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    1. #31
      ara baliozian
      Join Date
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      aug. 7

      Thursday, August 05, 2004
      *******************************
      CRITICISM AND HATRED.
      WHY IS ISRAEL PRO-TURKISH?
      A REVERSAL OF ROLES.
      THE PSYCHOLOGY OF NATIONS.
      THE IRRELEVANCE OF LITERATURE.
      *******************************************
      The difference between being critical of American politics and being anti-American is that, Michael Moore's FAHRENHEIT 9/11 is critical, whereas Muslim fanatics are anti-American.
      *
      Something similar could be said of anti-Armenianism and of being critical of Armenian politics. Movses Khorenatsi, Yeghishe, Raffi, Baronian, Odian, Zohrab, Zarian, Massikian, Shahnour and many others were critical of Armenian politics, but Sultan Abdulhamid II and Talaat were anti-Armenian.
      *
      Perhaps one reason the Israelis are pro-Turkish is that they would like to do to Palestinians what the Turks did to us. And I cannot help wondering what would have happened had the Ottoman Empire been an Armenian Empire and the Turks our "Armenians." One guess: We would have done to them what we did to the Azeris in Karabagh (more or less), and having done so we would brag about it; and when asked to admit responsibility or guilt we would accuse our accusers of anti-Armenianism sure in the knowledge that we would have the support and understanding of all imperial powers who at one time or another had been in our position.
      *
      Like individuals, nations too have their psychological complexes. This is not a secret. Anyone in a leadership position knows this but it is to his advantage to exploit these complexes rather than to analyze them, if only because analyzing them may expose him as a wheeler-dealer whose number one concern is number one but who must pretend otherwise by parading as a selfless and humble servant of the nation.
      *
      Sartre is right. Literature solves nothing and helps no one. Our history is very clear on this point. Writing for Armenians is a waste of time. But I go on because Armenianism has been hijacked by rascals and standing by and saying nothing is as difficult as witnessing a gang rape and assuming a passive stance. So what if everything I have said so far doesn't even amount to a whisper on a deserted street in the middle of the night?
      #
      Friday, August 06, 2004
      ********************************
      DEFINING PROPAGANDA.
      POWER STRUCTURES AND DISSIDENTS.
      ARMENIAN HISTORY 101.
      ********************************************
      One Way to define propaganda is to say that it is anything and everything that a power structure tells you.
      *
      If a common crook or a pathological liar tells you 2+2=4, believe it. But if a power structure tells you the same thing, believe it not.
      *
      To recycle propaganda means admitting two things at once: "I am a dupe," and "I hate to think for myself."
      *
      Power structures are not monolithic entities; rather, they have internal fissures and divisions with constantly shifting alliances. A smart Armenian who wants to survive in our environment must sooner or later associate himself with and be subservient to either a boss, bishop or benefactor, all of whom unite only against a common adversary, dissidents. That may explain why Armenian dissidents are an extinct species today.
      *
      The French beheaded their king, the Russians executed their czar, and the Italians hanged Mussolini. Our leaders have managed to survive because they brainwashed us to believe we owe our survival to them.
      *
      "When the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch," the Bible tells us. Our history in a nutshell.
      *
      When the blind leads the blind and the inevitable happens, should we call that leading or misleading?
      *
      When the blind lead the blind and if both are Armenian, they will brag about their survival even as they lament over their shattered bones.
      #
      Saturday, August 07, 2004
      *********************************
      THE USES AND ABUSES OF PATRIOTISM.
      DEFINING HOMELAND.
      WHAT IS CULTURE?
      MEMO TO A CRITIC.
      **********************************************
      Why is it that some Armenians are not emotionally and intellectually equipped to disagree without engaging in verbal abuse? And to think that more often than not they are the very same Armenians who reject the label "Ottomanized." And then there are Armenians who think there is nothing wrong in hating a fellow Armenian or an entire class of them so long as it's in the name of patriotism; and their definition of patriotism is so narrow that any other definition is dismissed as treason.
      *
      What is patriotism? Let's see if we can define it or at least take a step in the right direction. If we say it is love of country (in the sense of homeland) then we shall have to define country: is it the real estate? -- the mountains, lakes, rivers and valleys? Is it the Armenian people as a whole? Is it the present regime or the administration of justice? Is it the culture? Things, as you may begin to suspect, are not as simple as they may appear to be at first sight.
      *
      If by country we mean the land, then we must ask the question: In what way Armenian mud is different from Turkish mud?
      If it is the people: Does that mean you are less of a patriot if you hate or disagree with even a single fellow Armenian?
      If it is our culture: What is culture? Or, who is qualified to define it? - a politician (whose central concern is power), a priest? (whose business is saving souls), or a writer (whose aim is to understand reality by separating fact from propaganda)?
      *
      If, on the other hand, we adopt Goethe's definition of homeland ("Wherever a man is allowed to work and provide for his family") we may have to agree that Armenians of the Diaspora and Armenians in the Homeland who wish to emigrate (and I am told everyone except policemen and politicians does), Armenian patriotism might as well be an oxymoron.
      *
      It took me about three decades to figure out what's what and who's who in our environment. Instead of calling me names or identifying me as an enemy of the people, I suggest you give yourself a little more time before you jump to conclusions - unless of course you happen to be one of our dime-a-dozen geniuses or self-appointed experts on any given subject born with superior powers of observation and understanding. In which case you should get busy sermonizing and speechifying in an effort not only to convert skeptics like me but also to re-interpret the work of many of our ablest writers who at one time or another adopted a critical stance.
      #

    2. #32
      ara baliozian
      Join Date
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      comments

      Sunday, August 08, 2004
      *******************************
      THE NATIVE TONGUE.
      *********************************
      In the Greek ghetto where I grew up the old folks spoke in Turkish among themselves and the kids spoke in Greek. Once when urged to speak in Armenian by the old, I asked my dad: "You speak in Turkish, and yet you insist that we speak in Armenian, why?" My father explained: "We speak in Turkish because the Turks used to threaten to cut out our tongues if they caught as speaking in Armenian." Armenians must have been an obedient bunch, I remember to have thought, because there were no Armenians in the ghetto of several thousand (all of them refugees from the Ottoman Empire) with missing tongues or any kind of speech impediment.
      *
      The question we should ask at this point is: If it was Ottoman policy to cut out tongues, why is it that they allowed Armenian writers to write and publish hundreds of books and dozens of newspapers, periodicals, and calendars in Istanbul? Unless of course cutting out tongues was a policy implemented only in the interior provinces. But then, even in remote villages there were Armenian churches and schools and most of our writers were educated in such provincial schools.
      *
      Consider what is happening in the Diaspora today: most Armenians cannot or don't want to speak in Armenian even though no one is threatening to cut out their tongues if they choose to do so. And most Armenians prefer to assimilate perhaps because they instinctively see no future in keeping their identity, culture and traditions - except perhaps when it comes to shish-kebab and pilaf.
      *
      The thought now occurs to me that perhaps when our elders reminisce about the "old country" they do not always speak the truth.
      *
      Cutting out tongues is a barbaric custom and it is against the law in all civilized countries, including America. But in what way silencing a writer is not cutting out his tongue? And of what possible use is the fundamental human right of free speech if it is employed only to recycle propaganda or to engage in verbal vandalism? -- which consists in doing to civilized discourse what the Turks did to us.
      *
      Perhaps what I am trying to say here is that, if you ever want to assert your Armenianism, do not behave like a Turk, and when someone points that out to you, do not pretend not to see it.
      #
      Monday, August 09, 2004
      *********************************
      RAFFI'S THEORY.
      A 19TH-CENTURY FALLACY.
      INFANTILE CRITICISM.
      WHAT IS MORAL COMPASS?
      I PROPOSE AN EXPERIMENT.
      ***************************************
      Raffi once ascribed all our defeats to treason, which, he said, "is in our blood." The conception of "blood" as the source of racial traits or national character is, of course, a 19th-century fallacy. Instead of blood, we now speak of convolutions of the brain, or environmental conditioning, or collective unconscious. Raffi's theory is not without merit, however, even if it requires some terminological updating.
      *
      In my view, all our misfortunes may be ascribed not to blood or fate or an extension of powers beyond our control or comprehension, but to a certain type of individual or rather meddler (and here we can borrow Odian's terminology by calling him a Panchoonie) who, in today's parlance, would be described as a loud-mouth smart-ass with the moral compass of a certified moron, by which I mean an inherent inability to tell the difference between patriotism and fascism, or between Armenianism and Ottomanism (or Sovietism). When such a type preaches tolerance, he means tolerance only of his own ideas. As for free speech, dialogue, compromise, consensus, and democracy: he dismisses them all as Western aberrations. In his view, the West is morally bankrupt, and Armenianism (meaning Ottomanism) is a superior brand of ideology, mindset, or system of thought. And if you were to ask him how does he know these things or what has been his experience in the field, he will either call you names or ascribe his wisdom to his racial inheritance or blood.
      *
      Because I have written again and again against dogmatism, intolerance, authoritarianism, all forms of fascism and racism, I have been called dogmatic, intolerant, authoritarian, fascist and racist - among other things. I call this type of criticism infantile or bounce criticism, because it doesn't require any thinking: it simply bounces back the criticism to the critic; and infantile because that's exactly how we reacted when we were kids: when someone called us a liar, we replied: "You are the liar!"
      *
      To those who say writers are unreliable because they are eccentrics, sometimes even unstable, I suggest the following experiment: ask any alienated or assimilated Armenian (and there are millions of them): "Why? Why are you alienated?" or "What motivated you to opt for assimilation?" and don't be surprised if his reasons are variants of the very same ideas that I have been expounding here.
      #
      Tuesday, August 10, 2004
      *******************************
      ARMENIAN HISTORIANS AND THEIR COUNTERPARTS.
      A MATTER OF CREDIBILITY.
      HOW TO RECONCILE THE IRRECONCILABLE.
      WHO WAS ARTIN DADIAN?
      ************************************************** ******
      Even though Armenian pundits and historians don't always agree with one another and notwithstanding the fact that I have myself been exposed to a great deal of nonsense by them, I have been brought up to believe they are fundamentally more honest than their Turkish counterparts. The problem is, most Turks have also been brought up (or brainwashed, if you prefer) to believe their own historians are more honest than their Armenian counterparts. How to reconcile these two opposite camps?
      *
      I am told some Armenian historians, among them our foremost Genocide authority, Vahakn Dadrian, are now available in Turkish. On the day we translate and publish Turkish historians into Armenian, we may be in a better position to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I for one am not holding my breath. Armenians refuse to publish even their own writers who refuse to recycle a certain brand of crapola.
      *
      How many of my readers, I wonder, are familiar with the name of Artin Dadian? - a prominent member of the Ottoman Administration under Sultan Abdulhamid II, who wrote the following letter to our revolutionaries in 1898:
      "I suggest that today we exercise nothing but patience and tolerance. First, Europe shows complete indifference and says there is no Armenian question as far as they are concerned. Second, the threat of the complete annihilation of the Armenian nation has not yet entirely passed, and third, the people are tired of revolutionary deeds and are ready to patch up their differences with the government in order to remain safe from further terrible events as have almost wiped out our people from the face of the earth. Fourth, various organizations are fighting different causes, each in their own way, and in the middle of all this stands one pitiful Artin Dadian, who on the one hand begs the Sultan for mercy by telling him that this would be the best thing for his empire and on the other hand fights base individuals who in order to attain their selfish aims are even willing to sell their nation. I believe it will be proper, as I have mentioned countless times before, for our people to patch up their differences with the Sultan."(*)

