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Old 26.11.2008, 18:40   #61
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Sunday, November 23, 2008
****************************************
WE ARE CIVILIZED PEOPLE
********************************************
An investigative reporter has been severely beaten up in Armenia.
We don't do that sort of thing here.
We are not Asiatic barbarians.
We are civilized.
Besides, it's against the law.
In the words of an Armenian moderator:
“No four-letter words on this forum, please! We don't go for that ****.”
Our brothers in the Homeland may operate within a lawless environment.
We don't. That's a luxury we can't afford.
We are civilized people.
If we want to have someone silenced, we simply shut him up.
It's the easiest thing in the world. All it takes is a phone call to the publisher.
Not even the need to mention withdrawal of financial support.
Yes, sir! We are a civilized bunch here.
Not Asiatic barbarians.
This is a rule and like all rules it has its exceptions, of course.
Once, when the editor/publisher of a California weekly allowed the publication of an exposй, he was beaten within an inch of his life.
The perps were never caught.
It was rumored that they were imported talent and by the time the crime was reported to the police, they were on their way to the Middle East somewhere.
On another occasion, when the editor/publisher of another weekly published an exposй about the tax-deductible shenanigans of one of our charitable institutions, he was dragged to court, was almost taken to the cleaners, had a stroke, and lost on a technicality because, unlike the charitable institution, he couldn't afford belly-slitting lawyers who were fully aware of the fact that the reporter's “deep throats” would refuse to testify for him because doing so would mean losing their only source of income.
It is the height of hypocrisy to express outrage at a beaten up investigative reporter in Armenia and completely ignore the filth in which we are drowning here.
We preach democracy there but we practice fascism here and we refuse to see a contradiction. And we refuse to see a contradiction because this convenient blindness allows us to assume a holier-than-thou stance, and we are all addicted to asserting moral and patriotic superiority.
Yes, sir!
We are not Asiatic barbarians here.
We are syphilized people.
#
Monday, November 24, 2008
****************************************
URBAN LEGENDS
********************************************
Racial superiority is an urban legend fabricated by inflated egos for inferior minds.
*
Some say Cain was a Turk, and Abel an Armenian. Others say it was the other way around.
*
ALL MEN ARE BROTHERS
***********************************
Give an Armenian fanatic anonymity and a computer with Internet access and watch him commit verbal massacre.
*
Give Armenians a superior army and an inferior enemy and watch them commit crimes against humanity, and afterwards pass a law against insulting Armenishness.
*
NOTA BENE
************************
We hate the enemy because we understand ourselves.
*
All organized religions have failed. If they continue to have followers it's because any meaning, even when meaningless, is better than no meaning.
*
Strong convictions are the surest symptoms of weak minds.
*
SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE
****************************************
To brainwash an Armenian is easy, to reason with him, impossible. I was brainwashed once and was not open to reason or, for that matter, to common sense and decency, let alone Christian compassion and Kantian ethics.
#
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
****************************************
PIRATES
********************************************
What is the difference between Somalian pirates who hijack cargo ships and demand ransom money on the one hand, and on the other, American chief executive officers who run their company to the ground, give themselves fat salaries and handsome bonuses, travel by private jet, and demand billions from tax-payers? Two differences: (one) the pirates' financial demands are infinitely more modest, and (two) when caught, the pirates are treated like common criminals.
*
HIJACKERS OF CULTURE
***************************************
All of German literature, philosophy, and music produced Hitler. All of Armenian literature, music, and architecture produced the morally bankrupt loud-mouth philistine who parades as defender of the faith and is taken seriously by dupes.
*
ENEMIES
*************************
When an Armenian disagrees with you, he disagrees not only with your views but also with your existence. The Golden Age of this type of Armenian was turn-of-the-century Istanbul, and the first decades of the Soviet era when all it took was an anonymous phone call to the authorities.
*
It goes without saying that if you speak in defense of human rights, free speech, and democracy, you will acquire fascist enemies.
#
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
****************************************
TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE
********************************************
A church is first and foremost a house of God, and I have no doubt whatever in my mind that the Good Lord would welcome Catholic as well as Protestant and Loussavorchagan (both Etchmiadznagan and Cilician) worshipers within His walls. Consider the millions we could save for the needy in the Homeland and in the process may be even save the soul of the community. I am not talking about church unity here, only of putting existing real estate to more responsible use. Needless to add, what I say about churches also applies to community centers and schools.
*
An insider once told me, one of the two Armenian cathedrals in New York City employs as many as 83 people, among them professional fund-raisers, in addition to advertising the sale of Oriental rugs within its walls (including rugs made in Turkey) in the NEW YORK TIMES.
*
Why do we need two bishops when one would be more than enough? I once knew a bishop who had so much time on his hands that he wrote derivative poetry, which is what I said in my review of his first collection of verse. That may have put an end to his career as a vodanavorji, because I never heard from him again.
*
To end these depressing thoughts on a positive note: It is said of two Armenians on a desert island that they built three churches. When asked by their rescuers about the purpose of the third church, they had explained: “That's the one we don't go to.”
#
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Old 29.11.2008, 17:55   #62
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Thursday, November 27, 2008
****************************************
THE BIGGER THEY ARE
THE HARDER THEY FALL
********************************************
We are told again and again that some financial institutions and industries in America are too big to fail. What nonsense! Empires rise and fall, and when they fall, people are liberated from the grip of blood****ers. Who are the blood****ers today? If you ask chief executive officers, they will name the unions and their bosses, never their own greed and incompetence.
*
Mighty empires are not born but made, and they are made by an elite of creative people who successfully confront challenges and solve problems. But in time these creative individuals are followed by incompetent and corrupt operators without vision. That's when empires decline and fall. The same applies to major economic enterprises. But don't expect the executives to admit as much because, like Armenians, they are masters of the blame game. They will blame everyone but themselves. Their blindness is such that they will travel by private jet and beg taxpayers' money, and they will do this with the arrogant certainty they are too big to fail. Sooner or later, however, they will have to come to terms with reality, which is, not even God can save a man or a power structure that is set on self-destruction.
*
The USSR was bigger than all the financial institutions and car manufacturers in America combined, but neither Marx and Engels, nor Lenin and Stalin could postpone its disintegration by a fraction of a second. The same applies to Ford, Freddie Mac, and the rest. Reality has fixed the time of their downfall, and neither Bush nor Obama can alter it.
#
Friday, November 28, 2008
****************************************
FIVE FAVORITE BOOKS
********************************************
THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN by Thomas Mann. What Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms are to German music, Mann is to German literature.
*
RECONSIDERATIONS: Volume 12 of A STUDY OF HISTORY by Arnold J. Toynbee. Beneath a proper, academic veneer, Toynbee is a thoroughly anti-establishment thinker.
*
THE SABRES OF PARADISE by Lesley Blanch. A history of 19th-century Caucasus that reads like a historical novel by Dumas and Tolstoy.
*
LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov. The magic of a brilliant stylist transforms a continental pedophile and a spoiled American brat into fascinating Dostoevskian characters.
*
FAREWELL, MY LOVELY by Raymond Chandler. In his hand American slang acquires the irresistible charm of pure poetry, and Los Angeles becomes as mesmerizing a place as Dostoevsky's St. Petersburg, Mann's Davos, and Lesley Blanch's Caucasus.
*
These are not books to be read once, but faithful companions to be cherished to the end of one's life.
*
P.S. I have not mentioned books from our literature because I don't wish to make myself vulnerable to the charge of promoting my own work as translator.
#
Saturday, November 29, 2008
****************************************
A REPUBLIC OF LIES
********************************************
In the republic of charlatans, honest men are outlaws.
*
It is not at all unusual for a man to believe in his own lies. That's the only way to explain why some smart people make dumb assertions. To lie is not only cowardly but also a direct assault on our intelligence.
*
We are a very young democracy, I am informed once in a while. We shouldn't be too critical of the regime. I am also told we are “the cradle of civilization.” I feel therefore justified in asking what is so civilized about greed, corruption, incompetence, and abuse of power? Unless of course we are willing to concede that after living under barbarians for many centuries, we have adopted their ways and it may take many more centuries for us to recover our status as civilized human beings.
