists. We love everyone and hate no one. But justice is justice and the law is the law.”


**********************************
SHISH-KEBAB
***************************************************
Freedom of speech means
the freedom of breaking taboos,
casting down idols,
and shish-kebabing sacred cows.
We are denied the fundamental human right of free speech
because, when sacred cows are in charge,
the first thing they do is
to criminalize the consumption of shish-kebab
and to legitimize the practice of cannibalism.
*
The more ignorant the speaker,
the more dogmatic his pronouncements.
*
Armenians argue not to reach a consensus
by means of compromise
but to settle a score with the Turks.
*
OUR TRAGEDY
*************************
After a fatal accident, they never say,
“Had I driven more defensively,
my family would be alive today.”
What they say and repeat is,
“It was the other's fault.
He is the guilty one!”


*************************
OIL
***************************************************
No one gives a damn about Muslims -- not even Muslims.
What they really care about is the oil.
As for us: Now, you tell me,
why should anyone give a damn?
Our cognac?
I have tasted it.
It tastes like arsenic.
If visiting diplomats and foreign statesmen say they like it,
it may be because they are compulsive liars.
Either that or they have no taste.
And the only reason some of them are willing to acknowledge our existence
is that we stand between them and Azeri oil.
As for members of the European Union
willing to acknowledge the reality of our genocide:
they do so because they need a reason to justify their anti-Turkish stance.
On the day Turkey becomes an economically self-sufficient and viable state,
they will open their arms to them.
They may even drop their pants and bend over.
That's politics for you.
That's taking care of numero uno
and to hell with truth, justice, human rights, and morality.
There is a lesson for us here.
Since no one gives a damn,
we have no choice but to rely on one another.
Amen.


**********************************
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
***************************************************
In Herman Melville I come across a new word:
“sultanism,” meaning the exercise of authority with a touch of sadistic pleasure.
*
A mediocrity will be subservient to any regime or power structure that gives him a regular salary, or a title, or a uniform, or the license to persecute better men than himself: there you have it, the root of our sultanism.
*
When one of Moliere’s characters first delivered the line
“A knowledgeable fool is a greater fool than an ignoramus!”
he no doubt alienated several members of the audience.
That’s the problem with good lines:
they tend to alienate self-satisfied jackasses.
*
There are many kinds of dupes, but the worst are those
who are easily seduced by the irresistible charm of their own arguments.
*
Great nations need big lies;
small nations need bigger lies.
*
After reading one of my things,
an old friend writes: “I am glad you continue to be a patriotic Armenian.”
I don’t have the heart to tell him that I loathe patriotism.
I love honest men and loathe charlatans regardless of nationality;
and some of the worst charlatans I have met are Armenian patriots.
*
My father was a law-abiding citizen.
He never said a word against anyone.
No, not even Turks.
He kept to himself.
He kept his distance.
He didn’t see anything wrong in that.
Neither did I.
Subservience comes naturally to all Armenians.
But they don’t call it subservience.
They call it good citizenship.
They call it respect for authority.


**********************************
COMMENTS & OBSERVATIONS
***************************************************
All "aBush" (brainless) leaders share two things in common: (one) they overestimate their powers to the same degree that they underestimate the enemy's; and (two) they refuse to learn from history -- in Bush's cases, the war in Vietnam; in our case, the turn-of-the-century series of massacres that preceded the Genocide.
Even after their blunders are exposed, such leaders continue to have their followers and admirers. There are fascists in Italy today, Nazis in Germany, Stalinists in Russia, and skinheads all over the world.
*
If you prove to an anti-Semite that the man he hates is not a Jew, he will say, "But his teacher was." Which makes all Christians vulnerable targets of hatred.
*
Loyalty becomes subservience when it says, “Yes, sir!” to idiots.
*
They tell me I am anti-Armenian because I oppose idiots who pretend to be smart.
*
Intolerance of dissent is a sure symptom of the fact that the foundations of the power structure are so flimsy that a single wrong word may precipitate its collapse.


**********************************
FRAGMENTS
***************************************************
Non-believers who build churches,
pirates who collect art,
fornicators who preach chastity --
what I find even more offensive about our men at the top is their conviction that they are indispensable to the nation and not even remotely responsible for our misfortunes.
*
In a country of the homeless, they build cathedrals which they call Houses of God – as if God needed their housing.
*
Never trust a man who lives on excellent terms with himself.
*
It's amazing how much an Armenian can accomplish when he works for alien interests.
*
There is a Jewish saying: “Some people are such nonentities that when they go out of a room, it feels like someone came in.” We call such people “unshook” -- literally shadowless, or men whose insignificance is such that they don't even cast a shadow.
*
On the day an Armenian enters politics,
politics gains nothing,
but Oriental carpet dealership loses something.
*
When law and order legitimize oppression, exploitation, or subservience in the name of the state, what they really legitimize is lawlessness and disorder.
*
A dupe is an idiot who trusts other idiots. Consider the history of fascism communism, and nationalism.
*
My definition of an idiot: anyone whose actions do more harm than good, or someone who bites more than he can chew and chokes on it.
*
I don't mention names because I don't want to immortalize nonentities who make headlines today and are forgotten tomorrow.


**********************************
FRAGMENTS / II
***************************************************
There is a margin of error in all our judgments. That's one way to explain the blunders of popes, imams, and self-righteous fanatics who think of themselves as infallible.
But I could be wrong.
If only we, all of us, were capable of ending all our assertions with that qualifier – I could be wrong.
*
The flunky of a national benefactor once gave me to understand that “they” were willing to “help” me, provided I followed instructions.
Because they have the cash and I have only ideas, they speak of “helping” me. Which means, they value cash more than ideas.
Which may also explain why everything they touch turns into ashes.
*
I speak as I do probably because I suffer from a rare condition known as allergy to money.
*
On more than one occasion I have been informed that those I call “flunkies” or “the scum of the earth,” are in fact honorable men.
They may be right.
I think as I do probably because I refuse to rely on the brainless for political guidance and on pimps for moral values.
*
Because he felt neglected and ignored by his audience, one of our authors once wrote a story in which a priest is caught masturbating in a public lavatory. Whereupon he was verbally assaulted and severely chastised by a wide number of outraged defenders of the faith. At one point even one of our national benefactors joined the the lynch mob. It was not so much a tempest in a teacup as a tsunami in a thimble. “I am ashed to be identified as an Armenian,” said the author, assuming the role of innocent victim. The whole situation reminded me of Oscar Wilde's dictum on fox-hunters: “The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.”
*
MEMO TO OUIR ACADEMICS
*********************************************
No literature, please! Just tell us what's on your mind.


**********************************
FRAGMENTS / III
***************************************************
After we lose a war – and according to Saroyan we have lost them all – we call our losers heroes. There are cultures in which losers are either executed or commit suicide.
*
I love the contradictions of an honest man. I loathe even the shadow of an inconsistency in the dishonest.
*
I loathe anti-Semites because they are on the side of majorities and against perennial victims. I identify with victim for two reasons: (one) I am an Armenian, and (two) I am a dissident.
*
It is painful to be misunderstood. But when I think of the alternative – to be understood and appreciated by idiots – I feel much better.
*
Theatrical producer Joe Papp to an uncooperative mayor: “Shakespeare should be as important as garbage collection.”
*
I remember to have read somewhere: “British soldiers fight like lions, but lions led by donkeys.”


**********************************
FRAGMENTS / IV
***************************************************
Like all fundamentalists, an Armenian wants to change the world but not himself. He refuses to do the possible and attempts the impossible – that is to say, to teach justice, human rights, and morality to present and former empires like the United States and Turkey that operate on the assumption they know better than a failed state like Iran, Yemen and Somalia -- states with little history of central government control; states so corrupt and inept that they shoot to kill innocent demonstrators with a legitimate grievance, or they violate the human rights of their own citizens.
*
To assess oneself amounts to pronouncing a verdict of not guilty after a trial without judge, jury, and prosecution.
*
American children are brought up to believe in Santa. Nothing wrong in that so long as childhood illusions are not replaced with propaganda.
*
The greatest gift parents can make to their children is the gift of approaching reality without illusions.


**********************************
WE NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD
***************************************************
We are few.
We are weak.
We are vulnerable,
Therefore, we are divided.
Which is like saying:
“I think.
Therefore I am not.”
*
In our environment,
the devils come disguised as angels.
I once heard a bishop say:
“We are for unity.
It's the opposition that is against it.”
Did he believe what he said?
I am not sure.
But his audience did,
on the grounds that God does not lie.
Neither does a man of God.
*
Hitler knew what he was talking about when he said,
“The bigger the lie, the more believable it will be.”
*
We are divided.
So what if we cease to exist?
*
Cease to exist? No way!
We have existed for thousands of years.
We must be doing something right.
You call a thousand years of subservience to scum existence?
You call a series of massacres and a genocide existence?
I call it worse than death.
*
Liars are not born but made
and they are made by dupes.
Who is guiltier, a liar or his audience of dupes?
*
You can rate the IQ of a nation
by the lies of its sermonizers and speechifiers.
*
We have two kinds of mortal enemies:
those who want to kill us
and those who want us to commit suicide.
We never had it so good.


