1645) Profile Of A Good Armenian

. . The more patriotic an Armenian, the more clearly defined his views on what it means to be a good Armenian; and no one can be as intolerant as an Armenian with clearly defined black-and-white views who believes truth and God to be on his side.
An intolerant Armenian is a dogmatic and self-righteous Armenian of the you-are-either-with-me-or-against-me variant; and if you are against me you might as well pro-Turkish. Such an Armenian is a divider. His nationalism is disguised tribalism, and his patriotism a sham. And here is the irony: an intolerant Armenian is an Ottomanized Armenian, and an Ottomanized Armenian is an oxymoron (emphasis on the last two syllables). Which simply means, he is neither Armenian nor Ottoman. He is as programmed and fixed in his views and reactions as a robot. When he thinks, he doesn’t feel; and when he feels, he doesn’t think.
An authentic Armenian is also an authentic human being. Think of the profound humanity, even universality, of our folk songs, liturgical music, and religious architecture that date back to a time when we were free and not yet contaminated by Ottoman venom and Levantine filth.
When asked by English friends if he was really an Armenian, Michael Arlen is quoted as having said (I quote from memory): “Who would want to identify himself as an Armenian [or make such a painful admission] if it weren’t true?”
The thought that comes naturally to all Armenians: “If he is Armenian, he is sure to be second rate.” Or, “If he is one of us, he is bound to be a loser and a mediocrity.” Which may explain why someone of Oshagan’s stature dismissed Zarian as a plagiarist without providing a single shred of evidence. And when Shahnour, quoting chapter and verse, proved Siamanto to be a plagiarist and Zartarian a second-rater, he was accused of being anti-Armenian and at one point publicly thrashed by superior type patriots. That’s what I call Ottomanism in action.
Please note that everything I have said so far is based on self-analysis. If it doesn’t apply to you, feel free to consider yourself a good Armenian, an exemplary human being, and a role model.

Why I Write The Way I Write

Whenever I see someone’s two cents’ worth on my monitor, I am provoked into posting my own one-cent’s worth. If that’s vainglorious, I plead guilty as charged.
There are many good Armenians, concerned readers remind me once in a while, but I keep harping on the bad ones thus projecting a bad image. Image is a PR concern and I have no desire to muscle in their territory. My concern is elsewhere. My concern is the nation’s direction. If you read our writers from Khorenatsi (5th century) to Zarian (20th) you may notice they too were concerned with the same thing.
Good Armenians exist in the same way that good Turks do. But these good men are not represented in Yerevan and Ankara. There may even be good bosses, bishops, and benefactors, but they are as much at the mercy of their bad counterparts as the rest of us who are in no position to change the direction of our collective destiny.
Those who oppose the war in Iraq today are convinced the Bush administration is ego-driven, misinformed, and wrong, in addition to being corrupt and incompetent. That doesn’t mean everyone in the executive branch is rotten. None of us can predict the future. If tomorrow or next month or year the Middle East is democratized, I am sure everyone will rejoice – everyone, including those who oppose the surge today. Likewise, if one of these days or before I drop dead, our leaders see the light and change direction, I will be the happiest Armenian alive. But until then I will continue to be critical of our charlatans and dupes who in the name of misguided patriotism try to convince us we are in good hands and Turks are the source of all evil.
Finally, I don’t write against anyone. I write against the self-centered, prejudiced ignoramus that I was, and according to some of my gentle reader, I still am.
Because I speak of tolerance I am accused of being intolerant. Because I speak against the knee-jerk anti-Turkism of our Turcocentric pundits, I am accused of being anti-Armenian. That’s not criticism. That’s infantile nonsense. And remember: bad leaders have ruined empires; bad writers – in addition to being unreadable -- have harmed no one but themselves.

Wanted: A Messiah
Those who see the best in themselves will tend to see the worst in others. We all need scapegoats. Turks are ours, and we are theirs. Naregatsi – our Dante and Shakespeare combined – saw the worst in himself but the best in God, who, he said, would forgive all his sins not because he deserved His forgiveness but because His love knew no bounds. And then there are those who say, we all swim in the same soup; there is good and evil in all of us. It’s all a question of perspective. Talaat is a statesman of vision to them and the worst villain that ever crawled between heaven and earth to us. Or, as the African chieftain is quoted as having said to C.G. Jung: “When my enemy steals my wives, it’s bad. When I steal his, it’s good.”
Sometimes I am told I am on the wrong path, my efforts are misguided. I should change my style, way of thinking, and attitude towards my fellow Armenians. Instead of seeing the worst in them I should see the best, emphasize the good, stress the positive, ignore the negative. I find it hard to believe that we have failed as a nation because our writers failed in their mission. The history of our literature goes back 1500 years during which we have produced an astonishing variety of writers, some of whom, like Khorenatsi, pointed out our shortcomings, others saw the best in us (Abovian), still others (like Baronian and Odian) saw the worst; and then there is Raffi, who saw the best as well as the worst. Even more revealing is the case of Zarian, who began his brilliant literary career by calling us the real chosen people and concluded it by saying we survive by cannibalizing one another.
Do we really need a messianic figure with a new style and belief system that will set us on the right path? Speaking for myself, I don’t believe in messiahs and quick fixes. I believe in self-criticism more than in criticism. This may explain why sometimes I am perceived as anti-Armenian and pro-Turkish. To be misunderstood, rejected, silenced, and ignored: so what else is new?

