19 March 2009

2781) Why Should We Not Call Turks Our Brothers If We Have A Better Chance To Resolve Our Differences As Friends



Not All Questions Have Answers
Unlike most of my fellow countrymen, I was born a total ignoramus, and even after a lifetime of study and reflection, my area of ignorance is so vast that what I know might as well be a grain of sand on a beach that stretches from here to the . .
horizon.
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I learn something every day, which may suggest I have spoken as an ignoramus so many times that you would be a fool to take me seriously.
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Who could be more ignorant that a man with all the answers? And who could be more prone to error that he who asserts infallibility?
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Einstein said the universe is comprehensible but after decades of hard thinking he failed to explain it.
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Heidegger said so far no philosopher has been successful in answering the question, why things exist?
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We like to say people have the government they deserve. But I suggest no one guilty of petty larceny deserves to fry.
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If the future of our nation is more important than the past, and if we have a better chance to resolve our differences as friends rather than as enemies, why should we not call Turks our brothers?



REFLECTIONS
Whether God exists or not is not the problem. The problem, the real problem, the existential problem is placing as great a distance between us and the Devil as possible. Likewise, knowing the truth is not the problem. The problem is recognizing a deceiver when we see one.
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Because I criticize Armenians I am accused of anti-Armenianism; and because some Turks quote me, I am accused of pro-Ottomanism. I may be wrong about everything but I have no doubt whatever in my mind that no one, not even the very best among us, are beyond criticism. And not to criticize in the name of patriotism is to support the corrupt and the incompetent, and when things go wrong, to blame the enemy who probably was also duped into supporting lying riffraff.
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Among us, politics (or the art of the possible) is confused with ideology (the art of the impossible), and inevitably, ideology is confused with theology (the art of the incomprehensible), and theology is confused with pathology. Some day, in a future progressive and enlightened Armenian democracy, if our partisans are arrested and put on trial, they will be absolutely right in pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.
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As solitary creatures, Armenian writers have been perennial victims of political parties and their satellite institutions, all of which have a tendency to divide their fellow Armenians into friends and enemies or yes-men and dissidents. As for dialogue: who has ever heard of such a thing in an Ottoman or Soviet environment, or, for that matter, in a crypto-Ottoman or neo-Stalinist context?



ARNOLD J. TOYNBEE
When asked by a journalist what had motivated him to dedicate most of his adult life to writing his monumental multi-volume STUDY OF HISTORY, Toynbee replied with a single word: “Curiosity.”

Of the twelve volumes, my favorite is the 12th, subtitled RECONSIDERATIONS. Here Toynbee replies to his critics – an astonishingly large number of them from all over the world. Sometimes he is willing to admit error, at others he reaffirms his position and goes further. Case in point: “Spate's failure to keep his knowledge of the Jordan valley's history up to date would have been venial if the tone of his criticism had not been supercilious. However, my concern with Spate is not to return his fire but to follow out the second thoughts into which I have been stung by the stimulating shot with which he has peppered me.”

One reason I enjoy reading and rereading RECONSIDERATIONS is its quintessentially unArmenian tone of tolerance and acceptance of dissent as worthy of consideration.

Toynbee's general theory of the rise and fall of civilizations and empires goes something like this: civilizations grow by responding successfully to challenges under the leadership of creative minorities, and decline when the leaders fail to react creatively.” In his own words: “A growing civilization can be defined as one which the components of its culture [economic, political, artistic, and scientific] are in harmony with one another; and, on the same principle, a disintegrating civilization can be defined as one in which these elements have fallen into discord.”
All general theories are vulnerable to contradiction and criticism. Plato's were criticized by his student, Aristotle, Marx's by Keynes, Spengler's by Jacques Maritain and Teilhard de Chardin, and Toynbee's by a wide range of specialists who saw in him an interloper who had dared to exploit their findings to serve his own alien agenda.

In my view, Toynbee's greatest merit is not his general theory but the many brilliant observations on the human condition. Random samples follows:
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On racial superiority:
“The Jews, the Japanese, the British 'sahibs', the Nazis...all seem to me to have been chosen by no one except themselves.”
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On critics:
“Whenever a reviewer is tempted to treat an author as a dart-board he should remember that the missile which his hand is itching to lance is not a dart but a boomerang.”
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On chauvinism:
“Self-idolization is most flagrantly in evidence, not as a self-adjudicated reward for success, but as a self-exculpating compensation for failure.” (I think of these lines whenever I hear one of our charlatans bragging about our celebrities and achievements.)
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“The egocentric illusion has always beset every living organism in which an ego has ever asserted itself.”
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On pessimism and optimism:
“The truth is that Valéry's pessimism and Gibbon's optimism are, both alike, rationalizing of feelings that are irrationally subjective.”

BOOKS IN MY LIFE
I grew up in time of war – two wars, as a matter of fact: World War II and the Greek Civil War. I grew up in a house without books. It was only at the age of fourteen that I read my first book – WITH FIRE AND SWORD by the Polish Nobelist Henrik Sienkiewicz: a historical novel of WAR-AND-PEACE dimensions, but less Tolstoy and more Dumas pére and Errol Flynn. The only thing I remember about it today is the name of the central character, Pan Mikael Volodiovsky. I read it in an Armenian translation done by a Mekhitarist monk. At one time the Mekhitarists were formidable translators and the most prolific of them all was Arsen Ghazikian, who single-handed translated all the epic poems of the Western canon from Homer to THE SONG OF ROLAND, among many other Greek and Latin classics. Two of his students, Padre Elia (Yeghia) Pachikian and Mesrob Janashian, were my teachers. Janashian was also the author of a highly detailed and competent HISTORY OF MODERN WEST-ARMENIAN LITERATURE.

After FIRE AND SWORD I chanced on a thin paperback, Dostoevsky's THE GAMBLER, and was hooked on the Russians. What fascinated me about Dostoevsky was the fact that his characters spoke their mind, held nothing back, refused to stand on ceremony or consider what others may think of them. In that sense, they were more authentic human beings than anyone I had ever met. Chekhov was different. His characters impressed me as people I had known or could have known. There was nothing bizarre or incomprehensible about them.

The Russians, and I include Tolstoy and Turgenev, made me realize that I wasn't alone, and whenever I try to reread them now I also realize that you can't go home again.

LITERATURE
The only time I am referred to as a writer by our commissars is when they tell me it is my duty as a patriotic Armenians to echo their sentiments and thoughts. You say I have said this before? How flattering! Not only you read me but you also remember what I say.
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Money goes to money, they say. Something very similar happens to culture too. Consider the situation of 20th-century French literature, one of the most highly developed and influential in the world: the three playwrights who revolutionized the French theater (Samuel Beckett, Arthur Adamov, and Eugene Ionesco) were an Irishman, an Armenian, and a Romanian respectively). And now consider the situation of Armenian literature at the other end of the spectrum: not only we don’t encourage or welcome outside contribution, but we also alienate and silence our own (from Abovian to Zarian). Figure that one out if you can.

REFLECTIONS ON OUR HISTORY
“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
Our history in a nutshell.
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There are two kinds of nations: those who divide and conquer, and those who divide themselves and are conquered.
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The function of a belief system or ideology is to raise a wall between us and our perception of reality. The function of our nationalist historians, leadership, and educational system has been to cover up this fact, and the function of our writers has been to remind us of it. There are many references to this fact in our literature. (See below.)
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To those who say, how could little Armenia resist the overwhelming might of ruthless empire builders like Genghis Khan (13th century), Timurlang (14th century), and Suleiman the Magnificent (16th century), my answer is: our predisposition for dividing ourselves was in full swing long before these gentlemen went on the warpath. Listen to our 5th-century historian, Yeghishé:
“Solidarity is the mother of good deeds, divisiveness of evil onces.”
Elsewhere: “We may not be allowed to question the integrity of princes, but neither should we praise men who pit themselves against the Will of God” (that is, the Reality Principle).

And more to the point:
“In the same way that a man cannot serve two masters, a nation cannot have two kings. If a nation is ruled by two kings, both the kings and their subjects will perish.”
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Am I rubbing salt in our wound? Why not? -- if the wound is self-inflicted.
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Raffi: “An Armenian's worst enemies are not odars but Armenians.”
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Gostan Zarian: “Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another.”
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Charents: “O Armenian people, your salvation lies only in your collective powers.”
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For more on this subject, see my DICTIONARY OF ARMENIAN QUOTATIONS.

ON OPTIMISM
If all our writers, from Khorenatsi to Zarian, have so far failed to penetrate the thick walls raised by our political and religious leaders, whatever possesses me into thinking I have a better chance? And what kind of arrogance bordering on pathological megalomania is it that makes our Turcocentric ghazetajis entertain the illusion they will have better luck with the Turks? Perhaps there is a Don Quixote in all of us – a Don with the IQ of Rosinante, or is it Sancho Panza's jackass?
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“Please, don't tell my mother I am a CEO on Wall Street. She thinks I am a pimp.”
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When millionaires declare bankruptcy, they do so to protect their millions. Some laws, it seems, are made by crooks, for crooks.
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In his autobiography,Theodore Reik, a Freudian psychoanalyst, writes that for many years he was deeply in love with a very attractive woman. But when he finally married her, the wedding night was a disaster. He seems to be saying, a penetrating awareness of the other is achieved only by penetration.
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Both pessimism and optimism are more or less legitimate ways of forecasting the future. Sometimes pessimists are right, and sometimes optimists. But optimists are never right if their optimism is motivated by wishful thinking. Reality advances on a different plane from our wishes. That’s why, even when our dreams come true they have a tendency to turn into nightmares.

Emails That Were Misaddressed

When Insults Had Class
There was a time when words were used beautifully. These glorious insults are from an era when cleverness with words was still valued, before a great portion of the English language was boiled down to four-letter words!

The exchange between Churchill and Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband, I'd give you poison," and he said, "If you were my wife, I'd take it."

Gladstone, a Member of Parliament, to Benjamin Disraeli: "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."

"That depends, sir," said Disraeli, "On whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." -Winston Churchill

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about." - Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." - Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?" - Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." - Abraham Lincoln

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." -Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend . . . if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill "Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second . . . if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others." - Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." - Paul Keating

"There's nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won't cure." -Jack E. Leonard

"He has the attention span of a lightning bolt." - Robert Redford

"They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge." - Thomas Brackett Reed

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyra nd

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." - Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." -Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts .. . . for support rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." -Groucho Marx

- - -
Will Rogers, who died in a plane crash with Wylie Post in 1935, was probably the greatest political sage this country has ever known. Enjoy the following:
1. Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.
2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.
3. There are 2 theories to arguing with a woman...neither works.
4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.
5. Always drink upstream from the herd.
6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.
8. There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.
9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
10. If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.
11. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.
12. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral:
When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.
- - -

ABOUT GROWING OLDER...
First ~ Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
Second ~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.
Third ~ Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know "why" I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.
Fourth ~ When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.
Fifth ~ You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.
Sixth ~ I don't know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.
Seventh ~ One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.
Eighth ~ One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.
Ninth ~ Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.
Tenth ~ Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it's called golf
And finally ~ If you don't learn to laugh at trouble, you won't have anything to laugh at when you are old.

NOTES AND COMMENTS
The real conflict is not between ideologies or belief systems but between those who cling to what they have (even when obtained by piracy or exploitation) and those who have nothing to lose.
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Sometimes the only way to disarm your accusers is by pleading guilty to crimes that didn't even cross your imagination to commit. It is not easy to satisfy someone who has tasted blood.
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The ideal citizen is a fool who allows himself to be brainwashed and manipulated. All others are classified as trouble-makers and malcontents. That's the way it is with gravediggers – they prefer to deal with corpses.
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I don't write to have anyone's agreement. I write the kind of things I would have liked to have read in my formative years when I was programmed not to think for myself.
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We live as though our problems were insoluble; but we argue as if we had a minimum of two solutions for every one of our problems.
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Some people are so outrageously wrong that they don’t have to be corrected. Sooner or later life, facts, the reality principle will speak to them much louder than any logical argument or appeal to common sense and decency.

ON JUSTICE
I gave up publishing books on the day I realized we had more writers than readers. That may well be another first for us -- first nation to produce more writers than readers, and first nation to massacre more trees per capita than any other nation on earth. One thousand academics in the United States alone – and academics, as everyone knows, must either publish or perish. And then we have, what a friend of mine calls, “a massacre mafia” -- academics whose field is the Genocide and who review and promote books written only by members, they ignore all others.

Once when I wrote something to the effect that massacre books may promote a victim mentality, several reader wrote in protest to say that they don't feel like victims. But suppose a member of your family has been traumatized by a criminal, say, like a rapist. Would you remind her of the rape every chance you get? You may deceive yourself into thinking you are not a victim on the conscious level, but what about your subconscious where the real action is?

Writing books may well be another way of establishing our immortality and as such a legitimate reaction to genocide, granted. But writing books that no one reads?

Like the offspring of all oppressed and victimized people we are first and foremost bundles of unsettled scores for whom verbal abuse is the only safe way to get even. Instead of constantly reminding us of our victimhood, we should be taught the values of such mantras as “Let the dead bury their dead,” and “What's done is done and cannot be undone.” I am not promoting amnesia. What I am doing is reacting against our masochists.
Speaking about verbal abuse: once when I took it upon myself to remind a garbage mouth reader that insulting me simply because he disagrees with me is wrong, he said, “Sue me!” thus expressing an awareness of the fact that the rule of law is mightier than bitching, and one competently written legal brief is worth a thousand lamentations and as many insults.

You want justice? Get a lawyer.

KILLERS
“But he was such a kind man!” neighbors say of a serial killer. I am not implying kindness is suspect. What I am saying is that there is a killer in all of us.
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Regardless of what you say, you will have your share of critics who belong to the Richelieu school of criticism that says, “If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in the, to hang him.”
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I don't expect to be published in a newspaper or magazine where archbishops advertise the sale of Oriental rugs in their cathedral. Neither do I expect to be welcome in an Internet discussion forum whose moderator is the son of a bishop or the hireling of a benefactor.
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To be an honest man means to make many enemies and very few friends.
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When in a hurry, go slower than your normal speed.”
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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.

IF
If I speak well of some Turks it's because I have heard about good Turks and even met and dealt with some of them. If I am critical of my fellow Armenians it's because, very much like the rest of mankind, we are far from perfect. If, on the other hand, you think Armenians are beyond criticism, I can only say, you must be just about the luckiest man on earth because obviously so far you have dealt only with good Armenians.

Either that or you are a nationalist, that is to say, blind in one eye.
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I was brought up to believe reality is not what I see but what I was told to see. I have wasted so much time seeings things that weren't there.
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Reading teaches us that our blunders, defeats, and humiliations are not unique to us and that countless others have been through the very same experiences.
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It’s not easy civilizing barbarians. But what is infinitely harder is civilizing barbarians who brag about their past civilization.

QUESTION
Win an argument and lose a friend.
It has happened to me more than once.
Some of my worst enemies today are former friends; and they have become enemies because of a minor disagreement on an irrelevant topic.
But perhaps they were never friends, and what they lost was much more than an argument.

We are a confused bunch. No doubt about that.

We are confused because we have been shaped by alien, tyrannical, and unjust laws – laws that viewed dissent as a capital offense, and desire for self-determination (i.e. freedom), that most human of all desires, as a crime against humanity or the integrity of the empire.

When contradicted we feel threatened. There are even those among us (I call them skinheads) who see verbal abuse as a legitimate form of counter-argument.

We will be born again as human beings on the day we learn to have a friendly disagreement.

Remember my friends:
free speech is a fundamental human right,
dissent is not treason,

a political party that places its own agenda above the solidarity and welfare of the nation is not democratic but tyrannical,
and our political leaders are not bosses or representatives of god on earth but public servants.

Because I say these things, am I then your enemy?

MOSAIC
Truth as a mosaic of lies -- like a pleasing design made of worthless pieces of glass or stone.
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God as a point of reference or God as a means to expose our failings and imperfections, yes. But God as a license to do this, that, and the other – I say that's damn close to confusing God with the Devil.
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What could be more absurd than to say, what I believe is true, what you believe is a lie. And yet...
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Let us teach ourselves to question everything, beginning with our own judgment.
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To say that ideas acquire legitimacy only when they serve our interests is to undermine the legitimacy of all ideas.
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What follows is a true story. It happened last year in a Greyhound bus in Canada. A passenger stabs another passenger – a totally unprovoked attack -- and beheads him. When arrested and tried, he pleads not guilty by reason of insanity. God made him do it, he explains.
I suggest the following definition of man: a creature who cannot tell God from the Devil.
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If repetition is a crime, who is the victim? If repetition is a transgression, where is the harm?

REFLECTIONS
When I was a total ignoramus, I always assumed I knew more than the average Joe I happened to be dealing with. Now it's the other way around: I always assume to know less.
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You can tell how ignorant a man is by how hard he tries to make you think he knows better.
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The most ungodly people are those who speak in His name, and the most dangerous dupes are those who believe them.
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I reject the notion that to be a good Armenian means to be a bundle of prejudices and nurse an unsettled score. Which amounts to saying, to be a good Armenian means to be a bad human being.
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What's uppermost in the mind of a successful writer is to live up to his reputation. Which is why as a marginal scribbler and a total failure I find my status both liberating and stimulating.
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It is written: “No one can be as dangerous as the man who has nothing to lose.”
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The greatest challenge a country faces is not electing great leaders but leaders who are the least threat to its welfare. As for our unelected bosses, bishops, and benefactors: they might as well be our Bermuda Triangle.
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Our ghazetajis operate on the assumption that the average Armenian reader prefers to read about little successes (not matter how imaginary) than colossal failures (no matter how real). Never underestimate the cunning of idiots.
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Prejudice allows a man to tailor his questions to fit his answers.
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If you don't know, pretend to know. Few people will have the time and appetite to get into a useless argument with a worthless phony. At least, that has been my experience.

AN ALIEN CULTURE
During the war in Vietnam Americans were accused of genocide by a number of learned observers, among them Jean-Paul Sartre (see his ON GENOCIDE).
In his GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR (New York, 2008), Paul Theroux writes that whenever he identified himself as an American in Vietnam, he met with smiles and friendliness -- “no moralizing, no frowns, no scolding. Almost all the Vietnamese I met were like this – not backward-looking and vindictive scolds muttering, 'Never forget!' but compassionate souls, getting on with their lives, hopeful and humane.”

Elsewhere: “Travel in Vietnam for an American was a lesson in humility. They had lost two million civilians and a million soldiers, and we had lost more than 58,000 men and women. They did not talk about it on a personal level, at least not in a blaming way. It was not you, they said, it was your government...Blaming and complaining and looking for pity are regarded as weak traits in Vietnamese culture, revenge is wasteful. They won the war against us because they were tenacious, united, and resourceful, and that was also how they were building their economy.”
While in Tokyo, a Japanese writer tells him: “We admired MacArthur – we still do. He's like a father figure.”


For those of you who are interested in things having to do with origins concerning Armenians, a friend sent this to me and I found it very interesting. I hope you do too.

HYE LAST NAMES
Very Interesting!!

Have you ever thought about the meaning of "ian"?

Most Armenian names end in "ian" or "yan," meaning the "son of", but some Diaspora Armenians have changed these endings to blend in their
host societies.

Today in Turkey "oglu" often replaces "ian," while Russian Armenians may change the endings to "ov"; e.g., Gary Kasparov, Serge Parajanov.

A name ending in "ian" is not always exclusively Armenian, since the ending can also be occasionally found in names in Irish, Persian, English, Philippine and some other cultures.

Armenian last names generally fall into five specific categories:

Aristocracy, Parent, Geography, Occupation or Trait.
Aristocracy The ancient Armenian aristocracy ("Nakharar" class) was derived from Parthian-Persian stock and many of their names ended in "uni" or "ooni."

Most of these families were destroyed over the centuries but some still survive today; e.g., Sasuni, Rshtuni.

Parent Many Armenian names are derived from the first names of an ancestor; e.g. Davidian, "son of David," Stepanian, "son of Stepan," or Krikorian,

"son of Krikor/Grigor." Until the 19th century, virtually all first names had a religious origin, so most of those last names are also religious.

Geography
Some last names are based on geographic origin and end in "lian"

(Turkish) or "tsian" (Armenian). Typical examples are Sivaslian "from Sivas," Urfalian "from Urfa" and Vanetzian "from Van." These names were typically given to an immigrant who migrated from a different region of

Armenia. Obviously everyone living in Marash would not call himself or herself "Marashlian".

Occupation
Most last names were taken from the professions of an ancestor. These names frequently originated with the tax collectors who needed to identify all individuals for tax purposes. Typical examples are Najarian "son of a carpenter," Arabian "son of a wagon/teamster," and Vosgarichian "son of a goldsmith." Many of these occupations are not Armenian, since the tax man (typically a Moslem Turk, Persian, Arab, etc.) would use his own native word for the occupation; e.g., the name Boyajian is based on the Arab/Turkish term "boyaji" "one who dyes."

Trait
The most confusing and curious names are those based on some trait of an ancestor. Typical examples are Topalian "son of the cripple," Dilsizian "son of the tongueless one," or Sinanian "son of the spearpoint." Many of the origins of these names are unclear unless one understands the original context. As an example, Dilsizian indicates that an ancestor had his tongue cut out by the Turks for using the Armenian language, while the term "Sinan" was a slang term applied to somebody either with a very erect military-like carriage or who was "hung like a horse." Some of these traits are not physical, but rather reflect personality or social status; e.g., Melikian "son of the king" or Harutunian "son of the resurrection." The name Harutunian could be based on an ancestor named Harutune (so-named because he was born around Eastertime), or adopted by a convert to Protestantism to show his status as a "born-again Christian."

Many last names today have been shortened or modified to aid pronunciations by non-Armenians; e.g., the name Mugerditchian/Mkrtichian" becomes "Mugar," "Husseniglian," becomes "Hewsen," and Samourkashian" becomes "Samour." These abbreviated names often drop the ian" ending, and are not immediately identifiable as being Armenian to an outsider.

The name categories of Occupation and Trait can differ significantly between Eastern Armenians and Western Armenians, since the eastern names often have Persian, Georgian or Russian roots, while the western names may have Turkish, Arab, or Greek roots. Names with the prefix "Der" or "Ter" show that one of the ancestors was a "Der Hayr" a married parish priest), a position of great social status among Armenians; e.g., DerBedrosian, Ter Petrosian.

The study of Armenian Names is a fascinating exercise, since virtually every aspect of the culture is reflected in names. There have been extensive studies of Armenian names in the Armenian language, but little has appeared in English and many Armenians (born outside of Armenia) do not understand the significance of their own names.

SOLVING PROBLEMS

Solving problems is easy. What's hard is implementing the solutions. Consider the present global financial crisis that enriched a few at the expense of impoverished many.

It seems to me the solution is as clear as daylight and as simple as getting a refund for a defective or unsatisfactory item. In legal parlance: either restitution of funds acquired by the few or a jail term. If this solution is rejected on legal grounds, then all I can say is there is something wrong with the law and it should be rectified and enforced retroactively.

When a doctor kills instead of curing, he cannot plead not guilty by reason of incompetence. Incompetence should not be rewarded but punished. Why should not the same principle apply to economists and financiers whose responsibility it is to take care of the welfare or economic health of the nation?

It goes without saying that law-makers will never agree to pass a law that may expose their own incompetence or corruption or status as co-conspirators with Wall Street CEOs and their hirelings.

But let the world solve its problems. Let's take care of our own first.
How to solve our own problems?
Easy! De-Ottomanize, de-Stalinize, and de-tribalize.
What could be easier?
What's hard is convincing our men at the top that, very much like their counterparts in Washington and Wall Street, they are not la crème de la crème but la crème de la scum.

TRUE STORIES
Once upon a time I had a friend who was nice to everyone, made no enemies, was invariably generous in his assessments of others, popular with both men and women, yet he died friendless. This is not a judgment on my part but a confession on his. He was an Armenian writer.
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Not to love but to pretend to love. Not to believe but to pretend to believe. Not to know but to pretend to know. The world is full of them.
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Should one be tolerant of intolerance?
*
Communism has been defined as state capitalism, and capitalism as socialism for Wall Street CEOs.
*
The search for reason leads to insanity.
*
The softest and most comfortable chair will give you back pain.
*
There is a slave in every conformist, a revolutionary in every dissenter, an atheist in every believer, a believer in every atheist, and a Turk in every Armenian.
*
Your truth is bound to be someone else's lie.
*
The worst nightmare for an exemplary man would be coming face to face with his double.
*
No one can be as ignorant as the man with all the answers.
*
All pro-establishment assertions boil down to the motto “I'm alright Jack!”

RANDOM THOUGHTS
When a doctor kills instead of curing, his license is revoked. This law governing the practice of medicine does not apply to Wall Street chief executive officers probably because law-makers and CEOs are co-conspirators.
*
During World War II Armenians fought on both sides – on the Soviet side in the name of defeating fascism, on the German side in the name of liberating the Homeland. Both sides were convinced theirs was a noble cause. Neither had the initiative or intelligence to ask what's so noble fighting Hitlerism in the name of Stalinism and vice versa? It is simply astonishing the ease with which self-assessed intelligent people are moronized.
*
You want to know what makes Armenians so mean? Six hundred years of kissing Ottoman ass.

HEAVEN AND HELL
If the system is good to you, you will be good to the system. Millions believed in Stalin because he promised heaven and earth, and he even delivered some of it in the guise of full employment, prosperity, power, and glory. And these believers, like all believers in organized religions, did not stop to question the validity of dogmas that legitimize intolerance, persecution, torture, murder, war and massacre. One could go as far as saying that, faith is the real source of all evil.
*
A belief system should be judged not by its promises but by its victims. Consider militarism, a belief system that promotes honor, courage, self-sacrifice, glory, and heroism: what mortal could resist these noble attainments? What decent human being would dare to suggest that their opposites, among them cowardice and dishonor, to be superior virtues? And now, listen to Toynbee on these military virtues:
“It is flying in the face of all experience to jump to the conclusion that the only place where we can ever hope to find these precious things is the slaughterhouse where they have happened to make their first epiphany to human eyes.”
*
Closer to home: who supports the present regime in our homeland? First and foremost, our fund-raisers who, according to insiders, make a very comfortable living beyond the wildest dreams of those they claim to help. Unmask these bloodsuckers and you will come face to face with wheeler-dealers whose role models are Wall Street chief executive officers.
Moral of the story: Don't be a fool. Don't believe everything your are told or read in the papers. Demand accountability and make sure the firm that does the accounting is not run by a brother-in-law or a co-conspirator. And last but not least, next time someone speaks of heaven, makes sure he doesn't mean your hell.

POLITICIANS AND INTELLECTUALS
Arnold Toynbee: “Society is the total network of relations between human beings. The components of society are thus not human beings but relations between them.”
*
A politician will never say or do anything that may question his ability to lead and to do what must be done, even when he is catastrophically wrong, and even if it means violating the human rights of his fellow countrymen.
By contrast, the function of an intellectual is to say what must be said even if it means exposing the incompetence and criminality of politicians and in the process risking his own survival.
As for propagandists: as extensions of politicians, they specialize in exposing the crimes of the opposition and ignoring and covering up their own.
I am not implying here that politicians and propagandists are always wrong and intellectuals aways right. What I am suggesting is that it is not easy to reconcile the demands of self-interest with objectivity.
*
PARALLELS
There is a passage in Toynbee that explains even if indirectly what befell us a hundred years ago in the Ottoman Empire. In what follows, all you need to do is replace the words Egyptiac and Hyksos with Ottoman and Armenian:

“At this moment the apparently defunct Egyptiac society was recalled to life and action by an overwhelming impulse to chastise the Hyksos trespassers who had ventured to desecrate a swept and garnished house by their unclean presence. The stimulus was so powerful, that it raised the Egyptiac society not just from the deathbed but actually from the bier on which it was being carried to the grave, and in this demonic xenophobia the society seemed to have discovered at the thirteenth hour, the long-sought elixir of immortality.”

The final lines of this quotation may also suggest that the glue in nationalism is provided more by fear and hatred of the enemy and less by love of one's fellow countrymen.

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
On the radio: four answers to the question “Do you believe in the present economic crisis?” asked at random in a train station:
“No! I think that's something politicians talk about and I don't believe them.”
“Yes. Some people I know have lost their jobs, but I am not worried because I am a teacher.”
“(Laughing) I don't care because I have very little money.”
“Sorry, I can't answer, my train leaves in four minutes.”
*
Julien Green: “Thoughts have wings, words only feet. That's a writer's greatest source of anguish.”
*
“We are Armenians!” yes, I know. But what kind? Ottomanized, Levantinized, Sovietized, Americanized?... Because most of our disagreements are rooted not in our views but in our identities or cultural backgrounds.
*
A French magazine calls Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-il of North Korea “the living-dead.”
*
If like me you prefer dialogue to long descriptive passages, Vladimir Sorokin's THE QUEUE (New York, 2007) is for you. Originally published in 1985, this is a Soviet-era work of fiction that consists in brief exchanges between people waiting in a long line hoping to buy whatever it is that's being sold at the other end.

To us, the Genocide is a tragedy.
To the Turks, it's an embarrassment.
To American politicians running for office: a cash cow.
To our own leadership: a distraction from present problems and their reluctance or inability to solve them.

To our Turcocentric ghazetajis: an endless source of venom and an opportunity to play the blame-game as well as a chance to assert moral superiority.

As for Turcophile historians who say it was the Armenians who massacred the Turks; I for one am not surprised. So what if after 600 years of subservience that gradually degenerated to brutal oppression, some Armenians took justice into their own hands? Would anyone dare to assert that, had the Ottoman Empire been an Armenian Empire and Turks an oppressed minority, they would have said, “Let bygones be bygones. Let us smoke the peace nargileh and forever after live like brothers?
*
ON MORAL SUPERIORITY
*********************************
We are told when God created angels and He gave them a free will, half of them turned into devils. It is therefore safe to assume that if sometime in the future the Good Lord were to give His angels another crack at freedom, another 50% of them would make the wrong choice. Which is why so far God in His infinite wisdom has not made the same mistake. Which is also why, when God wants to destroy a man, He gives him more power, because more power means greater freedom.
*
P.S.
*****************
Yesterday I listed four books that I have read three times. I should have included another – Raymond Chandler's FAREWELL, MY LOVELY.
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WORDS OF WISDOM
********************************
Chinese saying: “Extreme cleverness is as bad as stupidity.”


DRAGON'S TEETH
***********************************
“The Passage du Commerce Saint-André” by Balthus is no doubt one of the most mysterious paintings by one of the most enigmatic modern painters. The old man in it is identified by Balthus himself as an Armenian. See BALTHUS: A BIOGRAPHY by Nicholas Fox Weber (New York, 1999), page 27.

I am reminded of the words of a much traveled Dutch doctor who once told me: “No matter where you go, you will run into an Armenian.”

If Talaat were alive today he would be willing to concede that deporting Armenians was a blunder because it amounted to sowing dragon's teeth.
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In DICTIONARY OF LITERARY AND THEMATIC TERMS by Edward Quinn (New York, 2000), there is an entry on “naturalism,” with a single bibliographic source, Y.H. Krikorian's NATURALISM AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT (1944).
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ON THE ART OF WRITING
******************************
Reduce a page into a single line.
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ON THE ART OF LIVING
*****************************************
“Divorce reason and marry booze.” This according to Omar Khayyam.
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ACCORDING TO HORACE
**************************************
“Poems written by water-drinkers have a short lifespan.”
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ON LITERARY IMMORTALITY
******************************************
It lasts as long as the blink of an eye when measured in cosmic time.
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MORE WORDS OF WISDOM
****************************************
Viscount Samuel: “It is those who strive to make things better who save them from becoming worse.”
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The TALMUD: “Thy friend has a friend, and thy friend's friend has another friend: be discreet.”


ON BLUNDERS
******************
Since the number of blunders is infinite and man's capacity to commit them without limit, both the young and the old, the experienced and the inexperienced, the careful and the careless, and the wise and the fool are destined to commit an equal number of them.
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MAN AND GOD
**************************
If to believe in God were the same as believing in men who speak in His name, a suicidal terrorist would qualify as a man of faith instead of a brainwashed fanatic and a brainless dupe.
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THE GOOD AND THE BAD
*************************************
In the presence of a bad man I am diminished. In the presence of a good man I am born again.
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ON BEING HONEST
***********************************
One of the benefits of being honest is to be shunned by crooks.
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ON ECOLOGY
******************************
God is not an ecologist. He exterminated dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers, the mammoth, and countless other species.


MY FAVORITE AMERICAN WRITER
*************************************************
It was in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones that I first “met” Gandhi, and it was in Gandhi's writings that I first read about Thoreau. I dare anyone to read him and not to be infatuated by his down-to-earth honesty and style that does not take any prisoners.
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On politicians: “Office-seekers and speech-makers, who do not so much as lay an honest egg.”
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On patriotism: “The remembrance of my country spoils my walk.”
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On society: “Pigs in a littler, which lie close together to keep each other warm.”
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On wealth: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
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On his fellow men: “The man I meet with is not often so instructive as the silence he breaks.”
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On his choice of career: “I have tried trade; but I found that it would take ten years to get under way in that, and that then I should probably be on my way to the devil.”


THE LANGUAGE OF DIPLOMACY
*************************************************
According to Talleyrand (see below) “Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts.” Elsewhere he gives the following definition of non-intervention: “Mot metaphysique et politique qui signifie a peu pres la meme chose qu'intervention.”(A metaphysical and political word that means approximately the same thing as intervention.)
Had our revolutionaries known what Talleyrand knew, namely that, in diplomacy verbal support means the opposite of military intervention, the Genocide could have been averted.
What a difference a single word makes! No wonder medieval Jewish scribes copying the scriptures were warned the wrong spelling of a single word would mean the destruction of the world.
Which is why Turks are against the use of the word genocide: they know it would usher in escalating territorial and financial demands with no end in sight, in addition to legitimizing Kurdish territorial claims.
*
Talleyrand (1754-1838) maybe said to have been the French Mikoyan. No matter who was at the top he got along with him. He knew how to compromise, adapt, and survive. Like Mikoyan he was educated in a seminary and it was said of him (as it could have been said of Mikoyan): “He would sell his soul for money, and he would be right for he would be exchanging dung for gold.”


THE USES AND ABUSES OF FAITH
*************************************************
Whenever I replace the word “God” with “the Unknown and the Unknowable,” what I read makes either more sense or no sense at all – as in “God loves you.” If God loves us, His definition of love is more akin to hatred.
*
Most of mankind's problems, including our own, stem from the fact that those who have God or capital (make it, Capital or god) on their side, consider themselves beyond criticism.
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When a man is devoid of honor, compassion, and understanding, he adopts race, color, and creed as criteria.
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Faith is an essential ingredient in one's life, we are told. Maybe so. But what if faith allows us to call anyone who does not share our belief system an infidel dog who doesn't deserve to live?
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What do I think of mysticism? Let me quote my favorite mystic, Saint Teresa of Avila: “It is the humblest among you who are the most perfect not those who are favored in prayer or with ecstasies.”


A MENSCHE
************************************
In his THE GREAT WAR FOR CIVILIZATION, Robert Fisk dedicated an entire chapter to the Armenian genocide. He does the same with his latest book, THE AGE OF THE WARRIOR: SELECTED ESSAYS (New York, 2008). After tearing to shreds Turkish and “gutless” American denialists, among them President Bush, General Petraeus, ambassador Ryan Crocker, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, he turns his outrage on Armenians themselves. When an interviewer in Yerevan makes a reference to Turkey's “lack of democratization,” Fisk demands to know: “What about Armenia's pliant press? And why was it that present-day Armenia seemed to protest much less about twentieth-century's first Holocaust than the millions of Armenians in the diaspora, in the U.S., Canada, France, Britain, even Turkish intellectuals in Turkey itself?...Long live the Soviet Union.”
A man after my own heart!


ISHERWOOD AND WHITMAN
************************************
By skipping passages dealing with Ramakrishna, Krishnamurti, assorted swamis and gurus, and mercenary Hollywood producers, I was able to finish Christopher Isherwood's mammoth DIARIES. May I confess that what I enjoyed most are his one-liners on his fellow men and women:
On Charles Laughton: “stupid, vain and pretentious...an arrogant old fool.”
On Laura Huxley (Aldous Huxley's third and last wife): “[a] mannish well-tailored bitch.”
On Claire Bloom (who was to become Philip Roth's wife): “demure but probably quite a bit of a bitch.”
On Shelley Winters: “a blundering Jewish leftwing ass.”
On Izak (OUT OF AFRICA) Dinesen (Baroness Blixen): “a withered monkey.”
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I am now reading Walt Whitman. Some of his lines are piercing in their precision, as when he speaks of animals:
“They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago...”
We need more Whitman in our lives and less sermonizers and speechifiers who rub salt in our wounds and promise heaven which is even more inaccessible to them than it is to the rest of us.


TWO FASCINATING WRITERS
************************************
In his DIARIES, Christopher Isherwood speaks of several encounters with Lesley Blanch (then wife of Romain Gary) but at no time does he mention that she is the author of SABRES OF PARADISE, one of the most fascinating books ever written on the Caucasus, and one of the very few books that I have read three times -- the others being THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (Mann), LOLITA (Nabokov), and Toynbee's RECONSIDERATIONS.
Simenon is mentioned only once to be dismissed as “a dreary little mind.”
In my twenties and for about ten years Simenon became an obsession. I read everything that I could locate in libraries and bookstores. He wrote under several pseudonyms and may have published as many as five hundred book, and slept with as many women, he never tired of boasting in interviews, and did so to enhance his understanding, he would explain. I think it was Gide who first compared him to Chekhov.
In a 1960 entry, Isherwood quotes Leon Surmelian as having said: “...among Armenians who come to America, it is always the third-rate who succeed,” and “Armenians are either businessmen or dreamers.”
I remember once when I wrote Surmelian a letter proposing an interview, he turned me down but also said he had just published an essay in the weeklies and I was welcome to comment on it in a letter to the editor.


HUMAN NATURE EXPLAINED
************************************
“In his place I would have done the same thing.” There is more truth in that sentence than in many treatises on understanding and human nature.
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“...tribalism has impeded African progress. What Africa needs is precisely such transmutations of tribal loyalties to the larger loyalties of nationhood.”
Why is it that none of our pundits dares to say as much?
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Both Turks and Armenians are naïve dupes in so far as they believe in the lies of their own political leaders, the biggest lie being that as civilized people they are incapable of violating anyone's human rights, let alone committing crimes against humanity. Butter would not melt in their mouths -- or anywhere else for that matter.
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Reality is versatile in its production of facts and by carefully selecting some and ignoring or rejecting others one can justify anything. Theologians, ideologues, historians, and propagandists in general are fully aware of this phenomenon and like lawyers they go about their business with ruthless dishonesty.
*
Somewhere Alain writes that we conceive of birth as something that happened in the past and of death as something that will happen in the future. But in reality, he tells us, they are both ongoing processes. Every moment that passes is a preview of death, and it is up to us to be reborn as human beings “today, now, immediately, it is our only chance.”


THE CHARITY OF SWINE
************************************
We are told the favorite reading matter of Roman emperors was epic poems glorifying their deeds. Which reminds me of a book I once wrote for an Armenian publisher subsidized by one of our national benefactors in which his (benefactor's) name wasn't mentioned. Though the book was a success (three printings in as many years) the publisher was fired.
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Roman emperors, Ottoman sultans, Soviet commissars, Armenian benefactors, Wall Street chief executive officers: they expect to be flattered and rewarded even when they make a mess of things. They want smart people working for them but not smart enough to see their limitations. They support free speech provided it doesn't expose their failings.
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The wealthy think of the poor as lazy parasites. The poor return the compliment by viewing the wealthy as a bunch of bloodsuckers.
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Some of the worst blunders in the history of mankind were committed by men who assumed to know better.
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In the world of high finance, the lower in the totem pall you are, the more checks and balances you have to deal with.
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I think of my schooldays in Venice when the Mekhitarist monks charged us for the toilet paper we used. Then motivated by greed they trusted the wrong investment firm and lost everything.


AS OTHERS SEE US
************************************
Did Princess Diana (may she rest in peace) have one, or is it two, drops of Armenian blood in her veins? Was Guderian of blitzkrieg fame an Armenian? Why should anyone give a damn? It seems to me we are so hungry for celebrity that nothing would make us happier if someone were to prove that Hitler's or Stalin's great-great mother or father was half- or even one-quarter Armenian.
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We have a great many writers today who write as Armenians. I for one would like to write as a human being. We are all born as human beings but somewhere along the line we are carefully educated to identify ourselves with a specific group, after which we are told all kinds of lies about that group and it makes no difference which group it is.
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We are brainwashed to justify our regime's failings by saying we are a young democracy. We are also informed that Armenia is “the cradle of civilization.” Figure that one out if you can.
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If I were to meet an Azeri today and if I were to identify myself as an Armenian to him, my guess is he would see in me someone with a bloodthirsty disposition. I am told Azeris today identify Armenians as “the Israelis of the Caucasus,” and when a Muslim calls you an Israeli, take my word for it, that ain't no compliment.
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Hanging a label on a fellow human being is the beginning of all crimes against humanity. Azeri refugees today think of Armenians the way Armenians think of Turks. Have I said this before? Readers accustomed to hearing old lies expect me to come up with new truths. To them I say, the number of truths is limited and nothing that is true is ever new.


4 STORIES / 4 MORALS
************************************
1.The Pope holds shares in the Casino at Monte Carlo.
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2.After bankrupting the global economy, chief executive officers collect million-dollar bonuses.
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3.Priests make a comfortable living by exploiting someone else's crucifixion.
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4.Turcocentric ghazetajis try to make a name for themselves by exploiting the martyrdom of innocent victims.
#
Moral I: When you reach the top, the rules of the game no longer apply.
Moral II: The rules governing underdogs do not apply to top dogs.
Moral III: When it comes to taking care of number one, all rules are suspended.
Moral IV: After declaring yourself to be on the side of the angels, you may forge an alliance with the devil.


THE UNANSWERED QUESTION
************************************
It is said of the 18th-century French aristocracy that they knew how to live. Yes, that they did. They knew how to live alright! What they didn't know – which is infinitely more important than what they knew – was how to survive.

With us it's the other way around: we know how to survive, or so we are brought up to believe, but not how to live.

If we use the word survival only in reference to the nation, and if by nation we mean the regime, yes, we may qualify as survivors. The questions to be asked at this point are:

What kind of survival is it that requires the death of millions of innocent civilians, including our best and brightest?

What kind of survival is it that places the survival of the regime above the survival of the people?

What kind of survival is it that allows the regime to brainwash the people into believing that it is our patriotic duty to serve the regime?

Serving the regime is a fascist concept. In a democracy, it is the state that serves the people (not the other way around), which is why politicians are referred to as public servants.

But that's not the end of the story, which in our case happens to be not so much a comedy of errors as a tragedy of fallacies, or again, as a perversion of priorities.

Now then, let us suppose for the sake of argument that your family perishes and you are the sole survivor. Do you then go around bragging about your own survival? I don't think so! And yet, this is what we are encouraged to do to perpetuate the lie that we never had it so good because we are in the best of hands.

A final question: We may indeed know how to survive, but do our leaders know how to govern?
A Turk who dares to mention the Armenian Genocide in Turkey is accused of insulting Turkishness; and an Armenian who says anything remotely critical about our collective existence is accused of insulting Armenishness. How can anyone insult an abstraction that is not even defined but used as an umbrella under which prosecutors and self-appointed commissars of culture feel authorized to assert their superior patriotism or morality and to hurl insults at their fellow countrymen?
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It never ceases to amaze me – the unbelievable arrogance, ease and speed with which an Armenian hooligan or skinhead assumes to be an infallible judge of Armenishness, point a finger at you, and hiss, “Admit it, you work for Ankara!” .

*
When they can’t stand on their own two feet, they invoke Armenishness, or even God and Country, in the hope these mighty abstractions will fill their darkness with light and their brand of paranoia and insanity with reason.
*
Below, four recent anonymous comments on my writings:
“I spit on you,”
“Everything you say is garbage,”
“You make me puke,”
“What you write is sh**!”
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In their defense of Armenishness, some of my gentle readers do not hesitate to expose their Turkishness as defined by Turkish prosecutors who, in their efforts to defend Turkish culture and identity, do not hesitate to adopt fascist means – that is to say, to behave like barbarians.


Oreos
Some of my readers think if a writer does not parrot their views, his license to use a pen should be revoked. The only reason it isn’t, there is no agency authorized to do so. To which I say, thank god for that! Let them miss the good old days under Stalin when to express a dissenting view meant a bullet in the neck. And to think that these readers classify themselves as good Armenians. They may think like fascist butchers but they assess themselves as dedicated patriots. The other day I was accused of calling one of my readers a racist. Did I? I am not sure. One should never call a fool a racist. I know what I am saying because I had an Armenian education and I was brought up as a fool and a racist. I even wrote a racist book – my opus one – and when a Canadian critic called me a racist in his review I was so taken aback that I dismissed the charge as perverse. Can a victim of racism be a racist? As the offspring of perennial victims, is it not my human right to despise and even hate victimizers? But if I hate my victimizers, in what way am I different from them? If I think of Turks the way Turks thought of us, am I not like some of my readers who would gladly see me silenced permanently if possible? If the only reason I don’t exterminate Turks today is that I don’t have the power to do so, am I not an oreo – Armenian on the outside, Turk on the inside?