**********************************
RAFFI'S WARNING AND
CHARENTS'S MESSAGE
***************************************************
To prove to a visiting Venetian painter what the neck of a beheaded man really looks like, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, also known as the Lawgiver, had a prisoner brought before him and beheaded.
It is said that the Venetian painter was so shocked by the bloody spectacle that he left that same night under cover of darkness.
That is the difference between that Venetian painter and us.
The Venetian left.
We stayed
We stayed even after Raffi warned us the Ottoman Empire was no place for us because Turks had no respect for human life.
We ignored Raffi's warning in the 19th century as we ignore today Charents's final message concerning our “salvation.” By “we” I mean less the people and more the leaders who speechify during the day about survival and turn into gravediggers under cover of darkness at night.
*
In my next commentary I will explain why “treason and betrayal are in our blood” (Raffi).


**********************************
TREASON & HEROISM
***************************************************
A nation or a community run by traitors will constantly emphasize the importance of patriotism, self-sacrifice, and heroism. In such an environment, heroes will invariably outnumber traitors.
*
Traitors don't think of themselves as traitors. They think of themselves as patriots who are doing what must be done to safeguard the survival of the nation. But since in politics, as in war, there are either winners or losers, losers will be classified as traitors by their political adversaries.
Case in point: After the liberation of France, both Petain (a hero of World War I) and Laval were condemned to death by a French tribunal on the grounds that they had collaborated with the Nazis and they were therefore traitors.
*
Were Krikor Zohrab and Anastas Mikoyan traitors or heroes?
If we judge them by their actions alone (as the French tribunal chose to do) they do not qualify as heroes. Zohrab saved Talaat's life from the Sultan's secret police; and Mikoyan carried out the Stalinist purges in Armenia so thoroughly that to this day only unprincipled mediocrities survive. In other words, their actions resulted in defeat and tragedy.
*
Are our dividers in the Diaspora today heroes or traitors? If we judge them by the Biblical dictum “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” and by Charents's final “message,” they cannot be said to be heroic figures.
*
One could of course explain and justify the actions of traitors by pleading extenuating circumstances, which might as well be inadmissible in our context.
The fact remains that both Zohrab and Mikoyan were not just wrong, they were catastrophically wrong, and both paid a heavy price for their blunder. Zohrab was murdered by order of the same man whose life he saved by risking his own, and Mikoyan spent the final years of his life in constant fear to such a degree that he slept with a revolver under his pillow with the intention of killing himself if they ever came to arrest him in the middle of the night.
As for the nation: I will let you decide whether their actions contributed to our collective profile as winners or losers.


**********************************
AN INVITATION TO THE BEHEADING
***************************************************
The French have a saying: “This little beast is nasty; when attacked, it defends itself.” Except that in our case, the little beast was a wounded tiger with nine lives, and we were no better than a toothless lapdog.
We were slaughtered because we have been thrice cursed with “earthquakes, bloodthirsty neighbors, and brainless leaders” (Avedik Issahakian); and ever since these brainless leaders have been trying to convince us there is nothing wrong with them; it's the rest of the world that's rotten; and what is even more unbelievable is that we believe them.
We lost because we believed the Christian West would not allow the massacre of brothers by bloodthirsty infidels – notwithstanding the fact that the West had already allowed a series of massacres to take place without lifting a finger (see VISIONS OF ARARAT: WRITINGS ON ARMENIA by Christopher Walker [New York, 1997]).
We were slaughtered because our Christian brothers in the West were at war and too busy slaughtering one another to give a damn about an obscure tribe of Christians being slaughtered by infidels on another continent (see the Preface of G.B. Shaw's ANDROCLES AND THE LION).
We lost because “we were tiny islands in a Turkish sea” (Hagop Oshagan).
We lost because our revolutionaries were long on enthusiasm and short on experience. One contemporary scholar refers to them as “twenty somethings” (see Michael Bobelian, CHILDREN OF ARMENIA [New York, 2009]).
We lost because we underestimated the strength and determination of the Turks to defend their 600-year old homeland.
We lost because we believed in the professed brotherly love of serial killers. (Consider the case of Zohrab saving Talaat's life by risking his own.)
We lost because we were divided. (See the correspondence between our revolutionaries and Artin Dadian in Pars Tuglaci, THE ROLE OF THE DADIAN FAMILY IN OTTOMAN, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND POLITICAL LIFE (Istanbul, 1993).
We were slaughtered because we have been fed “a steady and monotonous diet of shameless flattery and transparent lies” (Stepan Voskanian).
We were slaughtered because our conception of history has been shaped by “deceivers... the smoke of incense, and the sound of sharagans” (Nigoghos Sarafian).
Far from being an unexpected and unforeseeable Tragedy that “fell on us like a thief in the night,” our genocide might as well have been “an invitation to the beheading) (Nabokov).


**********************************
THIS AND THAT
***************************************************
Patriotism is an irrefutable argument only to patriots.
So is fascism to fascists.
*
If faith and truth were one, we would have only one religion and no jihads.
Faith guarantees nothing.
To say that faith is beyond criticism is to justify a big lie with a bigger lie.
*
Deceivers exist because deception works.
It is astonishing the number of great men who were taken in by Hitler and Stalin, both of whom made a mafia godfather look like a benevolent uncle.
*
To an overly sensitive person, a wrong word can be as catastrophic as a volcanic eruption or an earthquake.
*
Turning points in one's life may happen not in noteworthy events but in insignificant occurrences that may at first escape notice.
*
To most Armenians the Genocide is only a page in our history – the darkest page, granted, but still only a page.
Books, including history books, are one thing, life another.
The average Armenian is much more seriously wounded by an insult than by any single page in history.
*
To ignore or cover up our problems is also to reject in advance all possible solutions.
*
We will mature as a nation only when we take ideas as seriously as money.


**********************************
MY QUARREL
***************************************************
It is not safe to stand between a hungry lion and his kill.
Likewise, between a crowd and its cherished illusions.
*
I write what I think because deep down I know no matter what I say, I will be ignored. That's the way it has been in the past, and I see no evidence to suggest that things may not continue on the same path in the future.
*
My quarrel, my real quarrel, is not with my fellow men. My quarrel is with myself for allowing deceivers to brainwashed me in the name of a false deity or big lies.
*
They emphasize the importance of love because they are hateful and they know it. Was it love that drove Jesus to use the whip against the money-changers in the temple?
Was it love that drove the Orthodox Church in Russia to excommunicate Tolstoy, or the Catholic Church to torture and massacre heretics?
To those who say that was then and this is now: may I remind them that the Russian Church, like our own Etchmiadzin, went on to legitimize Stalin's regime, and the Catholic clergy engaged in serial child molestation.
*
Dupes of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but leaders with the moral quotient of swine.
*
I call an enemy a friend if what he says enhances my understanding of my fellow men and myself.


**********************************
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
***************************************************
The original aim of nationalism was to liberate the nation from the tyranny of imperial powers. In theory. In practice, however, it simply replaced one tyranny with another. That's the way it is with organized religions, ideologies, and mass movements: they begin as liberation and end as oppression.
*
Analysis and flattery (or propaganda) are mutually exclusive concepts. You can have either one or the other. You cannot have both.
*
On more than one occasion I have heard it said, “If you criticize benefactors, they will stop giving.” I have never heard anyone say, “If we starve writers, they will stop writing.” Which may suggest, money is everything, ideas nothing. Which may also explain why as a nation we are so brain-dead that even the Turks are ahead of us. This assertion may outrage some, but not as much as it outraged me when I first heard it about forty years ago.
*
Our editors and activists have been dishing out anti-Turkish venom for such a long time that it has acquired the authority of a Decalogue.
*
There is a kind of vulgar bluntness that is the soul of elegance.
*
Speaking of his fellow Americans, Thoreau once said: “The greater part of what they call good I believe in my soul to be bad.”
*
Anonymous: “A live dog is better than a dead lion.”


