07 February 2009

2732) Between Turkish Friend And Armenian Enemy I Would Choose Turkish Friend. Who In His Right Mind Wouldn't?

BIG LIES
Dupes and fools are the backbone of a nation because they are willing to kill and die in the name of a Big Lie.
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Between A Turkish Friend And An Armenian Enemy I Would Choose A Turkish Friend. Who In His Right Mind Wouldn't? Many Armenians alive today owe their life to Turkish friends, and many victims of the Genocide, including some of our most beloved writers and poets, owe their death to Armenian traitors. .

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We know the family trees of royal dynasties but not of the masses, to which most of us belong. And the leaders, elites, and top dogs of all nations are, like Obama, mutts.
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Turks call themselves Turks because they have been brainwashed to believe they are Turks by men who were not themselves Turks. We are all products of mixed marriages.
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The Byzantine Empire was Greek but some of its greatest emperors and generals were of Armenian descent. The so-called Ottoman Empire that succeeded it was as much Greco-Armenian as Turkish. Most of our own kings and generals were imported talent.
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At the turn of the last century, the kings and queens of Europe were related to Queen Victoria and to one another; that did not prevent them from fighting a world war that was meant to end all wars (another Big Lie) but resulted in the bloodiest war in the history of mankind.
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Germany's most dangerous enemies were neither the Russians nor the French but the Nazis (from “national socialism”), in the same way that Russia's greatest enemies were the Bolsheviks, whose supreme leader was a Georgian, whose belief system was based on the theories of a German Jew.
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World history is full of Big Lies like that one and the Biggest of them all is that political leaders are selfless servants of the people and their number one priority is not number one but the welfare of their subjects.

On Eastern Mysticism
What can we learn from schools of Eastern mysticism? Or rather, what has the East learned from its own mystics? To those who say the ideas of Eastern mystics have universal validity even if they have been corrupted by their religious and political leadership, I say, the same could be said of Christianity and its mystics.
Gandhi, a Hindu, learned a great deal from the Bhagavat Gita and other Hindu scriptures. But he also learned from Tolstoy (a Russian), Ruskin (an Englishman), and Thoreau (an American).
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If history teaches us anything it is that no matter how noble an idea or ideology, sooner or later it will be corrupted and perverted by an authoritarian elite whose greatest concern will not be the welfare of the masses but its own powers and privileges.
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What can we learn from mystics of both East and West? Only this: the mystical experience is not transferable and all efforts to express it in words are destined to fail. For more on this subject see Aldous Huxley's THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, and Arthur Koestler's THE LOTUS AND THE ROBOT. Also of interest, the writings of Krishnamurti, an Indian mystic, who said, “If you follow someone else, you are on the wrong path,” or words to that effect. This is true of individuals as well as nations. Our greatest exponent of this particular idea is Gostan Zarian. See his TRAVELLER AND HIS ROAD and BANCOOP AND THE BONES OF THE MAMMOTH, both available in English.
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Arthur Koestler on Zen Buddhism: “Inarticulateness is not a monopoly of Zen; but it is the only school which made a philosophy out of it, whose exponents burst into verbal diarrhea to prove constipation.”

Elsewhere: “Zen always held a fascination for a category of people in whom brutishness combines with pseudomysticism, from Samurai to Kamikaze to Beatnik.”
Koestler is much better on Indian mysticism and its countless aberrations, including Gandhi's.
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Finally, here are two of my favorite Buddhist sayings: “Look not for refuge to anyone beside yourself”; and “Foolish friends are worse than wise enemies.”

Notes And Comments
You cannot solve a problem whose existence you refuse to acknowledge.
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Armenians are not litigious by nature – they learn it from their leaders.
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Fascists don't believe in dialogue and compromise, only in consensus and unanimity. Even when there are ninety-nine voices saying yes, and only one saying no, they feel the need to silence the sole dissenting voice.
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To know a great deal about Turks and next to nothing about Armenians, except their status as victims: that, it seems, is the mission of our Turcocentric ghazetajis.
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The reason why I am consistently negative is that my life and work may be divided into three distinct periods:
(one) past -- naïve and sentimental;
(two) present -- old and cynical;
(three) future – unprintable and unmentionable.
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“After all, we are Armenians!” – meaning , anything we say or do must be accepted and forgiven, including that which would be normally unacceptable and unforgivable. Some Armenians use Armenianism the way cold-blooded killers use the plea of insanity.
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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, Patagonian, or, for that matter, Turkish versions of their own past is false, is to bury our heads in the sand.


With Old Age Comes Objectivity
With old age comes objectivity, which means the more aware I become of our failings, beginning with my own, the more clearly I see the strategies we employ to cover them up.
We survived because we were divided.
It is all the fault of the bloodthirsty barbarians that surround us.
There is nothing wrong with us.
It's all the fault of the rotten world in which we are condemned to live.
Had we lived in a civilized world, we would have been a role model to all nations.
As for our critics, beginning with Naregatsi: all they do is project their rotten problems on the rest of us because misery like company.
Hence our fondness for massals and vodanavors like “Yes im anoush Hayastani” and the eternal snows of Mt. Ararat.
Between “once there was and was not” we have a marked preference for “was not,” at the end of which three golden apples will fall and we will live happily ever after.

