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Old 21.01.2009, 18:47   #76
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Sunday, January 18, 2009
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AGAINST DOGMATISM
**************************************************
A doctor in Australia speaking of people in isolated villages: “You must always have a translator with you because when they don't understand a question, they say yes.”
It is the same with underdogs everywhere. They think it is safer to say “yes, sir!” even when they are told to drop their pants and bend over.
We said yes to Christianity; we said yes to atheism under the Soviets; and in the Ottoman Empire some of us said yes to Islam. We said yes to capitalism in the Diaspora and yes to communism in the Homeland. And today we say yes to our bosses, bishops, benefactors, and their assorted gangs of neo-commissars and "mi kich pogh" panchoonies.
*
A famous Armenian soprano speaking of a Gomidas love song during a radio interview:
“Armenians are shy.”
“You mean coy.”
“No, shy.”
“You are not shy!”
We like to think, since most odars, not to say Armenians, are ignorant, we can say anything we want about Armenians and get away with it; and it comes as a shock when we are contradicted.
*
“To know is to remember,” Socrates used to say. It follows, to remind is to teach.
*
No matter what you say, there will be those who disagree with you. Remember, there are still flat-earth theorists and dupes who think Hitler and Stalin were messianic figures.
*
There are honest disagreements and there are Armenian disagreements. If throughout our millennial history consensus has been with us an unattainable Utopian goal, it’s because our disagreements are seldom honest disagreements.
*
Honest men with honest disagreements may agree to disagree and thus develop a consensus -- which means working together, as opposed to thinking alike.
#
Monday, January 19, 2009
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FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
**************************************************
“I don't like making enemies,” a writer tells me. And I cannot help thinking that the only way to avoid making enemies in our environment is by joining them, if only with your silence.
*
When I was young I trusted and respected my elders. But with old age comes mistrust and suspicion. So much so that whenever I run into an honest man these days I feel like a born-again human being.
*
Gone are the good old days when a commissar could permanently silence a dissident with a memo or a phone call with three monosyllables: “Shut him up!” Their only weapon now is verbal abuse. But the trouble with insults is that there are only a limited number of them and only a limited number of times they can be repeated. It has happened to me more than once that after repeatedly and almost daily abusing me for a year or two or even more, they have given up and fallen silent.
*
Obama's greatest achievement so far is that he survived the insults of his adversaries and is now willing to have them as advisers, and this not in the name of a belief system but common sense.
*
I am not surprised to read the following headline in one of our weeklies:
THOSE WHO WERE NOT AFRAID OF SOVIET INJUSTICE ARE NOW AFRAID OF ARMENIAN JUSTICE.
*
When an Armenian asks you a question, you can be sure of one thing: he knows the answer.
#
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
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ENEMIES
**************************************************
Emile Littré : “Man is a most unstable compound, and earth a decidedly inferior planet.”
*
When it comes to religion and politics, the prevalent attitude among leaders towards the masses is: the less they know and understand the better – because then they can be more easily manipulated and misled. As a result, we know more about the dark side of our enemies than they do; and we know less about ourselves than we should. It follows, anyone who dares to say all men are more or less the same, or Turks are our if not brothers than half-brothers is promptly labeled a traitor.
*
Our enemy, our real enemy, is not the Turk but knowledge, understanding, and objective judgment. Socrates was guilty of exposing the ignorance of his “betters.” Galileo knew something that the scriptures did not. Solzhenitsyn did not think the men in the Kremlin were morally or intellectually superior, he was therefore guilty of objective judgment. As for writers like Zabel Yessayan, Charents, and Bakounts, among others: they were too smart to be taken in by Bolshevik propaganda – though smart in this context does not mean a higher IQ but the ability to use one's common sense and to think for oneself.
*
Napoleon once said, “A man with ideas is my enemy.” Which may suggest that rulers prefer to rule over the brainless. In their eyes, to expose the lies of their propaganda might as well be a crime against humanity.
*
The Turks have a saying: “Chok ghareshterma, bokhou chekar.” Freely translated:
“Don't get involved (or mix it up too much), you may expose the sh**.”
*
Those who have dared to confront tyrants have always been a tiny minority, and tiny enough to be almost invisible to the naked eye.
#
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
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HISTORY
**************************************************
We have advanced from one form of oppression to another accompanied by long-winded sermons and speeches in the name of God and Country. Who speaks in the name of the people? Who dares to see a cause-and-effect connection between our corruption, incompetence, divisiveness or lack of vision and our status as perennial victims? All we contribute to our narrative is lies. Consider our press: most of it is about Turkish criminal conduct and our minor celebrities. Our problems – from massacres to earthquakes – fall on us without warning like thieves in the night. “Mart bidi ch'ellank.”
*
We like to think, since we are not guilty of genocide, we are not fascists. But to silence dissent or to be deaf to dissenting voices is if not fascism than it is saying yes to fascism.
*
There is an idiot in all of us, including the most wise. Likewise, there is a killer in all of us, compliments of our crocodilian ancestors. This may explain why sometimes intelligent men are deceived by fools, and decent men are misled by criminal psychopaths; and here, I could make a long list of famous men who supported Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin.
#
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Old 24.01.2009, 17:55   #77
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Thursday, January 22, 2009
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JINGOISM
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“If I love my country I am justified in hating those of my countrymen who do not share my views.”
*
“If I speak in the name of patriotism it means my heart is in the right place, which also means no one can challenge my views, unless of course they are willing to make themselves vulnerable to charges of anti-Armenianism, pro-Ottomanism, and treason, which, as everyone knows, happens to be a crime punishable by death, and rightly so.”
*
“Since our failings are human failings shared by all of mankind, we should stop bitching about them.” It follows, exposing incompetence, intolerance, corruption, greed, and divisiveness, among other failings, is classified as bitching, which common sense tells us, is unmistakable evidence of anti-Armenianism.
*
According to an old Jewish saying, “Some people are such nobodies that when they go out of a room it feels like someone came in.” Something similar could be said of the jingoist arguments mentioned above. No matter how often they are contradicted and rejected they are voiced again and again as if they were gospel truths.
*
Armenians are a strange breed indeed: they can take centuries of subservience and brutal oppression but they can't stand straight talk. They believe in freedom but not in free speech. Figure that one out if you can.
#
Friday, January 23, 2009
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DZOUR NESDINK, SHIDAK KHOSSINK
**************************************************
Those who oppose free speech operate on two assumptions: (one) free or uncontrolled or unsupervised speech will inevitably lead to verbal abuse; and (two) they are themselves infallible when it comes to drawing the line that separates freedom from abuse. History tells us these two assumptions have been more open to abuse than free speech, and more crimes have been committed in the name of censorship than in the name of free speech.
*
In the same way that war is diplomacy by other means, genocide is censorship by other means.
*
Freedom without free speech is a fascist illusion.
*
No matter how hard I try I cannot agree with a belief system or ideology that legitimizes the violation of someone's fundamental human rights.
*
It is my ambition to speak of reality. Let others speechify, sermonize, and propagandize about their pet abstraction. A nation that does not have its feet firmly planted in reality is a nation that may survive (in the same way that animals in a zoo survive) but cannot live. Survival is life to the same degree that slavery is freedom.
*
Flaubert said: “Everything must be learned, from reading to dying.” And for an Armenian, engaging in dialogue with a fellow Armenian.
*
I preach but I don't always practice what I preach. When the other day I read that a member of this group wanted to have his name removed because he was “too busy,” my first uncensored thought was, “Busy doing what? -- beside pulling his dick.” Immediately I decided to keep this nasty thought to myself, and if I write it down now for everyone to see it's because I want to underline the discrepancy between theory and practice. I offer it not as a justification but as an explanation.
*
To be a good Armenian is not the same as being a good human being, and I'd much rather deal with a good human being than an Armenian who considers himself la crème de la crème.
*
And here is a rule without a single exception: An Armenian who considers himself la crème de la crème doesn't even qualify as la crème de la scum.
