2930) I Began To Recover My Armenian Identity On The Day I Became Aware Of The Turk Within Me

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If American presidential candidates promise to recognize the Genocide and when elected they recant, it may be because they are exposed to the other side of the story and recognize themselves in Turks.
The expression “Young Turks” does not have a sinister connotation in English. It means enthusiastic or single-minded dedication to a cause or policy that may be unpopular in some quarters.
I remember, the first time I heard an Armenian say “The Turks won because they were better organized,” I was outraged. That's when I knew only one side of the story.
To know only one side of the story is more dangerous than to know nothing.
Empires do not speak the same language as tribes. Americans and Turks understand one another better than Armenian understands Armenian.
When our “betters” divide us, they do so with the certainty their real motives will never be uncovered, and so far they have been right but only with an increasingly diminished fraction of the people.
We blindly trust those who make us believe, no matter how absurd the belief system, even when they have done nothing to earn our trust.
It pleases us to think what others believe is a lie, and what we believe is not.
I began to recover my Armenian identity on the day I became aware of the Turk within me.. .

“Who hates the Jew more than a Jew?” (Jewish saying).
My answer: The Armenian who hates an Armenian.
(Finally, I have hit on a field of human endeavor in which we can assert superiority over Jews.)
Q: All nations have their nationalist historians, why shouldn't we?
A: All nations also have dissidents who question their honesty.
Q: Why is nationalism wrong?
A: If its aim is to assert moral superiority, it is not just wrong but simple-minded. I do not believe in the moral superiority of any nation, including our own.
We are as good or bad as any nation, including Turks and Azeris, with whom we have coexisted for centuries.
Q: What makes you think you are right and your critics wrong?
A: I know they are wrong when they voice views that I held thirty years ago when I could not yet think for myself. I also know they are wrong when they go down into the gutter and shout at the top of their lungs. The gutter is no place for civilized discourse, and emotion is incompatible with reason.
Q: Are we really as bad as Turks? Do you really believe that? And if you do, do you really expect us to believe it?
A: Why not? I will go further and say, we may be worse.
Q: Have we ever massacred our minorities?

A: Do we have them? Did we ever have them? According to the most recent statistics I have read, the non-Armenian population living in Armenia today number less than 4%, and as far as I know none of them has ever risen against the state or engaged in acts of terrorism. When we say we are better than Turks or Azeris we confuse military inferiority with moral superiority. As for our claim that we have never been guilty of genocide: Are not violations of human rights crimes against humanity? What are assassinations if not isolated or interrupted massacres? What are mass exodus from the Homeland and the high rate of assimilation in the Diaspora if not “spitak chart” (white massacres)? And let us not forget that the Turks did what they did for a very pragmatic reason: they believed or they were led to believe they were defending the integrity of their Homeland in time of war when their very survival was at stake. Whereas we do what we do for no discernible reason. The smart, civilized, Christian Armenian is not just a myth or a lie but an absurdity.

Q: Do you ever ask yourself what an odar may think of us after they read you?

A: That not all Armenians are idiots?...Joking aside, odars have more important things to do than waste their time reading or thinking about us. How much time do you waste thinking about Patagonians? What about Romanians and Aramaeans? -- because most odars I talk to confuse us with them. As for politicians: they already know all they need to know. I can imagine the following conversation between an American presidential candidate and one of his young advisers:

“What do we know about Armenians?”
“A hundred years ago they were massacred by Turks.”
“What's the Turkish side of the story?”
“They did to the Armenians what we did to our Indians.”
“So what do I say to the Armenians?”
“You will recognize the Genocide.”
“Why genocide and not massacres?”
“They need to hear the word, sir.”
“Is that all? I will recognize the Genocide?”
“Yes, sir.”
“I love the Armenians. What about the Turks? What do I say to them?”
“Nothing, sir! They know the rules of the game.”
“They ought to. They ran an empire for how many centuries?”
“Six, sir."
“Do you think we will last that long?”
“Hope so, sir.”
“I do too. Maybe I should read a book about them to see what they did right.”
“I'll see what I can do, sir. I could read one for you, if you like, and underline the relevant passages.”
“Even better. You sure I don't have to say anything to the Turks?”
“Positive, sir."
“I love those Turks.”