On Being A Proud Armenian
What’s wrong with being a humble Armenian? To each his own, of course. Speaking for myself, I prefer humility to pride.
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If you had a choice between dealing with a proud Frenchman or Russian or Greek, and a humble one, which would you choose?
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When does pride end and arrogance begin? I don’t know. I hope you do, because arrogance or hubris is universally acknowledged not as an asset but as a liability.
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Is god proud of the fact that he created the universe? As a matter of fact, he is so humble that even the Pope of Rome doubts his existence seven times every day, or so Italians are fond of saying.
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When an Armenian identifies himself as a proud Armenian, how much of it is reality speaking and how much illusion? We all have illusions, of course – most of them about ourselves. But the older we grow, the more illusions we shed. Perhaps absence of illusions would be another definition of wisdom.
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Speaking of god and the universe, I read the following quotation by Christopher Morley in today’s paper: “My theology, briefly, is that the universe was dictated but not signed.”



The Simplicities Of The Simple-Minded
The simple-minded simplify, and when they speak of patriotism or the homeland, they ignore the fact that they are not speaking of a single entity but of several and sometimes mutually exclusive concepts. Consider the word homeland, as a case in point: does it refer to (a) the real estate (mountains, lakes, rivers, valleys), (b) the regime, (c) the people, (d) the culture? If the regime is corrupt, do we support it or oppose it? If the people have adopted a passive stance (as a result of centuries of subservience to ruthless alien tyrants) do we accept their subservience as an inevitable fact of life or do we expose it as a symptom of Pavlovian conditioning? If such alien excrescences as American materialism, Ottoman authoritarianism, and Soviet contempt for fundamental human rights have contaminated our culture and traditional values, do we pretend our identity and values have not been perverted? I remember one of our patriotic dupes saying: “Even if 1% of the money we send there finds its way to those who need it, we have done some good.” But what if the 99% that goes into the wrong pockets reinforces and prolongs a regime of kleptocrats and bloodsuckers? What if by helping 1% of the population we prolong the misery of the 99%?



How To Be A Better Armenian
If you think you are a better Armenian, think of it only as a possibility rather than a certainty. Most of our problems would be solved if we were to adopt a less dogmatic stance.
*
The very best way to prove your superiority as an Armenian is by being more tolerant of your fellow men, including Armenians.
*
Whenever you disagree with a fellow Armenian, remind yourself that Armenians have disagreed with one another since time immemorial and the chances are they will continue to do so as long as they exist.
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If you think those who disagree with you are lesser men, perhaps even Turks in disguise, consider the possibility that what you think of them, they think of you.
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Above all, never use the Genocide as a license with which to verbally assault and abuse others, be they Armenians or Turks. In this connection, Saroyan may indeed be right: we should speak of Turks and massacres not with self-righteous outrage but with sorrow, and sorrow for both the victims as well as their victimizers. Why victimizers? Because they are either human beings like us (in which case they must bear a heavy burden on their conscience) or animals (in which case, they have shed all traces of that most valuable of all human attributes: their humanity).



Wonders Never Cease
At one time or another I have been accused of working for Ankara, the KGB, the CIA, the Mossad, the ARF, and the ADL. On several occasions I have also been accused of living in an ivory tower. Suspicious buggers, these Armenians. In the 20th century alone they were taken in by some of the worst crooks in the history of mankind – among them, Talaat, Hitler, and Stalin – but they are now suspicious of a harmless scribbler whose sole ambition in life is to be an honest and impartial witness. The truth is, I was born and raised in a Greek slum and I now live in a Canadian slum; and as far as I know, ivory towers don’t grow in slums; and even a retard wouldn’t consider risking his life working for less than minimum wage for half-a-dozen international spy agencies.
*
Now I know why the children of famous Armenian writers share a common preference for living as far away from Armenian community centers as possible.
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The trouble with having a sharp tongue is that sooner or later you end up by stabbing yourself.



What I Think I Understand
Khorenatsi (5t century), Naregatsi (10th century) and Raffi (19th century), three of our greatest writers, agree on one important point, namely: our failures are extensions of our own failings. But if we are to believe our self-appointed pundits and ghazetajis, there is nothing wrong with us and we have nothing to worry about because we are good hands.
*
If you want to understand the past, begin with the present. If you want to understand others, begin with yourself.
*
Mediocrities achieve excellence only in their merciless persecution of anyone who dares to surpass them.
*
The worst thing that can happen to a speechifier is to believe in his own rhetoric.
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A nation that trusts its dividers signs its own death warrant.
*
If Khorenatsi, Naregatsi, and Raffi were alive today, they would be ruthlessly and promptly silenced. And why? Because to defend the lies of our charlatans is more important than the truths of our great writers.


Suspicious Buggers
For a good number of years my Ramgavar relatives and friends thought I was a Tashnak, and my Tashnak friends kept their distance because they thought I had gone to the highest bidder. The first time my anti-partisan stance was questioned, I was outraged. Now, whenever an Armenian believes what I say, I immediately assume I am dealing with a brown-noser who wants his book reviewed or translated. Living among Armenians does that to you. It’s easier for an Armenian to understand Turks than fellow Armenians. I have never heard an Armenian say, “I don’t understand these Turks.” . But every other Armenian is convinced anyone who disagrees with him has something of the renegade and the traitor in him – he is, in short, an enemy of the nation, perhaps even a Kemal-worshiping hireling of Ankara.
*
The problem with Abel was that he trusted Cain; and the problem with Cain was that he was an anti-Semite, the first of the species, if you don’t count the serpent. About the real identity of the serpent, there are a number of theories. If you ask an anti-American Armenian from the Middle East or a crypto-Stalinist from the former Soviet Union, he will tell you the serpent was a CIA agent, perhaps even a McCarthyite.
*
De Gaulle once complained that Frenchmen were difficult to govern because they produce 174 varieties of cheese. He should have counted his blessings. It’s a well-known fact that whenever two Armenians are stranded on a desert island, they build three churches, the third being the one they don’t go to.



In Praise Of Tolerance
Frequently spoken lies:
“I know better,”
“I am better,”
“I am right,”
“You are wrong,”
“I know it for a fact.”
*
Man is prone to confuse fact with fiction. Case in point: for millions of years men believed the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and when someone came along and dared to say otherwise, he was threatened with torture and death…all in the name of a god who is truth and love.
*
A dogmatist is one who explains things he doesn’t understand.
*
There is a realm somewhere in which everything that doesn’t make sense here makes perfect sense there. But so far man has failed to discover the location of that realm.



Jungle
Readers may be divided into several distinct categories:
Children who are spoiled brats and think they are smart enough to understand everything they read, including matter intended for adults.

Adults who are advanced cases of arrested development.

Self satisfied egocentric narcissists who are convinced (or have been brainwashed to believe) we live in the best of all possible worlds, we never had it so good, we are in good hands, god in his heaven above is on our side, and anyone who disagrees with them is an enemy of the nation who should be hanged from the nearest tree. (You would think the only way for an Armenian to subscribe to this Leibnizian school of thought is to expunge our past).
The smart-ass know-it-all garbage mouth bully who operates on the self-serving assumption that his brand of perverted patriotism justifies racism, violations of human rights, fascism, and massacre – if not literal than verbal. (This type is rare but because he suffers from chronic verbal diarrhea and loves the effusions of his own outpourings, he gives one the impression of being not a single nut but an entire unruly mob.)

And then there is the well-meaning but essentially timid reader who doesn’t want to get involved, adopts a passive stance and thus promotes and legitimizes the Ottomanized hooligans among us. We owe the jungle of our Internet discussion forums to him more than anyone else.

And if I speak with some degree of authority on these different types of reader it’s because at one time or another I have been all of them.



Trust Me!
Beethoven may have been killed by his own doctor, according to a Viennese pathologist. Had this discovery been made in the 1930s, the doctor would have been identified as a Jew. And if you were to ask an anti-Semite today, he would tell you the killer-doctor must have been a Jew – no doubt about that. Why a Jew? Why not? For two thousand years they have not only suspected but asserted and continue to do so today that our Lord Jesus Christ was a phony and a blasphemer. Who is right? Jews or Christians? We are told for most of her life Mother Teresa doubted the existence of god and the divinity of Christ. But when she was alive she sang a different tune. If you can’t trust Mother Teresa, whom can you trust?
*
Trust me. I know better. I am more sincerely committed to the Cause, whatever that may be, than anyone you care to mention. Do not criticize me because I am beyond criticism. That indeed is the subtext in everything we say; and notwithstanding the fact that most people don’t give a damn about what we think or say we think (not always the same thing), we continue to beg for their trust and to assert our superiority, even when we know we deserve neither. Who has ever been beyond criticism? Socrates, Jesus, Gandhi? Not only they had their share of critics but also mortal enemies, and this not among hostile foreigners but among their fellow countrymen. Socrates was condemned to death by Athenians, Gandhi was assassinated not by a Muslim but by a fellow Hindu, as for Jesus: according to the eminent contemporary theologian, Mel Gibson…



The Secret Of My Popularity
Peter de Vries: “Everybody hates me because I’m so universally liked.”
*
“If you think you can do better, why don’t you get involved in community affairs?” I am told once in a while.
Because in an authoritarian environment yes-man have a better chance to be influential than critics. Stalin did not invite Solzhenitsyn to the Kremlin; he bundled him off to the Gulag.
*
Deep down somewhere we all want to know what’s wrong with us. We may not like it when we are told, we may even hate those who take it upon themselves to tell us, but we want to know because our ego is our most valuable possession.
*
Nothing can be as menacing to those who live in a world of illusions than talk of reality.
*
We pretend to be against denialists but we engage in denialism when it comes to our failings, of which we have our share. To say otherwise is to speak as an idiot.
*
An idiot holding forth on patriotism or any other noble-sounding ism is still an idiot.



Hitler And I
“Hitler was a Jew,” a reader writes; “his passport says so.” Maybe so am I. On more than one occasion I have stated that on a good day I can trace my ancestry all the way back to my father. I am told some Armenians are so eager to identify themselves as pure-blooded Armenians that they trace their ancestry all the way back to the Mamikonians (of Chinese descent) and Bagratunis (Jewish). No one chooses his nationality. You and I could just as easily have been born on the other side of the mountain or river. Not that I give a damn one way or the other. Races, colors, creeds, nations and tribes – I consider them all bad news. Identify yourself with one of them and you inherit nothing but grief, feuds, and enemies, some among your own kind. If you were to try settling scores with all of them, you would either end up as a serial killer or a victim – the quintessential “esh nahadag” (jackass martyr). In that sense, national identity is not an asset but a liability, a burden, and a curse. The pure-blooded Armenian is as much a myth as the pure-blooded Turk, Greek, American, or Gypsy. Anyone who says otherwise is out to manipulate you to do his dirty work for him – just like the neocons in Washington today. And speaking of jackasses and our own Jack S. Avanakians who speechify and editorialize on nationalism and unsettled scores: I read the following apposite quotation from Konrad Lorentz in our paper this morning: “The long sought missing link between animals and really humane beings is ourselves.” A final note on Hitler’s passport: I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be a fake, just like Lord Byron’s pen in the museum of San Lazzaro.



A Rule Without Exceptions
The louder they speechify on patriotism the phonier they are. All rules have exceptions, except this one. You want proof? I’ll give you two: Adolf (Deutschland ueber alles) Hitler, Iosif (Patriotic War) Stalin, and King Kong.
*
CURSES
Do you want to curse an Armenian and you can’t come up with a good one that does justice to the situation? How about this? “May your son (or daughter) be a writer,” or “May s/he be educated enough to think for herself/himself.” Or “May s/he rate honesty as the queen of virtues and the king of assets!” These may not sound like curses, but take my word for it, they are the kind of beauties you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
*
HAVE YOU HEARD THIS ONE?
A guy gets splattered by a passing bird, looks up and says, “For the rich you sing.”
*
SPEAKING OF DUMPING
The easiest way to assert superiority is to dump on your betters. Only one drawback: it never works; it may even backfire.



Problems And Their Solutions
An Armenian is an Armenian
Another Armenian is another Armenian
And never the twain shall meet.
*
Most of our problems (like the one stated abnove) are in the convolutions of our brain – assuming of course we have one, a daring assumption at best. On the day we express a willingness to engage in dialogue, as opposed to issuing dogmatic statements, a great many of our problems will collapse into a heap of dust and will be gone with the wind.
*
Whenever I have a choice between blaming the world or myself, I choose myself. It is within my power to change myself. As for changing the world – let me begin by saying I have no desire to add megalomania to my long list of failings.
*
The aim of the blame-game (or ascribing our failings to others) is to adopt a passive stance and do nothing, except perhaps to bitch and lament – two activities in which we excel.
*
The most frequently unspoken Armenian sentiment: “Because you are wrong, you deserve to die.”
*
Instead of saying “you are wrong,” we should say, “Obviously, I failed to explain myself.”
*
Doubt is more civilized than certainty.
*
I like today’s quotation by Erich Fromm in our paper: “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself.” Elsewhere a famous Hollywood actor is quoted as having said, “How do the bad people among us end up our leaders?” It can happen to all of us, I guess.



On Solidarity
It all began, or so we are told, with our impassable mountains, deep valleys, and long winters: a clear-cut case of landscape shaping the profile of a nation, or the unthinking ruling the thinking. Then came ruthless empire builders from the East – actually, also from the North, West, and South – who, as everyone knows by now, rule by dividing. What we are not told in this context is that the barbarians divided us because we allowed ourselves to be divided or, since we were already divided long before they appeared on the scene, we saw nothing unusual in staying that way.
I once heard an Armenian-American academic say that an Armenian queen bequeathed her kingdom (or is it queendom?) to her two sons by dividing it into two equal parts – good for family harmony, bad for the survival of the nation. Had the Ottoman sultans adopted this system, Turkey would have been wiped off the map by now. If the Ottoman Empire lasted 600 years (surely, a record in the history of mankind) it’s because the sultans adopted a system that would prevent all future wars of succession: they strangled with a silk cord all but one son (a silk cord because it was against the law spilling royal blood) – bad for the innocent victims of strangulation, good for the empire. The West being slightly ahead of the East in matters of civilized conduct solved this problem by establishing the principle of primogeniture whereby the eldest son inherits the throne.
Who divides us today? The only answer I can come up with is our DNA – another instance of the unthinking ruling the thinking, or the gut dictating to the brain.
I ask again, who divides us today? Consider the parable of the two Armenians and three churches on a desert island: who divided them? Surely, not the solitary palm tree on the beach, or the remains of a crab being washed by the blue waves of the ocean.
Our leadership and us: another instance of the unthinking ruling the thinking (if you will forgive the overstatement). If this is not a popular subject with our editors and ghazetajis, it may be because they are manipulated by our leadership as surely as we were under the sultans and commissars, and because subservience is in their DNA. They are as carefully selected, trained, tamed, and housebroken as the pet dogs of the wealthy.



He denies its reality with the same visceral certainty that I assert it. Last time the subject came up, I suggested the source of our disagreement may well be the fact that as children we were brainwashed by two different sets of charlatans. The main thing is, we don’t allow our disagreement to end our friendship. This is not what happens with fellow Armenians. Even when the disagreement is minor to the point of being insignificant, the friendship comes to a violent end with a torrent of verbal abuse.
*
When I was a little boy I would try to see the positive in the negative and I would invariably find it. Like Pollyanna, after every misfortune, I would play the glad game. At one point I even saw something good in the Genocide: if it weren’t for the Genocide, I thought, we would still be Turkish citizens and share our existence with bloodthirsty Asiatic barbarians, instead of living in the enlightened West. One good thing about the Genocide was that it had liberated us from the shackles of Ottomanism!
*
What does the average citizen know what goes on in the world or, for that matter, in the next village? He has no choice but to rely on politicians, editors, and ghazetajis – at best dupes (like our own Zohrab) and at worst, riffraff.
*
In 1981 a Turk by the name of Ali Agca (who, like most Turks, may have been part-Armenian) tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II. Three years later the Pope visited him in his cells and forgave him. He forgave him, yes, but he did not set him free. He set himself free. To forgive is a selfish act. It sets one free from the shackles of hatred. It does not say let bygones be bygones, let’s forget the past and bury the hatchet. It does not cancel the debt the criminal owes to society.
*
Unlike the Pope, who forgave his would-be assassin, we are no longer in a position to forgive Talaat and the perpetrators of the Genocide. But perhaps what we can do is understand the denialists who are denialists not by choice but by indoctrination.



Defining Turcocentrism
The aim of Turcocentrism is to remind us that the Turks occupied our lands, desecrated our holy places, forced our boys into the rank of Janissaries and our girls into harems, oppressed us for six centuries, butchered our ablest intellects, raped our women, eviscerated our children, massacred innocent civilians by the million, drove us out of our ancestral lands and into deserts to die of thirst, starvation, and disease. There is no end to the crimes they committed against us – crimes that remain unacknowledged and unatoned to this day.

Turcocentrism is more than an ideology; it is a theology whose god is the devil and the devil is the Turk. Turcocentrism is a reaction to Turkish criminal conduct, and in its extreme forms it is more akin to Ottomanism than Armenianism, and Ottomanism not in the Turkish sense of the word (as referring to a glorious imperial past) but in ours (as evoking defeat, degradation, and death).

“Where there is no vision the people perish,” we are told. In that sense Turcocentrism is not a vision but a nightmare, and as such it is a dead end. It is a wound that cannot heal. It is a trauma that cannot be analyzed, explained, understood, overcome, and forgotten. It is a cancer that cannot be treated. Even if they were to accede to all our demands – which they will never do – our score with them will never be settled because it cannot be settled. What are a few billion dollars and a slice of real estate compared to the martyrdom of millions?
Our choices are therefore clear and the Writing on the Wall unambiguous: Either we come to terms with this reality and look forward or we turn into pillars of salt.


DEFINITIONS
********************************
In BREWER’S DICTIONARY (mentioned above), ACTION FRANCAISE is described as an ultra-nationalist, proto-fascist, anti-democratic, and anti-Semitic group that during World War II collaborated with the Nazis – how’s that for consistently? It ceased to exist after 1944, when its leader, Charles Maurras, was given a life sentence.

There are fairly detailed entries on GENOCIDE and YOUNG TURKS, in which Armenians are not mentioned. The historic assessment of Young Turks is on the whole on the positive side and it ends with the words: “Young people eager for radical change to the established order.”

The phrase AGREE TO DISAGREE is defined as “To cease discussion because neither side will compromise.” If an Armenian Moses ever makes an appearance among us, I do hope he will make this definition the first commandment of his Decalogue. To cease discussion! Why should that be so un-Armenian? Is it because as perennial losers we find the prospect of a meaningless verbal victory irresistible?

While reading the entry on Sartre’s HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE, it occurred to me that in our cases “other people” could be replaced with Turks, and in the absence of Turks, fellow Armenians.


where there is no vision
the people perish.


COUNTING TO TEN
*********************************
1.
“And the jock shall dwell with the nerd and the cheerleader lie down with the wimp and there shall be peace upon the campus.” From BREWER’S DICTIONARY OF MODERN PHRASE & FABLE, compiled by Adrian Room (London, 2000), page 473.
*
2.
If we have more writers than readers, and more chiefs than Indians, it may be because we have neither writers nor chiefs.
*
3.
There is no sound as deafening as the whisper of your conscience.
*
4.
The hardest thing in life is to admit one’s mediocrity and cowardice.
*
5.
Never trust a man whose spirit of contradiction exceeds his common sense.
*
6.
Naregatsi may indeed be right. You don’t need psychoanalysis to achieve sanity. All you need is the humility, objectivity, and courage to admit your failings.
*
7.
If you think you have all the answers it may be because you haven’t yet begun asking the right questions.
*
8.
He who sees only the best in himself will see the worst in others.
*
9.
When a man decides to do the devil’s work, he will speak in the name of god.
*
10.
Today’s quotation in our paper is by Bertrand Russell: “Few people can be happy unless they hate some person, nation or creed.”
If the kingdom of god is within us, so is the person, nation, or creed that we hate.



VERSIONS OF THE PAST
*********************************
In his PAST IMPERFECT (New York, 2004) Peter Charles Hoffer explains that the official version of American history is essentially that of its dominant WASP minority, which means, Indians, women, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and Blacks are marginalized to the point of irrelevance. The result, he goes on, is more fiction than fact, and more fraud than honest narrative. To further illustrate and expose the dishonesty of pro-WASP and pro-Establishment historians, Hoffer discusses at considerable length the works of, among others, Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin, both of whom were also accused of plagiarism.
What Hoffer says of American historians could be said of all nationalist historians, or for that matter, anyone who approaches his task with a belief system or ideology. To see the amount of fiction and fraud that has gone into a history of, say, Christianity by a Christian, read Edward Gibbon’s DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. For more details on this subject, see also GOD’S FUNERAL by A.N. Wilson (New York, 1999).
*
CIVILIZATION AND BARBARISM
**********************************************
To be civilized also means to disagree in a civilized manner. One does not have to be a prophet to predict that those who disagree like barbarians will have more enemies than friends, and since it is impossible to agree on everything, the chances are they will make enemies even of their friends.
*
ENDS AND MEANS
******************************
In the final analysis, everything we say leads either to tolerance or intolerance, to love or hatred, to peace or war. If those who are partisans of intolerance, hatred, and war knew they would have to confront the enemy in a field of honor, I suspect they would think twice before spewing their venom.
*
ARMENIANS IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
****************************************************
“Since very few Muslims had traveled in Europe or commanded its languages, Ottoman and Iranian rulers often relied for their dealings with European states on agents who were drawn from their Christian minorities, Greek or Armenian.” From AFTER TAMERLANE: THE GLOBAL HISTORY OF EMPIRE by John Darwin (London, 2007), page 204.



THE SOURCE
***************************
At the source of all divisions there is a dogma, that is to say, a charlatan who asserts infallibility by speaking in the name of god or ideology. The hidden message of all dogmas is: “No need to think for yourself. We will do the thinking for you. All you have to do is give us your consent, trust, and support” (which, in our context, means taxation without representation). After centuries of subservience to sultans and commissars, nothing comes more easily to us than to say, “Yes, sir!” to our bosses, bishops, and benefactors (“Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation”).
*
PORTRAIT OF A LEADER
*****************************************
After ASSessing himself as a good Armenian, he expects everyone to think as he does. But when it comes to thinking, to accede to preconditions is to conform, to parrot, to echo. When thinking surrenders its freedom, it ceases to be thinking and Homo sapiens ceases to be sapiens, he becomes a robot, a slave, a sheep whose destiny is the slaughterhouse.
*
MAILER SPEAKS
*****************************
Norman Mailer in a recent interview published in a French magazine: “The tentative title of my next book is ALL PRIESTS ARE LIARS.”
*
CLASSY VERBAL ABUSE
************************************
When a 19th-century English scholar by the name of Seely published a book about Jesus, a contemporary reviewer described it as “the most pestilential book ever vomited from the jaws of hell.” The book became a best-seller.
*
PRIORITIES
****************************
Our future is more important than our past. That doesn’t mean let bygones be bygones and amnesia. It only means rearranging our priorities.
*
POLYBIUS SPEAKS
*********************************
Somewhere Polybius explains that good constitutions and laws make good citizens. In a just society, he writes, “vice will not readily spring nor will men be easily overcome by their enemies.” Except of course when they have been shaped by laws enacted by their enemies – in our case, Ottoman and Soviet constitutions and laws.
*
ON AMERICAN POLITICS
************************************
In this morning’s paper, the Dalai Lama on American politics: “No matter what the intentions, methods become unrealistic. So instead of solving the problem, they increase the problem.”
Whenever I hear an Armenian say that this or that boss, bishop, or benefactor (Woe!) is a good man with good intentions and as such beyond criticism, I am reminded of the American cliché: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” And whenever I am told I am wasting my time, I say, “I am gathering the material for a book.”


WHO IS A FASCIST?
***********************************
People may think, feel, and speak like fascists but they object strenuously to being identified as such. How to recognize a dyed-in-the wool, real McCoy fascist? Easy! Follow the instructions below.
*
THE THREE PILLARS OF FASCISM
********************************************
They are nationalism, anti-intellectualism, and anti-Semitism.
*
NATIONALISM
**************************
Not only are we nationalists, we also brag about it. We wear our nationalism like a badge. We look down on anyone who dares to say anything against it. We may even cover him with verbal abuse. I speak from experience.
How do we define nationalism? Answer: Love of country, contempt for fellow countrymen.
*
ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM
*****************************************
Read a history of our literature and draw your own conclusions. But if you are too busy to read books of no interest to you, take my word for it: our treatment of intellectuals has been a disaster area and we could easily qualify as one of the most anti-intellectual people on earth. We lost two generations of intellectuals under Talaat and Stalin, and both “purges” (to use a euphemism) with the cooperation of our philistines. But the worst was yet to come. Where Talaat and Stalin failed, our bosses, bishops, and benefactors (“Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation!”) succeeded. Our intellectual class today has been so thoroughly marginalized that it might as well be extinct. The very few who exist, if at all, have gone underground, sometimes literally.
Oh! don’t get me wrong. We love and venerate poets who sing the eternal snows of Mount Ararat and the “sunripe flavor” of our language (whatever the hell that means) but we prefer to speak English in America, French in France, Greek in Greece, Turkish in Turkey, and with a forked tongue with one another.
*
ANTI-SEMITISM
********************************
Anecdotal evidence: after visiting New York City, an old schoolteacher of mine came to see me. “We saw a lot of Jews there,” said he. “They are people like us, don’t you know. They dress like ordinary folks, they walk like ordinary folks, and they look like the rest of us. Zarmatsa mnatsi!”
What about Jews who are pro-Turkish and anti-Armenian? Speaking for myself, I do not see them in terms of pro and anti, and if I were cornered to do so, I would say they are pro-themselves, and they have every right to be, and more power to them. Why are we surprised (like my senile schoolteacher) to learn that Jews are like everyone else, not to say, like us? So what if after millennia of persecution they have learned the hard way to place their own survival above the survival of others (who may or may not be anti-Semites)? When was the last time we placed the survival and welfare of other nations above ours?
Speaking of Armenians and survival, allow me to conclude by quoting Zarian, one of the greatest connoisseurs of the Armenian psyche: “Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another.”
*
P.S. ON NATIONALISM
**************************************
After writing these lines, I read a long article-interview with Serge Tankian, leader of System of a Down, who is identified as an Armenian from Beirut and “a thoughtful, erudite man…a fervent social crusader with a special interest in the Armenian genocide.” We are further told he espouses the thesis that “nationalism” is one of the three evils that haunt mankind, the other two being “greed” and “indifference.”



ON MORAL SUPERIORITY
************************************************
Whenever I make an honest effort to understand and explain my fellow Armenians, I invariably run across a self-righteous charlatan who reacts with such hatred and venom that I am reminded of a born-again Armenian in his eighties who once said to me: “The Turks were right to massacre Armenians. Armenians are evil. The Genocide was God’s punishment.”
Never mind about being tolerant of Jews and Turks, most of whom have done no harm to us and may even be on our side. We must first learn to be tolerant of our fellow Armenians.
*
But perhaps, instead of speaking of Jews, Turks, and Armenians, we should teach ourselves to speak of our fellow men.
As children we are all brought up to believe we are normal and we can rely on our understanding of what’s right and wrong. Some of us never outgrow that infantile stage. What does it mean to be normal? Who decides? Our environment of course, or rather, the majority within our environment. What if the majority is abnormal? In Nazi Germany, in Soviet Russia, in Mussolini’s Italy, the majority was dead wrong but only assumed to be right. It went further and it persecuted the minority by supporting a criminal regime. Hence the post-World War II slogan: “We are all assassins!”
*
Well, not quite. Where there are assassins, there will be victims. Is it not safe to assume that the victims are morally superior to their victimizers?
Who is a victim? At all times and everywhere societies may be divided into masters and slaves, top dogs and underdogs, exploiters and workers, killers and victims. One way to define a victim is to say that given the opportunity he would prefer to be a master rather than a slave, a top dog rather than an underdog, and a killer rather than his victim. Now then, who is right and who wrong? Who is morally superior, the killer or the victim who would gladly change places with him? (Remember, even the Church sanctions killing in self-defense.) In such a context, can one really speak of moral superiority?
*
God and his angels may be right or morally superior but for reasons of their own they don’t get involved in human affairs or take sides. Why not? Theologians have come up with many answers that may make sense to them and to their brainwashed disciples and followers but to no one else.
Where does mankind stand today? When it comes to morality and justice, have we made any progress? Do you think God is on your side? You are of course free to think so but don’t expect others to agree with you.



THE CROCODILIAN BRAIN
****************************************************
Writers like Zohrab and Zabel Yessayan make it abundantly clear in their fiction that enlightened Turks respected enlightened Armenians. Our conflict today is not between enlightened men but between our respective lowest common denominator. But then, so are all conflicts. Enlightened men engage in dialogue and reach a consensus simply because it is in their mutual interest to do so. It is different with barbarians.
Who is a barbarian? In the eyes of millions, among them learned scholars, Alexander the Great, Suleiman the Magnificent, and Genghis Khan were great men. It is said of Genghis Khan that, when he asked what was the greatest pleasure in life and one said falconry and another something else, he dismissed them with contempt and said, “The greatest pleasure, my friends, is killing the enemy and f***ing his wife.”
Who is the enemy? Anyone whose aim in life is to kill you. Even the church tells us to kill in self-defense is no sin, and the justice system of all civilized and progressive nations agrees. Cherchez not la femme but the crocodilian brain in all of us.
*
When power goes unchecked, it is abused. Who checks the power of our mini-sultans and neo-commissars?
*
An ideology or religion that divides a nation is not a blessing but a curse, it serves not god but the devil, it promotes not progress but degeneration.
*
When reality is against us, objectivity becomes a hostile concept.
*
Jean Cocteau: “Stupidity is always astounding, no matter how often one encounters it.”



LABELS
********************
When it comes to reading, I prefer to read a human being rather than a label. Even when I read an expert, I prefer one in whom the human being speaks louder than the expertise, the role, the profession, or the angle. By human being I mean someone with more doubts and uncertainties and less dogmas and infallible assertions. Even when wrong, a personal view has a better chance of being right than the best propaganda line that is dogmatic, self-righteous, infallible, and intolerant. I don’t ask anyone to agree with me. All I ask is that he deviate a fraction of an inch from the particular propaganda line that stands between him and reality.
*
Victims need victims too. Victims also victimize. It is this that makes them as bad as their victimizers.
*
Question and answer sessions are based on the assumption that the questioner knows nothing and he who answers them knows everything even when it’s the other way around.
*
Sometimes I am accused of hating myself, to which I can only say, god save me from a narcissist (surely, one of the most loathsome labels) who thinks just because he is infatuated with himself, others should follow his example.
*
I admire a writer who can say in a single sentence what I have been struggling to express in ten or a hundred pages. Example: “No people can be genuinely free so long as they look to others for their deliverance.” From Glenn Loury’s ONE BY ONE FROM THE INSIDE OUT.


S.O.B.s
*************************
It is said that the Roman senators attacked Julius Caesar with such blind fury that they injured one another. Moral: Even when the cause you are defending is right (Caesar had declared himself dictator for life) it never pays to go about it like a fanatic.
A fanatic may be thought of as harmless on the grounds that “he may be a son-of-a-bitch but he is our son-of-a-bitch.” But even his friends will reject a pathological case. During the Cold War Americans supported a good number of corrupt dictators on the above-mentioned s.o.b. principle. One such dictator was Saddam. Moral: An s.o.b. is bad news if not today than tomorrow, and if not tomorrow than the day after.
*
The great French writer, Céline, was such a pathological case of anti-Semitism that he saw Jews everywhere. At one point, during the German occupation of Paris, he even accused his Armenian doctor of being a Jew, and the poor fellow came very close to being shipped to a concentration camp. For more details, see PARIS: THE SECRET HISTORY, by Andrew Hussey (New York 2006), page 374.
*
When a character in Shakespeare’s HENRY IV says, “I can call spirits from the deep,” another replies, “Why so can I, or so can any man. But will they come when you do call them?” An Armenian who makes all kinds of extravagant claims on behalf of his fellow Armenians or against Turks will be contradicted not only by moderates but also by his fellow chauvinists. The result will be not dialogue but a dead end. Fanatics are not in the habit of admitting error. If they were, we would now be if not an empire than a serious contender. The very reasons that have made of us a beggar among nations continue to obstruct our path today, but we are too busy playing the blame-game and injuring one another to admit the obvious.
*
The Dalai Lama being honored in Washington and soon in Ottawa, reminds me of our own religious leaders who said “Yes, sir!” to notorious s.o.b.s like sultans and commissars ostensibly to save the church and the nation, but ended up saving no one and nothing, not even themselves.



MAXIMS & REFLECTIONS
**************************************
When gentlemen disagree, they apologize; when hoodlums disagree, they vandalize.
*
Bullying may work with children; reason has a better chance with adults.
*
If you are smart, don’t pretend to be smarter because you won’t fool even fools.
*
I don’t write to be believed – I am not a preacher. Neither am I a salesman. If what I have to offer doesn’t appeal to you, take your business elsewhere. Our marketplace has many peddlers that cater to all tastes, age groups, and IQs.
*
Speaking of bullies and charlatans, allow me to quote the elegant words of a Canadian poetess on publishers: “Just when you think you have been screwed every possible way, you run across someone who has read the KAMA SUTRA.”
*
I believe politics to be a filthy business because all power is filth, including our own.
*
Even when I paraphrase ideas expressed by la crème de la crème of our literature, I am contradicted by our crème de la scum.
*
An unspoken Armenian mantra: “We have no use for writers. We are smarter than any dozen scribblers combined.”
*
I have no need to read the mind of philistines. At eleven we are all philistines. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against philistines. They are my bread and butter. All the good ideas I ever had came to me while reading them.
*
Suppress a trauma and the result will be a neurosis, or so we are told by Freud and Co. Our Turcocentric pundits do not suppress our trauma, they make an obsession of it. The result remains the same.
*
An Armenian discussion forum is a microcosm of the nation. Irreconcilable differences and divisions exist because fanatics exist – infallible men who speak in the same of god and do the devil’s work; and if it’s not god it is an ideology or dogma. The problem with ideologies and dogmas is that there will always be another brand of ideology or dogma that will stand in direct contradiction to them.
*
If I have said this before it’s because to repeat that which needs to be repeated is not redundant but necessary.



TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
*************************************
Gostan Zarian: “The complex psychology of small nations. Their naïve and tragic readiness to entertain great illusions. Their tendency to see decisive historic moments in petty occurrences and insignificant details.”
*
After accusing us of being liars, they now tell us we speak the truth (which they knew to be the case all along).
*
It took them nearly a century to decide that the Genocide is not a figment of our collective imagination. Why the sudden change of heart? One possible explanation: the Dems demanded a raise from Turkish lobbyists and were turned down. The irony here is that the Americans didn’t want any Turkish money; only a partial refund…
*
Anonymous (American): “Our Congress is the best money can buy.”
*
Cui bono? Who benefits? Whoever gets your vote, that’s who.
*
Memo to our Turcocentric ghazetajis: If you think you have the persuasive skills to change a politician’s mind, I suggest you apply them next on our own.
*
Gostan Zarian: “What are we but a handful of persecuted exiles at the mercy of the wind, like dust clinging on stones on dirt roads and assuming their shapes – grateful whenever we fall on a vegetable planted by someone else.”



AN ARMENIAN DECALOGUE
& A PRAYER
*************************************************
I.
Thou shalt not believe in white men for they speak with a forked tongue.
*
II.
Thou shalt not believe in self-appointed pundits and ghazetajis whose role models are not historians but other self-appointed pundits, ghazetajis, and partisan agitators for whom objectivity and impartiality are alien concepts.
*
III.
Thou shalt not hate thine brothers for hating them means adopting Cain as a role model.
*
IV.
Thou shalt not believe in charlatans who know everything but understand nothing.
*
V.
Thou shalt not believe in salesmen of bridges, used cars, and Nigerian royalties with vast fortunes.
*
VI.
Thou shalt not believe in those who read between the lines for the Writing on the Wall has only one line.
*
VII.
Thou shalt not play the blame-game for it is the favorite sport of baloney artists.
*
VIII.
Thou shalt not oppose or suppress free speech for fear of free speech is the worst kind of cowardice.
*
IX.
Thou shalt not believe everything thou readest in the papers.
*
X.
Thou shalt not believe the promises of politicians for they are written on water.


A PRAYER
**********************
Let us now pray for our million and a half who were victimized because their self-appointed, unelected, and non-representative leaders believed in the empty verbiage of white men.


MEMO TO OUR PUNDITS
**************************************
They were discussing the recent Congressional vote on the Armenian Genocide on CNN and I heard one of the talking heads say that Turks and Armenians hate each other and they have hated each other for a very long time. It is human, and therefore understandable, to hate the enemy, especially when he is guilty of an unforgivable, unacknowledged, and unatoned crime – and what could be more unforgivable than the massacre of innocent women and children? Understandable, yes, but also politically, diplomatically, and legally incorrect. Hatred and justice might as well be mutually exclusive concepts. For the ultimate goal of hatred is not justice but the total ruin and destruction of the guilty party.
All the Turks have to do to reverse the American initiative to recognize the Genocide is to emphasize Armenian hatred and the unreasonable demands it inspires.
Whenever I mention hatred to our Turcocentric pundits, they tell me I am wrong, they hate no one, they want only justice. Whether they believe this themselves or not is irrelevant. The truth is, so far they have convinced only themselves and no one else. I would therefore urge them to cease and desist. If they carry on as they have until now, they may do more harm than good to our cause. No one in his right mind wants a new gang of terrorists killing innocent civilians and endangering the lives of others who had nothing to do with what happened a century ago. Let cooler heads, preferably diplomats, historians, and experts in international law, handle the subject. But if these pundits are so addicted to their Turcocentrism that they cannot stop writing about it, I urge them to read Saroyan, Toynbee, and Turkish writers like Pamuk, Akcam, and Safak, all of whom have dealt with the subject without hatred. Saroyan went further and said he felt sorry for the Turks. After writing several books on the brutal tyranny of Turks and the Armenian massacres, Toynbee acquired Turkish friends, learned the Turkish language, and became a Turcophile; but went on asserting the reality of the Genocide in nearly all his future books, including the last one. As for the Turkish writers mentioned above: only a handful of petty bureaucrats, fascists, and fanatics accuse them of insulting Turkishness, and what leads them to do so is blind hatred. There is more than enough hatred in the world and the last thing mankind needs is more of it.


REFLECTIONS
******************************
Writing for Armenians is like trying to share your crust of bread with individuals who dine on five-course meals in four-star restaurants.
*
Nothing exposes our degree of civilization more effectively than the manner in which we conduct our disagreements.
*
In a kleptocracy, plutocracy, and generally speaking in all undemocratic governments, charlatans prosper because the men at the top need them to legitimize their power; and where charlatans prosper, honesty will be outlawed.
*
Knowledge increases in one direction, ignorance in all directions exponentially. One way to explain why Jack S. Avanakian knows everything, Socrates nothing.
*
To how many of our charlatans I could say, it isn’t that I don’t believe what you say, you don’t believe it either, and the only reason you are saying it is to see if you can fool me and get away with it. Because that’s how you measure your IQ: the more people you fool, the smarter you are.



THEOLOGIANS AND MYSTICS
***********************************************
One way to describe a theologian is to say that he is like an ant in a deep hole who claims he can describe what’s on the other side of the horizon as seen from the top of a mountain; or, he is like a man who searches for a black hat in a dark room, both of which (hat/room) are figments of his imagination.
As for interpreting the word of god: I urge you to read two classics in the field: Bertrand Russell’s WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN, and G.B. Shaw’s preface to his play, ANDROCLES AND THE LION (which, like most of his prefaces, is longer than the play).
I wouldn’t be surprised if some day theological treatises are read the way we read science fiction today.
*
MYSTICS
*******************************
As Aldous Huxley explains in his PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, mystics of all persuasions speak essentially the same language, and their two central messages are, (i) their visions or experiences are more real than reality, and (ii) they cannot be described with words.
My favorite mystics are the Zen Buddhists (who, by the way, happen to be atheists) and my favorite writer on Zen is not D.T. Suzuki but Arthur Koestler, and I quote from his THE LOTUS AND THE ROBOT: “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.”
*
WHAT I THINK
*****************************
To those who say, we don’t want to know what others may have said on the subject; we want to know what you think. My answer is: I was brought up as a Catholic, which means, as a child I was thoroughly indoctrinated by priests, brothers, nuns, monks…the whole schmear. But I am no longer a child and long beards, big books, and solemn titles no longer impress me, and I respect an Eminence as much as I respect a Highness or an Excellency.


LETTER TO THE EDITOR
K-W RECORD
*******************************************
October 16, 2007
In his commentary on the recent Congressional vote on the Armenian Genocide (U.S. motion will damage relations with Turkey – Oct. 16) Gwynne Dyer writes that, unlike the Jewish Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire was not premeditated – in his own words: “It was certainly genocide, but it was not premeditated, nor was it systematic.” What he fails to note is that the Genocide was not an isolated or a spur-of-the-moment improvised reaction. The systematic massacre of Armenians began in 1894 and was followed up by successive waves of massacres in 1895, 1896, and 1909. The disposition to massacre was there long before the Genocide of 1915. In what way, may I ask, genocide by predisposition is politically or morally more acceptable than genocide by premeditation?


Separating Fact From Fiction
***************************************************
When I was young I believed everything I read in our history books. I was shocked when I heard a Mekhitarist scholar say that there is more fiction than fact in the works of our historians. I know now there is some nationalist, religious, ideological or philosophical bias in all historians.

“The Soviet period of Armenian history is highly controversial,” writes Manuel Sarkisyanz in the preface to his MODERN HISTORY OF TRANSCAUCASIAN ARMENIA (Leiden, 1975). What makes the Soviet period controversial is ideology, of course, and where ideology enters, propaganda and bias are sure to follow. Elsewhere, on page 209, we read: “British propaganda in the United States was publicizing the Martyrdom of the Armenians to enflame American conscience – which, in 1917, contributed to American willingness to enter the war against Germany. For this purpose an enormous amount of information on the Armenian massacres and the alleged German responsibility for them was published in the interest of the Entente. As it was meant to serve the Allied war effort, much of it contains anti-Turkish and anti-German bias.” It is this very bias that is at the source of Turkish denialism and American reluctance to call a spade a spade.

Speaking of ideology and bias, here is another passage, on page 323, that may not be flattering to our collective ego: “The War [World War II] also caused an improvement in the position of the Armenian Church in the Soviet Union. The Communist regime needed the Churches to endorse its war effort.”

Further down, on page 326, Sarkisyanz tells us, the regime’s influence reached far beyond the borders of the USSR: “The pro-Soviet Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan was, in 1944, appointed from Etchmiadzin to be Prelate of the Armenian Church of North America. He endorsed Communism as ‘leading to a Christian ideal’ and had written that ‘what the clergy is…on the spiritual level, the Communist Party is on the worldly level of politics and economics.’” You may, if you wish, call this bias fueled by ideology. But I would agree with my Mekhitarist teacher in calling it fiction bordering on fantasy.


The Unspeakable In Search Of The Incomprehensible
Whenever I am accused of being an atheist, I say, “I don’t believe in the god of our priests.” That seems to placate my accusers, who are more than eager to change the subject.
*
No word, no being, no concept has been more mercilessly, consistently, and ruthlessly exploited and abused than that of god.
*
“Man cannot create a single worm, yet he has created ten thousand gods.” And all these gods have their followers who claim their god is the only true god.
*
There are those who see god everywhere. There are others who see only the absence of god. And then there are men of faith willing to slaughter one another on grounds that all gods except their own are phonies.
*
In all organized religions, obedience to god inevitably evolves to subservience to men who speak in the name of god. It is easy to speak in the name of god, but much more difficult to speak with his wisdom.
*
Where there is talk of god, the result will be intolerance, hatred, persecution, torture, terror, and slaughter, all of which must be god’s way of punishing the arrogance of men who dare to speak in his name.



Nest Of Vipers
***********************************
When it comes to our clergy and their contributions to our spiritual and intellectual welfare, no institution can rival the Mekhitarist order. And yet, writing nearly a hundred years ago, Daniel Varoujan has this to say about them: “The sermons of our clergy are as sweet as their prayers but their hearts are as black as their cassocks. There are some good souls among them who deserve our respect, granted, but the rest are a nest of vipers.” What Varoujan doesn’t tell us is that the “good souls” are invariably marginalized and rendered ineffective.
Varoujan was educated by Mekhitarist monks in Venice. So was I. It occurs to me now that they at no time emphasized the importance of unity and solidarity probably because they too had split into two independent branches, both of which are now bankrupt and moribund, not because they lacked popular and financial support but because they were taken in by smooth-talking crooks who stole their millions (perhaps even billions) by promising them greater wealth.
Because being duped comes naturally to us we feel the need to compensate by assessing ourselves as smart. But whereas our status as perennial dupes is a fact, our self-conferred superior IQ is fiction bordering on fantasy.
It has been said that once upon a time we were slaves; we are now slaves of former slaves. We could also say that, once upon a time we were dupes; we are now dupes of former dupes.
Here is another useful quotation by Daniel Varoujan: “What’s the use of acquiring knowledge and developing one’s esthetic judgment in a world run by ignorant scum?”



