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Old 05.01.2008, 18:41   #1
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An excerpt from
Pages From My Diary, 1986-1995
by Ara Baliozian
*************************************************
Excerpts (Part I)
1986
Somewhere George Orwell says that at fifty everyone has the face he deserves. Whenever I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror I can't help thinking: This isn't quite what I had in mind. But then, I say this about a great many other things: my fellow men, life, the meaning of life, or rather its meaninglessness.
1987
All people with a long history of oppression are short-tempered. When an Armenian loses his temper, the message he is trying to convey is: "I took it from the Turks for a thousand years; I don't have to take it from you." The "I" of course stands not just for himself but for all his ancestors as well—or his collective unconscious.
Whenever I read a book by an odar Armenologist, I cannot help thinking that he is more interested in our past than in our future. He values our antiquities much more than ourselves. These academics will probably be happier if we were to vanish from the face of the earth, thus providing them with a clear-cut ending and a final chapter to their field of inquiry.
Whenever I read a critical letter from one of my readers, I am reminded of a friend who runs a pizza parlor. "Armenians are hard to please", he is fond of saying. "Everyone likes my pizza, except Armenians—they always have something critical to say. Some day if you ever go into pizza business you will know what I mean."
I have never bothered to explain to him that I am myself a battle-scarred veteran of many wars; and that unlike the owner of a pizzeria, an Armenian writer is asked to bear not just the cross but also the cost of Armenian literature.
Nothing can be more repellent to me than the self-satisfied smile of someone who thinks he has got it made. Whenever I see such a smile on the cover of a magazine, I feel like going down on my knees and saying: "O God, allow me to die a miserable failure in order that I may never smile like that."

1988
A reader writes: "In one of your articles dealing with wealth, you speak of pirates and merchants as if these two terms were interchangeable. As a businessman myself, I resent that very much. I think you owe all businessmen an apology."
This businessman is right, trade is superior to piracy. But on this point, let me quote the words of an old wise man: "Trade is much superior to piracy. You can rob and kill a man but once, but you can cheat him again and again."
It is a mistake to think of writers as members of an exclusive club - self-centered eccentrics overly fond of abstractions that have little or no bearing on reality and our daily existence. There are no fundamental differences between writers and ordinary human beings.
The most important difference between an ordinary human being and a writer is that a writer has discovered a way or developed a skill which allows him to transfer his inner world onto a piece of paper—that's all.
To those who say: Since writers are no better than the rest of us, why should we bother with them? I say: To ignore a writer's words would be as risky as ignoring or dismissing the advice of a physician, an electrician, a plumber, or for that matter, a garbage collector.
The earthquake may have been an act of God, but we, all of us, must bear some degree of responsibility for its tragic—and tragic to the point of being genocidal—dimensions.
When I speak of catastrophes I have in mind the kind that can be prevented. Man-made catastrophes as opposed to acts of God. Catastrophes can be easily foreseen if we decide to open our eyes and choose not to take refuge in prejudice, ignorance, and apathy.
Again and again I have heard Armenians say: "God must have something against us!" or, "We are not God's Chosen People but Cursed People!" I say, we can no longer afford holding God responsible for all our misfortunes. We must learn to accept responsibility. Because earthquakes don't kill people; buildings do.