*
Being critical of Armenians in open forums may reflect badly on us, I am also told. But this amounts to saying we can't afford being honest in public – and that to me is the greatest insult that can be leveled against the nation.
*
Wellington's dictum on British soldiers: “the scum of the earth enlisted for drink.”
*
Think of an Armenian friend as a potential enemy and he will not disappoint you.
*
Perhaps what I am trying to do is educating not my fellow Armenians but myself, and by educating myself I mean recovering my humanity; and if I ever succeed in that endeavor, I will fall silent because “he who speaks does not know.”
#
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Old 03.12.2008, 19:14   #63
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Sunday, November 30, 2008
****************************************
BOMBAY
********************************************
We may call it Mumbai, but i am told Indians themselves prefer to call it Bombay.
*
MUSLIM TERRORISM IN INDIA
***************************************
“Hindus and Muslims must work together to overcome rising level of terrorism in India,” reads a headline of a commentary by a pundit. What this pundit doesn't tell us is that Muslim resentment against Hindus in India runs as deep as Armenian resentment against Turks, Black resentment against Whites, and Jewish resentment against anti-Semites (who now prefer to identify themselves as anti-Zionists). Hinduism is said to be one of the most tolerant religions. Not so from the perspective of the Untouchables who, following the Muslim conquests in India, converted to Islam because they were told, in the eyes of Allah all men are equal. In the eyes of Allah, maybe; but in the eyes of their fellow Hindus they continued to be treated as subhuman Untouchables. Which meant they had to put up with a lot of Hindu crap (literally). I am not justifying terrorism, only providing the context.
*
THE HOMELAND AND THE DIASPORA
******************************************
In Armenia we have a regime. In the Diaspora we have a dysfunctional collection of communities with tribal loyalties. In that sense, the Homeland is ahead of us. Some day there may be progress there. I am less optimistic about the Diaspora.
*
OUR PROBLEMS
*********************************
They are as old as mankind. So are their solutions. When someone says “we need solutions,” he speaks two lies: (one) mankind has at no time experienced what we are experiencing today; and (two) all of human thought moves in a dimension that is outside our orbit.
#
Monday, December 1, 2008
****************************************
WANTED: MANDELA
*********************************
In the opinion page of our paper I read this morning that Nelson Mandela's struggle against apartheid was one reason why Obama decided to enter politics. I suspect several other names had something to do with that decision, among them Martin Luther King, whose role model was Gandhi, who in his turn was greatly influenced by Tolstoy's doctrine of non-violence and Thoreau's ideas on civil disobedience. Mandela reminds me of a reader who once sent me a venomous e-mail in which the kindest thing he said was that I was a total failure and I would never amount to anything because I did not qualify as Armenia's Nelson Mandela. All I can say in my defense is that I have been and continue to be a great admirer of Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Gandhi.
*
Internecine conflict is the opium of the Armenians, oneupmanship their favorite pursuit, and the blame-game their favorite sport.
*
If all anti-Semites are as dumb as Armenian anti-Semites, the Jews are justified in clinging to the absurd notion that they are the Chosen.
*
When liars speak of freedom, they mean the freedom to brainwash and deceive.
*
Every superficial explanation echoes a propaganda line and appears to make perfect sense to those who think they are thinking. That is why the world is in the kind of mess it is in.
*
The problem: we are what we have become because we are not open to explanations. The solution: tabula rasa, or the assumption that we know nothing or everything we know is without foundation in reality. Not an easy position to assume for an Armenian who has been brainwashed to believe he is smart, he knows all he needs to know, he knows better, and if explanations are needed, they will flow from him, never from the opposite direction.
*
I don't write for readers who know better but for readers who are as confused as I am, readers who have more questions than answers, more doubts than certainties, more ignorance than knowledge, readers who are more foolish than wise. If I were half as wise as most of my readers, I would say, if hell is your destination, who am I to obstruct your path?
#
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
****************************************
ARMENIANS IN ISTANBUL
*********************************
In his superbly illustrated coffee-table book, NEW EUROPE, Michael Palin has a section on Armenians in Istanbul, where he discusses the assassination of Hrant Dink, the photographer Ara Guler (“a Jew and also an Armenian”), and “a debonair art dealer” by the name of Raffi Portakal.
*
No need to read any further: I may be repeating myself. But then, what choice do I have? Suppose you have a suicidal friend: what choice do you have but to keep telling him life is better than death, until he realizes he has been on the wrong path and chooses to embrace life with all its failures, miseries, and troubles, like the rest of mankind.
*
If our perception of reality has been shaped by our educational system, in what way are we different from the average Turk? Next question: To what extent our leadership uses Turkish criminal conduct to cover up its own blunders and incompetence? For more on the moral and intellectual degeneration of our turn-of-the-century leadership in the Ottoman Empire, read Baronian and Odian, most of whose works, for obvious reasons, are not available in English.
*
A gentleman never insults another anonymously. I dare anyone to enter an Armenian discussion forum where anonymity is the rule and find there a single gentleman, or for that matter, lady.
*
And speaking of anonymous Armenians: you may notice that the more patriotic they are, the lower they sink.
#
Wednesday, December 23, 2008
****************************************
HISTORIANS, METAHISTORIANS,
GHAZETAJIS AND PROPAGANDISTS
**************************************************
History is not a science or a belief system, but an art. Instead of saying, I believe this is what happened, we should say, according to some historians or eyewitness accounts, or official documents, etc.
Trial lawyers will tell you eyewitness accounts are not always reliable; official documents can be doctored, edited, selected, destroyed, and even forged; and for every historian who says one thing there will be another who says something else and sometimes even the exact opposite. This is especially true of nationalist historians who are ideologically or politically compromised. In the eyes of metahistorians (philosophers of history like Spengler and Toynbee) nationalist historians are no better than propagandists.
Speaking of Toynbee: it is widely known that he at no time denied the reality of the Armenian genocide, and this even after he acquired Turkish friends, heard their side of the story, became a Turcophile, and learned the Turkish language. The difference between Toynbee and our nationalist historians is that Toynbee exposed not only the criminal conduct of the Turks but also the blunders of our own leadership, something our historians have at no time dared to do; which may suggest they have not dared to say everything that needed to be said; in other words, their version of the past is only partly true (which is also how propaganda is defined). I feel therefore justified in suggesting that under the guise of supporting our cause, our nationalist historians and Turcocentric ghazetajis have succeeded only in damaging our credibility in the eyes of the world and thus reducing the issue to the status of political football.
#
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Old 03.12.2008, 19:18   #64
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Sunday, November 30, 2008
****************************************
BOMBAY
********************************************
We may call it Mumbai, but i am told Indians themselves prefer to call it Bombay.
*
MUSLIM TERRORISM IN INDIA
***************************************
“Hindus and Muslims must work together to overcome rising level of terrorism in India,” reads a headline of a commentary by a pundit. What this pundit doesn't tell us is that Muslim resentment against Hindus in India runs as deep as Armenian resentment against Turks, Black resentment against Whites, and Jewish resentment against anti-Semites (who now prefer to identify themselves as anti-Zionists). Hinduism is said to be one of the most tolerant religions. Not so from the perspective of the Untouchables who, following the Muslim conquests in India, converted to Islam because they were told, in the eyes of Allah all men are equal. In the eyes of Allah, maybe; but in the eyes of their fellow Hindus they continued to be treated as subhuman Untouchables. Which meant they had to put up with a lot of Hindu crap (literally). I am not justifying terrorism, only providing the context.
*
THE HOMELAND AND THE DIASPORA
******************************************
In Armenia we have a regime. In the Diaspora we have a dysfunctional collection of communities with tribal loyalties. In that sense, the Homeland is ahead of us. Some day there may be progress there. I am less optimistic about the Diaspora.