#
Saturday, January 24, 2009
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DEMOCRACY
**************************************************
Power does not mean imposing your will on others. Power means responsibility, accountability, and service. Politicians are not our lords and masters or highnesses and excellencies, but our servants. They do not represent God on earth but the will of the people, and the people is not an abstraction but you and me. The more power they have, the greater their burden of responsibility and accountability. I say these things because I had an Armenian education and I was not taught any of it. You might say, I enjoy sharing my discoveries. If there are those who are not aware of these things it may be because it took mankind millions of years to formulate them, and after having formulating them it took many more centuries of strife to realize them. That doesn't mean all power structures today are democratic. Far from it. As a matter of fact, undemocratic regimes today outnumber democracies, and even more to the point, the temptation of tyranny and fascism is a constant in all democracies.
*
How long before we reject the Ottoman and the Soviet from within us and are born again as human beings?
*
If I speak in the name of common sense and decency, am I then an enemy of the people who should be insulted and silenced? If you disagree with me it must be because you have a better explanation. If you do, why don't you let me know what it is and I will be more than happy to make it mine.
*
Remember, a good Armenian is first and foremost a good human being and he would be recognized as such not only by those who agree with him but also by those who disagree.
#
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Old 28.01.2009, 18:42   #78
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Sunday, January 25, 2009
****************************************
SOME NOTES ON THE ARMENIAN PSYCHE
**************************************************
Let me begin with a warning to the reader: I don't understand everything, neither do I claim to have truth on my side. I write as I do because those who understand everything or know the truth are either silent or have failed to convince all of us. Therefore, consider what follows only as fragments from a work in progress.
*
Why are Armenians mean to one another? What is at the root of our dogmatism, mutual intolerance, and divisiveness which have made of us perennial losers and underdogs? Puzant Granian once quoted to me a teacher of his who used to say, “There is a Turk in all of us.” This may suggest Armenians are not harmless Saroyanesque clowns whose sole aim in life is to entertain and amuse odar audiences, but more like carnivores who “survive by cannibalizing one another” (Zarian).
*
We are divided because we lack a common pool of values, customs, traditions, and language. We have as many as 43 dialects, not all of them mutually comprehensible. We might as well be foreigners and barbarians (the Greek word for foreigners) to one another.
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Solidarity is a function of the leadership not of the people. Where leaders disagree, people quarrel.
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Our conquerors divided and ruled us for so many centuries that divisiveness has entered our DNA and become the central component of our identity.
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For millennia we took it from barbarians because we had no choice in the matter. We now have a choice and not only we refuse to take it but we also feel liberated enough to verbally slaughter anyone who dares to disagree with us.
*
In his LAMENTATION, Naregatsi (our Dante/Shakespeare) explains that like all men we too are walking encyclopedias of failings (or sins). The only way to come to terms with this fact is by becoming aware of it in the hope that the reality principle (or God) will reward us with understanding, forgiveness, acceptance, and serenity. It follows, when a fellow Armenian arouses the worst in us, we should be grateful to him for making us aware of the Turk within, for, according to Freud, the aim of civilization is to make the unconscious conscious.
*
God bless you and God bless the divided tribes of Armenia.
#
Monday, January 26, 2009
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ON THE FALLACY OF DOGMAS
************************************************
In the USSR the economy was controlled; in the U.S. it was free. Both went bust. This may suggest a number of things, among them:
(one) all systems are open to abuse and corruption, and no system is foolproof;
(two) sooner or later all dogmas are exposed as fallacies by the reality principle;
(three) more often than not crises are created by experts or self-assessed superior intellects;
(four) the stronger an opinion, the weaker its foundation in truth;
(five) to know all there is to know about a specific academic discipline does not mean to know more about life;
(six) next time you run into someone who knows better, consider the possibility that his superior knowledge may be inferior to your ignorance;
(seven) a political party will have a better chance to survive if its party line is a zigzag;
(eight) when it comes to their own expertise, all experts are optimists.
#
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
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REPLIES
************************************************
“I disagree with you because I have more than one bishop, historian, and professor on my side.”
I could always claim to have God on my side (“A house divided against itself cannot stand”) but I refuse to take the name of the Lord in vain.
*
“Has it ever occurred to you that a divided house may have a better chance to survive because if one half perishes the other may continue to live and prosper?”
Maybe so but let's see if this theory applies to us. Once upon a time we had vibrant communities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, how many of them survive today? And let's consider the Armenian-American diaspora: judging by its rate of intermarriage (80% I believe) and assimilation, the consensus is it may not make it to the next century.
*
“The Diaspora may perish, but the Homeland will live!”
If in the Diaspora we have a high rate of assimilation, in the Homeland they have a higher rate of exodus. I have heard it said that the only people who don't want to emigrate are the cops.
*
“We have the leadership we deserve.”
No one deserved the likes of Sultan Abdulhamid II, Talaat, and Stalin, not even our leaders.
*
“I believe in the immortality of the nation because Armenians are men of faith.”
Faith is not enough. We must also do what must be done. Which means mutual tolerance, solidarity, dialogue, compromise, consensus, and above all respect for human rights, including that of free speech. If our bishops, historians, professors, and pundits don't believe in free speech, even He, whose name I refuse to to take in vain, and all His angels and archangels cannot save us.
#
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
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VICTIMS
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No one, not even Armenians, are interested in Armenians as human beings, only as victims – victims of massacres, earthquakes, wars, and starvation. Whenever Armenians are mentioned in the odar press, the chances are it will be in connection with Turkish criminal conduct during World War I.
Armenians as victims. Speaking for myself as a human being rather than as an Armenian, I say enough of this miserabilism! Enough of our status as perennial victims. What could be more repellent than pity?
*
An old friend whom I have not seen or exchanged a single word in fifty years comes to see me. He comes armed with a fat dossier outlining his economic plan. He wants to improve conditions of life in the Homeland. Someone must have told him as a writer I may be in a position to introduce him to benefactors. He goes away a thoroughly disappointed man.
*
Once when I expressed a pedestrian wish to a woman (Armenian), she was outraged. “You are a writer!” she said. Did she want a sonnet? I have never written a sonnet in my life. On a good day and with a little bit of luck and daring, I may manage a third-rate haiku, but that's as far I am prepared to go. Even a fourth-rate sonnet I consider altogether beyond my ambitions and capabilities.
*
A writer? An Armenian writer? What could be more contemptible! I am only a human being who does some scribbling on the side. If you find what I say irrelevant I suggest you read our writers, who, you may be interested to know, were also victims of both foreign and domestic tyrants.
#
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Old 31.01.2009, 17:50   #79
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Thursday, January 29, 2009
****************************************************
THE BLAME-GAME
************************************************
What makes the blame-game irresistible to charlatans like Governor Blogojevich of Illinois is that it allows them to portray themselves as morally superior even when irresponsible, corrupt, greedy, and guilty as hell. One important difference between Blogojevich and our own wheeler-dealers is that no one died as a result of the Governor's misconduct. Even more important: Americans have a justice system and a legal maneuver known as impeachment. Do we even have a word for it? And if we do, when was the last time anyone heard it? Which may explain why very soon Illinois will be rid of Blogojevich but we will continue to be at the mercy not of one Blogojevich but a whole gang of them.
*
When our speechifiers and sermonizers speak of unity, they remind me of wolves who would like to see sheep gathered in a single enclosure as opposed to being scattered all over the forest.
*
The comments of our Turcocentric ghazetajis sometimes read like memoranda to a non-existent foreign office staffed by invisible bureaucrats anxiously waiting for their input and advice.
*
At one time or another I have been accused of all those things that I have exposed and ridiculed, including fascism, racism, Antisemitism, anti-intellectualism, and intolerance. I don’t mind pleading guilty to the charge of intolerance: I am indeed intolerant of stupidity and ignorance parading as knowledge and wisdom. I am also intolerant of greed, double-talk, tribalism, chauvinism, yes-men, Ottomanism, Stalinism, cowardice, treason, and arrogance. If by being tolerant of these things I will be a better Armenian, I say, No thanks! I’d much rather be an honest human being.
#
Friday, January 30, 2009
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THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
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With unemployment soaring everywhere, many Armenians may decide to return to the Homeland, get organized, and throw the rascals out. Wishful thinking on my part? I am not sure. Such a movement has already started in France and Russia, and I expect any day now America may follow.