**********************************
LIES
*****************************
Lies. I was brought up on lies - lies spoken in the name of patriotism and self-esteem, but lies all the same.
I was told being an Armenian was a rare privilege.
I went into the world thinking the world owed me something - respect, sympathy, apology, admiration.
I soon discovered the world had no time or interest in taking notice of my existence. The world didn't give a damn about me.
The world didn't even know who Armenians were.
That's when I began to understand why some smart Armenians changed their names and assimilated.
Others preferred to stay away from their fellow countrymen.
Still others of mixed parentage hid their Armenian fraction.
What the hell was going on here?
Was the world full of ignoramuses and traitors?
It took me a while to realize that the world was what it has always been; and that I was the ignorant one in thinking there was something special in being an Armenian.
I know now that we are a people like any other people, or we would be, if we didn't try so damn hard to appear better or superior.
One could even say that, what makes some of us inferior is thirst for superiority.


**********************************
ACADEMICS
*****************************
Never judge a nation by its history as written by its own historians. A Turk who believes in Turkish historians is as much of a dupe as an Armenian who believes in Armenian historians.
All historians write with a bias, and I don't just mean nationalist, racist, or religious bias. Case in point: in a recent edition of the ENCYCLPAEDIA BRITANNICA the entry on Talaat, as written by a Turcophile historian, mentions only one violent death, Talaat's own by an Armenian assassin.
How to explain this outrage? Very easily:
(one) the historian treated the Turks as useful political allies of his own nation;
(two) there are many more potential buyers of the Encyclopedia in Turkey than in Armenia;
(three) since academics these days are a dime-a-dozen and the competition is fierce, they are willing to write anything for thirty pieces of silver.
I am not saying this particular academic is a bad man and a shameless liar willing to prostitute his discipline and expertise. I am saying, we live in a world with the moral standards of a bordello, and Armenians are no better (see below).
It is to be noted that this particular academic cannot plead ignorance of the Armenian genocide in view of the fact that in one of his first books on Turkey he mentions and discusses the Genocide in some detail. My guess is, that's when the Turks invited him to Turkey, gave him the red-carpet treatment, and made him see the light. They did the same thing to Toynbee with the same result, but not quite. Though he became a Turcophile, Toynbee never denied the Armenian genocide, but he did deny the republication of his book on the Genocide.
And speaking of red-carpet treatment, and this time by Reds: A prominent Tashnak leader was once invited to Yerevan by the Soviets and returned to America a chic Bolshevik. Whenever I would publish an anti-Soviet commentary in our weeklies, he would write me poison-pen letters and call me nasty names.


**********************************
BIG EGOS & SMALL DICKS
*****************************
An Armenian knows better not because he is wiser, older, more experienced, or more widely read, but because he assumes his fellow Armenians to be dumber than he is.
*
To how many of my fellow Armenians I could say, “With Armenians like you, who needs sultans and commissars?”
*
No matter how hard I try I cannot pretend to be a proud Armenian. Proud of what, may I ask? A thousands years of subservience to scum? – and I don't just mean foreign scum.
*
Jacques Chirac: “Sumo wrestling is a fine art, which is not always the case with political combat.”
*
Life has a way of cutting down to size anyone whose assessment of himself exceeds his real worth.
*
The reason why some men have big egos is that (according to Freud, Jung, and Adler, who agree on nothing but agree on this) they have small dicks.


**********************************
NOTES / COMMENTS
*****************************
“If he speaks as if he were somebody, let's treat him like a nobody to bring him down to our own level.”
*
The secret of success consists not in cultivating your own garden but in inventing it.
*
You can tell he has a college degree because he uses words like dichotomy, existential, and paradigm.
*
Ideas? If you have the money, you can hire philosophers (provided they are not Marxists) and theologians who don't take the Scriptures literally and believe Capital to be a blessing from god.
*
The world has no interest in someone who knows a great deal about a great many things. The world is more interested and more willing to reward someone who knows everything about one thing.
*
If the liquid in the glass is poison, it makes no difference whether it is half empty or half full.
*
A religion that emphasizes truth or dogma over love and charity, is an invention of the devil.


**********************************
THE ARMENIAN PRESENCE
******************************************************
In the last five books that I checked out from the library, I ran into Armenians in all of them.
*
In NATASHA & OTHER STORIES by David Bezmozgis (New York, 2004) there is a student identified as an “Armenian” and named "Arnan" (probably Arman).
*
In Ted Sorensen's political memoirs, COUNSELOR (New York, 2008), the Armenian mentioned and discussed is Anastas Mikoyan.
*
In Edmund Wilson's LITERARY ESSAYS & REVIEWS OF THE 1930s & 1940s (New York, 2007) there are two pieces on Saroyan, one of which is a review of THE ADVENTURES OF WESLEY JACKSON and the other a long overview of Saroyan's works, where we are told Saroyan was more influenced by Hemingway and less by Sherwood Anderson.
*
In VENICE: PURE CITY (London, 2009) by the prolific Peter Ackroyd we read about the Armenian island of San Lazzaro, “Where Byron travelled to learn the Armenian language as a way of exercising his mind among the more sensual pleasures of Venice.” The next sentence reads: “There as a colony of Turkish merchants, established as the Fondaco dei Turchi, where a school for the teaching of Arabic was maintained.”
*
In THE RICHNESS OF LIFE: THE ESSENTIAL STEPHEN JAY COULD (New York, 2006) the Armenian is George E. Boyajian, a biologist at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a study “on ammonite suture lines.”
Elsewhere Gould speaks of “our cursed tribal tendency to factionalize, fight, and then, so often in righteous certainty, to define our opponents as vermin and try to expunge either their doctrines (by censorship and fire) or their very being (genocide).”


**********************************
REVOLUTIONS
******************************************************
When a revolution succeeds, the revolutionaries turn against one another and engage in cannibalism. This is what happened with the French and Russian revolutions.
When a revolution fails, it becomes a footnote.
But when a revolution results in genocide, it traumatizes the brain so severely that reality becomes a blur, and the line that separates fact from illusion is obliterated.
*
The study of history deals not only with what others have done to us, but also with what we have done to ourselves. To emphasize one at the expense of the other is to distort our perception of reality.
*
Our history is not just a catalog of crimes committed against us by others, it is also a much longer catalog of miscalculations and blunders committed by us.
*
God does not extend His support to those who don't support one another.
*
The first step in all solutions to our problems: To approach a new idea with an open mind.
*
The greatest truths are also the simplest.
*
I repeat myself?
Why shouldn't I?
TV commercials repeat themselves all the time.
And it works.
It must!
If it didn't, they wouldn't waste millions on them.


**********************************
POWER & MONEY
******************************************************
Nothing can be more deceptive and dangerous than to believe the religion and history taught in schools. If Americans, Armenians, Turks, and any other nationality you care to mention were not duped as children into believing what they are taught to believe, they would no longer be loyal, that is to say subservient, subjects of their rulers. Which means, they would refuse to pay taxes (which is something they would like to do in any case) and even more important, in time of war, they would do their utmost to avoid being conscripted.
All rulers know this and none of them would even consider changing things even if it means continuing to legitimize ignorance, prejudice, lies, hatred, wars, and massacres.
That is why to speak the truth in a world of liars and dupes is considered a capital offense. That is also why to seek wisdom means to provoke persecution, exile, execution, and assassination.
On the day mankind sees the light, we will have only one God and one history, as opposed to ten thousand lies.
If mankind prefers to live in darkness, it may be because the exercise of power has always been more enticing than knowledge and understanding.
It is amazing the things people do for money. Even more amazing is the things they do for power. And power is like money in that one can never have enough of it.


**********************************
SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE
******************************************************
My greatest blunders were committed with total unawareness.
So much so that it didn't even occur to me to question their moral validity.
That doesn't make me feel less guilty today.
If anything, the opposite is the case.
I know now that I cannot plead not guilty
by reason of ignorance of the law.
Jung is right: unawareness is the greatest sin.
*
Lies have a propensity to generate more lies.
It is not at all unusual for a single Big Lie
to kill six million truths
and as many innocent lives with a clear conscience.
*
To be unable to read between the lines
is also a form of illiteracy.
*
To say or think “i am smart,”
is the surest symptom of arrested development,
and in some cases,
advanced moronism.
*
The hardest thing to master in the art of writing
is the art of deleting.



THE “S” WORD
******************************************************
All this nonsense about needing solutions is a lot of b.s.
Everyone knows that men of God and capital (make it Capital and god) know better. If they didn't, they wouldn't be where they are. Solutions doesn't even make it as the last item on their wish list. What they want and what they get from their brown-nosers and dupes is gratitude and subservience.
*
If a liar believes in his own lies, he will also assume he is a lover of truth.
*
In all of us ignorance exceeds knowledge, and most of what we know is based either on hearsay or is an extension of a belief system, that is to say, propaganda.
*
Whenever they can't blame it on the Turks and the West, they blame it on the opposition. They sure know how to cover their ass.
*
You cannot reason with the brainwashed. You can only try to deprogram them, which can be as difficult as changing a wolf to a lamb, and in our case, vice versa.
*
Benefactors like to parade as supporters of literature, but since their favorite reading matter is financial statements, they delegate the job to their brown-nosers. Which may explain the unbearable stench of mediocrity emanating from our contemporary literature.