*
OUR PROBLEMS
*********************************
They are as old as mankind. So are their solutions. When someone says “we need solutions,” he speaks two lies: (one) mankind has at no time experienced what we are experiencing today; and (two) all of human thought moves in a dimension that is outside our orbit.
#
Monday, December 1, 2008
****************************************
WANTED: MANDELA
*********************************
In the opinion page of our paper I read this morning that Nelson Mandela's struggle against apartheid was one reason why Obama decided to enter politics. I suspect several other names had something to do with that decision, among them Martin Luther King, whose role model was Gandhi, who in his turn was greatly influenced by Tolstoy's doctrine of non-violence and Thoreau's ideas on civil disobedience. Mandela reminds me of a reader who once sent me a venomous e-mail in which the kindest thing he said was that I was a total failure and I would never amount to anything because I did not qualify as Armenia's Nelson Mandela. All I can say in my defense is that I have been and continue to be a great admirer of Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Gandhi.
*
Internecine conflict is the opium of the Armenians, oneupmanship their favorite pursuit, and the blame-game their favorite sport.
*
If all anti-Semites are as dumb as Armenian anti-Semites, the Jews are justified in clinging to the absurd notion that they are the Chosen.
*
When liars speak of freedom, they mean the freedom to brainwash and deceive.
*
Every superficial explanation echoes a propaganda line and appears to make perfect sense to those who think they are thinking. That is why the world is in the kind of mess it is in.
*
The problem: we are what we have become because we are not open to explanations. The solution: tabula rasa, or the assumption that we know nothing or everything we know is without foundation in reality. Not an easy position to assume for an Armenian who has been brainwashed to believe he is smart, he knows all he needs to know, he knows better, and if explanations are needed, they will flow from him, never from the opposite direction.
*
I don't write for readers who know better but for readers who are as confused as I am, readers who have more questions than answers, more doubts than certainties, more ignorance than knowledge, readers who are more foolish than wise. If I were half as wise as most of my readers, I would say, if hell is your destination, who am I to obstruct your path?
#
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
****************************************
ARMENIANS IN ISTANBUL
*********************************
In his superbly illustrated coffee-table book, NEW EUROPE, Michael Palin has a section on Armenians in Istanbul, where he discusses the assassination of Hrant Dink, the photographer Ara Guler (“a Jew and also an Armenian”), and “a debonair art dealer” by the name of Raffi Portakal.
*
No need to read any further: I may be repeating myself. But then, what choice do I have? Suppose you have a suicidal friend: what choice do you have but to keep telling him life is better than death, until he realizes he has been on the wrong path and chooses to embrace life with all its failures, miseries, and troubles, like the rest of mankind.
*
If our perception of reality has been shaped by our educational system, in what way are we different from the average Turk? Next question: To what extent our leadership uses Turkish criminal conduct to cover up its own blunders and incompetence? For more on the moral and intellectual degeneration of our turn-of-the-century leadership in the Ottoman Empire, read Baronian and Odian, most of whose works, for obvious reasons, are not available in English.
*
A gentleman never insults another anonymously. I dare anyone to enter an Armenian discussion forum where anonymity is the rule and find there a single gentleman, or for that matter, lady.
*
And speaking of anonymous Armenians: you may notice that the more patriotic they are, the lower they sink.
#
Wednesday, December 23, 2008
****************************************
HISTORIANS, METAHISTORIANS,
GHAZETAJIS AND PROPAGANDISTS
**************************************************
History is not a science or a belief system, but an art. Instead of saying, I believe this is what happened, we should say, according to some historians or eyewitness accounts, or official documents, etc.
Trial lawyers will tell you eyewitness accounts are not always reliable; official documents can be doctored, edited, selected, destroyed, and even forged; and for every historian who says one thing there will be another who says something else and sometimes even the exact opposite. This is especially true of nationalist historians who are ideologically or politically compromised. In the eyes of metahistorians (philosophers of history like Spengler and Toynbee) nationalist historians are no better than propagandists.
Speaking of Toynbee: it is widely known that he at no time denied the reality of the Armenian genocide, and this even after he acquired Turkish friends, heard their side of the story, became a Turcophile, and learned the Turkish language. The difference between Toynbee and our nationalist historians is that Toynbee exposed not only the criminal conduct of the Turks but also the blunders of our own leadership, something our historians have at no time dared to do; which may suggest they have not dared to say everything that needed to be said; in other words, their version of the past is only partly true (which is also how propaganda is defined). I feel therefore justified in suggesting that under the guise of supporting our cause, our nationalist historians and Turcocentric ghazetajis have succeeded only in damaging our credibility in the eyes of the world and thus reducing the issue to the status of political football.
#
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Old 06.12.2008, 17:58   #65
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Thursday, December 4, 2008
****************************************
ON SPEECHIFIERS, SERMONIZERS,
AND RELATED ATRCOTITIES
**************************************************
If you want to understand the soul of a nation, read its writers.
If you want to know the way people deceive themselves, read a collection of political speeches.
*
You may ignore writers, but you cannot ignore the voice of your conscience. That is why the first thing tyrants do is silence writers.
*
Everything I have been saying could be reduced to a single sentence: “Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.”
*
I repeat myself only to the same degree that our sermonizers paraphrase the Scriptures.
I remember once when I said as much, the secretary of a bishop wrote an angry letter to the editor saying in effect, how dare I compare myself to the prophets of the Bible?
If our sermonizers paraphrase prophets, I paraphrase Plato; and as far as I know, no one in his right mind has ever dared to suggest that Jewish prophets are greater thinkers than Greek philosophers.
*
Deception and self-deception are favorite themes of the Scriptures.
Adam and Eve allowing themselves to be taken in by the Serpent who, according to my anti-American friends from the Middle East, was an agent of the CIA in disguise.
Moses thinking he can take a short leave of absence without losing his grip on the people.
Consider the case of the muscleman/ judge Samson and his nemesis/barber Delilah. And Goliath laughing at his puny but technologically more advance challenger armed with a stick.
God Himself fooling poor old man Abraham into thinking that He wants him to butcher his own son Isaac.
Last but not least, consider the present economic crisis hatched by the very same financial and political leaders whose responsibility it is to protect the interests of the people, and afterwards making demands on taxpayers' money for a bailout, thus trying to defraud the people for the second time.
Now then, go ahead and try to convince me that our own blood****ers are morally superior to their counterparts in the West.
#
Friday, December 5, 2008
****************************************
MYSTICISM AND PRAGMATISM
**************************************************
Like most people, Armenians too are easily satisfied with one side of the story. I once had the following conversation with a Tashnak friend, a woman in her fifties. When after reading an exposé on Tashnak shenanigans I mentioned it to her, she wanted to know where I had read it.
“In one of our weeklies,” I said.
“Ramgavar?”
“No, chezok.”
“Lies.”
“Its main source is a former high-ranking Tashnak.”
“A turncoat.”
“Don't you want to read it?”
“No!”
“Why not?”
“A waste of time.”
“What if it's true?”
“I don't think so.”
*
In politics I am a liberal, but once in a while I enjoy reading conservative pundits because I learn there things that I would never learn in the liberal press.
*
I am a great admirer of Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, and Sartre, but I find it stimulating reading critics like Koestler and Nabokov (whom I also admire) willing to speak of the dark side of the moon.
*
One reason I love rereading Toynbee's RECONSIDERATIONS (volume 12 of his STUDY OF HISTORY) is that in it he quotes all his critics – except Trevor-Roper – and on occasion is willing to plead guilty as charged. And the reason he doesn't quote Trevor-Roper is that Trevor-Roper didn't just disagree with him; he wanted him tarred and feathered on the grounds that he (Toynbee) had strayed from the straight and narrow path of empiricism and pragmatism into the vague and amorphous realm of mysticism by saying the only way to establish permanent peace in the world was by uniting all religions into a single universal religion. Recent events have proved Toynbee more right than wrong, and Trevor-Roper more wrong than right. Establishing one universal religion may seem Utopian, but it doesn't necessarily follow mankind cannot move in that direction by being less dogmatic and more tolerant. After millennia of conflict and two world wars, who would have thought some day European Union would become a reality in our own time?