Q: The difference between a writer like Raffi and you is that--
A: He is a 19th-century giant and I am a 21st-century midget.

Q: That wasn't my question. My question has nothing to do with literary greatness and everything to do with a balanced and fair view of reality. In Raffi's writings there are bad as well as good Armenians. In your writings there are only bad ones. Why?

A: That's because I write about our problems.
Q: And Raffi didn't?
A: Only obliquely and in the context of historical fiction.
Q: What is your context?
A: Analytical commentaries.
Q: Does that mean good Armenians don't exist?
A: They exist only as victims of humbuggers or as ineffective players.
Q: You say you write about our problems. If we have problems, and I agree that we do, don't we need solutions?
A: Only one: solidarity.
Q: How do we go about developing solidarity?
A: By ending divisions.
Q: How do we do that?

A: By realizing and admitting to ourselves that dividers are our real enemies.
Q: It seems to me we are going in circles here. Let me approach this question from a different angle: If we need solutions, it must be solutions that work, right? When a solution doesn't work, we should discard it and search for one that will do the job.
A: Excellent idea. If we are a failed nation, let's consider the case of successful nations...such as the United States of America.
Q: But there are all kinds of divisions in America – the rich and the poor, whites and blacks, pro-war and anti-war, pro-abortion and anti --

A: There is also a mechanism designed to resolve differences, it's called democracy. Now, throughout our millennial existence we have at no time experienced democracy. We have been and continue to be at the mercy of paternalistic, authoritarian, fascist and self-appointed pseudo-elites who place their own powers and privileges above the welfare of the nation.

Q: Maybe so, but you still haven't convinced me that emphasizing the positive is wrong.
A: It is wrong if it means covering up or minimizing the dangers and challenges we face.
Q: Is that what Raffi did? -- minimized and covered up?...

A: You seem to have adopted Raffi as a model. If all writers had done that, they would have written nothing but historical novels. Writers like Baronian, Odian, and Massikian wrote satire, where the emphasis is on bad characters. If we were to judge a writer's merits by how successful he has been in solving our problems, as you seem to suggest, we shall have to conclude that our literature as a whole, from Khorenatsi to our own days, has been a gigantic failure. If we are to assign failure, let's begin with our leaders and the dupes who support them. That is why I never get tired of saying and repeating, the smart, progressive, civilized, and westernized Armenian is not just a lie but an absurdity.

Q: Are you saying there are no smart Armenians?

A: If there are, they have been marginalized and rendered ineffective: they are, in other words, ahistorical. They neither formulate nor implement policies, and in that sense they are double victims – victims of foreign aggression as well as victims of domestic corruption and incompetence. Let's end this interview on a positive note, shall we? Let's consider the case of Naregatsi. There is one positive character in his LAMENTATION, namely God who, as everyone knows, is an Armenian. But the problem with God is that He has always been on the side of the powerful and against the weak, or rather, against dividers, their dupes, and fools who think they are smart.

Speaking of a small town in Mississippi, where he acted in Elia Kazan's BABY DOLL, Karl Malden writes in his memoirs: “The people were, for the most part, small-minded bigots, who had elevated poor white trash to a fine art.”

About Archie Lee, his character in the film, he writes: “Archie Lee was poor white trash and the only thing that fed his feeble ego was the fact that no matter what, he could always believe that he (through no accomplishment of his own other than the color of his skin) held a higher status than the blacks.”

Immediately I recognized my former self, after I had been “educated” by my “betters.”
They brainwash children and they call it education. This is true of all nations. American history contains as many lies as, say, Turkish or Armenian history. All historians know this. They also know they are at the mercy of bureaucrats who are hired and fired by politicians whose central concern is to keep and whenever possible to increase their power.