Politicians And Writers
The difference between politicians and writers is that politicians understand people and writers want to be understood. Politicians understand people in the sense that they know all about their need for flattery and big lies, such as “chosen people,” “superior race,” “first nation this/first nation that.” One could even say that politicians are in the business of inventing and exploiting big lies, and writers in exposing them. This may explain why to this day Hitler, an unspeakably mediocre intellect, has his admirers, and Thomas Mann, a writer of genius, his detractors.
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The chosen people: If one is to adopt history, facts, and reality as an index, it would be more accurate to speak of the unchosen people.
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To speak of superiority even as one behaves as the most depraved of criminals: what could be more asinine, perverse and inferior?
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Perhaps one reason big lies are popular is that they combat repellent truth that are bigger.
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What could be more absurd than dupes at the mercy of control freaks speaking of freedom?
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It is not safe being a law-abiding citizen among criminals, or to speak one's mind among the mindless.

The Abyss
If I write about our dark side it's because no one else does. If our Turcocentric ghazetajis and their role models, our nationalist historians, are to be believed, Turks are our only dark side. But when writers like Raffi, Baronian, Odian, and Zohrab wrote, they stressed our failings, not those of other nations. And then there is Naregatsi, a saint: our greatest and least read writer whose sole subject was the abyss within. Next time you feel like bragging about your Armenian identity, read Naregatsi. Whenever I run into an Armenian who brags about our celebrities, multi-millionaires, our Mikoyans and Mamoulians, our Arlens and Saroyans, and above all about our survival as a nation, I begin to see more merit in a dignified death. To those who brag about Armenia being the first nation to convert to Christianity, may I ask how successful have they been in loving not only their enemies but also their fellow Armenians?
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I had the following exchange with one of our editors last week:
“We need poetry and fiction,” said he.
“What about essays?” I asked.
“You can do your preaching elsewhere,” was his reply.
My guess is this editor would have rejected Naregatsi on the grounds that his writings did not qualify as vodanavors and massals.
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Speaking of massals and grandmother stories: Once when I asked another one of our editors why he published so many grandmother stories, he explained: “Because grandmothers have played an important role in our lives.”
Have they? That was news to me. Has any one of our nationalist historians included a chapter on grandmothers in his texts?
Speaking of my own grandmothers: I never knew one of them because she died long before I was born. The other one lived in another town and I saw her once or twice a year. She never told me a single story.

IT TAKES ALL KINDS
My friends may forget me, but my enemies never will. That is why I never lose an opportunity of making one. Most of my enemies however are not enemies because I offended them in any way, but because I failed to flatter their colossal egos, which, in their eyes, might as well be a crime against humanity comparable to a massacre of civilians.
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Ignorance is not a crime, neither is credulity. But some of the worst crimes against humanity were committed by fools and dupes – and, of course, leaders who knew how to organize and use them.
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A dupe may also be a man of cunning who is infatuated with his own brain power, judgment, and perception of reality.
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Even after Stalin's crimes were exposed, there were many Armenian-American academics, poets, writers, and merchants who were pro-Soviet (I called them chic Bolsheviks). I know this because I would receive angry letters and telephone calls whenever I published a commentary critical of the regime.
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Even dupes with a negative IQ are smart enough to believe only in things that are clearly to their advantage. The reason there were so many chic Bolsheviks in America is that the regime treated them as celebrities whenever they visited the Homeland. I will never forget the archbishop who once said to me: “If you ever decide to establish yourself in the Homeland, they will take good care of you.”
Moral: Be aware of charlatans offering unsolicited advice that may sound flattering to your vanity.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
With unemployment soaring everywhere, many Armenians may decide to return to the Homeland, get organized, and throw the rascals out. Wishful thinking on my part? I am not sure. Such a movement has already started in France, and I expect any day now America may follow.
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I am so used to being insulted by readers that I feel ill at ease when one of them is kind to me. And when I insult a reader I expect him to say it comes with the territory and to forget about it, as opposed to holding a grudge for ninety-nine years. But I guess that too comes with the territory – that is, unforgiving Armenians with the memory of elephants and the venom of seven Turkish vipers.
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Anti-intellectualism has been a constant in our history because it allows hoodlums the luxury of looking down on their betters and assuming a morally superior stance on the grounds that God and Country are on their side.
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They rise in defense of God and Country. As for me, I rise only in defense of that most uncommon of all human faculties: common sense.
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Everything I write is an answer to a specific question, objection, or criticism. And yet, some of my readers complain that I ignore them. I suspect what these readers want is not answers but attention, flattery, propaganda, and lies. To them I say:
It’s been a pleasure disappointing you.