Reading, Writing, Thinking
***************************************************
Once, recently, when I said something to the effect that our writers were my role models, one of our Turcocentric ghazetajis took me to ask for my arrogance. “How dare you compare yourself to our great writers?” said he. Of course, I had done nothing of the kind. But I will gladly amend my statement by saying I may or may not know anything about literature, but I do know something about honesty and being an honest witness. And were not our writers honest witnesses?
*
My advice to those who have not yet mastered the alphabet: Do not attempt to read between the lines.
*
Armenians, who hate to read, love to read our brown-nosers. Knowing this, our brown-nosers dish it out with a trowel, and they are believed because their credibility stands on a higher level than the credibility of our writers.
*
Justin Kaplan, biographer of Mark Twain: “The first rule of biography: shoot the widow.” If anyone ever decides to write a biography of one of our bishops, he shouldn’t worry about shooting widows. What he should worry about is being shot at by one of his loyalists.
*
There is only one worse thing than a wheeler-dealer parading as a statesman, and that’s a man of the cloth getting involved in politics. I cringe whenever I see a mullah or a bishop shaking hands with a “statesman.”
*
To our anti-Semites, I say: Leave anti-Semitism to anti-Semites. The world doesn’t need more of them. I have never seen a sign saying “Wanted: anti-Semites.” But if I ever do, I will be in touch.
*
As Brahms was fond of saying on his out from a party: “My apologies to those I may have failed to offend.”



Armenians And Bolshoi Bolshevik B.S.
***********************************************************
During the Soviet era we were brainwashed to believe the Russians were our Big Brothers (no, not in the Orwellian sense). Even some Russian intellectuals dismissed this preposterous claim as ridiculous in view of the fact that Armenians pre-existed Russians by a good number of centuries. I was reminded of this Big Brother b.s. the other day when I read in one of our discussion forums something to the effect that we should be grateful to our Big Brothers because if it hadn’t been for them we would have been wiped off the map. What we are not told in this context is that during World War II 350,000 Armenian boys died fighting in defense of Russia.
Questions: How many Russians died in defense of Armenia? Is it one or two? Who, pray tell, defended whom? It seems to me the more accurate question to be asked in this context is: How many Armenians did the Russians murder in cold blood in defense of their own Big Lies?
*
After World War II our pro-Soviet leadership in the Diaspora encouraged Armenians to repatriate. Cardinal Aghajanian openly opposed this move – an act of courage on his part since he had a sister living in Georgia (some believe this may have been the main reason why he was not elected pope in 1958). And speaking of Russians murdering Armenians (with the full cooperation of Armenians, of course): after the Bolsheviks had systematically exterminated our political, intellectuals, and ecclesiastical leadership in successive waves of purges, there were pro-Soviet Armenians in the Diaspora who went on preaching Big Brotherhood. If, after “purging” our intellectual elite in Istanbul, Talaat had declared he had done it to save Armenian literature, Armenian culture, and the Armenian identity, I have every reason to suspect some Armenians would have believed him, provided of course he had also awarded these dupes a medal, a title, and a steady income. We may be dumb but we also know how to take care of number one.
*
I remember a pro-Soviet Armenian archbishop in New York in the 1980s telling me, “There is no future for you in the Diaspora. But if you repatriate they will take good care of you there.” Take good care of me in what sense, I wondered. The mafia takes care of its own too.
*
The Catholicos of Etchmiadzin had better luck with Zarian. He promised to have his complete works published in Yerevan and informed him of all the fringe benefits that writers enjoy there. And Zarian, who ought to have known better (in two of his major works, TRAVELLER AND HIS ROAD and BANCOOP AND THE BONES OF THE MAMMOTH, published in the 1920s and ‘30s, he had exposed the aberrations and crimes of the regime) allowed himself to be seduced by the siren song of the Catholicos and moved with his family to Yerevan, where even his application for membership in the Writers’ Union was rejected.
*
In Jason Goodwin’s THE SNAKE STONE (London, 2007), a stateless Polish diplomat in 19th-century Istanbul, delivers the following line to Yashim, a eunuch: “Together we make a man, you and I. For you are a man without balls, and I am a man without a country.” Some day if a novelist ever writes about an Armenian character, my hope is he will not describe him as a man without balls, without a country, and without a brain.



Recapitulating
***********************************
German democracy works because Germany was denazified – a long, painful, expensive process carried out by the Allies. Something similar could be said of Japanese democracy. If Armenian democracy has been a failure so far it may be because no one bothered to de-Ottomanize and de-Stalinize us. As a result, we continue to be at the mercy of wheeler-dealers whose conception of leadership is similar to that of sultans and commissars – not as servants of the people but as their masters.
*
Because the writing on the wall is in invisible ink, we pretend not to see it. And whenever someone says, “I can see it and I will read it for you,” our first instinct is to shut him up.
*
We in the Diaspora are so absorbed in past massacres that we are blind to the two “white” massacres that are taking place today – namely, assimilation in the Diaspora, exodus in the Homeland.”
*
Speaking of our wheeler-dealers and their dupes who parade as superpatriots and accuse anyone who refuses to parrot their propaganda line of treason: consider the following passage in Polybius written more than two thousand years ago. The Greeks were divided, Polybius explains, because all men with genuine leadership qualities had been “systematically thrust into the background and hampered. When at length they did obtain leaders of sufficient ability, their power quickly manifested itself by the accomplishment of that most glorious achievement, the union of the Peloponnesus.”
*
Moral I: we may be unique (who isn’t?) but our problems are not.
*
Moral II: Wheeler-dealers are not in the business of solving problems but in perpetuating them.
*
Moral III: Where wheeler-leaders are the dominant minority, charlatans will flourish, and the agenda of charlatans is not exposing problems but covering them up. After all, who would want to send money to individuals who are better at creating problems than in solving them?



Paragons Of Virtue
**********************************************************
Armenians divided?
Not so! We are just about the most united people on planet earth.
Armenians intolerant?
Wrong! As the first nation to embrace Christianity, we are the most compassionate, tolerant, understanding people in the world and anyone who says otherwise is a lying Turcophile moron and very probably a paid agent of Ankara.
Armenians dupes?
It’s common knowledge that we are the smartest people on the face of the earth and it takes seven Jews to fool an Armenian. I dare you to name another nation that can boast of a Mikoyan, a Gulbenkian, a Kirkorian, not to mention our Jack S. Avanakians, Khartakhians, Khembelians, Kheyarians, Abdalians, Avazakians…
Armenians corruptible?
We may have our share of rotten apples, like you, but on the whole, when it comes to standards of honesty and personal integrity, we are the envy of the world.
Armenians have a highly developed spirit of contradiction?
If that means we don’t take no sh** from nobody, especially Turcophile bastards like you, then yes, certainly, why not? I consider that an asset, not a liability.
Armenia a mafia democracy?
You are alive, aren’t you?



On Fractions And Wholes
****************************************
Human understanding deals with fractions. Only god’s understanding deals with wholes. When a man says his understanding extends from alpha to omega, you can be sure of one thing: he doesn’t even understand a fraction of alpha. If a man says he has all the answers, he has only one answer and that answer is wrong.
*
If we agree that the international community is moved only by self-interest, the question we should ask is, do we have anything to offer? If the answer is we have nothing, then obviously we have been wasting our time.
*
In what way are we different from the rest of mankind? Is not self-interest what motivates us too? If the answer is no, that may indeed be our problem. If the answer is yes, then we have no right to portray ourselves as morally superior.
*
The greatest obstacle to understanding is understanding itself, or to think that, just because we have understood one fraction, we understand the whole.
*
Historians disagree because they focus on different aspects of reality. Philosophers disagree because they deal with different aspects of understanding. Both reality and understanding are complex concepts with many facets and layers.
*
Knowledge and understanding advance through many stages. To say I know and understand all I need to know and understanding is to confuse the first step of the journey with the last.



Arrogance And Dissent
**********************************
What is censorship if not another form of dissent by those in power against the defenseless. Assassination, it has been said, is still another form of dissent.
*
Arrogance can be lethal to the best among us, how much more so to a nonentity. If you want to understand why we have been perennial underdogs and victims, have a talk with one of our smartass, know-it-all, holier-than-thou nonentities who will tell you what brought us to this pass is our geography, our religion, our neighborhood…and a thousand other reasons, never their own kind of dogmatism, intolerance, and contempt for what others think.
*
A man of average intelligence will assess himself as above average. That’s more or less normal. It happens all the time. What is not normal but a constant in politics, including our own, is for a nonentity to assess himself as a genius, a man of vision, and a leader of men. Speaking of one such leader (Hamo Ohandjanian) Granian once told me, “He was credulous to the point of being naïve. During World War II, in the middle of an argument, I heard him say, ‘Churchill does not lie!’”*
*
And speaking of arrogance and Churchill: when Michael Arlen (real name Dikran Kouyoumdjian) once challenged Churchill to admit that his tanks were no match for Hitler’s, Churchill didn’t even bother to lie; he just let him know – and this in the presence of distinguished guests -- what he thought of him: “You are a foreigner, an intruder, an Armenian who dares to come to this country and write books purporting to be about the manners and behavior of its aristocracy. You do not belong and never will belong to the classes in this country, which you are so profitably describing. You have, in point of fact, no right to be sitting at this table.”**
*
Today’s quotation in our local paper is by Havelock Ellis and it reads: “What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.” Armenian translation: “What we call leadership is the succession of one arrogant nonentity with another.”

Footnotes
*****************************
*See my VIEWS / REVIEWS / INTERVIEWS (Los Angeles, 1982)
**See Harry Keyishian, MICHAEL ARLEN (Boston, 1975).



Situation / Shituation
****************************************
A Kurd was being interviewed on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and I was immediately struck by the way he was bragging about Kurdish history and culture. Was it possible that all oppressed and divided people were indoctrinated to think, feel, and speak the same way? And even more to the point: have they ever been successful in fooling anyone but themselves? The suspicion that we may be no better than Kurds became a certainty when I undertook the task of translating three books by Zarian – actually, four (the fourth, like so much else, remains unpublished and very probably will never see the light of day). That’s when I started writing critical commentaries. At first no one objected. Partisan as well as non-partisan papers printed everything I wrote, probably thinking my critical barbs were aimed not at them but at the opposition. Only when it became clear that I was targeting all sides indiscriminately did they pull the plug. To those who say they did the right thing because I am a bad influence, I say: Relax, no harm done. No respectable young lady ever lost her virginity to an obscene book; far better men than myself have failed to breach the stone walls of our collective consciousness; and for every dissident, we have a chorus of pro-establishment pundits, brown-nosers, and ghazetajis who sing our praises during the day and dig our graves at night.
*
The question all patriots should ask themselves is: Why is my patriotism right and my enemy’s patriotism wrong if both spring from the same source and aim at the same goal, which is slaughter of the enemy?
*
And here is an example of speaking with a forked tongue: We like to identify ourselves as a peace-loving civilized nation and not as ruthless bloodthirsty imperialist barbarians, and yet we brag about our Dikran the Great and his ephemeral little empire.
*
Richard Millet (French writer and critic, b. 1953): “I thought literature was immortal. I thought the French language and France were immortal. I know now that not only are they mortal but moribund.”



Where There Is No Vision The People Perish
************************************************
Verbal abuse in the name of Armenianism is not patriotism but hooliganism. I am not casting aspersions. I am only confessing past sins. But if the shoe fits, you are more than welcome to it.
*
When I was young I thought the aim of an argument was to win it by silencing the opposition, and the surest way of achieving that goal was by raising my voice and escalating the personal attacks. Another tactic was assuming superior airs, making dogmatic assertions whose clear implication was that only an idiot would dare to contradict them. As for dialogue and consensus: I considered both to be anti-Armenian activities. It never even occurred to me to suspect that my way of winning an argument may result in alienating a fellow Armenian. And I know something I didn’t know then. To alienate an Armenian is to carry on Talaat’s policy of extermination by other means. To silence a fellow Armenian by means of verbal abuse or censorship is also an unconscious admission of the fact that we don’t deserve to live.
*
We lie when we blame others for all our problems. We deceive ourselves when we brag we survived where many others perished, when our survival is nothing but a slow-motion death of a thousand cuts, most of them self-inflicted. We flatter ourselves when we say we are smart. Some of us may indeed be smart, but collectively and politically we are no better than perennial dupes of foreign and domestic manipulators. Consider the evidence of history: at the turn of the last century we were taken in by the empty verbiage of the Great Powers and the Young Turks. Even our ablest statesman, Krikor Zohrab, not only trusted Talaat but also risked his own life to save his from the secret police of the Sultan. In the Soviet Union we were taken in by Stalin’s b.s. In the Diaspora we fought for Hitler. That’s right: Armenians fought for both Hitler and Stalin and their only tangible achievement was killing one another. And today we believe in our own propaganda, and that’s the worst thing that can happen to a nation: to believe in the flattery of their baloney artists whose favorite line is the one immortalized a century ago by Yervant Odian: “Send us a little money.”
*
Nothing I have said so far is new or original. My line is neither novelty nor originality. I have only been paraphrasing and repeating what has already been said by far better men than myself. What I have said above may be said to be a variation in a minor key of Zarian’s dictum: “Our political parties have been of no political use to us. Their greatest enemy is free speech.”
*
If you think I am being negative, consider my two main sources so far: the Bible and our literature. After writing these lines I came across the following passages in Santa Teresa of Avila’s BOOK OF MY LIFE, in a chapter subtitled “Advice to World Leaders” (page 150): “There is so much deception and duplicity here on earth. A certain person persuades you that he is your friend, and then you find out that it was all a lie. Who can live in a world so rife with deceit and betrayal?” And, “No one believed those who expressed themselves better than I have.”


Patriots of all nations share three things in common:
(one) hatred of the enemy; (two) intolerance of dissent; and (three) a genetic predisposition to confuse indoctrination with education.
*
When ideology enters a controversy, reason flies out the window.
*
Patriots are the ideal dupes of tyrants.
*
Whenever I step out of the box, I am called an enemy.
*
In a patriotic environment anyone who refuses to be brainwashed is called a traitor.
*
You know all you need to know? What if your need of flattery exceeds your desire for knowledge?
*
There is collective wisdom and there is collective stupidity. You may now guess which is more popular.
*
I should like to see our patriotic speechifiers discharge their empty verbiage on an odar audience instead of preaching to the choir.
*
All ideologies generate their own jihadists.
*
Never call a moron an imbecile; he may take it as a compliment and spend the rest of his life trying to live up to it. I have seen it happen.
*
If straight talk offends you, blame your ego, not me.
*
Our enemies speak in the name of the devil even when they speak in the name of god.
*
A headline in today’s paper reads: “Study says half of fraud victims relied on trusting relationship.”
*
Delivering patriotic speeches is like offering free drinks to alcoholics.



More On Patriotism
Our problem, which is also the world’s problem, is not the underworld but the overworld, i.e. the men at the top. When the underworld stages a massacre, like Al’s St. Valentine’s Day, its victims may or may not number a dozen. But when states commit massacres, its victims may number in the millions.

“What we need is solutions,” the average dupe is brought up to say, thus implying these solutions don’t yet exist, and they need to be discovered by a visionary, another messiah, who will appear among us out of nowhere and be our savior. This, needless to add, is a rumor created and publicized by our propagandists who are so used to playing the blame-game that it doesn’t even occur to them that they are our problem and the only solution is getting rid of them. Either that or to convince them to get out of their box by learning to think not as leaders of men (or mini-sultans and neo-commissars) but as servants of the people.

What do the people want? This is a question they don’t even bother asking perhaps because they already know the answer, which is strength through consensus, and peace and prosperity.

People who preach patriotism pretend to be ignorant of misguided patriotism, the kind that dehumanizes the enemy and ultimately legitimizes hatred and serial killers on a massive scale.

Some philosophers and creators of closed systems of thought like Saint Thomas Aquinas and Karl Marx may speak of just and unjust wars and revolutions. But as Toynbee points out somewhere in his monumental STUDY OF HISTORY, just wars have a way of becoming indistinguishable from their counterparts, because once put into motion they create their own rules and forget those formulated by the likes of Aquinas. As for revolutions, they succeed only in replacing one set of rascals with another.

Patriotism and wars may save the hide of a tyrant or increase the size of his dominions, but they are not the solution; and if they are, they have not solved any one of our problems.

This much said let me add that there is nothing wrong with patriotism in itself as long as it is a sentiment between you and your homeland. But when it is politicized and organized, it is invariably coupled with militarism, and the ultimate aim of all militarism is slaughter. And slaughter is slaughter. To say if my enemy slaughters my family it’s bad, but if I slaughter his it’s good, is the kind of moronic primitivism that rightfully belongs to the jungle.



What I Believe
I believe in Socrates who said, “Of the gods we know nothing.”
I believe in Tolstoy who said you don’t have to believe in god to be a good Christian.
I believe in Gandhi who said god is truth, and truth is not a commodity that can be acquired, but an endless journey fraught with doubt, uncertainty, anxiety, agony, and despair.
I believe in Karl Barth who said heaven, hell, and immortality don’t have equivalents in the real world as we perceive it with our senses but are only metaphors,(*) in the same way that when Christ said “the kingdom of god is within you,” he was saying god and his kingdom are only dimensions within our psyche.
I believe in Sartre’s dictum “We believe that we believe but we don’t believe.” Which may explain Mother Teresa’s “dark night of the soul” that was not just an isolated episode, as described by Santa Teresa of Avila in her autobiography,(**) but lasted most of her life.
*
What I Don’t Believe
I don’t believe in a god that is swayed one way or another by human desires and prayers. A god, who allows a brute to rape and murder a defenseless child when he can put a stop to it, is not a god who takes sides or gets involved in human affairs. To say therefore that god is on our side is to blaspheme.
*
Two Prayers
Be on my side. Teach me to think against myself.
*
Bernard Berenson: “Give us this day our daily idea and forgive us all those we thought yesterday.”
***
Footnotes
(*) In Karl Barth’s own words: “Resurrection means not the continuation of life, but life’s completion. The Christian hope is the conquest of death, not flight into the Beyond.”
(**)For more details, see “A Glimpse of the Underworld,” in THE BOOK OF MY LIFE by Teresa of Avila, translated by Mirabai Starr (Boston, 2007, page 251).



Two Saints And Two Thousand Rascals
There are a number of good reasons why I prefer to emphasize the negative, one of them being, the positive has been repeated and instilled in us for so long that we have lost all awareness of our failings. So that we see more merit in pride, arrogance, and prejudice than in humility, objectivity, and tolerance.
*
In the Prologue of her autobiography, Santa Teresa of Avila tells us it is at the request of her superiors that she is undertaking to write a book about her spiritual experiences. She goes on to say, she wished she had been asked instead “to make a detailed list of all the things I have done wrong in my life,” and “I would be so much more comfortable disclosing my imperfections.” All this in the first brief paragraph of her preamble. She goes on to describe herself as “wicked” and “incorrigible.”
*
“Wicked” and “incorrigible”: Naregatsi’s LAMENTATIONS may be said to consist in endless variations on this theme. By acknowledging Naregatsi as our Shakespeare, we also express a tacit admiration for the “method in his madness.”
*
I don’t expect our bosses, bishops, benefactors, charlatans, and commissars to behave like saints; neither do I want them to behave like rascals. If we want to improve things we can’t begin by saying we are God’s chosen and he has created us in his image, we are therefore models of perfection and the envy of the world. Another reason I emphasize the negative is that no matter how hard I try I don’t see any positives. If you do, ask yourself: Why is it that the world, including some Armenians, and our literature in general (and not just Naregatsi) does not agree with me?
*
The mark of a good quotation is this: once heard or read it is not forgotten. One such quotation is by Santa Teresa of Avila, which I remember to have read twenty or thirty years ago: “Never submit your intelligence to someone who doesn’t have much of it himself.” Hence my inability to say “Yes, sir!” to our dupes, morons, and rascals.



“the Art Of Dialogue” By Jack S. Avanakian
You begin by establishing your infallibility.
*
The best way to avoid criticism and contradiction is to brag as forcefully as you can about how much you know. The more forcefully and aggressively you brag, the more invulnerable you make yourself. After all, who in his right mind would want to tangle with a foul-mouthed ignoramus?
*
I once met an Armenian who asserted no one knew as much about Armenian history and culture as he did. When asked where he had studied these subjects, he replied, “In Zimbabwe.” (May have been Timbuktu or some other remote corner of the Dark Continent – please, don’t ask me to quote verbatim the utterances of an idiot). After that no one dared to question his expertise and infallibility. It worked. See what I mean?
*
As children we are brought up on stories, myths, fables, legends, and fairy tales, and eventually become addicts of fiction. This may explain why as adults we develop a violent allergic reaction to facts. Hence our preference of propaganda and illusions, and our intolerance of straight talk.
*
The Brits have a favorite slogan: “We have neither friends nor enemies, only interests.” An original and practical, even if cynical, approach to diplomacy? Not quite. I read the following in Polybius (2nd century BC): “Kings look on no man as a natural friend or foe, but ever measure friendship and enmities solely by the standard of expediency.”
*
There are no new ideas and Hemingway is right: “Why plagiarize if you can steal?” And speaking of garbage-mouth braggarts and diplomacy: We brag about Mikoyan’s skill and cunning as a diplomat even though he engineered the Stalinist purges in Armenia that in its ruthless efficiency and number of victims has been rivaled only by Talaat’s purges of Armenian intellectuals in 1915). We brag about Byzantine emperors of Armenian descent even when they adopted an anti-Armenian foreign policy. We brag about our heroic revolutionaries who took over the Ottoman Bank in Istanbul at the turn of the last century even when this publicity stunt resulted in the massacre of several thousand innocent civilians.
*
Where did our leaders, diplomats, and nationalist historians study their subjects, you may wonder. Since I don’t know everything there is to know about Armenian history and culture, I can only guess: it was either at the Saddam Hussein University in Basra or the Ayatollah Khomeini Center of Higher Learning in Qum. It may also have been somewhere in Libya, Namibia, or Botswana. Go ahead, I dare you to make a damn fool of yourself by questioning my infallibility!



Gott Mit Uns
Propaganda may also be defined as whatever you were told as a child or at any other stage in your life when you were not yet capable to think for yourself. I am not suggesting everything you were told as a child is a lie, unless of course you define a lie as a fraction of the truth or a carefully edited version of the facts.
*
The aim of propaganda is to create dupes.
*
Anyone who thinks propaganda is positive and anything that contradicts it is negative lives in a parallel universe in the company of invisible creatures who are on his side. Remember the Nazi slogan GOTT MIT UNS (God with us).
*
Propaganda cannot be contradicted because it is an extension of a closed system of thought. It can only be defeated by another closed system, but sometimes not even then. Communism was defeated by capitalism, and fascism by democracy but both communists and fascists continue to have their share of dupes today who are convinced their defeat is only a temporary setback.
*
I’d rather be wrong than recycle propaganda. If I am wrong I can be contradicted, corrected, and exposed. But a fascist cannot be corrected in a fascist environment, or a communist in a communist environment, or a denialist in a denialist environment, and in the eyes of some we are all denialists, subversives, and infidels.



Coming To Terms With Reality
Did Khorenatsi and Naregatsi have their critics? If they had readers, they had critics, and their critics had their critics who had their own critics… In our reality it’s critics all the way down. Nothing and no one stands on terra firma. Only the blind and the mute have no critics.
*
When propaganda meets truth, truth is bound to lose. Propaganda has one advantage over truth: it flatters the ego. It tells Pepe le Pew, “You smell like roses,” and there is an el Pepe in all of us.
*
I can save nothing and no one. Those who are on my side were already there long before they read a single line by me. Those who are against me will be against me even after they begin to agree with me. That’s because their pea-sized brain is no match for their inflated Goodyear-blimp sized ego.
*
“Nutritious ain’t delicious.” I speak of carrots and broccoli, propaganda of Big Macs with fries.
*
Somewhere C.G. Jung explains that our subconscious is more visible to others than to ourselves. Propaganda speaks to the ego and its assets; criticism focuses on the subconscious and its liabilities. Not exactly a formula that may lead to popularity and success.



Explaining The Inexplicable
For a long time I thought being Armenian allowed me to know all there is to know about Armenians, Turks, and the Genocide. I even wrote several books and reviewed hundreds more based on that false assumption. I know now that it is almost impossible for a victim to be objective about his victimizer. It is true, Turks behaved like racists when they punished the many for the crimes of a few. No doubt about that. But then, at the turn of the last century and even during World War II, which nation was not racist? Or which civilized and progressive nation today does not have racists among its people who in time of war may assume leadership positions and implement racist policies towards its minorities? I am not justifying, only explaining.



On Moral Superiority
Remember the case of Zohrab’s Kurdish assassin? If you don’t, allow me to refresh your memory. Shortly before he died, it seems, this Kurd experienced a crisis of conscience, confessed his crime, and provided details as to time, place, and manner, all of which was duly published in the ARMENIAN REVIEW, a Tashnak organ emanating from Boston. We know that this Kurd was acting on orders from Talaat, in the same manner that two decades later and acting on orders of Stalin, our commissars in Yerevan murdered an entire generation of our ablest intellectuals. Now, my question is: Has any one of them come forward, identified himself as a killer, and expressed regret for his actions? My guess is – correct me if I am wrong – these commissars and their offspring are now busy sucking the blood of the people in the Homeland, and in the Diaspora, they are parading as superpatriots and delivering speeches on self-sacrifice and dedication to principles to the rest of us renegades.

I once met such a specimen. He had transparent blue eyes, an open face, and a sincere look. Butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth or anywhere else for that matter. He spoke at some length of corrupt practices and related atrocities, but added, such things were totally alien to him and he was as appalled by them as any man of integrity. I believed him. I wanted to believe him. Which once more confirms my status as an incurable dupe. Later, I heard from two different sources that this blue-eyed, moon-faced, and Oscar-caliber performed was one of the most corrupt operators in all of Armenia.

There are many forms of denial. When a fool pretends to be smart, or when a crook pretends to be honest, or when a charlatan pretends to be a role model, or when a total ignoramus pretends to have all the answers, is he not a denialist too?

Casting aspersions? No, of course not!
Asking questions? Yes, certainly.
Present company suspected? No comment.



The Art Of Objectivity Among Other Fallacies And Misconceptions
If after making an assertion you are not haunted by its contradiction, it means you have decided to act as your own attorney, and as is well known in the legal profession, you have a fool for a client.
*
All the misfortunes of mankind may be ascribed to the fact that bad men outnumber good ones and they know how to organize themselves and impose their will on others.
*
In George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM, the favorite slogan of the pigs (who represent Stalinists) is “four legs good, two legs bad.” The aim of all slogans is to legitimize prejudice and to organize hatred, and hatred not only of the enemy but also of fellow countrymen who dare to question their infallibility.
*
There are good men in all nations, but they are so few that it would be a serious blunder to alienate even one of them.
*
What’s the difference between an idiot and a dupe? An idiot believes in his own lies; a dupe believes in someone else’s. But that’s semantics. In reality, an idiot will also qualify as a dupe and vice versa. And there is this peculiarity about dupes and idiots: they will never admit to being dupes and idiots.
*
I have spent enough time among Greeks, Italians, Canadians, Americans, and Armenians to know the kind of vicious idiot nationalism can create.
*
Duke of Wellington: “The real test of a general is to know when to retreat and dare to do it.” This is exactly what our heroic revolutionaries did at the outset of the Genocide. They made a strategic retreat and lived long enough to write their multi-volume memoirs in which to recount in great detail their deeds of valor and self-sacrifice. As they are fond of saying in Latin America: Long Live the Revolution!
*
I once heard an Armenian define free speech thus (I abridge and paraphrase as is my wont): “Free speech is what I say it is. If you disagree, shut the f*** up!”
*
We all share the same daydream: to be loved for who we pretend to be.



Jokes
G.B. Shaw: “If you want to tell a person the truth, make him laugh or he’ll kill you.”
*
George Orwell: “The aim of a joke is not to degrade the human being, but to remind him that he is already degraded.”
*
Jews make great comedians. They love to laugh at themselves. We don’t! Perhaps because we are a joke.
*
“Why did Hitler kill himself? He got his gas bill.”
*
Woody Allen: “I’m very proud of this pocket watch. My grandfather, on his deathbed, sold me this watch.”
*
Jimmy Carr: “Mother always said, ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say, then f*** off!’”
*
Terry Pratchett: “Build a man a fire and he’ll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”
*
Groucho Marx: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.”
*
Woody Allen: “My grandmother left me nothing. She was too busy being raped by Cossacks.”
*
Denis Leary: “I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Price.”
*
“Does the tailor Rabinowitch live here?”
“No.”
“Who are you?”
“Rabinowitch.”
“And aren’t you a tailor?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then why did you say you didn’t live here?”
“You call this living?”
*
Rowan Atkinson: “Never before have I encountered such corrupt and foul-mouthed perversity. Have you considered a career in the church?”
*
Noel Coward: “You live and learn. Then you die and forget it all.”
*
Wanna read more jokes? See ONLY JOKING: WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT MAKING PEOPLE LAUGH? By Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves (New York, 2006). Not a single Armenian mentioned in it.



Why Angels Fly
G.K. Chesterton: “The reason angels fly is that they take themselves lightly.”
*
Warnings
Perhaps henceforth I should post the following two warnings at the head of everything I write.
TO MY FRIENDS: No need to read this. I say nothing you don’t already know.
TO MY ENEMIES: You may not enjoy what follows – I may be on target.
*
The Cheerful Thoughts Of A Bright-Eyed And Bushy Tailed Armenian
It is the fate of some writers, very much like some composers and painters, not to be appreciated or understood by their contemporaries because they are ahead of their time. I can’t be one of them because I only recycle the LAMENTATIONS of Khorenatsi and Naregatsi – two medieval writers who wrote fifteen and ten centuries ago respectively.

Several friendly readers have told me they will love me only after I drop dead. Which raises the question: of the approximately one thousand dead Armenian writers (give and take a hundred or two) how many are loved or even read today? I remember an Armenian telling me: “If I can read first-class Greeks, Russians, and Germans, why should I waste my time with our second-raters? I challenge you to name a single Armenian who is as good as Plato, Dostoevsky, and Hesse!”

And speaking of Naregatsi: I once had a talk with Mischa Kudian (may the blessings of the Lord be upon him) -- remember Kudian? He translated Naregatsi, among many other Armenian writers. He was one of the most disappointed Armenians I have ever met. Afterwards I remember to have thought: “I will never be like that. He is too negative about his fellow Armenians. He sees only the worst in them. I will be more positive. I will be more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed…”

I am now told I am consistently negative, and I am told this by the very same Armenians whose favorite subjects are Turks, massacres, and denialists. Human beings are bundles of contradictions, we are told. Nothing new in that. Contradictions in themselves are not dangerous. Unawareness of them is. Unawareness allows a man to behave like swine and parade as a paragon of virtue. Hence the spectacle of garbage-mouth nonentities and control-freak simpletons pretending to be superpatriots with leadership qualities fully authorized to tell better men than themselves what to think.
*
It Is Not Written!
Jimmy Carr: “Cats have nine lives. Which makes them ideal for experimentation.” If God created us for purely experimental reasons, He also gave us a free will with which to disagree with Him.
*
Democracy
You say you are right because you have the majority on your side? How do you know? Did you take a vote? How come I wasn’t told?


PHENOMENA
For 1500 years our writers failed to penetrate the thick skulls of our Neanderthal leaders and their assorted dupes, hirelings, and brown-nosers. And yet, I go on as if there were a glimmer of hope that this shituation (sic) is about to change. Call me an optimist, though I have also been called a pessimist.
*
I repeat myself only in the eyes of those who read me daily, faithfully, and religiously. But being of modest disposition, I operate on the assumption that most of my readers read me once or at most twice a year, and by the time they read for the second time, they have completely forgotten what they read the first time. In that sense, I do not repeat, I remind.
*
An Armenian who has a score to settle with Turks, will also have a score to settle with his fellow Armenians; and if some day he succeeds in settling all his scores, he will have an unsettled score with himself. If memory serves, it was Nietzsche who said, “In time of peace the warlike man fights with himself.”
*
There are so many books on how to succeed that I can see a time when being a failure will be more interesting, unusual, and fashionable.
*
With every new enemy, I also acquire a new source of inspiration. In that sense I owe more to my hostile readers than to my friendly ones who seldom or never comment on my things perhaps because they no longer read me – and why should they if I express thoughts, which are also theirs?
*
I have had several friends who after a minor political disagreement became enemies, and not just garden-variety enemies, but Armenian enemies, i.e. enemies unto death. Which only means that they were never friends, only potential enemies. But then that’s what an Armenian can ever be at his very best – never a friend, only a potential enemy. In defense of Armenians, may I add that, if we are to believe President Truman (“You want a friend? Get a dog!”) this is not an exclusively Armenian phenomenon.


CALLING A SPADE A SPADE
That’s what I have been doing; and if you say anyone can do that, I suggest you think twice before quitting your day job. Far better men than myself have been arrested or assassinated for doing exactly that. That’s because if you call a spade a spade, the chances are sooner or later you will end insulting men with egos the size of Goliath, Godzilla, and King Kong combined.
*
POLITICS AND HISTORY
Political leaders will invariably favor a version of history in which their blunders are covered up. It follows; a historian that enjoys the support of a power structure has allowed his objectivity to be contaminated by propaganda.
*
TO BRAG OR NOT TO BRAG
Our survival is a positive if we were destined to perish. It is a negative if we were meant to be an empire or a force to be reckoned with.
*
STAGES
Life advances through many stages, and the truth of one stage becomes the lie of another. We either move forward to the next stage or come to terms with a lie, which also means silencing anyone who dares to call a spade a spade.
*
ON VERBAL ABUSE
Verbal abuse may intimidate some and stimulate others. So far it has stimulated me. As for our Goliaths, Godzillas, and King Kongs: they are only paper tigers.


ON WRITING AND READING
Well-adjusted readers see humor in my writings; others see gloom and doom, even treason and betrayal. The only way to explain these contradictory reactions is to say that because I speak of reality, readers project their perception of their own reality onto me. Briefly stated, they read between the lines, which also means they don’t read me, they read themselves.
*
Notwithstanding the verbal abuse leveled against my person, I intent to go on writing because it is not unreasonable to hope that just because someone speaks like a fool today, he will continue to think like a fool tomorrow. Foolishness, like youth and inexperience, are not permanent conditions but transitory stages.
*
Speaking of minor local historians, the equivalent of our present-day Turcocentric pundits, Polybius comments: “We cannot obtain a comprehensive view from writers of mere episodes. For indeed some idea of a whole may be got from a part, but an accurate knowledge and clear comprehension cannot. Wherefore we must conclude that episodical history contributes exceedingly little to the knowledge and grasp of universal history.” O how I wish Armenians read more historians, real historians, as opposed to monomaniacal ghazetajis “of mere episodes.”
*
A ghazetaji writes what everybody knows – that’s his way of flattering his readers into thinking they know and understand all they need to know and understand because they are just about the smartest people on earth. To a traumatized ego, flattery is manna.


MARK MY WORDS
Dissent is unpatriotic only in an environment where propaganda is truth.
*
Never make the mistake of thinking that your status as underdog or victim bestows on you any kind of superiority. If power corrupts, so does weakness. If money is the root of all evil, so is the lack of it.
*
Where there are Armenians there will be disagreements, not the kind that are only stages in a dialogue that move towards consensus, but dead-end disagreements that are nothing but dogmatic assertions in a closed system of thought, and closed systems of thought are favored by closed minds.
*
If I ever regain my childhood faith in God, one of my first prayers (repeated thereafter daily) will be: “Dear Lord, give me a critic who has not undergone a frontal lobotomy or is in no need of professional help.”
*
Memo to a pompous ass:
If tomorrow we vanish from the face of the earth, my guess is we will make fewer headlines than Britney Spears’ haircut or O.J.’s most recent shenanigan.


DARKNESS AT HIGH NOON
Polybius: “Knowledge of the past is the readiest means men can have of correcting their conduct.”
*
Knowledge of the past or understanding history does not mean who did what to whom, where, when, and number of victims – that’s journalism not history – but where did we go wrong?
*
Why is it that he who has seen the light of faith becomes blind to the light of reason? Why is it that when it comes to belief systems, one man’s light is another’s darkness? If two men have seen the light and they disagree with one another, it may be because one of them or both cannot tell the difference between light and darkness.
*
I write as I do because I cannot stomach the spectacle of a poltroon who, after learning one or two things, sits on his fat ass with the conviction that he knows everything he needs to know, when in fact all he knows are a handful of newspaper headlines and a couple of slogans that flatter his ego.
*
On the subject of the Genocide, we speak like jihadists who have seen the light of truth, and the truth is: they are bloodthirsty Asiatic barbarians. If it took us six hundred years to reach that “obvious” and “self-evident” truth, it may be because either they are consummate dissemblers or we are not as smart as we think we are.
*
Between a lie that flatters his ego and a truth that exposes his limitations, a man will invariably choose the lie, and he will compound the felony by calling it the light of truth. I am reminded of a passage in the Bible that goes something like this (I quote from memory and I paraphrase): “If you think you are smart, be a fool so that you may be really smart.” And I say, amen to that!


ON OUR COLLECTIVE IQ
In a letter to the editor in this morning’s paper I read the following: “…by funding more than one public system we are wasting our valuable dollars on bureaucracies.”
In another letter, a reader comments on the promises of politicians: “This is just garbage and we all know it. It is time to make politicians responsible for their words and actions.”
In still another letter a reader comments on the “shallow dogmatism and irrational rhetoric” of his fellow Canadians.
*
It is not at all unusual for a fool to assess himself as smart, and the distance from smart to very smart, and from very smart to smartest might as well be invisible to the naked eye. But if I were to rate our collective political IQ, I would place it somewhere between Latvians and Albanians. Why Albanians? Because they too think they are just about the smartest people on earth. For more on this subject see Paul Theroux’s THE PILLARS OF HERCULES, one of the very best books ever written about countries on the Mediterranean coast. According to Theroux, Albanians think as they do because they were brainwashed by their own leadership. Does that ring a bell?
*
If I write in this vein it’s not because I am anti-Armenian but because I have seen the light of objectivity and impartiality. The question we should ask but we never do is: to what extent our status as perennial victims may be said to be an extension of our collective single-digit IQ? And if you say we have been victimized because we are only sardines in a pool of sharks, I say biology may be destiny in the animal kingdom but not in Homo sapiens, and that our size and vulnerability is a direct result of our political moronism and nothing else. I could prove this with almost mathematical precision by quoting our own writers from Yeghishe (5th century) to Zarian (20th century)(*) but I won’t even try because I know an Armenian cannot convince another Armenian of anything, and if an odar were to try, he would be promptly dismissed as a Turcophile which in our lexicon means the lowest form of animal life.
*
FOOTNOTE
(*)See my DICTIONARY OF ARMENIAN QUOTATIONS, which contains relevant passages from the two writers mentioned above as well as many other Armenian and odar observers.


UNDER FIRE
The law of the jungle says if you are alone, you will be vulnerable to predators. There is a biological (i.e. primitive and unconscious) component in patriotism: we identify with God and Country to be less vulnerable. It follows, anyone who questions the legitimacy of our faith and patriotism (like yours truly) is an enemy that deserves to be verbally abused, chastised, and whenever possible, silenced. This type of reasoning ignores the fact that if I dissent it may be because, instead of uniting us, God and Country have done the exact opposite – they have divided us not only from the rest of mankind but also from one another. Common sense and history (i.e. reality and facts) are on my side here. A religion or ideology that preaches solidarity and brotherhood but practices division and fragmentation ends up legitimizing prejudice, hatred, war, and massacre, in other words, the law of the jungle. The only thing God and Country have done for us so far is to allow the ephemeral feeling or illusion of being less vulnerable. Now then, how fair are some of my patriotic readers when they estimate the value of my person and work somewhere below their “spittle,” “vomit,” and “sh**”? And the following in reference to my person: “This mother-f***ing Turcophile son-of-a-bitch should not be permitted to post his garbage on this forum and must be kicked out forthwith!” No doubt the sentiments of an ardent patriot who may inspire patriotism in others.


THEORIES
A foreign traveler (I forget his name – may have been Lynch) once said that there are two distinct types of Armenians: the honest, hard-working peasant born and raised on Armenian soil, and the Levantine merchant whose number one concern is the bottom line. This traveler did not live long enough to observe the evolution of the naïve peasant into a murderous commissar infinitely more ruthless than the most cynical Oriental carpet dealer of the Diaspora.
*
I had nothing to do with World War I that reduced my parents into penniless orphans and refugees. Neither did I have anything to do with World War II during which I spent my childhood in a ghetto as a “Turkish gypsy.” But after that every major source of misery has been my own doing. I say this to point out two morals: (one) no one gets away with anything, and (two) we are our own worst enemies. Consider the two first stories in Genesis: Eve tempts Adam, and Cain kills Abel.
*
There are a number of theories explaining why we survived where many others perished. One of them maintains the reason we survived is that we are not biodegradable. Is that good or bad? It depends. If you ask an ecologist he will say being non-biodegradable is not good for the environment. You may now draw your own conclusions.


SCENARIO
The recognition of the Armenian genocide by Congress may well be against the interests of Armenia, writes Norman Stone in the SPECTATOR (Oct. 20, 2007, page 22). “Armenia is a poor and landlocked place,” he explains, “dependent for energy on all places Iran, and without disaspora money she would be in an even worse state. She regularly loses people to emigration – 60,000 of them incidentally to Istanbul – and she badly needs good relations with Turkey. Perhaps such countries, once they are independent, should make a second declaration of independence from their diaspora.”

Now, suppose there is another crisis in Armenia – say, an Azeri counterattack, another earthquake, a pre-emptive strike on Iran by the U.S. – and the exodus continues unabated. Result, our enemies don’t even have to fight us; all they have to do is just walk in and claim Armenia as their own. There is an old Greek saying: “He who wants much more loses even the little that he has.” As for our mafias in Yerevan: what do they care? They can survive on their Swiss bank accounts for the rest of their lives on Rio or in Monaco. Some may even get busy working on their memoirs, except that, by the time the books are published they may have run out of readers.
*
Speaking of Iran: on the Op-Ed page of our paper, I read two commentaries titled “Venezuela with Iran could trigger world oil crisis,” and “Iranian people still among the most oppressed in the world.” I quote two random passages: “Ahmadinejad can use world chaos to gain hegemonic strength in the Middle East,” and “The Iranian regime is invoking the threat of a U.S. military attack – which is very real – and using that as an excuse for a major crackdown on dissidents.” The Iranians are ahead of us: they have dissidents. We have been so successful in silencing ours that they are not even mentioned in the commentaries and editorials by our ghazetajis.
*
Murphy’s Law says, “If something can go wrong, it will go wrong at the worst possible time.”
*
After 9/11 Americans realized there had been many warning signals that had been ignored or swept under the carpet by several agencies. If there is one thing in which we excel is ignoring warning signals.
*
Let others sing “Mer hairenik, azad angakh,” I will continue to think “tshvar ander.”



SCHOOLS OF CRITICISM
We have three popular schools of criticism: (i) the verbal-abuse or hoodlum school; (ii) the censorship or shut-up-he-explained school; and (iii) the commissar school. All three schools are based on the assumption of self-assessed superiority in wisdom, morality, and patriotism.
*
If I were to paint myself all white and my adversaries all black, who would believe me? My guess is, not even my friends. If I were to say I am always right and those who disagree with me always wrong, who would agree with me? Not even myself, for I know better than anyone else my limitations, prejudices, and blind spots. Why is it that some of us find it so difficult coming to terms with the fact that we are more or less like everyone else, including our enemies?
*
For six centuries they shaped our destiny, which also means our worldview and character. During six long centuries they re-created us in their own image -- not as masters but as subjects. And our subservience was so total that they declared us to be their most loyal subjects. I once asked one of our pundits, who like all self-appointed pundits is convinced just because he is Armenian he knows all there is to know about them and us, why would they massacre their most loyal subjects at a time when their very existence was in peril? He gave no answer and shortly thereafter accused me of refusing to answer my critics.
*
My critics: do I have them? What is a commissar if not a master whose word is law? And his word is law because a master is never wrong.
*
At least two readers have taken me to task recently for quoting too many dead writers, the implication being that it would be better if I were to rely on the wisdom, patriotism, morality, and authority of living charlatans.



IDIOSYNCRASIES
Americans love to write about Americans – American history, politics, wars, presidents, American music, art, theater, movies, American cities, American wildlife, and so on. The favorite subject of the French is of course the French – what else? The Germans write mostly about Germans, Italians about Italians, and Greeks about Greeks. But Armenians prefer to write about Turks. On the day we develop a school of group psychology, I suspect our Turcocentrism will be their first topic of study and analysis.
*
To reject one of my arguments a reader once wrote: “In this context history, reality, and facts are irrelevant,” thus exposing another one of our idiosyncrasies – namely, our preference to operate within a realm of fantasy and wishful thinking. Since reality is beyond our reach, we prefer manipulating abstractions.
*
We produce more artists, writers, pundits, historians, political leaders, bishops, chiefs, vodanavorjis and mdavoragans than we have any use for. And yet, we wallow in a sea of mediocrity. How to explain this idiosyncrasy? I suspect there are as many explanations as there are Armenians – so what else is new? My own take is an American cliché: Too many chiefs, no Indians. Too many commissars of culture, no culture.



REFLECTIONS ON PROPAGANDA
About Orizio’s book on dictators (mentioned above): without exception, all of them, including the most psychopathic, homicidal megalomaniacs, like Idi Amin Dada, portray themselves as selfless superpatriots dedicated to the welfare of the nation. Such are the dangers of self-assessment.
*
“Realism implies seeing ourselves as we really are and the world as it actually is,” I read in the Op-Ed page of our paper this morning. One could say that the aim of self-assessment and propaganda consists in making us see ourselves as we are not and the world as it is not.
*
The beauty of propaganda is that it is invariably positive, hence its popularity. The offensiveness of criticism is that sometimes it is right.
*
One of the big lies in all propaganda is its refusal to identify itself as propaganda.
*
Propaganda makes two false claims as if they were self-evident truths: (one) you are morally superior, and (two) those who disagree with you are wrong. Both claims are false because the morally superior do not as a rule assert any kind of superiority; and disagreement or dissent, or contradiction, is an essential ingredient in all dialogue.
*
To silence dissent in the hope that it will fade away is an empty illusion. All dictators silence dissenters until they are themselves silenced by events over which they have no control. Churchill put it best when he said a dictator is like a man riding a tiger, and the tiger is getting hungry.
*
The best and most effective way to silence a writer is to stop reading him. All other ways belong to fascists and fanatics who are afraid to be exposed as bullies and cowards.
*
TURCOCENTRISM & OTTOMANISM
Our Turcocentric pundits are incapable of writing a single line about us without mentioning Turks or without making us sound as if we were a passive extension of their will, thus depriving us of all power to shape our own destiny as free agents. It is almost as if after six centuries of subjection, we continue to think of them as our lords and masters.