      ************************************************** *********
      (*)See THE ROLE OF THE DADIAN FAMILY IN OTTOMAN, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND POLITICAL LIFE by Pars
      Tuglaci (Istanbul, 1993).
      #
      Wednesday, August 11, 2004
      ***********************************
      VARIETIES OF PATRIOTISM.
      FREE SPEECH AND ITS DEFENDERS.
      DO I REPEAT MYSELF?
      DISSENT AS TREASON.
      **************************************
      Patriotism has several meanings, including some that are downright unpatriotic. Patriotism is unpatriotic when it consists in supporting and defending a corrupt or incompetent leadership whose ultimate if unstated aim is the destruction of the homeland. Cases in point: Italian and German patriotism under Mussolini and Hitler, or, for that matter, under any form of power structure that views dissent (or free speech) as treason.
      *
      Like patriotism, free speech too has more than one definition, and under all authoritarian regimes it means only one kind of speech and one kind of ideas, any other kind being a manifestation of hostility that should be suppressed.
      *
      I remember to have read only one editorial in defense of free speech in our partisan papers -- that's when Levon Der Bedrossian banned the ARF press in Armenia.
      *
      No doubt some of my readers will think I am expressing these views because I have been silenced by our press. "What if you have been silenced because you are wrong?" they may even demand to know. Free speech and the possibility of being wrong are not mutually exclusive and might as well be synonymous. If we say free speech is a privilege accorded only to the wise and the infallible, who among us would qualify? Or who among us would admit to being unwise and foolish?
      *
      Have I said all this before? Probably. Do I bore you with my obsession with a limited number of ideas? If yes, do yourself a favor and stop reading me. No doubt you will find more variety and entertainment in the kind of talk that says we were the first nation to convert to Christianity and the first nation to suffer a genocide in the 20th century, the implication being, we owe our Christianity to our enlightened, progressive and far-sighted kings and our massacres to the barbarism of the Turks and the hypocrisy of the West; which also means that our leaders (unlike all other leaders) can do no wrong and anyone who says otherwise is an enemy.
      #

    3. #33
      ara baliozian
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      reflections

      Thursday, August 12, 2004
      ******************************
      A MATTER OF SEMANTICS
      *******************************
      It is wrong to say "The Turks massacred us." We should say instead, "Some Turks massacred us." Not all Turks were bloodthirsty savages. Had they been, there would have been no survivors.
      *
      When we ascribe the crimes of a few on the many, we do to civilized discourse what the Turks did to us - make it, "what some Turks…." As you can see, habit is an irresistible force and it requires a vigorous and sustained program of re-education.
      *
      Though I can say these things on a conscious level, there is something within me or deep in my subconscious that wants to cry out: "To hell with semantics! Turks are butchers and barbarians, and no amount of logic can alter their image or minimize the enormity of their crimes against humanity!"
      *
      It has been said that to generalize is the original sin of the mind. When Turkish and Turcophile historians today try to explain and justify the Genocide by accusing Armenians of disloyalty or acts of terrorism, they generalize too and are therefore abysmally wrong. Most Armenians - the overwhelming majority - within the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the century were law-abiding citizens who lacked political awareness. The revolutionaries were only a handful of misguided agitators who represented no one but themselves.
      *
      We know that under Stalin, some Armenians tortured and killed fellow Armenians - and they did this to their best and the brightest. We also know that members of the Armenian bureaucracy today are thoroughly corrupt. It doesn't necessarily follow that all Armenians are sadists, executioners, and bloodsuckers. On the contrary, most Armenians - and again, the overwhelming majority - are victims of Ottomanized partisans and Stalinized bureaucrats who represent no one but themselves.
      *
      Somewhere we read in the Bible that it is hateful not to hate evil. By all means, let us hate all criminals regardless of nationality, but let us also support and befriend those who are on our side - regardless of nationality - including Turks. To those who say, Turks will never be our friends, I ask: How does one explain the fact that thousands of Armenians today prefer to live in Turkey rather than in Armenia?
      #
      Friday, August 13, 2004
      ******************************
      HUBRIS AND NEMESIS
      ******************************
      Something very strange happens when an Armenian calls a fellow Armenian an idiot - he turns into one. And there is a reason for that.
      The Greeks believed that arrogance (hubris) is sooner or later punished by the gods (Nemesis). One could therefore say that, he who brags about his superior IQ will be punished by the gods who will turn him into a blabbering idiot. Who says there is no justice in this world?
      *
      When I speak of superior IQ, I speak of Armenian arrogance and inability of Armenians in general and our leaders in particular to admit and learn from their blunders. Why admit blunders if we can blame all our defeats, catastrophes and misfortunes on outside agencies?
      *
      And now, from the general to the specific. Whenever a reader calls me an idiot, he condemns himself to spend the rest of his life trying to prove that I am an idiot, not because he cares to prove who or what I am - after all, what would be the possible merit in proving that an idiot is in fact an idiot? - but because he wants to prove to himself that he is smart.
      *
      Calling a fellow Armenian an idiot simply because you disagree with him is doing to civilized discourse what the Turks did to us. This point needs to be repeated and emphasized until it sinks in.
      *
      I don't preach a strange cult; neither do I promote a new ism. What I do is express my views as honesty as I can by using my common sense. Instead of calling me names, show me in what way your common sense is different from mine. If you can prove me wrong, why go down into the gutter thus besmirching your own status as a civilized human being and proving once more that "one Armenian eats one chicken; two Armenians eat two chickens; and three Armenians eat each other."
      *
      I don't believe in covering up bad manners in the name of patriotism. If an Armenian does the wrong thing, he should be exposed because ignoring bad manners today may lead to covering up criminal conduct tomorrow.
      *
      Like all Armenians I too was brought up to condemn Turkish crimes against humanity and Western hypocrisy. But neither Turkish crimes nor universal hypocrisy justifies our intolerance towards and contempt for fellow Armenians. And what could be more contemptible than hurling insults at someone simply because he fails to echo our sentiments and thoughts? And what could be more arrogant than to assert infallibility?
      *
      If we operate on the assumption that we are smart and we can do no wrong, we condemn ourselves to learn nothing and to remain fixed in our state of total ignorance. If scientists adopted that stance, mankind would now believe the earth is flat and at the center of the universe.
      #
      Saturday, August 14, 2004
      *******************************
      THE ART OF LEARNING.
      HOMO IGNORAMUS.
      ON REPETITION.
      ARE WE SMART?
      THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF ALL.
      ******************************************
      If you don't learn from your friends, you will learn from your enemies - provided of course you survive the lesson.
      *
      The older I grow the more I realize that reality isn't merely different from anything I know, but different from anything I can imagine.
      *
      When I compare what I knew as a child with what I know today, and what I know today with what I don't know, I am more than willing to identify myself not as homo sapiens but as homo ignoramus.
      *
      It has been said that man cannot create a single worm, yet he has created ten thousand gods, and not only believed in them, but also fought, killed and died in their name.
      *
      Have I said that before? Very probably yes. Do I repeat myself? Certainly. What's wrong with repetition? Readers who criticize me for repeating myself are not themselves against repetition per se. On the contrary. They love repetition to the point of addiction - provided of course what's being repeated is in their favor, such as "Armenians are smart." I have at no time heard an Armenian complain that after being exposed to that line ten thousand times, he has had enough of it. Only once, I remember, many years ago, when I repeated that cliché in the presence of an assimilated Armenian who happened to be a professor at a prestigious American university, he became agitated, almost lost his temper, mumbled some disconnected and incomprehensible words, and gave up in disgust. My guess is, what he tried to say was that being smart in the marketplace does not necessarily translate to being smart in politics; I also know now that when it comes to politics, our collective IQ might as well be single-digit, if not downright negative.
      *
      And what is even more astonishing (and I can see why the good professor gave up on me in disgust) is that we have consistently refused to learn from our critics, beginning with Movses Khorenatsi and Yeghishe in the 5th century AD to Raffi, Baronian and Voskanian in the 19th century. And because we refused to learn from them, we were taught a harsh lesson from the likes of the Sultan and Talaat.
      *
      The question we must ask at this point is: What have we learned from our massacres? Reread Khorenatsi and Yeghishe, reread Raffi, Baronian, and Voskanian, and they might as well be our contemporaries. Nothing has changed. Or, as the French are fond of saying: "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme merde."
      #