THE BLAME-GAME
What makes the blame-game irresistible to charlatans like Governor Blogojevich of Illinois and our leaders is that it allows them to portray themselves as morally superior even when irresponsible, corrupt, greedy, and guilty as hell. One important difference between Blogojevich and our wheeler-dealers is that no one died as a result of the Governor's misconduct. Even more important: Americans have a justice system and a legal maneuver known as impeachment. Do we even have a word for it? And if we do, when was the last time anyone heard it? Which may explain why very soon Illinois will be rid of Blogojevich but we will continue to be at the mercy not of one Blogojevich but a whole hang of them.
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When our speechifiers and sermonizers speak of unity, they remind me of wolves who would like to see sheep gathered in a single enclosure as opposed to being scattered all over the forest.
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The comments of our Turcocentric ghazetajis sometimes read like memoranda to a non-existent foreign office staffed by invisible bureaucrats anxiously waiting for their input and advice.
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At one time or another I have been accused of all those things that I have exposed and ridiculed, including fascism, racism, Antisemitism, anti-intellectualism, and intolerance. I don't mind pleading guilty to the charge of intolerance: I am indeed intolerant of stupidity and ignorance parading as knowledge and wisdom. I am also intolerant of greed, double-talk, tribalism, chauvinism, yes-men, Ottomanism, Stalinism, cowardice, treason, and arrogance. If by being tolerant of these things I will be a better Armenian, I say, No thanks! I'd much rather be an honest human being.

VICTIMS
No one, not even Armenians, are interested in Armenians as human beings, only as victims – victims of massacres, earthquakes, wars, and starvation. Whenever Armenians are mentioned in the odar press, the chances are it will be in connection with Turkish criminal conduct during World War I.
Armenians as victims. Speaking for myself as a human being rather than as an Armenian, I say enough of this miserabilism! Enough of our status as perennial victims. What could be more repellent than pity?
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An old friend whom I have not seen or exchanged a single word in fifty years comes to see me. He comes armed with a fat dossier outlining his economic plan. He wants to improve conditions of life in the Homeland. Someone must have told him as a writer I may be in a position to introduce him to benefactors. He goes away a thoroughly disappointed man.
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Once when I expressed a pedestrian wish to a woman (Armenian), she was outraged. “You are a writer!” she said. Did she want a sonnet? I have never written a sonnet in my life. On a good day and with a little bit of luck and daring, I may manage a third-rate haiku, but that's as far I am prepared to go. Even a fourth-rate sonnet I consider altogether beyond my ambitions and capabilities.
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A writer? An Armenian writer? What could be more contemptible! I am only a human being who does some scribbling on the side. If you find what I say irrelevant I suggest you read our writers, who, you may be interested to know, were also victims of both foreign and domestic tyrants.

REPLIES
“I disagree with you because I have more than one bishop, historian, and professor on my side.”
I could always claim to have God on my side (“A house divided against itself cannot stand”) but I refuse to take the name of the Lord in vain.
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“Has it ever occurred to you that a divided house may have a better chance to survive because if one half perishes the other may continue to live and prosper?”
Maybe so but let's see if this theory applies to us. Once upon a time we had vibrant communities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, how many of them survive today? And let's consider the Armenian-American diaspora: judging by its rate of intermarriage (80% I believe) and assimilation, the consensus is it may not make it to the next century.
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“The Diaspora may perish, but the Homeland will live!”
If in the Diaspora we have a high rate of assimilation, in the Homeland they have a higher rate of exodus. I have heard it said that the only people who don't want to emigrate are the cops.
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“We have the leadership we deserve.”
No one deserved the likes of Sultan Abdulhamid II, Talaat, and Stalin, not even our leaders.
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“I believe in the immortality of the nation because Armenians are men of faith.”
Faith is not enough. We must also do what must be done. Which means mutual tolerance, solidarity, dialogue, compromise, consensus, and above all respect for human rights, including that of free speech. If our bishops, historians, professors, and pundits don't believe in free speech, even He, whose name I refuse to to take in vain, and all His angels and archangels cannot save us.

ON THE FALLACY OF DOGMAS
In the USSR the economy was controlled; in the U.S. it was free. Both went bust. This may suggest a number of things, among them:

(one) all systems are open to abuse and corruption, and no system is foolproof;
(two) sooner or later all dogmas are exposed as fallacies by the reality principle;
(three) more often than not crises are created by experts or self-assessed superior intellects;
(four) the stronger an opinion, the weaker its foundation in truth;
(five) to know all there is to know about a specific academic discipline does not mean to know more about life;
(six) next time you run into someone who knows better, consider the possibility that his superior knowledge may be inferior to your ignorance;
(seven) a political party will have a better chance to survive if its party line is a zigzag;
(eight) when it comes to their own expertise, all experts are optimists.