*
At the center of all our problems stands a Trevor-Roper who would like to see anyone who doesn't agree with him tarred and feathered or branded as a liar and an enemy.
#
Saturday, December 6, 2008
****************************************
CLINGING TO THE WRECKAGE
**************************************************
You cannot solve a nation's problems the way you solve mathematical, scientific, medical, or philosophical problems. Power is not open to reason or common sense and decency. Those in power will not give it up without a bloody fight, Hegel says somewhere, and so it is.
A friend of mine, a philosopher, tried to expose the roots of our problems in a philosophical treatise of over 500 pages. Now he is not allowed to enter Armenia. Long before my friend, a Greek philosopher tried to convince Athenian politicians that they cannot discharge their duties as rulers if their ideas are based on false definitions, and we all know what happened to him: he was arrested, tried, found guilty, and condemned to death.
Marx came very close in his efforts to prove with mathematical precision that capitalism is a dead man walking, and yet, it took bloody revolutions everywhere from Russia, China, and Cuba to convince those in power to give it up.
Where there is free speech, you may speak truth to power (whether power will listen remains to be seen). But in an authoritarian or corrupt environment, the only result of speaking truth to power from a safe distance will be making the speaker feel morally or intellectually superior.
Do you want to end prostitution, corruption, incompetence, and violations of human rights in our beloved homeland? Go ahead and write an essay, a letter to the editor, a declaration signed by a hundred or even a thousand names, but don't be disappointed if nothing happens.
At this point you may well ask: “Why do you go on writing then?” My answer is a simple one: habit – and habits, as everyone knows, are easier to keep than to give up. Add to habit the satisfaction of seeing a pompous ass deflated, a charlatan ridiculed, and a liar exposed. Last but not least, I write because irreverence where irreverence is due is a virtue, and I have so few of them that I cling to those I have like a drowning man clings to the wreckage.
#
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Old 17.12.2008, 19:06   #66
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Sunday, December 14, 2008
****************************************
SUMMING UP (II)
**************************************************
Free speech is a fundamental human right not only for men who know and understand everything and are therefore seldom or never wrong, but also for poor mortals whose knowledge and understanding are limited and whose opinions are more often than not more wrong than right.
*
A man with a heavy burden of guilt is safer to deal with than a man who is innocent by reason of insanity or absence of conscience.
*
A Turk who can tell right from wrong is morally superior to an Armenian who violates someone's human right in the name of patriotism.
*
To say, because I know better and am therefore better qualified to silence you, is at the root of all massacres. To put it differently: All crimes against humanity begin with the violation of a single individual's human rights.
*
I have yet to meet a patriotic Armenian with more certainties than doubts who did not harbor fascist sentiments.
*
The brainless are more easily brainwashed to believe, even when they behave like swine, they are fully qualified to assert moral superiority.
*
To those who say I have been silenced because I am an irrelevant mediocrity of no interest to the general reader, I say: Not all of us are endowed with superior intellects or able to discriminate what is and is not relevant.
*
Nothing comes easier to a self-assessed genius than to look down on his fellow men as misguided fools in need of his political, intellectual, and moral guidance.
*
Like all nations we too have our share of misguided fools and criminal minds who operate on the assumption they are leaders of men.
#
Monday, December 15, 2008
****************************************
THE POSITIVE IN THE NEGATIVE
**************************************************
Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
*
At the turn of the last century, the Great Powers of the West were on our side and against our enemies. But no one ever bothered to ask them if they would be willing to sacrifice the life of a single soldier to save a hundred, a thousand, or even a million Armenian lives. Had they asked, they wold have been surprised at the answer.
*
It is not true that I receive only hostile or negative assessments of my work. To be fair to my readers, I also receive friendly or positive ones. Two reasons why I don't mention them is that (one) I may provoke my enemies to accuse me of self-promotion, and (two) I may make my friendly readers vulnerable to verbal abuse.
*
Saroyan was a “positive” write because he wrote for an American audience. If I write like Scrooge it may be because I write for an Armenian audience. Different strokes for different folks. On the positive side: in America we enjoy not only freedom of speech but also freedom of choice when it comes to reading matter. If you are the kind of reader who is big on positive stuff, by all means, feel free to bury your head in the sand until the next catastrophe, which, if lucky, you may not live long enough to experience or witness.
*
Some of our most brilliant humorists (Baronian, Odian, Massikian) were also the most negative.
*
My negative readers are positive in the sense that they are my main source of inspiration. Without them I would dry up and wither away.
*
There are visible catastrophes, and there are invisible ones, as when you witness the collapse of your belief system.
*
When a reader insults me, I know I have hit paydirt; and I would like to thank him for letting me stay in his consciousness rent-free.
#
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
****************************************
OF CABBAGES AND KINGS
**************************************************
After gloating over the collapse of Communism, Americans are now witnessing the collapse of Capitalism and the triumph of the Welfare State not only for the poor but also for the rich; and when the rich apply for welfare, they speak in billions; and unless they get their way, they threaten the collapse of the economic structure.
Capitalists don't beg; they blackmail.
*
Instead of speaking of cabbages and kings, let's speak of truth and lies; and if truth is beyond our reach, let's expose liars.
*
It is in failure that the lies of an ideology are exposed.
*
If you live by the sword, or if you use nationalism or patriotism as a sword, the writing on the wall will be the same.
*
In a commentary today I read that President Bush has supported and invited to the White House dissidents from “China, Burma, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela.” Are you thinking what I am thinking?
*
George Will in ONE MAN'S AMERICA (New York, Random House, 2008): “The use of genocide as a plaything for political posturing is contemptible” (page 197). I urge all our Turcocentric ghazetajis, dime-a-dozen self-appointed pundits, and baloney artists to think of this line next time they use the word genocide. Further down George Will speaks of the “trivialization of a huge tragedy” that has become “fodder for semi-intellectual wisecracks...” and, I would add, an occasion for self-righteous riffraff to assert moral superiority. Elsewhere he speaks of “the beguiling simplicity of pure stupidity.”
*
Where mediocrities enter, men of vision are blinded.
#
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
****************************************
WORDS
**************************************************
Rudyard Kipling: “Words are, of course, the post powerful drugs used by mankind.”
*
The defeated and deported Azeri who lives in a tent or ghetto is my brother. He is as guilty as the overwhelming majority of Armenians at the turn of the last century in the Ottoman Empire – Armenians like my mother (who was a baby) and father (not yet a teenager) who had no political ambitions or, for that matter, awareness. Next time you speak of war, think of the children.
*
There is Russian roulette, and there is Armenian roulette. In Armenian roulette there are no empty chambers.
*
If you insult me and I insult you back, who wins?
*
By writing I hope to change the world. I know this to be an illusion on my part but I go on writing. Notwithstanding the fact that so far I have failed to change the mind of a single fanatic, hoodlum, partisan or fascist, I go on writing in the hope that some day I may hit on the right combination of words and ideas that may connect.
I know this to be another illusion but I go on writing in the hope that the invisible forces of history and the universe will combine to create the kind of fertile soil in which ideas may germinate into action. If this is another illusion, so be it!
#
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Old 20.12.2008, 18:16   #67
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Thursday, December 18, 2008
****************************************
WORDS (II)
**************************************************
A man once went up to a French writer (may have been Valéry) and said: “I have a great idea for a book.” The writer interrupted him by saying, “Books are written with words, not ideas.”
*
Marx had all the ideas, but Casanova knew the right words.
*
You want to know why I write one-liners? To write a book, one must first learn to write a good line. Only then one may learn to write two lines....
*
When Moliere's “bourgeois gentilhomme” delivers the celebrated line, “You mean to tell me I spoke prose all my life and didn't know it?” Moliere's teacher could have replied: “Just because you speak prose, it doesn't mean you can also write it.”
*
It is easy to have all the answers if you ask the wrong questions.