BOOK REVIEW
IDEAS: BRILLIANT THINKERS SPEAK THEIR MINDS. Edited by Bernie Lucht. Fredericton, N.B. 2005. 376 pages.
In the 19th century, nationalism was thought to stand for freedom and independence, writes Bernard Lewis in one of the essays collected here. This in theory. In practice, “they [freedom and independence] have often proved to be mutually exclusive.” He goes on: “The ending of imperial domination and the establishment of independent national regimes all too often meant the replacement of foreign overlords by domestic tyrants, more adept and more intimate and less constrained in their tyranny.”

This may explain why under the sultans we enjoyed a Silver Age of literature, and under our own petty tyrants, its decline and death. I speak of literature not only because it happens to be close to my heart but also because free speech (without which literature is unthinkable) has always been a reliable index of a free and civilized society.
Further down Bernard Lewis writes: “In the old Ottoman Empire, when a new sultan succeeded to the throne, he was greeted by the crowds, which cheered him and shouted, “Sultan, don’t be proud, God is greater than you.” Compare that greeting with our own unspoken slogan: “Capital is greater than god.”

In another essay, titled “The Secular Messiahs” by George Steiner, we read: “In any struggle one begins to become like one’s opponent.” Hence the Ottomanism of our Turcocentric pundits. Or our own secular mini-, or rather, pseudo-messiahs who expect us to believe, on the day they convince the Turks to come clean, they will save the national honor and usher in a new Golden Age.
*
For more details on 20th-century domestic tyrants, see TALK OF THE DEVIL: ENCOUNTERS WITH SEVEN DICTATORS, by Riccardo Orizio, translated from the Italian by Avril Bardoni (Prince Frederick, MD 2003, 280 pages). A good subtitle of this fascinating little book could have been “Studies in Sadism and Megalomania.”



HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE
To kill the enemy without guilt, he must first be dehumanized and whenever possible demonized. This is what the Turks did to us during World War I; this is what the Germans did to the Jews during World War II; this is what African-Americans do whenever they voice the slogan “White man is the devil”; this is what Sartre did when, speaking of the human condition, he delivered the dictum “Hell is other people”; and this is what we do today when we speak of Turks or, for that matter, fellow Armenians who disagree with us.

There is only one way to demonize another and that’s by projecting the evil that is within us.
To avoid facing reality by admitting the evil that is within him, man has invented the blame-game. If we can blame our misfortunes on others, we absolve ourselves of all responsibility and we are born again as exemplary human beings without blemish. That is why the Turks cannot acknowledge the genocide, and that is why our self-righteous dividers cannot compromise and reach a consensus even as they speechify on patriotism or nationalism and practice tribalism.

The blame-game allows us to ignore the evil that is within us by concentrating on the evil that is within the enemy, even when the enemy happens to be our brother. Hence Zarian’s dictum “Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another.”



THE ORIGIN OF ALL SINS
5:45 AM
What if we never quite outgrow the infantile misconception that we are the center of the world? What if most of our problems and aberrations stem from our inability to realize that so is everyone else? What if belief systems, ideologies and their perversions, such as racism, nationalism, and fascism, enjoy ready and wide acceptance because they are extensions of this misconception? My God, my Country, my Leader, Mein Fuehrer, Heil Hitler!
*
We sometimes forget that misconceptions are luxuries obtained at a very high price. Consider racism or the myth of the Chosen People or the Superior Race. By dehumanizing “inferior” races we dehumanize ourselves. Hence the spectacle of a superior race behaving like inferior swine. What if nationalism is nothing but collective narcissism? What if fascism and intolerance of criticism and dissent are based on the phoniest of all assumptions, namely that we are beyond criticism, that is to say, infallible, which is an attribute of God and of those who speak in His name even as they go about doing the devil’s work?
*
6:30 AM
I read the following quotation of the day by W.R. Inge in our local paper: “The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he is born.” In other words, you cannot have a normal or a healthy child in a sick environment and an educational system with a perverted value system.
*
10:20 AM
Writes Orhan Pamuk: “Living as I do in a country that honors its pashas, saints, and policemen at every opportunity but refuses to honor its writers…” (See OTHER COLORS: ESSAYS & A STORY [New York, 2007] page 237.) Armenian translation: Living as I do in an environment that honors its bosses, bishops, and benefactors at every opportunity but refuses to acknowledge even the existence of its writers unless they are murdered by the likes of Talaat and Stalin, or they are dead, buried, and permanently silenced…preferably in a previous century…



THE LIGHT OF REASON
It has been observed that on recovering their sight, blind men take refuge in dark rooms. You may now draw your own conclusions.
*
An Armenian poet and academic from Yerevan, during a visit to the U.S., made fun of our Turkish surnames. Later, he was exposed as a prominent member of a mafia dynasty. What does that prove, you may ask. Simply this: a man will cling to any flimsy idea to assert his superiority over his fellow men.
*
To believe someone in authority means to allow him to recreate you in his own image.
*
When a friendly forum moderator once asked me if he should delete an offensive comment dealing with my person, I said, “No. Free speech allows everyone the same right to make an ass of himself in public.”
*
All political leaders have adversaries and the chances are what these adversaries say about them is more objective and therefore closer to the truth than what they and their partisans say about themselves.
*
Insults have a longer lifespan that compliments perhaps because they are more solidly rooted in reality.



WORSE THAN A CRIME
“It is worse than a crime, it is a blunder.” The French diplomat who delivered that line was not talking about our genocide but he might as well have been. It was a major crime on the part of the perpetrators, no doubt about that, but it was also and above all a colossal blunder on ours – a blunder in so far as we let it happen by making ourselves vulnerable to them, by freely choosing, as it were, the worst case scenario, and this notwithstanding the many warnings, previews, trial-runs, and rehearsals of 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1909. And what is even more incomprehensible to me is that to this day we ignore or cover up that aspect of the Crime perhaps because we care more about our image than about understanding reality, as if political leadership meant leading the people to hell and pretending it’s for their own good, or like shepherds, leading the sheep to the slaughterhouse after protecting them from wolves. Don’t think for a single moment that I am making unreasonable demands on our leadership. Neither am I asking for greatness or vision or prophetic insight. We don’t need learned scholars or eminent historians or charismatic leaders to point out where we went wrong. What we need are honest men with common sense willing to place the interests and welfare of the people above their contemptible little egos. This is not something that requires two or three generations, as our pro-establishment dupes like to say. This is a decision that can be taken in an instant. And speaking of two or three generations: once in a while I watch the Armenian hour on TV emanating from Toronto, mercifully only once a week. Most of it consists of videos of half-clad and heavily made-up girls dancing and gyrating provocatively in the manner of their best American counterparts. And I cannot help reflecting that if these zilli cheltiks can learn to mimic the worst that the West has to offer, why can’t our leaders learn to emulate the best or even the average?



THE NATURE OF NARRATIVE
*********************************************
What we call reality is an infinite number of facts and factors some of which go back to the origin of the universe. A narrative, by contrast, is an artificial construct that consists of a carefully (even if unconsciously) selected number of facts and factors with a specific aim in mind, such as a plot, a thesis, or the truth, or rather a version of it. Even a so-called objective and impartial narrative is based on a very limited number of facts that are emphasized at the expense of others that are ignored or covered up or shunted aside as marginal or irrelevant. This may explain why there are as many versions of the past as there are historians. This may also explain why man cannot create a single worm but he has created ten thousand gods.
*
For every belief system there will be another that contradicts it.
*
For every truth there will be ten thousand doubters and twice as many liars.
*
In politics, fiction is referred to as propaganda.
*
If you have a receptive audience, it’s amazing the amount of b.s. you can dish out and get away with it.
*
In a book titled ON BULLSHIT, a contemporary American philosopher asks: “Is the love of truth itself merely another example of bullshit?”
*
MEMO TO OUR EDITORS
************************************
In the Op-Ed page of our paper this morning a headline reads: “Press freedom is still just a dream in some countries.”



Toothless Dogs And Prophetic Goats
Whenever I am insulted anonymously or from a safe distance, I think of the old Armenian saying: “A toothless dog always barks from a distance.”
*
There is more common sense in our people than in the wisdom of our bishops. Hence the saying, “If there were wisdom in beards, goats would be prophets,” and “Better a wise delinquent than a foolish saint.”
*
Willed ignorance is the kind of ignorance that is freely chosen because it is thought to be to one’s advantage. People who know or ought to know better but pretend otherwise are like the jackass that “travels to the Holy City forty times but it still comes back a jackass.”
*
You may think of reading and writing as harmless activities. Medieval Jewish scribes who copied the Holy Scriptures knew better. “A single misplaced word or even letter, they said, “may mean the destruction of the world.” The bloodthirsty disposition of men is such, however, that even when copyists do a perfect job the result may be war and massacre. Millions of people have died because someone at the top of the food chain did not understand what he was reading, or he understood but pretended not to. What could be more clearly and unequivocally stated than “Thou shalt not kill”? And yet, at one time or another theologians have justified and legitimized torture, war, and massacre in the name of the Almighty.
*
At the source of all our divisions and misfortunes search for the “fool who threw a stone into a well and forty wise men could not haul it out.”
*
Hagop Baronian: “Do you want to dine and wine to your heart’s content every day? Be a bishop.”
*
Rick Bayan on bosses: “The alpha male in a tribe of baboons.”
*
Neshan Beshigtashlian: “Priests wear black cassocks because they are in perpetual mourning, and what they mourn is the death of the human being within.”



PAPER TIGERS AND DRAGON SLAYERS
**********************************************************
Our revolutionaries in their Ottoman phase may plead not guilty on grounds of inexperience, naïveté, the overconfidence of youth, or even insanity. But what is one to make of their present Turcocentric phase and after a century in which to ponder and reflect on their blunders?
*
If I were to define our Turcocentric pundits, I would say they are paper tigers that like to identify themselves as dragon-slayers, or harmless aghbers who think Armenian history begins and ends in 1915, or Wizard-of-Oz types full of sound and fury signifying vochinch…
*
The greatest concern of a man in power is to establish his legitimacy perhaps because he knows it to be a figment of his febrile megalomaniacal imagination.
*
And speaking of megalomania: to quote the Bible is not the same as quoting God. Neither Moses nor the prophets were gods. They only spoke in His name. So did Mohammad. If God ever writes a book, there will be one and only one version of it. Because God neither rewrites nor edits, neither does he abridge or expand.
*
Once in a while, to cut me down to size, our philistines like to remind me that I am not the only Armenian writer who has been rejected or ignored by his fellow Armenians. To which I can only say, “That is why I speak with the strength of many.”



OUR PROBLEMS & THEIR SOLUTIONS
****************************************************
You tell a self-assessed leader of men that he couldn’t even lead a mutt to the nearest fire hydrant, or a self-assessed genius that he doesn’t even qualify as an inbred moron, and you will not only fail to convince them but you will also acquire an enemy for life. I speak from experience.

We may not know or understand one another but there is one thing we can say with some degree of certainty and that is, we are not who we think we are and no matter how hard we try we will never be.
Identity, image, meaning, truth – these are poorly defined concepts that we assume to be certainties within our grasp. Hence the endless controversies, arguments, misunderstandings, conflicts, and ultimately, wars and massacres. From Diogenes in search of an honest man in broad daylight, to semanticists studying the meaning of words, and philosophers exploring the meaning of meaning: we swim in a sea of uncertainty and we expect to be believed even when we don’t believe.

The hardest part about solving a problem is not finding its solution but acknowledging its existence. A problem that is (a) clearly stated and (b) acknowledged is almost solved. These two conditions will never be met in an environment dominated by sermonizers and speechifiers who speak with a forked tongue, and ghazetajis whose central message is, we have no problems because there is nothing wrong with us. The problem, you will be informed, is not with us but with the Turks. Armenians who know better however will tell you the Turks are not our real problem; our real problem is the Turk within. The Turks divided and ruled us for six hundred years. Who divides us today if not the Turk within? If we have failed to solve our problems so far it may be because our speechifiers, sermonizers, and ghazetajis, have consistently refused to acknowledge its existence.



GULBENKIAN, MIKOYAN, BARONIAN & PARAJANOV
*********************************
My BREWER’S DICTIONARY OF MODERN PHRASE & FABLE quotes “Mr. 5%” (Calouste Gulbenkian) as having said it was “better to have a small slice of a big cake than a big slice of a small cake.”
The M in “MiG” we are further told stands for Mikoyan, the G for Gurevich, and the “i” means “and” in Russian. I am sure our aghbers from the Homeland know all this already, but their aghbers in the Diaspora may not.
*
Speaking of what we know and what we don’t: There is a type of Armenian who knows more about Turks than about Armenians, and the only thing he knows about Armenians is that they were massacred by the Turks. I once asked one such specimen if he knew anything about Armenian literature and he said he did not. Had he read a single Armenian writer, I asked next, and he replied he had not. Someone must have told him reading Armenian writers is a waste of time because none of them will tell him anything he doesn’t know already, even if what he knows is nada.
VIVA LA REVOLUCION!
*
Speaking of Armenian writers: in the introduction by one of our pro-Establishment pundits to an English translation of Baronian I read that Baronian had been so nasty in his depiction of his contemporaries in Istanbul that he fully deserved to be betrayed to the Ottoman police. Is it conceivable that no one, not even the translator, bothered to point out the fact that this pundit was legitimizing betrayal?
*
Another case in point: Speaking of Parajanov, I remember one of our chic Bolshevik elder statesmen saying: “He was a syphilitic homosexual and a black marketeer. They should have sent him to the Gulag and let him rot there.”
*
As you may have guessed by now, I am not one of those who says, if it’s ours, it must be good, or my country right or wrong, or my mother drunk or sober.



THE COBRA & THE MONGOOSE
**************************************************
The best things in life are free, they say. They also say, you pay most for things you get for nothing. Flattery, for instance, may be free but it can also come with a heavy price, especially if you believe it.
*
You tell a fool he is smart and he will think he is infallible; he may even adopt a criminal career thinking he will never get caught. Hence, the more than a thousand Armenian inmates in Los Angeles prisons. I am reminded of the cobra that got so used to biting rats that it ended up biting a mongoose.
*
Differences of opinions among us are so radical that we might as well be aliens to one another. Instead of counteracting this dangerous trend, our speechifiers and sermonizers encourage it. Only when it comes to raising funds do they emphasize the importance of brotherhood.
*
A writer does not choose his readers, in the same way that a law-abiding citizen does not choose his mugger.
*
“Who remembers Armenians today?” Well, what about Biafrans? Who remembers them? I suspect not even Armenians.



HAYADIATS
***********************************
It happened when I was nine or ten. After a very brief exchange with a Greek official, an older friend of mine said: “That man is hayadiats.” That was a new word for me and I couldn’t even guess what it meant. Later I realized it meant “Armenian-hater.” Jews are better off – they only have anti-s; we have haters, and not all of them goyim. Did the Greek official know enough about Armenians to hate us? I doubt it. Hatred, like love, has nothing to do with knowledge or understanding. It comes from the gut and is therefore blind. Some people have an instinctive drive to hate anyone who is different perhaps because they consider themselves the equivalent of the gold standard. Because I hold views different from theirs, fellow Armenians have called me all kinds of names. In the Ottoman Empire Armenians who betrayed Baronian to the police, and in the Soviet era Armenians who betrayed our ablest men to Stalin’s executioners (not all of them Russians or Georgians) probably thought of themselves as law-and-order gold-standard types too. And if you think the era of sultans and commissars belongs to our irrevocable dark past, it may be because, like a Chagall character, you float in a realm that is above the clouds.
*
GOSTAN ZARIAN
********************
When I first read Zarian, I sensed immediately that I was in the presence of an Armenian with his feet planted firmly on planet earth. Don’t get me wrong. The average Armenian is not a daydreamer. In the marketplace he can be a tough, shrewd, ruthless operator (hence the popular Italian saying: “It takes seven Jews to fool an Armenian”). But when it comes to writing, he turns into a timid little rodent afraid of his own shadow.
*
MORE ON ANTI-SEMITISM
**************************************
Anti-Semites have the questionable habit of putting Jews under a microscope and seeing things there that are not visible to the naked eye. It doesn’t even occur to them that if they were to give the same treatment to the Vatican or to any other race, creed, nation, or tribe (including Armenians) they will be surprised at the amount of dirt they can dig up. We all swim in the same “enfer de merde” and none of us can afford to assume a holier-than-thou stance.
*
A FINAL COMMENT ON BETRAYAL
*********************************************************
About the Soviet-Armenians who betrayed an entire generation of our best writers to Stalin’s executioners: far from being anonymous, faceless, brainwashed dupes, they were the elite of our intellectual and political leadership. For more on this subject, see PAK DERNERI GAGHTNIKE (The Secret of Closed Doors): CHARENTS, BAKOUNTS & OTHERS, by D.V. Gasparian (Yerevan: Apollon, 1994, 727 pages).



SCANDAL
******************************
When in the 19th century the English in India banned suttee (the burning of widows), the Hindus objected saying it was their custom. “Very well,” the English responded. “We also have a custom. When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.” And that was the end of suttee in India. Moral of the story: Never justify criminal conduct simply because it has been around for such a long time that it has become a custom.
*
What manner of men burn defenseless, innocent women in the name of tradition and get away with it? To put it differently: What kind of pervert legitimizes criminal conduct and what kind of cowardly dupes accept him as a role model instead of hanging him from the nearest tree?
*
In the name of tradition, millions of women today are genitally mutilated not only in Africa but also in the United Kingdom. Closer to home: in order to support their families hundreds of thousands of men emigrate and thousands of women engage in prostitution because our bloodsuckers refuse to give up their corrupt practices legitimized during the Soviet era. Whenever this subject comes up, we like to say it will take at least two generations… that simply means, we have done nothing, we are doing nothing, and we plan to do nothing, in the name of tradition. The message to the bloodsuckers is a simple one: Carry on as before. You have our blessing. We respect your judgment and we trust your ways even if the result is poverty, prostitution, and exodus or “white massacre,” i.e. assimilation.
*
I think of our fables that end with the words: “Three golden apples fell from heaven…” and I cannot help reflecting that this may indeed explain the large number of permanently damaged skulls among us.



SHERLOCK HOLMES & THE SULTAN
**************************************************
In a review of a new biography of Conan Doyle, I read that “the Sultan of Turkey, a man with a thousand concubines, used to have Sherlock Holmes stories read aloud to him in translation…What did Conan Doyle have that a thousand women above the Bosphorus could not supply?”
*
CHARLES AZNAVOUR ON HIMSELF
**********************************************
In a recent interview published in LE POINT (Oct. 11, 2007) I read: “France is my country, not Armenia. My heart is French, my soul Armenian. It’s like coffee and cream: once mixed they cannot be separated…I don’t know if I believe in God but I would like to believe in the immortality of the soul…I don’t watch television. Television is for the young and the old. I am neither young nor old…I am not a star. Everyone recognizes Bruce Willis, not me.”
*
A FAMILIAR SCENARIO
***********************************
It happens every day. I read about it in the morning paper. An addict needs a fix, doesn’t have the money, walks into a bank, says he has a gun. The teller follows the routine set by the management and hands him a wad of cash. The bandit rushes out to a waiting stolen car, if he has a partner, or disappears in the crowd, and by the time the cops arrive, there is no trace of him in the neighborhood. Problem solved. Another fix taken care of until tomorrow.
I see this kind of scenario played out every day on our discussion forums. A member doesn’t like what another says. No need to stand on ceremony or engage in dialogue or even make sense. Just don the mask of a superpatriot or that of a Bible-quoting sanctimonious prick and let him have it…all in the name of God and Country of course. Problem solved or compounded? Who cares? What matters is instant satisfaction.
*
A DIGRESSION
***********************************
Questions: A garbage-mouth superpatriot and a born-again reborn in the gutter? You see an inconsistency here? Who cares! We are Armenians. Rules of inconsistency or logic do not apply to us. We make our own rules. We know better.
*
HISTORIC PARALLELS
**********************************
Speaking of instant satisfaction: consider the actions of our heroic revolutionaries at the turn of the last century. They didn’t like the way the Empire was run. What to do? Ask wealthy Armenian merchants to finance your insurgency. If they refuse to cooperate, kill a few as a warning to the rest. Even better, take over a bank, threaten the Sultan with death, and damn the consequences. As for the judgment of history: why worry about that if (in the words of Churchill) you are going to write it?



Hatred Is An Enemy Of Understanding
There are those who would like to see me silenced because they don’t agree with what I say. Nothing unusual in that. Since time immemorial Armenians have disagreed with one another. It is said where there are two Armenians there will be three churches and the churches will be used not as places of worship but as reminders of their irreconcilable . differences.
*
Take any random group of one hundred people regardless of race, color, and creed and in those one hundred people you will invariably find a minimum of one fool, one fanatic, one dupe, and one phony. What they think or say matters only if the silent majority (96% of the group) allows them to assume leadership positions – which, by the way, happens to be a routine occurrence in world history.
*
In everything I write I attempt to replace hatred with understanding. In the eyes of the above-mentioned 4%, this is seen as an unmistakable symptom of anti-Armenianism.
*
Nothing comes easier to some Armenians than to preach Armenianism and practice Ottomanism.
*
To understand the past is not the same as understanding the present. The world is no longer what it was a hundred years ago. Conditions have changed and continue to change even as I write. We have no choice but to run if we want to stand still. But pillars of salt are incapable of advancing even a fraction of an inch.
*
To equate anti-Turkism with pro-Armenianism amounts to saying hatred of Turks is the same as love of fellow Armenians.
*
Hatred closes the mind and prevents us from understanding not only others but also ourselves. That is why even religions that practice hatred preach love. Who after all has ever dared to declare to be against understanding?
*
It is said that when the Buddha ignored an insult by a passerby, one of his disciples wanted to retaliate. The Master stopped him with the words: “When someone offers me a bowl of rice and I am not hungry, I don’t eat it.”


A LONG HISTORY IN BRIEF
Of all fears, fear of free speech is the most cowardly.
*
Where there is deception there will also be fear of free speech.
*
A deceiver’s greatest fear is being exposed as a deceiver.
*
You may manipulate reality up to a point, after which reality will manipulate you. It happened to Napoleon. It happened to Hitler. It happened to our revolutionaries. And it’s happening today to Bush, the leader of the mightiest empire in the world.
*
Sooner or later we have no choice but to come to terms with reality as with death and taxes. How do we do that is up to each one of us. What I have been recounting in brief notes and essays so far is an outline of my own way, which may not be yours. In which case you must devise your own. To place your hopes on others is to forfeit your freedom and ultimately to be disappointed.
*
When Europe entered its Dark Age, Armenia experienced a Golden Age. But when Europe experienced a Renaissance, we entered a Dark Age, which was to last 600 years that culminated in a series of massacres and dispersion; and in the Homeland, a civil war, and another Dark Age under a series of ruthless tyrants. As for freedom from the Soviet yoke, independence, and victory over the Azeris: I am told there are Armenians today who miss the good old days under Stalin.
*
Our Dark Age is not yet over because we are at the mercy of leaders who masquerade as shepherds and are fearful of free speech because they run the risk of being exposed as swindlers on their way to the slaughterhouse.


DISSENTERS
As a teenager I loved to contradict my elders, to cut them down to size as it were. I am not surprised therefore when I am now given the same treatment by my teenage readers. It’s a phase we all go through. It can’t last. Unless of course we have on our hands a case of arrested development.
*
Speaking of arrested development: If, like David Barsamian, you are one of those who think Noam Chomsky is a brilliant thinker and one of the most popular American dissenters, two recent books expose him as an even more brilliant charlatan and hypocrite: THE ANTI-CHOMSKY READER, edited by Peter Collier and David Horowitz (San Francisco, 2004, 260 pages), and DO AS I SAY: PROFILES IN LIBERAL HYPOCRISY, by Peter Schweizer (New York, 2005, 257 pages). We learn here that Chomsky calls the Pentagon “one of the most evil institutions in world history.” And yet, he has himself made millions working for the American military.
At one time or another I too have been accused by some of my teenage readers of working for the CIA, the KGB, the Mossad, and the Gray Wolves.
*
There is a type of “critic” who believes if he “thinks” he is right, he must be right. To such a one I say, not so fast, friend. To think you are right is only half of the story. You must also appear to be right. That’s when reasonable argument or evidence comes in. Verbal abuse is less a reasonable or convincing argument and more an expression of prejudice, venom, and bad manners, or Ottomanism parading as Armenianism.
*
You may have noticed that charlatans are better at delivering patriotic speeches than honest men. Hitler comes to mind, the prototype of all superpatriotic charlatans.
*
There is something fundamentally wrong in an argument that convinced only one (namely yourself) and no one else.
*
If you don’t know how to read, it is advisable that you refrain from reading between the lines.
*
Iris Murdoch: “Everything I write is probably Hamlet in disguise.” I too could say that in everything I write, I say, “There is something rotten in the State of Denmark.”


EUPHEMISMS
When, during World War I, the Japanese forced Korean women into prostitution, they called them “comfort women” – their comfort and the Koreans’ degradation.
Some words share this in common with the moon -- they have a dark side, which we ignore at our peril. Case in point: patriotism and nationalism don’t just mean love of one’s nation but also hatred not only of enemy nations but also fellow countrymen who do not agree with us.
I just finished reading a collection of interviews with some of the most bloodthirsty and ruthless dictators of the 20th century (among them Idi Amin Dada, Bokassa, Duvalier, Mengistu, and Milosevic). As you may have guessed by now, one of their favorite words is patriotism.
*
When we describe ourselves we also confess because we use words whose dark side we ignore. It is not at all unusual for an Armenian to speak or even to brag about his Armenian identity even as he exposes his Ottomanism. Which is why we need impartial and objective analysts much more than the Vatican needs devil’s advocates. If the Pope blunders and makes a saint out of a rascal, he harms no one. But when a political leader blunders, the result may well be defeat, massacre, and genocide.



February 11, 2010
*************************
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.”
#
February 12, 2010
*************************
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.
#
February 13, 2010
***************************************************
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.
#
9:39 AM
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
love
February 7, 2010
*************************
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!
#
February 8, 2010
*************************
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.
#
February 9, 2010
*************************
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?
#
February 10, 2010
*************************
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.'”
#
9:32 AM
Saturday, February 6, 2010
born-again
February 4, 2010
*************************
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?
#
February 5, 2010
*************************
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.”
#
February 6, 2010
*************************
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.
#
9:45 AM
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
notes
January 31, 2010
*************************
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.
#
February 1, 2010
*************************
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.
#
February 2, 2010
*************************
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.
#
February 3, 2010
*************************
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.
#
10:05 AM
Saturday, January 30, 2010
notes
January 28, 2010
*************************
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.
#
January 29, 2010
*************************
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."
#
January 30, 2010
*************************
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.
#
10:01 AM
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
meta
January 24, 2010
*************************
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.
#
January 25, 2010
*************************
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.
#
January 26, 2010
*************************
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.
#
January 27, 2010
*************************
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.
#
9:39 AM
Saturday, January 23, 2010
reading
January 22, 2010
*************************
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?”
#
January 23, 2010
*************************
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.”
#

observations
January 14, 2010
*************************
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?”
#
January 15, 2010
*************************
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.
#
January 16, 2010
*************************
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.
#
10:31 AM
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
voodoo
01/10/10
*************************
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!
#
01/11/10
*************************
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.
#
01/12/10
*************************
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).
#
01/13/10
*************************
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.
#
10:31 AM
Saturday, January 9, 2010
oil
01/07/10
**********************************
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.”
#
01/08/10
**********************************
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!”
#
01/09/10
*************************
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.
#
10:08 AM
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
fragments
01/01/10
**********************************
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.
#
01/02/10
**********************************
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.
#
01/03/10
**********************************
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.
#
01/04/10
**********************************
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.
#
01/05/10
**********************************
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.”
#
01/06/10
**********************************
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.
#
9:53 AM
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
more.......
Thursday, December 24, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Friday, December 25, 2009
**********************************
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).
#
Saturday, December 26, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Sunday, December 27, 2009
**********************************
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).
#
Monday, December 28, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
**********************************
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.”
#
9:42 AM
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
comments
Sunday, December 20, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Monday, December 21, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
10:13 AM
Saturday, December 19, 2009
presence
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
**********************************
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).”
#
Thursday, December 17, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Friday, December 18, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Saturday, December 19, 2009
**********************************
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.
#

notes
Sunday, December 13, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Monday, December 14, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
10:07 AM
Saturday, December 12, 2009
nice
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Thursday, December 10, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Friday, December 11, 2009
**********************************
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?
#
Saturday, December 12, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
10:00 AM
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
safe
Sunday, December 6, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Monday, December 7, 2009
**********************************
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."
#
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
**********************************
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.”
#
11:18 AM
Saturday, December 5, 2009
words
Thursday, December 3, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Friday, December 4, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Saturday, December 5, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
9:47 AM
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
more...
Notes: Sunday, November 29, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Monday, November 230, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
**********************************
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)
#
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
10:53 AM
Saturday, November 28, 2009
interview
Entretien avec l’écrivain Ara Baliozian
par Liana Aghajanian
IanyanMag, 13.10.2009


« Les deux atouts majeurs d’un écrivain : une sensibilité d’écorché vif et le cuir d’un rhinocéros », écrit Ara Baliozian sur son blog, qui héberge ses réflexions quotidiennes sur des thèmes allant de la religion à l’argent, la politique, la littérature et naturellement des thématiques arméniennes. Les écrits de Baliozian, auteur et traducteur, lui valent nombre de flèches de la part du lectorat arménien, mais cela ne l’empêche pas de distiller ses critiques et observations.
Né en Grèce et éduqué à Venise, Baliozian vit actuellement à Kitchener, au Canada. Il a publié plusieurs ouvrages, dont Armenians : Their History and Culture et In the New World et en a traduit beaucoup d’autres. Il publie maintenant ses œuvres principalement sur des forums internet arméniens, mais il a accepté de répondre à quelques questions pertinentes.

- Liana Aghajanian : Ma première question sera simple, mais il sera peut-être difficile d’y répondre : pourquoi écrivez-vous ?
- Ara Baliozian : J’écris parce qu’écrire est devenu une habitude et, comme l’on sait, il est plus facile de conserver des habitudes que de s’en défaire.

- Liana Aghajanian : Quel est le meilleur conseil que vous donneriez à un jeune écrivain arménien comme moi ?
- Ara Baliozian : Etre honnête avec vous-même et vos lecteurs. Ne rien accepter sur quelque autorité que ce soit. Dans notre monde actuel, plus les gens s’élèvent, plus ils mentent.

- Liana Aghajanian : Beaucoup d’écrivains de votre génération, qu’ils soient arméniens ou non, ne se sont pas adaptés à internet avec votre facilité. Comment et quand avez-vous commencé à utiliser internet pour faire partager vos écrits ? Quel a été l’élément déclencheur ?
- Ara Baliozian : Je dois ma pratique d’internet à mon cher ami Noubar Poladian, qui est venu me voir à plusieurs reprises depuis Toronto (96 km) pour m’apprendre à utiliser un ordinateur alors que je lui disais ma résistance à abandonner ma vieille machine à écrire.

- Liana Aghajanian : Quels sont vos rituels d’écriture, si tel est le cas ? Ecrivez-vous à tel moment de la journée ou dans un lieu particulier ?
- Ara Baliozian : J’écris très tôt le matin, quand tout le monde dort et qu’il fait noir au dehors. Je n’écris qu’une simple page. Il m’arrive de prendre des notes durant la journée, dont j’écarte la plupart le matin venu.

- Liana Aghajanian : Que pensez-vous des protocoles entre l’Arménie et la Turquie et comment voyez-vous ceux qui dans la diaspora font campagne contre ces protocoles ? Si vous êtes opposé à ces protocoles, quelle est l’alternative ? Et selon vous, quel est le meilleur moyen pour la diaspora d’exprimer ses inquiétudes ?
- Ara Baliozian : Je suis totalement pour une amitié avec nos ennemis, du moment que nous pouvons obtenir davantage de concessions de leur part comme amis, plutôt que comme ennemis. J’ajoute que je ne prends pas au sérieux ces protocoles. Mais c’est un début, ce qui est mieux que rien. La mère patrie et la diaspora ont des priorités différentes. Il serait égoïste de notre part de considérer nos priorités comme supérieures ou plus urgentes que celle de la mère patrie. Laissons les choses suivre leur cours. Laissons la mère patrie gérer ses affaires. De toute manière, les Turcs savent que l’Arménie ne représente pas la diaspora. Quant à nos inquiétudes, je pense que les Turcs en sont aussi conscients. Et si leur intention est de nous diviser, à nous de ne pas tomber dans le piège.

- Liana Aghajanian : A quelles sortes de concessions pensez-vous ?
- Ara Baliozian : On pourrait commencer par demander aux Turcs de nous permettre de prendre soin de nos anciens monuments à Ani, Van et ailleurs. Quant aux concessions territoriales, il me semble que si nous nous dirigeons vers une sorte d’Union ou une liberté de circulation dans le cadre d’Etats-Unis du Moyen-Orient ou du Caucase, les frontières de l’Arménie historique et de l’Azerbaïdjan deviendront obsolètes.

- Liana Aghajanian : Vous faites l’objet de rudes critiques de la part de nombreux Arméniens qui n’approuvent pas vos écrits et vos opinions, allant même jusqu’à vous insulter à de nombreuses occasions. Comment vous en accommodez-vous et qu’est-ce qui dans vos écrits dérange les Arméniens ?
- Ara Baliozian : En règle générale, je suis insulté par des lecteurs endoctrinés, exposés à d’innombrables prêches et discours, sans avoir lu le moindre écrivain. Ce qui les dérange c’est le fait que je me refuse à recycler une propagande chauviniste. Des choses comme la bataille d’Avaraïr (dont même certains de nos historiens nient l’existence), être la première nation qui se soit convertie au christianisme (la véritable question est : avons-nous jamais été de bons chrétiens ?), la première nation à avoir été la cible d’un génocide (au nom de quoi s’en vanter ?). Nous serions intelligents ? En politique nous n’arrivons même pas à nous qualifier sur le tard.

- Liana Aghajanian : Vous avez récemment écrit sur votre blog : « J’estime que le génocide résulte de deux erreurs monumentales commises par des nationalistes fanatiques et forcenés des deux côtés. Il va sans dire que le massacre de civils innocents est un crime bien plus grave que la stupidité et l’ignorance. Il se peut que l’ignorance soit la plus innocente de toutes les transgressions, mais dans la vie c’est celle qui est la plus sévèrement punie. S’il est des lois inflexibles dans la vie, celle-ci en fait à coup sûr partie. En parlant de lois inflexibles, en voici une autre : si vous refusez de tirer quelque enseignement de vos erreurs, vous vous condamnez à les répéter. Qu’avons-nous appris de notre génocide ? Que dire, sinon que nous sommes à la merci de conditions historiques inévitables ou de forces qui nous dépassent ? Même erreur, même propagande, même Super Mensonge fabriqué et recyclé par des hommes qui sont trop paresseux ou stupides pour penser par eux-mêmes. » - Pourriez-vous être plus explicite ? Quels ont été les erreurs majeures de la culture arménienne en tant que telle ? Pouvons-nous faire des progrès, selon vous ?
- Ara Baliozian : Notre grande erreur – ou plutôt celle de nos révolutionnaires – a été de croire dans les promesses verbales des grandes puissances. A cette idée que leur soutien nous rendait invulnérable. Dans la diplomatie internationale, les promesses verbales, même les traités, n’ont aucune valeur si l’on n’a pas les moyens de les mettre en œuvre.
Notre seconde erreur est d’imputer nos malheurs actuels (l’expatriation et l’assimilation dans la diaspora – qualifiée aussi de génocide blanc) à des conditions sociales, politiques et culturelles qui nous dépassent… autrement dit, d’adopter une position passive, au lieu d’assumer un rôle actif en nous organisant, nous montrant solidaires, en mettant fin à des conflits et divisions mutuelles.

- Liana Aghajanian : Avez-vous des regrets, professionnels ou personnels ?
- Ara Baliozian : L’un de mes plus grands regrets est d’avoir attendu la trentaine avant de me consacrer à temps plein à l’écriture. J’aurais dû le faire plus tôt.

- Liana Aghajanian : Quels sont vos héros dans la vie ?
- Ara Baliozian : Platon, Gandhi, Thoreau… pour n’en citer que trois parmi tant d’autres.

- Liana Aghajanian : Si vous deviez choisir, quels seraient, selon vous, les meilleurs modèles ou dirigeants dans la communauté arménienne dont les Arméniens pourraient beaucoup apprendre ? Et s’il n’y en a pas, selon vous, pourriez-vous expliquer pourquoi ?
- Ara Baliozian : Nous pouvons apprendre un tas de choses de nos écrivains – Grégoire de Narek, Raffi, Baronian, Odian, Zohrab, Zarian, Massikian… Hélas, je ne vois personne de nos jours qui leur arrive à la hauteur !

- Liana Aghajanian : Pourquoi, selon vous, est-il si difficile pour les Arméniens d’avoir un débat franc et raisonné sans confrontation, préjugé ou a priori ?
- Ara Baliozian : Ceux qui ont subi un lavage de cerveau ont tendance à être dogmatiques, autrement dit, intolérants. Or les intolérants ne peuvent s’engager dans un dialogue, ils préfèrent donner des sermons et pérorer.

- Liana Aghajanian : Quand vous n’écrivez pas, que faites-vous de vos loisirs ?
- Ara Baliozian : Rien ne me fait davantage plaisir que jouer du Bach à l’orgue.

- Liana Aghajanian : Ayant décidé de vouloir être un écrivain, vous auriez pu facilement ne pas écrire à propos des Arméniens. Pourquoi avez-vous décidé de le faire ?
- Ara Baliozian : J’ai commencé par écrire et publier des romans, qui m’on valu plusieurs prix littéraires et bourses du gouvernement canadien – jusqu’à ce que je réalise que le but du roman est de divertir la bourgeoisie. Comprendre et expliquer la réalité : voilà ce que je veux faire maintenant… et j’y éprouve davantage de plaisir qu’à écrire des histoires d’amour ou, pour citer Sartre, sur « les affres mutuelles de l’amour ».

- Liana Aghajanian : Quels sont vos livres favoris ?
- Ara Baliozian : En arménien : Le Voyageur et sa route, de Zarian. En russe : Pères et fils, de Tourgueniev. En anglais : Reconsidérations, de Toynbee. En français : Les Mots, de Sartre. En grec : Zorba le Grec, de Kazantzakis.

- Liana Aghajanian : Quels sont vos plats arméniens favoris ?
- Ara Baliozian : Je suis végétarien.