*
I am so used to being insulted by readers that I feel ill at ease when one of them is kind to me. And when I insult a reader I expect him to say it comes with the territory and to forget about it, as opposed to holding a grudge for ninety-nine years. But I guess that too comes with the territory – that is, unforgiving Armenians with the memory of elephants and the venom of seven Turkish vipers.
*
Anti-intellectualism has been a constant in our history because it allows hoodlums the luxury of looking down on their betters and assuming a morally superior stance on the grounds that God and Country are on their side.
*
They rise in defense of God and Country. As for me, I rise only in defense of that most uncommon of all human faculties: common sense.
*
Everything I write is an answer to a specific question, objection, or criticism. And yet, some of my readers complain that I ignore them. I suspect what these readers want is not answers but attention, flattery, propaganda, and lies. To them I say: It’s been a pleasure disappointing you.
#
Saturday, January 31, 2009
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BIG LIES
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Dupes and fools are the backbone of a nation because they are willing to kill and die in the name of a Big Lie.
*
Between a Turkish friend and an Armenian enemy I would choose a Turkish friend. Who in his right mind wouldn't? Many Armenians alive today owe their life to Turkish friends, and many victims of the Genocide, including some of our most beloved writers and poets, owe their death to Armenian traitors.
*
We know the family trees of royal dynasties but not of the masses, to which most of us belong. And the leaders, elites, and top dogs of all nations are, like Obama, mutts.
*
Turks call themselves Turks because they have been brainwashed to believe they are Turks by men who were not themselves Turks. We are all products of mixed marriages.
*
The Byzantine Empire was Greek but some of its greatest emperors and generals were of Armenian descent. The so-called Ottoman Empire that succeeded it was as much Greco-Armenian as Turkish. Most of our own kings and generals were imported talent.
*
At the turn of the last century, the kings and queens of Europe were related to Queen Victoria and to one another; that did not prevent them from fighting a world war that was meant to end all wars (another Big Lie) but resulted in the bloodiest war in the history of mankind.
*
Germany's most dangerous enemies were neither the Russians nor the French but the Nazis (from “national socialism”), in the same way that Russia's greatest enemies were the Bolsheviks, whose supreme leader was a Georgian, whose belief system was based on the theories of a German Jew.
*
World history is full of Big Lies like that one and the Biggest of them all is that political leaders are selfless servants of the people and their number one priority is not number one but the welfare of their subjects.
#
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Old 04.02.2009, 18:40   #80
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Sunday, February 1, 2009
****************************************************
IT TAKES ALL KINDS
************************************************
My friends may forget me, but my enemies never will. That is why I never lose an opportunity of making one. Most of my enemies however are not enemies because I offended them in any way, but because I failed to flatter their colossal egos, which, in their eyes, might as well be a crime against humanity comparable to a massacre of civilians.
*
Ignorance is not a crime, neither is credulity. But some of the worst crimes against humanity were committed by fools and dupes – and, of course, leaders who knew how to organize and use them.
*
A dupe may also be a man of cunning who is infatuated with his own brain power, judgment, and perception of reality.
*
Even after Stalin's crimes were exposed, there were many Armenian-American academics, poets, writers, and merchants who were pro-Soviet (I called them chic Bolsheviks). I know this because I would receive angry letters and telephone calls whenever I published a commentary critical of the regime.
*
Even dupes with a negative IQ are smart enough to believe only in things that are clearly to their advantage. The reason there were so many chic Bolsheviks in America is that the regime treated them as celebrities whenever they visited the Homeland. I will never forget the archbishop who once said to me: “If you ever decide to establish yourself in the Homeland, they will take good care of you.”
Moral: Be aware of charlatans offering unsolicited advice that may sound flattering to your vanity.
#
Monday, February 2, 2009
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THE ABYSS
************************************************
If I write about our dark side it's because no one else does. If our Turcocentric ghazetajis and their role models, our nationalist historians, are to be believed, Turks are our only dark side. But when writers like Raffi, Baronian, Odian, and Zohrab wrote, they stressed our failings, not those of other nations. And then there is Naregatsi, a saint: our greatest and least read writer whose sole subject was the abyss within. Next time you feel like bragging about your Armenian identity, read Naregatsi. Whenever I run into an Armenian who brags about our celebrities, multi-millionaires, our Mikoyans and Mamoulians, our Arlens and Saroyans, and above all about our survival as a nation, I begin to see more merit in a dignified death. To those who brag about Armenia being the first nation to convert to Christianity, may I ask how successful have they been in loving not only their enemies but also their fellow Armenians?
*
I had the following exchange with one of our editors last week:
“We need poetry and fiction,” said he.
“What about essays?” I asked.
“You can do your preaching elsewhere,” was his reply.
My guess is this editor would have rejected Naregatsi on the grounds that his writings did not qualify as vodanavors and massals.
*
Speaking of massals and grandmother stories: Once when I asked another one of our editors why he published so many grandmother stories, he explained: “Because grandmothers have played an important role in our lives.”
Have they? That was news to me. Has any one of our nationalist historians included a chapter on grandmothers in his texts?
Speaking of my own grandmothers: I never knew one of them because she died long before I was born. The other one lived in another town and I saw her once or twice a year. She never told me a single story.
#
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
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POLITICIANS AND WRITERS
************************************************
The difference between politicians and writers is that politicians understand people and writers want to be understood. Politicians understand people in the sense that they know all about their need for flattery and big lies, such as “chosen people,” “superior race,” “first nation this/first nation that.” One could even say that politicians are in the business of inventing and exploiting big lies, and writers in exposing them. This may explain why to this day Hitler, an unspeakably mediocre intellect, has his admirers, and Thomas Mann, a writer of genius, his detractors.
*
The chosen people: If one is to adopt history, facts, and reality as an index, it would be more accurate to speak of the unchosen people.
*
To speak of superiority even as one behaves as the most depraved of criminals: what could be more asinine, perverse and inferior?
*
Perhaps one reason big lies are popular is that they combat repellent truth that are even bigger.
*
What could be more absurd than dupes at the mercy of control freaks speaking of freedom?
*
It is not safe being a law-abiding citizen among criminals, or to speak one's mind among the mindless.
#
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
****************************************************
WITH OLD AGE
COMES OBJECTIVITY
************************************************
With old age comes objectivity, which means the more aware I become of our failings, beginning with my own, the more clearly I see the strategies we employ to cover them up.
We survived because we were divided.
It is all the fault of the bloodthirsty barbarians that surround us.
There is nothing wrong with us.
It's all the fault of the rotten world in which we are condemned to live.
Had we lived in a civilized world, we would have been a role model to all nations.
As for our critics, beginning with Naregatsi: all they do is project their rotten problems on the rest of us because misery like company.
Hence our fondness for massals and vodanavors like “Yes im anoush Hayastani” and the eternal snows of Mt. Ararat.
Between “once there was and was not” we have a marked preference for “was not,” at the end of which three golden apples will fall and we will live happily ever after.
#
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Old 07.02.2009, 17:59   #81
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Thursday, February 5, 2009
****************************************************
NOTES AND COMMENTS
************************************************
You cannot solve a problem whose existence you refuse to acknowledge.
*
Armenians are not litigious by nature – they learn it from their leaders.
*
Fascists don't believe in dialogue and compromise, only in consensus and unanimity. Even when there are ninety-nine voices saying yes, and only one saying no, they feel the need to silence the sole dissenting voice.
*
To know a great deal about Turks and next to nothing about Armenians, except their status as victims: that, it seems, is the mission of our Turcocentric ghazetajis.
*
The reason why I am consistently negative is that my life and work may be divided into three distinct periods:
(one) past -- naïve and sentimental;
(two) present -- old and cynical;
(three) future – unprintable and unmentionable.
*
“After all, we are Armenians!” – meaning , anything we say or do must be accepted and forgiven, including that which would be normally unacceptable and unforgivable. Some Armenians use Armenianism the way cold-blooded killers use the plea of insanity.
*
There are as many versions of the past as there are ideologies, religions, nations, tribes, and schools of thought, all of whom assert to have a monopoly on truth. To say therefore that our own version of the past is true but the French, Russian, Patagonian, or, for that matter, Turkish versions of their own past is false, is to bury our heads in the sand.