*
In his recently published biography of V.S. Naipaul, Patrick French quotes him as having said: “I am enraged by the way Indians don't wish to understand their history, I am enraged.” Naipaul's book on India is titled A WOUNDED CIVILIZATION. The first Armenian novel in ashkharapar or the spoken idiom is by Khachatur Abovian (1805-1848) and it's titled THE WOUNDS OF ARMENIA. And to think that Abovian wrote his novel nearly a century before the real wound.
*
The worst thing that can happen to a wounded nation is to be obsessed with its wound,
*
A nation with a wounded soul will have a traumatized understanding and view anyone who says otherwise as an enemy of the nation.
*
What is Naipaul's rage to India? What is an ant's rage to an elephant?
#
Friday, December 19, 2008
****************************************
TWO WRITERS
**************************************************
Adrienne Rich: “Lying is done with words and also silence.”
*
In his “Reply to historians who are against senators voting for legislation against anti-Armenian denialists” (LE POINT, November 27, 2008), the French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy, writes that these historians expect us to believe that such a law, if passed, would terrorize historians' freedom of expression. “Who's kidding whom?” he writes. “It is not anti-denialist laws that terrorize historians, it is denialists who terrorize them.” To the question, “Why the necessity of a French law about a crime in which France is not implicated,” Levy writes: “I am not sure about that. We know for a fact that at least in two instances in 1919, in Marash and Hedjin in Cilicia, when the French army stood by and did nothing to protect the victims.” Where there is a crime against humanity, he goes on, all of mankind is implicated. “We cannot therefore justify ourselves by saying, we are not guilty of a crime, we only allowed others to commit it.”
*
In his introduction to L'OLOCAUSTO ARMENO (The Armenian Holocaust), Alberto Rosselli informs the reader that the bibliography on the subject is “vastissima” (very vast). In addition to Armenian sources, “which are obviously numerosissimi (very numerous), there are sources in French, American, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Bulgarian, English, and Russian.” In addition there are eyewitness accounts of diplomats from as many countries, including Germany, “at a time when Germany was an ally of the Ottoman Empire.” Among the Turkish sources he mentions Taner Akcam and Orhan Pamuk. He also discusses the recent work of the German historian, Hilmar Kaiser. The book is divided into chapters devoted to the history of Armenia, the Armenian Church, the Hamidian massacres, the regime of the Young Turks, and Armenia today. In addition the reader will find here a chronology of the Ottoman Empire and a bibliography of books in Italian, English, and French.
After reading this book, I doubt very much if there will be a single Italian who will doubt the reality of the Genocide and the self-inflicted blindness of denialists.
Rosselli is a prolific historian and journalist who has authored books on Canada, the United States, the Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union, Germany, Turkey, and Africa.
*
Groucho Marx: “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.”
#
Saturday, December 20, 2008
****************************************
A CIVILIZED ARMENIAN
**************************************************
Reading Evelyn Waugh's DIARY – over 800 pages of boring gossip and venomous assessments.
On Edmund Wilson: “An insignificant Yank.”
On President Truman: “A wholly comic man.”
On Aldous Huxley: “I find his scientific imagery very flat and ugly.”
On Alberto Moravia: “A wop highbrow.”
In a December 1944 entry in Yugoslavia, he speaks of an encounter with “a toothless Armenian named Major Karmel...: he is quick-witted, funny, fond of wine and cigars, and with the adaptability of his race quickly dropped his original line-regiment heartiness and became human and civilized...”
A month later: “Illiterate Montenegrin Armenian called and was given clothes.”
There is more talk of food and booze here than books and literature. And this: “It is impudent and exorbitant to demand truth from the lower classes.”
*
BERNIE MADOFF
***************************
A Jewish friend recently made fun of Armenian monks brawling in a church. Today I sent him the following e-mail: “I'd much rather see monks beating one another to a pulp in a church than a swindler like Bernie Madoff ****ing the blood of his fellow Jews – and I am not implying here we don't have our share of mini-Madoffians.”
*
GUTLESS YES-MEN
*********************************
A nation without dissidents is a gutless nation afraid of words and ideas. And those who support such a nation in the name of patriotism are misguided fools who believe ideas and intellectuals are irrelevant luxuries, perhaps even hostile elements.
#
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Old 23.12.2008, 19:13   #68
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Sunday, December 21, 2008
****************************************
RECAP
**************************************************
Some people don't feel the need to listen to a sermon or read a book on ethics in order to do the right thing, but they are invariably and consistently outnumbered by those who are convinced they are doing the right thing even when they behave like swine. Like all nations, we too have our share of black sheep. For a long time that's how I justified the existence of our riffraff. Not any more. I no longer feel the need to be their advocate. On the contrary, I consider it my duty to call a spade a spade. I realize of course that mine is not exactly a pleasant task or a profitable undertaking, but someone has to perform it, and if not I, who? Our Turcocentric ghazetajis are too busy delivering lectures on ethics to Turks; and our fundraisers know that the best way to appeal to the generosity of their victims is by flattering the hell out of them.
We all know that during the Soviet era our brothers and sisters in the Homeland had to cheat in order to survive. And who among us will dare to suggest that long centuries of subservience have had no influence in shaping our character as yes-men and brown-nosers? And who is naïve enough to say that this character trait of ours is not fully exploited by our leaders who take full advantage of it by making untenable dogmatic assertions that are as absurd as the claims of denialists. So what if in the process they alienate anyone who dares to think for himself? So what if they decimate the nation? Who says one must wear a shalvar and wield a yataghan in order to qualify as a Turk?
#
Monday, December 22, 2008
****************************************
ENEMIES
**************************************************
Fascist regimes label anyone who refuses to be brainwashed an enemy to cover up the fact that they are the real enemies.
*
There was a time when both Tashnak and Ramgavar weeklies published my critical commentaries on the assumption that I was being critical only of the opposition. When after more than ten years they finally realized I was being critical of both sides, they stopped publishing me. That's when I was labeled an enemy.
*
An enemy of the nation: what does that really mean? What do we mean when we speak of the nation, or Homeland, or Armenia? Do we mean the real estate (mountains, rivers, and valleys?), or the culture (literature, music, and the arts?). I dare anyone to quote a single line from my books and commentaries that is critical of our real estate or music, architecture, and writers from Khorenatsi to Naregatsi, and from Abovian to Zarian..
*
Am I critical of the people? Yes, but only of the fraction that has been brainwashed and sees nothing wrong in it. Consider the case of Charents who allowed himself to be brainwashed by the Kremlin. When somewhere along the line he realized what had been done to him, he wrote to his muse:
“You were like a sister to me,
Truthful, pure and bright;
But I spat on your face.
I betrayed you one night
With a cold mistress,
Who sang to me dreams of iron,
And took me into a world without love.”
*
Bakounts went further and compared ideologies and regimes to temporary ailments, here today, gone tomorrow; and I quote: “They are just passing phenomena, a period when history is suffering from the flu, so to speak, a temporary ailment, after which, all the dead cities will rise again from the ashes, as long as there are still people in this world like Hovnatan March [the central character of his story], who will burst into tears whenever they hear the word Armenia, and who embrace this ideal as an alcoholic would grab his last bottle of brandy.”
*
I suggest the Armenia of Charents and Bakounts, or for that matter, the Armenia of Abovian, Raffi and Zarian, is not the same entity as that of our partisan propagandists and dividers, who silence anyone who dares to think for himself.
#
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
****************************************
JUSTICE
**************************************************
In a commentary by an American academic I read today that there has been progress on all fronts in China except the judicial system. Lawyers who defend unpopular causes or dissidents are sometimes arrested, jailed, beaten, and tortured.
Armenia's abuses of power escape international notice because no one much cares what happens there, not even Armenians. Human rights is not exactly a topic we like to discuss even in the Diaspora. As far as I know none of our pundits has ever written a single commentary on free speech. To most of them, and especially to our Turcocentric ghazetajis, the freedom to write about massacres in the Ottoman Empire is the alpha and omega of free speech. And speaking of lawyers: a friend of mine, who happens to be a critic of the regime, tells me he is not allowed to enter Armenia and no lawyer wants to take his case.