**********************************
O CANADA
******************************************************
During a recent visit to an Armenian community center in Toronto, the Minister of Immigration delivered a speech in which he reminded his audience that the Canadian government had recognized the reality of the Armenian genocide, but that it also expected all Armenian-Canadians to be nice to Turks because Canada is a multicultural country, which means everyone must live in friendship and peace with everyone else. The audience responded with blank expressions. And I thought:
How can we be nice to Turks if we cannot even be nice to our fellow Armenians?
*
In a recent issue of the NEW YORKER, Newt Gingrich was identified as “the Republican Party's putative sage.” Gingrich, it will be remembered, once named Kemal Atatürk as his role model. I have every reason to suspect that if he runs for president in 2012 and promises to recognize the Armenian genocide, Armenians will vote for him not because they believe in his promise but because they care much more about lower taxes than Genocide recognition. Never underestimate the cunning of greedy fools.
*
As a child whenever I did something wrong I was punished. And now that I am old I am silenced by the old and insulted by the young for exposing misconduct. Perhaps one reason I understand my fellow countrymen so well is that I am, very much like them, a perennial loser, with one noteworthy difference: I see no reason why I should fool myself and others into thinking otherwise. It is easy for a fool to fool himself, but more difficult to fool those who may well be smarter than he.
*
Today's quote in my morning paper is by Adlai Stevenson and it reads: “My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”
I am safe today, it is true. It is also true that I owe my safety not to my fellow Armenians but to my country of adoption.


**********************************
NOTES / COMMENTS
******************************************************
Moral superiority, especially the self-anointed kind, is such a cheap commodity that even the penniless can afford it. Even primitive Brazilian jungle tribes have myths whose sole aim is to assert their moral superiority. May I confess that I am so tired of being a morally superior loser that my secret ambition now is to be a morally inferior winner.
*
Only the brain-dead think they know and understand all they need to know and understand. Self-satisfaction is a tomb.
*
The brain-dead cannot think. They can only say “yes, sir!” to the unthinking.
*
Every civilized and progressive nation has a set of laws whose sole aim is to protect the people from their leaders. Since we never had such laws, most abuses of power in our institutions and bureaucracies have gone unexposed, and when exposed, unpunished. I tremble to think what will happen on the day the average patriotic Armenian discovers this fact.
*
You cannot argue with somebody who thinks you are nobody.
*
There are many forms of cowardice, surely one of the worst must be fear of free speech.
*
Every Armenian is infatuated with the aroma of his own b.s.


**********************************
SHUT UP AND TALK!
******************************************************
“Those who know don't talk;
those who talk don't know.”
I don't know and if I talk
it's only against those who know even less.
*
According to Garcia Marquez
everyone has three lives:
“a public life, a private life, and a secret life.”
The same applies to nations.
But in our case even our public life is secret.
*
One good thing about my choice of occupation is that
the alternative is working for money
and I can't imagine anything more repellent.
*
To be politically correct, they call it Islamophobia,
but I don't think that's what it is --
if we judge Islam by its history and number of victims
as opposed to the propaganda of its imams.
*
Everyone speaks of solutions,
no one even mentions implementation
and, in our case, that's where the devil resides.


**********************************
REFLECTIONS
******************************************************
An intelligent man does not overestimate his IQ.
Only idiots do that.
*
Forgive my careless choice of words.
Far better men than myself
have chosen their words far more carefully
without any results.
Ignorance, stupidity, and prejudice
are not open to diplomatic suggestions,
polite circumlocutions, and courteous petitions.
*
Not all nationalist historians are patriots
in the same way that not all garbage collectors love garbage.
*
As a physician deals with disease
a reasonable man deals with unreason –
with one difference:
the unreasonable will insult you.
*
In America, when they say god,
they mean Gold;
and when fanatics in the Middle East say God,
they mean the Devil.
“Allawa akhbar” in Arabic means
“The Devil is great!”
*
It makes little sense to support one side against the other
when both sides belong to the dustbin of history.
*
When the old fight,
it is the young who die.
When the rich fight,
it is the poor who die.
If it were up to the old and the rich
to do the dying,
we would have no more wars.


**********************************
USES AND ABUSES OF PATRIOTISM
******************************************************
Patriotism does not mean loyalty to the leadership, especially a leadership that has not been democratically elected and is therefore self-appointed and non-representative, as our leadership has been throughout our millennial existence. Loyalty to such a leadership is not patriotism but subservience to despotism.
*
The mightier the country the more arrogant its citizens. This rule has one exception: Armenia.
*
The lower the self-esteem, the higher the need to emphasize the positive.
*
To justify his hatred for his fellow countrymen, an Armenian will identify them as Turks in disguise. I will never forget the elder statesman who once said to me: “We have men within our organizations who are Turkish agents. They speak Armenian fluently, they know our history and all there is to know about us, but don't make them fool you: they are Turks as surely as two plus two makes four.”
*
What is the difference between an Armenian who uses his tongue like a yataghan and an executioner? The executioner thinks of himself as a law-and-order man. The Armenian believes his superior brand of patriotism allows him to engage in verbal massacre – the real thing being against the law...
*
Freedom and patriotism are weasel words: they can be defined in a number of contradictory ways. Freedom could also mean the freedom to deceive, exploit, and enslave. And what could be more absurd than to say my patriotism is good but my enemy’s patriotism is bad?


**********************************
HAVE A NICE DAY!
******************************************************
No matter how much you know, you will never know enough. Only a self-satisfied ignoramus will think otherwise.
*
We may use the same words but we don't mean the same thing. To the poor the word “bread” in “Give us this day our daily bread,” means bread; to the rich it means enough money to buy several bakeries.
*
The rich know how to manipulate and exploit; and the poor know how to pretend to be grateful to bloodsucking buggers.
*
Their divide-and-rule tactics have been so successful that we remain divided even after they have ceased to rule.
*
They tell me I write as I do because I am failure. What a nightmare it must be to them to think that some day I may achieve success.
*
More often than not a majority is nothing but a conspiracy of idiots.
*
I no longer read our pundits or listen to our speechifiers because I ascribe all our misfortunes to their empty verbiage.
*
A true story: In search of his roots, an Armenian-American returned from the Homeland a thoroughly disappointed man because they didn't serve his favorite brand of cereal for breakfast.
*
MEMO TO A YOUNG WRITER
**************************************
When brainwashed idiots enjoy reading you, you can be sure of one thing: You are in deep sh*t.


**********************************
SAFE ASSUMPTIONS
******************************************************
The chances are everything you were taught as a child when you couldn't yet think for yourself is a lie.
*
Any idea that divides our fellow men into them and us is based on a fallacy.
*
They did to us what we would have done to them. Our so-called moral superiority is nothing but an extension of military inferiority.
*
If reason is against us we drown it in an avalanche of empty verbiage.
Where there are too many long-winded speechifiers there are as many lies.
*
Where speechifiers are a dominant minority, dialogue will be seen as suspect.
*
The bigger the mouth, the smaller the brain.
*
Freedom of thought begins on the day we teach ourselves to say “No, sir!” to those who expect us to say “Yes, sir!”
*
Anything that justifies wars and massacres is wrong and anyone who justifies them is a liar.
*
I may know something you don't know, but that doesn't make me better or wiser.
*
The worst blunders in the history of mankind were committed by fools who thought they knew better or they had God on their side.


**********************************
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
******************************************************
In a message to the Venetians, Pius II wrote in 1458:
“How much of your ancient character have you lost
as a result of too much intercourse with the Turks!”
Makes you think, doesn't it?
*
“La donna e mobile” says a famous Verdi aria.
So are (alas!) Armenian friends.
I have made and lost friends on the flimsiest of reasons.
I have made friends because I was Armenian,
and I have lost friends because
I did not share their anti-Semitism.
*
“An Armenian loves to eat
and he eats to hate,”
says an Armenian song.
And speaking of eating and hating:
“One Armenian eats one chicken,
two Armenians eat two chickens,
three Armenians eat each other.”
*
In a letter from a friend:
"If, as you say, Armenian literature is a dead end,
why not give it up?"
I write for two totally non-literary reasons:
to fight boredom and
to acquire friends;
and with every book I have published,
I have acquired a new friend;
also made not two but twenty-two enemies?
*
Raffi: "Even those among us
who have taken it upon themselves
to educate the people
are nothing but uneducated ignoramuses."