#
Friday, February 6, 2009
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ON EASTERN MYSTICISM
************************************************
What can we learn from schools of Eastern mysticism? Or rather, what has the East learned from its own mystics? To those who say the ideas of Eastern mystics have universal validity even if they have been corrupted by their religious and political leadership, I say, the same could be said of Christianity and its mystics.
Gandhi, a Hindu, learned a great deal from the Bhagavat Gita and other Hindu scriptures. But he also learned from Tolstoy (a Russian), Ruskin (an Englishman), and Thoreau (an American).
*
If history teaches us anything it is that no matter how noble an idea or ideology, sooner or later it will be corrupted and perverted by an authoritarian elite whose greatest concern will not be the welfare of the masses but its own powers and privileges.
*
What can we learn from mystics of both East and West? Only this: the mystical experience is not transferable and all efforts to express it in words are destined to fail. For more on this subject see Aldous Huxley's THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, and Arthur Koestler's THE LOTUS AND THE ROBOT. Also of interest, the writings of Krishnamurti, an Indian mystic, who said, “If you follow someone else, you are on the wrong path,” or words to that effect. This is true of individuals as well as nations. Our greatest exponent of this particular idea is Gostan Zarian. See his TRAVELLER AND HIS ROAD and BANCOOP AND THE BONES OF THE MAMMOTH, both available in English.
*
Arthur Koestler on Zen Buddhism: “Inarticulateness is not a monopoly of Zen; but it is the only school which made a philosophy out of it, whose exponents burst into verbal diarrhea to prove constipation.”
Elsewhere: “Zen always held a fascination for a category of people in whom brutishness combines with pseudomysticism, from Samurai to Kamikaze to Beatnik.”
Koestler is much better on Indian mysticism and its countless aberrations, including Gandhi's.
*
Finally, here are two of my favorite Buddhist sayings: “Look not for refuge to anyone beside yourself”; and “Foolish friends are worse than wise enemies.”
#
Saturday, February 7, 2009
****************************************************
DIARY
************************************************
It is written “You can't cook pilaf with words.” It is also written “Soft words can break bones.”
*
Once upon a time a man went all over the world in search of buried treasure only to discover on his return home that it was buried in his own backyard.
Moral: It's a waste of time searching wisdom in what you don't know.
*
To be the slave of former slaves is not freedom.
*
In a recent edition of the PETIT LAROUSSE ILLUSTRÉ (the most widely used French-language reference work) there is an entry on Talaat Pasha wherein we read about what an Armenian did to him as opposed to what he did to the Armenians. As a matter of fact, there is only one Armenian mentioned and that is in the final line, which reads: “He was assassinated by an Armenian.” The innocent reader is left with the impression that some bloodthirsty crazed Armenian victimized an innocent Turkish statesman.
*
In all fairness to LAROUSSE: in its entry on ARMENIA we read: “1915: The Young Turks committed genocide (1,500,000 victims).”

DIKRAN THE GREAT is identified as a Parthian. Armenian emperors of Byzantium are not identified as Armenian; neither are such Armenian writers as Adamov and Troyat.

Pierre Gaxotte: “There is no such thing as History, there are only historians.”
#
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Old 11.02.2009, 19:08   #82
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Sunday, February 8, 2009
****************************************************
REACTIONARIES
************************************************
We sometimes forget that our revolutionaries, as well as dictators like Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, began their political careers as dissidents; but the only important lesson they appear to have learned is that, if it is easier to silence dissent, engaging in dialogue is a waste of time.
*
Even as they dig us deeper into the hole, they speechify about the light at the end of the tunnel.
*
On Armenian TV, a schoolmarm was delivering a report to a silent audience. At one point when she mentioned someone's contribution of a thousand dollars to the school, the audience woke up with a thunderous applause.
*
To think someone else's thought is not thinking. To think, to really think, means to explore the not-yet-thought.
*
The brainwashed cannot think; they can only think they are thinking.
*
Understanding is a solitary endeavor. Prejudice is gang-driven.
*
What is literature? In the preface of a history of French Literature I read the following: “Literature is not just something that writers produce. Oral literature preceded written literature and it has always coexisted with it. Conversation, unless it is purely utilitarian, is also a form of literature.”
What happens when two Armenians disagree? The answer must be, they produce anti-literature.
#
Monday, February 9, 2009
****************************************************
ONE-LINERS
************************************************
Flattering the scum of the earth does not qualify as love of one's fellow men.
*
Mahatma Gandhi was not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but Arafat was.
*
My brilliant career: from a young man to watch to an old junkyard pit bull to be avoided.
*
If like me, you were brought up on a steady diet of propaganda, you should have more questions than answers.
*
Barbarians may be civilized. It is much more difficult with riffraff.
*
To top dogs, words like democracy and human rights are just words that hardly register on their consciousness. To underdogs like me they may well be a matter of life and death.
*
Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767): French politician and financier under Louis XV who balanced the budget by taxing the privileged classes and the rich. His enemies gave his name to linear designs as a symbolic reference to the condition to which his victims (those he taxed) were reduced by the time he was through with them.
*
No one believes anyone who assesses himself, and only gullible fools believe in gypsy fortune-tellers. To those who say, sometimes gypsies can be right, I say, they may well be, but an Armenian who brags never is.
#
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
****************************************************
ON SAROYAN
************************************************
In Athens, I read him in Greek, in Venice in Italian, and in Canada in English. He sounded good in all of them.
The three books that I enjoyed most:
HERE COMES, THERE GOES, YOU KNOW WHO,
PAPA YOU'RE CRAZY,
MAMA I LOVE YOU.
Not his best works, granted. What I loved about them was their spontaneity. It was this quality that encouraged many to become writers – most of them, like Kerouac and his followers, mediocrities.
I saw Saroyan only once in the 1950 in a schoolyard in Kokinia, a suburb of Athens. He spoke very briefly, with a booming voice, in Armenian, to an audience of about a hundred fellow countrymen. His two children were with him. Afterwards people went up to him, shook his hand, and exchanged a few words. I was too intimidated to follow their example.
About twenty years later, I wrote him a letter asking for an interview. A few years passed before I heard from him. He apologized for the delay, agreed to the interview, complained about a recent interview with an Armenian poet (who was later murdered in Moscow), mentioned Zarian (he knew him but couldn't figure him out, he said). To my astonishment he also said he reads everything I write, and wanted to know if I have written any fiction. In reply I sent him some of my published fiction but I never heard from him again. Someone who knew Saroyan well once said to me: “Saroyan is interested only in Saroyan.”
In the memoirs of his son Aram, and wife, Carol Matthau (referred to as “Carol Saroyan Saroyan” in Truman Capote's last and unfinished nonfiction fiction, ANSWERED PRAYERS, because she married him twice) Saroyan appears as a wholly unSaroyanesque character.
*
Being Armenian looks easy only in Saroyan’s fiction. In reality it is such a demanding enterprise that most Armenians give up the effort and assimilate, and I for one do not blame them.
*
The most amusing line that I remember from Carol Matthau's memoirs: “As Armenians like to say, when I say la, understand lalabloo.”
#
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
****************************************************
MAXIMS AND REFLECTIONS
************************************************
If Naregatsi, Raffi, Baronian, Odian, and Zarian, among many others, failed, what are our chances of success? Next to nil! We may, however, succeed if the “angularity of time” is in our favor. Life is unpredictable, the future uncertain, and the world as dangerous a place as the mouth of a volcano. Who would have thought that American capitalism would one day degenerate to socialism for the rich? Who would have imagined that three multi-millionaire chief executive officers, hostile to unions, would come to Washington in their private jets, united, begging for taxpayers' money?
*
We are much more transparent than we think we are, and we expose ourselves more not by what we say but by what we avoid saying.
*
Why should anyone care what a marginal scribbler thinks or says? -- unless of course he exposes a wound, at which point he becomes a nuisance, a menace, a disturber of the peace, and an enemy of the people.
*
There are those who read me for the sheer pleasure of sending me abusive e-mails, and they are my best sources of stimulation.
*
Why fight an adversary who is his own worst enemy? Why kill a man who is hanging himself?
*
You start winning when you no longer care whether you win or lose.