#
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Old 30.12.2008, 18:24   #69
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Sunday, December 28, 2008
****************************************
POWER AND KNOWLEDGE
**************************************************
Knowledge is power. Those who know mislead, exploit, and oppress the ignorant as surely as the mighty victimize the weak and defenseless.
*
All my life I wanted to find honest work, and when I finally found one, no one had any use for me. If I persevere, it's because, in Moliere's words: “I prefer a comfortable vice to a tiring virtue.”
*
The danger of belief systems is not their absurdities but the fact that they find strength in numbers, so that the average man with average intelligence feels justified in asking; “Who am I to contradict millions?”
*
If you share the same belief system with a fool, brother, look into it.
*
The language of power: Why try to reason, educate, and convince when you can brainwash, intimidate, and silence those who resist?
*
We like to be massaged – body, ego, soul – and we are willing to pay for it handsomely to speechifiers, sermonizers, and generally speaking, dealers in verbal crapola. As for writers who make us feel uncomfortable, we love to see them starved.
*
As for our so-called cunning: it consists mainly in devising strategies to avoid facing reality.
#
Monday, December 29, 2008
****************************************
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
**************************************************
In politics, and life in general, the meaning that resides between the lines often contradicts the meaning in the lines.
*
Only an unspeakably self-satisfied simpleton with the IQ of a jackass would violate someone's free speech on the grounds that free speech is not a fundamental human right but a privilege bestowed only on those who are infallible, among them himself.
*
My message: We may not be as good as we think we are.
The message of our leadership: We may be better than we think we are.
Needless to add, the naïve souls among us cannot see the connection between this shamelessly flattering self-assessment and the unspoken punch line that inevitably and invariably will follow, “mi kich pogh...”
*
My morning paper informs me today that the prime minister of Turkey called Israeli air strikes in Gaza “a crime against humanity.” He could have said, in war bad things happen to good people. But he didn't. He said “crimes against humanity” -- and so far only 300 dead. I suggest this may well be a new chapter in Turkish foreign policy.
*
The ambition of every Armenian dunghill is to be Mt. Ararat.
*
Thomas Mann: "The intellectual man is almost as much interested in painful truths as the fool is in those which flatter him."
#
Tuesday, December 230, 2008
****************************************
NOTES AND COMMENTS
**************************************************
“My grandmother once said to me...”
If your grandmother said that, who am I to contradict grandmotherhood, shish-kebab and pilaf?
*
If you are honest, you expose the dishonest. If you do something well, you drive the incompetent to bankruptcy.
*
My great failure in the eyes of my Armenian readers is that I write not as an Armenian but as a human being, as if being Armenian and being human were mutually exclusive concepts.
*
We owe all progress to losers. Winners are only the beneficiaries of the struggle initiated and carried out by losers. Winners only deliver the coup de grace.
*
If a fool refuses to learn from the wise, he will have to learn from life, and reality can be a harsh teacher.
*
Whatever wisdom I have I owe it to my folly.
#
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Old 30.12.2008, 18:48   #70
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people come and go, but some things never change...
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Old 03.01.2009, 18:00   #71
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008
****************************************
MY ANSWER
**************************************************
Once in a while a gentle reader takes it upon himself to remind me that what I say doesn't apply to everyone because it is based on self-analysis, and that it is wrong to project my own conflicts and contradictions onto the nation.
I have at no time denied the fact that my analysis of our complexes is based on self-analysis. In my formative years and for a good fraction of my adult life I was a typical Armenian with all the prejudices, preconceptions, and fallacies that I now enjoy tearing to shreds. Neither have I ever denied that I was a devout believer of every single lie that was foisted on me by our “betters.” It is only very recently that I became aware of our reality as opposed to the fiction in which I lived. To put it differently: I was taught to be a narcissist, and after many years of slumber in a fool's paradise, I woke up one day with the realization that I was neither smart nor honest.
If you tell me what a nation needs to achieve greatness is confidence in its own ability to confront and overcome challenges, and that at this point in our history what we need is not my kind of negativism that demoralizes us and turn us into defeatists like myself; I say, that is your perception of what I do based on your status as a dupe, and that to promote liberation from the lies of our propagandists is far from being negative or defeatist. It is, in point of fact, quintessentially positive and invigorating. I further maintain to be enslaved by comfortable lies is as bad as being enslaved by Turks. But to see this clearly you must first extricate your head from the sand in which you have it buried.
#
Thursday, January 1, 2009
****************************************
LEARNING FROM GENGHIS KHAN
**************************************************
The first words on the back cover of Conn Iggulden's historical novel, GENGHIS: LORDS OF THE BOW, are: “After uniting warring clans...”
*
Once upon a time all empire were a single clan. Their career as empire began when one clan persuaded another to join forces on the grounds that two clans together are less vulnerable to aggression from other clans.
*
Clans are bad enough. Warring clans might as well be an open invitation to conquerors.
*
God did not create more Mongols, Chinese, Russians or Americans. If we are few today it's because some of us saw the writing on the wall and switched loyalties.
*
Let the fool enjoy his folly so that he may be wise, even if wisdom comes at the hour of his death.
*
When Indians burned widows, did any one of them ever bother to raise the question: “Why don't we ask the widows if they like to be burned?” Civilizations should be judged by the manner they treat the weak and defenseless.
*
If you want to understand Armenians, don't read their nationalist historians; read instead a history of Armenian literature. The only reason we don't burn writers the way Indians burn widows is that we prefer to ignore them, which amounts to burying them alive.
*
Because I refuse to share their obsession with massacres and money, they call me negative. One way to be positive in their eyes is to adopt “Yes, sir!” as a mantra.
#
Friday, January 2, 2009
****************************************
DIVIDING LINES
**************************************************
Speaking of his mother, Edward Gorey says in an interview: “She had a stroke when she was about eighty and her entire character changed. All her hypocritical love for humanity vanished.” (ASCENDING PECULIARITY: EDWARD GOREY ON EDWARD GOREY. Interviews by Karen Wilkin, page 95.)
This type of dividing line in one's life happens to all of us; and when readers disagree with me violently, I cannot help thinking that their disagreement has not yet reached the line that divides propaganda from reality.
When did I change my mind about my fellow Armenians? In my case it was not so much a line but the last straw that broke the camel's back.
*
As children we should be taught to reflect that every conviction and dogma in our belief system may well be wrong and there may be more merit in their contradictions. That, it seems to me, should be the underlying principle in all educational systems.
*
In her review of LEFT IN DARK TIMES by Bernard-Henri Levy, Claire Berlinski mentions a Turkish friend of hers who “like most Turks” has been brought up to believe “the Armenians had it coming.” (NATIONAL REVIEW, December 15, 2008, page 32.)
*
A true sign of insanity, it has been said, is the belief that everyone else is crazy. In my view, another sure symptom of insanity is the belief that the world is run by intelligent men who place the interests of their people and mankind in general above their own and anyone who says otherwise must be nuts.
*
In a recent issue of the ARMENIAN REPORTER (December 20), there is a remarkable letter to the editor by Ara Sarafian outlining in some detail the present situation of Armeno-Turkish relations, which clearly implies that when it comes to the Genocide issue, our Turcocentric ghazetajis may be doing more harm than good. I urge Ara Sarafian to post this letter on Armenian discussion forums on the Internet.
#
Saturday, January 3, 2009
****************************************
ON APOLOGIES
**************************************************
As a rule governments don't like apologizing for past crimes but they may change their mind when under pressure from their own people, or so we are told in THE POLITICS OF OFFICIAL APOLOGIES by Melissa Nobles, where we also learn: “The Armenians are not going to get an apology any time soon, in spite of a worldwide public campaign, from the Turkish government for the atrocities committed during World War I because most Turks are not prepared to accept that their government bore responsibility.”
*
The best interview in THE PARIS REVIEW INTERVIEWS, volume I (New York, 2006) is the one with Dorothy Parker, a relatively minor writer; the most boring is the one with T.S. Eliot – a pezzo novanta. Unlike Eliot who speaks only about himself and his work, Dorothy Parker speaks of many things and is never long-winded.