**********************************
DECEPTION
******************************************************
If no one deceives us,
we deceive ourselves into thinking
we are the center of the universe
and what we think and say matters.
*
Deception works because we like to be deceived.
We like to be deceived so much that
we are more than willing to compensate our deceivers.
Some of the most highly paid men today
are professional, full-time deceivers.
They call themselves consultants,
public relations men, spin doctors,
advertisers, diplomats, lawyers, historians,
social engineers, chief executive officers, pundits,
senators and heads of state.
In the Vatican they are identified as
“propagators of the faith.”
Their counterparts in America
call themselves televangelists.
In Nazi Germany they worked for Dr Goebbels
and it's amazing the kind of people
that were taken in by their lies.
*
Do deceivers believe in their own lies?
If they do, they are dupes.
If they don't, they are crooks with a forked tongue.
In either case they deserve our contempt and ridicule.
*
Anyone who pretends to know and understand
more than he does is a deceivers.
And anyone who says “yes, sir!”
to someone he views as infallible is a dupe.
*
Chekhov was right when he said:
“If I cannot answer the most important questions,
am I not deceiving my readers?”
*
Today's quotations in my morning paper
is by Elbert Hubbard and it reads:
“Genius may have its limitations,
but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”


**********************************
COMPASSION
******************************************************
Yesterday, when I said something to the effect that the majority of philosophers, beginning with Socrates, met a violent end, a gentle reader took it upon himself to point out that I had nothing to worry about. I am, of course, fully aware of the fact that Armenians do not as a rule condemn their writers to death. They only betray them to the authorities, even when the authorities happen to be bloodthirsty barbarians like Talaat and Stalin. After all, it is not for nothing that we are universally respected as the first nation that converted to Christianity, a religion based on compassion, which is a word we don't have in Armenian, and if we do, we never use it. My own dictionary translates it as "koot," which means pity rather than compassion, which means suffering with.
*
Propaganda allows bloodthirsty barbarians to say their aim is to advance the cause of civilization. As for their victims, propaganda allows them the luxury of bragging about their moral superiority.
*
If individual freedom is God's gift to us, as theologians are eager to explain, why is He more protective of the barbarian's freedom and less of the victim's? Is it conceivable that the Almighty is an unequal opportunity defender in Whose eyes the barbarian's freedom is of greater concern than the freedom of the defenseless victim?
*
Mao said, “Let one hundred flowers bloom, let one hundred schools of thought contend.”
Napoleon said, “A man with an idea is my enemy.”
Mao spoke like Mao but acted like Napoleon.
That's politics for you. You tell them what they want to hear and do what you have to do even when what you have to do stands in direct contradiction to what you tell them.
*
Propaganda is a win-win proposition, or a lottery in which everyone wins the first prize.


**********************************
THIS AND THAT
******************************************************
Repetition is the most powerful tool of persuasion. Commercials, slogans, prayers, sermons, and speeches rely on repeating a handful of predictable lines and ideas.
If thinkers have been unpopular with their contemporaries it may be because they refused to repeat what everyone wanted to hear.
*
There are those who believe patriotism consists in emphasizing the positive and covering up the negative. If a doctor were to behave like a patriot, the mortality of his patients would escalate dramatically.
*
The man who has stolen a billion dollars will plead not guilty, hire a dream team of lawyers, and cut a deal with the prosecution.
*
What could be more cowardly than insulting someone anonymously and from a safe distance?
*
One of the worst mistakes I have made in my life is treating some of my fellow men as if they were human.


**********************************
WANTED: WORDS
******************************************************
We don't have a word for compassion, and if we do, we never use it – at least I have never heard anyone use it, which may suggest we think of it as an irrelevant abstraction devoid of all cash value.
Life has taught us to think in terms of you are either with us or against us and if you are against us you might as well be a Turk in disguise. By life, I mean of course our former masters – be they Soviet, Ottoman, or any other Asiatic barbarian you care to mention.
Deviate a fraction of an inch from the line established from above and you are toast. I can tell that by the kind of insults hurled in my direction by gentle readers who operate on the assumption that as men of God and capital (make it, Capital and god) our bosses, bishops, and benefactors must know better than a lowly scribbler who can't even make ends meet.
If we don't have words for honesty, compassion, and compromise, let's borrow them. Nothing wrong in borrowing. Most of our words are borrowed from other languages to begin with. But if we have words for them, let's resurrect them by all means, and even more important, let's use and practice them. A nation of dishonest, uncompromising men devoid of all compassion is a nation on its way to the devil – if not already there.


**********************************
ON SELF-ASSESSMENT
******************************************************
Popes, imams, dupes, and fanatics – that is to say, the majority of mankind – are never wrong. They may say “man is a fallible creature,” but they believe it doesn't apply to them. To everyone else, yes. To them, hell no!
*
If Mt. Ararat were allowed to assess its own height, it would say it is higher than Everest.
Mt. Ararat?
Make it, a hill of beans.
Even better, make it a pile of sh-t!
*
The greater the number of doubts, the greater the number of aggressively asserted certainties.
*
Power and propaganda are Siamese twins. Separate them and they both die.
*
One reason why imperial powers like Russia and the United States oppose democratic reforms in other countries, including our own, is that they hate to be at the whim of the people. Another reason: corrupt regimes are more easily bribed, blackmailed, and manipulated.
*
Why did Nobel Prize winners like Knut Hamsun and Sartre support Stalin and Hitler? My only answer: where emotions enter, common sense exits. Both Hamsun and Sartre saw only the positive in an alien system and the negative in their own.


**********************************
REFLECTIONS OF A CYNIC
******************************************************
To commemorate the massacre of 70,000 Protestants in 1572, Pope Gregory XIII had a medal struck. So much for religious tolerance, Christian charity, and Papal infallibility.
*
When two men speak badly of each other, I am tempted to believe both . When they praise each other, I smell a conspiracy.
*
Armenian anti-Semites say the Young Turks were Semites. Speaking for myself, I am less interested in knowing what others (be they Semites or goyim) did to us, and more interested in knowing what we, or rather our leadership, did for us.
If they did something, what exactly?
If nothing, what kind of leaders do nothing but pull their dick in time of crisis?
*
Blaming our misfortunes on others is a dead end because it only reinforces our image as perennial losers and victims. Recognizing our blunders and learning from them however may teach us not to behave like idiots in the future.
*
Hugo Grotius was a 17th-century Dutch philosopher whose famous last words were: “By understanding many things, I have accomplished nothing.”
Speaking of understanding, my favorite famous last words are Hegel's: “No one understood me except one, and even he didn't understand me.”
*
Karl Marx understood Hegel, and those who read and understand Marx call themselves Marxists. But Marx himself said he was not a Marxist, probably because he knew where there is an -ism, or an ideology, or a belief system, there will also be swine like the above-mentioned pope, who not only did nothing to stop the massacres but celebrated the occasion as a victory.
*
What does the papacy and our leadership share in common? The pope struck a medal, our leaders raise monuments and build museums.


**********************************
WORTH REPEATING
& REMEMBERING
******************************************************
“An Armenian's tongue is sharper than a Turk's yataghan.” (Zarian)
*
“Soft words can break bones.” (Anonymous)
*
“Where Armenian blood flows, look for an Armenian hatchet.” (Raffi)
*
“You want to save your fellow men?
Prepare yourself to be crucified.” (Raffi)
*
“A nation's history is an extension of its character.” (Nejdeh)
*
“Armenian literature is a cemetery and
writing for Armenians as cheerful a prospect as going to a funeral.” (Massikian)
*
“Once upon a time we shed our blood for freedom.
We are now afraid of free speech.” (Garabents)
*
“Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another.” (Zarian)
*
“Solidarity is the mother of good deeds,
divisiveness of evil ones.” (Yeghishé)
*
“You must burn in order to enlighten.” (Toumanian)
*
“Let us learn to be human by observing animals.” (Aramais Sahakian)
*
“A hungry vegetarian can be as dangerous as a carnivore.” (Yeznig Palig)
*
“Teaching consists in opening the mind.
The mouth will open by itself.” (Avedik Issahakian)


**********************************
ALL IN A DAY'S WORK
******************************************************
In an environment where no one thinks, thinking becomes a risky business. Socrates was not the only thinker who was condemned to death by a so-called enlightened and progressive democracy. You may be surprised to learn that the overwhelming majority of thinkers did not die a natural death but were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, burned alive, beheaded, committed suicide, and executed; or like Plato, Aristotle, and Voltaire, lived in fear of their life. For more on this subject see THE BOOK OF DEAD PHILOSOPHERS by Simon Critchley (London, 2008).
*
The shortest list in the world? That of great Armenian statesmen.
*
In judging others, I judge myself, or an aspect of myself that continues to reside within me even if only as a memory.
*
I have many doubts about many things but about one thing I am certain: those I have insulted will neither forgive nor forget me.
*
I condemn no one by calling them fools, dupes, and swine.
I have been called worse names and I feel just fine.