Liana Aghajanian est rédactrice en chef d’IanyanMag, tout en étant éditeur à temps plein et écrivain à ses heures à Los Angeles. « Je prends mon tchaï sans sucre, mais mon dolma avec beaucoup de yaourt ! »

Blog d’Ara Baliozian : http://baliozian.blogspot.com/

Source : http://www.ianyanmag.com/?p=1230
Traduction : © Georges Festa pour Denis Donikian, 10.2009
12:13 PM
less......
Thursday, November 26, 2009
**********************************
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.
#
Friday, November 27, 2009
**********************************
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?
#
Saturday, November 28, 2009
**********************************
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?
#

more.......
Sunday, November 22, 2009
**********************************
ON INDEPENDENCE
*******************************
Simon Rodriguez is a 19th-century South-American writer and educator who could have had Armenians in mind when he wrote: “We are independent but not free. Something must be done for these poor people, who have become less free than before. Before, they had a shepherd king who did not eat them until they were dead. Now the first to show up eats them alive.”
On education: “Teach children to be curious so they learn to obey their own minds rather than obeying authorities the way the narrow-minded do, or obeying custom the way the stupid do. He who knows nothing, anyone can fool. He who has nothing, anyone can buy.”
*
ON JUSTICE
*************************
We should speak about the Genocide less to demand justice and more to remind ourselves where we live. Justice is a noble goal but it is not always attainable.
*
YANKS
***********************
You want to know why Americans refuse to recognize the Genocide? Read their history and their treatment of Blacks, Indians, and Latinos; or listen to their music; or watch their gangster movies in which the criminals are the heroes.
*
PIERRE BOULEZ SPEAKS
**********************************************
On funerals: “It's depressing to revive a part of your life that's dead. I am not one who goes to funerals for enjoyment.”
On patriotism: “I heard too many of Petain's disgusting speeches during the Occupation to give patriotism a single thought.”
#
Monday, November 23, 2009
**********************************
ON KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING
******************************************************
The worst thing that can happen to a nation is for its brainless(*) to assume they are the brains of the people.
*
First they assumed to be smart – which was a serious blunder.
Then they assumed to know better – another serious blunder.
And now they spend most of their time and energy covering up both blunders – which is the greatest blunder of all, because it keeps them so busy that they don't have the time to identify and focus on our present problems.
*
The solution is obvious:
the first step is to admit they are not as smart as they think they are. But even if they were, that doesn't mean they are without limitations. Even the wisest men on earth don't know and understand everything.
*
To be smart or to know better does not mean to understand reality. No one can truly say he understands all of reality. The very best we can do is understand a small fraction of it.
*
When asked why things exist, all scientists and philosophers can say is, existence “is just one of those things,” which translated into dollars and cents means “we don't have a clue.” Which also means, to know a great many things does not mean to know the most important things. Or, to be the best Oriental carpet dealer in the world does not mean to know how to lead a dog to the nearest fire hydrant or to catch a cold in a flu epidemic.
=========================================================
(*) Avedik Issahakian's characterization of our leadership.
##
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
**********************************
GEOGRAPHY
******************************************************
To those who blame our misfortunes not on our rotten leadership but on geography, consider the following passage from Eduardo Galeano's MIRRORS, which may best be described as history stripped of all propaganda.
After decapitating everyone who had taken part in the Boxer rebellion in China at the turn of the last century, we read, “Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Russia, Japan, and the United States...sliced up China as if it were a pizza, and each took ports, lands, and cities that the phantasmal Chinese dynasty bestowed upon them as concessions for periods of up to ninety-nine years.”
Closer to home, consider the case of the natives in America, Mexico, and Canada who were too busy slaughtering one another to present a united front to the handful of white men who ended up slaughtering them. Now then, tell me, what part did their geography play in their defeat and subjection?
*
Elsewhere, Galeano identified Heinrich Goering, father of the Nazi Hermann, as “one of the perpetrators of the first genocide of the 20th century.” The victims are identified as the Hereros of Namibia. The order for their annihilation, we are told, was issued and carried out in 1904. And, “Of every four Hereros, three were killed, by cannon fire or the desert sun.”
If you don't know who the Hereros are and where Namibia is, no matter. Very probably, my guess is, the Hereros, like so many Canadians I have met, don't know either who the Armenians are and where Armenia is.
#
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
**********************************
MORE FROM GALEANO
******************************************************
Armenians are not mentioned in the index of Eduardo Galeano's MIRRORS but are discussed on page 300, where we read:
“The Ottoman Empire was falling to pieces and the Armenians paid the price. While the First World War thundered on, government-sponsored butchery did away with half of the Armenians in Turkey:
homes ransacked and burned,
columns of people fleeing without clothes, water, or anything else,
women raped in town squares in broad daylight,
mutilated bodies floating on the rivers.
Whoever escaped thirst or hunger or cold died by the knife or the bullet. Or the gallows. Or by smoke: in the Syrian desert, Armenians driven out of Turkey were forced into caves and suffocated with smoke, in what foreshadowed the Nazi gas chambers to come.
“Twenty years later, Hitler and his advisers were planning the invasion of Poland. Weighing the pros and cons, Hitler realized there would be protests, diplomatic outrage, loud complaints, but he was certain the noise would not last. And to prove his point, he asked:
“Who remembers the Armenians?”
*
Galeano is identified as “one of Latin America's most distinguished writers [whose] work has been translated into twenty-eight languages."
I have every reason to suspect if MIRRORS is ever translated into Turkish, this passage quoted above will be omitted. But if it isn't and the translator is an Armenian, he will be accused of insulting Turkish honor, arrested, tried, found guilty, and condemned to ninety-nine years in prison.
Lord have mercy on honest witnesses for they shall never be forgiven by crooks.
#
10:59 AM
Saturday, November 21, 2009
KBO
Thursday, November 19, 2009
**********************************
CANADIAN VALUES
*****************************
Two widely held views on Canada by Canadians:
“This country was founded on Christian values.”
“Canada is ours: we stole it from the Indians fair and square.”
*
ARMENIAN VALUES
**********************************
It makes no difference whether you cut a writer's tongue out or you silence him.
Neither does it make any difference whether you kill him or you ignore him.
The result will be the same.
*
CATECHISM 101
********************************
Q: Do you believe Jesus was the son of God?
A: Aren't we all? We don't say “Our stepFather who art in heaven,” or “Our Father-in-law...” We say “Our Father...”
Q: Do you believe He rose from the dead?
A: I believe he never died. All gods are immortal. They don't die. That's a rule without exceptions.
*
DENIALISTS
***************************
Q: How do you explain American academics who deny the Genocide?
A: Promise an academic a regular salary and he will deny his own existence.
Q: What about Jews who deny the Genocide?
A: Jews don't, Israeli politicians do, and politicians have no principles, only interests.
*
ON TREASON
**************************************
“A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious, but it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly, but the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their garments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. “
—Marcus Tullius Cicero, 42 BC
#
Friday, November 20, 2009
**********************************
ON REPETITION
*******************************
Advertisements and propaganda
appeal to our lowest instincts
and they thrive on repetition.
Do I repeat myself?
Why shouldn't I?
If repetition works for the devil,
it can work for Jesus,
which is what Martin Luther said
when he adapted drinking songs to church hymns.
*
CRITICS
*********************
To subscribe to a belief system
means to reject all others
as aberrations, deviations and heresies.
To say I am against criticism
is also criticism.
*
INFANTILE CRITICISM
**************************************
Because I write against prejudice,
I am accused of being prejudiced.
Because I write against subservience and ignorance,
I am accused of both transgressions.
The offspring of perennial victims,
I am accused of being on the side of victimizers.
Because I refuse to be a dupe,
I am told I am a dupe of enemy propaganda.
I call this type of criticism
tit-for-tat, senile, or infantile criticism.
*
LIES
*********************
What is the biggest Armenian lie?
That Armenians are honest.
What is the dumbest Armenian lie?
That Armenians are smart.
#
Saturday, November 21, 2009
**********************************
TO MY CRITICS
*******************************
If you have irrefutable evidence that suggests I am wrong,
then I must be wrong and I plead guilty as charged.
If, on the other hand, your evidence is based
on hearsay, propaganda, or a belief system,
then I suggest it is suspect
and therefore inadmissible.
*
Belief systems are infallible only to their dupes.
*
Knowledge based on propaganda
(and the favorite medium of all belief systems is propaganda )
is worse than ignorance.
*
When belief systems speak in terms of certainties,
they lie. And because they lie,
we have heresies, holy wars, and jihads
all of which operate like licenses
to commit crimes against humanity
in the name of an idol parading as God Almighty.
*
In a biography of Churchill I read today that
one of his favorite mottoes when in trouble was:
KBO = Keep Buggering On.
Perhaps that’s what I have been doing all along too
but didn’t know what to call it.
#
9:49 AM
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
more.......
Sunday, November 15, 2009
**********************************
DIARY / 5
*****************************
When an American capitalist first heard the passage in the Scriptures that says a wealthy man cannot go to heaven in the same way that a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle, he hired a succession of theologians and demanded an explanation. Only one came up with the answer that pleased him which was this: The “Eye of a Needle” was the name of a narrow passage under a low bridge in Jerusalem. That theologian went home with a fat check in his pocket.
*
I suspect if you were to ask one of our bishops to explain the line “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” he will say neither can a house with rotten foundations, and what could be more rotten than a heresy?
*
Theologians are like lawyers, they will plead not guilty even if their client is a serial killer who may kill again.
*
“The law is the law,” they say. So is the Word of God. But both cease to be what they claim to be if they are interpreted to mean the opposite of what they say.
*
I enjoy reading pundits who are on my side. I enjoy even more reading pundits of the opposition. But my very favorite pundits are liberals who turned conservative and vice versa.
*
I don’t read to have my ego massaged or my prejudices reinforced, but for the exactly opposite reason.
*
Dostoevsky began his literary career as a liberal and became conservative. By contrast, Thomas Mann began as a conservative right-wing nationalist and ended as a left-wing cosmopolitan liberal. I enjoy reading both. I enjoy them even when they express views with which I am in complete disagreement.
#
Monday, November 16, 2009
**********************************
DIARY / 6
*****************************
What Romans did to their Christians,
Christians did to their heretics.
Religions and regimes may change,
but man stays the same
and the scum of the earth
always rises to the top.
*
The people who do the most harm to mankind
are, as a rule, the least aware of it.
They may even think of themselves
as the best and the brightest,
or promoters of virtue,
or representatives of God on earth.
Kings, popes, imams:
we may be justified in calling them
certified moral morons.
*
Something to remember and repeat:
Self-criticism is not unpatriotic.
Silencing critics is.
*
It was Kant who said that very often
ignorance is nothing but
cowardice in the face of knowledge.
*
When a chauvinist who recycles crap says:
“Criticism must be constructive!”
what he really means is:
“If recycling crap is good enough for me,
how dare you think otherwise?”
#
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
**********************************
DIARY / 7
*****************************
I am grateful to all charlatans who,
with their example, taught me the value of honesty.
*
People profess to love the truth
but live as though they were afraid of it --
hence the old Armenian saying:
"If you speak the truth,
you will be chased out from seven villages."
*
The very same people
who pour venom on every line I write
and sling mud at me
(hoping some of it will stick),
accuse me of being negative.
*
In a dictionary of philosophy:
“Generally speaking megalomania is a reaction to failure.
The megalomaniac represents himself
as he would like to be
but as he is not.
Megalomania may also be a symptom
of the decline of one’s critical faculties.”
*
On dogmatism:
“It stands in direct contradiction to criticism,
skepticism, empiricism, and realism.
It fosters intolerance and fanaticism.”
*
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 ideas where none exist.
#
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
**********************************
ON THE DEATH
OF ARMENIAN LITERATURE
*****************************
Poverty should not be confused with destitution.
Poverty is the total absence of all luxuries.
Destitution means anxiety, fear, subservience, uncertainty, degradation, envy, anger, hatred, and worse of all, dependence on the charity of swine.
This may explain why our writers, who ought to know better, are more than willing to crap on one another and kiss the posterior not only of an empty suit with money but also his flunkies and hirelings.
Their central concern is not producing a decent line but getting closer to the money tree even if the tree bears poisoned fruit.
*
What is an old man if not a fool with wrinkles?
*
A common Armenian misconception promoted by our ubiquitous and dime-a-dozen Turcocentric ghazetajis: to equate anti-Turkism with pro-Armenianism.
*
Our collective self-esteem is so low that it needs constant positive feedback. Hence the mantras first nation this and first nation that...
*
There is no such thing as an average Armenian. An average Armenian is a self-assessed genius and an unappreciated and misunderstood Armenian.
*
Asked what he thought of Nietzsche, Jules Romain replied: “There are too many unnecessary letters in his name.”
*
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.
#
11:04 AM
Saturday, November 14, 2009
diary
Thursday, November 12, 2009
**********************************
DIARY / 2
*****************************
“What Africa needs is precisely such transmutations of tribal loyalties to the larger loyalties of nationhood.”
I copy these lines from a magazine article for those of my readers who say we need solutions.
*
To be a dupe in our context means to be deceived by frauds who have deceived themselves to believe they are leaders of men.
*
Let us not confuse anti-Turkism with pro-Armenianism.
*
Martin Scorcese: “...thanks to a professor named Haig Manoogian I discovered that I could express everything I felt through film.”
*
Salman Rushdie: “My father was a great religious scholar, but he wasn't a believer.”
*
David Lynch on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: “I owe him the discovery that the possibility for happiness dwells within us.”
A hundred years before Maharishi, Tolstoy based a belief system on a 2000-year old dictum: “The kingdom of God is within you.”
*
There is only one religion: the search for meaning.
*
There is a type of reader who reads not to learn but to settle scores; not to engage in dialogue but to insult; and an insult is as difficult to refute as a massacre, perhaps because it is verbal massacre.
*
Nothing human is beyond criticism, including the Word of God as heard, interpreted, written down, translated, read and understood by man.
*
According to Buddha: “That which is spoken, heard, and understood are three different things.”
*
What a scathing book review Buddha would write of the Bible and the Koran!
#
Friday, November 13, 2009
**********************************
DIARY / 3
*****************************
To understand Turks, all I have to do is examine my own heart.
To understand Turkish lies, all I have to do is consider our own.
*
Why should I trust the judgment or integrity of men who hire belly-slitting lawyers whenever their sensibilities are offended?
*
Northrop Frye on a common misconception of God: “...the ferocious old bugger up in the sky with the whiskers and the reactionary political views, who enjoys sending people to hell.”
*
When I hear or read the word Islam, the first four words that come to mind are: giaour, imam, fatwa, and jihad; and I loathe these words as much I loathe the words boss, bishop, benefactor, and commissar.
*
You cannot change that which you hate: that may explain my failure. Perhaps what we need is not critics but messiahs. Anyone interested in being crucified?
*
There is something in our partisans that doesn’t like disagreement, dissent, criticism, dialogue, democracy, free speech, human rights, honesty, straight talk, common sense….
*
The disagreement of a single honest man means much more to me than the agreement of a thousand fools and ten thousand dupes.
#
Saturday, November 14, 2009
**********************************
DIARY / 4
*****************************
Sooner or later all lies are exposed and replaced by other lies.
*
Truth is not a noun but a verb – it consists in shedding lies.
*
Ottomanism, Sovietism, Armenianism: the only difference between them is the number of dupes and hoodlums they control.
*
Northrop Frye's explanation of deconstruction: “Rousseau wrote on the origin of language, but he was primarily interested in masturbation.”
*
Eduardo Galeano: “Hunting Jews has always been a European sport. Now the Palestinians, who never played it, are paying the bill.”
*
Men need to believe in something, even if it is a lie that will enslave them.
#
9:55 AM
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
fools
Sunday, November 8, 2009
*****************************************
FOOLS
*************************************
They don't brag about their culture
and they have a Nobel-Prize winner.
We brag about ours,
and what have we got?
Ask an Armenian to name a contemporary Armenian writer
and he will give you a dirty “Who-gives-a-damn?” look.
*
Will Safire (may he rest in peace) once said
Germans have a tendency “to look the other way
when moral values are threatened.”
Ask an Armenian
what a moral value is
and the chances are he will give you
a “What-the-hell-is-that?” look.
Ask him what a human right is
and he will give you a hostile “Don't-waste-my-time” look.
Ask him if we are civilized, progressive, and smart
and he will reply
“Of course we are!” with a look that says
“How dare you ask such a dumb question, you fool?”
*
After centuries of life under sultans and commissars,
we might as well be blind
to moral, aesthetic, and democratic values.
*
No use blaming others.
The fault is in us or rather
in our mini-sultans and neo-commissars.
*
All nationalists lie
when they speak about themselves
and their enemies.
*
“For a fool he sure is smart!” I used to think,
until I realized he was not the fool,
I was.
#
Monday, November 9, 2009
*****************************************
LIES
*************************************
If a man marries seven times
it only means one thing:
he is a poor judge of feminine flesh.
Likewise, if a nation has been subservient
to alien tyrants for a thousand years,
it only means one thing:
its unspoken motto is not
“freedom or death”
but “survival at all cost.”
*
Instead of raising our children
to brag about our survival,
we should teach them honesty.
And since we don't have an Armenian word for honesty,
we should invent one.
The alternative is rewriting history
and engaging in double-talk.
*
No one likes liars.
Even liars prefer to deal with honest men.
*
We are divided because both sides
are too busy covering up their lies
to be honest with themselves,
their counterparts, and the people.
*
For an adult to believe in Santa is bad enough,
but what is infinitely worse
is to be an habitual and compulsive liar
and to brag about one's honesty and love of truth.
#
REPLIES
TO A STUDENT'S QUESTIONS
*****************************************************************
Question: Do you believe what the Turks did to the Armenians in 1915 was genocide?
Answer: I do.
Q: Do you believe it was a deliberately adopted and systematically implemented policy by the Turkish government?
A: No doubt about that. It was planned and executed in cold blood. The evidence -- the testimony of survivors, eyewitness accounts, historians who have studied the record, not all of them Armenian, some of them Turkish -- is overwhelming. Besides, no nation in the history of mankind has ever fabricated a genocide and believed in it for nearly a century.
Q: Do you know or have you ever met a survivor?
A: I grew up in a ghetto near Athens, Greece, populated by several thousand survivors. Most of them were not educated or literate. They didn't like to reminisce. Besides, they were engaged in the serious business of surviving World War II, the German occupation, blockade by the Allies, the Greek Civil War... The poverty was appalling. The housing a disaster area -- as bad as the worst slums in South America and India.
Q: Some say the so-called deportations were flight from the violence – true or false?
A: My father was a teenager in 1915 and he was lucky in that a friend of the family, a Turkish cop, warned the family of the coming deportations. He was able to flee the violence but only with the shirt on his back. My mother was only a tiny baby who ended up in an orphanage in Lebanon run by Catholic nuns.
Q: Do you think the Armenian genocide has had any impact on the world?
A: None whatever! There have been more genocides in the last century than at any other time in the history of mankind.
Q: In your opinion, what is the most important thing you have heard concerning the genocide?
A: The unimaginable cruelty of the sadistic criminals – and they were criminals – who carried out the deportations.
Q: Do you believe that the deportations and marches of Armenians in 1915 were deliberately designed by the Turkish government to lead to the death of the deportees, or do you believe that it was unintentional?
A: It was deliberate and intentional – no doubt about that. The only explanation I have is that, the Turks were convinced they were fighting for their own survival against overwhelming enemies from without as well as from within, among them the Armenians.
Q: What do you think is the most important thing that people can learn from the Genocide?
A: Like all belief systems and ideologies, nationalism can also be abused. It was in the name of nationalism that our revolutionaries challenged the might of the Ottoman Empire, and it was in the name of nationalism that the Young Turks thought the only way to defend the integrity of their nation was to exterminate the Armenians.
Q: What are your impressions of people who say it wasn't really a genocide?
A: People can be brainwashed to believe anything. Luckily not everyone is vulnerable to being brainwashed. There is now a generation of Turkish intellectuals that no longer believe what their politicians dictate.
Q: Did your mother or anyone you know who went through the genocide ever mention concentration camps, mass burnings, starvation or massacres?
A: Both my father and mother were among the lucky ones who did not witness or experience these things – except near starvation and abominable poverty in an alien environment.
Q: What is the single most important thing you would tell someone who questions the reality of the Armenian genocide?
A: Only this: state propaganda cannot be a reliable source of information.
#
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
**********************************
DIARY
*****************************
With reasonable men, reason is enough.
With children, repetition has a better chance.
*
No one can be as dumb
as he who has been brainwashed to believe he is smart.
*
According to Northrop Frye, the foremost Canadian authority on the Scriptures, the aim of the Bible is to expand human consciousness.
*
Philosophers are more modest than prophets. They don't pretend to speak in the name of God. No one has ever declared a war or tortured a fellow human being in defense of Plato's or Schopenhauer's theories.
*
The day man invented God,
he let loose the equivalent of ten thousand atomic bombs.
Who thinks of God as a weapon of mass destruction?
And yet...(the saddest words in the English language, it has been said).
*
For writing as I do, once upon a time I would have been sliced into ribbons and fed to the dogs by the Pope's henchmen.
*
Believing in miracles is bad enough.
Believing that man is worthy of them is worse.
*
To punish the guilty, sometimes Canadians send them back to their homeland.
I can't imagine a worse punishment.
*
Are we worthy of our martyrs?
What about our heroes?
Do we have them?
*
Every house in which I have lived has been torn down by either war or real-estate developers. My alma mater is now a motel. Which is almost like saying, my childhood sweetheart is now a bordello madam.
*
I have been a source of disappointment to everyone I have met, including myself, and I cannot decide whether that's an asset or a liability.
*
Good Armenians?
One in a thousand --
and I belong with the 999.
*
Eduardo Galeano in his MIRRORS writes: “Those who knew Leonardo said he never embraced a woman. Yet from his hand was born the most famous portrait of all times. A woman.”
And:
“Queen Elizabeth of England and the Sun King of France ate with their hands. When Michel de Montaigne ate in a hurry, he bit his fingers.”
*
When an old Indian predicted a bad winter and was asked how he can tell, he replied: “White man make big wood pile.”
#
11:17 AM
Saturday, November 7, 2009
if?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
****************************************
WHAT IF I AM WRONG?
********************************************************
That would be too good to be true!
Because if I am wrong, it means our writers from Khorenatsi (5th century) to our own days have been wrong in accusing our political leadership of incompetence and corruption.
It means no foreign or domestic tyrant has ever been successful in dividing us.
It means our bishops and benefactors have at no time used to the power of God and capital (make it, Capital and god) to divide us.
It means when Raffi said “treason and betrayal are in our blood,” he was only voicing his deep-seated hatred of his fellow countrymen.
It means when Baronian said, “If you want to wine and dine every day, be a bishop,” he was writing under the influenced of cynical and atheist French intellectuals who were in vogue at the turn of the last century in Istanbul.
It means our revolutionaries were at no time taken in by the empty promises of the West and the Turks had no reason to exterminate us because, as “the most loyal subjects” of the Empire, they needed our help against foreign and domestic enemies who were unanimous in their desire to see the Empire dismembered and buried never to rise again.
It means our post-World War II repatriates were treated by the natives not as “white trash” but as “brothers.”
Finally, it means when Gostan Zarian returned to the Homeland during Khrushchev's thaw, he was treated by his fellow writers as a literary giant rather than as an undesirable midget.
#
Friday, November 6, 2009
****************************************
GREED
********************************************************
When belief systems are bureaucratized, they become interchangeable.
The Vatican and the Kremlin: two opposing systems, same number of innocent victims.
Criticism becomes treason when it targets in Infallible.
Greed for power turns decent men into cannibals.
That is why the wise shun power and in doing so they become victims.
In a dog-eat-dog world, the wise defend their humanity and are devoured.
*
An Armenian writer's first and only commandment:
“Thou shalt not write a single word that may offend a future source of income.”
Nothing comes easier to an Armenian writer than to verbally abuse a fellow writer.
I once heard an 80-year old writer refer to Zarian as “boy” and to an empty suit as “baron.”
*
Americans were defeated in Vietnam, but as far as I know no American ever called it a “moral victory.”
Moral victories are for losers.
No one ever goes to war to prove the moral inferiority of his enemy.
*
Can God speak to man?
Of course He can.
God can do anything!
But can man understand God?
Of course he cannot.
If man understood God, there would be only one God as opposed to ten thousand of them.
#
Saturday, November 7, 2009
*****************************************
MY FRIEND, THE RABBI
*************************************
I have been cheated so many times
by so many people
in so many different ways that,
theoretically speaking,
the only time I should feel comfortable
is when I do the cheating,
which I never do,
not because I am morally superior,
but because I have had so little practice
that I am liable to get caught and fry.
*
“Why do the wealthy cheat the poor?
Why would someone who has everything
cheat someone like me who has nothing?”
I said, and he explained:
“How do you think they got to be wealthy?”
*
If an Armenian can be a friend to the devil,
he can be a friend to the Turk.
But to another Armenian? -- that's different.
*
EMPTY SUITS
**********************
First, they exploit their workers,
then they overprice their product
and after they make their first billion
they hate paying taxes
and love parading as kings,
and then they realize
being an Armenian is a bloodsport.
I speak from experience.
I write for them
*
Kirk Douglas defines an actor
as “someone who loves rejection.”
Hollywood stars and Armenian writers:
who would have thought?
#
9:46 AM
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Q/s
Sunday, November 1, 2009
****************************************
MALEFACTORS
********************************************************
If I write what I think, it may be because so far no one has paid me to write what he thinks. And since no one has made that kind of indecent proposal, I have not even been tempted to surrender my virginity.
*
I don't trust the judgment of the powerful and the rich.
The greater the wealth, the emptier the suit.
In an environment where benefactors are kings, only brown-nosers prosper.
*
The establishment our capitalists support is reactionary, anti-intellectual, narrow, and intolerant.
It is against dissent and dialogue.
It is for decline and degeneration.
To our hirelings they may be manna from heaven, but to all honest men, they are no better than malefactors.
*
Turks quote me?
So what? I don't consider that a liability.
They quote me not because I am anti-Armenian or pro-Turkish but because I expose Armenian lies, in the same way that we quote Turks who expose Turkish lies.
Not all Turks are liars and not all Armenians are honest men.
If and when Armenians and Turks develop a consensus it will be because of the effort of dissidents, not those who trumpet chauvinist crapola from podiums and newspaper editorials.
#
Monday, November 2, 2009
****************************************
RECAPITULATIONS
********************************************************
Our propagandists tell us we are the smartest people on earth.
Our writers are unanimous in telling us we are our own worst enemies.
How smart is that?
*
After creating an environment in which only bottom-feeders are allowed to survive and prosper, our propagandists tell us we are survivors par excellence.
*
Everyone likes to be told he is smart.
No one likes to be told he is dumb.
Our propagandists know this, but like all propagandists, they view deception as an integral part of their job.
*
Propaganda consists in exploiting lies.
Literature consists in exposing them.
You may now guess which branch of human endeavor prospers and which starves.
*
Ignorance, intolerance, and subservience to authority are not assets but they are touted as such by all propagandists.
*
The fact that I disagree with propagandists may well be irrelevant.
What is relevant however is that propagandists disagree with one another too – and I am not talking about Armenian versus Turkish propagandists but Armenian versus Armenian propagandists.
Case in point: Once, many years ago, after I interviewed a Tashnak leader, a Ramgavar wrote a letter to the editor in which he accused the Tashnak of being a compulsive and habitual liar. But what really surprised me was the fact that in his defense, the Tashnak did not deny the charge; instead he retaliated by dismissing the Ramgavar as a brainwashed Bolshevik.
Hatred of Turks also means hatred of fellow Armenians who do not share our ideology.
*
The two pillars of propaganda, loyalty and respect for authority, have been at the root of some of the worst crimes against humanity, including our own genocide. So much so that, “following orders” is no longer thought of as a legitimate legal defense.
*
No one can be as easily manipulated as a cowardly ignoramus. Such a one can even be brainwashed to die like a hero -- or, as the Armenian expression has it, as an “esh nahadag” (=a jackass martyr).
*
To brainwash innocent children is not thought of as a crime against humanity but as education; and to brainwash a nation is thought of as a patriotic duty.
*
On the Genocide: I am so busy examining my conscience that I leave the legalities to lawyers.
*
If you are arrogant enough to think that you know and understand all you need to know and understand, learning will become such an unbearably humiliating experience that ignorance will be seen as the more comfortable alternative.
*
Where there is a pundit there will also be a counter-pundit.
Whom to trust?
My answer: The pundit whose views are less flattering to my ego.
#
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
****************************************
HISTORY AND HISTORIANS
********************************************************
Historians don't understand history, or so we are told by historians themselves, who, as a rule, are also critics of their predecessors and contemporaries.
In his criticism of Karl Marx, Toynbee tells us one cannot explain historic occurrences by the faulty distribution of wealth. In other words – to somewhat simplify matters – money is not the only source of evil in human affairs; sometimes it's faith or organized religions. That's why he concluded his 12-volume STUDY OF HISTORY by saying mankind will know peace only when all religions are reorganized on the basis that Truth (Gandhi's definition of God) is One. The rest is propaganda.
Trevor-Roper criticized Toynbee – criticized? make it, savaged; make it, tore him to shreds – for being not a historian but a mystic and a prophet.
Were Toynbee and Trevor-Roper fair in their critiques of Marx and Toynbee respectively?
*
After an interview with Hitler in the 1930s, Toynbee stated “Herr Hitler is a man of peace.”
And Trevor-Roper: after publishing a best-selling book on the last days of Hitler, he authenticated Hitler's diaries which were later exposed as forgeries.
We all have our blind spots and historians are no exception.
Do Historians understand history?
They do, but only a fraction of it.
*
What about our own historians?
I am afraid the massacres in the Ottoman Empire have acted on them the way the Greek mythological figure of Medusa is said to act on those who beheld her: they (the massacres) have turned them(our historians) into stone.
*
Has any one of our historians been successful in explaining our decline and degeneration?
Why is it that for six hundred years we were not only subservient to a brutal empire but also acquired the reputation of being its “most loyal millet [subject nation]?”
To what extent subservience and massacre have combined to make of us what we have become?
Finally, has any one of our historians attempted to expose the absurdities of our propagandists?
Why not?
Is their intellectual blindness a result of ignorance or cowardice?
#
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
****************************************
QUESTIONS
********************************************************
Never ask “Is he with us or against us?”
Ask instead, “Am I right or wrong?”
*
I like this thought by Jean Rostand: “In a future age we shall be just as astonished to find that we have had politicians as leaders as we are, today, to find that we once had barbers as surgeons.”
*
Gostan Zarian: “With us, the emphasis is on cunning: a character trait of slaves, devoid of creative impetus, never a source of strength.”
*
Nietzsche: "What is evil? Whatever springs from weakness."
*
Eric Hoffer: "Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many."
*
Is what I am doing of any use to anyone?
I have no idea.
Why am I doing it?
I don’t know.
If I fall silent, will anyone miss me?
I doubt it.
After twenty years of hard labor have I accomplished anything?
I don’t think so – unless you consider perforating a few swollen egos
an accomplishment….
#

comments
Thursday, October 29, 2009
****************************************
COMMENTS
********************************************************
“Education is a womb-to-tomb activity. The person who isn't educating himself is obviously dead.” From INTERVIEWS WITH NORTHROP FRYE (Toronto, 2008, page 68.)
*
I remember to have read somewhere, it is easy to resurrect a corpse; much more difficult to raise the brain-dead.
*
In a recent issue of THE NEW YORKER (Oct. 21, 2009) there is a portrait of Nikki Finke, a Hollywood columnist, where we read that she “portrays many of the town's leaders as jackasses who elbow underlings aside to hog the spotlight... downsize underlings while lining their own pockets, and generally besmirch the fabric of civilization.”
*
Our problems are universal, with one difference: we don't like talking about them and whenever someone dares to do so, we shut him up in the name of patriotism, of course!
*
Our emperors have no clothes because what they need to hide is so tiny that it might as well be invisible to the naked eye.
*
Armenians are incomprehensible not because they are too complex but because they are absurd.
*
Is writing for Armenians some kind of anomaly or a complex in need of psychological therapy? I am not sure. Judging by the number of writers we have produced and the zero effect they have had on the direction of our collective existence, it must surely qualify as an exercise in futility and a total waste of time. Perhaps one reason I go on writing is to remind our jackasses that they can't fool all the people all the time, and if there is only one they can't fool today, there may be two tomorrow.
*
I am told there are readers who can't stand the sight of my name on their computer screen. I have an instant solution to that problem: it's called the Spam button. You don't know about it? Ask a child.
*
Ajarian, the foremost authority on the Armenian language, is quoted as having said: “Who among us can pretend to know the Armenian language?”
#
Friday, October 30, 2009
****************************************
OTTOMANISM AND ARMENIANISM
********************************************************
“If you have them at your mercy and they are in no position to retaliate, be merciless!” That's the Ottoman way. The Armenian way? About the same. If on occasion I show no mercy in my dealings with our jackasses, it's for a good reason: to let them have a taste of their own venom.
*
“Before they start accusing me of sins I have never even dreamed to commit, let me plead guilty to all of them to satisfy their blood lust.” This may well have been Naregatsi's state of mind when he sat down to compose his LAMENTATION. And judging by the astonishing number of sins he enumerates, the 11th century must have been our Golden Age of Backbiting.
*
It is written: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Armenian translation: “If he is innocent and you are guilty, stone the bugger to death before he has a chance to expose you.”
*
There is an inflexible law in our collective existence: “The better you get, the worst they treat you.” You want evidence? Make a list of our best writers and consider the manner of their deaths. And remember to include Talaat's and Stalin's victims because they were betrayed by their fellow Armenians. Americans treat their dogs with greater kindness. My guess is, the reason why we have a veritable alphabet soup of cultural and charitable foundations is to cover up our philistinism and Ottomanism.
#
Saturday, October 31, 2009
****************************************
IN PRAISE OF THE OPPOSITION
********************************************************
Only the insecure read to have their prejudices reinforced.
As a Catholic I enjoyed reading books that were on the Index.
I was taught to believe Turks were bloodthirsty savages. I now have Turkish friends with whom I enjoy exchanging views – something I cannot say about my fellow Armenians.
After a brief stay in New York City, an anti-Semite friend of the family from Greece paid us a visit. “I saw quite a few Jews there,” he said at one point. “Guess what. They are people like you and me!”
I have met several Armenians, among them a poet and a businessman, who on visiting Turkey, they became infatuated with Turks. I have also met Armenians who after visiting the Homeland and on their return to America, they went down on their knees and, like the Polish Pope, kissed the tarmac.
I have learned more about Tashnaks by reading Ramgavars and vice versa.
I am a liberal who enjoys reading the NATIONAL REVIEW, and one of my favorite contemporary American writers is Buckley's son, Christopher.
Friends justify your blunders and cover up your failings, they thus do more harm than good. I have learned more about myself by reading my critics. Perhaps one reason we have been going backwards as a community is our collective fear of criticism and dissent.
Mart bidi ch'ellank!
#
9:44 AM
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
pathology
Sunday, October 25, 2009
****************************************
OPTIONS
********************************************************
A slave has two options: to obey or to die. An Armenian writer's position today is not much different: he either says “yes, sir!” to our bosses, bishops, benefactors and their flunkies or he starves.
*
Like commissars, readers who are against criticism can be nasty critics and excellent executioners.
*
If you have been taken in by fools, you can't be as smart as you think you are. Now then, consider the number of times we have been taken in by the empty verbiage of promises and treaties of the West, our Big Brothers to the North, and American presidential candidates. I suspect if fools of the world had their own United Nations and we applied for membership, we would be rejected as surely as Turks are today by the EU on the grounds that we are not smart enough to be one of them.
*
If I am the only one who writes as I do, that doesn't mean I am also the only one who thinks as I do.
*
If you disagree with those who speak in the name of God and Country, you will be accused of speaking in the name of the Devil and in defense of treason. And dupes being dupes (present company suspected) will be against you.
*
What if I am wrong?
O how I wish I were!
*
“The unspoken message of everything he wrote was his conviction that far from being the smartest people on earth, his fellow countrymen were the dumbest.”
I would welcome this verdict in my obituary.
*
Words and actions have consequences; so do silence and inaction.
#
Monday, October 26, 2009
****************************************
GOLDEN APPLES
********************************************************
One reason I write as I do is to celebrate the fact that I am no longer dependent on the charity of swine. Another is that no one gives a damn. In the kind of environment we have created for ourselves, the status of Armenian writers is (in the expression of Southern hillbillies) lower than a snake's belly full of buckshot.
*
And speaking of hillbillies: There was once and was not an old peasant by the name of Abou Hassan who had a worn out pair of shoes he wanted to get rid of. First he flings them out the window and they come flying right back in – compliments of an irate passerby. Next he takes a long walk and hurls them into a lake. Again they are returned to him by a furious fisherman. Finally he decides to bury them in his backyard. But as he gets busy digging a hole under cover of darkness, he is spied on by a nosy neighbor who thinks old man Abou is trying to hide his valuables...
*
Armenian writers and Abou Hassan's worn out shoes share one thing in common: they are not easy to get rid of. Systematically murdered by the likes of Talaat and Stalin, silenced and starved by our bosses, bishops, and benefactors, they refuse to be cast aside, drowned, and buried.
Why?
To what end?
For what purpose?
*
In Nicholson Baker's latest novel, THE ANTHOLOGIST (New York, 2009) I come across the following three lines from a poem by Coventry Patmore that may provide a tentative answer:
“When all its work is done, the lie shall rot;
The truth is great and shall prevail,
When none cares whether it prevail or not.”
*
Armenian fables have a traditional ending that goes something like this:
“Three golden apples fell from heaven: the first for the teller of the tale, the second for those who heard it, and the third for those who understood it.”
What happens to the third golden apple when no one understands the hidden message of the story?
*
We are told people deserve their leaders. The same applies to their writers. If we no longer have writers like Abovian, Raffi, and Zabel Yessayan it may be because we are buried beneath a Mt. Ararat of rotten apples.
#
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
****************************************
MINOU
********************************************************
When a little girl by the name of Minou Drouet published a volume of verse and was hailed as a prodigy by the French press, Cocteau said: “Every child is a genius except Minou Drouet.” And sure enough, she was never heard from again.
*
No one is born mediocre. Mediocrity is premeditated, planned, advertised, and promoted on the grounds that we need factory hands to build cars, construction workers to raise sky-scrapers; we need janitors and garbage collectors more than we need prophets; and above all, we need dupes willing and eager to fight and die for us in the name of patriotism.
*
A coward thinks he deserves a medal for slicing a watermelon; and my guess is, bullies like Bush Jr. and his vice think they deserve to be treated like saviors of the nation for their tough talk.
*
Those who have been exposed to only one side of the story as children, will find it very difficult to believe there may be another side as adults.
*
Who is more guilty: our enemies who slaughtered us or our friends who, for all practical purposes, they might as well have issued an invitation to the slaughter? As for our revolutionaries: all they appear to have learned from their blunders is to make fiery speeches.
#
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
****************************************
PATHOLOGY
********************************************************
To hate, to really hate,
means to hate even those
who do not share your hatred.
That's the way our Turcocentric ghazetajis hate.
You can recognize a Turcocentric ghazetaji
by the fact that he writes only against Turks,
and he hates because he has been taught to hate.
He is following orders.
He has been told
Turks are the source of all evil.
As for the arrogance,
the incompetence,
and the stupidity of our bosses:
what arrogance?
What incompetence?
What stupidity?
What bosses?
A dog, it is said, knows his master,
but not his master's master.
Once, when I tried to explain
the dangers of pathological hatred
to one of our ghazetajis, he said:
“But all I am doing is
trying to defend our interests.”
Why is it that with defenders like him
I feel more threatened?
If you live in a world of illusions,
reality becomes a source of dread.
And because I speak of reality
I am identified as an enemy,
and worse, as pro-Turkish.
#
11:14 AM 3 comments
Saturday, October 24, 2009
kiss
Thursday, October 22, 2009
****************************************
A BLAME-GAME SCENARIO
********************************************************
On hearing one of our elder statesmen blame our misfortunes on “chezoks” or non-partisan Armenians, I wrote a commentary in which I identified my father as a chezok and explained that he had been too honest to engage in charlatanism, too busy trying to provide for his family in time of war in an alien environment, and too unassuming to associate himself with individuals who thought of themselves as the offspring of heroes engaged in the difficult task of saving the nation.
On reading this, our elder statesman telephoned and said one reason he had said that about chezoks was that he though I was a member of the Party. Had he known I wasn't, he wouldn't have said what he said. I didn't have the heart to tell him I was not a chezok, I was anti-partisan on the grounds that I considered our revolutionaries the source of most of our misfortunes.
*
Finally a new book on the Genocide in which our revolutionaries are described as “a group of teenagers and twenty-somethings,” a “vicious political clique of terrorists” and “experts in deception and distortion.” The last two quotations are by John Roy Carlson (real name Avedis Derounian), a prominent Armenian-American journalist who witnessed the assassination of Tourian in 1933 in New York and wrote a best-selling book on fascist organization in America titled UNDER COVER.
*
Our historians are consistent in describing Armenians as a "historically persecuted race…an orphan nation" that has experienced "massacres, atrocities, and massive destruction" (Dadrian). What they fail to explore is, to what extent our own tribalism, lack of solidarity, and incompetent leadership -- things that have been discussed at some length by our own chroniclers, novelists, essayists, and satirists -- were a contributing factor to our perennial status as losers and victims.
#
Friday, October 23, 2009
****************************************
CONSOLATION MANTRAS
********************************************************
We all make mistakes.
Tomorrow is another day.
Nobody's perfect.
Let bygones be bygones.
To each his own.
Easy come, easy go.
Forget about it.
This too shall pass. (A favorite of sufferers from chronic constipation).
Forgive and forget.
It takes all kinds.
We all die. (Once when I said that to a friend, he said: “Yes, but people like us die every day.”)
*
De Gaulle once blamed his problems on the 254 (or is it 378?) varieties of cheeses the French eat. We are better off. So far no one has blamed our problems on pilaf and shish kebab.
*
Propagandists don't believe in their own propaganda.
“The Pope doubts his faith seven times every day” (Italian saying).
“Idol-makers don't believe in idols” (Chinese saying).
*
Why the need for Ten Commandments? It would have been simpler to instill in us the ability to discriminate right from wrong, or God from the Devil.
*
Because I refuse to recycle chauvinist crapola, I am told I hate myself. That's Armenian logic for you. I wonder, what's Ottoman logic like? I don't know, but whatever it is, it can't be worse than Armenian logic.
*
Success spoils people. Failure by contrast makes them tougher and wiser. Like all rules, this one too has its exceptions, namely, Armenians.
*
One of my favorite lines in fiction: “And then something very unexpected happened.”
*
Armenians don't mind long sermons against sin and longer speeches on patriotism. But when it comes to reading, they have a very short attention span. That's one reason why I write short sentences.
*
Most people fail because they try to excel in someone else's field.
#
Saturday, October 24, 2009
****************************************
KISS ME, I AM ARMENIAN
********************************************************
Like love and hatred, ideologies and belief systems have a tendency to dehumanize men by reducing them to predictable clichés. That's because they create an environment wherein the men at the top behave like wolves and their followers like sheep.
*
To be a leader consists in mastering the technique of flattering and manipulating.
Fools will believe anything they are told provided they are first brainwashed to believe they are too smart to be fooled.
*
The Greeks brag about their past, the Yanks about their present. If you are disposed to brag, you will find something, anything, including military defeats by calling them moral victories, including being massacred by the million by calling it first genocide of the 20th century. I wouldn't be surprised if some day we hear of a jungle tribe in South America that brags about being the only tribe that believes in the divinity of ants and anacondas.
*
In a world where everyone thinks he is the best, he is the chosen, he is superior to all others, our choice is either being like them or defending our humanity even if it means having more doubts than certainties.
*
Though I have written a great deal about history, I am not a historian. But I can recognize a propagandist when I see one.
*
We a small, peace-loving, civilized, landlocked country surrounded on all sides by warlike, bloodthirsty giants? Not quite. We were not always small and we were not always landlocked, and we were not always peace-loving.
*
We are not so much a work in progress as a case of arrested development.
Kiss me, I am Armenian?
I will be grateful to my fellow countrymen if they don't kick me in the balls.
#
9:41 AM
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
think
Sunday, October 18, 2009
************************************
WE NEVER LEARN
****************************************************
“We may think of Turks as backward Asiatic slobs,” Shahan Shahnour warns us somewhere, “but make no mistake about it: when it comes to Armenians, they can be very, very calculating and methodical.”
If the intention of the Protocols was to pit the Diaspora against the Homeland, it was must be declared a brilliant coup -- judging by the Diaspora's venomous opposition to the regime in Yerevan.
*
The Turks are now imposing punitive taxation on their media barons critical of the regime. It seems they respect a free press as much as we do.
I will never forget the conversation I once had with the publisher of a bilingual (English-Armenian) weekly in Los Angeles. He began by informing me that he had received a call from the secretary of a national benefactor.
“What did he want?” I asked, smelling a rat.
“He demanded why I go on publishing you,” was his reply.
“And you said?”
“I said I edit only the Armenian section, someone else handles the English section.”
“Did he buy that?”
I guess he didn't because shortly thereafter I was fired with no explanation, severance pay, or even a thank you note for my decade -long pro bono weekly contributions of book reviews, commentaries, and translations.
#
Monday, October 19, 2009
************************************
COMMENTS
****************************************************
“Deal may end Turkish-Armenian friction,” reads the headline of a commentary on the Protocols by a British pundit. So far however it has succeeded only in increasing Diaspora-Homeland friction.
*
According to a British diplomat, also quoted in today's paper: “Africans as a whole are not only not averse to cutting off their nose to spite their face; they regard such an operation as a triumph of cosmetic surgery.”
My first thought: That makes two of us.
*
If you can't explain the inexplicable, what's the use of writing?
*
Every morning on waking up sometimes I fail to remind myself that the sun does not rise to hear me crowing.
#
Tuesday, 20 October, 2009
***********************************************
MAKING CONNECTIONS
*************************************
“A dog starved at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.” (William Blake)
*
To understand history means to see the connecting tissue that binds two apparently unrelated occurrences. Naregatsi's lamentations and a thousand years of subservience. Abovian's suicide and the Genocide. Tolstoy's excommunication and the Russian revolution. The persecution of dissenters and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
*
Perhaps one reason we don't behead our “kings” is that they know how to flatter our vanity. Example: We are a young nation and the oldest civilization.
*
If on occasion I insult my fellow Armenians it may be because so far flattery has not worked for us.
*
If they massacred us because they hated us, does that justify our own hatred for them? What if hatred is toxic to our understanding of our enemies, or for that matter of our friends, and ultimately of ourselves and reality?
*
I never say anything about others that I am not prepared to say about myself. It is through my own failings that I recognize them in others.
#
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
****************************************
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
********************************************************
Someone voices an opinion, another develops it, a third sees an idea in it, and a fourth formulates a general theory. That's how human thought is advanced. But where there is intolerance, there will be censorship, and where there is censorship, progress will be arrested, creativity aborted, and man moronized.
*
I too am a survivor – not of Turkish atrocities but of moronized fellow countrymen.
*
All men are created equal, but some men are in a better position to say one thing, do the opposite, and get away with murder.
*
Like most men I was educated to be a dupe, but unlike most men I continued to be one even in my advanced years. When an Armenian writer from Beirut once told me he had given up writing because several of his masterpieces had burned during the civil war in Beirut, I believed him. But when I mentioned this to another writer from Beirut, I was told that's a favorite cliché of Beirutsi intellectuals – to blame the non-existence of their works on the war.
*
What we need is an Armenian Human Rights Commission that will expose our dismal human rights record. We are either for human rights or against it. If we are against it, we must be for Levantine charlatanism, Soviet brutality, and Asiatic barbarism.
*
We have a veritable alphabet soup of organizations and bureaucracies run by Levantine wheeler-dealers in the Diaspora and former commissars in the Homeland. What we don't have and need badly is a Human Rights Commission.
Bureaucrats are bureaucrats regardless of nationality. Unchecked by watchdog agencies, they will grab as much power as they can. But what I find even more repellent than power-hungry bureaucrats is the silence of our academics and intellectuals. Mart bidi ch'ellank.
*
I wonder, do Turks have a Human Rights Commission? If they don't, in what way are we different from them? If they do, is it conceivable that they are more civilized than we are? Something to think about.
#
11:16 AM
Saturday, October 17, 2009
songs
Thursday, October 15, 2009
************************************
THE SOURCE OF ALL EVIL
****************************************************
Rabbis, imams, sultans and their Christian counterparts in the West: They may believe they speak in the name of God but they speak in the name of a figment of their imagination in which they are, if not God, than one with the Almighty. What makes them powerful is their connection with the collective unconscious, and the unconscious is the source of all evil.
*
You begin to think for yourself only on the day you begin to see the Big Lie that is at the root of all propaganda lines.
*
Call a military defeat a moral victory and you've got yourself a win-win proposition; which may suggest that, in addition to being the first nation to convert to Christianity, we may also qualify as the first nation to be taken in by the "massals" of spin doctors.
*
We have been careless in our choice of enemies and even more careless in our choice of friends who can be even more dangerous than enemies. Our leaders did not massacre us, true, they only made us more vulnerable to massacres.
*
There has been so much oppression, injustice, and slavery in the world that one is tempted to conclude God may not always be on the side of equality, liberty, and fraternity.
#
Friday, October 16, 2009
************************************
REVIEWING THE SHITUATION
****************************************************
The Jews worshiped Jehovah,
the Greeks Jupiter,
the Russians Jugashvili,
and the Yanks the Almighty –
and I don't mean the Good Lord.
If you see progress here,
I must be blind.
*
The Turks are a nasty folk,
and so am I
because I refuse to be bamboozled.
*
Sartre was an atheist.
He believed in freedom
but supported Stalin, Mao, and Castro,
not exactly friends of freedom.
Sartre's master was Heidegger
whose master was Hitler.
*
In the Ottoman Empire
we were brainwashed
to be loyal subjects of the Sultan.
In the Soviet Union
we were brainwashed to be good comrades
and to kill and die for the Union,
but mostly to die.
We are now being brainwashed
by the brainwashed
to believe we are in good hands.
Now then, go ahead and say
you see a light at the end of the tunnel,
because speaking for myself,
I don't even see a tunnel --
probably because I am blind.
#
Saturday, October 17, 2009
************************************
SONGS OF THE BLEEDING THROAT
****************************************************
Because history is the propaganda of the victor, we have made of it the consolation of the loser. Our revolutionaries assert they were not terrorists, they were freedom fighters. Americans are familiar with that line and they don't buy it. That's why when it comes to Genocide recognition they side with the Turks. They have other reasons. Imperial powers have neither friends nor enemies, only interests, and American interests are not on our side. We are of no use to them – except in time of elections when they are more than willing to tell us what we want to hear and we are more than willing to believe them. Being dupes comes naturally to us. It might as well be a habit, an addiction, a gorilla on our collective back impossible to shake off. Americans know this. So do our own leaders, whose lies are as bare-faced as those of Yanks running for office.
*
The average book on Turkish atrocities is another atrocity. In our efforts to paint them all black and ourselves all white, we succeed only in exposing our propaganda and damaging our credibility.
I am reading a new book on the Genocide in which our deportations during World War I are compared to the Japanese deportations in America during World War II. There are “loaded” comparisons as surely as there are loaded questions and as such they should be inadmissible, and those who make them ought to know better. It would be fairer to compare the treatment of Blacks and Indians in America with the treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
*
So far no book by an Armenian comes close to explaining why a writer of Siamanto's stature hated life in America so much that he preferred to return to Istanbul knowing full well that he could be butchered. Which he was. Or why an intellectual like Roupen Sevag, a medical doctor by profession and another victim of the Genocide, defended the Turks to his German fiancée when she was critical of them and wanted to convince him to move to Europe.
*
Speaking of Oshagan, Zarian writes somewhere that when writers like him speak of Homeland they don't mean Armenia but Istanbul. Several decades before the massacres, Raffi warned the Ottoman Empire was no place for Armenians. And notwithstanding Zarian's own repeated warnings that Soviet Armenia was no place for Armenians, American-educated Totovents and Sorbonne-educated Zabel Yessayan returned to Armenia only to perish in Stalin's Gulags. If our ablest intellectuals behave like dupes, why should we be surprised that there are still Armenians who trust our wheeler-dealers who try to brainwash us into believing we are in good hands and we have nothing to worry about?