    4. #34
      ara baliozian
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      8/18

      Sunday, August 15, 2004
      ********************************
      DECLINE AND FALL
      OF THE ARMENIAN EMPIRE
      ************************************************** *****
      If at the beginning was the word and if the world is a mess today, it must be because the word has no effect on hooligans; and hooligans come in all sizes and shapes, including professors and schoolteacher as well as political and religious leaders. History is very clear on this point.
      *
      If patriotism is the last refuge of rascals, hooliganism is the first; and one way to define hooliganism is to say what it is not: it is not a system of thought because its upholders cannot think. Destruction is its sole aim. Which is why it must assume another identity and adopt noble vestments, and what could be more noble and more universally accessible than love of God or homeland? There you have the source of all our miseries: not just Turkish savagery and Western double talk, or for that matter, Assyrian, Persian, Arab, Mongol, and Russian hordes. But hooligans regardless of national origin. This is why the written word has had no effect on our leaders and no writer in the entire history of our literature has ever made a difference, except perhaps Naregatsi, who taught us to grovel in the dust and to repent our countless sins because in the eyes of the Almighty we are no better than the scum of the earth - what a heartless lesson to teach to perennial victims!
      *
      And consider Zarian, for whom Armenianism was a form of messianism. Dostoevsky believed it was Russia's manifest destiny to be the messiah of nations. In Zarian's eyes, Dostoevsky was a charlatan. It was Armenia's manifest destiny to be the messiah of nations. Zarian believed this with every fiber in his body. It took him several decades and near the end of his life to realize that Armenianism was a mask of hooliganism and Armenians survived by "cannibalizing one another."
      #
      Monday, August 16, 2004
      ******************************
      VARIETIES OF QUESTIONS.
      PROMISES AND PREDICTIONS.
      PUNDITS AND APOLOGISTS.
      CHARLATANS AND RIFFRAFF.
      ***************************************
      Everything I write and everything I have written so far is an answer to some specific question raised at one time or another. Whenever I fail to answer a question it may be because, unlike some of my fellow Armenians, I don't have all the answers. Another reason: Some of the questions I am asked are not genuine questions but what's known in the business as loaded or phony questions, such as: "Did your mother enjoy being a concubine in a Turkish harem?" or, "If you are single, is it because you are a homosexual?" But more often than not, I am asked questions whose answers are already known to the interrogator.
      *
      A wise man once said, we cannot predict the future if we don't understand the present. This, needless to add, does not apply to men of faith and ideologues, who will tell you they may not have the answers to such petty questions as those dealing with the weather or the stock market, but they do have all the answers to questions that matter or are vital to our welfare as a nation.
      *
      As a child, I was taught to believe if I did this, that or the other, or rather, if I refrained from doing certain things (for more details see the Ten Commandments) I would go to heaven and live in eternal bliss. Any mullah will tell you today if you die while killing infidel dogs (even if they happen to be innocent women and children), Allah will reward you with 73 virgins.
      *
      At the turn of the last century we were told by our ideologues that if we rise against the Ottoman Empire we will be rewarded with our historic lands. That dream turned into a nightmare but there are still dupes who believe our partisans were right and reality (in the shape of Turkish savagery and Western double-talk: was there a time when the Turks were civilized and the West honest?) wrong, and if we continue the struggle, sooner or later Mount Ararat will be ours.
      *
      At this point someone will no doubt remind me that all politicians make promises they have no intention of keeping, and that in politics lies and promises might as well be synonymous. Why make unreasonable demands on our own politicians?
      *
      As you can see, we are blessed with an abundant supply of self-appointed pundits who have all the answers, and anyone who dares to remind us that truth or reality may not fit in our straight-jacket view of life is a spoil-sport, a cynic, an enemy, and very probably a Turk parading as one of us.
      *
      The world continues to be at the mercy of charlatans and riffraff who will never run out of dupes, or as Zarian once put it, "of cripples in search of a crutch."
      #
      Tuesday, August 17, 2004
      *********************************
      THE PATIENCE OF A CORPSE.
      THE ORIGIN OF OUR STATUS AS UNDERDOGS.
      TO EACH HIS OWN.
      A PASSAGE FROM A RECENT HISTORICAL NOVEL.
      THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE.
      ************************************************** *
      What happens when a Ramgavar dies in a predominantly Tashnak town with a single priest? A Ramgavar priest is imported for the occasion from the nearest city, of course. This is exactly what happened in our town last week, but since the out-of-towner had to travel on a busy highway where accidents and delays are daily occurrences, he was three hours late. Inconvenient? Not to the corpse, it wasn't.
      *
      We like to say and repeat: "We are a small nation. We are weak." What we avoid asking is, Why? Is it because God or the sinister forces of the universe conspired to will it so, or is it an inevitable consequence of our penchant for dividing and subdividing ourselves? Even the mightiest empire in the world would become a perennial victim if it kept dividing and subdividing itself. And now that we know the reason, will we change? One can always dream, of course.
      *
      Once, recently, when I wrote something to the effect that Armenians and Turks, Jews and Palestinians live side by side in the United States and Canada without feeling the need to slaughter one another, a reader shot back: "That's because Americans and Canadians are too obsessed with money and sex to think of anything else!" thus implying, massacre is morally superior to sex and dollars.
      *
      And speaking of Armenians and Turks, I read the following in a review of a recent book titled BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS by Louis de Bernieres: "The story is set in a small coastal town in the Ottoman Empire before the Great War. There, Muslims and Christians (mostly of Greek background, a few Armenians) lived peacefully together. Everyone spoke Turkish and was loyal to the Sultan."
      *
      The uncertainty principle in physics also applies to human thought. Which means that no matter how competent a writer is, he will not be able to express his views with mathematical precision. As a result, his ideas will have a penumbra of doubt and uncertainty, and they will be open to misinterpretation. On the day man acquires the ability to express himself with mathematical precision, questioning the validity of his views will be like questioning the existence of the atom after Hiroshima.
      #
      Wednesday, August 18, 2004
      ********************************
      THE USES AND ABUSES OF NATIONALISM.
      ATATURK, HITLER, AND…SIBELIUS.
      MUSIC AND POLITICS.
      WAS KHACHATURIAN A NATIONALIST COMPOSER?
      ************************************************** ******
      At one time or another I have been accused of being against everything and everyone, including Mount Ararat, Lake Sevan, motherhood, apple pie, and, the other day…believe it or not…Sibelius. Why Sibelius? Because he is a nationalist composer and I am against nationalism.
      *
      For the record, I have nothing against Sibelius and nationalist music in general if only because it is not easy being against someone or anything that means no harm to anyone. If I am against political nationalism it's because it is one of the three pillars of fascism - the other two being racism and anti-intellectualism (that is, dissent, free speech, dialogue and consensus) and because it (nationalism) has been the cause of many wars, massacres, and genocides, including our own.
      *
      To say our nationalism is good but our enemy's nationalism is bad is to voice the very same propaganda line that emanated from the likes of Ataturk and Hitler.
      *
      To those who say our nationalism cannot be compared with Turkish or German nationalism because we are not guilty of genocide, and all our wars have been defensive wars, is to imply that we belong to a morally superior race (which happens to be racist nonsense). If we have not victimized millions it may because ours has been the nationalism of underdogs, and because we were vastly outnumbered by our enemies.
      *
      More on Sibelius: I love his music. He happens to be one of my favorite composers. I love not only his symphonic poems, symphonies, and Violin Concerto (with its Gypsy and Slavic interludes) but also his seldom performed piano music. One of the very first things I did when I became gainfully employed in a department store was to acquire a complete set of his seven symphonies under Karajan (please note: not of Armenian but of Greek descent- real name, Karayannis, literally Blackjohn).
      *
      More on nationalist music. All music speaks a universal language even when it employs local or native folk melodies; and it uses these melodies for the same reason that a Hungarian speaks Hungarian, a Romanian speaks Romanian, and an Armenian speaks Armenian. Sibelius used Finnish folk music not because it is superior to Greek or Russian folk music but because he was exposed to Finnish folk songs at an early age. This may explain why Khachaturian did not use exclusively Armenian folk tunes (he was born and raised in Georgia) but also Georgian, Azeri, Abkhazian, and Chechen folk tunes and rhythms. In music, unlike in politics, there is no such thing as enemy folk tunes or rhythms. Good music is accessible to all of mankind, and in that sense, its massage emphasizes the universal brotherhood of all men.
      #