SOME NOTES ON THE ARMENIAN PSYCHE
Let me begin with a warning to the reader: I don't understand everything, neither do I claim to have truth on my side. I write as I do because those who understand everything or know the truth are either silent or have failed to convince all of us. Therefore, consider what follows only as fragments from a work in progress.
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Why are Armenians mean to one another? What is at the root of our dogmatism, mutual intolerance, and divisiveness which have made of us perennial losers and underdogs? Puzant Granian once quoted to me a teacher of his who used to say, “There is a Turk in all of us.” This may suggest Armenians are not harmless Saroyanesque clowns whose sole aim in life is to entertain and amuse odar audiences, but carnivores who “survive by cannibalizing one another” (Zarian).
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We are divided because we lack a common pool of values, customs, traditions, and language. We have as many as 43 dialects, not all of them mutually comprehensible. We might as well be foreigners and barbarians (the Greek word for foreigners) to one another.
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Solidarity is a function of the leadership not of the people. Where leaders disagree, people quarrel.
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Our conquerors divided and ruled us for so many centuries that divisiveness has entered our DNA and become the central component of our identity.
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For millennia we took it from barbarians because we had no choice in the matter. We now have a choice and not only we refuse to take it but we also feel liberated enough to verbally slaughter anyone who dares to disagree with us.
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In his LAMENTATION Naregatsi (our Dante/Shakespeare) explains that, like all men, we too are walking encyclopedias of failings (or sins). The only way to come to terms with this fact is by becoming aware of it in the hope that the reality principle (or God) will reward us with understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, and serenity. It follows, when a fellow Armenian arouses the worst in us, we should be grateful to him for making as aware of the Turk within, for, according to Freud, the aim of civilization is to make the unconscious conscious.
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God bless you and God bless the divided tribes of Armenia.

DEMOCRACY
Power does not mean imposing your will on others. Power means responsibility, accountability, and service. Politicians are not our lords and masters or highnesses and excellencies, but our servants. They do not represent God on earth but the will of the people, and the people is not an abstraction but you and me. The more power they have, the greater their burden of responsibility and accountability. I say these things because I had an Armenian education and I was not taught any of it. You might say, I enjoy sharing my discoveries. If there are those who are not aware of these things it may be because it took mankind millions of years to formulate them, and after having formulating them it took many more centuries of strife to realize them. That doesn't mean all power structures today are democratic. Far from it. As a matter of fact, undemocratic regimes today outnumber democracies, and even more to the point, the temptation of tyranny and fascism is a constant in all democracies.
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How long before we reject the Ottoman and the Soviet from within us and are born again as human beings?
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If I speak in the name of common sense and decency, am I then an enemy of the people who should be insulted and silenced? If you disagree with me it must be because you have a better explanation. If you do, why don't you let me know what it is and I will be more than happy to make it mine.
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Remember, a good Armenian is first and foremost a good human being and he would be recognized as such not only by those who agree with him but also by those who disagree.

DZOUR NESDINK, SHIDAK KHOSSINK
Those who oppose free speech operate on two assumptions: (one) free or uncontrolled or unsupervised speech will inevitably lead to verbal abuse; and (two) they are themselves infallible when it comes to drawing the line that separates freedom from abuse. History tells us these two assumptions have been more open to abuse than free speech, and more crimes have been committed in the name of censorship than in the name of free speech.
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In the same way that war is diplomacy by other means, genocide is censorship by other means.
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Freedom without free speech is a fascist illusion.
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No matter how hard I try I cannot agree with a belief system or ideology that legitimizes the violation of someone's fundamental human rights.
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It is my ambition to speak of reality. Let others speechify, sermonize, and propagandize about their pet abstraction. A nation that does not have its feet firmly planted in reality is a nation that may survive (in the same way that animals in a zoo survive) but cannot live. Survival is life to the same degree that slavery is freedom.
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Flaubert said: “Everything must be learned, from reading to dying.” And for an Armenian, engaging in dialogue with a fellow Armenian.
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I preach but I don't always practice what I preach. When the other day I read that a member of this group wanted to have his name removed because he was “too busy,”my first uncensored thought was, “Busy doing what? -- beside pulling his dick.” Immediately I decided to keep this nasty thought to myself, and if I write it down now for everyone to see it's because I want to underline the discrepancy between theory and practice. I offer it not as a justification but as an explanation.
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To be a good Armenian is not the same as being a good human being, and I'd much rather deal with a good human being than an Armenian who considers himself la crème de la crème.
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And here is a rule without a single exception: An Armenian who considers himself la crème de la crème doesn't even qualify as la crème de la scum.

JINGOISM
“If I love my country I am justified in hating those of my countrymen who do not share my views.”
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“If I speak in the name of patriotism it means my heart is in the right place, which also means no one can challenge my views, unless of course they are willing to make themselves vulnerable to charges of anti-Armenianism, pro-Ottomanism, and treason, which, as everyone knows, happens to be a crime punishable by death, and rightly so.”
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“Since our failings are human failings shared by all of mankind, we should stop bitching about them.” It follows, exposing incompetence, intolerance, corruption, greed, and divisiveness, among other failings, is classified as bitching, which common sense tells us, is unmistakable evidence of anti-Armenianism.
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According to an old Jewish saying, “Some people are such nobodies that when they go out of a room it feels like someone came in.” Something similar could be said of the jingoist arguments mentioned above. No matter how often they are contradicted and rejected they are voiced again and again as if they were gospel truths.
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Armenians are a strange species indeed: they can take centuries of subservience and brutal oppression but they can't stand straight talk. They believe in freedom but not in free speech. Figure that one out if you can.