My Dear Sir,

As I informed you earlier I have been reading your blogs for almost three years now. I have just ordered from Amazon your book " The Armenians: Their history & culture ". You have my highest respect. I would like to add something which has been bothering me ever since I last wrote you. I said what happened to your people wasn't genocide. I realized what ever you call it; genocide , massacre , deportation. It really doesn't matter.

What happened were truly tragic and the more I think about it, the more I feel I owe you and your people an apology. I do have a question for you ( I know you are a very busy man and if you don't reply, I will not be offended at all ), since I have not been answered with a realistic answer from my people.

Can Armenians And Turks Ever Reconcile And What Can Be Done To Achieve This?

Yours sincerely,


On Controversies
Where there are controversies, there will also be individuals on both sides who know the truth but who prefer not to share their knowledge. Their aim is not consensus but never-ending conflict.
*
When Turks and Armenians paint themselves all white and their adversaries all black, odars may be justified in suspecting that both sides are guilty of misrepresentation.
*
Armenians who love to quote Saroyan’s pro-Armenian statements should be reminded that he also said he felt sorry for the Turks; and when Armenians adopted Palestinians as their role models and engaged in acts of terrorism and assassination, he (Saroyan) was at a loss and could not understand why his fellow Armenians behaved that way. Perhaps one reason Saroyan loved Armenians, or so he said, was that he neither knew nor understood them completely.
*
In our culture smart wheeler-dealers rate above honest men. That is unfortunate because more often than not the smart in step one become dumb in step two, perhaps because there is a natural tendency in all smart people to overestimate themselves to the same degree that they underestimate their adversaries.
*
Where there is a big mouth, there will also be a small brain.


Lines
A good patriot is one who cannot admit that the actions of his enemies may also be motivated by patriotism. To those who say, patriotism does not justify the massacre of innocent civilians, I say, neither should it justify violating anyone’s fundamental human right of free speech. And I dare any one of our partisan papers to print these lines.
*
Where there is talk of denialism, anti-Armenianism, treason, and betrayal, can a lynch mob be far behind?
*
Readers who are pro-bullshitism call me anti-Armenian, which may suggest that some of them cannot tell the difference between Armenianism and b.s.
*
If your parents, schoolteachers, and parish priest dealt with your education (some would call it indoctrination), I am afraid you need professional help because I do not feel qualified to de-program you.
*
Some of my readers qualify as good Armenians only on the grounds that their “tongue is sharper than a Turk’s yataghan” (Zarian), and they are more than willing “to survive by cannibalizing” their fellow Armenians (ditto).


Notes / Comments
To prove that we enjoy complete freedom of the press in the Diaspora, a dedicated member of the Party once said to me: “None of my articles has ever been rejected or modified in any way.”
*
Our political parties don’t need members who have acquired the skill to think for themselves; they need robots whose favorite words are “Yes, sir!”
*
Only thoroughly brainwashed and moronized Armenians think they are smart.
*
When a good cause falls into the hands of perverts, it turns into a curse.
*
While we mourn our victims, we should also mourn our judgment, for it too was massacred.
*
If you get emotionally involved in an argument, you will be at a disadvantage because the gut cannot compete with the brain.
*
It is only when you think you are smart enough to fool others that you expose yourself as a fool.
*
Dogs and cats are treated better in America than the Untouchables in India. Our dissidents are our Untouchables.
*
A front-page headline in our paper this morning reads: “Dalai Lama appeals to the world for help in Tibet.” Who speaks for Armenians?


Choices
Since the beginning of time, men have tried to understand and explain reality. To that end they have created systems of thought and belief that attempt to do the job. But since these systems contradict one another, none of them enjoys universal acceptance. As a result, not only do we have believers and heretics, but also bad believers and good heretics, and an infinite number of shades of gray.
*
A good Christian is one who accepts misfortunes as punishment for his sins. A committed idealist is one who views his defeats as results of his failure to live up to his principles. A good historian is one who analyzes the past objectively and honestly without allowing a belief system or ideology to contaminate his perception of reality. Are we or have we ever been good Christians or idealists? Do we have honest and objective historians? Can a good Christian live among bad Muslims and vice versa?
*
One of our right-wing (i.e. pro-establishment and partisan) pundits recently concluded a commentary with the words, “Armenians are their own worst enemies.” If we assume that to be an irrefutable fact or historic reality, the only answer – or rather, the beginning of a tentative answer – is, if as Armenians we cannot love one another, let us at least make an effort to hate less. If we can do that, we may have a remote chance to qualify as human beings. If we can’t do that, we shall have no choice but to conclude “mart bidi ch’ellank.”


On Recent Developments
What we have been witnessing since March 1 is nothing short of a mass conversion. Everyone it seems is for democracy, free speech, and honest elections (did we ever have one in the Diaspora?)
*
I remember a very brief conversation I once had with one of our bosses, who had expressed his affection for me because I had written about the double-talk of a rival boss. Asked why he supported a corrupt leader like Levon Corleone (first o with an umlaut), he replied: “If we don’t support him, he will not let us help the people.” “You mean he is so evil that he would rather see his people suffer and starve rather than…” I should have guessed. He didn’t let me finish. He lost his composure and said something to the effect that he thought this was going to be a friendly chat rather than a third degree.
*
As for our dime-a-dozen Turcocentric pundits: they have suddenly discovered they have more than one set of barbarians to deal with.
*
As far as I know, no one wants to have anyone’s human rights violated, but everyone comes up with excellent reasons why sometimes it is necessary…in the name of patriotism…in the interest of the people…for the sake of certain noble principles…and so on and so forth. Translated into everyday parlance, all these circumlocutions stand for one thing: in our environment, the ego is king.
*
Top dogs, underdogs, corruption, stupidity, greed, subservience, propaganda, riots…they are what they are regardless of nationality, and they are to be found everywhere. If you accept this simple fact and keep it in mind, a great many incomprehensible things become comprehensible. As for patriotism: it’s amazing the amount of crap that is dished out in its name.
*
As recent events in Lhasa may suggest, even Buddhists, who believe the world is an illusion, riot, and their rioting is no illusion.


Reflections On Propaganda And The Present Situation In The Homeland
When it comes to someone else’s propaganda, we have 20/20 vision; but when it comes to our own, we pretend to be deaf, blind, and stupid.
*
What an insider knows and what the average citizen thinks he knows may be as different as black and white. Why are we surprised if the average Turk does not know as much as Pamuk and Akcam do?
*
Propaganda: when insiders conspire to manipulate the people with lies.
*
We all know that Gomidas Vartabed was a saintly musician who, as far as is known, never harmed a soul. How many of us know that he operated in a hostile environment in both Etchmiadzin and Istanbul, and that the very same individuals who should have supported him, did their utmost to obstruct his path? Was his breakdown, from which he never recovered, a sudden reaction to the massacres or the last straw that broke the camel’s back?
*
We are brought up to be proud of ourselves even when – or is it, especially when –we have little or nothing to brag about. In that respect, animals are superior to men. You will never hear spiders and scorpions bragging about surviving dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers.
*
A writer must be prepared to disappoint his readers. The more readers he disappoints the closer to the truth he gets. The alternative is pandering to their narcissism.
*
When you don’t agree with a self-assessed smart Armenian, he will call you a fool, an idiot, and worse: an anti-Armenian and a pro-Turkish denialist s.o.b. I speak from experience. If your opponents call you an s.o.b. and make it abundantly clear that you will make them happy on the day you drop dead, you can be sure of one thing: you have hit paydirt.
*
If you can’t come to terms with angels, you may have to deal with devils. One could say that we were victimized in the Ottoman Empire because we ignored the warnings of Raffi, Baronian, Odian, and Voskanian.
*
If Churchill were alive today, he would sum up the present situation in the Homeland thus: “Kocharian is riding a tiger, and the tiger is getting hungry.”
*
A headline in our paper today reads: “A danger to Canadian democracy: Prime minister’s concentration of power could lead to abuses, Gomery says.” We don’t have that problem because “Armenian democracy” might as well be an oxymoron.


From My Notebooks
One can always say the majority is on my side in a community where the majority is either silent or alienated.
*
Nationalist history is to history what military music is to music.
*
Being critical of our bosses, bishops, and benefactors is like conducting a war on three fronts. I don’t have a chance.
*
A popular Armenian writer is first and foremost a cover-up artist.
*
Two occurrences that convinced me to take myself seriously: (one) a long letter by one of our eminent academics to an odar editor saying I am unreliable, untrustworthy, and uninformed; and (two) a unanimous decision by our editors to reject everything I write.
*
Men of power prefer slimy brown-nosers to honest men. In the words of Julius Caesar: “If bandits and cut-throats support me, I will call them friends.”
*
Overheard
What’s the difference between an Armenian wedding and an Armenian funeral? One less loudmouth.
*
“After my grandfather was beheaded by the Turks, he made me promise to hate them until I die.”
*
Asked if he experiences shortness of breath when he exercises, the 82-year old John Mortimer, who loves his morning drink and cigar, is quoted as having said: “How should I know? I never exercise.”


Memo To K.
People don’t riot for no reason at all. If you expect us to believe what happened on March 1 was vandalism by hooligans, then we have no choice but to conclude that you have become a dupe of your own propaganda, and that you live and operate in a world of illusions and lies. Far more astute observers than myself have called your regime “a mafia democracy.”

Armenians have endured long centuries of brutal oppression and more recently they have suffered a long litany of wars, massacres, starvation, and earthquake. They can take moderate amounts of abuses of power and corruption. What they cannot take is greed and stupidity with no end in sight. And if you expect them to die in defense of their homeland, don’t be surprised if they are also willing to risk their own lives in defense of their homes. You may have the police on your side today but to rely too much on them may succeed only in postponing the final catastrophe, because in the next riot, they may join the rioters.


A Deadly Combination
Millions went up in smoke on March 1. More millions ended in the wrong pockets. Corruption is inevitable. So is stupidity. What’s deadly is their combination.
*
After our kleptocrats alienate and drive out the able-bodied, they will be left with the old and the sick; and when the enemy threatens to invade the land, they will run away with their loot and live happily ever after in Monaco or Rio.
*
What we need is a redefinition of patriotism. How to reconcile love of God and Country with support of crooks and vandals?
*
An English philosopher once said that even the most selfish man harbors altruistic drives. But as an Englishman, he was talking about his fellow Englishmen, who have never been slaves, or so they sing in “Rule Britannia.” It’s different with us. Once upon a time we were slaves. We are now slaves of former slaves. Why is it that this detail is covered up by our historians and philosophers? Do we have them?
*
Fiction: a genre of writing employed by novelists, short-story writers, nationalist historians, and ghazetajis.
*
Life: a succession of imaginary victories and real defeats.


God Save The Armenians
I doubt if anyone else can.
*
Armenians who have all the answers (and there are very few who don’t) call me an idiot and a liar, even a Turk in disguise. It is beyond me why these paragons of Armenianism waste their time reading me when they can share their answers with the rest of us – unless of course these answer are inanities that so far not only have they failed to solve a single problem but they have also promoted the kind of mindset that sees nothing unpatriotic or morally questionable in treating fellow human beings not as potential friends but as confirmed present and future enemies.
*
Perhaps I have not been lucky in my readers. The civilized ones don’t read me because they have long been alienated by the barbarians. As for the barbarians…but I shouldn’t complain; if it weren’t for them, I would now be busy boring the hell out of you by writing about glorious sunsets and the eternal snows of Mt. Ararat.
*
The difference between our Turcocentric pundits and me is that they try to civilize the Turks and I try to civilize the Turk within us. Only time will tell who has the more difficult task.
*
Since most Armenians and Turks are only part-Armenian and part Turk, the chances are most of them assert their national identity on very flimsy grounds. Some Turks may even be more Armenian than Turk, and vice versa. Nationalism is a political theory. It has no basis in biology. If a Turk and Armenian hate each other unto death, it is due less to their identity or DNA and more to their killer instinct, which does not recognize national barriers. Think of Cain and Abel. Think of civil wars and revolutions. Think of our internecine conflicts and irreconcilable differences. Think of our willingness to cling to any propaganda line that legitimizes mutual intolerance and contempt. Think of March 1.


Megalomania
When, following the collapse of the regime, the Soviets opened their archives to scholars, it was revealed that Maxim Gorky, the darling of the commissars, did not die of natural causes. For more details, see THE MURDER OF MAXIM GORKY: A SECRET EXECUTION by Arkady Vaksberg (New York, 2007). Vaksberg quotes profusely from Gorky’s private correspondence in which his loathing for Lenin, Stalin, and their gang of Bolsheviks is made abundantly clear (see below). The most frequently mentioned Armenian here is Nina Berberova, whose ITALICS ARE MINE is one of the most outstanding memoirs of the 20th century.

There is no doubt now that even as they went about murdering their (as well as our) greatest writers, the Soviets portrayed themselves as patrons of the arts and lovers of literature. And we are no different. The only reason our bosses and bishops pretend to support literature is to cover up their philistinism. As for our benefactors: their greatest source of esthetic enjoyment is the bottom line. Raffi was right when he said, “Profit is their only homeland.”

Two typical passages from Gorky’s correspondence follow:
“Lenin is not an omnipotent magician, but a cold-blooded conspirator, who has no pity for either the honor or the life of the proletariat. The workers must not allow adventurers and madmen to heap upon the head of the proletariat disgraceful, senseless and bloody crimes, which not Lenin but the proletariat itself will pay for.”
“Having imagined themselves to be Napoleons of socialism, the Leninists rant and rave, completing the destruction of Russia – the Russian people will pay for this with oceans of blood.”

If there is an inflexible law in history it is this: Where the men at the top are “adventurers,” “madmen,” and “Napoleons,” oceans of blood is bound to flow; and as long as these megalomaniacs remain in power, they will continue to portray themselves as heroes, idealists, and statesmen of vision whose sole aim in life is to defend and protect the interests of the people; and needless to add, the majority of the people will believe them.


Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow
Fascists come in all sizes and shapes. There are even genocide and denialist fascists willing to kill and die for their cause. I suspect these fascists will be satisfied only if their counterparts are annihilated. But if for every Armenian fascist there are at least two, perhaps even twenty-two in the opposite camp, it is not unreasonable to imagine which side may experience another genocide or be collateral damage in a future Middle-East war.
*
According to Hegel, the real is reasonable, which means, if something happens there must be good reasons why it happened. It is up to us to understand these reasons. Now tell me, which part of the above scenario you didn’t understand.
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Two things to remember: (a) We cannot apply yesterday’s solutions to today's problems; and (b) “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”


Reading
In THE JOURNAL OF JOYCE CAROL OATES: 1973-1982 (New York, 2007) I read: “The power of literature to shatter one’s peace of mind…” She means of course her peace of mind. I doubt very much if most people are capable of having their peace shattered by ideas. When it comes to literature, philistines are like the tone deaf with music and the blind with art. Speaking of music: I like her taste in music – Chopin, Verdi’s REQUIEM, Cesar Franck’s organ works. Her chitchat on her contemporaries (Updike, Susan Sontag, and Cheever, among others) is less illuminating. She writes a great deal about her own works with which I am only marginally familiar. Among the Armenians she mentions (but only in passing) are Saroyan, Arlen, and Nona Balakian.
*
Also reading NATIVE SON by Richard Wright (1940) and READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN by Azar Nafisi (2003). The common theme in both works: the way a state uses the majesty of the law to humiliate, bully, brutalize, and dehumanize its own citizens. What a book one could write on justice in the service of injustice.
*
PARIS MATCH (February 20, 2008) concludes its review of CONVERSATIONS AVEC ROBERT GUEDIGUIAN by Isabelle Danel with the words, “a must for cinephiles, apprentice directors, and moviegoers alike, this book should sell millions of copies.”
*
Poets and intellectuals are generally thought of as dreamers, even mental masturbators. In a commentary in our paper today, titled “American ‘dreamers’ blundered into war,” the ‘dreamers and fantasists’ are identified as Dick Cheyney, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush and their gang of neocons.
*
George Herbert: “Do well and right, and let the world sink.”


On Popularity
Once upon a time I was popular. Everything I wrote was translated and published in a dozen papers in Canada, the United States, and the Middle East; and I wrote what was expected of me so well that even our bosses, bishops, and benefactors wanted to hire me. That’s when I knew I was on the wrong path. Popularity in our context is the kiss of death.
*
The most widely exploited commodity is not labor but ignorance.
*
It should be obvious by now that our problems will not be solved by our politicians for the simple reason that our politicians are our problems.
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I will be more than happy to be on the side of our ideologues and believers if someone explains to me which one of their dogmas justifies the division, dismemberment, and the ruin of the nation.
*
Nothing comes easier to a loser than to brainwash himself into believing that on a higher plane or in a different dimension he is a winner and those who portray themselves as winners are swine.
We may sympathizers with failures and losers but not when they are in denial of their condition.


Hooliganism In Thought And Action
Only naïve souls with an unrealistic view of political leaders and their dupes are shocked over recent developments in Armenia. Speaking for myself, I shall resist the temptation of repeating two of the most hateful (to me) clichés in the English languages: “I told you so,” and “Let that be a lesson to you.”
*
In his book ON MURDER, Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) tells us, the trouble with murderers is that sooner or later they will think little of being late for their appointments. Likewise, the trouble with people who treat their fellow men like trash is that sooner or later they will think little of calling them trash.
*
People don’t judge you by how much you know but by how useful you can be to them, even if the service you provide is flattering their ego by pretending they know better.
*
I am beginning to suspect our genocide has become a favorite subject with us because it is a clearly defined black-and-white story that reinforces our self-assessed moral superiority. What kind of moral superiority is it that allows us to stab one another in the back even when we are not provoked, unless you consider questions like “How dare you expose my prejudices, or question the wisdom of my limitations, or the caliber of my Armenianism (which may well be disguised Ottomanism, Bolshevism, or hooliganism)” as provocations.


On Belief Systems
How do you convince a believer that what he believes in is false? That’s easy. It can’t be done. Don’t even try. It will be a waste of time. No amount of philosophical arguments or documentary evidence or eyewitness accounts will make him change his mind. That’s because Homo sapiens has a brain that is quintessentially brainwashable, which is worse than saying he is brainless. That’s why Genghis Khan, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao had more followers than dissidents.
*
During the Soviet era some very smart people in the West, including famous philosophers like Sartre, denied the existence of gulags. It was all a fabrication of the filthy bourgeoisie, they said. I remember, when I first published a critical commentary on Levon’s regime, I lost a friend who happened to be a historian. If our historians cannot learn from history, what can we hope for from our laymen?
*
Consider a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew and their conviction that theirs is the only true religion for which they are willing to kill and die. It never even occurs to them that it was not they or their religious leaders who chose their religion for them but the fact that they were born and raised on this or that side of a mountain or river.
I am not advocating the abolition of all religions or belief systems. What I am saying is that they should be private affairs. The moment they get organized they become dangerous if only because they assert superiority and legitimize intolerance.
*
When a nation is divided into two hostile groups, most people will be driven to take sides. Very few will dare to say “A plague on both your houses!” And why? Because that would be unpatriotic. It follows as night follows day, civil wars are the sincerest expression of one’s love of God and Country.
*
There is nothing wrong with patriotism provided you keep in mind your enemy too has been brainwashed to believe there is nothing wrong in killing you in the name of God and Country.


Armenianism As Pathology
If to be human and to be Armenian is not a contradiction, it follows neither is patriotism and fundamental human rights. And yet, whenever I write about Armenians, I feel the need to remind myself and my readers that it is not as an Armenian that I write, but as a human being.
*
Free speech: did we ever have it? Do we have it today in America? Have you ever met a partisan willing to concede our partisan press is not free?

A headline in our local paper this morning reads: “Suspicious vote spurs violence in Armenian.” In the final paragraph we are informed: “The state of emergency decree imposes severe restrictions, including banning all mass gatherings and ordering the news media reports on domestic political matters include only official information.”
So what else is new? Under Levon’s regime, I remember, an editor from Yerevan telling me his office had been vandalized and his reporters beaten up by thugs.
*
In one of his books, Granian says non-partisan Armenians are to blame for all our problems because they refuse to get involved in community affairs. When in my review I pointed out that we had more reasons to blame our partisans because they had been successful only in one endeavor, namely creating, legitimizing, and subsidizing divisions, he called to inform me that I had misunderstood…he had not meant…what he really had meant…and so on. But I knew better. I had heard that cliché line about contemptible chezoks before, many times.
*
Nothing could be more unpatriotic than to assume that as Armenians, it is our duty to cover up our failings or to pretend they don’t exist. To assert superiority, to speak with a forked tongue, to adopt a holier than thou stance, to violate a fellow Armenian’s fundamental human rights… all these things and more may be said to be an integral part of our pathological identity. Listen to Stepan Voskanian (1825-1901): “For thirty-five years I did not write a single word in Armenian. I was treated so shabbily by my fellow Armenians that I could not help hating everything that I held dear as a young man; and since I was starved by my own countrymen, I had to write in French in order to survive.” Elsewhere: “The position of an Armenian critic is very precarious these days. How is he to discharge his duties? If he speaks the truth, he is dismissed as an enemy. If he uses his common sense and says what he thinks to be right, he is rejected as a hostile witness.”
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And now, Simon Vratsian (1882-1969): “All our religious, political and cultural institutions share a single aim, the survival of the nation. If the nation perishes, neither Etchmiadzin nor Antelias, not even God in His heaven, can be of any help to us.”
How many of our present leaders have had the honesty to say as much?
*
Finally, a detail that so far I neglected to mention. After World War II, repatriated women were also addressed as aghber by the natives. But being called aghber was the least of their problems. They were also bullied and intimidated. So much so that they would warn visitors from abroad not to complain or say anything remotely critical not only in the presence of officials and strangers but also in the privacy of their own homes and in the presence of members of their own families who happened to be native-born. I am not adopting a holier-than-thou stance. I am only suggesting to call some Armenians swine would be an insult to pigs.
*
Am I wrong? If I am, ascribe it to human fallibility. I have at no time paraded as an infallible judge. If only the infallible were allowed to speak, the voice of the Pope of Rome would be the only one that is heard in our environment.


Obama
He reminds me of Raymond Chandler’s line, “The room was as dark as the prospects of an honest politician.” If, unlike the Kennedys, he survives, I suspect he will accomplish very little because he and his followers underestimate the power of the establishment to obstruct populist reforms. Those in power, Hegel tells us, will give it up only after “a bloody struggle,” and, one could add, they will never give it up to a ventriloquist’s puppet. Too much exposure does not seem to work in his favor, perhaps because he has no depth, or if he has depth, he knows how to conceal it. He comes across as a one-dimensional do-gooder who knows all the right verbal moves, which make him predictable and ultimately boring. If I were Hillary, I would let him speechify himself to oblivion.
*
Guediguian
A French journalist by the name of Isabelle Daniel has published a book titled CONVERSATIONS AVEC ROBERT GUEDIGUIAN (196 pages, 19 Euros), which LE POINT (Paris, January 31, 2008) describes as of great interest “from the first to the last page.” In the same issue of LE POINT I read the following quotation by a minor celebrity: “My father told me, some day you will fall in love with a woman and you will give her all that you have. Afterwards you will divorce her and give her half of everything else.”
*
Karajan
In a new biography of maestro Herbert von Karajan (from the Greek Karayannis, literally Blackjohn) we are informed that from 1933 to 1945 he was a card-carrying Nazi but that his wife was Jewish and Hitler detested him. While in Italy I remember to have been told the following anecdote. When after a concert at La Scala representatives of the Armenian community of Milan went backstage to shake his hand and tell him how proud they were of his success, he had no choice but to point out the fact that he was not one of them.


Aghber (II)
Where there is prejudice there will also be a power structure that either legitimizes it or ignores it.
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I don’t write to entertain. I write to understand and explain reality, especially when reality is against us.
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Nothing astonishes me more than the ease with which an Armenian thinks he is smarter or better informed than his fellow Armenian.
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If you think you are smart, you will be disposed to think of others as less smart even when they are smarter than you.
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Most Armenians respect bosses, bishops, and benefactors much more than intellectuals, poets, and academics. As for our academics, writers, vodanavorjis and ghazetajis: they do their utmost to deserve their contempt.
*
Frederick the Great once described a nation as “a beast with many tongues and many eyes,” and he is generally recognized as an enlightened king. He counted among his friends J.S. Bach and Voltaire, who, as far as I know, neither knew nor cared about each other. As for Frederick the Great: he loved music and literature, but he loved war and conquest even more.
*
Whenever I am told Armenians were the first nation to convert to Christianity, I am reminded of the saying, “A converted cannibal is one who, on Friday, eats only fishermen” (Emily Lotney).
*
To those who complain that I repeat myself, I have a suggestion. Read me only once a week, or even better, once a month. And if that doesn’t work, make it once a year. If you still catch me repeating myself, let me know and your money will be cheerfully refunded.


On A Familiar Misconception
Sometimes we forget that as products of authoritarian -- sometimes even brutally despotic – regimes, we are predisposed to view all criticism as negative, unnecessary, and dangerous. Hence the frequently leveled charge against me that I am too tough on my fellow Armenians, which of course is not just a lie but also a Big Lie. If I am tough, it’s not against my fellow Armenians but only against our non-representative leaders and their dupes, which happen to be a minority for the simple reason that the overwhelming majority of Armenians are non-partisan, anti-partisan, alienated, and either assimilated or on their way there. Not to be critical would amount to adding hypocrisy to our previous list of failings by pretending to be we are in good hands and perhaps even we never had it so good.

If you still think I am unfair to Armenians, I suggest you read Tolstoy on Russians, Mann on Germans, Sartre on his fellow Frenchmen, Raffi, Odian, Zarian, and Massikian on Armenians, and Naregatsi on himself. Here is another explanation as to why I am perceived as negative to the point of being anti-Armenian: We are all brought up to believe our leaders are our masters. But that is a misconception that our leaders have done their utmost to perpetuate. It is therefore up to us to remind them that far from being our masters they are our servants and they are there not to be feared or respected but to serve our interests. If we cannot do that, then we deserve to behave like sheep, and like sheep to be occasionally butchered.


Aghber
There are Armenians who think they are better Armenians because they speak, read, and write in Armenian. They may speak nonsense, read only ghazetajis, and write b.s., but they feel fully qualified and authorized to rate themselves as superior types. Others rate their patriotism by the number of times they have visited the Homeland or the amount of money they have invested there (not always for altruistic reasons); still others because they are members of this or that political party, congregation, or club.

One of the most repellent aspects of Armenianism is the very ease with which some Armenians rate themselves as better. Ours is an environment in which even garbage-mouth skinheads assert superiority.

Only arrogant fools assess themselves as better and expect to be believed.

I have never visited Armenia. I am told if I ever do, the natives will call me “aghber,” meaning brother. The fact that aghber also means trash in Armenian may well be a pure coincidence, of course, but being a skeptic, I am not always disposed to believe everything I am told. Speaking of patriotism: Charents is one of our greatest patriotic poets, and his “Yes im anoush Hayastani” (To my sweet Armenia) is one of his most beloved poems. Even children of five are taught to learn and recite it by heart. All this is well known. What is less well known is that Charents was driven to commit suicide in a Yerevan jail by banging his head against the wall. In addition to being a great poet, Charents may also have been an alcoholic, a drug addict, a womanizer, and an attempted murderer. Socrates and Christ were none of these things. But in the eyes of their morally superior fellow countrymen they were judged to be criminals guilty of capital offenses. I mention this to point out the fact that some of the worst crimes in the history of mankind were committed by self-righteous, holier-than-thou superior scum.

What about me? Am I a good Armenian? Am I even an Armenian? I don’t know and I no longer care to know. Trying to be an honest man among crooks and charlatans keeps me so busy and requires so much effort that I have no other ambition in life.


An Armenian Prophet
The only way to survive during the Soviet era was to be critical of the world but not the commissars and everyone connected with them. We don’t have commissars in the Diaspora. What we have instead are bosses, bishops, and benefactors – a holy trinity as untouchable as Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Hence our academics and dime-a-dozen Turcocentric ghazetajis whose number two concern is Turks -- number one being number one. As for the welfare of the nation: Nothing could be further from their thoughts. That’s as good a definition of Armenianism as any. And if you think what I am saying is new or unpatriotic, listen to Raffi: “Every man for himself: that’s the prevalent mentality among us. As long as I can take care of myself, why should I give a damn about anyone else?”(English translation: “I’m all right, Jack!”)

Here is Raffi again, in a prophetic message to our academics and ghazetajis: “What’s done is done. What we must do now is assess the damage and figure out how to avoid the next catastrophe.”

And here is Raffi again on our leadership: “We are like sheep without a shepherd…We have no leaders. What we have are merchants and clergymen. Merchants are trash. As for the clergy: they have always been against individual freedom.”
*
Shaw once said that he had solved all of mankind’s problems but people went on speaking about their impenetrable complexities. To those who speak about the complexities of our problems, I say, “Read Raffi!”
*
What to do about our problems? You have a number of options: (one) Shut up about them; (two) pretend they don’t exist; (three) blame them on everyone else but our leadership; and (four) speak of massacres.


Dupes
Pro-establishment arguments travel with the speed of light, become common currency, and are repeated ad nauseam. By contrast, anti-establishment arguments are immediately buried, ignored, and forgotten. An example of pro-establishment argument: It may take two or three generations before our brothers in the Homeland are de-Sovietized. Examples of anti-establishment arguments: Avedik Issahakian’s reference to our leaders as “brainless” and Zarian’s as “useless” -- and more precisely: “Our political parties have been of no political use to us. Their greatest enemy is free speech.”

The absence of free speech may explain why our pro-establishment bias has become a permanent condition. When the establishment controls the press, the podium, and the altar, the result will be a brainwashed community that will behave like sheep even when the sheepdogs behave like ravenous wolves.

Where everyone thinks alike, no one thinks. And when our panchoonies say “mi kich pogh oughargetsek,” they will never add, “to support the status quo, that is to say, number one,” but “to help the needy.”

As for those who ascribe our present condition to factors beyond our control, I ask: Why should war, earthquake, and the collapse of a morally and politically bankrupt regime promote profiteering, corruption, incompetence, lies, and cannibalism? When Zarian said, “Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another,” he did not have in mind hard-working stiffs who survive by cheating and exploiting no one, but our sermonizers, speechifiers, and holier-than-thou parasites, charlatans, and bloodsuckers.

A final note on free speech: If Armenianism (whatever the hell that means, because as far as I know, so far no one has bothered to define it)…if, I say, Armenianism cannot be reconciled with human rights, then it is time that we consign it to the dustbin of history.


The Road To Hell
It is not easy for a human being to kill another human being, but much easier if one of them hangs a label on the other. Labels are useful because they reduce, simplify, and dehumanize. Facing an enemy (a useful label) you don’t feel the need to think of him as a fellow human being or someone’s son, husband, brother, friend, or even uncle or neighbor. If it weren’t for labels, nations would not declare war on other nations, religious leaders would lose an important fraction of their powers and privileges, and prejudices would be exposed for what they really are -- extensions of ignorance. Labels are good for the few (the men at the top) but bad for the overwhelming majority. The road to hell is paved with labels.


A Problem Exposed
A clearly stated problem has a better chance to be solved than one that is covered up, ignored, or explained and justified as an integral part of the human condition, like death and taxes. Perhaps one reason we have so far failed to solve our problems is that we consider them to be so complex that they might as well be insoluble, when all we need to solve them is a touch of honesty, such as a more or less independent judiciary. I am not talking here about total honesty, which in a political context may well be a utopian daydream, but only a touch or even a willingness to move in that direction. What is so complex to the point of being insoluble about an independent judiciary? Have all honest Armenians been systematically eliminated by Stalin and his neo-Stalinist and crypto-Stalinist successors? These gentlemen are neither invisible nor grey eminences working behind the scenes.

Their names and the names of their victims are not buried in inaccessible archives written in invisible ink. They are familiar figures to the natives. Let’s talk to them. Let’s publish their stories. Let’s expose the crooks instead of allowing them to make headlines in our diasporan press as if they were statesmen or servants of the people. And if so far we have failed to do that, is it because they enjoy the full support of our equally corrupt and incompetent leadership in the diasporan? What else? And if we can’t take care of our own backyard, how can we ever hope to clean up the mess in Yerevan?


Bitching
What have we learned from our genocide? “All you do is bitch,” a Turcocentric ghazetaji tells me. “Isn’t that what you do too?” I wanted to know. He replied with an insult. End of discourse.
*
“After reading four or five of your posts, I can guess what you are going to say next,” a reader informs me. “Why bitch, if you can stop reading me?” I am tempted to ask. Instead I say: “Sorry to be a source of disappointment to you, my good friend.” Perhaps from now on I should append the following lines after everything I post: “If not perfectly satisfied, your money will be cheerfully refunded.”
*
We see the best in ourselves and the worst in others. Or perhaps what we really do is project the worst in us on others, and it makes no difference who the other is – a Turk, an Armenian, or, like Sultan Abdulhamid II, a half-Armenian. If only we could see the worst in ourselves and the best in others! Am I bitching again?



An Open Letter To A Friend In Yerevan
February 20, 2008
Sireli (Name Withheld),
Despite the apparent calm and "business as usual" atmosphere this morning, my soul is in turmoil. I was thankful last night that I was going to bed and would enjoy a good night’s sleep.

I was wrong.

I could not avoid nightmares of elections and fraud and my homeland. I struggled a lot on how to express myself, my feelings , my thoughts and the strong emotional turmoil within me.

I decided to write to you.

I have always appreciated you, your work and your readiness when duty called. I have expressed my appreciation over time both by the spoken and written word. Knowing you and your true devotion and love of the homeland; knowing you and the place you and I grew up in and the true, unspoiled, spirit of patriotism we inherited from our fathers and inhaled through the fresh air of our unparalleled hometown; knowing you and the sacrificial experiences you went through during all these years of service; I find it difficult to dampen your feelings with the injuries that I bear as a result of what is happening today in our homeland.

But I have no choice.

I have to express them somehow and I am sorry that I found you to be the bearer of those pouring emotions and thoughts.

Despite the fact that we had zero input in the realization of our collective dreams; despite the fact that independence shocked and confused us for a short period of time; we were soon jubilant. We had our place in the league of nations, we raised our heads in dignity and pride and saluted our flag. We build a nation and created a country from the ashes of the Soviet system. We bore the shock therapy of moving from a totally centralized socialist economic system to a totally free capitalistic system.

More was stored for us.

We fought a fierce war, and courageously won the dignified freedom for the people of Artsakh. We collectively sacrificed and paid a high price for that victory.

Difficult times, painful years.

Our people suffered a lot, our homeland was one third (or more) depopulated with scores of thousands seeking employment and livelihood anywhere on the globe.

Seventeen years have passed since independence and we have a few basic and natural expectations from the homeland we love and adore. We seek a decent living standard for our brethren there. But even in the absence of a decent living standard, we seek the most basic human rights that man has long fought for from times it could distinguish itself from other creatures. Yes, basic human rights. Freedom of expression, faith, freedom of movement, freedom of conscience and the freedom to choose, elect and cast a vote without intimidation, force, fear or pressure.
The rule of law.

But what we have come to witness in the past decade is the continuous deterioration of all the above. Since this group of leadership came to rule, concentrating power by unspeakable means, we have witnessed the growth and spread of the policy of fear , spin and lie. We know it well unfortunately, since a similar atmosphere of fear , spin and lie has filled the air, in this adopted country of ours , the United States of America for the past seven years.
Some may not be surprised, but I am extremely shocked and disappointed to see the lust for power, the worship of material values, greed for wealth and more wealth spread so wide and so deep in an uncultured leadership that has taken over the helm of our country during the past decade. The lack of cultural values, the absence of civility and the policies of brut force have become the rule of the land. In my lifetime, I can hardly think of similar cases of so much wealth and so much power concentrated in the hands of so few who have so little to make their people proud of.

Still, wealth falls behind in my worries. I am deeply concerned about my people. Those who still hang on to the national soil, the bearers of the torch, who have and continue to perpetuate our existence on our historical lands. Submerging their heads in the soil, this leadership has turned blind to the existence of widespread discontent and descent towards them.

Or is it that they just don’t care?

I have not been blessed with the opportunity yet to make my homeland my home as well. However, our life over the past three decades has evolved around the homeland and you are aware that I continuously have had a good deal of communication and relations with the people of the land. I have been reading a lot, receiving emails and talking to various people on the phone. This election is a total disgrace and unforgivable shame. The whole election campaign period has been a disgrace and shame. Our people have been mentally and psychologically slaved . They have been denied the free flow of basic information through the spoken media, be it radio or television. And they have been threatened by fear, fear and fear. Fear of losing their jobs or closing their businesses. Fear of breaking their bones or cutting their livelihood.

I have greater faith in our people. I trust their collective wisdom And given a free, peaceful and transparent atmosphere, I would trust their will and respect their judgment.

Unfortunately the people of Armenia were deprived of that chance by this ruling cabal and so I cannot accept the officially announced results of this election as the will of the people.

Many around me have also expressed their outright disgust and share my views.

I remember having similarly reacted after the 1996 elections and echoed my sentiments at the time to you.
I feel it is my duty to do the same today and at least be in peace with myself.

I don’t think this is why we gained independence. I don’t think we gained independence to replace dictatorships and regimes with ones who would return us to the repressive years of the mid 30s. Our people have suffered enough. Their families are broken and their means are meager. And in addition to all that physical pain they don’t have to enslave their souls, lose their dignity, sell their free will and bow their heads in obedience.

We are a proud people and we ought to remain so, free, dignified and independent.

That is my wish today and I will fight for it.

I wish you all the best.

Sincerely,
Name Withheld
Glendale, California

Anti-Intellectualism In Armenian Life
In his REPUBLIC, Plato writes that in an anti-intellectual environment, a philosopher cannot but be like “a man who has fallen among wild beasts, who is unwilling to share in their misdeeds and is unable to hold out singly against their savagery.”
*
Our bishops represent the Almighty, our benefactors represent another Almighty, and our bosses represent their respective little mafias. Who represents the people? The voice of the people continues to be an absent factor in our collective existence.
*
Albanians are ahead of us. They are now willing to concede that they allowed themselves to be manipulated and moronized by a petty dictator like Enver Hoxa because he was successful in convincing them they were just about the smartest people on earth. (For more on this subject, see Paul Theroux’s THE PILLARS OF HERCULES.)
Something similar happened to Germans under Hitler: by convincing them they belong to a superior race, Hitler was successful in making them behave like swine. Mussolini, Stalin, and Mao – the secret of their success was flattering the masses by brainwashing them to believe a glorious destiny awaits them.
*
What happened to our intellectuals? Even after Talaat and Stalin slaughtered two generation of our ablest writers, we had giants like Shahnour, Zarian, Oshagan, and Massikian. We don’t even have midgets today. And why? The answer is obvious. Consider the way we treated Zarian. Insulted, abused, and ignored in America, he was lured behind the Iron Curtain with promises none of which were kept. Shahnour was forced to write in French in order to survive as a ward of the State. Oshagan spent an important part of his life flattering idiots. And when Massikian offered to give away his books free of charge, there were no takers.
*
Somewhere Antranik Zaroukian writes: “Even as they speak of crucifixion, they nail us to the cross.” And by “they” he didn’t mean the people, but their “betters” and their gangs of dupes, who, even as they praise dead writers, they bury living ones.


Getting Wisdom
If your aim is the acquisition of wisdom, real time-tested wisdom, rely on popular sayings by Anonymous, the greatest philosopher of all time.

“Don’t believe everything you are told.” “Don’t believe everything you read in the papers.” “Believe what you see, ignore what you hear.” “Drumbeats sound better from a distance.” “Don’t stir the pot too much, you may expose the manure.” “Some people will say and do anything for money.”

Cases in point: During the Soviet era, a highly respected Armenian academic taught “scientific atheism” in Yerevan. But when the Kremlin collapsed, he immigrated to America, saw the light, was born again, and is now making a comfortable living as a professor of theology.

After being paid a goodly sum by the Gulbenkian Foundation, a British academic and notorious drunkard, wrote a lavishly illustrated book titled ARMENIA: CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION.

When another one of our brilliant academics, whose education and political career were subsidized by one of our political parties, was made a more attractive offer by the opposition, he promptly switched loyalties.
Moral: Our “betters” may well be our worst.

If you find all this depressing, remember, “Better to sob with the wise than to laugh with fools.”


When One Of My Gentle Readers Objected To My Assertion That We Have Been Ottomanized,

I Replied With The Following Expansion:
we have been
hellenized,
romanized,
arabized,
ottomanized,
sovietized...and
moronized by our own leadership.

Straight Talk
If you think my approach to Armenian issues is blunt and undiplomatic – too much vinegar and not enough honey – it may be because my target is not the general reader but myself. Once upon a time, when I was young, I too thought like a dupe, spoke like a moron, and behaved like a prick. I know now that you cannot expose double-talk with a forked tongue. Diplomacy doesn’t work with white men with black hearts.

And speaking of straight talk: I just read a brief memoir of an Armenian writer by her son who says his mother contracted cancer and died because her readers made her life a misery. Nothing further, your Honor.

Homeland & Diaspora
According to foreign observers, there is freedom of the press in Armenia. If true, that means our brothers in the Homeland have been more successful in de-Stalinized themselves than we in the Diaspora have been in de-Ottomanizing ourselves.
*
Why should I, or anyone else for that matter, be on the side of a victim whose secret ambition is to be a victimizer?
*
An important part of life consists in being assessed by individuals who have assessed themselves as competent judges.
*
One good thing about alienation is that it allows one to be more objective.
*
Education allows the educated classes to acquire more ways to mislead and deceive the uneducated.
*
To be a nationalist in the Diaspora amounts to living where the money is and saying your heart is on Mt. Ararat. The true definition of homeland is not where your ancestors were born but where you are allowed to work and provide for your family.

Events in history are like the final paragraphs in mystery novels, or like plants with very deep roots. We planted the seed of our genocide on the day we surrendered our destiny into the hands of the Sultan.
*
I once heard David Suzuki, a well-known Canadian dissident, identify himself as a “shit-disturber.” Writes Carlos Fuentes, a prolific Mexican writer and diplomat: “You can only live by sticking your neck out, dirtying your fingers, exposing yourself.” I prefer the Canadian’s version of the story.

*
When it comes to belief systems, objectivity may be difficult, even impossible to achieve. But honesty is not. An honest Christian or Muslim will have to concede that his religion has been a mixed blessing and, for countless innocent victims, an unmitigated curse.


MEMO: TO OUR TURCOCENTRIC PUNDITS
************************************
If you treat them as enemies, you should not be surprised if they behave as enemies. One way to define diplomacy is to say that it consists in treating an adversary as if he were a future ally. History provides us with many instances of past enemies who are now the best of friends. Another point worth emphasizing: it is a tragedy not an unsettled score. To treat it as if it were an unsettled score is to make of it a political football game. But perhaps before we teach ourselves to treat them as potential friends, we should learn to treat one another, if not as brothers, than at least, as human beings, who like all human beings may not always see eye to eye with us. Am I making too many unreasonable demands on you? If so, then please accept my heartfelt apologies.
*
FURTHER READING
*************************************
The literature on the subject is vast to the point of being limitless. If you are interested, I suggest you begin with the Gospels. I am not suggesting taking the Gospels literally and loving them. What I am suggesting is that we treat them less as once bloodthirsty Asiatic barbarians always bloodthirsty Asiatic barbarians, but as fallible human beings with their own share of blind spots, prejudices, and failings, always keeping in mind that very probably half of them may well be half-Armenian.


THE WRONG SORT OF PEOPLE
***********************************
Jon Wynne Tyson: “The wrong sort of people are always in power because they would not be in power if they were not the wrong sort of people.”
*
Nothing can be more naïve than to say, since someone’s words, ideas, or actions are motivated by patriotism, they must be good; and nothing can be more infantile to the point of being idiotic than to confuse dissent with treason. Against how many innocent men has the charge of treason been leveled by the likes of Hitler and Stalin?
*
Because I try to be objective, they tell me I am motivated by self-loathing. It is true, I am not particularly fond of myself. To those of the opposite disposition, I say: No honeymoon under heaven is endless. Let’s talk when your honeymoon with yourself is over.
*
I am reminded of our revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire and their ideals and dreams. Their infatuation with themselves and the righteousness of their cause was such that they had a Plan B only for themselves. They made the same mistake Hitler did, with one difference. At the end of the story, Hitler committed suicide.
*
Charlatans come in groups because there are so many of them.


THE REAL STORY
**************************************
We speak about our genocide in order to avoid speaking about a greater tragedy: our leadership.
*
When it comes to writing and reading, I prefer the stench of reality to the perfume of imagination.
*
Even the smartest man on earth is no match for “the cunning of Reality” (Hegel) with an infinite number of tricks and traps up its sleeve.
*
Changing water into wine – that’s nothing. The fact that water exists is the real miracle.
*
After saying something, have you ever wondered why you said it? What that means is that our words spring from a source that is beyond our understanding.
*
The beauty of free speech is that it allows a fool to make a bigger fool of himself.
*
They tell me I am consistently negative. What nonsense! To write is to hope. I will stop writing only on the day I give up all hope.
*
To those who demand solutions, I say: History provides us with an infinite number of precedents and solutions; and by history I don’t mean the history of nationalist historians. Nationalist historians are to real historians what Inspector Clouseau is to Sherlock Holmes.