**********************************
MORE IS LESS
******************************************************
A Turkish-Armenian is more Turkish and less Armenian.
A Soviet-Armenian is more Soviet and less Armenian.
An Armenian-American is more American and less Armenian.
An Armenian from the Middle-East is more Levantine and less Armenian.
Something similar could be said of French-Armenians, Greek-Armenians, Italian-Armenians (assuming there are some left), and so on.
That's because, in Krikor Zohrab's words: “As impressionable as soft wax, the Armenian acquires indiscriminately the virtues as well as the vices of the country in which he happens to be living.”
And I remember a retired Armenian schoolteacher in her eighties (may she rest in peace and may the blessing of the Lord be upon her) saying, “Armenians are fast learners of all the wrong things.”
*
When Isaac Babel was silenced by the Soviet regime, he said he had invented a new genre: “Silence.”
*
To those who brag about our survival, I say, I would like to hear the testimony of those who did not survive – victims of massacres, earthquakes, starvation, betrayal, and idiots pretending to be leaders of men.
*
Literature flatters no one. Propaganda flatters everyone -- hence its popularity.
*
My severest critics are readers who have not yet mastered the difficult art of understanding simple sentences in the English language.
*
I have discovered that one of the hardest things to explain to a smart (self-assessed, of course) Armenian is this: to refuse to say “yes, sir!” to idiots is not treason.


**********************************
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING IN THE WORLD
******************************************************
The disciple of an infallible master will think of himself as infallible.
*
When asked what was the most beautiful thing in the world, Diogenes (4th century BC) replied: “Freedom of speech.” Ask one of our commissars what's the worst thing in the world, and he will give you the same answer.
*
There are those who believe our religion has civilized us. There are also those who believe our religion has made of us passive cowards and ideal subjects of tyrants (both foreign and domestic). Who is right? It depends on your choice of evidence: historic reality or narcissism; facts or wishful thinking.
*
Standards have fallen so low that if a man with money can draw the outline of a fish, write a grammatically correct sentence, and quote a line from Shakespeare, he is immediately declared to be a scholar, a gentleman, and a Renaissance man.
*
Armenian Ottomanism? Observe a brother on the warpath trying to get even with a fellow Armenian who has dared to question his judgment.
*
Armenian stages: acceptance, suspicion, dissent, anger, disgust, resignation, despair, alienation, assimilation.
*
Kierkegaard's question: “How many so-called Christians are really Christian?


**********************************
WHAT A WORLD!
******************************************************
When the judge and jury are murderers and the defendant is also a murderer whose motive is as clear as daylight, why should we be surprised if he is found not guilty by reason of insufficient evidence? That's one way to explain why the Yanks refuse to recognize the Genocide.
*
It was a case of the blind leading the blind, but they blame the Turks, they blame the West, they blame the opposition, and some of them even blame the victims for their refusal to join their ranks, after which they parade as men of vision.
*
What would you have done in their place? I am asked again and again. Probably what they did and what they are doing. Understanding must begin somewhere and the best place is the self.
*
“A writer without a homeland is like a king in exile,” writes Golo Mann. Speaking for myself I feel more like the inmate of a Gulag whose existence the regime denies and is believed by dupes.
*
If you ask a serial adulterer why he is always the one to cast the first stone, my guess is, he will answer: “It's good PR!”
*
An alienated Armenian is one who after rejecting his Ottomanism, Sovietism, Levantinism, and Americanism, is now in search of his humanity.
*
A headline in my morning paper reads, “Want monogamy? Marry a swan.” The first line of the article informs us: “Actually, it turns out swans cheat, too.” Who would have guessed we live in a world where even swans behave like swine?

A LIE EXPOSED
We have been exposed to the lie that we are smart for such a long time and so often that we now believe it to be a self-evident truth. It isn't! Some of us may be smart in the marketplace, but when it comes to such far more important matters as defending our fundamental human rights, we might as well be just about the dumbest people on earth.
*
Our leaders are to us what the Pope is to Catholics – infallible. This is what our nationalist historians tell us and this is what, as Orthodox dupes, we believe.
*
If theology is a branch of science fiction, Armenian history is pure fiction.
. . .

*
For six hundred years we were at the mercy of Turks. The unspoken message of our Turcocentric ghazetajis today is, we still are....
*
Since I don't have any political ambitions, I refuse to say “Yes, sir!” to idiots.


WHAT I DON'T BELIEVE
After saying and repeating “All men are created equal,” Americans look down at the rest of mankind, including the majority of their fellow Americans because they happen to belong to a different race or nationality.
If Americans can deceive themselves, why can't we?

If all nationalist historians place the demands of propaganda above objectivity, why should we be the only exceptions?
Why shouldn't we say and repeat, in our failings we are like everyone else, but in every other respect we are unique, that is to say, superior?
Why shouldn't we brag about our small and ephemeral empire under Dikran the Great and call our military defeats moral victories?
If reality is against us, why shouldn't we invent a lie and repeat it until it acquires the sheen of a self-evident truth?
If we are dupes, why can't we brainwash ourselves into believing we are just about the smartest people on earth and it takes seven Jews to fool an Armenian?

As for our writers who tell us a different story, who cares what a few malcontents think?
*
I don't believe in small or harmless lies because they may lead to big and dangerous lies.
The American belief in their own invincible military might led to the disaster in Vietnam. And their belief in their superior brand of democracy may lead to more tragedies in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
*
I think of a childhood friend who believed in cigarette commercials, became a chain-smoker, and is now dying of terminal cancer.
*
A headline in one of our weeklies today reads: “Armenian police vow to end attacks on journalists.” To which I can only say, “If you believe that, you will believe anything!”


PROFILES IN COURAGE
Readers who know little or nothing about Armenian literature call me brave for writing as I do.
I am nothing of the kind.

Raffi (1835-1888) was brave when he said, “There is more profit in defending the interests of wolves against sheep than the other way around,” and, “The fiercest enemies of critics are those who serve tyrants.” A notorious Kurdish assassin was hired to have him silenced permanently.
Zarian (1885-1969) was brave for exposing the moral bankruptcy of the Soviet regime long before Solzhenitsyn did, returned to Yerevan, where he was ignored by his fellow writers and, some say, murdered.

Bakounts (1899-1937) was brave when he described the regime as a “disease,” was arrested, jailed, tortured, and shot.
Shahnour (1904-1974) was brave when he said, “An Armenian's indifference for the collective good of the people is a thick, impenetrable shield which dulls and neutralizes his soul. What insufferable rottenness, especially when he is educated.”
Aramais Sahakian (b. 1936) was brave when he said “Let us learn to be human by observing animals.”

And I could go on and on...

Compared to them I am no better than a scarecrow whose words carry as much weight as an ant's fart.
As for those who insult me on the Internet, they are no better than faceless, gutless, anonymous scum.


FREE PRESS

We don't have a free pres. We never had one. But that's not the real scandal. The real scandal is that no one seems to care. No one seems to know that a community without a free press is a blind and deaf community. And I am not talking about the Homeland now. I am talking about the Diaspora.
Once, when an editor exposed the corrupt practices of one of our political parties, he was nearly beaten to death. The perpetrators were never caught. Which may suggest that, when it comes to silencing critics, we go about it with professional efficiency and know-how. We expect this sort of thing to happen in the Homeland where a free press is an anomaly. But not in the Diaspora, and definitely not in a democratic environment.
How do they get away with it? Easy! The very same people who are in the business of silencing dissent also keep telling us we are smart, we are progressive, we are civilized, we are freedom-loving, when in reality, we are nothing of the kind.

“You speak of corruption,” a friend, himself a writer, once said to me. “Do you have any evidence?” That's when he harbored political ambitions. Shortly thereafter he called again to say that his latest commentary had been censored and he was planning to take legal action. Did he? I don't know. But I do know that he quit writing.

About a month ago I watched a televised speech by an official from the Homeland (a former member of the Party) in which I heard a great deal of palaver about the importance of preserving our mother tongue, the bane of mixed marriages, the primacy of Etchmiadzin and so on and so forth. But not a single word on human rights. Judging by the prolonged applause, no one seemed to have noticed that.

Smart, civilized, progressive, freedom-loving?

Don't make me laugh!


MAYBE
If no one in a position of power speaks as I do, it may be because I have nothing to defend but my fundamental human right of free speech.
*
If you think I am the bearer of bad tidings, it may be because you prefer your illusions to my reality, which may well be another illusion.
*
During the Soviet era, I remember, one of our elder statesmen wrote me an angry letter in which he said, “How dare you criticize the Homeland. Saroyan never did. You think you are better than Saroyan?” To which I could only say: “Far better men than Saroyan have been critical of the Soviets, including a good number of Soviets.” That may have been good enough to shut him up for a while but not to convince him, because shortly before he died he sent me a venomous missile.
*
We are not what we think we are. Our identity revolves around this fact and the way we fail to come to terms with it. Which amounts to saying, our identity is as intangible as the shadow of a black hat as reflected in an invisible mirror in a dark room.
*
To believe a nation's own version of its past amounts to believing a criminal's plea of not guilty.
*
If a ruthless serial killer were to write his memoirs, you can be sure of one thing: he would portray himself as a victim rather than a victimizer.