HISTORY
We have advanced from one form of oppression to another accompanied by long-winded sermons and speeches in the name of God and Country. Who speaks in the name of the people? Who dares to see a cause-and-effect connection between our corruption, incompetence, divisiveness or lack of vision and our status as perennial victims? All we contribute to our narrative is lies. Consider our press: most of it is about Turkish criminal conduct and our minor celebrities. Our problems – from massacres to earthquakes – fall on us without warning like thieves in the night. “Mart bidi ch'ellank.”
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We like to think, since we are not guilty of genocide, we are not fascists. But to silence dissent or to be deaf to dissenting voices is if not fascism than it is saying yes to fascism.
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There is an idiot in all of us, including the most wise. Likewise, there is a killer in all of us, compliments of our crocodilian ancestors. This may explain why sometimes intelligent men are deceived by fools, and decent men are misled by criminal psychopaths; and here, I could make a long list of famous men who supported Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin.

ENEMIES
Emile Littré : “Man is a most unstable compound, and earth a decidedly inferior planet.”
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When it comes to religion and politics, the prevalent attitude among leaders towards the masses is: the less they know and understand the better – because then they can be more easily manipulated and misled. As a result, we know more about the dark side of our enemies than they do; and we know less about ourselves than we should. It follows, anyone who dares to say all men are more or less the same or Turks are our if not brothers than half-brothers is promptly labeled a traitor.
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Our enemy, our real enemy, is not the Turk but knowledge, understanding, and objective judgment. Socrates was guilty of exposing the ignorance of his “betters.” Galileo knew something than the scriptures did not. Solzhenitsyn did not think the men in the Kremlin were morally or intellectually superior, he was therefore guilty of objective judgment. As for writers like Zabel Yessayan, Charents, and Bakounts, among others: they were too smart to be taken in by Bolshevik propaganda – though smart in this context does not mean a higher IQ but the ability to use one's common sense and to think for oneself.
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Napoleon once said, “A man with ideas is my enemy.” Which may suggest that rulers prefer to rule over the brainless. In their eyes, to expose the lies of their propaganda might as well be a crime against humanity.
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The Turks have a saying: “Chok ghareshterma, bokhou chekar.” Free translated:
“Don't get involved (or mix it up too much), you may expose the sh**.”
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Those who have dared to confront tyrants have always been a tiny minority, and tiny enough to be almost invisible to the naked eye.

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
“I don't like making enemies,” a writer tells me. And I cannot help thinking that the only way to avoid making enemies in our environment is by joining them, if only with your silence.
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When I was young I trusted and respected my elders. But with old age comes mistrust and suspicion. So much so that whenever I run into an honest man these days I feel like a born-again human being.
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Gone are the good old days when a commissar could permanently silence a dissident with a memo or a phone call with three monosyllables: “Shut him up!” Their only weapon now is verbal abuse. But the trouble with insults is that there are only a limited number of them and only a limited number of times they can be repeated. It has happened to me more than once that after repeatedly and almost daily abusing me for a year or two or even more, they have given up and fallen silent.
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Obama's greatest achievement so far is that he survived the insults of his adversaries and is now willing to have them as advisers, and this not in the name of a belief system but common sense.
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I am not surprised to read the following headline in one of our weeklies:
THOSE WHO WERE NOT AFRAID OF SOVIET INJUSTICE ARE NOW AFRAID OF ARMENIAN JUSTICE.
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When an Armenian asks you a question, you can be sure of one thing: he knows the answer.

AGAINST DOGMATISM
A doctor in Australia speaking of people in isolated villages: “You must always have a translator with you because when they don't understand a question, they say yes.”

It is the same with underdogs everywhere. They think it is safer to say “yes, sir!” even when they are told to drop their pants and bend over.
We said yes to Christianity; we said yes to atheism under the Soviets; and in the Ottoman Empire some of us said yes to Islam. We said yes to capitalism in the Diaspora and yes to communism in the Homeland. And today we say yes to our bosses, bishops, benefactors, and their assorted gangs of neo-commissars and panchoonies.
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A famous Armenian soprano speaking of a Gomidas love song during a radio interview:
“Armenians are shy.”
“You mean coy.”
“No, shy.”
“You are not shy!”
We like to think, since most odars, not to say Armenians, are ignorant, we can say anything we want about Armenians and get away with it; and it comes as a shock when we are contradicted.
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“To know is to remember,” Socrates used to say. It follows, to remind is to teach.
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No matter what you say, there will be those who disagree with you. Remember, there are still flat-earth theorists and dupes who think Hitler and Stalin were messianic figures.
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There are honest disagreements and there are Armenian disagreements. If throughout our millennial history consensus has been with us an unattainable Utopian goal, it’s because our disagreements are seldom honest disagreements.
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Honest men with honest disagreements may agree to disagree and thus develop a consensus -- which means working together, as opposed to thinking alike.