CLICHÉS
****************************
The starving Armenian writer is as much a cliché among us as “the starving Armenian” was to the world during World War I. On more than one occasion my anonymous detractors, whom I suspect to be either bishops or sons of bishops, have accused me of living on welfare. It is an undeniable fact that in a barbarian environment writers either starve or have no choice but to depend on the charity of swine. But in a civilized society writers enjoy the support of the state by means of literary prizes, grants, royalties, public lending rights, and copyright laws, which means, whenever a book is borrowed from a public library or even a single page is xeroxed, a writer gets his cut. To my detractors I therefore say: I may write for barbarians like you but I live in Canada, which happens to be a civilized country. I say this for another reason, namely, to let boys and girls with literary ambitions know that there is life before death even for Armenian writers, provided of course they avoid living and working among philistines with a forked tongue who praise writers only after they are safely dead and buried.
*
Once, when I addressed one of my persistent and anonymous critics as “Your Eminence,” he was never heard from again.
*
Even when not bishops, my detractors share with them two important features: dogmatism and infallibility.
*
A definition of dogmatism: “50% wishful thinking and 50% dishonesty.”


PROBLEMS
*****************************
As soon as you solve a problem you are faced with another. That’s life – an endless succession of problems the last of which no one can solve.
*
A good story cannot be the whole story, and a happy ending is only a beginning.
*
Dupes can be easily manipulated to think they are too smart to be duped.
*
I don’t write for Armenians as an Armenian. I write as a human being for fellow human beings.
*
Academics write in a jargon-ridden turgid prose because they don’t want to be read and “understood” by laymen. Criticism by fellow academics is bad enough. What’s unbearable is verbal abuse by idiots.
*
Studies show that getting involved in Armenian affairs can be as hazardous to your health as smoking four packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day.


PARADOXES AND CONTRADICTIONS
*******************************************************
In his NATURAL HISTORY, Pliny writes, “Not even for God are all things possible – for He cannot commit suicide.” Maybe not, but He can walk out on us, as He has done on more than one occasion. The question we should ask is: What if we gave Him more than one good reason to do so?
*
The Armenian paradox: we don’t support one another but we demand the support of the world.
*
With us, friendship is a sometime thing. Whenever I make an Armenian friend, I think of him as a future enemy and I am seldom disappointed.
*
After deceiving himself, he deceives others with a clear conscience.
*
We have been so thoroughly tribalized that sometimes the distance between two Armenians is as great as the distance between an Armenian and a Turk.
*
Whatever understanding I have acquired of Turks it has been through my fellow Armenians.
*
Armeno-Turkish friendship will be possible only on the day Armeno-Armenian friendship becomes a reality.


TURKISHNESS & ARMENISHNESS
***************************************************
A nearby university town plans to build a 75-foot tall tower proclaiming its “intelligence.” In a letter to the editor I read the following comment: “If we go ahead with this foolishness, most thoughtful people will regard our city as a bunch of idiots.” I agree. Nothing can be as idiotic as bragging about how smart we are.
*
In the Ottoman Empire our daughters were forced into harems. Today they are driven into prostitution, as our sanctimonious benefactors spend millions building churches and museums, which are nothing but monuments proclaiming their greed, wealth, big egos, and arrogance rivaling that of sultans.
*
That some of my readers hate me (and they never lose an opportunity to say so) I know. What I don’t know is whether they hate me more than they hate Turks.
*
The more I deal with Armenians the better I understand Turks.
*
To use love of country as a license with which to hate fellow countrymen is thought of not as a perversion and a liability but as a virtue and an asset called patriotism.
*
We are united by hatred of the enemy but divided by hatred of one another. You may now guess which hatred is more damaging to the nation.
*
The ugly Armenian is convinced that Armenishness is superior to Turkishness.
*
Our second greatest tragedy, which we don’t even mention, is the fact that they had 600 years during which to successfully re-create us in their own image.


MEDITATIONS
**************************************
Nothing comes easier to an Armenian than to overestimate himself to the same degree that he underestimates his fellow men. Hence the familiar phenomenon of the inbred moron who assesses himself as a genius.
*
You may think you know more about yourself than anyone else, but the truth is, what you know is so biased that it might as well be devoid of all value.
*
Sometimes you are judged less by what you know, what you can do, or who you are, and more by your underarm deodorant.
*
The aim of propaganda is to mislead and deceive not the enemy but ourselves.
*
Patriotism is invariably connected to militarism, and the end of militarism is the slaughter of the enemy – in the name of self-defense, of course.
*
It’s when you think you can do no wrong that you commit your greatest blunders.


A WRITER AND HIS READERS
*****************************************************
If I understand some of my readers correctly, the function of a writer is to know and understand his readers in order that he may better pander to their needs. If his readers are prejudiced, he should legitimize their prejudices. If his readers hate Turks, he should say they love everybody, they only want justice. A writer who fails to cover up or justify his readers’ failings and limitations ceases being a writer and becomes – in the words of these readers -- a fool and an s.o.b.
I am flattered. I am read by readers so smart that compared to them I am a fool. I must therefore conclude that, if they continue to read me, I must have a special gift, a gift that all writers dream to have, namely, that of being irresistible. Which amounts to saying I am on my way to achieving immortality.


ON ARMENIAN ANTI-ARMENIANISM
***************************************************
Krikor Zohrab (1861-1915): “Oppression corrupts everything it touches, even the highest moral virtues.”
*
Derenik Demirjian (1877-1956): “Every Armenian has another Armenian whom he considers his mortal enemy.”
*
Lucretius (98-55 B.C.): “Differences among men, which reason is unable to expel, are so exceedingly slight that there is nothing to hinder us from living a life worthy of gods.”
*
The anti-Armenian Armenian is as real as the anti-Semitic Jew; but whereas the anti-Semitic Jew is an exception, an anomaly, and an aberration, the anti-Armenian Armenian is the rule.

The anti-Armenian Armenian is against any Armenian who does not subscribe to his definition of Armenianism – a definition that is as authoritarian, inflexible, dogmatic, and narrow as himself. In his view, abstractions like tolerance, free speech, fundamental human rights, dialogue, compromise, consensus, and solidarity are degenerate Western concepts whose sole intent is the destruction of the nation; and when he speaks of the nation or nationalism, what he really means is his tribe and tribalism. Fully aware of this collective complex, our leaders have done their utmost to exploit it to their advantage and in defense of their tribal powers and privileges.
Left to their own devices, people do not divide themselves. Divisions are introduced and legitimized by leaders for the simple reason that the average Armenian has no interest in subtle ideological and theological theories. He is too busy trying to survive in an alien, and sometimes even hostile and despotic environment to waste any time on metaphysics.

The Turks have a law (article 301) that says it is a crime to insult Turkishness. We don’t have such a law not because we are more civilized or progressive but because every Armenian is a prosecutor with his own article 301, and if anyone dares to violate it, he runs the risk of being buried beneath an avalanche of verbal abuse. I speak from experience.


THE UNMENTIONABLE IN PURSUIT OF THE UNEATABLE
***************************************************
If I am to believe my critics, I am a self-hating narcissist. To which I can only say, “No comment.”
*
One can master the demanding discipline of suffering fools gladly only with the help of the Good Lord. Which is why this particular discipline is less accessible to agnostics and atheists.
*
We all labor under the inflexible law of demand and supply, and the demand these days is for flattering and chauvinist crapola. That’s why everybody speaks about Turkish criminal conduct and no one even dares to mention our “brainless” and “useless” leadership. And because I stress that aspect of our history and status quo, I have become persona non grata and I am called a self-hating s.o.b. with illusions of grandeur, one of which is that I think of myself as a writer. If I am not a writer, why bother reading me in a world that is abundant in unread masters, including our own? Instead of reading our great writers, they read massacre books, which reinforce their image of themselves as perennial victims, after which they wallow in self-pity.
*
Two of the dangers of Turcocentrism is (one) allowing ourselves to be defined by our enemies, and (two) offering them a rent-free permanent residence in our psyche -- which also means allowing them to carry on re-creating us in their own image. Hence the ubiquitous presence of anonymous borodakhos and anpardavan srigas in our internet discussion forums whose idea of criticism is slinging mud hoping some of it will stick, and when none of it even hits the intended target, they keep slinging hoping they will have better luck next time – just like our revolutionaries, who, after repeated massacres, refused to reconsider their tactics, in the same way that now they refuse to acknowledge any responsibility. Learning from our blunders? No time for that. We are too busy trying to educate our enemies who have made it abundantly clear they do not intent to be educated by their former slaves.


OUR BETTERS OR OUR WORST?
**************************************************
Since time immemorial man has known that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” And yet, the only enterprise in which our leaders have been consistently successful throughout our millennial existence has been in dividing us and in keeping us divided.

Our writers have called them “useless” (Zarian) and “brainless” (Issahakian), and if you think they overstated their case, you should hear what they (our leaders) call one another.

Once, many years ago, when I published an interview with a Tashnak leader, which dealt not with politics or history but with childhood reminiscences and the personalities that had shaped his character and worldview, a Ramgavar leader published an attack so nasty that I was left speechless. This may explain the gutter mentality of some of my brainwashed partisan critics.
*
When things didn’t work out for them, the Bagratunis moved to Georgia, and from Georgia to Russia. When our revolution in the Ottoman Empire failed, our revolutionaries abandoned the people at the mercy of butchers and kept themselves busy by writing long-winded memoirs. They had a Plan B for themselves but only a Plan A for the people.
*
They flatter us by bragging about our survival in an environment where many others perished. They are right: “they” survived all right while countless others did not. They survived to what end and for what purpose? To divide us, of course, and to make sure we stay divided. That’s because that is the only undertaking in which they excel – after all, they had millennia of practice in which to refine and master the technique.
*
Are they our betters or our worst? I will let you answer that question in the hope you will come up with the right answer not because you are smart (I will let them use the maneuver of treating you like fools after flattering you to believe you are just about the smartest people on earth) but because I trust you are capable of using your common sense, which, it has been said, is the least common of all faculties.


TURCOPHOBIA
**************************************
Dionysius of Halicarnassus (first century B.C.), in THE ANCIENT HISTORY OF ROME: “The majority of the Hellenic public have been misled by the false view that founders of Rome were uncivilized vagrants and outlaws who were not even freeborn; and that the secret of Rome’s gradual advance in world dominion has not been her righteousness or her fear of God or any moral quality, but some blind, mechanical and immoral operation of Fortune, who has bestowed her greatest gifts upon her most unprofitable servants, and the lowest of savages…It is my hope that the discovery of the truth may induce a proper appreciation of Rome, unless they are her fanatical and irreconcilable enemies.”
*
Istanbul is not Rome, granted; but neither is Armenia the Garden of Eden.
*
A reader born and raised in Turkey tells me, “Turks can be very nasty if you ever dare to say anything remotely critical about them in their presence.”

Are we different?
“Maybe not, but they massacred us, we didn’t massacre them.”
According to impartial witnesses whenever we had the upper hand, we did to them what they did to us.
“They massacred two million; how many did we massacre, two thousand or two hundred?”
That doesn’t make us more civilized or morally superior. To say otherwise is to confuse military inferiority with moral superiority. You cannot live under a ruthless master for six hundred years without assimilating part of his ruthlessness. Neither can you say to a man, “I want to be friends with you but only on condition that you admit to being a cold-blooded murderer, a thief, a liar, and a bloodthirsty barbarian who should have stayed in Mongolia and never ventured westward where you will never be accepted as a member of a civilized community.” But if you do, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t respond with expressions of gratitude and joy.
*
Do you want to know why sooner or later Hitler’s name props up in Armenian arguments? The following easy-to-remember formula may be as good an explanation as any:
nationalism+antiSemitism+antiintellectualism=fascism.


RANDOM THOUGHTS
***********************************
If you speak the truth to liars, they will call you a liar. What else can they do? If you are an honest man among crooks, they will call you a crook. That’s their only line of defense and they will take it for all it’s worth.
*
To deprogram someone against his will can be a formidable undertaking and it doesn’t always work. The alternative – to hope that he will deprogram himself – may take years and sometimes decades, depending on a number of variables which are not worth going into. The fact remains that because we are all products of a cultural milieu with its own specific and clearly defined educational system and dominant ideas, we cannot claim to be who we are in the same way that a wooden table of chair can no longer claim to be a tree in a virgin forest.
*
Crooks and liars are relatively easy to deal with because they are aware of who they are and they feel vulnerable to exposure. Dupes who have been brainwashed to believe they are honest men are infinitely harder to deal with because the lies they recycle are not theirs but someone else’s. This fact makes them invulnerable to reason because there exists between them and reality an impenetrable wall of illusions, and nothing comes more naturally to us than to confuse illusions with reality. Consider what happened to us at the turn of the last century when our revolutionaries thought the Great Powers cared for us. And consider what happens to us today whenever a political candidate, for obvious reasons of his/her own, promises to recognize the Genocide.
*
It is said, investigative reporters are the eyes and ears of a nation. Where are our investigative reporters? Do we have them? Did we ever have them? Why is it that we have dozens of papers but not a single investigative reporter? Are we afraid of what they will uncover?
*
Turks worry me less than the Turk within us.


REFLECTIONS
*******************************
When told non-violence is for cowards, Gandhi replied: “I prefer violence to cowardice. A coward has no right to call himself a member of the human race.”
*
A nation whose rulers are ignorant philistines, both ignorance and philistinism will be the norm and anyone who refuses to conform will be an enemy of the people – not an enemy of ignorance and philistinism, but a traitor to the cause.
*
There are honest men and there are liars, and i prefer an honest Turk to a lying Armenian.
*
In his efforts to assert his Armenianism, one of our nationalist leaders claimed to have traced his ancestry all the way back to the Mamikonians (Chinese) -- or was it the Bagratunis (Jews)?
*
“There is no such thing as a Turk,” a Turkish friend once informed me. “We have all been bastardized and mongrelized. We are all the offspring of mixed marriages that go back hundreds of years. There is a Greek, an Armenian, a Jew, a Kurd, and an Albanian in all of us.”
*
In the Armenian ghetto where I was born and raised there was a blond barber called Alaman (German in Turkish) and another named Kurdoghlanian (Son of a Kurd). They were accepted as Armenians and no one questioned their pedigree, perhaps because everybody was too busy trying to survive in an alien environment to care about such impure concepts as “pure blood.”
*
No matter how hard they try, they will never convince me that honesty and objectivity are anti-Armenian, or that the statement “All men are brothers” is pro-Turkish.
*
To brainwashed dupes who question my Armenianism on the grounds that I am critical of fellow Armenians, I ask: If I speak the truth and in doing so I expose liars, am I good or bad? After long centuries of living in fear, aren’t you tired of lies? Why should truth be a source of dread? What if in treating an honest Armenian as if he were a Turk, you succeed only in exposing your Ottomanism?
*
A historian is not judged by the degree of his patriotism, nationalism, or loyalty to a power structure, but by his honesty and impartiality. For more on this subject see Michael Grant’s GREEK AND ROMAN HISTORIANS: INFORMATION AND MISINFORMATION (London, 1995).


HOW TO WRITE HISTORY
************************************
Lucian of Samosata (125-200 A.D.): “My own ideal historian is fearless, incorruptible, high-minded and a frank exponent of the truth. The impartiality of his judgment will not be affected by sympathy or antipathy, good feeling or sentiment, shame or shyness. He will do his best for all his characters so far as he can do it without favoring one at the expense of another. He will be a law unto himself acknowledging no allegiances. He will not stop to consider what A or B will think, but will state the facts.”
*
Something is bound to go wrong in everyone’s life. A great many things have gone wrong in mine. The temptation to blame it one others has been overwhelming. But I am now old enough and objective enough to see that my contribution to my misfortunes has been infinitely greater than the combined hostility of all my adversaries of whom I have had my share, perhaps even more than my share.
*
Mother Teresa, “the saint of the gutter,” is a proof of the fact that you don’t have to be a believer to be a saint. Likewise, you don’t have to be wise to see the truth. All you need is a touch of humility, honesty, and objectivity.
*
A victim may be as deficient in grasping reality as his victimizer.
*
After defining themselves as good Armenians, some of my readers call me a bad Armenian, and worse, anti-Armenian. I am nothing of the kind. I am not even anti-Turkish. I want to be friends with everybody, and some day I may even acquire Turkish friends. As for acquiring Armenian friends: that may prove to be a more demanding enterprise.


FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
*********************************************
On the day a belief system is established, it begins to degenerate. A religion or an ideology may not lobotomize or moronize its converts but it takes them a step away from their individuality by depersonalizing them. That may explain why the inevitable movement in all institutions, organizations, and mass movements is towards the lowest common denominator. Christianity resulted in religious wars, the persecution of heretics, and serial child molesters; Islam in suicidal fanatics slaughtering innocent civilians; Marxism in commissars and the cold-blooded murder of millions; and nationalism in genocides.

Jesus and Mohammad were not historians, but Marx was. Hence his declaration: “I am not a Marxist.” Had Jesus known about the future abuses of Christianity, my guess is he would have given up preaching for carpentry.
To say my brand of ideology or orthodoxy is better than yours or someone else’s, raises the question: Has anyone ever said the opposite? Namely, My orthodoxy is polluted, my religion is second rate, my ideology is not the best, or my belief system is of an inferior brand? To believe also means to believe that one’s belief system is la crème de la crème even when it is la crème de la scum. Hence the phenomenon of skinheads, fascist thugs, and nationalist hooligans.

And now a question: if our nationalists engage in hooliganism against their own kind, what are they capable of doing to an unfriendly, alien, and defenseless minority in their midst when the law is on their side? Answer that question honestly and you may have a better insight into the Turkish mindset during World War I when the whole world was against them and when their own existence was in peril. I said “Turkish mindset.” I should have said “human nature,” and even better, “yourself.”


FRAGMENTS
**************************************
Theophylactus Simocatta the Egyptian (500-630 A.D.) in the PREFACE to his UNIVERSAL HISTORY: “History [is] the universal teacher of mankind, who lays before us what we should attempt and what we should leave alone as being unlikely to succeed. I am resolved to throw myself into her embraces, even though the enterprise be greater than my powers in view of the vulgarity of my style, the imbecility of my ideas, the awkwardness of my phraseology, and the unskilfulness of my composition. If any reader should find here and there a touch of felicity in my narrative, he must attribute it to chance, for most certainly it will not be due to the competence of the writer.”
*
The only morally superior Armenian I can name with any degree of certainty is Naregatsi and he represents himself as the most corrupt and evil of men. As for the others: the higher they rise, the lower they sink. To our ghazetajis and all dealers in chauvinist crapola, I say: Read Naregatsi’s LAMENTATION from beginning to end and if that does not have any effect on you, declare yourself a dangerous offender and place yourself under constant surveillance.
*
Self-righteous fools and fanatics are more prone to spew venom than moderates and middle-roaders.
*
I am afraid to say this but it must be said: It is not unreasonable to speculate that the constant harping on Turks in our press and internet forums, and the proliferation of massacre books and videos runs the risk of being classified as hate paraphernalia.


THE BARBARIANS AMONG US
************************************************
After reading Plato’s dialogues, Shaw’s plays, and countless letters to the editor in foreign newspapers and magazines, I have discovered that every assertion can be contradicted and every generalization questioned without resorting to verbal abuse. Verbal abuse not only detracts from the merit of the argument but also exposes the writer’s character, IQ, and level of upbringing.
*
It is not true that I criticize Armenians, or only Armenians, or all Armenians; I criticize only charlatans and their dupes regardless of nationality – dupes who have dug themselves into a hole so deep that they can no longer see the light of reason.
*
It has been said that suffering is one of the very best ways to learn to know oneself. But I guess, when given the opportunity to learn, some people will choose the bliss of ignorance.
*
The trick in good writing is to convince the reader that you write to express not your own sentiments and thoughts but his.
*
We are not a nation but a mosaic of tribes and products of different environments and cultures. Unless we stress what we share, learn to explain ourselves in a civilized manner, and understand one another – none of which can be achieved by means of insults and verbal abuse – we are doomed.


ON TURKISH LOVE & ARMENIAN HATRED
*******************************************************
If Turks love me and Armenians hate me (this according to one of my gentle anonymous readers on the Internet) it may be because Turks are not always wrong and Armenians not always right -- especially when it comes to judging their fellow Armenians.

To avoid recognizing the devil in us we demonize others –i.e. we project. In the same way that Jews demonize anti-Semites, and some blacks demonize white men (“White man is the devil”), we demonize not only Turks and the Great Powers of the West, but also anyone who dares not to be on our side. On more than one occasion I have myself been demonized by fellow Armenians simply because I refuse to parrot their favorite brand of propaganda. Hence my skepticism of all blame-games.

Playing the blame-game might as well be synonymous with being infallible, and being infallible means an inability to learn from one’s mistakes, because in order to learn from them one must first admit them.
An addict of the blame-game is a morally bankrupt man because he’d rather lose his reason than give up his addiction.

As for Turks loving me: as far as I know, Turks don’t read me, and if they read me, they don’t comment on what I write. The only Turk who has written me agrees with me that Armeno-Turkish relations will have a better chance to improve on the day extremists on both sides are marginalized thus allowing the moderates the upper hand.
As for Armenians who hate me: I also have a good number of Armenian readers who agree with me, and others who are critical only because I don’t go far enough in my criticism. My comment on Armenians who hate me: their verbal abuse is such that it does not require any comment on my part.


FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
******************************
It would be useful for all Armenians to be reminded once in a while that we live in a world where wars and massacres are dime-a-dozen routine occurrences.
*
Leaders, all leaders, even the most enlightened and progressive, share in common the conviction that the less the people know the better.
*
Sooner or later every Armenian writer must resign himself to the fact that there isn’t much he can say to readers who know better and have all the answers.
*
We like to say that Jews go out of their way to support their own and that we go out of our way too but only in the opposite direction. But I am suspicious of all ethnic or racial generalizations. In my view, it is a fact of human nature that envious mediocrities will do their utmost to obstruct the path of anyone that threatens to expose their mediocrity.
*
Reason alone is not enough, but reason is all we have in a world where faith, dogma, and subservience -- that is unreason -- are synonymous.
*
Breakdowns occur because we cannot go on deceiving ourselves, others, and least of all, reality.
*
When a man says God is on his side, he is sure to be closer to the Devil.

One reason why I write about our problems is that I don’t know much about Eskimo and Patagonian problems. As for Canadian problems: once, when I dared to say something on the subject, I was told to go back where I came from. That put an abrupt end to my career as a Canadian critic.
*
We are all born fascists. But whenever we confront another fascist unwilling to relinquish his infallibility, we are given an opportunity to reconsider our political convictions.
*
I once asked a Turcocentric pundit if he had read a single Armenian writers and he said he had not, after which he advised me to write more about Turkish atrocities. I didn’t ask him to define patriotism, but if I had, my guess is he would have said “hatred of Turks,” which may suggest there is more Ottomanism and less Armenianism in his worldview.
*
Bad things happen to good people because when bad people do bad things to bad people, they don’t give a damn about collateral damage. That’s how Turks see the Genocide – as collateral damage, which is something that happens in every war, beginning with Homer’s ILIAD.
*
We have a better chance to reach a consensus with the Turks if we tell them, we understand why they did what they did and we would like them to understand us when we say what they did was not right.
*
Our bosses, bishops, and benefactors are convinced they are saying what must be said and doing what must be done, and they resent usurpers like me who try to muscle in their territory.
*
It would be a mistake to underestimate the power of our hoodlums. They may seem to be a harmless and non-representative minority, but all they need to become a murderous majority is someone like Hitler and Stalin.
*
“Hoodlumism in the name of patriotism,” is as good a definition of fascism as any.


History As The Prophetess Of Truth & Wellspring Of Philosophy
*********************************************************
Diodorus of Sicily (first century B.C.), Greek historian: “Even the entirely fictitious legend of Hell is a mighty instrument for turning the hearts of men to righteousness and the fear of God. How much greater, therefore, must we conceive to be the potential ennobling influence upon character of History, the prophetess of truth and the wellspring of philosophy?”
*
Nothing stays the same. Suppose in a future post-global warming and post-World War III America the Constitution is amended and the laws of taxation re-written, so that instead of collecting taxes from ethnic minorities, bureaucrats from the IRS visit homes and collect our children – boys for the army, and girls for “comfort,” that is, legalized prostitution. How long before we emigrate? It took us 600 years to get out of the Ottoman Empire and even then we had to be driven out at the point of a yataghan. Our pundits are unanimous in saying Turks are butchers, rapists, thieves, and liars. I wonder, why is it that it took us 600 years to figure that out? If my better-informed readers know the answer to that question, why is it that so far they have kept it to themselves? At least let us have the honesty to admit that we may not be as smart as we think we are, and our greatest deceivers have not been the Great Powers of the West but our own speechifiers and sermonizers parading as statesmen and pundits.
*
Once upon a time we were free. Then we ceased to be free. We forgot what freedom meant. We had to be taught what freedom meant by the West, and we are still learning. Some day we may even begin to appreciate the value and importance of free speech.
*
Samuel Butler (1835-1902), English author: “Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.”


Memo To Our Pundits
*************************************
Being popular by writing what the people want to read means pandering to the lowest common denominator, and as such it is to be avoided because it is the surest symptom of unprincipled mediocrity.
*
To speak of massacres is to relive them, and to speak of Turks means to reassert them as our masters even if the assertion is made in a remote corner of our subconscious. Our aim ought to be recovering our humanity and with it our creative impetus, which will allow us to make contributions to the welfare of our fellow men regardless of race, color, and creed. Then and only then we may deserve universal support.
*
Our writers are not our enemies, and yet this is how we have treated them. Being the offspring of victims does not justify us victimizing one another, especially those among us who dare to speak honestly and objectively about our failings. We all sympathize with victims, but if they insist on it day in day out, compassion fatigue may set it and sympathy may turn to annoyance and irritation.
*
To our Turcocentric pundits I say, it is now time that you downsize your Turcocentrism and emphasize Armenianism by writing more about our present problems and contradictions, of which we have more than our share.


The Lament Of A Writer
****************************************
“I am ashamed to call myself an Armenian,” Vahé Oshagan is reported to have said when one of his books was given a negative reception in our weeklies. Once upon a time I too identified myself with my fellow Armenians to such an unreasonable degree that I was embarrassed when any one of them behaved badly. I know now that Armenians, all Armenians without exception, are first and foremost individuals before being members of a tribe or nation; and as individuals, they should be judged as individuals. If an Armenian chooses to make an ass of himself in public, so be it, that is his choice, not mine or anyone else’s. If, as an individual he is free, so am I, and I freely choose not to be responsible for his actions.
*
Only dumb people assess themselves as smart, believe in their own assessment, and brag about it. And it doesn’t take much to be a victim. It takes even less to wallow in victimhood. Now then, go ahead and say, I am proud to be an Armenian because I am smart and because I come from a long line of perennial victims who have harmed no one but themselves and one another.
*
Whenever odars are given the opportunity or care enough to judge us, they will do so not by what we say about ourselves but our history; and no matter how you slice it, our history is a sad one, or, to put it more bluntly, it is nothing to brag about. If we have anything to brag about, it is our literature. But who reads Armenian writers these days? Not even Armenians. If Vahé Oshagan were alive today, I would tell him he has nothing to be ashamed of. After all, his book was read and reviewed by a handful of Armenians, which means, he was better off than most of our classics.


Crocodiles
*********************************
Readers who disagree with me and engage in verbal abuse are not my enemies. They are enemies of free speech, and enemies of free speech are fascist bullies who have no place in civilized discourse for the simple reason that they are against discourse.
I did not create free speech. Free speech has been around for a long time. So have been its opponents and victims, of course. Greeks, who 2500 years again disagreed with Socrates, also rejected the concept of free speech and dialogue by silencing him permanently. We have come a long way since then. Heidegger, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, was also a Nazi, and as a Nazi he deserved the hangman’s noose. But he was left alone, probably because Americans, like Armenians, don’t think highly of philosophers because they favor philomorons, like Senator McCarthy, Kennedy’s “best and brightest” of Vietnam fame, Bush and his gang of neo-cons, and televangelists and their “moral majority.” As for Russians, our “Big Brothers”: they are worse. My guess is, Russians have silenced, exiled, and exterminated more intellectuals (including our own) than all other nations combined. Chekhov was right when he predicted that 20th-century Russia would be at the mercy of “crocodiles,” that, unlike their jungle counterparts would engage in cannibalism.


Writers & Politicians
******************************************
Hagop Baronian (1842-1891): “Truth is a language that if not spoken is forgotten.”
*
Derenik Demirjian (1877-1956): “Every Armenian has another Armenian whom he considers his mortal enemy.”
*
Shahan Shahnour (1904-1974): “For my generation of Armenians, the enemy is not the Turk but us.”
*
The pen is mightier than the sword? Our writers and poets were Talaat's and Stalin’s first victims.
“Writers are the architects of the soul,” one of our bosses once said to me and I believed him, until I read a similar statement by Stalin.
*
We are all born dupes but inevitably we run across another dupe who stands in direct contradiction to us. At which point we wonder: How can anyone be so wrong and so sure of himself? What if he is right and I am wrong? What if we are both wrong? Why would anyone lie to us?
*
We either believe our politicians or our writers. I am not saying all writers speak the truth and all politicians are compulsive and habitual liars. What I am suggesting is that, when it comes to lying, politicians are better at it because they have had more practice.
*
I don’t write against Armenians. I write against charlatans and dupes. Only readers who can’t tell the difference between one and the other accuse me of being anti-Armenian.
*
Shirvanzadeh (Alexander Movsessian: 1858-1935): “The narrow partisan propaganda line that is espoused by our press is the enemy of all literature.”
*
Siamanto (Adom Yerjanian: 1878-1915): “Our perennial enemy – the enemy that will eventually destroy us – is not the Turks but our own complacent superficiality.”
*
Hagop Garabents (Jack Karapetian: 1925-1996): “Once upon a time we fought and shed our blood for freedom. We are now afraid of free speech.”


Amot!
***************************
“I love mankind,” Baronian once said, “but I hate men.” Born and raised in the Ottoman Empire, Baronian was in an excellent position to know that men are either executioners or victims, masters or slaves (Hegel), exploiters or workers (Marx); and the secret ambition of all underdogs is to be top dogs, exploiters, masters, or executioners. He also knew that when victims cannot victimize their executioners, they victimize one another. Baronian did not live long enough to be victimized by Turks, but he was betrayed to the Turkish police and victimized by his fellow Armenians.
*
We love literature but we hate writers. No, not quite. If truth be told, it’s much worse. We don’t give a damn about writers and what we really hate is free speech. And we hate free speech because it threatens to expose us as potential executioners not of our enemies but fellow Armenians who dare to disagree with us. I speak from experience.
*
Like all nations we have our share of skinheads, philistines, and hooligans, with one difference: they are now our masters. Or, in the words of a wiser man than myself: “Once upon a time we were slaves. We are now slaves of former slaves.”
*
To silence someone whose sole intent is to share his understanding of reality is to choose to be on the side of executioners, assassins, and some of the worst serial killers in the history of mankind – Hitler and Stalin being two recent cases in point.
*
To our hooligans I say: For once, reality is against you because we live on a continent where free speech happens to be a fundamental human right. You have two options: get out or stop reading, or if you can’t give up reading, read only chauvinist crapola, partisan editorials, and our dime-a-dozen Turcocentric pundits. But if you insist on reading me, it may be because deep down somewhere – assuming such depths exist – you find truth irresistible. Either that or you are fed up with your own lies which are not even yours but that of our crème de la scum parading as our crème de la crème.
*
Only people who can’t tell the difference between literature and propaganda assert truth is on their side. Only fanatics who can’t tell the difference between god and the devil dare to assert god is on their side.


Smoke & Mirrors
***************************************
Nigoghos Sarafian (1905-1973): “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.”
*
In the Preface to his ANECDOTA or SECRET HISTORY, the Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesaria (500-565 AD) writes that, by exposing past blunders, historians warn future leaders not to repeat them in the hope their incompetence will never be exposed and their reputation will remain unblemished. If it weren’t for historians, he goes on, we would never have known about “the dissolute career of Semiramis and the frenzy of Sardanapalus and Nero…”
*
Nothing comes more naturally to a blundering leader than to cover up his incompetence and to misrepresent his liabilities as assets, and his military defeats as moral victories. To this type of frauds parading as statesmen, and to their hirelings and dupes, honest observers will be branded as hostile witnesses and even enemy agents to be silenced, ostracized, and persecuted.
*
If you listen carefully to our sermonizers, speechifiers, and dime-a-dozen pundits, you will notice that their central message is always the same, namely, we are in good hands -- our leaders have done nothing wrong – it’s all someone else’s fault – the West betrayed us and the Turks are bloodthirsty savages, thieves, rapists, and liars. Hitler blamed the Jews. We blame the world, after which we expect its sympathy and support.
*
After experiencing centuries of oppression and degradation under ruthless alien despots, we cling to the absurd notion that God is on our side, there is justice in this world, and sooner or later victory will be ours. All we have to do is trust the judgment of our bosses and bishops, and support them by sending “mi kich pogh.”
*
Where there is leadership without accountability there will also be taxation without representation.


Notes / Comments
********************************************
“The stranglehold of bureaucracy is becoming unbearable, the battle against corruption has yet to start. The authorities are not doing enough to fight organized crime.” That’s Gorbachev speaking of present conditions in Russia. If any one of our panchoonies (“Mi kich pogh oughargetsek”) were to speak like that, his sources of income would dry up.
*
What does the average Armenian know about our millennial history beside the Genocide? My guess is, the names of a handful of kings, most of whom were not even Armenian, and Vartanants, which, according to some historians, never happened.
*
Common sense and decency are not marketable products because everyone thinks he already has more than enough of both.
*
Truth and politics are mutually exclusive concepts. The closer to the truth a politician gets, the more dupes he alienates.
*
To be consistently positive about Armenians and consistently negative about Turks is the most effective way of undermining our credibility.


Between War And Peace
********************************************
It may not happen in our lifetime but sooner or later it will happen. No doubt about that. Africa will follow Europe’s example and realize that coexistence leading to union is better than endless internecine conflict, tribal wars, revolutions, counter-revolutions, coups, massacres, and genocide. Closer to home: what about the Middle East? Does anyone think people in the Middle East are so backward, bloodthirsty, fanatical, and irrational that they will opt for endless conflict? And if they do so, who will be the beneficiary? Does anyone think Turks will go on calling Armenians infidel bastards and Armenians will reciprocate by calling them Asiatic barbarians? How much more blood will have to be shed before political leaders in Africa and the Middle East realize that peace is better than war, coexistence and cooperation are more civilized than mutual hostility, and in the long run economic barriers and protectionism protect no one. Next time you think of Turks try to think of them less as past enemies and more as future friends. Think of them too as part Armenian because that’s what in fact they are. Turks and Armenians, Palestinians and Israelis, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, and Kurds: they will choose to follow either Europe’s or Africa’s example; and who in his right mind will say the morally superior and more progressive role model is Africa?
*
All wars are blunders. No one wins a war. Consider the recent case of two mighty empires fighting and losing a war against two tribal nonentities – Vietnam in the case of the United States and Afghanistan in the case of the USSR. We like to say the Allies won World War I and World War II, and we would like to forget about the fate of Armenians and Jews. What kind of victory is it when the innocent victims number in the million? This is clearly seen and understood by anyone with the minimum of common sense and decency, except some political leaders and our own ubiquitous Turcocentric pundits.


Alien Trash
********************************
You cannot tell people what to think and how to feel. You can only speak of your own thoughts and feelings and all the mud that is flung in your direction by dupes simply because you refuse to subscribe to their lies, which are not even theirs; or, as Zarian puts it: “even their trash is picked up from alien streets.”
*
I cannot adapt. I cannot change colors like a chameleon. Call it an evolutionary failure. My kind may well be headed for extinction. That doesn’t mean I will exit in silence.
*
To how many of my critics (if you will forgive the overstatement) I could say: When I was your age – and it makes no difference if you are nine or ninety – I too pretended to know and understand things that I didn’t, and succeeded only in making an ass of myself.
*
No man can be said to be an authority on his fellow men, let alone himself, because most of our real self is buried in our subconscious. We can only speak of unverified and unverifiable theories and guesses.
*
No need to contradict someone who lives in a world of illusions because reality will be his most effective and persistent contradictor.


Frogs
************
Speaking of our revolutionaries, one of our elder statesmen once compared them to “frogs trying to rape an elephant.”
*
Save the nation? Part the Red Sea? Change water to wine? Raise the brain-dead? I leave these things to better men than myself. I write. That’s the only thing I do because that’s what all writers, including our own, have always done. I write to express my thoughts and sentiments as honestly and objectively as I can. Let others do what they will with them.
*
Where honesty and objectivity are equated with self-hatred and betrayal, free speech will be violated in the name of God and Country.
*
To say my country, right or wrong, is less nationalism and more narcissism, and as such, less ideology and more pathology.
*
Our pundits are more interested in settling old scores than in the welfare of the nation. Perhaps because, in Einstein’s words: “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” Or, frogs cannot solve problems created by elephants.
*
Instead of trying to solve problems created by others, let us begin with problems created by us, such as: respecting one another’s fundamental human right of free speech, engaging in dialogue, and developing a consensus. I wonder why is it that these problems are ignored by our “betters.” Is it because they don’t require any capital investment and no letters that end with their favorite mantra, “mi kich pogh…”

A SCI-FI SCENARIO
Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that a future pro-Armenian Democratic administration in Washington convinces a moderate Turkish regime in Ankara to accede to all our financial and territorial demands. Will that be the end of the story or the beginning of another dark chapter?

Here is what I suggest will happen: The moderate regime in Ankara will be toppled by a coalition of angry fundamentalists, ultra-nationalists, and displaced Turks and Kurds, and Armenia will become the target of terrorist attacks or even wars on three fronts: Azeris, Kurds, and Turks. In short, Armenia will become another Israel.

That’s not all. To recover the money depleted on reparations, the not-so moderate and definitely not-so pro-Armenian regime in Ankara will tax the Armenians within Turkey, whose life will become so unbearable that they will emigrate to foreign lands – anywhere but Armenia, the source of all their troubles.

Who will come to our aid this time? Who can? Only the Good Lord; and if we adopt the past as our guide, He has at no time shown an inclination to do so.
*
To speak of actions and to ignore their backlash is the very same mistake our revolutionaries made at the turn of the last century. We are brought up to believe we are smart, but I suggest to follow the dictates of our gut and to ignore the warnings of our brain is just about the dumbest thing we can do.
*
Let me conclude this excursion into science fiction with a quotation from Shahan Shahnour, who was born and raised in Istanbul and knew Turks better than all our present-day Turcocentric pundits combined: “We may think of Turks as backward slobs, but make no mistake about that: when it comes to Armenians, they can be very, very calculating and methodical.”
*
There is an old saying: “When dreams come true they turn into nightmares,” and another about answered prayers, which I can’t remember at the moment…


DISCRIMINATION
One reason we find it difficult to come to terms with reality is that our reality is grim. Hence our tendency to take refuge in propaganda, which is as real as a castle in the air. As an Armenian, the hardest thing for me to stomach was the fact that I came from a long line of people whose masters were Turks.

If we like to brag about our celebrities it may be because, unlike us, they were successful in breaking their Ottoman mold and emerging as individuals who did not allow their past to shape their future. In Biblical terms, they ceased being pillars of salt and were born again as human beings.

Nothing can be more misleading than to judge a nation by relying on the words of their politicians. And yet this is what the average Armenian and Turk do. To the average Turk, Armenians are “infidel bastards,” and Turks “the most civilized people on earth.” To the average Armenian, Turks are bloodthirsty savages who will never change their ways as Asiatic barbarians. It is now time that we abandon our respective brands of nationalist fundamentalism and allow the moderates to be heard. Let us follow the world’s example and learn to discriminate Germans from Hitler’s Nazis, and Turks from Talaat’s butchers.


FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
Nothing bores me as much as talk of Jewishness, Turkishness, Armenishness, or any other kind of --ishness whose sole intent is to make its adherents feel good by emphasizing the positive and covering up the negative thus certifying their perennial status as dupes.
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No one can be as dangerous as the brain-dead who believes his convictions are his.
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To think and to think you are thinking are two entirely different activities.
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To our superpatriots I ask: What do you say to fellow Armenians whose favorite mantra is “Mart bidi ch’ellank”?
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Let Yanks speak of the American Dream. For us it’s the Armenian Nightmare without end and without closure (to use one of their favorite neologisms) compliments of our Turcocentric pundits.
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To reduce life to the point that one can think only of massacres: I can’t imagine anything more narrow, negative, and ultimately hateful.
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Organized religions are like loaded guns. Harmless in themselves but lethal in the hands of irresponsible people, and like drunk drivers, irresponsible people are everywhere.
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It is said that Laurence Oliver used to stand behind the curtain muttering at the audience over and over “You bastards.” Exactly my frame of mind when I take pen in hand. I am not complaining. Our bastards are my bread and butter. If it weren’t for them I would run out of inspiration and fall silent.


MEMO TO A TURKISH FRIEND
Turks are warlike, and proud of the fact. Only warlike people become masters of a great empire and run it for six centuries. But are they magnanimous in victory? That is the unanswered question. To fight in defense of the territorial integrity of the Homeland may be a noble enterprise, and to emerge victorious a glorious achievement, but to do so with gallantry, that is the mark of a truly civilized nation. If the Armeno-Turkish conflict during World War I was a “war” which the Turks won, then it is up to them to have the nobility of character and generosity of spirit to admit that if in the heat of battle innocent civilians perished, they are willing to discuss the matter with their defeated adversaries and to negotiate terms with the benevolence that is becoming in a victor. Then and only then will they prove to the world that, as truly civilized people, they more than deserve to join the European Union and be seen as an integral part of the West.



THE ART OF READING
There are three rules for being a good pianist: practice, practice, and practice. There is only one very easy rule for being a good reader: stop reading when the book bores you -- stop reading even if the author is the Good Lord Himself, and I dare anyone to read the final pages of EXODUS and the first pages of LEVITICUS without yawning.
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DEMOCRACY RUN AMOK
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The Internet is a great invention. It allows everyone an equal opportunity to express himself. A garbage-mouth teenage hooligan and a white-haired elder statesmen may post on the same forum, and what is even more astonishing, to reach an agreement. That’s what happens in an environment where closed systems of thought are dominant and free speech anathema. Writes Lance Morrow: “Sometimes it is the faithful of the churches and the mosques who need policing most of all.” Also commissars parading as editors, publishers, and forum moderators.
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ON POPULARITY
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Ever since it dawned on me that the ambition of every scribbler is to be popular, I have done my utmost to be unpopular – an enterprise easily achieved by calling a spade a spade and by writing what you see as opposed to what you pretend to see what isn’t there.
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ON BEING POSITIVE
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To expose and analyze the ugly and the incomprehensible in us may well be the most positive form of criticism. What could be more cowardly, and therefore negative, than to cover up or ignore the fact that we, as human beings, have our share of failings and that these failings have contributed mightily to our misfortunes.
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WRITERS
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Most Armenian writers today write for odars in odar languages. Some say this is a curse of our smallness. I disagree. It is rather the curse of a nation ruled by philistines for whom esthetic values and free speech are unpatriotic concepts. As recently as seventy years ago we had giants like Oshagan and Zarian who wrote in Armenian for Armenians. We don’t even have midgets today.


PARALLELS
Flavius Josephus of Jerusalem (37-100 AD), the Jewish historian of the Judaeo-Roman war, makes the following comment on “the misfortunes of my country.” “She fell,” he writes, “because she was a house divided against itself.” He goes on: “The hands of the Romans were forced by the tyrannical leaders of the Jews, and the fire was called down upon the Holy Temple by their doing.”
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ON NATIONALISM
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Yeghishe Charents (1897-1937): “‘Homeland,’ ‘pure love,’ ‘oblivion and dreams’: these are the germs of our literary tuberculosis which gives birth to nationalism, romanticism, pessimism, and symbolism.”
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General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”


ON PATRIOTISM
Some of the e-mails I read are so abusive that I have no choice but to conclude they were written under the influence of an illegal substance. Cannibals and butchers have no business in a convention of vegetarians; likewise garbage-mouth dupes in a controversy.
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On the day a man decides he knows all he needs to know (this is always true of dupes) he dies. He may continue to breathe, walk, eat, and copulate, but he is brain-dead. Knowledge is not an end with a STOP sign, but a beginning with no end in sight.
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A dupe is one who cannot think for himself, no doubt as a result of six centuries of brutal subjection. Habits can shackle a man as surely as chains and ropes.
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Ask a dupe to define free speech and he will say it consists in the freedom to recycle his favorite brand of propaganda.
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We don’t believe in free speech. We think of it as an invention of the degenerate West, the very same West that looked the other way while we were being butchered.
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We don’t know how to deal with disagreement even though we have had plenty of practice, because dissent is in our blood as surely as “treason and betrayal” (Raffi).
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Every dupe speaks in the name of patriotism, or so he wants us to believe. What he doesn’t seem to be aware of is that there are strings attached to his particular and peculiar brand of patriotism. During the Soviet era, I remember, one of our white-haired chic Bolshevik elder statesmen (may he rest in peace) wrote me an abusive letter because I had dared to mention violations of human rights in Armenia. In his view, all Armenians owed a debt of gratitude to our Big Brothers, the Russians; and scribblers like me should keep their traps shut.
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During World War II we had two brands of patriotism locked in mortal combat: the patriotism of Armenians (under Stalin) brainwashed to believe they were fighting in defense of the Homeland; and the patriotism of diasporan Armenians (under Hitler) who fought to liberate the Homeland.
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Dupes are easy to identify. They write as if their readers were functional illiterates and Mongoloid retards. Their patriotism is akin to the venom of vipers that paralyzes the brain. Patriotism is not a dogma that legitimizes intolerance. Patriotism means love of country (not hatred of fellow countrymen), and love is first and foremost acceptance, understanding, compassion, and solidarity. Disagree with me if you, but do not think of me as your enemy.