The Triumph Of Mediocrity
Nothing can be more misleading than to approach reality with received or preconceived notions, especially notions cunningly and carefully chosen by those in power to flatter our collective ego and to cover up their mediocrity. If you want to understand your fellow Armenians or, for that matter, your fellow men, begin with yourself and forget what you were taught as a child. The first step in all learning is unlearning.
Instead of bragging about being the first nation to convert to Christianity, ask yourself: “How good a Christian am I?” Next question to ask: if our ruling classes saw the light and converted to Christianity at the beginning of the 4th Century, they just as readily saw the darkness and converted to atheism in the 20th. What are we to make of that?

By teaching us to brag, our leaders hope to convince us we are in good hands and we have nothing to worry about, when the exact opposite is the case.

We brag about our survival in order to forget that most of us, including the best and the brightest, did not survive.

If we assume the invisible and hostile forces of history (assuming of course such forces are not within us but in a realm beyond our reach and control), had targeted us for extinction but only a few of us managed to survive, we could just as easily assume that, with less mediocre, corrupt, incompetent, and divided leaders not seven but seventy million of us could have survived. Very probably there are more than seventy million Armenians today, but most of them prefer to identify themselves as Americans, Hungarians, Italians, Bulgarians, Russians, even Kurds and Turks.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there is something fundamentally wrong with our DNA. We are people like any other people. We have produced many great leaders, even leaders of mighty empires, and I don’t mean Dikran, the so-called,“Great” and his Mickey Mouse ephemeral empire. Oswald Spengler, one of the greatest historians of the 20th century has called such an Armenian leader (Basil I, founder of the greatest dynasty in the Byzantine Empire) “a Napoleonic figure.” And Toynbee, the other great historian of our time, has written a huge scholarly biography of Basil’s son and successor, Constantine Porphyrogenitus.

What I am saying here is that, where mediocrities are in charge, excellence will be persecuted; where crooks are in charge, honesty will be anathema; where fascists are in charge, the rule of law and accountability will be seen as unpatriotic; and where the unprincipled are in charge, opportunism will be the norm.

Ideas In History
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were Greeks; the prophets of the Old Testament and Jesus were Jewish. And yet, the history of Greeks and Jews has been a concatenation of defeats, tragedies, and oppression. Now then, go ahead and blame Khorenatsi and Naregatsi, or Raffi, Baronian, and Zarian for all our problems.
Trying to change a situation without first understanding it is like trying to put out a forest fire with a bottle of soda water.
Some people have been traveling on the road of dishonesty for such a long time that honesty appears to them as cynicism, objectivity as charlatanism, and straight talk as venom.
If Turkish denialists question the reality of the Genocide, we deny the depth of our malaise. There are those who think, if a handful of dedicated individuals with good intentions get busy within our communities, we have an excellent chance to extricate ourselves from the abyss. Inevitably, they reach the conclusion that things are not as easy as they thought they would be and they give up in disgust. Their line of thinking goes something like this: If I can be more useful to my fellow men in an alien environment, why bother with a bunch of ingrates who, in Zarian’s assessment, “survive by cannibalizing one another”?
Instead of saying my assessment of our present situation is inaccurate, they call me, at best, a pessimist, and, at worst, a charlatan.
The trouble with being brainwashed is that you become fixed in your thinking; you cannot move ahead or go beyond of what you think you think, and when it comes to thinking, what matters above all is going beyond and moving ahead.