DIARY
A Palestinian mother in Gaza: “My children can no longer play in the street.”
A suggestion: Why don't they take their damn war somewhere like Sahara or the Gobi desert?
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Memo to myself: “Depressing thoughts are carcinogenic agents. You think too much about Armenians.”
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My dissenting views are so extreme, it seems, that even our dissenters disagree with me.
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If our past were a poem, it would be a lamentation to some, and a triumphal march to others.
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When a reader insults me, I think, at least he has read and reflected on what I have written, and that's good enough for me. Beggars can't be choosers.
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It is widely known among citizens of a democracy that politics is the second oldest profession and that in many ways it resembles the first. Fascists agree but they think this does not apply to them.

WHAT IS LITERATURE?
In his WRITING IN THE DARK: ESSAYS ON LITERATURE AND POLITICS (New York, 2008), David Grossman says, what made him decide to be a writer was the urge to invent stories. I thought of Scheherazade who invented stories in order to postpone her death. One could say that we too, like Scheherazade, write to postpone the death of the nation. But unlike Scheherazade, we don't write to entertain our masters but to expose the lies of their propaganda. This may explain why Scheherazade succeeded in realizing her goal and we have failed.

Fascists in Italy, Nazis in Germany, and Bolsheviks in the USSR lied to the people too and they were exposed not by writers (who tried very hard but failed) but by the reality principle. Italy and Germany lost a war and the USSR went bankrupt.

How to explain the fact that our lies have had a much longer lifespan?

We were a nation1500 years ago and we like to believe we still are. But are we? In the 20th century alone we experienced three genocides, one “red” (in the Ottoman Empire) and two “white” (assimilation in the Diaspora and exodus in the Homeland).

We have become a beggar among nations and at the mercy of – in the words of Avedik Issahakian (not exactly a critic or dissident) -- “earthquakes, bloodthirsty neighbors, and brainless leaders.” You may now guess which of these three “curses” (Issahakian's word) have been emphasized by our “brainless leaders” and their propagandists.

For every writer that mentions “brainless leaders,” we have dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of academics, historians, ghazetajis, speechifiers, and sermonizers who do their utmost to cover up the corruption, incompetence, and divisiveness of our leaders and to emphasize our “bloodthirsty neighbors and earthquakes.” And here is where intellectuals come in – to uncover that which is hidden from us.

I repeat myself?
And what do you think our propagandists do?

Another question: Has anyone ever complained that our propagandists, ghazetajis, speechifiers, and sermonizers repeat themselves? And what about our panchoonies? How many different ways are there of saying, “Mi kich pogh oughargetsek.”

To those who say, notwithstanding our prophets of doom and gloom, we have endured and we shall continue to endure, I ask: What if most of us, especially the best and the brightest, did not survive, and will not survive?

GETTING AT THE SOURCE
The closer you get at the truth, the more enemies you make.
*
It is in disagreement that an Armenian exposes his true nature.
*
An intellectual's first enemies are not politicians but pseudo-intellectuals who rise not in defense of god and country but grub and ego. Their role model is neither Abovian nor Zarian but Talaat and Stalin. Their unstated aim is the extermination of the intellectual class. Verbal abuse comes more easily to them then a simple assertion of disagreement.
*
Sooner or later we must all come to terms with the fact that we belong to a nation that has been victimized not only by foreign but also by domestic enemies, and of the two, the domestic have been more dedicated and persistent.
*
The hardest thing for an Armenian to admit is that the enemy may not always be the other but himself. Only when we are willing to admit this, may we begin to understand the source of out tribalism and divisiveness.
To those who think I have no right to speak for them, only for myself, allow me to reiterate that I have at no time denied the fact that my analysis of the Armenian psyche is rooted in self-analysis. It is this realization that has saved me from applying for membership in one of our mafias. I have at no time felt the need to join a criminal organization to be a perpetrator.
*
The miracle is not that we have survived, but that there are still more or less smart and decent human beings willing to identity themselves as Armenian even when they are half-Greek, half-Russian, or half-Jewish.

BEING ARMENIAN
“What's wrong with assimilation?” an assimilated Armenian once asked me, and I could not give him an answer.
*
In everything I say I speak not as an Armenian but as a human being who has done his utmost to go beyond political, racial, national, or tribal labels.
*
“You repeat yourself,” a Turcocentric ghazetaji who publishes a weekly anti-Turkish tirade once informed me. And when I said, “How many different ways are there of saying Turks are guilty of genocide?” he insulted me.
*
An Armenian who gets involved in Armenian affairs acquires two sets of unsettled scores: (one) against Turks, (two) against fellow Armenians who disagree with him.
*
Armenians use insults like voodoo pins – for long-distance murder.
*
A friend (may he rest in peace) once delivered the following dictum: “The only way to survive in this world is by adopting a form of insanity.” And I can't help thinking that the words of a dead man have a finality that the living cannot match.
*
The fate of the book hangs on the first paragraph, the same way that “the fate of the house depends on the wedding night” (Balzac).
*
Q: “Should I write every day or only when I am inspired?”
A: “If you have something to say, every day; otherwise, once or twice a year should be sufficient.”