*
It is only when you try to change the status quo that you acquire a better understanding of the powerful forces that hold it together.
#
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Old 14.02.2009, 17:36   #83
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Thursday, February 12, 2009
****************************************************
HORROR SH0W
************************************************
In his impressions of Siberia, an American traveler writes that whenever he wanted to say “good” in Russian, he would say, “horror show” (=horosho). Reminds me of Rosalind Russell in A MAJORITY OF ONE saying “You're welcome” in Japanese sounds like “Don't touch my mustache” (=Do-itashimasta”).
*
From a televised interview with deputy prime minister of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, a puppet of Putin:
“What do you like doing best?”
“Fighting. I'm a soldier.”
“And when there's no one left to fight?”
“I have bees, bulls, fighting dogs.”
“What else to you like?”
“Partying. I love women.”
“And your wife doesn't mind?”
“I do it secretly.”
From THE ANGEL OF GROZNY by Asne Seierstad (New York, 2008, page 100).
*
A moderate pacifist doesn't have a chance against a warlike fanatic.
*
When an Armenian realizes he cannot settle his score with Turks, he moves on to an easier target – his fellow Armenians, and the more defenseless the better.
*
We learn from failure. Success has the opposite effect.
*
It is good to be smart but not to appear to be smart – especially if one is an idiot.
*
As a child I was brought up to believe all Turks go to hell. As an adult I know that not all Armenians go to heaven.
#
Friday, February 13, 2009
****************************************************
THE POWER AND THE GLORY
************************************************
Because they can't promise peace and prosperity, nationalists promise power and glory, and what mortal can resist two divine attributes? (“For thine is the power and the glory.”)
*
There are many schools of criticism, the most common are envy-driven and revenge-driven.
*
I have yet to meet an anti-Semite who wasn't a bully.
*
Churchill on de Gaulle: “What can you do with a man who looks like a female llama surprised when bathing?”
*
Under the Soviets we experienced despotism, intolerance, censorship, corruption, abuses of power, and purges (a euphemism for the systematic slaughter of the best and the brightest). And yet, there are those who assert the Soviets ushered in a renaissance of arts and culture. Who says Armenians are smart? Only Armenian idiots who think they are thinking even as they recycle enemy propaganda.
*
Nabokov's aristocratic contempt for lower-class writers like Dostoevsky, Mann, and Sartre reminds me of the king who, after the premiere of DON GIOVANNI, said to Mozart: “Too many notes.”
*
Once, when I was the regular book-reviewer of several Armenian-American weeklies, I received a book of memoirs by a rug merchant with a note that said, the longer the review, the bigger the check in the mail.
*
The universal and irresistible temptation to appear smarter or better than we are.
#
Saturday, February 14, 2009
***********************************************
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
******************************************
Our faith in Athena, goddess of wisdom, has collapsed, but the Parthenon stands. We are made of stardust, and it is the dust that will survive.
*
We are careful to admit only the failings we think we have overcome.
*
Our Turcocentric ghazetajis think humor is pro-Ottoman.
*
In his WISDOM OF THE SANDS, Saint-Exupery tells us to be aware of misguided pity. There are beggars, he explains, who love to cling to their stench and to expose their sores.
*
A self-appointed commissar of culture may qualify as a potential murderer but not as a critic.
*
"For a smart man, you can be very naïve!" a trial lawyer, who is also a good friend, tells me. I don’t know about smart but I am worse than naïve when I get emotionally involved. Emotion reduces a complex reality into a one-dimensional extension of ourselves. Emotion, writes Sartre somewhere, attempts to change the world by means of magic. What could be more primitive?
*
Saint-Simon: “My self-esteem has always increased in direct proportion to the damage I was doing to my reputation.”
*
Tolstoy: “The higher I rise in the opinion of others, the lower I sink in my own.”
*
#
Writers like Naregatsi, Raffi, Baronian, Odian, Zarian, Shahnour, Massikian, among many others, prove that criticism and patriotism are not incompatible concepts; blind patriotism by contrast is almost always symptomatic of fascism.
#
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Old 18.02.2009, 19:04   #84
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Sunday, February 15, 2009
***********************************************
THE GREEKS AND US
******************************************
Whenever I am told to be more positive, I think of Homer who begins his story with a rape and ends with the destruction of Troy. And what do we learn from the ODYSSEY? Only this: even when one is engaged in as innocent an undertaking as going home, one will have to deal with obstructionists.
If you dismiss Homer's testimony as suspect on the grounds that he was an unbeliever, let's consider the Bible: Why did the Good Lord introduce a serpent in the Garden?
There are those who maintain it was not the Lord who did that but the CIA. But I for one don't believe everything I am told, and that's where my troubles begin. When I am told, for example, that we are better or smarter than the Greeks because we no longer believe in many gods some of whom fornicated with mortals, all I can say is that, that's true, we have made some progress in that department. We believe in only one God who is divided into three, and only one of the three, the Holy Ghost, engaged in the business of impregnating a mortal.
The Greeks condemned Socrates to death because he said “Of the gods we know nothing.” Christians, by contrast, persecuted and killed only those who did not share their dogmas, lies, and propaganda.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or, as the French are fond of saying, “Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme merde.”
#
Monday, February 16, 2009
***********************************************
THE ANGEL OF GROZNY
******************************************
We are smart, no doubt about that. We are as smart as any nation you care to mention. We may even be smarter than some. But we have been systematically moronized by our leadership. We have been as systematically moronized as any nation under a corrupt and incompetent leadership that has collaborated with some of the most brutal, ruthless, and bloodthirsty regimes in the history of mankind -- and it has collaborated to the point of betraying and murdering its greatest intellects.
If you want to know more on the subject of systematic moronization, I urge you to read Asne Seierstad's THE ANGEL OF GROZNY (New York, 2008), a masterpiece of contemporary journalism that deals with recent developments in Chechnya and the evils of Russian and Chechen nationalism.
*
The very same readers who tell me not to open old wounds, never give up blabbering endlessly about older wounds.
*
I have never heard a loud-mouth charlatan or fanatic to admit error, which may suggest, the louder they are, the more infallible they consider themselves to be.
*
Some of our most ardent nationalists live in self-imposed exile, and when war breaks out in the Homeland, they selflessly allow others to do their killing and dying for them.
#
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
***********************************************
STANDARDS
******************************************
To agree in the name of an ideology or belief system is to conspire against the majority of mankind.
*
Speech and honesty can be a lethal combination.
*
The danger is not in worshiping false gods but in worshiping the devil in the name of god.
*
When a loser's dreams come true, they turn into nightmares.
*
The more successful you are in fooling men, the less successful you will be in fooling reality.
*
Armenian etiquette: If you are wrong you will be corrected. If you are right you will be insulted.
*
And now, from the general to the specific:
How to explain the decline of our cultural standards when compared with those of the turn-of-the-century Ottoman Empire and pre-Stalin Soviet Union? The answer must be: the philistinism of our bosses, bishops, and benefactors combined with the opportunism of our academics.
#
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
***********************************************
RANDOM THOUGHTS
******************************************
All ideologies begin as belief systems and end as bureaucracies; and all bureaucracies might as well be interchangeable. What failed in the United States and the Soviet Union is neither capitalism nor communism but “the invisible hand” of faceless bureaucrats.
*
If so far we have failed to learn from history it's because history and propaganda are mutually exclusive concepts, and our propaganda tells us we know all there is to know and there is nothing wrong with us – it's all the fault of the rotten world in which we live.
*
It's unbelievable the number of things people will avoid saying in order to achieve popularity. I could never acquire that particular talent – or is it tactic?
*
Smart Armenians are a dime a dozen. Honest Armenians – that's different.
*
In our environment, the higher they rise, the more crooked they get.
*
A fellow Armenian (a white-haired elderly no-nonsense type) knocks on my door, introduces himself, barges in, and demands to know if I am really an atheist. I tell him I don’t believe in the god of our priests. He is too puzzled by my answer to pursue the matter. What I fail to add is that, the true atheist is he who uses someone else’s crucifixion to make a comfortable living.
#
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Old 21.02.2009, 17:41   #85
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Thursday, February 19, 2009
***********************************************
PERVERTS
******************************************
God is the Unknown and the Unknowable. Truth resides not in places we have seen but in inaccessible dimensions about which we know nothing.
