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Old 12.03.2007, 17:14   #1
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Monday, March 12, 2007
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ON REVOLUTIONARIES
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I have at no time questioned the good intentions of our revolutionaries. What I have been doing is reminding them that hell is paved with good intentions.
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In an intolerant environment, even an often-repeated cliché can make one an enemy of the people.
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What could be more cowardly than fear of clichés?
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No writer has ever silenced a politician. Censorship has always been a one-way street.
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ON SERIAL KILLERS
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Serial killers operate on the assumption that truth is as easily killed as defenseless civilians.
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Old 13.03.2007, 17:48   #2
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007
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A REQUEST
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Before you contradict me, I beg you to reflect for ten minutes. Because everything I say is a result of at least twenty and sometimes thirty years of experience, study, and reflection.
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CONFESSION
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I don’t mind admitting that I have been wrong so many times in the past that I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if someone were to prove me wrong not just on this or that specific point but on everything. I say this because just when I think I have committed every conceivable blunder I commit a new one. But the blunder that I keep committing again and again is trying to reason with fellow Armenians who know better. For I have yet to meet an Armenian who did not know better.
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SOCRATES
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Socrates never said “I know better.” What he said was “The only thing I know is that I don’t know.” What would happen to Socrates in New York, Moscow, or Toronto today? He would be ignored as a harmless and unemployable misfit, eventually acquire the status of a homeless street person, and die of exposure. There are better ways of getting rid of a nuisance than a public trial and the administration of hemlock, both of which cost money.
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PHILOSOPHY TODAY
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Nobody takes philosophy seriously these days; and yet, everyone has a philosophy, even when it happens to be a cliché. “Live and let live, that’s my philosophy,” they say; or “You only live once.” These "philosophers" never ask whether or not they deserve to live at all.
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ENEMIES
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The hardest thing to explain to an Armenian is that divisiveness, corruption, and incompetence are a far greater threat to our survival today than Turks were a hundred years ago. And yet, what we get from our Turcocentric pundits and media is endless talk of past atrocities. After which they accuse me of being negative.
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PAUL JOHNSON ON CROCODILES
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“Everything about a croc is efficient. It copulates under water and takes exactly ten minutes, which oddly enough is the time it took Napoleon Bonaparte.”
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Old 14.03.2007, 13:18   #3
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007
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MEN AND APES
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The status quo will always have its supporters. Even criminal regimes had their rostrum of friends, among them famous writers, composers, scientists, conductors, and Nobel Prize winners. And where there are great men who support a regime for their own reasons, there will also be an abundance of mediocrities and dupes who will support it because better men than themselves do so.
In my anti-Soviet days this type of ape in human form would write me angry letters saying, “Do you think you are smarter than Saroyan?”
What happened to these famous men who supported Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini? Some committed suicide, others like Ezra Pound were declared insane and spent a number of years in an asylum, a few wrote books admitting their mistakes.
It is said that when asked about Jesus, the dying Pilate replied: “I don’t remember anyone by that name.”
The human brain is a marvelous, not to say miraculous, tool a thousand times smarter than the smartest computer. Learn to use it. And if you have your own, why rely on someone else’s? To put it more bluntly, if you are a man, why behave like an ape?
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Old 15.03.2007, 17:08   #4
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Thursday, March 15, 2007
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MAFIAS
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The problem with our so-called cultural foundations is that they are staffed by self-assessed intellectuals, poets, writers, and pundits with their own narrow agendas and criteria, whose central concern is the ruthless elimination of the competition. Translated into dollars and cents this means, when mediocrities are in charge, only lesser mediocrities will have a chance to qualify for support.
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The immediate satisfaction of our instincts makes stronger demands on us than reason, common sense, and decency. There you have the source of much human suffering.
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I will be a popular Armenian writer on the day mice become infatuated with mousetraps.
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Old 16.03.2007, 17:24   #5
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Friday, March 16, 2007
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FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE RIDICULOUS
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When Dorothea Ertmann’s son died, her piano teacher came to see her but “instead of expressing his sympathy with words, he sat right down at the piano, without a word, and extemporized at length.” Dorothea Ertmann is identified as a Bach interpreter and her piano teacher as Beethoven. I read this in Martin’s Geck’s J.S. BACH: HIS LIFE AND WORK (Illustrated, 738 pages, Index, Bibliography. New York: 2006) and in connection to the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue D minor. Geck goes on to explain that Beethoven “knew the Chromatic Fantasy, which since 1802 was widely available in Vienna in print as well as in manuscript, indeed, he copied parts of it himself in 1810.” Elsewhere he explains why one sometimes responds to Bach’s music with laughter and tears at the same time. Though at times scholarly and overly technical, as all books on Bach tend to be, this is no doubt one of the very best books on the subject that contains many accessible pages to the average layman.