CONTRIBUTION
Perhaps my sole contribution to society has been my success in annoying some of our charlatans -- judging by the frequency and intensity of their insults.
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MY EPITAPH
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“Here lies a man who may have been the cause of a few moments’ insomnia to a handful of loudmouth hooligans parading as superpatriots.”
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DISAGREEMENT
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Does disagreement justify insulting and alienating a fellow Armenian? If we use our past as an index: yes. And therein lies the source of all our misfortunes. It follows, the only way to change the line of our destiny is to replace that yes with a resounding NO! A disagreement, be it religious or ideological, should not be seen as an end but only the beginning of a dialogue leading to compromise and consensus (which does not mean agreement but a willingness to advance in the same direction). He who says disagreement and consensus are mutually exclusive concepts becomes an agent of the enemy and his divide-and-rule tactics.
To those who assert everything I write is an insult to the nation, I say, why should reason and common sense be an insult to anyone but a deranged mind? And to those who say I should ignore the words of hooligans, I suggest our hooligans echo the sentiments and thoughts of our dividers, that is to say, the propaganda of our bosses and bishops – I don’t include benefactors because their only source of authority is the bottom line.
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Somewhere Paul Valéry speaks of man’s primitive belief in explanations. Any explanation, no matter how absurd, is better than no explanation, he tells us. Hence the undying popularity of astrology, and after astrology, the universal appeal of propaganda.
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AN EXPLANATION
******************************
When an old Indian once predicted a bad winter, he was asked how he knew. His reply: “White man make big wood pile.”


CROSS-EXAMINATION
Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, Solzhenitsyn -- there are several important and revealing parallels in their lives:
They were right, their accusers wrong.
Their accusers outnumbered their defenders.
They were honest men and their accusers charlatans or ignoramuses. They wanted to share their understanding of truth or reality, their accusers acted in defense of authority, dogma, and power.
All they asked for is tolerance. What they got was is the threat of torture, exile, and death.
Next time you disagree with someone, ask yourself:
Am I on the side of power or truth?
Do I speak as I do because I represent the majority?
Do I consider dissent a capital offense?
Am I for tolerance or intolerance?
Am I on the side of executioners?
Deep inside somewhere, do I harbor a killer?


ON FAITH & RELATED ATROCITIES
The hardest thing in life is to separate the real from what is not. To a believer, faith is more real than reality. By introducing meaning into our lives, faith makes us blind to reality. That’s one way to explain the ruthless and sadistic persecution of heretics, religious wars (one of which lasted a hundred years) and suicidal terrorists who think they will be rewarded with 72 virgins.
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The best things in life are not always free. And sometimes we pay most for the things we get for nothing.
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A dogmatist is one who thinks only God can tell him he is wrong, and he says this in the full knowledge that he is not important enough for the Good Lord to descend from the clouds in order to contradict him.
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A fool knows that the best way to win an argument is to be so irrational, offensive, and vulgar that no one in his right mind would consider getting involved in his verbal filth. Never underestimate the cunning of fools. Since they have been fools all their lives they have developed all kinds of strategies of survival.
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It is written: “Let a men meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.”
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“An Armenian’s tongue can be sharper than a Turk’s yataghan,” Zarian tells us. In what way are we different from them if we do with our tongues what they did with their yataghans?
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To recognize the fool that resides in all of us is the beginning of all wisdom.


AN ABYSMALLY NAÏVE MISCONCEPTION
In life we take many things for granted, beginning with life itself, and after life, the abysmally naïve misconception that our “betters” are better and what they say is more or less true because they are more or less honest men. In this context, however, when we speak in terms of more or less, the emphasis should be on less. To cover up the less and stress the more, leaders, all leaders, political as well as religious, like to speak in the name of God and Country, two entities that cannot speak for themselves.
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Speaking of honesty and politicians: it is said that there is nothing as dark as the prospects of an honest politician, in the same way that nothing invites violence as surely as talk of non-violence.
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Power, propaganda, deception, and violence or the threat of violence, are inseparable. As for speaking in the name of God: Who would dare to suggest that God is capable of contradicting Himself? And yet, all organized religions contradict one another.
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Greed for power is a malady and an addiction much more dangerous than all addictions combined because it affects not a single person but the nation and sometimes even the world. Which is why one is fully justified in saying that our “betters” far from being better may well be our worst. Which is also why the only good thing about political elections is that the losers outnumber the winners.


ASKING QUESTIONS, GETTING ANSWERS
If you want to know the truth about the Catholic Church, don’t ask the Pope. This inevitably raises the question: If you can’t trust the Pope, whom can you trust? The answer is and must be: No one with power.
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If you want to know more about Armenians, don’t ask an Armenian, who may know much more about Armenians than most odars. That’s because quantity of knowledge does not always translate to quality, or objectivity, reliability, and honesty. If you want to know the truth about Turks, would you ask a Turk?
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If you want to know more about nationalism, the worst mistake you can make is to ask a nationalist. Ask instead the victims of nationalism, and if you are an Armenian, you don’t have to look for one. Ask yourself. Armenians have been the first major victims of nationalism in the 20th century.
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John Stuart Mill: “No one but a fool, and only a fool of a peculiar description, feels offended by the acknowledgement that there are others whose opinion is entitled to a greater amount of consideration than his.” Translated into dollars and cents, this means: All men are created equal, but their opinions are not.
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Speaking of the Pope and Christianity, I read the following question in a recent issue of THE SPECTATOR: “Where would Christianity be if Jesus had got 8 to 15 years with time off for good behavior?”


WHY WE DISAGREE
Most Christians are Christians because they were born in a Christian country. The same applies to Muslims and Hindus. Environment plays a key role in determining our belief system. Different environments, educational systems, parents, experiences, role models, and encounters mean different worldviews. Most Tashnaks had Tashnak parents, likewise most Ramgavars and Communists. My father lost everything he owned in two separate occasions, World War I in Turkey and World War II in Greece. He was too busy trying to survive in an alien environment to have any time for politics. This may be only a partial explanation as to why I am suspicious of all political parties and ideologies. This may also be why I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, especially if agreement means recycling the same propaganda line. I am not in the business of recycling propaganda.

If anything the opposite applies: I have made it my business to expose the lies of propaganda, the very same lies that are at the root of our internecine conflicts and divisions, not to say dogmatism and authoritarianism. Disagreement is both inevitable and natural; what is not natural is the implication that the neighborhood in which you were born and raised is better than someone else’s, which is almost as absurd as the suggestion that those who brainwashed you were better men than their counterparts on the other side of a mountain, river, sea or some other imaginary line. In my view brainwashing is a criminal offense and no good man would ever engage in such a nefarious activity. Since truth is destined to remain beyond our reach, let us agree that more often than not disagreements are clashes not between a truth and a lie but two half-truths and sometimes even two big lies.


IT IS WRITTEN
Fools who think they are smart: they are the curse of mankind. I am not surprised therefore when on rereading THE PROVERBS in the Old Testament, I notice that almost every other proverb deals with fools. God loves the poor, it is said, that is why He has created so many of them. If we assume that to be true (which I doubt), why then did He create so many fools when He obviously has nothing but contempt for them (if we assume the Scriptures to be His word)?
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“Like a dog that returns to his vomit, is a fool that repeats his folly,” reads one proverb.
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“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself,” reads another.
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More random samples follow:
“A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the back of fools.”
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“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”
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“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
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“A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth invites a flogging.”
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“A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to himself.”
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Is a fool capable of admitting to being one?
What could be more foolish than trying to reason with fools?
While reading THE PROVERBS, has a fool ever thought, “It is about me that the Good Lord speaks.”


QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ON TURKISH DENIALISM & RELATED ATROCITIES
Q: How should we treat Turkish denialism?
A: With understanding. We should not speak of them as if they were bloodthirsty savages.
Q: But isn’t genocide a quintessentially bloodthirsty crime against humanity?
A: Yes, of course. But we should ascribe that crime where it belongs, namely, to their share of ruffians and cutthroats…and I hope you will agree with me when I say that all nations, including the most civilized, have their share of rapists and serial killers.
Q: Isn’t it equally true that not all nations deny their crimes against humanity?
A: Let us not confuse nations with regimes, and regimes with the people. We should not ascribe Turkish denialism to the nation or the people but to the foreign policy and educational system of the present regime.
If many Turks reject the charge of genocide, it may be because most Turks, like most people, are dupes whose worldview is shaped by propaganda as opposed to rules imposed on us by objective judgment.
Q: If I understand you correctly, you are saying, Turks may plead not guilty by reason of ignorance?
A: What I am also saying, collective ignorance or patriotic bias is not an exclusively Turkish aberration.
Q: You also seem to be saying all nations and all people are more or less alike. In which case I must ask, how do we explain the fact that Turks are guilty of genocide but Armenians are not?
A: We explain it by saying, that is not a result of moral superiority but of military inferiority.
Q: On a related topic: you speak of Ottomanized Armenians. Could you define Ottomanization for us?
A: I would define it as the assimilation of Ottoman cultural values, such as the adoption of extreme views, even when these views are against our own interests. Case in point: our refusal to engage in dialogue with those who disagree with us, or to interpret disagreement as an expression of hostility or even hatred. Another case in point would be our painting Turks all black and Armenians all white thus undermining our own credibility in the eyes of the world. No one in his right mind believes Armenians are or could ever be all white for the simple reason that even saints are not all white.
Q: Final question: How do we go about de-Ottomanizing ourselves?
A: That’s almost like asking how do we de-programme a brainwashed person? There are no easy answers or methods. Education would be one way. Etiquette would be another. Suppose you believe in something with every single fiber in your body but you are not sure if your interlocutor shares your belief. If you make an assertion based on your belief and introduce or end it with the qualifier, I may be wrong about this, you may consider yourself de-Ottomanized as well as de-Stalinized.
Q: Why is it that a great many Armenians disagree with you?
A: If they do, it may be because I am wrong.
Q: Practicing what you preach?
A: That’s the very least I can do.
Q: I wish you a happy and creative New Year.
A: I too wish you all the best. May all your dreams come true!



DAVID ANHAGHT
As children we were taught that Armenian philosopher David Anhaght (6th century AD) was called “Invincible” because he never lost an argument. What were the central ideas of his philosophy? Did he support freedom or obedience to authority? Who gave him that sobriquet – his students or disciples? Why is it that he is not mentioned in any text on the history of philosophy – not even in a footnote? What was his favorite method of winning arguments -- quoting Plato, Aristotle, and the Scriptures? Raising his voice? Attacking his adversary’s ideas or person? Finally and most important of all: what’s the merit in winning an argument in defense of false ideas?
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An organized religion becomes idolatry when obedience to God evolves to subservience to men who speak in His name?
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If a messiah were to appear among us today, I suspect one of his most important messages to the world will be: “Verily I say unto you: When a man speaks in the name of God, it is the words of the Devil that issue from his mouth.”


FEEDBACK
“If genocide means the systematic extermination of a nation, how come you are still around?” a Turkish reader wants to know.

No matter how systematic and efficiently carried out, a genocide is seldom successful. Even the Germans, the most efficient and systematic of nations, failed to exterminate Jews and Gypsies.
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Another Turkish reader writes: “The Turks are too sloppy a people to have organized and carried out a policy of systematic extermination.”
It is equally true that Armenians are too divided to agree on anything. And yet, not only they agree on the reality of the genocide, they have also been successful in convincing an important fraction of the world to agree with them.
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My quarrel with our genocide pundits is not that they misrepresent reality but that they live in the past. “Let the dead bury their dead,” we are told, especially at a time when the living are dying.
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To speak of Armenians only in the context of massacres: is that not a misrepresentation? Or, as Gramsci points out somewhere: Why would anyone care about a people known only as victims?
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It is easy to make enemies, much more difficult to make friends. Our challenge is to convert our enemies to friends, and not to convert our brothers to enemies.
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Civility and patriotism are not mutually exclusive concepts. Rules of civilized conduct apply even to superpatriots. So do rules of logic, common sense and decency. To say otherwise is to equate patriotism with barbarism.


THEORY & PRACTICE
The combined wisdom of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle has been wasted on the Greeks. Greek history is a disaster area. The divided city-states of Greece were at each other’s throats for centuries until they were conquered and mongrelized by, among others, the Turks.

What remains of Buddha’s wisdom in countries like India, China, Korea, and Japan? Mostly superstition and ritual (for more details, see Arthur Koestler’s THE LOTUS & THE ROBOT).

Individual wisdom does not always translate to political know-how for a very simple reason: the pursuit of wisdom and greed for power are mutually exclusive concepts and antagonistic movements from which greed for power will invariably emerge the winner.
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Because I share my understanding, I have become an enemy. A fool will reserve his agreement for men who tell him what he already knows and understands. That’s because, as a fool, he doesn’t understand that knowledge is an endless search.
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If straight talk offends you, who is to blame but your ego?
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Speaking of theory and practice, I read the following headline in our paper this morning: “Hindu Hardliners burn Christian churches, Christians retaliate and burn Hindu homes.”


HUMBUG
One of my gentle and anonymous readers, whose spelling leaves something to be desired, takes me to task for my ignorance of our history. “Armenian history,” he reminds me, “is an extremely complex topic,” and since I obviously do not know as much as he does, I should shut up about it. I am more than willing to concede that I don’t know all there is to know on the subject. But then who does, beside the Good Lord Himself, who so far has consistently refused to publish His version. As far as I know, no human being has ever dared to claim that after a lifetime of study he is now prepared to assert that he knows all there is to know about Armenian or any other history.
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When after a lifetime of study Toynbee published his monumental ten-volume STUDY OF HISTORY, he was attacked and sometimes even verbally abused by an international array of historians who questioned the accuracy of his facts and the reliability of his conclusions. Dutch historians criticized him for his ignorance of Dutch history; Jewish historians tore him to shreds because he had dared to call Jews “fossils”; English historians dismissed him as a megalomaniacal mystic and charlatan; and Soviet historians treated him as a heretic because he did not share their faith in Marxism. It would be no exaggeration to say that both Spengler and Toynbee, the two greatest historians of the 20th century, have more critics than fans among their fellow historians.
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Even when they deal in facts and nothing but facts, nationalist or ideologically committed historians lie because they select only those facts that support their particular thesis, and since the number of facts, documents, and eyewitness accounts is nearly infinite, they can do this without much difficulty.
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Who takes nationalist historians seriously? Only themselves, their dupes, and the power structure within which they operate.
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What matters about history is not how much we know or how many facts, documents, and eyewitness accounts we have at our disposal, but what have we learned from it. What have our nationalist or patriotic historians learned from our past? The very same thing that Turkish historians have learned: namely, to paint themselves all white and their adversaries all black.
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History does not have to be the propaganda of the victor or the consolation of the loser. Our sympathies may be with the losers but that does not make their version of events more honest, objective, and impartial.
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The aim of nationalist historians is not to learn but to teach. But teaching that is not preceded by learning is at best propaganda and at worst conditioning or brainwashing. Politics and history don’t mix. To allow politics or ideology to contaminate the study of history amounts to prostituting the past.
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A final note on our revolutionaries: history judges us not by our intentions (remember the old adage: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”) but our actions; and actions have consequences. It follows, we should judge our revolutionaries not by their intentions but by the tragic consequences of their actions.



Just when I think I am done with Armenians and their problems, a new one comes up or an old one that demands a novel approach. Who gives a damn about Armenians and their problems, anyway? Not even Armenians, it seems. I dream of the day when I will exhaust the subject and start writing love stories, adventure yarns, and murder mysteries. I love murder mysteries. I have read hundreds of Simenons…
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We all have our cross to bear. The smaller the nation, the heavier the cross.
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If you want to convince a civilized man to behave like a barbarian, you tell him barbarians are at the gate even if there is no one there, and if there is one, he is either the gatekeeper or a harmless pilgrim.
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Whenever I feel depressed, I console myself by saying that even those who hate me read me. Writers have this is common with women: they want to be irresistible.
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Since there are no final answers, not even in science, every assertion is open to debate, provided of course the rules imposed on us by reason, common sense, common decency, and grammar are followed. And no one will ever succeed in convincing me that reason, common sense and decency, and grammar are anti-Armenian.
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When I wrote flattering commentaries, I was published. When I wrote critical commentaries, I was published too. But when I started getting at the truth, I was silenced. Truth was my undoing.
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I write for readers with an open mind. Not even the Good Lord can reach brainless idiots or, for that matter, brainy bastards. Consider the influence of the New Testament on the likes of Stalin (a seminarian) and his countless dupes, among them some very smart Armenians, like our own Anastas (ditto).



POLITICS 101
A regime, any regime, even a regime of swine, will have its supporters.
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In America today only 50% of the people vote. When asked why he doesn’t vote, a wise man once replied: “I don’t believe in encouraging them.”
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One thing I have learned about my fellow Armenians and myself: We are human beings like the rest of mankind. Anyone who says we are better is either a brown-noser or a damn fool.
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Propaganda teaches us to overestimate ourselves and to underestimate our adversaries, which promotes the view that our leaders are shepherds and their leaders butchers. But then, where would butchers be without shepherds?
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If we are what we have become it’s because of liars whose favorite sport is the blame-game.
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Self-assessed smart Armenians will never agree with me because agreeing with me would amount to admitting they are fools who have been taken in by liars.
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After calling them “enemies of the people,” fascist leaders silence their critics. It is always the same story. After confusing fact with fiction they commit unspeakable crimes against humanity with the full support of their dupes. This may explain why there are people today (not all of them Turks) who believe Talaat was a great leader and his victims traitors who deserved their fate. This may also explain why some of the greatest butchers in the history of mankind, from Caligula and Nero to Stalin and Hitler, had their supporters.



ANALYSIS
If you prefer fiction to fact, don’t read what follows because I plan to speak of reality, and reality in our case is seldom pretty.
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If we are angry we have every right to be. Throughout our millennial history we have been ruled by foreign ruffians and domestic riffraff. My disagreement with my fellow Armenians begins when they take out this anger on fellow Armenians, and this without provocation -- unless you call a minor semantic or political disagreement a provocation – as if, throughout our long and happy existence we have known nothing but peace, harmony, and brotherhood among ourselves.
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One does not have to be a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Freud to understand what I have said so far and what follows, namely that this vast store of accumulated resentment is not directed against our victimizers but against fellow victims, for the simple reason that our victimizers are either beyond our reach or, when within reach, they are invulnerable. This has been said by far better men than myself but it bears repeating: An Armenian’s worst enemy is not an odar but an Armenian, and this “other” Armenian is none other than himself.
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On more than one occasion I have been told I have no right to speak of our problems unless I also propose a solution. This, needless to add, is a cheap rhetorical maneuver whose message is “Shut up!” To those of my readers who have not yet given up reading me so far, my suggested solution to the problem outlined above is a simple one: awareness. Because awareness of a problem is almost a solution.
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If I were to describe an Armenian in a single sentence, I would say he is one who knows everything but understands nothing. As a result, his degree of awareness is that of a dinosaur. This may explain why Toynbee in his 10-volume STUDY OF HISTORY calls us “fossils,” like Jews. But whereas Jews were outraged and promptly rejected the label (see Maurice Samuel’s THE PROFESSOR AND THE FOSSIL), as far as i know, none of our professors rose to our defense. Is it because they secretly agreed with Toynbee? Either that or our professors are not in the habit of sharing their understand with us, probably because they know the torrents of verbal abuse that will be unleashed against them by our riffraff and their brainwashed dupes. Perhaps our real tragedy is not that we don’t understand but that we don’t want to understand, and that, I regret to say, is a problem that has no solution.



NOTES & COMMENTS
To those of my readers who disagree with me, sometimes violently, I say: I hear you. I feel your pain. Once upon a time I too was brainwashed to think, or rather to feel, as you do. To learn to think, to think for oneself, which also means to think against oneself, is a painfully slow process. It takes time. Be patient with yourself and tolerant with those who try to reason with you. Evolution is a law of nature. Never say therefore you will not change, for that way lies stagnation, degeneration, and death.
*
Instead of saying, the great powers deceived us, we should ask, why did we behave like dupes? Instead of saying the Turks massacred us, we should ask ourselves, why did we surrender our fate into their hands for 600 years?
*
A man who is convinced he knows everything he needs to know is a case of arrested underdevelopment.
*
The more you deceive yourself the more transparent you become to others.
*
If you know 100 things and claim to know 101, sooner or later someone is sure to expose you as an ignoramus.



“I AM NOT A CROOK”
If bad things happen to good people, let us ask ourselves:
How good are we?
How good are our “brainless leaders”? (Avedik Issahakian).
How good are their dupes who believe we never had it so good because we are in good hands?
How good are the alienated who stay away from Armenian affairs? How good are the assimilated who have given up on us?
How good are our “best and brightest” who so far have failed to convince the world that our genocide is not a figment of our collective imagination?
How good are our intellectuals from Khorenatsi and Yeghishe (5th century) to Zarian and Massikian (in our own days) who have been unanimous in saying our leaders can’t even lead a dog to the nearest hydrant?
How good are our intellectuals and why should be believe them?
Well, what choice do we have? It’s either them or our politicians?
Are politicians capable of speaking the truth when they speak about themselves?
By the way, I don’t agree with Avedik Issahakian. Our leaders are not brainless. After all, they were brainy enough to have a plan B for themselves.
Believe in God, if you must, but believe no one else. Use your brain instead (if you will forgive the overstatement), and may the Good Lord have mercy on your soul (if you have one).



NAREGATSI
He is one of those writers everyone praises but no one reads, except our academics who are unanimous in naming him our Dante and Shakespeare combined. But whereas every Italian and Englishman is brought up to learn a few lines from Dante and Shakespeare by heart, I have yet to meet the Armenian who can quote a single line from Naregatsi.
*
One reason Naregatsi is not a popular writer is that he cannot be said to be a cheerful fellow. His LAMENTATION is an endless catalogue of sins, failings, and vices. A typical passage reads: “I constantly have recourse to lies, / Never uttering the truth…/ I am diligent in malignant acts of ribaldry; / I am ever active in satanic inventions.”
*
In his INFERNO, Dante speaks of hell as if it were a real place. Naregatsi has a more modern, not to say, existential view on the subject. “Hell is me,” he seems to be saying. And if “hell is other people” (Sartre) it’s because there is a “me” in all of us. It follows, in the eyes of our holier-than-thou propagandists, Naregatsi is bad news. Because if we are as bad as Naregatsi tells us, then perhaps we deserved our fate. But Naregatsi does not write to promote self-loathing and despair. His final message is one of hope. Salvation is yours, he tells us, provided you plead guilty as charged and repent. Not exactly a condition that will be welcome by our charlatans who parade as paragons of virtue.
*
TWO FACTS
***********************
Naregatsi wrote in krapar (classical Armenian) but he is now available in both ashkharapar (the spoken idiom) and English (in an excellent translation by Mischa Kudian).
*
Naregatsi lived a thousand years ago, long before we were Ottomanized and Sovietized.
*
NARCISSISM
*******************************
One way to define our holier-than-thou sanctimonious pricks and dealers in chauvinist crapola is to say, they are jackasses who believe, when they bray, they sound better than Pavarotti singing “Nessun dorma.”



MER HAIRENIK
TSHVAR, ANDER
How much of what I say is right? As a prejudiced observer I cannot be a reliable judge. You tell me! But instead of asking whether I am right, say, How right are those I quote and paraphrase, beginning with the Biblical dictum (“A house divided against itself cannot stand”) and Toynbee’s (“Civilizations are not killed, they commit suicide”).
*
As masters of the blame-game, our denialists assert they had nothing to do with our misfortunes, which amounts to saying, they reject all responsibility in shaping our tragic destiny, thus implying their role in our history has been that of nonentities or absentee landlords.
*
Writing in the 5th century, Movses Khorenatsi speaks of our divided and corrupt leadership (see his LAMENTATION, not to be confused with Naregatsi’s, which was written in the 10th century). Writing in the 20th century we have two distinguished witnesses who support Khorenatsi’s verdict: Avedik Issahakian (“our brainless leaders”) and Zarian (“Our political parties have been of no political use to us. Their greatest enemy is free speech.”) In our own days, listen to what Kocharian and Levon Der Bedrossian are saying about each other.
*
If I repeat myself, it’s because I don’t have a phobia of repetition. If you do, I suggest you see a shrink. If you can’t afford one, stop reading me. Never say I speak of problems without suggesting any solutions. But if you reject my solution to your problem and continue to read me, I thank you. Have a nice day.



NOTES / COMMENTS
Just when I think I am done with Armenians and their problems, a new one comes up or an old one that demands a novel approach. Who gives a damn about Armenians and their problems, anyway? Not even Armenians, it seems. I dream of the day when I will exhaust the subject and start writing love stories, adventure yarns, and murder mysteries. I love murder mysteries. I have read hundreds of Simenons… We all have our cross to bear. The smaller the nation, the heavier the cross.
*
If you want to convince a civilized man to behave like a barbarian, you tell him barbarians are at the gate even if there is no one there, and if there is one, he is either the gatekeeper or a harmless pilgrim.
*
Whenever I feel depressed, I console myself by saying that even those who hate me read me. Writers have this is common with women: they want to be irresistible.
*
Since there are no final answers, not even in science, every assertion is open to debate, provided of course the rules imposed on us by reason, common sense, common decency, and grammar are followed. And no one will ever succeed in convincing me that reason, common sense and decency, and grammar are anti-Armenian.
*
When I wrote flattering commentaries, I was published. When I wrote critical commentaries, I was published too. But when I started getting at the truth, I was silenced. Truth was my undoing.
*
I write for readers with an open mind. Not even the Good Lord can reach brainless idiots or, for that matter, brainy bastards. Consider the influence of the New Testament on the likes of Stalin (a seminarian) and his countless dupes, among them some very smart Armenians, like Anastas (ditto).



EITHER / OR
If we are unique, that’s because every individual, tribe, nation, or for that matter, snowflake and grain of sand is unique. Whether this uniqueness is an asset or a liability I will let you decide, provided you don’t adopt one of our ubiquitous dealers of chauvinist crapola as your guide. Speaking for myself, I will say that our uniqueness is not what concerns me. What concerns me is our problems and there is nothing – repeat, nothing -- unique about them. Corruption, incompetence, divisiveness, authoritarianism, prejudice, and intolerance are as old as mankind. So is unawareness of them or self-deception. We either confront our shortcomings and make an honest effort to overcome them or we pretend there is nothing we can do because they are an integral part of the human condition. Again, speaking for myself, I am all for calling a spade a spade, a charlatan a phony and a wheeler-dealer not a man of vision or a noble specimen of humanity but a low-life and a bottom feeder.



TYRANNY VERSUS DEMOCRACY
A community or a nation is not a congregation that will sing the same tune in unison. There will always be discordant voices. Get used to them. Our degree of tolerance and civilization depends on the manner in which we handle dissent.
*
I have been rereading Herodotus. What a great storyteller he was! Speaking of a certain Greek city-state, he writes that its citizens preferred tyranny to freedom. Impossible, I thought. Who in his right mind would choose tyranny when he can live in freedom? And then I thought of my fellow countrymen and remembered the words of our progressive and enlightened citizens (self-assessed of course) who tell us we are not yet ready for democracy. If by “we” they mean our leaders, they may be right. If they mean a fraction of the people that have been brainwashed, ditto. But I have no doubt whatever in my mind that, given a choice, the overwhelming majority will choose to live in a democracy. You want proof? Consider Armenians in the United States and Canada who did not immigrate en masse to Armenia under Stalin.
*
After centuries of oppression we have accumulated vast stores of resentment, anger, and bitterness. Our leaders are aware of this. That is why they channel this suppressed fury in the direction of the Turks. What motivates them to do that is self-preservation.
*
The chances of the unthinkable happening will be diminished if we think about it. If the unthinkable did happen it is because those who thought about it were ignored. “Zohrab effendi is exaggerating,” they said…
*
There is a type of critic (make it, kibitzer) who is so blinded by his own brilliance that he does not mind making an ass of himself. But he is smart enough to do so anonymously and dumb enough to add cowardice to narcissism.



ILLUSIONS
“Nothing you say makes sense!” a reader writes; and another: “Tell us something we don’t know.” These two contradictory comments suggest that I may well be on the right track. But perhaps I am deluding myself.
*
I understand illusions. I have quite a few of them myself, as a matter of fact. I believe reason matters. I believe common sense is transferable. I believe explanations work. I think I may be able to make a difference. I like to hope where far better men than myself failed, I may succeed. Call it optimism run riot. Call it hubris. Whatever it is, it allows me to go on.
*
“You repeat yourself,” I am reminded once in a while. So do our Turcocentric pundits. So do our sermonizers who quote the Scriptures from hundreds of pulpits every Sunday. Has anyone ever dared to stand up and accuse them of repeating themselves? Once when I said as much in a commentary, the secretary of an archbishop wrote an angry letter to the editor in which she said: “How dare you, sir, comparing the trash you dish out [I am now abridging and paraphrasing] with the Holy Scriptures which happen to be the word of God?” My answer: Almost everything I write may be considered a paraphrase or variations on the Biblical dictum “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
*
Scratch a defender of the status quo and expose a hireling for whom the establishment is manna.
*
There are no new ideas, only subtle adjustments of old ones.
*
I should like to meet an Armenian whose first impulse is to understand rather than to dismiss as absurd that which he makes no effort to understand.


Cain’s Answer
Political lies have been with us for a long time. Even Plato . .discusses them in his Dialogues, which where written 2500 years ago.
*
No one lies as surely as he who speaks in the name of truth or God. In the Bible we read that God asked Cain where Abel was, the implication being that Cain knew something God did not. And Cain replied: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).
*
Speaking of lies, murder, and brotherhood: Our Turcocentric ghazetajis tell us they don’t hate Turks. Their sole aim, they say, is justice. But justice, like truth, is an abstraction. No one has ever laid eyes on it. Instead of abstractions, let’s speak of reality. The truth about reality is that we cannot speak about it, only fractions of it. That’s because we have only a limited number of words and reality has an infinite number of levels and complexities. That’s one reason why when we speak we lie.
*
Does that mean Cain did not kill Abel? No. Of course not! It only means we don’t know why Cain became a murderer. Was it envy? Why should envy lead to murder? What is envy? What has made us capable of envy? Or rather, who has instilled envy in man? For what purpose? The infinite number of complexities generates an equal number of questions until the final one, which is also Cain’s: We don’t know because we are not God’s keeper.

THE TRAGEDY OF OEDIPUS
If Armenians and their endless petty little problems bore you, join the club. If I go on writing about them it’s not because I am overly fond of them or would like to solve their problems (no one can do that except themselves) but because I want to understand my fellow men. To be bored with Armenians means to be bored with mankind, and ultimately with oneself.
*
We are a microcosm. If we are a failure as a nation, so is mankind. The history of mankind is a disaster area because the average man is a dupe at the mercy of megalomaniacal, self-satisfied frauds who will say and do anything in defense of their powers and privileges. The list of sultans, kings, presidents, popes, and chief executive officers who abused their positions of trust or preached virtue and practiced vice stretches to infinity.
*
Athens executed Socrates, Florence exiled Dante, Russia excommunicated Tolstoy, India assassinated Gandhi. You may now draw your own conclusions.
*
When charlatans and dupes conspire, they end up praising honesty and burying honest men.
*
To say that God punishes men for their transgressions is to misrepresent reality. It is man that punishes himself. The real tragedy of Oedipus is not that he killed his father and had sex with his mother but that he thought by blinding himself he could avoid seeing reality.


CONFESSIONS OF A LIBERAL
In one of his books Ben Bagdikian says that conservatives like Murdoch, Conrad Black, and Buckley control most of the media in America, and yet they bitch about the liberal media. Something similar could be said about our own pro-establishment right wingers, who control not only our media but also our community centers, schools, university chairs, and institutions. Hence the misconception that we never had it so good because we are in good hands. As for the one or two minor problems, like our mafia democracy in the Homeland: they will fix themselves in twenty or thirty years. What about dissenting voices? What dissenting voices? I don’t hear them. They don’t hear them because they have been ruthlessly and systematically silenced.
*
There is a tendency in America to exaggerate the importance of words spoken in anger – Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade when arrested for drunk driving, for instance. When angry we say things we don’t always mean. I have myself said many harsh things in anger even about my mother whom I love very much. That doesn’t make me anti-motherhood or for that matter, God forbid, anti-apple pie.
*
Speaking of motherhood: some Armenians look down at fellow Armenians who cannot speak their mother tongue. To them I ask: What’s the use of speaking Armenian if the sentiments you express are Ottoman?
*
I have been called a variety of names, none of them remotely close to honest. And yet, that has been my sole aim in life: to be an honest witness.
*
If you think you are a better Armenian, it is of course your privilege to do so and I will say nothing to disabuse you -- only warn you: if you expect all Armenians to agree with you, be prepared to be disappointed and end your days as a bitter old man.
*
As for our ultra-conservative Turcocentric pundits and their ubiquitous, predictable, and cliché-ridden commentaries: the only way to describe them is to say they are ideal instances of diarrhea of words and constipation of ideas.
*
As Brahms used to say on his way out from a party: “I apologize to anyone I may have neglected to offend.”


FRAGMENTS
When nine out of ten are unanimous in believing one thing, go with the tenth, for believing and thinking are mutually exclusive concepts.
*
I disagree with anyone who holds views that were mine thirty years ago; and if I don’t stand on ceremony with them it may be because I don’t stand on ceremony with myself.
*
The man who views the world and his fellow men in black and white terms, as opposed to shades of gray, will invariably classify himself as all white even when he is pitch black.
*
If character is destiny, as the ancient Greeks thought, the question we should ask is: To what extent our character as a nation has been shaped by 600 years of Ottoman oppression followed by 60 years of Bolshevik tyranny? If this question has so far gone unanswered it may be because our nationalists and masters of the blame-game have done their utmost to ignore or cover up that aspect of our identity.


FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
Where charlatans are in charge,
honest men will be silenced.
Where ignoramuses are in charge,
knowledge will be outlawed.
Where the blind are in charge,
the one-eyed will be blinded.
*
I don’t tell you things I already know.
I tell you things that I discover as I write.
*
Why should I trust the judgment of underdogs whose sole ambition in life is to be top dogs so that they will have the pleasure of stepping on underdogs, even when the underdogs happen to be their brothers?
*
The worst mistake we can make is to assume that Comrade Panchoonie is a character in a satirical novel by Yervant Odian written a century ago. Every other day I get a letter from him that ends with the word “mi kich pogh…” something similar could be said of Hagop Baronian’s “honorable beggars.” Characters in great literary works live much longer than their creators. Or rather, great writers achieve immortality through the characters they create.
*
Our standards have fallen so low that every panchoonie, honorable beggar, and ghazetaji parades as a defender of the faith and the savior of the nation.
*
What if I am wrong? There is always that possibility, of course. In my defense I will say that if only the infallible were allowed to speak, the only voice would be that of the Pope of Rome, we would all be Catholics, and Latin would be the most widely spoken language in the world.
*
I.B. Singer: “I am not a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the health of the chickens. For animals, every day is Treblinka.”


THE DEATH OF SOCRATES
When the Greeks executed Socrates, they did not just kill a man but someone who represented the very best of Greek wisdom. To silence a thinker is like burning down a library.
*
The difference between an editor violating someone’s human right of free speech and a head of state ordering a massacre is one in degree. In both instances power is being abused at its maximum. Promote the editor (or a forum moderator) to head and state, and vice versa, demote a head of state to editor, and they will behave the same way.
*
Stalin or Hitler saying they have no use for intellectuals is the same as an architect saying he has no use for higher mathematics. The result will be buildings that collapse as surely as Stalin’s USSR and Nazi Germany did.
*
Hitler had no use for Jewish scientists. As a result, he lost to America some of Germany’s ablest minds, including Einstein. Had he been less of a racists, he would have won World War II and I would now be writing this in German. Toynbee is right: civilizations and empires are not killed, they commit suicide.
*
What our critics were saying about Levon Der Bedrossian and Robert Kocharian, they are now saying about each other; and if what they say is true, they both deserve the hangman’s noose.
*
Those who declare wars have a better chance to survive them than those who do the actual fighting.


The original aim of Yankee missionaries was to convert non-Christians. As for Turks being impossible to convert: The impossible is only a challenge to a born-again.

As for Jews and banking: for many centuries it was against the law for Jews to own property. They could not go into farming. Some of them became money-lenders (like Shylock) and eventually went into banking not out of choice but necessity--to survive.

Some Armenians speak about jews the way some turks speak about Armenians: At the root of all such prejudice is ignorance compounded by suspicion of the alien.


QUESTIONS / ANSWERS
Q: Do you classify yourself as a good Armenian?
A: Frankly, I am so busy trying to be an honest man that I don’t even think about being an Armenian, let alone a good one.
Q: What do you say to readers who are outraged by what you write?
A: I say, Relax! We have survived centuries of oppression by brutal tyrants, countless wars, massacres, deportation, destitution, life in alien slums…we can survive the opinions of a minor scribbler who may well be, in your own estimation, a misguided fool.
Q: What it’s like writing for Armenians?
A: A butcher delivering a lecture to an audience of brain surgeons may be in a better position to answer that question.
Q: Do you think you have had any influence on our policy-makers?
A: Hell no! Even if I were a thousand times smarter and lived as long as Methuselah I doubt if I could change the mind of a single dupe who is brainwashed to believe he is too smart to be deceived.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about being honest?
A: Trying not to give in to the temptation of being dishonest and remembering all those instances in the past when I failed.
Q: Any projects?
A: Many.
Q: Such as?
A: A dictionary of Armenian misconceptions, which I will never write because it may well be as long as WAR AND PEACE and THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV combined.



THE 11TH COMMANDMENT
Organized religions are popular for the same reason that Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini were: people hate to think for themselves. Shaw once said that he has made a fortune and enjoys an international reputation as a clever man because he takes the trouble to think for himself once or twice a year.
*
Everything that is popular is based on a misconception, which is also why astrology is popular too.
*
Organized religions contradict one another – Christians and Muslims believe in an Almighty God; Buddhists don’t. That doesn’t mean one is right and the other wrong. That only means, if God exists, you must live your life as if He didn’t, because God will not do your thinking for you for the simple reason that He has given you a brain, which happens to be a valuable piece of equipment that is a miracle of design as mysterious and incomprehensible as the universe itself.
*
The hardest thing about writing is convincing philistines that you are worth listening to.
*
Because I refuse to be a fool among fools I am called all kinds of nasty names, including infidel and atheist.
*
Once upon a time we trusted our destiny on dividers, sultans, commissars, and charlatans (both foreign and domestic) and when things started going wrong we blamed it on bloodthirsty neighbors, bad location, and the Almighty Himself, never on our brainless leaders and their dupes, namely ourselves.
*
My favorite 11th commandment: Thou shalt be self-reliant.
*
God does not sermonize or speechify; mullahs, priests, and charlatans do that.
*
We have become a bunch of whiners -- compliments of our nationalist historians and Turcocentric pundits who are masters of the blame game.
*
Thou shalt not ask God to do your thinking for you.



DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH
Propaganda is cunningly tailored to have (i) mass appeal, (ii) to be accessible to the average dupe, and (iii) to flatter his ego. By contrast, understanding reality or getting at the truth is an infinitely more demanding and sometimes even painful enterprise. Consider as a case in point the word survival as used by our propagandists. The nation survived, granted, but its best brains did not; neither did the best part of our own critical faculties. That is why when someone like Zarian, Shahnour, or Massikian tries to explain what really happened to us, we turn against him. That is also why I have trouble reaching Armenians who confuse ideology with theology, or politics with religion. Faith or a closed system of thought cannot be shaken by common sense and logic. Faith can only be replaced by another faith or closed system of thought. To put it differently, explanations work only with people with open minds. Hence the sorry spectacle of a sanctimonious prick or dealer in chauvinist crapola parading as a leader of men, defender of the faith, and savior of the nation.



From The Notebooks Of A Pessimist
The two most incompatible things in the world: dishonesty and sunlight.
*
You ask me if I would be willing to die for my country. Allow me to introduce my answer by saying, the only reason my country has not yet killed me is that I have been beyond its reach.
*
In an English literary magazine I read a book review by a historian that ends with the words: “How many policy-makers know their history well enough to learn from its lessons?” I should like to see such a sentence produced by one of our dime-a-dozen pundits who are masters of the blame-game.
*
“I heard you have become a pessimist,” an old friend whom I have not seen for fifty years tells me. And I reflect that where illusions and lies are dominant, truth and reality will be anathema. When Krikor Zohrab predicted the Genocide, they said, “Zohrab effendi is exaggerating.” And because I question the honesty of our pundits and propagandists, I am thought of as a pessimist.



Of Jackasses
In America the higher your rise on the greasy pole the more of your posterior you expose. The average American today probably knows more about the Clintons than about his next-door neighbors. What do I know about our own leaders? Just their names and sometimes not even that. “I once called the Catholicos in Etchmiadzin,” a friend tells me, “and it was the KGB that answered.” When a Ramgavar semi-boss once promised to pay me a goodly sum if I undertook the task of writing profiles of prominent Ramgavars, I informed him I didn’t even know who they were, neither was I interested to know. Speaking of bosses, I am reminded of another incident with one of our national benefactors – let’s call him Jack S. Avanakian – who wanted me to translate his father’s youthful diary. “I translate only literary works,” I explained and added: “I am not aware of anyone by the name of Avanakian who has written a single line worth translating.” On the subject of jackasses: Did you know that our writers refer to one another as “boys”? I once heard an 80-year old writer say about Zarian: “I knew him – he was a good degha!” This was at a convention of Armenian writers (my first and last) during which I heard another writer refer to a national benefactor as “baron.” “Baron Jack S. Avanakian would not be interested in supporting such a project,” said he. I was a newcomer then and the thought occurred to me that I had landed not only on a different continent but also on another planet.



VISIBLE & INVISIBLE ARMENIANS
You cannot argue with someone who is in a position to silence you. He has much more to lose than an argument. He stands to lose his infallibility. And no one can make an ass of himself as surely as he who thinks himself to be infallible.
*
I have said this before and it bears repeating: the need to assert superiority is the surest symptom of inferiority.
*
The only way for the inferior to come to terms with himself is to think he is better than others; and the only way to reach that objective is by being his own dupe. The problem with dupes is that they feel justified in deceiving others, as if to say, if deception is good enough for me, it should be good enough for you too.
*
To confuse visible Armenians (fund-raisers, speechifiers, ghazetajis, wheeler-dealers) with their invisible counterparts would be like confusing la crème de la scum with la crème de la crème. I know many hard working, decent Armenians who have never delivered a speech or made a headline in any one of our papers; Armenians who do not pretend to know and understand more than they do; Armenians who have not written a single line for publication.
*
It is better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing. It is better to know nothing than to know the wrong thing.



MY PARTISAN FRIEND AND I
“You call us dividers as if that’s all we have done,” an angry friend tells me during a recent telephone conversation, and goes on: “Why don’t you ever mention the many positive contributions we have made to the community and the nation?”

I say nothing. I have learned never to contradict an angry Armenian.
Dear friend, if you are reading these lines, I would invite you to consider the case of the butler who after serving his master faithfully for fifty years, he poisons him. At his trial and in his defense he says to the judge: “Your Honor, the prosecution and its witnesses speak of me as if I were a murderer. I suggest that is a gross distortion of my character.”

Or consider the case of a surgeon who kills a patient in a botched operation. When taken to court he says: “I have performed many successful operations. There are hundreds of people alive today because of me. And here I am being treated as a common criminal.”

What I am trying to say is that we all have a role to play in the community. We all make a living for our positive contributions. No one gets a raise or a medal for his blinders or crimes. And when a man, after being a law-abiding citizen all his life, breaks the law, he has no choice but to pay the penalty.

I don’t believe in capital punishment but I would gladly make an exception in the case of a political boss whose number one concern is number one. As for a political leader who declares a war he cannot win, I say impeachment is too good for him. I believe the only honorable course of action for such a leader is to follow Hitler’s example and shoot himself. Finally, I urge you to consider the case of revolutionaries who rise against an empire they cannot topple and as a result of their failure millions of innocent civilians die...



DENIALISM
Those who are at the root of our problems will at no time admit we, or rather they, have problems, and if they have them, they can be solved, and if they can be solved it is up to them to solve them. Denialism is a favored word of ours provided of course it’s of the Turkish variant. As for Armenian denialism: we don’t even acknowledge its existence.
*
THE FASCIST AND THE PHILOSOPHER
The Fascist general who drove Miguel de Unamuno out of his university at gunpoint in 1936 is said to have screamed “Death to Intelligence,” and “Long live Death.” Shortly thereafter Unamuno had a heart attack and died.
*
OTTOMAN WISDOM
Ours is the wisdom of former slaves whose secret ambition is to emulate their former masters.
*
ON APOLOGY
It’s easy to apologize after you step on someone’s foot. But how do you apologize for leading a million and half innocent human beings to the slaughterhouse? That’s why neither their leadership nor ours will ever apologize to the people.
*
NATIONALISM (i)
My land, my people, my home, my rivers, my lakes, valleys and mountains, my backyard, my chickens. But never – never! – my blunders.
*
NATIONALISM (ii)
They brag about our victories and blame our defeats on others. If it were up to our propagandists, we would be the only nation on earth that has never committed a blunder or lost a single war.





Ara Baliozian

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You Wouldn't Be Allowed Such Freedom In Most Of The Other Sites At All.

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http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com/2007/05/Submit-Your-Article.html

All the best