*
After defining military defeat as moral victory, we feel justified in identifying ourselves as perennial winners. Ah! The magic power of words and the irresistible temptation of confusing propaganda with reality.
*
One man's terrorist, we are told, is another's freedom fighter. One man's believer is another's infidel. One man's hero is another's bloodthirsty barbarian. I may pretend to understand these things but I am as confused as the rest of mankind -- except of course the heroic freedom fighter who believes he is following the Guidance. Or is it the brainwashed dupe who will believe anything that flatters his loathsome little ego?
*
To speak in the name of God and do the Devil's work: it takes perverted logic to reach such abysmal depths of moral degradation.
*
The greater the cultural achievements of a nation, the greater its depths of moral debasement. After Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler. After Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Stalin and Beria.
*
So you think I stress the negative and ignore the positive? Suppose you are hungry. You walk into a restaurant and order a big bowl of your favorite soup; and as you are about to enjoy it, you notice a fly in it. When you point that out to the waiter, he tells you 99% of your soup is fly-free. Why concentrate on the negative and ignore the positive?
#
Friday, February 20, 2009
***********************************************
AS I SEE IT
******************************************
To know better does not always mean to know the truth, and what's the use of knowing better if what you know is a lie?
*
The lower they sink, the higher their opinion of themselves. Psychologists have a word for this abnormality: they call it compensation.
*
Even people who hate doctors are glad to see them when they are in need of their help. The same does not apply to critics in an environment where everyone has somehow managed to convince himself that God is on his side, he is in good hands, and he never had it so good.
*
There will always be a demand for our weeklies if only because Armenians love to see their names in print. Our editors know this and they cram in as many names in every issues as they can.
*
One should never speak well of oneself – it smacks of boasting, and to boast is to confess a weakness, namely one's dependence on flattery, even if the flattery is self-administered.
*
Some comedians specialize in insulting their audience, and these comedians become popular because most people would rather be insulted than ignored.
*
In a letter from an Armenian poet: "After writing for Armenians all my life, I am beginning to hate Turks less."
*
Most people are careful not to make the same big mistake twice. The same does not apply to small mistakes which are classified as habits.
#
Saturday, February 21, 2009
***********************************************
ON FORGIVENESS
******************************************
To forgive does not necessarily mean to forget. On the contrary. To forgive sometimes means to remember forever after and to wonder what the hell was it that cornered you into such an unArmenian act as forgiving a scumbag who doesn't deserve to live.
*
To forgive in order to appear magnanimous or to assert moral superiority is closer to vengeance than to forgiveness.
*
Forgiveness, real forgiveness, is rooted in the realization that you are not much different from your enemy and that you may even be worse.
*
ON CONTROL FREAKS
***********************************
When control freaks speak of freedom, they mean their freedom, your subservience.
*
SMILE
********************
In a convent:
“I will ask you two easy questions and a hard one. What's the name of the first man?”
“That's easy: Adam.”
“What's the name of the first woman?”
“That's easy too: Eve.”
“What did Eve say when she first saw Adam?”
“O my! That's a hard one!”
*
I saw six men kicking and punching my mother-in-law. My wife said, “Aren't you going to help” I said, “No. Six should be enough.”
#
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Old 25.02.2009, 19:14   #86
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Sunday, February 22, 2009
***********************************************
MEMO TO A YOUNG ARMENIAN WRITER
******************************************************
Always keep in mind that you will never be able to make a living by sharing your wisdom with readers who are much wiser than you.
*
No matter how good you are, you will have your critics, some of whom would gladly stone you to death. Think of Tolstoy on Shakespeare, Schopenhauer on Hegel, Turgenev on Dostoevsky, Russell on Sartre, and Sartre on himself.
*
When asked which church or community center you go to, say “I am with the good guys.”
*
The three pillars of fascism are: nationalism, anti-intellectualism, and anti-Semitism. I may have told you this before but some things bear repeating, maybe not as often as first nation this and first nation that, but at least once or twice a year.
*
One of our skinheads, who had verbally abused me for several years on a daily basis, once called to apologize. We had a long conversation. Shortly thereafter it became clear that he had not called to apologize but to gather more ammunition against me.
*
When it comes to enemy propaganda, we have 20/20 vision. When it comes to our own, we are blind.
#
Monday, February 23, 2009
***********************************************
READING
******************************************************
Since I don't do much traveling, I enjoy going places by proxy. I just finished reading Farley Mowat's big book on Siberia – SIBIR: MY DISCOVERY OF SIBERIA (Toronto, 1970) – a fascinating place that has attracted many travelers, among them Chekhov.
Mowat writes that Russians love partying and their favorite drinks are Georgian wine and Armenian cognac. I suspect our cognac has done more damage to the Soviets – if only to their livers and longevity – than all their dissidents and ours combined.
I am now reading Paul Theroux's GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR: ON THE TRACKS OF THE GREAT RAILWASY BAZAAR (New York, 2008), where he revisits places that he first wrote about thirty years ago – from London to Tokyo and all the way back via Siberia. Theroux is one of my favorite travel writers and his PILLARS OF HERCULES, about the countries on the Mediterranean coast, is a classic in the genre.
When told by a Romanian academic that Turkey cannot join the EU for another ten years because “they have problems with human rights of the Kurds and the Armenians,” Theroux dismisses Kurdish demands as unreasonable, “and the Armenian business was a hundred years ago.” He goes on to identify himself as “a mild Turkophile” and reflects that “the massacre of Armenians a century ago, the later expulsion of Greeks, and the Kurdish outrages and Turkish reprisals are lamentable facts of Turkish history; still, no city in Asia is so self-consciously reform-minded and it is lucky in its writers, who are public intellectuals in the European mode – Orhan Pamuk was one of the many who denounced the downplaying of the Armenian slaughter. He represented a public conscience.” I should like to see one of our own writers in that role.
#
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
***********************************************
More on Paul Theroux's GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR: ON THE TRACKS OF THE GREAT RAILWASY BAZAAR (New York, 2008).
****************************************************************
While in Istanbul, Paul Theroux has long conversations with several Turkish writers, among them Orhan Pamuk and the young, dynamic, outspoken, and stunningly attractive Elif Shafak.
Speaking of Pamuk's trial, he writes it was a case of “a lion being judged by donkeys.” “Pamuk's crime,” he explains, “ was his mentioning to a Swiss journalist that 'a million Armenians and thirty thousand Kurds were killed in this country and I'm the only one who dares to talk about it.'”
“Turkey has amnesia,” Elif Shafak tells him. “Turks are indifferent to the past, to old words, to old customs...We need to know about the Armenians.”
Another speaks “about the burden of being a Turkish writer abroad. Westerners whose knowledge of Turkey was limited to MIDNIGHT EXPRESS and doner kebab would challenge them saying, What about the Armenians? What about the Kurds? How come you torture people?”
In Baku we learn that there are Armenocentric Azeris as surely as there Turcocentric Armenians.
“Azerbaijan is a police state,” Theroux is informed by a foreign diplomat. “TV is controlled. Print media is somewhat free, but an opposition editor was gunned down last year.”
An Azeri tells him America should declare war against Iran because Iranian are bad people, but “Armenians are worse...In the 1990s they had captured the Azeri province of Nagorno-Karabagh, killing 20,000 Azeris and displacing a million more.”
“In football, Armenia is our enemy. In life too,” another Azeri tells him.
And, “We are overwhelmed by emotions! Armenians don't make any distinction between Turks and Azeris. Hey, it's all about 1915. When I was at Harvard, I met Armenians from Yerevan and had no problems. But Armenians from Watertown were very belligerent.”
“...in March 1918 in an Armenian uprising, Armenians killed 30,000 Azeris.”
Paul Theroux may identify himself as a moderate Turkophile but what's uppermost in his mind is to be objective, to report rather than to editorialize. We could learn from him.
#
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
***********************************************
FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
****************************************************************
On the radio: four answers to the question “Do you believe in the present economic crisis?” asked at random in a train station:
“No! I think that's something politicians talk about and I don't believe them.”