    5. #35
      ara baliozian
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      8/21

      Thursday, August 19, 2004
      ********************************
      BELIEF SYSTEMS AND HERESIES.
      A PROBLEM AND ITS SOLUTION.
      THE SHORTEST BOOK IN THE WORLD.
      REVERSE BOLSHEVISM.
      *************************************************
      In the eyes of a man with deep religious and political convictions, all disagreement will be seen as heresy, and as everyone knows, the only way to deal with heretics is to burn them at the stake, because they will burn in hell anyway. Likewise, to a fanatic Muslim, all non-Muslims are infidel dogs and killing them is no sin. To my gentle readers who disagree with me, I ask: If in your eyes I am no better than an infidel dog, in what way are you yourself different from those who at the turn of the last century massacred our forefathers?
      *
      If disagreement makes you unhappy, here is a solution to your problem: Gather around yourself like-minded men, start a forum or a club of mutual admiration, and live happily ever after.
      *
      There are many ways to prove that you are a better man or, for that matter, that you are right, perhaps even infallible, and going down into the gutter is not one of them. This may be elementary to Dr. Watson but not to Jack S. Avanakian.
      *
      If a writer were to think like everyone else, of what possible use could he be to anyone? - unless of course you say that the best writer is a useless writer, perhaps even a dead writer.
      *
      If every dissenting voice in our environment had been silenced, the history of our literature would be the shortest book in the world.
      *
      I never argue with someone who has all the answers or speaks in the name of God, because to disagree with him would be like disagreeing with God.
      *
      On the day you begin to think for yourself, you may be astonished to discover that some received ideas are no better than self-evident lies.
      *
      Jean-Francois Kahn: "What we are witnessing today may best be described as reverse Bolshevism. Instead of the USSR we have the USA. Instead of anti-Sovietism we have anti-Americanism. And instead of struggle for socialism we have struggle for democracy."
      #
      Friday, August 20, 2004
      ******************************
      HISTORIOCENTRISM.
      VERSIONS OF THE PAST.
      THE CASE OF ARNOLD J. TOYNBEE.
      THE WHOLE TRUTH OR A FRACTION OF IT?
      ************************************************** **
      A friend recently observed that Armenians are historiocentric. I suspect what he meant is that we are massacrocentric, or obsessed with the Genocide, or perhaps even that, we operate on the assumption that, since the past is one, our version of it is the only valid one and all other versions should be dismissed as lies, distortions and propaganda based on the testimony of hostile or perjurious witnesses.
      *
      It goes without saying that, as an Armenian, I trust Armenian historians more than I trust Turkish historians. The trouble is, Turks too trust their own historians more than ours; and also, very much like us, they too operate on the assumption that their own version of the past is the only valid one. It follows that, our Genocide must be a figment of our collective imagination.
      *
      The problem we face is not a new one. There are and have always been as many histories as there are historians with their own unique perspectives, memories, ideologies, vested interest, religions, and set of prejudices and blind spots. Consider the recent invasion of Iraq, which ought to be, by all accounts, an open book. Don't even try to reconcile the Muslim with the American position, or, for that matter, the pro-Bush with the anti-Bush position.
      *
      History may also be divided between that of victors and that of their victims, such as the native-American or Indian version of American history, and history as taught in American educational institutions.
      *
      To complicate our own case even more, there are Turkish historians critical of Turkish conduct, as there are Armenian historians whose understanding and interpretation of the Genocide is such that they have been accused by their peers of revisionism and treason.
      *
      Even more confusing is the case of the eminent British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, who after writing several books on Turkish brutality and their Armenian victims, wrote several more books in which he said Armenian territorial claims at the turn of the last century (claims that had provoked Turkish reprisals) had been unjustified and unreasonable.
      *
      Will there ever come a time when historians of all nations and persuasions will develop a consensus? Don't hold your breath. In the meantime it is safe to assume that (one) by emphasizing some aspects of the past and ignoring or covering up others, all historians give us only a partial or distorted view of the past, (two) only God is in a position to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and (three) mortal man is destined to know only part of the truth -- which, by the way, happens to be one definition of propaganda ("part of the truth").
      *
      In case you think I am trying to whitewash Turkish crimes against humanity and to question the reality of our Genocide, let me emphasize that even pro-Turkish historians like Toynbee and Bernard Lewis have at no time denied the Genocide. What they tried to do is to explain (which does not mean to justify) why certain things happened and why men behave as they do.
      #
      Saturday, August 21, 2004
      *******************************
      ON BEING FALLIBLE.
      OTTOMAN TACTICS.
      ON REPETITION.
      AN ARMENIAN MISCONCEPTION.
      **************************************
      To be fallible means to think "I could be wrong," even when you are sure to be right. Remember, some of the most catastrophic blunders in the history of mankind were made by individuals who were so sure they were right that they were willing to risk the lives of millions of innocent women and children.
      *
      It is not at all unusual to come across an Armenian today who pretends to be 100% right on the assumption that his fellow Armenians are too backward, ignorant, or impressionable to dare to question his authority; and they are the very same Armenians who become abusive whenever they confront a fellow Armenian who is neither timid nor impressionable enough to be bullied into silence. Zarian was absolutely right when he said some Armenian do with their tongues what the Turks did with their yataghans.
      *
      To those who say I repeat myself, I say: You may ignore my words, but can you ignore our blunders? - especially when they are repeated.
      *
      In writing, whenever you try to please everyone, you please no one; and even when you try to please one person, you succeed only in poisoning your well.
      *
      A typical Armenian misconception: Free speech is a fundamental human right that applies only to those who agree with us or are willing to recycle our propaganda line.
      *
      To think that, just because you understand an idea, you can also explain reality, is like thinking you can guess another's thoughts by observing the outline of his shadow.

    6. #36
      ara baliozian
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      reflections