The Abuses Of Ideals
To some misguided patriots, nationalism may appear as a noble, even a necessary, ideology; but like all ideologies (from Christianity to Marxism) it has had and will continue to have its share of abusers and perverts. Talaat was a nationalist, Stalin a Marxist, and Torquemada a Christian. Does that mean we should suspect all ideals and principles? Of course not! What we should suspect is power, doubletalk, and propaganda. That’s where critics come in, and that’s why brainwashed dupes are their greatest adversaries.
All power is suspect; but even more suspect is the apathy of the average, well-intentioned, law-abiding citizen who thinks he is in good hands, and that those in power will leave him alone as long as he doesn’t dirty his hands by getting involved in politics. The root of all major tragedies may be traced to this mindset.
The reason why I target Armenians rather than Turks for criticism is that there are better men than myself engaged in criticizing their fellow Turks. Another reason, attacking Turks has become a lucrative sport with our Turcocentric pundits and academics, whose aim is not so much to expose Turkish criminal conduct but to cover up our own. Besides, an Armenian criticizing Turks will not have much of an audience in Turkey; not that he will have much of an audience among Armenians, which may well be another thing we share with Turks, namely, a visceral, not to say, Ottoman intolerance of all dissent.

Past As Prologue
A few years ago Church Unity was the hot topic in our press. There was an endless stream of commentaries, polemics, and letters to the editor. Everybody was for it, it seems. Both proponents of unity and the two sides in the controversy agreed that unity was an important goal and the sooner it was reached the better for all concerned. In the end nothing was done because both sides kept stonewalling. As a result, the controversy died down not to rise again. I suspect something similar will happen to the Genocide issue. It’s our style – the Ottoman way.
In a democratic environment there are investigative reporters and the loyal opposition whose combined job is to contradict, criticize, and expose corruption within the executive. Where are our investigative reporters? Where is our loyal opposition? Throughout our millennial existence, did we ever have them? When some of my gentle readers identify me as an enemy of the people who takes his marching orders from Ankara, what they really mean is, we have no use for democracy and human rights like free speech. The Ottoman way is good enough for us.

Ben Bagdikian On U.S. Media
“Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach’s SAINT MATTHEW PASSION on a ukulele.”
“The central function of journalism is to permit a more valid view of reality.”
“Arguers against change like to say, 'You can’t legislate morals,' but it is hard to convince me that authority figures can’t evoke more humane attitudes, just as they obviously do the opposite.”
“Our major media probably offer the narrowest range of ideas available in any developed democracy.”
One point in favor of the American press: it has produced a major investigative reporter like Ben Bagdikian. Now then, name if you can a single Armenian journalist – and I don’t mean ghazetaji. I could name several who were rudely silenced by mediocrities whose “greatest enemy is free speech” (Zarian).

That Which Makes Us What We Are
Being a human being is a privilege as well as a responsibility. Being a member of a group – be it club, party, tribe, nation, or race – promotes a herd mentality, which means, it allows one to behave like swine with a clear conscience.
We have been divided, conquered, and ruled so often and for such a long time that dividing ourselves has become part of our behavioral DNA to such a degree that most of us see nothing wrong or remotely questionable in it. Even when no one divides us, we divide ourselves. I will know things are about to change only when we reverse this trend. Until then I will consider all talk of progress as empty verbiage whose sole intent is to deceive the deaf, blind, and stupid.
Explanations may be transferable, understanding is not.
For everyone who says one thing, there will be another who says something else or the exact opposite. Next time you meet a boss, bishop, or benefactor, ask him why he belongs or prefers to support group A rather than group B. You may notice that he will parrot received ideas and clichés. That’s one reason why I suspect anyone who places his nationality or ideology ahead of his humanity.

Ara Balioazian

Readers Comment

Dear All,

Lately, ‘Ara Baliozian’ has become one of the writers, whom I find satisfaction to read and notice his satiric philosophy he explains so well, in just a few words. I am sorry that my liking “most of what he says” may prove to be a disadvantage for him, for those who would like to label him pro-Turk, although he remains to be a staunch “believer in genocide”, until such time that he will have a chance to read my counter documents! Below editorial, is brought to your attention, in case you want to learn the thoughts of another mature human. I have read everything carefully, and there are only two tiny points I would like to disagree with him.

1- “Abuses of Ideals” – Last paragraph, I should like to make the following correction:

“He does not know that much have changed in Turkey, and that now, an Armenian or Turk, criticizing Turks, will have much more, audience, applaud, protection than vice versa. It seems that the diaspora Armenians have inherited the “Ottoman intolerance (!)” and fail to understand that we get much well with all friends regardless of their ethnicity or religion, unless the outsiders keep poking the hornets, and make our idiots pop out in craze to sting or kill !

2-“Old Time Religion”’ (Marching orders from Ankara ?): Can’t you see from reaction of millions of Turks demonstrating with flags, that those in Ankara were-are trying to teach us how to march in the Yenicari Mehteran March style, one step, stop, sway-salute, take the next step? Those who like it, may have it, personally I hate it!

Thanks to Ara for his crystal clear expressions; you don’t have to like all of. It ; enjoy the ones you like!.

Sukru Server Aya


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