“Yes. Some people I know have lost their jobs, but I am not worried because I am a teacher.”
“(Laughing) I don't care because I have very little money.”
“Sorry, I can't answer, my train leaves in four minutes.”
*
Julien Green: “Thoughts have wings, words only feet. That's a writer's greatest source of anguish.”
*
“We are Armenians!” yes, I know. But what kind? Ottomanized, Levantinized, Sovietized, Americanized?... Because most of our disagreements are rooted not in our views but in our identities or cultural backgrounds.
*
A French magazine calls Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-il of North Korea “the living-dead.”
*
If like me you prefer dialogue to long descriptive passages, Vladimir Sorokin's THE QUEUE (New York, 2007) is for you. Originally published in 1985, this is a Soviet-era work of fiction that consists in brief exchanges between people waiting in a long line hoping to buy whatever it is that's being sold at the other end.
#
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Old 28.02.2009, 17:55   #87
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Thursday, February 26, 2009
***********************************************
POLITICIANS AND INTELLECTUALS
****************************************************************
Arnold Toynbee: “Society is the total network of relations between human beings. The components of society are thus not human beings but relations between them.”
*
A politician will never say or do anything that may question his ability to lead and to do what must be done, even when he is catastrophically wrong, and even if it means violating the human rights of his fellow countrymen.
By contrast, the function of an intellectual is to say what must be said even if it means exposing the incompetence and criminality of politicians and in the process risking his own survival.
As for propagandists: as extensions of politicians, they specialize in exposing the crimes of the opposition and ignoring and covering up their own.
I am not implying here that politicians and propagandists are always wrong and intellectuals aways right. What I am suggesting is that it is not easy to reconcile the demands of self-interest with objectivity.
*
PARALLELS
*******************************
There is a passage in Toynbee that explains even if indirectly what befell us a hundred years ago in the Ottoman Empire. In what follows, all you need to do is replace the words Egyptiac and Hyksos with Ottoman and Armenian:
“At this moment the apparently defunct Egyptiac society was recalled to life and action by an overwhelming impulse to chastise the Hyksos trespassers who had ventured to desecrate a swept and garnished house by their unclean presence. The stimulus was so powerful, that it raised the Egyptiac society not just from the deathbed but actually from the bier on which it was being carried to the grave, and in this demonic xenophobia the society seemed to have discovered at the thirteenth hour, the long-sought elixir of immortality.”
The final lines of this quotation may also suggest that the glue in nationalism is provided more by fear and hatred of the enemy and less by love of one's fellow countrymen.
#
Friday, February 27, 2009
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HEAVEN AND HELL
****************************************************************
If the system is good to you, you will be good to the system. Millions believed in Stalin because he promised heaven and earth, and he even delivered some of it in the guise of full employment, prosperity, power, and glory. And these believers, like all believers in organized religions, did not stop to question the validity of dogmas that legitimize intolerance, persecution, torture, murder, war and massacre. One could go as far as saying faith is the real source of all evil.
*
A belief system should be judged not by its promises but by its victims. Consider militarism, a belief system that promotes honor, courage, self-sacrifice, glory, and heroism: what mortal could resist these noble attainments? What decent human being would dare to suggest that their opposites, among them cowardice and dishonor, to be superior virtues? And now, listen to Toynbee on these military virtues:
“It is flying in the face of all experience to jump to the conclusion that the only place where we can ever hope to find these precious things is the slaughterhouse where they have happened to make their first epiphany to human eyes.”
*
Closer to home: who supports the present regime in our homeland? First and foremost, our fund-raisers who, according to insiders, make a very comfortable living beyond the wildest dreams of those they claim to help. Unmask these blood****ers and you will come face to face with wheeler-dealers whose role models are Wall Street chief executive officers.
Moral of the story: Don't be a fool. Don't believe everything your are told or read in the papers. Demand accountability and make sure the firm that does the accounting is not run by a brother-in-law or a co-conspirator. And last but not least, next time someone speaks of heaven, makes sure he doesn't mean your hell.
#
Saturday, February 28, 2009
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RANDOM THOUGHTS
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When a doctor kills instead of curing, his license is revoked. This law governing the practice of medicine does not apply to Wall Street chief executive officers probably because law-makers and CEOs are co-conspirators.
*
During World War II Armenians fought on both sides – on the Soviet side in the name of defeating fascism, on the German side in the name of liberating the Homeland. Both sides were convinced theirs was a noble cause. Neither had the initiative or intelligence to ask what's so noble fighting Hitlerism in the name of Stalinism and vice versa? It is simply astonishing the ease with which self-assessed intelligent people are moronized.
*
You want to know what makes Armenians so mean? Six hundred years of kissing Ottoman ass.
#
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Old 04.03.2009, 18:56   #88
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Sunday, March 1, 2009
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TRUE STORIES
****************************************************************
Once upon a time I had a friend who was nice to everyone, made no enemies, was invariably generous in his assessment of others, popular with both men and women. And yet, he died friendless. This is not a judgment on my part but a confession on his. He was an Armenian writer.
*
Not to love but to pretend to love. Not to believe but to pretend to believe. Not to know but to pretend to know. The world is full of them.
*
Should one be tolerant of intolerance?
*
Communism has been defined as state capitalism, and capitalism as socialism for Wall Street CEOs.
*
The search for reason leads to insanity.
*
The most comfortable seating position will give you back pain.
*
There is a slave in every conformist, a revolutionary in every dissenter, an atheist in every believer, a believer in every atheist, and a Turk in every Armenian.
*
Your truth is bound to be someone else's lie.
*
The worst nightmare for an exemplary man or a role model would be coming face to face with his double.
*
No one can be as ignorant as the man with all the answers.
*
All pro-establishment assertions boil down to the motto “I'm alright Jack!”
#
Monday, March 2, 2009
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SOLVING PROBLEMS
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Solving problems is easy. What's hard is implementing the solutions. Consider the present global financial crisis that enriched a few at the expense of impoverishing many.
It seems to me the solution is as clear as daylight and as simple as getting a refund for a defective or unsatisfactory item. In legal parlance: either restitution of funds acquired by the few or a jail term. If this solution is rejected on legal grounds, then all I can say is there is something wrong with the law and it should be rectified and enforced retroactively.
When a doctor kills instead of curing, he cannot plead not guilty by reason of incompetence. Incompetence should not be rewarded but punished. Why should not the same principle apply to economists and financiers whose responsibility it is to take care of the welfare or economic health of the nation?
It goes without saying that law-makers will never agree to pass a law that may expose their own incompetence or corruption or status as co-conspirators with Wall Street CEOs.
But let the world solve its problems. Let's take care of our own first.
How to solve our own problems?
Easy! De-Ottomanize, de-Stalinize, and de-tribalize.
What could be easier?
What's hard is convincing our men at the top that, very much like their counterparts in Washington and Wall Street, they are not la crème de la crème but la crème de la scum.
#
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
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AN ALIEN CULTURE
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During the war in Vietnam Americans were accused of genocide by a number of learned observers, among them Jean-Paul Sartre (see his ON GENOCIDE).
In his GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR (New York, 2008), Paul Theroux writes that whenever he identified himself as an American in Vietnam, he met with smiles and friendliness -- “no moralizing, no frowns, no scolding. Almost all the Vietnamese I met were like this – not backward-looking and vindictive scolds muttering, 'Never forget!' but compassionate souls, getting on with their lives, hopeful and humane.”
Elsewhere: “Travel in Vietnam for an American was a lesson in humility. They had lost two million civilians and a million soldiers, and we had lost more than 58,000 men and women. They did not talk about it on a personal level, at least not in a blaming way. It was not you, they said, it was your government...Blaming and complaining and looking for pity are regarded as weak traits in Vietnamese culture, revenge is wasteful. They won the war against us because they were tenacious, united, and resourceful, and that was also how they were building their economy.”
While in Tokyo, a Japanese writer tells him: “We admired MacArthur – we still do. He's like a father figure.”
#
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
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NOT ALL QUESTIONS HAVE ANSWERS
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Unlike most of my fellow countrymen, I was born a total ignoramus, and even after a lifetime of study and reflection, my area of ignorance is so vast that what I know might as well be a grain of sand on a beach that stretches from here to the horizon.