LET FREEDOM RING
Freedom means participation in power.
Freedom means telling our fund-raisers: We demand accountability and certification from an independent forensic accountant.
Freedom means to treat our political leaders not as masters but as public servants.

Freedom means saying “No!” to our bosses, bishops, benefactors, and their assorted hirelings, flunkeys, and brown-nosers without fear of retaliation.

Freedom means lessons in civics in our schools, so that our children will grow up learning not only about Turkish atrocities but also about the meaning of democracy and the articles of our constitution.

Freedom means saying to our political bosses: Unless you engage in dialogue and develop a consensus we will not support you.

Freedom means saying to our bishops: Unless you stop building new churches when old ones remain unattended, we will walk out on your sermons.
Freedom means saying to our benefactors: As long as you sink your money into partisan enterprises, thus reinforcing our divisions, we will call you a dupe of charlatans and bloodsuckers and have a good laugh whenever your name is mentioned.

Freedom means telling our Turcocentric academics and ghazetajis: Enough is enough! We have had our share of lamentation for our victims and hatred of the perpetrators. Enough massacre editorials, articles, memoirs, monuments, demonstrations, and museums. It is now time that we move on and solve our present problems, among them two “white” genocides – that is, assimilation in the Diaspora and emigration in the Homeland.

Have we ever known this kind of freedom throughout our millennial history?

The freedom to say “Yes, sir!” is not freedom but subservience, which is another form of slavery. To exchange one form of subservience (be it Ottoman or Soviet) with another is not freedom but a swindle.

Wake up, Armenians. You have nothing to lose but your chains!

ON PROGRESS
We are a nation of small potatoes ruled by cabbages who pretend to be kings.
*
My morning paper informs me that, according to a watchdog agency, “democracy declined significantly in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova.”
*
We like to think of ourselves as progressive, but the truth is progress has never been our most important product. At the turn of the last century our political parties were run by intellectuals. Today they are run by businessmen, that is to say, by bottom-feeders whose greatest concern is the bottom line. If that's progress, it's more like the progress of a disease. In whatever we have done, we have followers our masters, be they Turks or Russian – not the two brightest stars in the firmament of democratic rule.
*
I write as I do because I don't care for the sound of my own voice. I was brought up to be a narcissist. I now see more merit in self-loathing.
*
If I were a success, I wouldn't write as I do because I would do my utmost not to bite the hand that lays the golden egg.
*
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.
*
It is extremely difficult for me to be civil to individuals who in a different time and place would have been my executioners.

MEGALOMANIA
Our public library (kpl.org) has acquired a new paperback edition of MEIN KAMPF. They have discarded some of my favorite books – among them Tolstoy's HADJI MURAD, Lesley Blanch's SABRES OF PARADISE, Klaus Mann's autobiography, and Joachim Maass's THE GOUFFE CASE – but retained Hitler, and they say crime doesn't pay.
*
In my teens and early twenties when I wanted to read everything from A to Z, I also gave Hitler's KAMPF and Marx's KAPITAL a try, but I no longer remember if I finished them. It is easy to start reading a book but difficult finishing them. Of the dozen or so books that I borrow from the library every week I may or may not finish reading one or at most two. Like Sartre (“I'd much rather read a crime novel than Wittgenstein”) I'd rather read an entertaining second-rater than a ponderous big shot who takes himself seriously and expects to be taken seriously.
*
Taking oneself seriously: that's another one of our maladies. A reader once said to me, “Maybe the writers you quote (from Khorenatsi to Zarian) failed because they went about it the wrong way.” There is no limit to our megalomania – from the turn-of-the-century revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire (“frogs trying to rape and elephant”) to Turcocentric ghazetajis today parading as defenders of the faith and saviors of the nation. Which is one reason why I hesitate to identify myself as a critic or a dissident or even a writer. I feel more comfortable calling myself a sh** disturber.”

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.
*******************************************
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).
***********************************************
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.
***************************************************
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.
**************************************************
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.

REFLECTIONS
The most visible feature of a nation is not its Golden Age or its celebrities, but its degree of solidarity. No one takes seriously a nation that has been manipulated by the divide-and-rule tactics of other nations for most of its existence.
*
To alienate a fraction of the people is to amputate the nation.
*
When I said the greatest insult to a writer is to ignore him, they stopped insulting me. If only I could solve all my problems with the same ease.
*
“The buck stops here”: the four most un-Armenian words in the English language.
*
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?
*
It is not at all unusual for our chauvinists to preach Armenian culture and to practice Ottoman barbarism.