WHAT I BELIEVE
I believe God is not who we think He is, and when we speak in His name, we lie.
I believe with Socrates that “of the gods we know nothing.”
I believe with Gandhi that God is Truth provided we agree that none of us knows the truth or is in a position to grasp all of Reality, only a fraction of it.
I believe the Bible is not “the word of God,” but a search for truth, which is endless.
I believe with Tolstoy that “the Kingdom of God” is within us and to look for it in heaven or anywhere else is a waste of time.
I believe to speak of God as if He were not the Unknown and the Unknowable is to try to make comprehensible that which is incomprehensible by bringing it down to our own level.
I believe when Popes, Imams, and capitalists speak in the name of their conception of God it is impossible to tell to what extent they identify God with their own power and I believe power corrupts everything it touches.
I also believe with Socrates, Christ, and Tolstoy that poverty is the surest proof of honesty.


IDIOTS
On child-molesting priests, the official defense of the Catholic Church goes something like this: Sexual molestation of defenseless children is not a crime but a sin that required repentance followed by forgiveness and renewal. The degradation and damage to the child is not taken into consideration because less relevant or real than the sin of the priest. Leave it to theologians and lawyers to explain and justify criminal conduct.
*
When we speak of the blunders and crimes of the Vatican, one of the first instances that comes to mind is the persecution of Galileo Galilei. It took centuries for the Vatican to admit error. It may take many more centuries for the Church to realize that covering up the “sins” of the clergy was even a bigger crime because it amounted to issuing a license for abuse.
*
The world will be a better place on the day theologians concentrate their efforts in exposing the shortcomings of their own belief systems as opposed to asserting moral and intellectual superiority with arguments that convince no one but themselves and their dupes.
*
If the Pope doubts his faith seven times every day, as Italians are fond of saying, let him say so if only because in matters of faith doubt is more civilized than certainty.
*
And if God is infallible, why did He create an imperfect world in which man's inhumanity to man is a constant and war and massacre are routine occurrences? To those who say wars and massacres are men's doing, not God's, because God has given men free will that allows them to choose between good and evil; I say, the free will argument may apply to the victimizer, not the victim. Given the choice, who would freely choose to be the victim of a self-righteous idiot?


CONSENSUS
We will promote ourselves from tribalism to nationalism, and from nationalism to multiculturalism – because whether we like it or not we not only live in a multicultural world but we are ourselves multicultural – on the day our “betters” adopt the mantra “the principle of solidarity is not negotiable,” which translated into dollars and cents means, consensus is more important than dead-end discord and strife, and consensus does not mean agreement on all points but only agreement to advance in the same direction.
*
I have never met an anti-Semite who was not as bad as his distorted image of Jews.
*
I am more than suspicious of all claims of moral superiority, especially of the self-assessed kind, which is always symptomatic of moral inferiority.
*
My question is: Why is it that some Armenians who have been fully aware of corrupt practices in the Homeland from day one are heard from only when they are personally stung by them? Don't they know that by keeping silent they actively legitimize the very same system whose victims they now claim to be? What about the countless other victims, who cannot afford lawyers, are in no position to make headlines, and whose sole alternatives are either emigration or prostitution?


DEMOCRACY
On the radio, three professors of philosophy arguing about democracy. Where philosophers disagree, lawyers enter; and where lawyers enter, big money casts the deciding vote. Hence boom-and-bust capitalism in America, and kleptocracy in Armenia.
*
Spengler on democracy:
“A small number of superior heads, whose names are very likely not the best known, settle everything, while below them are the great mass of second-rate politicians selected through a provincially-conceived franchise to keep alive the illusion of popular self-determination.”
*
I once asked the son of our local mayor if he plans to go into politics. “It's not up to me,” he replied. “It's up to the people on King Street.” (Our King Street is the equivalent of Wall Street in New York.)
*
Since I can't hang them, I write about them
.
*
If you have enough money for bread and books, making more of it is a waste of time.
*
To be a man of faith means to reject all evidence to the contrary regardless of its merits.
*
In our belief systems we resemble parrots, and in our defense of these belief systems, we behave more like cannibals.


OPPRESSORS
We have survived our oppressors only at the cost of becoming our own oppressors.
*
“The Kingdom of God is within you,” we are told by the Scriptures. So is the kingdom of knowledge, according to Socrates, and by knowledge he did not mean such things as the capital of Egypt or the distance between Sparta and Troy (which is information) but the ability to tell right from wrong.
*
“Let us reason together,” we are also told by the Scriptures. But so far we have consistently preferred to “unreason” against one another. What am I driving at? Nothing much. Only this: the blame-game is for idiots.
*
Because I like to quote Socrates and the Scriptures (“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” “Where there is no vision the people perish”) I am told I hate myself. If true, I suppose something similar could be said of Socrates and Jesus. In his APOLOGIA, Plato tells us Socrates almost challenged, not to say provoked, the Athenian jury to condemn him to death. And Jesus knew what Judas was up to but did nothing to stop him. Does that mean their executioners were not idiots?


UNTITLED
Einstein didn't believe in God and when he said so publicly he received death threats. This may lead one to suspect that love of God can make a killer out of a law-abiding citizen.
*
I was brought up as a devout Catholic and when I first met an atheist I was sure he wasn't what he pretended to be because if he were he would be a dangerous madman, which he wasn't.
*
Both Napoleon and Dostoevsky thought belief in God is necessary for the people because if God didn't exist “everything would be permissible” (Dostoevsky) and “the poor would butcher the rich” (Napoleon), which of course is nonsense because Napoleon ruled with the help of a mighty police force, and what sent Dostoevsky to Siberia for five years was not God but the Czar.
*
God must exist because something (in this case the universe) cannot come out of nothing. But that doesn't answer the question whether or not God cares to get involved in human affairs, because so far He has behaved like an absentee landlord. What kind of loving Father would allow the rape and murder of an innocent child?
*
We are told we cannot understand God because His mind works in mysterious ways. If so, then there isn't much we can do except to say “of the gods we know nothing” (Socrates) and go about our business as if He didn't give a damn.
*
Some of my readers may not be aware of the fact that there can be such a thing as an atheist religion. Buddhism, for instance, as popular in the East as Christianity in the West, is an atheist religion. I also suspect there are many Christians out there who are not aware of the fact that a good Christian can also be an atheist (Tolstoy was one).


A LITANY OF LIES
“Because we were a small Christian island in a vast Muslim sea” -- I am now paraphrasing our party line -- “we were set upon and victimized by a wide assortment of imperialist barbarians on the warpath.”
In other words, we are without blame. It's the fault of our geography and religious faith.
Rubbish!
To begin with, in the Middle Ages, Armenians were the most highly paid mercenaries in the region. Some of the most ruthless emperors and generals in the Byzantine Empire were of Armenian descent. We were at no time an “island” since Georgia to the north was also Christian. Furthermore, throughout our historic existence, we have served our masters, be they Christian, pagan, atheist, Muslim, fascist, and Bolshevik, with greater zeal than we have defended our own interests. Or, as Raffi puts it: “Whenever we have been invaded by Persian, Greek, Arab, Seljuk, or Mongol armies, these armies have advanced under the leadership of an Armenian. Armenians have always fought side by side with the enemy against their own people.” Elsewhere, “Where Armenian blood flows, look for an Armenian hatchet.”
Why these distortions and lies?
Because everybody does it.

Americans and Turks may not speak the same language but they share the same grammar – that of power. Where would America be today without its systematic extermination of the natives and the cheap labor of slaves who died by the million while being transported from Africa?
Here is how Nigoghos Sarafian sums up our past: “Our history is a litany of lamentation, anxiety, horror, and massacre. Also deception and abysmal naiveté mixed with the smoke of incense and the sound of sacred chants.”


OUTSIDERS
What has been the influence of Armenian literature on Armenian history?
That's an easy question with an obvious answer:
Nothing, zero, nada, nil, vochinch.
What has been the influence of Socrates on Greek history?
Same answer.
Socrates influenced only other philosophers and no one else. After Socrates, Greek history went into a steady decline never to recover its former glory.
What has been the influence of Christianity on the West?
The destruction of classical cultures, the introduction of dogmatism, intolerance, the Dark Ages, twenty centuries of internecine wars and slaughter, the Crusades, persecution of heretics, the Inquisition, and more recently, televangelists and a child-molesting clergy – that is to say, moral bankruptcy.
Christianity may have influenced artists like Michelangelo, thinkers like St. Thomas Aquinas, composers like J.S. Bach, and poets like Dante, but not kings, politicians, and in general those in charge of human affairs, who went about their business as if Christ had never been born.
What am I driving at?
Oh! nothing much. Only this: men are swine who have no use for common sense and decency. Keep that in mind and you will have no more unanswered questions.
Why do I go on writing?
Habit. Also to let our charlatans know that there is at least one Armenian who refuses to be their dupe, whatever the hell that's worth...probably no more than a second's insomnia.