1989
It is a mistake to name our schools after millionaires because it sets our children a bad example. Since every illiterate may become a millionaire, a child may be justified in thinking that he doesn't have to bother with arithmetic and spelling because when he grows up he will be a millionaire; and as everyone knows, a millionaire can always hire a secretary and an accountant (who are a dime a dozen) who will handle both his spelling and arithmetic.
If the choice is between schools that bear a millionaire's name and no school at all: then let us at least have the decency to explain to our children that our hands are tied and that the name of the school is a matter of necessity rather than free choice,and that financial profit and the accumulation of wealth are not the noblest and most admirable pursuits in life.
So much valuable time is wasted in life to prove to morons that you are not a moron.
Loyal, dependable reliable: I loathe these terms. Superiors use them to describe those they exploit. I have worked for a large variety of employers none of whom was, and for that matter, cared to be, loyal, dependable, and reliable. Loyal to profit, yes. Loyal to their employees, certainly not. Loyal to principles and ideals—don't make me laugh.
The two supreme aims of American behavioral sciences: (i) How to make workers more productive; and (ii) How to make consumers more greedy. Understand this and you will understand many other facets of American life.
Thomas Carlyle: "I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."
Will anyone ever brag that he studied political science in Beirut, literary criticism in Teheran, historiography in Ankara, and architecture in Yerevan?
There are people whose only talent consists in being consistently wrong, and they are the very same people who insist on telling others what to think.
A novelist once said that whenever he takes a dislike at someone he puts him in a book and draws royalties on him. I do the same minus the royalty part.
Oscar Wilde in De Profundis : Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinion, their lives a mimicry, their passion a quotation."
Anton Chekhov in his Notebooks : "The university brings out all abilities, including stupidity."

1990
Sometimes in the middle of the night I receive telephone calls from distant places by individuals in search of immortality. These individuals seem to think that I have influence in those places where immortality is dispensed. I try to explain to them that I have problems of my own, that I can't even make ends meet, that my so-called influence is a figment of their imagination, that the status of an Armenian writer in our communities is that between a janitor and an unemployable misfit, and that even if I were to write to a flunky, the chances are I would be completely ignored.
The Arabs castrate rapists and cut off the hands of thieves. Both procedures may be viewed as forms of censorship. Literary censorship is even more barbaric because it attempts to castrate or maim the expression of man's mind and soul. Literary censorship is the first step on the road that leads to massacre.
Some of our academics appear to have made the brilliant discovery that, the more useless and irrelevant their field of expertise, the more they can count on institutional support. I am personally acquainted with academics who know everything that happened to us 70 or even 700 years ago but pretend to know nothing about what's happening today in their own community.
"Why have you given up writing?" I ask a friend who until very recently contributed regularly to our press.
"How can you go on writing?" he replies.
A good question. I wish I knew the answer
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Old 09.01.2008, 17:55   #2
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Sunday, January 06, 2008
*********************************************
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?
#
Monday, January 07, 2008
*****************************************************
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.
*
MY EPITAPH
************************
“Here lies a man who may have been the cause of a few moments’ insomnia to a handful of loudmouth hooligans parading as superpatriots.”
*
DISAGREEMENT
************************************
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 as 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.
*
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.
*
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.”
#
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
*************************************************
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.
*
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.
*
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.
*
Ask a dupe to define free speech and he will say it consists in the freedom to recycle his favorite brand of propaganda.
*
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.
*
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).
*
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.
*
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.
*
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 must, but do not think of me as your enemy.
#
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
********************************************
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.”
*
ON NATIONALISM
*******************************************************
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.”
*
General Antranik (1865-1927): “I am not a nationalist. I recognize only one nation, the nation of the oppressed.”
#
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Old 12.01.2008, 17:47   #3
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Thursday, January 10, 2008
*******************************************
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.
*
DEMOCRACY RUN AMOK
**************************************
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.
*
ON POPULARITY
*********************************
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.
*
ON BEING POSITIVE
*********************************
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.
*
WRITERS
*************************
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.
#
Friday, January 11, 2008
*****************************************
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.
#
Saturday, January 12, 2008
******************************************
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.
*
No one can be as dangerous as the brain-dead who believes his convictions are his.
*
To think and to think you are thinking are two entirely different activities.
*
To our superpatriots I ask: What do you say to fellow Armenians whose favorite mantra is “Mart bidi ch’ellank”?
*
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.
*
To reduce life to the point that one can think only of massacres: I can’t imagine anything more narrow, negative, and ultimately hateful.
*
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.
*
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.
#
"Intellect is invisible to the man who has none."
Arthur Schopenhauer
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Old 12.01.2008, 18:00   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arabaliozian View Post
Thursday, January 10, 2008

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.
*
#
"Intellect is invisible to the man who has none."
Arthur Schopenhauer
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