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Marcel Proust: “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.” Maybe so, but so far, all grief seems to have done for us is develop our ability to sell Oriental rugs. To those who object and say, there are at least a thousand Armenian academics in America alone, I say: most of these academics are alienated Armenians and have not written a single line on Armenians; the rest are mostly genocide pundits and they go about their business the way Oriental rug dealers do.
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In a commentary in our paper today, titled “Iraqi terrorists are targeting intellectuals,” we read: “The terrorists who are fighting for control of Iraq realize that freedom of expression and learning are their enemies.” This is true not only of terrorists in Iraq today but also fascists, authoritarian regimes, and intolerant and dogmatic people everywhere.
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Old 17.03.2007, 12:36   #6
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Saturday, March 17, 2007
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ON POWER
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“Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” Wrong. Don’t trust anyone with power, even if he is in his teens or twenties; or anyone without power whose ambition is to become powerful. In short: don’t trust anyone. I remember, the first thing I did when I acquired some power was to abuse it. My power was mostly in my imagination and the abuse was as severe as a harmless practical joke. But the fact remains that I abused it as naturally and as thoughtlessly as I breathe or sneeze. Which is why I don’t trust anyone with power, or “the insolence of office,” as the Prince of Denmark (who ought to know) puts it. I have yet to meet a partisan or panchoonie, a bishop or archbishop, who did not abuse his power whenever he thought he could get away with it. Power corrupts because it promotes abuse, and no one is as severely and promptly punished as he who takes it upon himself to expose the abuse.
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Cain killed Abel not because he was a born killer but because he had the power and the opportunity. To say that empire builders like Alexander the Great, Caesar, and Napoleon were better than Cain is an illusion advanced by militarist historians -- the very same militarists who supported the likes of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao who killed more innocent people than a thousand serial killers.
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Where men are in power, women will be abused. But not just women. It was G.B. Shaw who once observed that an upper-class lady spends enough money on her clothes and jewelry to feed a thousand hungry children a year.
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People mourn when solders die. They should mourn on the day war is declared.
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Old 19.03.2007, 18:00   #7
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Monday, March 19, 2007
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FROM MY DIARY
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Once in a while, when I’ve got nothing better to do, I google myself and read some of the comments. When the insults or words with more asterisks than letters outnumber the positive comments, I know I have not lost my touch and must be on the right track.
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It is said, on the day Christians discovered the Bible, every Protestant became a pope. Something similar could be said of the average Armenian who discovers a belief system or ideology: he becomes either a Torquemada or a commissar.
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War becomes a viable option provided (a) it is winnable, and (b) the enemy is in the league with the devil.
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Most Americans are against the war in Iraq today because (a) the war seems unwinnable, and (b) the only way to win it is to adopt the tactics of the enemy by doing to them what they would do if they had weapons of mass destructions, i.e. nuke them back to the Stone Age.
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Old 19.03.2007, 20:37   #8
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Old 24.03.2007, 17:33   #9
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Thursday, March 22, 2007
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AN OPEN LETTER TO HARUT SASSOUNIAN
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You tell me to stick to literature and leave politics to better-qualified heads. You seem to be unaware of the fact that politics or political science is a branch of philosophy, and philosophy is a branch of literature, and the aim of literature is not to entertain readers but to understand man. Understanding man is also the aim of psychology and the study of history. Historians try to establish not just what happened but why. They may agree on the “what” (i.e. the facts) but they may disagree, and often do, on the “why.”
You seem to think pro-Armenianism consists in anti-Turkism. What is your single-minded and obsessive anti-Turkism if not a mirror image of Talaat’s anti-Armenianism? It is true, there is a difference in that, you and your fellow partisans do not advocate indiscriminate massacre, but some may be justified in seeing that as an extension not of moral superiority but of military inferiority.