After one of our eminent historians agreed to be interviewed, he refused to answer my questions.
Patriots are all alike in so far as they are willing to kill and die in defense of the Homeland, and to hate anyone who says patriotism is a fraud perpetrated by politicians (white trash) on dupes (themselves).
I define a fanatic as anyone who hates someone simply because he doesn't share his hatred of whatever it is that he hates.
Just because I say 2 plus 2 makes 4, or I call a spade a spade, I am immediately surrounded by a mob of civilized, progressive, and smart Armenians, descendants of the first nation that converted to Christianity, that would love to see me torn to shreds.
If we are as patriotic as we claim to be, we should at least allow a fraction of our love for our homeland to spill over on our fellow countrymen even when they speak like misguided fools.
Portrait of a patriotic Armenian: A damaged ego with an unsettled score in search of a victim.

When primitive men engaged in cannibalism, they behaved like a pride of lions that kills and devours a zebra. We don't call that barbarism. We call it survival of the fittest.

The authentic barbarian was the Nazi during World War II: he was fully aware of what he was doing. He developed the consensus, the organization, the will, and the philosophy (that of Hegel's Master and Slave, for instance, and Nietzsche's Superman).
By contrast, when we burned a million books and slaughtered (according to Baez) a thousand defenseless women and children in Karabagh, out conduct may not have been that of officers and gentlemen but neither was it barbarism. It was closer to that of primitive men and hungry predators in the jungle.

We are not authentic barbarians because we lack the cold-blooded premeditation, the ability to develop a consensus and to organize, and the will to carry out our political agenda.

We are not barbarians.
We are worse than barbarians.
We are slaves of barbarians.
For 600 years the Turks were our masters.
Our boys fought their wars.
Our women satisfied their lust.
Our businessmen took care of their interests.
And our artists provided the entertained.
It is the same today.
Mikoyan, Gulbenkian, Khachaturian, Saroyan, Mamoulian...
They all served alien interests and entertained alien audiences.
By contrast, those who chose to serve our people and our homeland were invariably betrayed and slaughtered.
Barbarians? Hell no! We have a long way to go to qualify. We are only slaves and cowards. We can behave like bloodthirsty savages only towards the defenseless and the weak, namely, ourselves.
Why am I saying these things?

Two reasons:

(one) The truth shall set you free, and
(two) Nobody is paying me to lie.

In his biography of John Cheever, Blake Bailey mentions “an Armenian named Harout,” who introduces himself as an “architect” but is identified as an “unemployed waiter, a bore,” and a freeloader. See CHEEVER: A LIFE (New York, 2009, page 439).
Speaking of this kind of borodakhos Armenian, I remember one of our elder statesmen saying: “They walk past an elementary school, and they claim to have a university degree.”
There was a time when I would feel painfully embarrassed whenever I read about an Armenian like Harout. No more. I no longer feel responsible for their conduct probably because I no longer harbor tribal loyalties. I am a human being and all good men, regardless of race, color, and creed, are my brothers. As for Armenians like Harout: all I can do is to let them know that, if they think they are smart enough to fool all the people all the time, they are dead wrong. They may however succeed in fooling a handful of idiots like themselves.
We are told history is the propaganda of the victor. What if our own history is not just the consolation of the defeated but the borodakhossoutiun of our panchoonies? I am not making dogmatic assertions, just asking a question.
To those of my readers who get all worked up over what I write, I say: “Relax! No one gives a damn about what I think or, for that matter, whether I live or die. Take it easy, stop reading me, and enjoy your life. But if you insist in carrying on as you have been, let me warn you that I find all disagreement stimulating, especially disagreement with a touch of arsenic in it, because that's when I feel I have hit paydirt.”

To say we have problems but no solutions is a big lie.
Our only problem is big lies and their dupes.
Expose them and that will be the end of our problems.
Our liars know this better than anyone else.

As for our dupes: they are what they are because they prefer pleasant lies to painful truths. And the most painful truth of all is their identity as damn fools.

We have failed to solve our problems because our dupes think of themselves as smart and our liars have done their utmost to brainwash them to believe that.

How do you convince a fool that he is a fool?
It can't be done!

How do you convince liars they are liars?
No need. They already know.

How do you break up the bond that exists between liars and dupes?

Impossible! It is like the marriage of the mythical irresistible force with the immovable object.