OBSERVATIONS
To know nothing is better than to know only one side of the story.
*
Writing history should be more akin to examining our conscience as opposed to emphasizing the positive and covering up the negative.
*
It is not enough for an Armenian to win an argument, he must also annihilate his adversary.
*
After three decades of hard work I am now in a position to state with some degree of certainty and pride that I have more enemies than friends.
*
Like most men, computers must be programmed in order to think.
*
It makes little sense keeping up with Joneses if the Joneses are busy keeping up with the Smiths.
*
When top dogs don't trust one another, underdogs quarrel among themselves.
*
You work hard all your life, you make a fortune, you share your fortune with ingrates who insult you: who says benefactors are better off than scribblers?

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
A Muslim scholar in Canada has written a book critical of Islam and now lives in fear of assassination.
*
It is only natural for those who are part of the problem to pretend not to see the solution.
*
Before you attain greatness you must achieve honesty, and of the two, achieving honesty may well be the more demanding enterprise.
*
Once upon a time, in the Middle Ages, we were celebrated for being good fighters. We still are, but only against the wrong enemy: ourselves.
*
More often than not, it is in our efforts to appear smart that we expose ourselves as fools.
*
It makes little sense to support one side against another when both belong to the dustbin of history.
*
In all political movements, lust for power is invariably hidden behind noble slogans; the greater the lust, the nobler the slogans.

A Book Review By A Friend
I'm shamelessly promoting a book by a fellow armenian - The Repatriate by Tom Mooradian. Tom, the son of dear friends of my grandparents, repatriated to Soviet Armenia in 1947 and spent 13 years trying to return home. He remembers my grandmother imploring him to not go.

He has written and self-published this book. In light of that, I will tell you that I started reading it with some skeptism, but quickly was drawn in. Tom Mooradian is a writer. He wrote for a newspaper when he finally returned to the United States and he has compiled his story well.

So, if you are interested in a bit of history - life in the communist Soviet Union - this would be a good story. It's more about the struggle of life in a communist country than about an Armenian story. It's about a young man (18) who thought he was going to travel the world and became a hostage in a country that terrorized its people. He managed to make a decent life for himself as a star basketball player, but he never stopped wanting to return home. He managed to get out and still does not know who finally gave him that gift, but the journey is an interesting one.
The title of the book is The Repatriate, by Tom Mooradian.

Because it's a book off the publishing radar right now, I wanted to help spread the word.
until later,
much peace,
Kathy

PARALLEL LINES
It is safe to assume that not all chief executive officers in America are crooks. But when the honest ones saw the writing on the wall, spoke up and said, “We can no longer afford private jets, million-dollar salaries, big bonuses, and golden parachutes,” they were silence by the crooks who said, “Relax! We are too big to fail. Uncle Sam will bail us out.” And Uncle did because the easiest thing in the world is to be generous with someone else's money. (I have already read a pundit who called Obama “an empty suit.")
*
Something similar happened to our revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire when they were warned they were no better than frogs trying to rape an elephant. To which our revolutionaries replied: “Relax! We are not in this alone. The great powers of the West are on our side. The Turks wouldn't dare!” But the Turks dared because they knew the great powers were not our Uncle Sam and wouldn't spill a single drop of blood to save us.
*
And speaking of blood: We have shed our blood and we have done so copiously in defense of alien and even hostile empires, among them the Byzantine, the Ottoman, and the Soviet (350,000 dead during World War II alone). If we judge a tree by its fruit, a man by his actions, and a nation's IQ by its history, we may have to conclude that we are not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

AD HOMINEM
Let better men than myself reach for the truth. All I want is avoid being absurd.
*
History teaches us to recognize blunders when we see them. If history, including our own, continues to be a succession of blunders, it may be because the number of blunders is infinite, the human brain at its most creative in their invention, and self-deception a constant.
*
Self-deception allows us to be absurd and self-righteous at the same time.
*
To those who wonder how dare I speak in the name of the nation when no one elected me, my answer is: I speak only as a human being and I don't need majority support to think, feel, and reason as a human being.
*
A typical Armenian is an open wound and a closed mind.
*
Anonymous: "A genius has his limitations. A fool does not."
*
Voicing morally superior sentiments is not the same as being morally superior. If it were, every sermonizer would be a saint.
*
Commissars of culture and culture are mutually exclusive concepts.

ON IDEAS
Armenians who are obsessed with Turkish criminal conduct are eager to inform me that my ideas lack originality.
*
The awareness of doing the right thing is better than fame, fortune, and happiness.
*
If you have only one idea, you have no choice. If you have two ideas, you have a choice. Two is better than one because freedom is better than slavery.
*
There is a familiar type of Armenian who is cunning enough to know that one way to have the last word is to make himself so repellent that anyone with the minimum sense of hygiene will do his utmost to stay as far away from him as possible.
*
Annihilating your enemy in the name of victory is the Ottoman way. So is verbally abusing those who disagree with you.
*
What matters is not how we treat our friends, but how we treat our enemies.
*
An enemy is one we have failed to convince that it will be to his advantage to be our friend.
*
To be savaged by fools and fanatics is the surest sign of being on the right path.



Ara Baliozian

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