MART BIDI CH'ELLANK
Do you want to understand Turks? Think of an Armenian with power.
*
The ideal dupe is someone who has been brought up to believe he is smart, he is progressive, and he is beyond criticism. Whereas a really smart person is more like Socrates who knew more than anyone else but who pretended to know nothing.
*
If I repeat myself it may be because I hope to have have better luck with the next generation. Call me an optimist. In this line of work you have to be a little crazy to carry on.
*
What is the difference between literature and trash? The trash gets printed.
*
Our brainwashed dupes today are more pro-establishment than our bosses, bishops, and benefactors, in the same way that our oligarchs in the Homeland are more capitalist than Wall Street.


MART BIDI CH'ELLANK / II
Our struggle, our real struggle, is not against men but against an abstraction that is lighter than a feather but weighs on us like a mountain: our history.
Millennial oppression has so thoroughly dehumanized us that we can no longer act, we can only react blindly, and whenever we react blindly we do so not only against our own interests but also against reason itself.
Consider our genocide as a case in point: we didn't have to predict it in order to take evasive action. All we had to do is listen to the countless warnings of foreign observers, missionaries, and our own insiders within the Ottoman administration.
And consider what's happening today: our literature, our religion, and reason itself are unanimous in warning us that the only way to divide a house is by tearing it down. And yet...(the two saddest words in the English language, it has been said) we continue to waste millions by constructing two schools, two houses of worship, and two community centers when one would be not only sufficient but also the right thing to do.
We all know what happens to the blind leading the blind, let alone to the blind, deaf, and dumb leading the blind, deaf, and dumb who have somehow managed to convince themselves that not only they are smarter than anyone else but also that God Almighty Himself is on their side.


MART BIDI CH'ELLANK / III
To say, “We don't need critics, we need solutions,” is another way of saying, we don't give a damn about our literature and its central message.
To self-assessed enlightened readers who like to say, “Why should I waste my time with second-raters when I can read Plato, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky?” I say, our writers may indeed be second-raters compared to the three gentlemen mentioned above, but they have come up with first-rate solutions.
*
Naregatsi's solution paraphrased: “If you want to understand the source of your problems, look within, examine your conscience, analyze yourself.” It follows, the blame-game of our Turcocentric ghazetajis and speechifiers is a sham if only because after a century of verbiage and venom, it has failed to resurrect a single victim or annex a single square inch of soil. But even if some day in the near or distant future we are successful in getting an apology, a billion dollars, and our historic lands, problems like corruption and incompetence in high places, and such iniquities as destitution, prostitution, alienation, and assimilation will not go away.
*
The solution of writers from Yeghishé (5th century AD) to Charents (20th century) paraphrased: “Where dividers enter, death follows.”
*
If I repeat myself it may be because sometimes with the deaf I don't have a choice. If on the other hand, you say “Naregatsi, Yeghishé, and Charents are dead men and their solutions are as defunct as they are. We need new thinking, we need creative brains.” I say, if by new solutions you mean verbal formulas like abracadabra, you will never find them. And if by creative thinking you mean a messiah, you are barking up the wrong tree because no one in his right mind will volunteer to be crucified by brainless dupes.


OF CABBAGES AND KINGS
We should treat Turks as friends if only because it is easier to negotiate with friends than with enemies. If so far we have failed to do that it may be because we cannot even treat our brothers as friends. When was the last time an Armenian trusted another Armenian?
*
According to Lobo Antunes, a celebrated contemporary Portuguese writer, the only way to write is “to imagine yourself naked, smelling of formaldehyde, flat on your back in a marble tub, waiting for them to cut open your ribs with a huge pair of scissors.”
A man after my own heart.
I too believe to write any other way is to recycle propaganda.
*
If you play poker with a king and you win his kingdom, don't be surprised if he says, “Off with his head!”
*
I envy the rich for being in a position to deliver the line, “Talk to my lawyer!”
*
And speaking of the rich: It is said of one of our national benefactors that whenever someone approached him directly with a request for financial support, he would say, “Talk to my people.”
*
Self-deception is escape from reality, and those who deceive themselves might as well be open invitations to deceivers.


EXPLANATIONS
There is a type of liar who after lying repeatedly ends up believing in his own lies.
That's one way to explain the popularity of sermonizers and speechifiers.
*
Avedik Issahakian: “A wealthy man is nothing but a thief who has not yet been caught.” Perhaps because he does his thieving in a land whose legislators are themselves thieves.
*
Puzant Granian: “We have many national benefactors but not a single national writer.” That may be because benefactors prefer lies and flattery – that is to say, speechifiers, sermonizers, and brown-nosers.
*
Writers like Siamanto and Totovents could not stand life in America and returned to Istanbul under Talaat and to Yerevan under Stalin respectively only to be arrested and slaughtered, probably because they found the prospect of being dependent on the charity of swine worse than death.
*
The overwhelming majority of our writers agree in telling us that if we want to get at the roots of our misfortunes we must look within and that the blame-game is a Big Lie. Which means, our Turcocentric ghazetajis are no better than cretins whose sole aim in life is to moronize the people -- not a particularly demanding enterprise when dealing with a nation that has been brutalized by millennial oppression by some of the most ruthless and bloodthirsty regimes in the history of the world.


GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER
Sex was a taboo subject in the Ottoman Empire but the Sultan could have as many as a thousand houris in his hourihouse. As for our own mini-sultans: after leading the nation to defeat, oppression, and massacre, they dare to speechify and sermonize on patriotism to the rest of us.
*
How do I know my version of the story to be the only true one? I don't. But unless proven otherwise, I shall continue to assert what I understand to be an honest and objective assessment of our situation.
*
Am I saying anyone who disagrees with me is dishonest? No! He could also be an ignoramus.
*
Another word for lamentation for the sake of lamentation is self-pity, and the aim of self-pity is to invite others to pity us. If you don't believe me, listen to Zohrab: “One should confront the misfortunes of life not with despair and dejection but in the same way that one confronts the sudden arrival of an unwelcome guest – with a smiling face. We Armenians should sing and laugh more often in order to develop that degree of emotional health and intellectual balance without which we can achieve very little in this world. A nation that is given to lamentation will never amount to anything.”
*
And here is Zohrab again on propaganda: “My code of ethics: between the real and the imaginary, choose the real; between truth and falsehood, choose truth, at all times, everywhere.”


WHAT IF I AM WRONG?
A question that comes up again and again is:
“What would you have done in their place?”
One way to answer that question is by saying I am more worried about what I should be doing in my place: Should I join them in covering up their blunders and make a comfortable living, as most of my former friends and academics are doing? Or state honestly what I think, even if it means living in solitary confinement in my self-imposed gulag?
QUESTION: What if you are wrong?
ANSWER: There is always that possibility, of course. To say otherwise would be a declaration of infallibility, which, by the way, is what they imply when they blame all our misfortunes on others. Besides, I'd much rather be wrong as an honest man than right as a rascal. But assuming I am wrong: What's the harm done? I can always be corrected, insulted, silenced...and I have been -- insulted and silenced more often than corrected. But when the leadership is wrong the result may well be either a “red” or a “white” massacre, that is, alienation and assimilation in the Diaspora and exodus from the Homeland.


WHAT I KNOW ABOUT OUR RULING CLASSES
We may not have an aristocracy or an elite, but we have always had a ruling class or classes, even if more often than not they were not our real rulers but “their” puppets – and by “their” I mean our masters and oppressors, that is to say, the enemy.

We have always had dissidents too, even in our Golden Age (5th century AD), even if their word didn't carry much weight, and whenever not silenced by the likes of Talaat and Stalin, they were alienated by our “puppets” and ignored by the people, that is to say, their dupes.

Consider our situation today: our ruling classes have the power and the money. They control our churches, community centers, schools, and the press. They run bureaucracies. They subsidize the publication of textbooks which legitimize and promote their own version of the past that is as objective and honest as any state-sponsored version of the past taught in, say, Turkish or even American educational institutions.

What has been the contribution of our dissidents in our context? The same as that of the people – only victims.

There is an American political saying, “Let the best man win.” In our case the chances are the winner will be “the best man” only for the enemy and the worst for the rest of us. This may explain why our dissidents, very much like the people, have been and continue to be perennial losers.





Ara Baliozian

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