*
Armenians who vilify Turks and Turks who vilify Armenians don't think of themselves as racists because they assume the whole world knows what bloodthirsty savages Turks are and what nasty, disloyal scum Armenians are. But the whole world knows nothing of the kind and cares even less. To most of the world Turks and Armenians might as well be Hutus and Tutsis. As an Armenian, the only thing I know about Hutus and Tutsis is that they are tribes in Africa. The average Canadian doesn't even know where Armenia is. To him we might as well be Romanians or Arameans.
#
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Old 07.01.2009, 18:08   #72
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Sunday, January 4, 2009
****************************************
ON PHONIES
**************************************************
There is a tendency in all phonies to see only the phony in others. Face to face with an honest man, they feel ill at ease and their first instinct is to bring him down to their own level. Consider what happened to Zarian, one of the very few authentic giants in our literature. Every mediocrity in both the Homeland and Diaspora accused him of being a KGB or a CIA agent, or even a plagiarist. When Shahnour accused Siamanto of plagiarism, he quoted chapter and verse. When Zarian himself accused Charents of plagiarism, he mentioned Marinetti and Mayakovsky. But as far as I know none of our phonies ever stated whom did Zarian plagiarize.
*
Once upon a time fascists identified themselves as fascists. Not anymore. Nowadays they speak in the name of nationalism, as if fascism and nationalism were mutually exclusive concepts; and when they silence dissent, they do so as if it were their patriotic duty.
*
Some of my readers remind me of sharks circling and waiting for traces of blood to appear in the water.
*
Why do I write as I do? Because no one else does.
*
If the laws in Dickens's time were applied to American chief executive officers today, a great many of them who now travel in their own private jets would be in jail. It is such a pity that technological progress has become inseparable with moral degeneracy.
#
Monday, January 5, 2009
****************************************
ON IDEAS
**************************************************
Armenians who are obsessed with Turkish criminal conduct are eager to inform me that my ideas lack originality.
*
The awareness of doing the right thing is better than fame, fortune, and happiness.
*
If you have only one idea, you have no choice. If you have two ideas, you have a choice. Two is better than one because freedom is better than slavery.
*
There is a familiar type of Armenian who is cunning enough to know that one way to have the last word is to make himself so repellent that anyone with the minimum sense of hygiene will do his utmost to stay as far away from him as possible.
*
Annihilating your enemy in the name of victory is the Ottoman way. So is verbally abusing those who disagree with you.
*
What matters is not how we treat our friends, but how we treat our enemies.
*
An enemy is one we have failed to convince that it will be to his advantage to be our friend.
*
To be savaged by fools and fanatics is the surest sign of being on the right path.
#
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
****************************************
AD HOMINEM
**************************************************
Let better men than myself reach for the truth. All I want is avoid being absurd.
*
History teaches us to recognize blunders when we see them. If history, including our own, continues to be a succession of blunders, it may be because the number of blunders is infinite, the human brain at its most creative in their invention, and self-deception a constant.
*
Self-deception allows us to be absurd and self-righteous at the same time.
*
To those who wonder how dare I speak in the name of the nation when no one elected me, my answer is: I speak only as a human being and I don't need majority support to think, feel, and reason as a human being.
*
A typical Armenian is an open wound and a closed mind.
*
Anonymous: "A genius has his limitations. A fool does not."
*
Voicing morally superior sentiments is not the same as being morally superior. If it were, every sermonizer would be a saint.
*
Commissars of culture and culture are mutually exclusive concepts.
#
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
****************************************
PARALLEL LINES
**************************************************
It is safe to assume that not all chief executive officers in America are crooks. But when the honest ones saw the writing on the wall, spoke up and said, “We can no longer afford private jets, million-dollar salaries, big bonuses, and golden parachutes,” they were silence by the crooks who said, “Relax! We are too big to fail. Uncle Sam will bail us out.” And Uncle did because the easiest thing in the world is to be generous with someone else's money. (I have already read a pundit who called Obama “an empty suit.")
*
Something similar happened to our revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire when they were warned they were no better than frogs trying to rape an elephant. To which our revolutionaries replied: “Relax! We are not in this alone. The great powers of the West are on our side. The Turks wouldn't dare!” But the Turks dared because they knew the great powers were not our Uncle Sam and wouldn't spill a single drop of blood to save us.
*
And speaking of blood: We have shed our blood and we have done so copiously in defense of alien and even hostile empires, among them the Byzantine, the Ottoman, and the Soviet (350,000 dead during World War II alone). If we judge a tree by its fruit, a man by his actions, and a nation's IQ by its history, we may have to conclude that we are not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
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Old 10.01.2009, 17:54   #73
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Thursday, January 8, 2009
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FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
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A Muslim scholar in Canada has written a book critical of Islam and now lives in fear of assassination.
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It is only natural for those who are part of the problem to pretend not to see the solution.
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Before you attain greatness you must achieve honesty, and of the two, achieving honesty may well be the more demanding enterprise.
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Once upon a time, in the Middle Ages, we were celebrated for being good fighters. We still are, but only against the wrong enemy: ourselves.
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More often than not, it is in our efforts to appear smart that we expose ourselves as fools.
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It makes little sense to support one side against another when both belong to the dustbin of history.
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In all political movements, lust for power is invariably hidden behind noble slogans; the greater the lust, the nobler the slogans.
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Friday, January 9, 2009
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OBSERVATIONS
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To know nothing is better than to know only one side of the story.
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Writing history should be more akin to examining our conscience as opposed to emphasizing the positive and covering up the negative.
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It is not enough for an Armenian to win an argument, he must also annihilate his adversary.
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After three decades of hard work I am now in a position to state with some degree of certainty and pride that I have made more enemies than friends.
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Like most men, computers must be programmed in order to think.
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It makes little sense keeping up with the Joneses if the Joneses are busy keeping up with the Smiths.
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When top dogs don't trust one another, underdogs quarrel among themselves.
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You work hard all your life, you make a fortune, you share your fortune with ingrates who insult you: who says benefactors are better off than scribblers?
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Saturday, January 10, 2009
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REFLECTIONS
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The most visible feature of a nation is not its Golden Age or its celebrities, but its degree of solidarity. No one takes seriously a nation that has been manipulated by the divide-and-rule tactics of other nations for most of its existence.
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To alienate a fraction of the people is to amputate the nation.
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When I said the greatest insult to a writer is to ignore him, they stopped insulting me. If only I could solve all my problems with the same ease.
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“The buck stops here”: the four most un-Armenian words in the English language.
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Do I write because I like to annoy the hell out of dupes, bigots and charlatans?
Why not? Isn’t that as good a reason as any?
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It is not at all unusual for our chauvinists to preach Armenian culture and to practice Ottoman barbarism.
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Old 13.01.2009, 16:41   #74
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Sunday, January 11, 2009
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MEGALOMANIA
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Our public library (kpl.org) has acquired a new paperback edition of MEIN KAMPF. They have discarded some of my favorite books – among them Tolstoy's HADJI MURAD, Lesley Blanch's SABRES OF PARADISE, Klaus Mann's autobiography, and Joachim Maass's THE GOUFFE CASE – but retained Hitler, and they say crime doesn't pay.
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In my teens and early twenties when I wanted to read everything from A to Z, I also gave Hitler's KAMPF and Marx's KAPITAL a try, but I no longer remember if I finished them. It is easy to start reading a book but difficult finishing them. Of the dozen or so books that I borrow from the library every week I may or may not finish reading one or at most two. Like Sartre (“I'd much rather read a crime novel than Wittgenstein”) I'd rather read an entertaining second-rater than a ponderous big shot who takes himself seriously and expects to be taken seriously.
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Taking oneself seriously: that's another one of our maladies. A reader once said to me, “Maybe the writers you quote (from Khorenatsi to Zarian) failed because they went about it the wrong way.” There is no limit to our megalomania – from the turn-of-the-century revolutionaries in the Ottoman Empire (“frogs trying to rape and elephant”) to Turcocentric ghazetajis today parading as defenders of the faith and saviors of the nation. Which is one reason why I hesitate to identify myself as a critic or a dissident or even a writer. I feel more comfortable calling myself a "sh** disturber.”