      Sunday, August 22, 2004
      ******************************
      IN PRAISE OF SKEPTICISM.
      **********************************
      If you doubt and question everything I write, I say, you are indeed on the right path and you have understood the moral of my story, which is: Question everything you are told, not only by Turks but also by everyone else, including fellow Armenians.
      *
      None of us lives in a vacuum. We all have an ax to grind. The ax may be well hidden, but it's there all the same: look for it hard enough and you will find it.
      *
      My own ax to grind is against those who dished out all kinds of half-truths and lies to me when I was a child and had not yet acquired the ability to think for myself. Case in point: For many years I was led to believe Armenia had been a Christian island in a Muslim sea, until someone pointed out the obvious fact that Georgia to our north had been a Christian nation too, which made of us not an island but a peninsula.
      *
      For many years I was also led to believe our revolutionaries had been heroes and the Ottoman Bank takeover at the turn of the last century had been a brilliant exploit worthy of universal admiration, until someone raised the obvious question: "Was it worth 5000 innocent lives?" What kind of heroes make a separate deal with the enemy, secure free passage abroad for themselves, and abandon their defenseless people at the mercy of an enraged and vindictive tyranny not widely known for its compassionate and fair treatment of its subjects?
      *
      History, it has been said, is the propaganda of the victor. What if our version of history is nothing but the consolation of the loser?
      *
      I was taught to believe ignoring the lessons of history means repeating past blunders. Isn't that what we do whenever we divide and subdivide ourselves, or whenever we fail to question the competence and integrity of those who pretend to know better, and based on that false assumption, proceed to draw the line of our destiny?
      *
      If our revolutionaries had learned to question and doubt the verbal support of the Great Powers, would they have behaved as they did? What if our central problem is neither being an island nor having bloodthirsty barbarians as neighbors, but being naïve dupes of charlatans who promise heaven and deliver hell?
      #
      Monday, August 23, 2004
      ******************************
      THE NORMAL AND THE ABNORMAL.
      THE ABNORMAL AS A THREAT TO THE NORMAL.
      THE LYNCH-MOB INSTINCT.
      WHAT IS GENOCIDE?
      BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG.
      ************************************************** **
      If you are honest, all the crooks will conspire against you. Likewise, if you speak the truth, liars will retaliate because they will feel exposed and threatened.
      *
      At all times and everywhere the majority takes it upon itself to set the rules of conduct and to view dissent or divergence as a threat. The majority may tolerate the existence of a minority so long as the minority adopts a subservient role. But in times of crisis, when the majority feels threatened, minorities will be suppressed, persecuted, and sometimes even eliminated.
      *
      The lynch-mob or gang-rape instinct is not peculiar to a single race, color, or creed; it is a universal phenomenon.
      *
      Genocide has nothing to do with number of victims. Killing even a single person on grounds that he belongs to a different race, religion, or ethnic group is genocide.
      *
      In my efforts to raise consciousness, sometimes it seems, I lower it. That may be because, after centuries of conditioning, some of my readers don't know whether they are rising or falling. It is as though their sense of gravity had been permanently damaged beyond repair.
      *
      In everything I write I describe the evolution of a damaged consciousness from subservience to liberation. But where subservience is a millennial condition, it becomes second nature and liberation is seen as a deviation, perhaps even an aberration.
      *
      It has been observed that when the blind acquire vision, they take refuge in dark rooms.
      *
      Some of my partisan friends are shocked when I tell them the greatest statesman in the world is not qualified to tell even the worst scribbler in the world what to feel, think, and write.
      *
      In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we read: "Every individual is equal before the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination."
      *
      It may be safer to assume you are always wrong with extenuating circumstances if only because the alternative - that you are always right - is too absurd to merit serious consideration.
      #
      Tuesday, August 24, 2004
      *******************************
      REPLIES TO MY CRITICS
      *********************************
      To those of my readers who at one time or another have questioned my qualifications as a writer, or, for that matter, as a concerned citizen (which is how I prefer to identify myself), I say: If you speak as a commissar of culture and your secret god is Stalin, you live at the wrong time and in the wrong place, and I have every reason to suspect, before things get better for you, they will get worse. Prepare yourself for a minimum of seven more lean years.
      *
      I define a dupe anyone who is taken in by propaganda; and because I have criticized dupes, regardless of national origin, I am described as an Armenian-hater by our dupes, who it seems, are so hungry for love that they can't stand anyone who fails to flatter their ego. To them I say: You are not the only game in town, my friends. Unlike you, there are many others who have mastered the ability to think for themselves. I will go further and say that, the overwhelming majority of Armenians (especially the assimilated and alienated) are not dupes. I count among my friends members of the Party who reject the Party's propaganda line. The only reason they continue to be members is that they come from a long line of partisans and membership in the Party has become a family tradition. Their loyalty is motivated more by nostalgia than ideological commitment.
      *
      Criticism in defense of a propaganda line is not criticism but cretinism.
      *
      To those of my critics who write under a false identity, I ask: Does anonymity make you behave in a more responsible or irresponsible manner? If irresponsible, don't you think there is more merit in being responsible? And if everyone were to behave irresponsibly, would we be better off or worse off?
      *
      A final question: How honest are political leaders in whose version of the past they have done nothing wrong, they are blameless and beyond criticism, and all their utterances must be treated as if they emanated from the Vatican?
      #
      Wednesday, August 25, 2004
      ********************************
      If all human utterances have a margin of error, dogmatic assertions can't be right.
      *
      On the subject of our genocide, when I attempted to explain the Turkish side of the story, an outraged reader countered: "Some stories have only one side!" thus echoing a sentiment first expressed by Albert Camus (who was himself, be it noted, in the eye of several controversial firestorms). But isn't that what the Turks are saying too? - that their side of the story is the only true one and all others must be lies? Is it not inconsistent of us to repeat a line or to adopt a mindset of people whom we consider bloodthirsty savages?
      *
      No one's version of the story is Holy Scripture. And even if it were, not all of us are fundamentalists.
      *
      There is an entire library of writings (poetry, prose, criticism, fiction, drama, epic poem, moral treatise, dialogue, etc.) that consists in telling "the devil's side of the story." Three literary masterpieces that come readily to mind: Milton's PARADISE LOST, Goethe's FAUST, and more recently, Thomas Mann's DOKTOR FAUSTUS.
      *
      Speaking of Thomas Mann: during World War II he published an essay on Hitler (who had tried to assassinate him) titled "A Brother."
      *
      I doubt if there will ever come a time when Armenians will develop Mann's degree of detachment and call Turks their brothers, but consider some of the arguments in its favor: For six centuries we were their most loyal millet (ethnic group), and since intermarriage was a common practice, it is not at all unreasonable to suggest that a good fraction of Turks today, perhaps even half of them, may well be our half-brothers.
      *
      If this is bad news to some of my readers, blame historic reality, blame facts, blame statistics, blame even God (as some of our poets have done) but do not kill the messenger, because if you do, you may run the risk of being a Turk's brother not only in thought but also in deed.
      *
      Even an august institution like the Catholic Church finds the concept of the devil's advocate useful. If we are to the right of the Vatican, can we be too far off the left of Genghis Khan? That may be a comfortable position for some, but not for others, among them myself.
      #

    7. #37
      ara baliozian
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      8/28

      Thursday, August 26, 2004
      *****************************
      THE ART OF DIPLOMACY.
      ON ARMENO-TURKISH RELATIONS.
      THE RIGHT AND THE WRONG WAY.
      A MODEST PROPOSAL.
      A CRIME AND A TRAGEDY.
      LOGIC AND EMOTIONS.
      *********************************************
      One of the first things Raffi Hovannisian did when he went to Turkey as a minister of foreign affairs was to say to the Turks: "You must recognized the Genocide." The Turks responded by saying: "This man hates us and we cannot deal with a man who hates us."
      *
      One way to define diplomacy is to say that it consists in dealing with the adversary in such a manner as to make him see your side of the story in order to consider its merits. Obviously, so far and after nearly a century of trying, we have failed in that endeavor. We must therefore be more versatile and less stiff-necked and dogmatic in our approach.
      *
      Before they are condemned, Turks want to be understood because they know instinctively that to be hated precludes understanding, or for that matter, objectivity, fair play and justice.
      *
      The need to be understood is universal. But we can't understand someone we hate. The alternative is not to love him (only saints can love their enemies) but to try to understand him on his own terms, if understanding him on our own terms means hating him.
      *
      Henceforth, we should concentrate our efforts on humanizing the Turks as opposed to dehumanizing them, if only because we cannot make any moral demands on a dehumanized entity.
      *
      If a wolf kills a sheep, is he guilty of murder? In a way, when we reduce Turks to the level of bloodthirsty beasts, we also enter a plea of not guilty on their behalf -- a plea similar to that of insanity. Because if they are no better than animals, they cannot be held responsible for their actions. It is therefore to our advantage not to dehumanize but to humanize them. In other words, to think of them as we think of all other nations that have at one time or another committed genocide and other unspeakable crimes against humanity - that includes Germans and Americans.
      *
      Our genocide is not just a crime against humanity but also a tragedy, and tragedy, as defined by the Greeks, consists in the downfall or destruction of a being who, as a result of a weakness (as pride, envy, etc.) breaks a divine law or moral precept that leads to terror and catastrophe.
      *
      I don't always agree with what I write, but if logic dictates, I follow, hoping in the near or distant future my emotions will catch up.
      #
      Friday, August 27, 2004
      *****************************
      AN ENIGMA & A BUNDLE OF CONTRADICTIONS.
      THE BEST AND THE WORST.
      THEM AND US.
      ABDICATION OF RESPONSIBILITY.
      ************************************************** ****
      Writers who have analyzed the Armenian temperament agree that an Armenian is an enigma and a bundle of contradictions. Writes Derenik Demirjian: "An Armenian curses God and the Church constantly. But behold the magnificent cathedrals he has built!" And Neshan Beshigtashlian: "Even the Good Lord could not make up his mind what to make of the Armenian. First He made him an angel, then He turned him into a devil, after which He changed His mind again." His conclusion: "The Armenian is an enigma that refuses to be solved."
      *
      But then, one could say (with Freud and Jung) that all men are to some degree, bundles of contradictions and enigmas even to themselves. Our situation or the Armenian enigma, if you wish, is an integral part of the human condition. Hence the spectacle of the worst parading as the best.
      *
      Some cases in point from the last century: Fascists in Italy, Germany and Spain; Stalinists in the USSR, and before them, Southern racists in the U.S. before the Civil War, all of whom pretended to be la crème de la crème, but were in fact la crème de la scum.
      *
      There is however a significant difference between them and us. Whereas racists, fascists and Stalinists have been exposed, and militarily defeated or politically consigned to the dustbin of history, ours continue to be in charge of our destiny. If that's progress, it's more like the progress of a terminal disease.
      *
      As for those who say it will take at least two generations for things to improve in Armenia, it seems to me, they lack the common sense and decency to see that, by adopting and promoting a passive stance, they are not only abdicating their responsibility as citizens but also legitimizing criminal conduct by supporting a corrupt and incompetent crypto-fascist and racist power structure in both the Homeland and the Diaspora.
      #
      Saturday, August 28, 2004
      ********************************
      THE TURKS AND US.
      THE ARMENIAN WAY AND THE RIGHT WAY.
      TURKS AS UNDERDOGS AND VICTIMS.
      THE SULTAN'S COMPLAINT.
      ************************************************** ****
      May I confess that when it comes to Turks and us, more often than not I agree with my critics on an emotional level. But I also know that in diplomacy, politics, and life in general, it is preferable for emotion to be subservient to reason. There is an old saying that I heard again and again as a child: "Why stand up in anger if you are going to sit down the loser?" Isn't that what we did? We rose in anger and most of us didn't even have a chance to sit down.
      *
      With the slogan, "We have no enemies, only interests," the British built an empire. Consider our status as perennial losers, underdogs and victims to theirs….
      *
      And since we have been stressing our status as perennial losers, underdogs and victims by constantly reminding ourselves and the world of the massacres, the cynical manipulation of the Great Powers, and the bloodthirsty conduct of the Turks, it never even occurs to us to think of Turks as underdogs and victims. And yet, that's exactly how they saw themselves - and victims not just of a single ruthless adversary but victims of the whole world, beginning with the Russian colossus to the North, the Great Powers to the West, the United States and Australia from across the oceans, and from within their own borders, Arabs, Greeks, Kurds, and Armenians.
      *
      Listen to the Sultan: "By taking Greece and Romania, the Great Powers cut off the feet of the Turkish state. By taking Bulgaria, Serbia and Egypt they cut off our hands. Now, by stirring up trouble among the Armenians they are getting close to our vital organs and want to cut out our intestines. This is the beginning of mass destruction."
      *
      With a disintegrating empire and surrounded by enemies on all sides like vultures ready to feast on its carcass, the Turks made the mistake of allowing their emotions to dictate their actions. They were told repeatedly by foreign diplomats and observers that not all Armenians were their enemies, but as a victimized minority, they did what felt right, not what reason told them to be right.
      *
      It is only very recently that I read that in a single battle at Gallipoli, the Turks had lost 350,000 men to the Allies. But I still don't know the total number of Turkish dead during World War I. I wonder, does any Armenian? Or is it: "The only good Turk is a dead Turk"? Why should we be surprised if the Turks adopted that slogan too? "The only good Armenian is a dead Armenian."
      #