Next time you pen one of your consistently predictable weekly editorials I suggest you refrain from narrowing your vision by thinking in terms of labels, such as Turks and Armenians, but seeing both as human beings. You must know by now, we have friends among them as surely as we have enemies among us. And it was not Turks who committed the Genocide, but fascists, and fascists come in all sizes, shapes, races, colors, and creeds, including, alas, Armenians.
What is fascism if not a closed system of thought that is self-righteous, dogmatic, intolerant, narrow, and single-minded in its hatred of the enemy. And what is a fascist if not someone who does not believe in dialogue, compromise, and consensus? I repeat: what motivates a fascist is hatred. Without hatred fascism would lose its focus and collapse into impotent and incoherent rage. Hitler needed Jews, Stalin needed not only bourgeois capitalists but also communist deviationists (i.e. Trotskyites), Talaat needed Armenians, and we need Turks – or rather, the fascists among us do. I believe hatred or any kind of intolerance to be an obstacle to understanding not only of others but also of ourselves. If you say we don’t hate anyone, we want only justice, then I ask: Why should understanding, objectivity, and impartiality be an obstacle to justice? On the contrary!
As I see it, we have two options: we either move towards mutual tolerance and co-existence or we follow the dictates of our instinctive need for revenge and, in the process, lower ourselves to the level of those we hate. Armenians and Turks will never reach a consensus as long as they see reflections of themselves in the other, and reflections not of the best but of the worst in themselves.
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After writing these lines, I read the following in a review of Susan Sontag’s posthumously published collection of essays titled AT THE SAME TIME: “…political righteousness was never enough for Sontag. She defends ‘the saving indifference, the saving larger view, that is the novelist’s or the poet’s – which does not obviate the truth of political understanding, but tells us that there is something more than politics, more, even, than history.’” (NEWSWEEK, March 12, 2007.)
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Friday, March 23, 2007
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ONCE UPON A TIME
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When I was young, naïve, and gullible, I divided mankind into two: the good guys and the bad guys.
When I was a dupe I had no doubt whatever in my mind that I was with the good guys.
When I had the IQ of a Mongoloid, even when I behaved badly I thought of myself as good.
When I had the outlook of a Neanderthal, I thought Turks could do nothing right and Armenians could do no wrong. I thought so even when I saw Armenians behaving badly.
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To those who go on thinking like Neanderthals and try to convince me I am wrong and they are right, I say, You are wasting your time. I know where you are coming from and I know where you live, because deep inside somewhere part of me still lives in the same cave. Once a Neanderthal always a Neanderthal. Our reason, our understanding, our thinking may change, but our feelings stay the same.
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On the day Mount Ararat is returned to us, there will be headlines in our papers saying, DORMANT VOLCANO ABOUT TO ERUPT.
If a village near the border is returned to us, another headline will announce, WARNING: PROPERTIES BOOBY-TRAPPED, WELLS POISONED, BRIDGES FALLING DOWN.
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“After shaking hands with an Armenian, count your fingers.” Who started this rumor? Turks, who else?
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I suppose to ask Armenians and Turks to treat one another as human beings is as difficult as asking two bordello madams to treat each other as virgins.
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Saturday, March 24, 2007
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MEGALOMANIA
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On several occasions in the past I have identified myself as a former fascist. It would have been more accurate had I identified myself as a misguided fool. But then, are not all fascists misguided fools in so far as they live in a world of illusions to such a degree that reality becomes an absent factor in their own image of themselves and ultimately in the policies they adopt? Mussolini thought by reviving the Roman Empire he could be another Caesar. Hitler thought the real Chosen People were not the Jews but the Germans. Stalin thought the Messianic Trinity of Marx, Engels, and Lenin had solved all the problems of mankind and he held in his hand the Golden Key of a New and Universal Kingdom. When fascists promise heaven, you can be sure of one thing: they will deliver hell. Something similar happened to us. Our own Mickey Mouse Mussolinis promised Historic Armenia, perhaps even the Empire of Dikran the Great, and they delivered the Genocide. Misguided fools, us? Of course not! Things went wrong, yes, but it wasn’t our fault. We were betrayed by the Soviets. We were betrayed by the Great Powers of the West. We were betrayed by the regime of the Young Turks. We were right. It was the rest of the world that was wrong. What is it about us that makes us consistently right and the rest of the world consistently wrong? What else but megalomania? And not just garden-variety megalomania but self-righteous, dogmatic, obstinate, collective, and terminal megalomania. And terminal because we’d rather see the nation go down the drain than admit error.
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