#
Monday, January 12, 2009
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ON PROGRESS
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We are a nation of small potatoes ruled by cabbages who pretend to be kings.
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My morning paper informs me that, according to a watchdog agency, “democracy declined significantly in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova.”
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We like to think of ourselves as progressive, but the truth is progress has never been our most important product. At the turn of the last century our political parties were run by intellectuals. Today they are run by businessmen, that is to say, by bottom-feeders whose greatest concern is the bottom line. If that's progress, it's more like the progress of a disease. In whatever we have done, we have followed our masters, be they Turks or Russian – not the two brightest stars in the firmament of democratic rule and progress.
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I write as I do because I don't care for the sound of my own voice. I was brought up to be a narcissist. I now see more merit in self-loathing.
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If I were a success, I wouldn't write as I do because I would do my utmost not to bite the hand that lays the golden egg.
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Where a part-time janitor makes more money than a full-time writer, there will be an abundance of recycled crap and a total absence of ideas.
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It is extremely difficult for me to be civil to individuals who in a different time and place would have been my executioners.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009
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LET FREEDOM RING
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Freedom means participation in power.
Freedom means telling our fund-raisers: We demand accountability and certification from an independent forensic accountant.
Freedom means to treat our political leaders not as masters but as public servants.
Freedom means saying “No!” to our bosses, bishops, benefactors, and their assorted hirelings, flunkeys, and brown-nosers without fear of retaliation.
Freedom means lessons in civics in our schools, so that our children will grow up learning not only about Turkish atrocities but also about the meaning of democracy and the articles of our constitution.
Freedom means saying to our political bosses: Unless you engage in dialogue and develop a consensus we will not support you.
Freedom means saying to our bishops: Unless you stop building new churches when old ones remain unattended, we will walk out on your sermons.
Freedom means saying to our benefactors: As long as you sink your money into partisan enterprises, thus reinforcing our divisions, we will call you a dupe of charlatans and blood****ers and have a good laugh whenever your name is mentioned.
Freedom means telling our Turcocentric academics and ghazetajis: Enough is enough! We have had our share of lamentation for our victims and hatred of the perpetrators. Enough massacre editorials, articles, memoirs, monuments, demonstrations, and museums. It is now time that we move on and solve our present problems, among them two “white” genocides – that is, assimilation in the Diaspora and emigration in the Homeland.
Have we ever known this kind of freedom throughout our millennial history?
The freedom to say “Yes, sir!” is not freedom but subservience, which is another form of slavery. To exchange one form of subservience (be it Ottoman or Soviet) with another is not freedom but a swindle.
Wake up, Armenians. You have nothing to lose but your chains!
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Old 17.01.2009, 17:52   #75
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009
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BEING ARMENIAN
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“What's wrong with assimilation?” an assimilated Armenian once asked me, and I could not give him an answer.
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In everything I say I speak not as an Armenian but as a human being who has done his utmost to go beyond political, racial, national, or tribal labels.
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“You repeat yourself,” a Turcocentric ghazetaji who publishes a weekly anti-Turkish tirade once informed me. And when I said, “How many different ways are there of saying Turks are guilty of genocide?” he insulted me.
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An Armenian who gets involved in Armenian affairs acquires two sets of unsettled scores: (one) against Turks, (two) against fellow Armenians who disagree with him.
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Armenians use insults like voodoo pins – for long-distance murder.
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A friend (may he rest in peace) once delivered the following dictum: “The only way to survive in this world is by adopting a form of insanity.” And I can't help thinking that the words of a dead man have a finality that the living cannot match.
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The fate of the book hangs on the first paragraph, the same way that “the fate of the house depends on the wedding night” (Balzac).
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Q: “Should I write every day or only when I am inspired?”
A: “If you have something to say, every day; otherwise, once or twice a year should be sufficient.”
#
Thursday, January 15, 2009
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GETTING AT THE SOURCE
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The closer you get at the truth, the more enemies you make.
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It is in disagreement that an Armenian exposes his true nature.
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An intellectual's first enemies are not politicians but pseudo-intellectuals who rise not in defense of god and country but grub and ego. Their role model is neither Abovian nor Zarian but Talaat and Stalin. Their unstated aim is the extermination of the intellectual class. Verbal abuse comes more easily to them then a simple assertion of disagreement.
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Sooner or later we must all come to terms with the fact that we belong to a nation that has been victimized not only by foreign but also by domestic enemies, and of the two, the domestic have been more dedicated and persistent.
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The hardest thing for an Armenian to admit is that the enemy may not always be the other but himself. Only when we are willing to admit this, may we begin to understand the source of our tribalism and divisiveness.
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To those who think I have no right to speak for them, only for myself, allow me to reiterate that I have at no time denied the fact that my analysis of the Armenian psyche is rooted in self-analysis. It is this realization that has saved me from applying for membership in one of our mafias. I have at no time felt the need to join a criminal organization to be a perpetrator.
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The miracle is not that we have survived, but that there are still more or less smart and decent human beings willing to identity themselves as Armenian even when they are half-Greek, half-Russian, or half-Jewish.
#
Friday, January 16, 2009
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WHAT IS LITERATURE?
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In his WRITING IN THE DARK: ESSAYS ON LITERATURE AND POLITICS (New York, 2008), David Grossman says, what made him decide to be a writer was the urge to invent stories. I thought of Scheherazade who invented stories in order to postpone her death. One could say that we too, like Scheherazade, write to postpone the death of the nation. But unlike Scheherazade, we don't write to entertain our masters but to expose the lies of their propaganda. This may explain why Scheherazade succeeded in realizing her goal and we have failed.
Fascists in Italy, Nazis in Germany, and Bolsheviks in the USSR lied to the people too and they were exposed not by writers (who tried very hard but failed) but by the reality principle. Italy and Germany lost a war and the USSR went bankrupt.
How to explain the fact that our lies have had a much longer lifespan?
We were a nation1500 years ago and we like to believe we still are. But are we? In the 20th century alone we experienced three genocides, one “red” (in the Ottoman Empire) and two “white” (assimilation in the Diaspora and exodus in the Homeland).
We have become a beggar among nations and at the mercy of – in the words of Avedik Issahakian (not exactly a critic or dissident) -- “earthquakes, bloodthirsty neighbors, and brainless leaders.” You may now guess which of these three “curses” (Issahakian's word) have been emphasized by our “brainless leaders” and their propagandists.
For every writer that mentions “brainless leaders,” we have dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of academics, historians, ghazetajis, speechifiers, and sermonizers who do their utmost to cover up the corruption, incompetence, and divisiveness of our leaders and to emphasize our “bloodthirsty neighbors and earthquakes.” And here is where intellectuals come in – to uncover that which is hidden from us.
I repeat myself?
And what do you think our propagandists do?
Another question: Has anyone ever complained that our propagandists, ghazetajis, speechifiers, and sermonizers repeat themselves? And what about our panchoonies? How many different ways are there of saying, “Mi kich pogh oughargetsek.”
To those who say, notwithstanding our prophets of doom and gloom, we have endured and we shall continue to endure, I ask: What if most of us, especially the best and the brightest, did not endure and will not endure?
#
Saturday, January 17, 2009
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DIARY
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A Palestinian mother in Gaza: “My children can no longer play in the street.”
A suggestion: Why don't they take their damn war somewhere like Sahara or the Gobi desert?
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Memo to myself: “Depressing thoughts are carcinogenic agents. You think too much about Armenians.”
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My dissenting views are so extreme, it seems, that even our dissenters disagree with me.
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If our past were a poem, it would be a lamentation to some, and a triumphal march to others.
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When a reader insults me, I think, at least he has read and reflected on what I have written, and that's good enough for me. Beggars can't be choosers.
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It is widely known among citizens of a democracy that politics is the second oldest profession and that in many ways it resembles the first. Fascists agree but they think this does not apply to them.
#
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