    8. #38
      ara baliozian
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      more comments

      Sunday, August 29, 2004
      ************************************
      ON TRIBALISM.
      GUT REACTIONS.
      ARTICLES OF FAITH.
      TABLE MANNERS.
      ********************************
      One way to explain our tribalism is to say that our bosses, bishops, and benefactors see the nation as an extension of themselves and not the other way around. It's the tail-wagging-the-dog routine. Unlike Louis XIV, they don't even feel the need to say "L'etat c'est moi," (I am the state) because they assume it must be obvious to everyone with the minimum of sense.
      *
      There are some disagreements that come straight from the gut. And when gut meets brain, brain is bound to lose. I speak from experience. Once upon a time I too had gut reactions. I still do, but when I do I use my brain to cross-examine and x-ray my gut, and sure enough, I invariably detect an infection in the form of an ingrained childhood prejudice or a youthful misconception.
      *
      When you believe in a propaganda line it ceases being propaganda and is automatically elevated to the status of an article of faith, which also means that anyone who doesn't agree with you must be an infidel dog.
      *
      A dupe is one who believes his propaganda line is Scripture and someone else's religion is verbal trash. That's one reason why dialogue is un-Armenian.
      *

      Other possible reasons, according to Shant Avedissian:
      "Our instinct for survival drives us to gobble up food
      but to scorn table manners;
      to get married and establish families but to neglect love;
      to accumulate wealth but not to share it;
      to erect churches but to be indifferent to matters of faith;
      to build cultural centers but to have no interest in culture;
      to construct schools in order to teach Armenian to our children but to despise the true meaning of words.
      In short, we have mastered the art of survival but not the art of living…."
      *
      On second thought, have we really mastered the art of survival when most of us, and very probably the best and the brightest, have not survived?
      *
      Have we really mastered the art of survival if we are, even as I write, witnessing two ongoing genocides: exodus from the Homeland and Assimilation in the Diaspora.
      *
      When asked about the exodus, an Armenian political leader is quoted as having said: "If they want to leave the Homeland, let them!" That's what I call an answer worthy of a Talaat. With public servants like that, who needs sultans and Stalinists?
      #
      Monday, August 30, 2004
      ********************************
      WHY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.
      TWO QUESTIONS.
      THE UGLY ARMENIAN.
      QUEEN MAMIKONIAN.
      ******************************************
      Bad things happen to good people.
      Everyone knows that.
      And smart people do dumb things.
      Everyone knows that too.
      What is less well known is that there may be secret and underground connections between these two incongruities.
      *
      Why do smart people do dumb things?
      Because they are never as smart as they think they are.
      *
      I have received nasty e-mails from both Turks and Armenians, and it is astonishing how similar in style, tone, and vocabulary they are. So similar in fact that they might as well have been written by the same person or identical twins.
      *
      Nobody is perfect, of course. So what if smart people sometimes do dumb things, and dumb people dumber things? That's not a tragedy. Our tragedy or the tragedy of our condition is that we have been and continue to be at their mercy.
      *
      Why is it that in their efforts to prove they are smarter and better, some Armenians see nothing inconsistent in writing like dumb Turks? Another question: Is it conceivable that the cradle of civilization has spawned gravediggers of civilized discourse?
      *
      Behind every alienated Armenian there is an ugly Armenian who thinks, since he is smarter and better, he can do no wrong and self-criticism is self-hatred and therefore unpatriotic.
      *
      If being honest means admitting a major blunder and thus committing political suicide, an ambitious leader will invariably choose survival at all cost and forever after brag about his personal integrity.
      *
      Who can trust a politician who says "I can do no wrong and I am therefore beyond criticism"? And yet!
      *
      The only reason some politicians admit minor miscalculations is to cover up major blunders.
      *
      Only a certified dupe will say, "All politicians lie except ours." And only a fanatic will say, "My party is always right and the opposition always wrong."
      *
      Sometimes when two Armenians disagree, I cannot help wondering: Is the disagreement between two Armenians or is it between an Armenian and a Turk?
      *
      Sophie Audouin Mamikonian on Armenians (in a recent issue of PARIS-MATCH): "They don't have enough to eat but they want to crown me Queen of Armenia. When I refused to ascend the throne, these monarchists threatened to abduct my children. We were placed under police protection."
      #
      Tuesday, August 31, 2004
      ********************************
      CLICHÉS AND SLOGANS.
      THE BLISS OF IGNORANCE.
      THE SHEEP AND THE WOLVES.
      *********************************
      Knowledge is power? What nonsense! No one can tell me the Ottoman Empire, one of the mightiest empires in the history of mankind that lasted six centuries, was based on knowledge.
      *
      Unmask a slogan or a cliché and you may see more truth in its contradiction. One way to explain the popularity of slogans or clichés is to say that they satisfy a deep-seated need in all of us to simplify the fathomless complexities of life in our favor.
      *
      If you think, "ignorance is bliss," remember the last time you were manipulated by someone who knew you did not know what he knew.
      *
      "Power corrupts," we are told. What we are not told is that lack of power or subservience corrupts even more. Are we as a people today more or less corrupt than Turks and Russians, our former masters?
      *
      A reader, who subscribes to the slogan "The only good Turk is a dead Turk," demands to know: "If good Turks existed, why didn't they stop the genocide?" It doesn't even occur to him to ask, "Where were our revolutionaries - the future leaders of our historic homeland? Why is it that they had a Plan B for themselves but not for the people? We have all heard about our heroes and martyrs and we know the number of our martyrs, but does anyone know the number of our heroes? - or perhaps there were so many of them that no one bothered to count them. If there were many and they were our shepherds, why did they abandon the sheep to the wolves?
      #
      Wednesday, September 01, 2004
      **********************************
      AMERICA AND THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE.
      RAFFI, ZOHRAB AND SIAMANTO.
      THE WISDOM OF THE MASSES.
      TWO WARNINGS.
      THE MAMIKONIAN PALACE.
      SLOBO'S DEFENSE.
      ************************************************** **
      It is not enough being right; one must also be right at the right time and place.
      *
      Trying to convince Americans to recognize our genocide is like arguing against capital punishment in a hangman's house.
      *
      Long before the massacres, Raffi said the Ottoman Empire was no place for Armenians because Turks had no respect for human life. He was ignored.
      *
      Shortly before the Genocide, Krikor Zohrab urged Armenians to get out of Turkey because, he explained, "this time around they will exterminate all of us." He too was ignored. "Zohrab effendi is exaggerating," they said.
      *
      When Roupen Sevag's German fiancée urged him to leave Istanbul because, she said, the Turks were nasty folk, Sevag replied: "You don't know these people. I do. Deep down they are nice. Take my word for it. I know what I am saying. I have lived with them all my life." And what was bound to happen, happened. Zohrab, Sevag and Siamanto (who couldn't get used to life in America and returned to Istanbul) were among the first victims of the Genocide.
      *
      Today, no one is urging Armenians to leave Armenia but they are leaving anyway…by the million. I am told everyone wants to leave - everyone except politicians and policemen. Unhappy is the land whose only happy inhabitants are legislators and law enforcers.
      *
      An English sociologist published a book recently in which he proves crowds are wiser than individuals. There may be some truth in it. "Two heads," they say, "is better than one."
      *
      When I was young, my elders misled me; and now that I am old, the young misunderstand me.
      *
      Everything I write should come with two warnings: "Not for children," and "I could be wrong." On the day I say or imply I can't be wrong, you can be sure of one thing: you are dealing with a morally and intellectually bankrupt charlatan.
      *
      Sophie Mamikonian: "The Armenian monarchists showed me a picture of my palace in Armenia: the wall of a ruin with three crows on top."
      *
      Accused of genocide, Slobodan Milosevic is pleading not guilty on the grounds that "Croatia, the United States, Europe, Muslim fundamentalists and terrorists, the Vatican…in short, the international community" had conspired to destroy Yugoslavia, and all his actions had been in defense of the territorial integrity of his homeland.
      Sounds familiar?
      #