There is no power in heaven and on earth that can budge them.

That is the only way to explain the millennial existence of organized religions, all of which assert a monopoly on truth even as they go about contradicting one another.

When liars and dupes conspire, honest men have as much chance as a drop of rain in the Sahara at high noon.

That's the only way to explain why all honest men -- from Socrates and Jesus Christ to Gandhi and Solzhenitsyn -- have been silenced, exiled, persecuted, jailed, and crucified.
Hasganoum es?

To those of my readers who mistake me for someone who is plotting the destruction of the Republic, I say: Relax, our beloved homeland is in the best of hands because for everyone who says what I say, there are at least a hundred, not counting speechifiers, sermonizers, and dime-a-dozen pundits, who say the exact opposite, for which reason they are compensated handsomely. Besides, my word carries as much weight as an ant's fart. And speaking of farts...
It is said of an old lady in the Soviet era who had the habit of farting in public and declaring to all and sundry: “They can shut my mouth, but they can't shut my arse.” And now – you guessed – a story about a wealthy Armenian merchant who is said to have hired the services of a notorious Kurdish bandit to take care (as we say in the underworld) of Raffi.
A minor digression here: If you think I am tough on Armenians, you should read Raffi. Compared to him, I don't even rate as a pussycat. Raffi was a tough hombre who wouldn't take no sh*t from nobody, including bosses, bishops, and wealthy Armenian merchants whom he called “the worse scum on earth. (“Profit,” he said, “is their only homeland.”) If there are wealthy merchants among my readers, may I add: “Present company suspected.”
End of digression.
Well, naturally, one of these merchants, not being the kind that turns the other cheek, and wanting to get even with Raffi, he delegated the job to a Kurd with an impeccable reputation as a daring and fearless bandit, promising him an undisclosed amount of money.
But as the Kurd went about his business of casing the joint – namely, Raffi's domicile – he discovered to his astonishment that far from being a malefactor, his target was a totally harmless scribbler who spent most of his days and nights working at his desk. Being an honorable hitman, he therefore informed the merchant he was not up to handling the job because he did not relish the idea of adding the murder of an innocent and defenseless civilian to his résumé, or words to that effect; and advised the merchant to shove his money where the sun don't shine – if you know what I am saying.
Moral: You may rely on the honor of a Kurdish thief but, brother, after you shake hands with a benefactor, count your fingers.
A footnote on my sources.
As you may have guessed by now, I did not read this anecdote in Oshagan, Tololian, and Janashian (three of our most learned literary historians of the last century) but in a biographical study sent to me by one of Raffi's descendants (may she rest in peace) who asked me to read and return it. Which I did. As a result, I am sorry to inform you, I am in no position to give you chapter and verse. Feel free therefore to dismiss it as anti-Armenian propaganda.

Two headlines grab my attention today:
“Overreactions are a sign of insecurity,” and
“Politicians should be held to a higher standard.”
We are not who we think we are.
Our enemies are not who we think they are.
Neither are we who they think we are.
And what we think is not what we really think
but what we were brought up to think.
What is history if not a tragedy of errors?
Now then, go ahead and make dogmatic assertions.
America has two faces: America the Beautiful and America the Ugly.
God Save America and God damn America.
Sarah Palin and Reverend Wright.
This could be said of all nations, including our own.
How to explain the smart, tough, savvy Armenian who turns into a sanctimonious prick when he speaks of his homeland?
The answer must be, textbooks. Textbooks by nationalist historians in whose carefully edited words colonizers and imperialists are represented as benefactors whose central concern is civilizing (or is it syphilizing?) barbarians; aggressive wars are called defensive wars; terrorists are identified as freedom fighters; and the massacre of defenseless women and children as enemy propaganda.
How to explain revolutions, civil wars, and internecine conflicts? That's a tricky one, but it can be done. One way to do is to see them as necessary and inevitable stages towards progress. If Hitler had won World II, the Holocaust would have been described as an act of sanitation.
Children will believe anything, including Santa Claus, the Tooth Faerie, and a shower of golden apples after each tale.
What happens when children grow up?
Some never do -- if by growing up means giving up illusions.
Speaking for myself, I loathe lies, liars, and propagandists. They are at the root of all intolerance, wars, and massacres.
Self deception is not a blessing but a curse.
Only after propaganda is seen as a crime against humanity may we have honest historians who will call a spade a spade. If this be an illusion, I like to believe it is a harmless one because its aim is to replace hatred with understanding and war with peaceful coexistence.