*
I learn something every day, which may suggest I have spoken as an ignoramus so many times that you would be a fool to take me seriously.
*
Who could be more ignorant that a man with all the answers? And who could be more prone to error that he who asserts infallibility?
*
Einstein said the universe is comprehensible but after decades of hard thinking he failed to explain it.
*
Heidegger said so far no philosopher has been successful in answering the question, why things exist?
*
We like to say people have the government they deserve. But I suggest no one guilty of petty larceny deserves to fry.
*
If the future of our nation is more important than the past, and if we have a better chance to resolve our differences as friends rather than as enemies, why should we not call Turks our brothers?
#


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Old 07.03.2009, 17:55   #89
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Thursday, March 5, 2009
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REFLECTIONS
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When I was a total ignoramus, I always assumed I knew more than the average Joe I happened to be dealing with. Now it's the other way around: I always assume to know less.
*
You can tell how ignorant a man is by how hard he tries to make you think he knows better.
*
The most ungodly people are those who speak in His name, and the most dangerous dupes are those who believe them.
*
I reject the notion that to be a good Armenian means to be a bundle of prejudices and nurse an unsettled score. Which amounts to saying, to be a good Armenian means to be a bad human being.
*
What's uppermost in the mind of a successful writer is to live up to his reputation. Which is why as a marginal scribbler and a total failure I find my status both liberating and stimulating.
*
It is written: “No one can be as dangerous as the man who has nothing to lose.”
*
The greatest challenge a country faces is not electing great leaders but leaders who are the least threat to its welfare. As for our unelected bosses, bishops, and benefactors: they might as well be our Bermuda Triangle.
*
Our ghazetajis operate on the assumption that the average Armenian reader prefers to read about little successes (no matter how imaginary) than colossal failures (no matter how real). Never underestimate the cunning of idiots.
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Prejudice allows a man to tailor his questions to fit his answers.
*
If you don't know, pretend to know. Few people will have the time and appetite to get into a useless argument with a worthless phony. At least, that has been my experience.
#
Friday, March 6, 2009
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MOSAIC
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Truth as a mosaic of lies -- like a pleasing design made of worthless pieces of glass or stone.
*
God as a point of reference or God as a means to expose our failings and imperfections, yes. But God as a license to do this, that, and the other – I say that's damn close to confusing God with the Devil.
*
What could be more absurd than to say, what I believe is true, what you believe is a lie. And yet...
*
Let us teach ourselves to question everything, beginning with our own judgment.
*
To say that ideas acquire legitimacy only when they serve our interests is to undermine the legitimacy of all ideas.
*
What follows is a true story. It happened last year in a Greyhound bus in Canada. A passenger stabs another passenger – a totally unprovoked attack -- and beheads him. When arrested and tried, he pleads not guilty by reason of insanity. God made him do it, he explains.
I suggest the following definition of man: a creature who cannot tell God from the Devil.
*
If repetition is a crime, who is the victim? If repetition is a transgression, where is the harm?
#
Saturday, March 7, 2009
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QUESTION
***********************************************
Win an argument and lose a friend.
It has happened to me more than once.
Some of my worst enemies today are former friends; and they have become enemies because of a minor disagreement on an irrelevant topic.
But perhaps they were never friends, and what they lost was much more than an argument.
We are a confused bunch. No doubt about that.
We are confused because we have been shaped by alien, tyrannical, and unjust laws – laws that viewed dissent as a capital offense, and desire for self-determination (i.e. freedom), that most human of all desires, as a crime against humanity or the integrity of the empire.
When contradicted we feel threatened. There are even those among us (I call them skinheads) who see verbal abuse as a legitimate form of counter-argument.
We will be born again as human beings on the day we learn to have a friendly disagreement.
Remember my friends:
free speech is a fundamental human right,
dissent is not treason,
a political party that places its own agenda above the solidarity and welfare of the nation is not democratic but tyrannical,
and our political leaders are not bosses or representatives of god on earth but public servants.
Because I say these things, am I then your enemy?
#
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Old 11.03.2009, 17:42   #90
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Sunday, March 8, 2009
***********************************************
IF
***********************************************
If I speak well of some Turks it's because I have heard about good Turks and even met and dealt with some of them. If I am critical of my fellow Armenians it's because, very much like the rest of mankind, we are far from perfect. If, on the other hand, you think Armenians are beyond criticism, I can only say, you must be just about the luckiest man on earth because obviously so far you have dealt only with good Armenians. Either that or you are a nationalist, that is to say, blind in one eye.
*
I was brought up to believe reality is not what I see but what I was told to see. I have wasted so much time seeings things that weren't there.
*
Reading teaches us that our blunders, defeats, and humiliations are not unique to us and that countless others have been through the very same experiences.
*
It’s not easy civilizing barbarians. But what is infinitely harder is civilizing barbarians who brag about their past civilization.
#
Monday, March 9, 2009
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KILLERS
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“But he was such a kind man!” neighbors say of a serial killer. I am not implying kindness is suspect. What I am saying is that there is a killer in all of us.
*
Regardless of what you say, you will have your share of critics who belong to the Richelieu school of criticism that says, “If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him.”
*
I don't expect to be published in a newspaper or magazine where archbishops advertise the sale of Oriental rugs in their cathedral. Neither do I expect to be welcome in an Internet discussion forum whose moderator is the son of a bishop or the hireling of a benefactor.
*
To be an honest man means to make many enemies and very few friends.
*
When in a hurry, go slower than your normal speed.
*
“After all, we are Armenians!” – meaning , anything we say or do must be accepted and forgiven, including that which would be normally unacceptable and unforgivable. Some Armenians use Armenianism the way cold-blooded killers use the plea of insanity.
#
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
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ON JUSTICE
***********************************************
I gave up publishing books on the day I realized we had more writers than readers. That may well be another first for us -- first nation to produce more writers than readers, and first nation to massacre more trees per capita than any other nation on earth. One thousand academics in the United States alone – and academics, as everyone knows, must either publish or perish. And then we have, what a friend of mine calls, “a massacre mafia” -- academics whose field is the Genocide and who review and promote books written only by members, they ignore all others.
Once when I wrote something to the effect that massacre books may promote a victim mentality, several reader wrote in protest to say that they don't feel like victims. But suppose a member of your family has been traumatized by a criminal, say, like a rapist. Would you remind her of the rape every chance you get? You may deceive yourself into thinking you are not a victim on the conscious level, but what about your subconscious where the real action is?
Writing books may well be another way of establishing our immortality and as such a legitimate reaction to genocide, granted. But writing books that no one reads?
Like the offspring of all oppressed and victimized people we are first and foremost bundles of unsettled scores for whom verbal abuse is the only safe way to get even. Instead of constantly reminding us of our victimhood, we should be taught the value of such mantras as “Let the dead bury their dead,” and “What's done is done and cannot be undone.” I am not promoting amnesia. What I am doing is reacting against our masochists.
Speaking about verbal abuse: once when I took it upon myself to remind a garbage mouth reader that insulting me simply because he disagrees with me is wrong, he said, “Sue me!” thus expressing an awareness of the fact that the rule of law is mightier than bitching, and one competently written legal brief is worth a thousand lamentations and as many insults.
You want justice? Get a lawyer.
#
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
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NOTES AND COMMENTS
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The real conflict is not between ideologies or belief systems but between those who cling to what they have (even when obtained by piracy or exploitation) and those who have nothing to lose.
*
Sometimes the only way to disarm your accusers is by pleading guilty to crimes that didn't even cross your imagination to commit. It is not easy to satisfy someone who has tasted blood.
*
The ideal citizen is a fool who allows himself to be brainwashed and manipulated. All others are classified as trouble-makers and malcontents. That's the way it is with gravediggers – they prefer to deal with corpses.
*
I don't write to have anyone's agreement. I write the kind of things I would have liked to have read in my formative years when I was programmed not to think for myself.
*
We live as though our problems were insoluble; but we argue as if we had a minimum of two solutions for every one of our problems.
*
Some people are so outrageously wrong that they don’t have to be corrected. Sooner or later life, facts, the reality principle will speak to them much louder than any logical argument or appeal to common sense and decency.
#
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