    9. #39
      ara baliozian
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      from my notebooks

      Thursday, September 02, 2004
      ***********************************
      MIKOYAN'S ROLE IN THE STALINIST PURGES.
      TOLSTOY, DOSTOEVSKY AND SHAKESPEARE.
      GREGORIAN CHANT.
      WHAT IS ARMENIANISM?
      *************************************************
      A number of Sovietologists have identified Anastas Mikoyan as the main architect of the Stalinist purges in Armenia. If he was, he was a reluctant one, writes Simon Montefiore. In his recently published book, STALIN: THE COURT OF THE RED TSAR, based on interviews with the children of survivors, post-Soviet studies, and newly opened archives, he writes that Stalin chose Mikoyan for that grim task to test his loyalty. “In late 1937,” we read here, “Stalin tested Mikoyan’s commitment by dispatching him to Armenia with a list of three hundred victims to be arrested. Mikoyan signed it but he crossed off one friend. The man was arrested anyway.”
      *
      While in Siberia, Dostoevsky read some stories by a writer who signed himself “L.T.” Dostoevsky liked the stories but he said, “I believe he will write very little,” adding, “but perhaps I am wrong.” He sure was! “L.T.” stood for Leo Tolstoy, one of the most prolific writers of all time.
      *
      Though contemporaries, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky avoided each other. But the last book Tolstoy read shortly before his death was Dostoevsky”s BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, perhaps because his home situation, from which he was running away, was more Dostoevskian than Tolstoyan.
      *
      Tolstoy and Dostoevsky shared one thing in common: they didn’t much care for Shakespeare.
      *
      Readers sometimes complain that I don’t always answer questions. The truth is everything I write is an answer to a specific question, even when the questioner is anonymous and even when the question is disguised verbal vandalism and hooliganism. Case in point: on a number of occasions I have been asked if my mother was a concubine in a Turkish harem. My mother became an orphan at the age of one and was brought up by French Catholic nuns in Lebanon. Instead of lullabies she sang Gregorian chant to me, which to this day is my favorite kind of music – music in its purest form: simple, accessible, melodic, incandescent, with none of the technical fireworks of J.S.Bach or the rhetoric of Beethoven.
      *
      Whenever I read an ugly e-mail from an Armenian, I cannot help wondering: what if in our case the concept of survival of the fittest should be replaced with the concept of survival of the nastiest?
      *
      There are open minds and closed minds, but when an Armenian decides to close his mind, he locks it with seven rusty keys.
      *
      Why is it that some Armenians use the massacres as a license to do to civilized discourse what the Turks did to us? And more often than not, they are the very same Armenians who demand our unconditional love on grounds of Armenianism.
      *
      Writes Denis Donikian: “At one time or another we have all been victims of Armenianism.” Perhaps because no one has yet defined what Armenianism is and every Armenian thinks his own brand is the only true one.
      #
      Friday, September 03, 2004
      *******************************
      BAYROU ON TURKS.
      MONTEFIORE ON MIKOYAN.
      AXIOMS.
      MEMO TO MY CRITICS.
      ************************************
      Francois Bayrou, identified as the President of the UDF, in a recent interview published in LE POINT (August 5, 2004): “Turkey’s geography, history, and sociology are not European. Its anthropology is not the same as ours. During a recent conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Nayyip Erdogan, he said: ‘For us, Europe must be a place where different civilizations meet and coexist,” thus conceding that our civilizations are indeed different. In order to qualify as a member of the European Union, Turkey must meet certain criteria. Even the recognition of the Armenian genocide, an indispensable condition in our eyes, is open to negotiation and compromise. That’s not the real stumbling bloc. The real stumbling bloc is the question: Is Turkey’s membership compatible with the political unity of Europe? My answer is, No.”
      *
      Simon Montefiore on Anastas Mikoyan: “This Armenian who had studied for the priesthood like Stalin himself, was slim, circumspect, wily and industrious, with black hair, moustache and flashing eyes, a broken aquiline nose and a taste for immaculate clothes that, even when clad in his usual tunic and boots, lent him the air of a lithe dandy. Highly intelligent with the driest of wits, he had a gift for languages, understanding English, and, in 1931, he taught himself German by translating DAS KAPITAL.” (And to think that most people can’t understand DAS KAPITAL even when they read it in their mother tongue).
      *
      We know what we think and how we feel. It is only by knowing what others think and feel that we may acquire a better understanding of our fellow men, and by extension, of the world in which we live – that is to say, reality.
      *
      Can we really understand ourselves if we don’t understand others? And if we don’t understand others, what can we really understand?
      *
      Understanding of reality is a seamless web. Partial understanding might as well be misunderstanding, and action based on misunderstanding is bound to fail.
      *
      Memo to my anonymous critics: “The merit of a criticism is diminished when the critic is too afraid to identify himself.”
      #
      Saturday, September 04, 2004
      *********************************
      THE ORIGIN OF WISDOM.
      SOCRATES AND ERASMUS.
      PERVERTED PATRIOTISM.
      ARMENIAN-HATERS.
      **********************************
      All wisdom begins with the realization that what we know is only a very small fraction of knowledge, and very often so small that it would be more accurate to admit, like Socrates, that all we know for certain is that we don’t know.
      *
      And speaking of Socrates: there are people who reject ideas simply because they are new ideas. Whenever in history great men, like Socrates, have been persecuted, you can be sure of one thing: the persecution was organized by such people, namely, the scum of the earth who, in the words of Erasmus, prefer “the smell of their excrement,” simply because they are familiar with it.
      *
      Where hooligans are allowed to hijack the word “patriotism,” love of country becomes hatred of fellow countrymen.
      *
      To those who at one time or another have accused me of being an Armenian-hater, I say: You have no idea what you are saying. A real Armenian-hater is one who hates Turks not because they massacred us, but because they didn’t do a more thorough job; and I happen to be personally acquainted with such an Armenian, and he happens to be a genuine, bona fide, dyed-in-the wool born-again Christian whose every other line is a quote from the Bible. And he feels as he does because he is convinced Armenians are evil and the Turks massacred them because they were following orders from God – not their Allah, be it noted, but our God who can do no wrong. And if you were to say, I should be ashamed to admit that I have such friends, I will reply: I have made it my business to understand all kinds of Armenians and not just a fraction of them.
      #

    10. #40
      ara baliozian
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      am i cain?