For every wise man who says “I know nothing,”
there are a hundred fools who know everything.
No one hates his fellow countrymen more than a superpatriot.
We assess ourselves in the hope others will agree with us.
When a man cannot come to terms with his reality,
he kills himself.
That doesn't mean everyone who is alive today
deserves to live.
My friends come in singles,
my enemies in bunches – fools, fanatics,
dupes, dividers, partisans, and in general
anyone who deals in more certainties than doubts.
When they praise us,
we don't ask for proof or documentation.
When in doubt, make dogmatic assertions.
Dupes are a dime a dozen.

“If he writes for Armenians, he must be a loser.”
That's what the average Armenian reader thinks of me, and for once I agree with him. The offspring of a failed nation, I am a loser who writes for losers.
“If you want to succeed, write for odars.”
When it comes to offering unsolicited advice, an Armenian's generosity knows no bounds.
Write for odars! Isn't that what Arlen and Saroyan did?
Zarian didn't (a greater writer than both) and he was ignored, neglected, and died in Yerevan (he believed he was murdered) a lonely, bitter old man. But he was luckier than most of his contemporaries who were betrayed and murdered at a much younger age.
We have been at the mercy of losers who have promoted a phony image of ourselves to cover up their own incompetence. If you don't agree with me, that's your business. My business is to be objective, because I believe only when we realize how low we have fallen may we hope to rise again.
A few years ago Leo Hamalian (may he rest in peace) published a book titled AS OTHERS SEE US. Around the same time (1979) I too published an anthology titled ARMENIA OBSERVED, travel impressions of Armenia by famous odar writers. Both books were published by Ararat Press in New York with AGBU money. Which means, the contents were carefully selected and edited to promote a positive image of Armenia and Armenians.
More recently, when I published a balanced and objective assessment titled DICTIONARY OF ARMENIAN QUOTATIONS, I received many hostile comments because I had dared to include unflattering opinions by, among others, Raffi, Baronian, Odian, Zohrab, Siamanto, Varoujan, Aghbalian, Shahnour, Zarian, and Massikian.
At one time our writers were not afraid to see things as they are to say what they think. The Genocide appears to have changed all that. Objectivity has now been replaced with compassion, compassion with pity, and pity with self-pity. Result? Writers have been replaced with brown-nosers, literature with propaganda, and patriotism with borodakhos and unpardavan verbiage signifying nothing.

Just when I think I have run out of things to say, I run into a gentle reader who recharges my batteries and renews my dedication to carry on. It is at times like these that I am tempted once more to believe in the existence of god and to say, “Thank you, Lord!”
Patriotism means love of country as well as fellow countrymen. If you define patriotism only as love of country, remember that some of the worse criminals in the history of mankind (among them Hitler, Mussolini, Franco) were great patriots and it was Stalin that called World War II the “Patriotic War.”
If he rhapsodizes about national pride and patriotic love but is silent about free speech and human rights, he qualifies.
If you plan to contribute a long-winded diatribe to a forum, don't worry about getting your facts straight or even making sense. Worry instead about being readable.
During an argument, resist the temptation of using abusive language, adopting a holier-than-thou stance, or going down into the gutter in the hope you will not be followed there. The gutter is not a place for victory but of defeat and surrender.

Ara Baliozian


S.S. Aya said...

Thanks to Ara for another warm self-analysis!
I know the "mirror" he is speaking about. I have a similar one and have been looking into it, fearlessly allmy life (the same way he dares)!
Re "Born Again":
We can be cheated "many times" by many; but NOT ALL TIMES, by everyone! It takes "time for TRUTH to PREVAIL" and less time to distort/invert it!

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