      Wednesday, September 08, 2004
      ************************************
      WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN.
      WHO IS CAIN?
      FROM PALACES TO CRAP.
      VERBAL SOLUTIONS AND PIZZAS
      WITH MUSHROOMS AND ANCHOVIES.
      ************************************************** ******
      In 1957 Bertrand Russell published a book titled WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN, which contains quotations from the Old Testament that legitimize prejudice, racism, and massacre - and massacre not only of women and children but also cattle.
      We now have two recent books titled WHY I AM NOT A MUSLIM by Ibn Warraq and WHY I AM NOT A HINDU by Ramandra Nath.
      In the first we read: "As soon as I was able to think for myself, I discarded all the religious dogmas that had been foisted on me. I now consider myself a secular humanist who believes that all religions are sick men's dreams, false - demonstrably false - and pernicious."
      In the second: "Though I agree with Buddhism in its rejection of god, soul, infallibility of the Vedas, still I am not a Hindu even in this broad sense of the term Hindu, because as a rationalist and humanist, I reject all religions."
      If the world is saved it will not be by ayatollahs, mullahs, bishops, popes, televangelists and rabbis but by enlightened men like Bertrand Russell, Ibn Warraq and Ramandra Nath, who refuse to divide their fellow men into believers and infidel dogs.
      *
      When I went into this business, I made a solemn promise to myself never to lose my temper, to answer all criticisms and questions, to ignore all insults, and to think of my critics not as my enemies but as my brothers. I kept this promise until I realized that one of the worst things that can happen to a man is to have a brother like Cain. I am not saying or implying that my critics are a bunch of Cains; rather, that they assign to me the role of Cain and to themselves that of Abel.
      *
      The Bible tells us to love our neighbor. It does not tell us to love him only if he agrees with everything we say no matter how uninformed, narrow-minded, and unchristian.
      *
      Goethe once said that every young writer thinks he can build palaces, but with experience he learns the best he can do is shovel crap.
      *
      I am reminded of an American plumber's advertising slogan: "Your crap is my bread and butter."
      *
      As for those who demand instant solutions to all our problems, I ask two questions: (a) What possible use are or have been verbal solutions? and (b) What has been your own contribution to our welfare as a nation, in addition to ordering solutions like a patron in a pizza parlor ordering a pizza with mushrooms and anchovies?
      #

    11. #41
      ara baliozian
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      9/11

      Thursday, September 09, 2004
      ***********************************
      CREDIBILITY CANYON.
      A QUESTION OF RELEVANCE.
      PARTISAN VERSIONS OF THE PAST.
      ARMENIAN SHAMANISM.
      *******************************************
      Just because I don't believe anything Turks tell me, it doesn't necessarily follow that I am willing to swallow everything Armenians tell me. I have been fooled by so many Armenians on so many occasions that, if an Armenian were to tell me my mother loves me, I would want to double-check his source.
      *
      If you think my attitude towards my fellow Armenians is negative, I say, I assure you, my friend, my attitude might as well be irrelevant on grounds of insignificance. Who after all gives a damn what a minor scribbler says? Any idiot can contradict him, any hooligan can insult him, and any imbecile can silence him. What is infinitely more relevant and significant is Armenian treatment of writers and, by extension, their fellow Armenians.
      *
      To put it as elegantly and as diplomatically as I can, collectively, Armenians have behaved like swine towards their writers. No need to take my word for it. Read any history of Armenian literature. But don't expect Bolsheviks, or for that matter, any member of any party to expose its own criminal conduct. When a partisan writes about his party, he operates on the assumption that its leadership has been infallible, therefore beyond reproach.
      *
      If you want to know how misleading an Armenian can be, read a Communist on Tashnaks and vice versa: a Tashnak on fellow travellers. Once, when I was young and naïve, I published an interview with a prominent Tashnak only to be informed by a prominent Ramgavar that every line in my interview contained a minimum of two lies.
      *
      Two reasonable men may disagree, but not if one of them is an Armenian.
      *
      When a reader does not agree with me, he says, "I don't agree with you." But when an Armenian does not agree with me, he calls me an idiot, probably because he believes in shamanism and thinks if he calls me an idiot a few times, I will grow long ears and bray like an ass.
      #
      Friday, September 10, 2004
      *******************************
      TOYNBEE'S ANSWER.
      GANDHI'S SOLUTION.
      GRUB FIRST, THEN ETHICS.
      *************************************
      When, in the final volume of his STUDY OF HISTORY, Toynbee attempted to combine all religions into a single belief system, because he saw no other alternative to mutual tolerance, universal brotherhood and peace, he was dismissed as a charlatan by humanists and as a blasphemer by men of faith. Result? Mankind continues to be at the mercy of frauds and their dupes, who persecute, kill and die in the name of a truth, which is a lie.
      *
      Religious leaders would agree with the above assertion provided they and their followers are excluded, of course!
      *
      Jews believe the Pope and his followers and all Christians in general believe in a false messiah. Christians believe, by rejecting the only true messiah, Jews are destined to burn in hell. Mullahs view Christians as infidels, and Buddhists are convinced anyone who speaks of gods, holy ghosts, messiahs, prophets, angels, devils, and virgin births inhabits a world of non-existent shadows and empty illusions.
      *
      A humanist believes trying to reconcile two religions is like trying to reconcile two sets of lies. You cannot reconcile 2+2=5 with 2+2=22. How can you reconcile the existence of God with his non-existence? Easy, Gandhi said. If we replace the word God with the word Truth, he explained, even atheists become believers in so far as they believe the non-existence of god to be the truth.
      *
      Like Toynbee's answer, Gandhi's verbal solution has been ignored, perhaps because it does not take into account theologians and their dogmas, for the sake of which countless men have shed their blood.
      *
      If a universal religion continues to be a utopian dream today, it's because for every Toynbee and Gandhi, there are thousands of bishops, mullahs and rabbis, who make a comfortable living by peddling nonsense; and between a useless, not to say dangerous, nonsense and a useful truth, man will invariably choose the nonsense.
      *
      Call it original sin, call it the crocodilian fraction of the human brain, call it human perversity, call it what you will, history is clear on this point: if we view the future as an extension of the past, we are destined to be at the mercy of frauds and their dupes who value superstition above truth, brotherhood and peace.
      #
      Saturday, September 11, 2004
      ***********************************
      MORE ABOUT RELIGION.
      THE POSITIVE AND THE NEGATIVE.
      FROM GIBBON TO MARX &
      FROM HEGEL TO RAFFI.
      ***************************************
      One of my critics informs me that I tend to emphasize the negative at the expense of the positive. This pattern, he writes, is evident also in my treatment of all organized religions. When I write about Christianity, for instance, I completely ignore its many positive contributions.
      *
      Let me expand on some of the points in my previous post:
      There is no evidence to suggest that mankind has made any moral progress after the advent of Christianity. The last century, for instance, has seen more senseless bloodshed than at any other time in the history of mankind.
      *
      During the last two thousand years, Christianity has legitimized authoritarianism, monarchy, imperialism, colonialism, intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism, fascism, the persecution and torture of heretics, wars and massacres. Remember Voltaire's dictum: "Since it was a religious war, there were no survivors."
      *
      After the Golden Age of Greek culture, Christianity ushered in a thousand years of Dark Ages during which scientists were forced to accept the word of the Old Testament as the ultimate authority on all branches of knowledge.
      *
      Some of the greatest historians and thinkers of the West (from Edward Gibbon to Marx and Nietzsche) have written at considerable length about the negative, not to say, sinister, role of the Church in the West.
      Hegel summed up the role of Christianity in the West when he said "the Christian frees himself from the human Master only to be enslaved by the divine Master." Our own Raffi echoed the same sentiment when he wrote: "As for our clergy: they have always been against individual freedom."
      *
      Speaking of Roman persecution of Christians, Gibbon writes in his DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE: "Christians have inflicted far greater severities on each other than they had experienced from the zeal of infidels." The number of Protestants "executed in a single province and a single reign far exceeded that of the primitive martyrs in the space of three centuries and of the Roman Empire."
      *
      For more on this subject, see DOUBT: A HISTORY by Jennifer Michael Hecht (New York, 2003. 551 pages. Index. Bibliography).
      #

    12. #42
      ara baliozian
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      9/15

      Sunday, September 12, 2004
      ************************************
      FAITH, RELIGION, POLITICS AND POWER.
      ORWELL, HUXLEY, TOYNBEE, GANDHI.
      CRITICIZING THE CRITIC.
      BELIEF SYSTEMS AND THEIR CRITICS.
      ************************************************** *****
      Faith is something that happens in the hearts, minds, and souls of men. What I criticize is not faith but organized religions and the power they wield; and power is power regardless of its physical or metaphysical content.
      *
      Faith may be beyond criticism, but organized religions, politics and power are not.
      *
      George Orwell: "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
      *
      Those who oppose criticism engage in criticism in so far as they criticize dissent on the grounds that their convictions are beyond criticism, especially if there is no positive proof that their convictions are true.
      *
      Every belief system is also a critique as well as a rejection of all other belief systems.
      *
      Critics and dissidents are not popular because those who speak in the name of God or Truth don't like being exposed as dealers in "pure wind."
      *
      Christians called their critics heretics and burned them at the stake. Bolsheviks called theirs Trotskyites, bourgeois reactionaries and counter-revolutionaries and shot them. Muslims called theirs infidel dogs and blasphemers and exterminated them.
      *
      Even religious leaders who preach love, hate to give up their claim of monopoly of truth, to the same degree that their followers hate to give up their sense of superiority, that allows them to see themselves as the Chosen, and the rest of the world as second-class citizens, or even morally inferior trash.
      *
      In that sense, one could say that all belief systems are in the business of dehumanizing their fellow men. To flatter the collective ego of a minority (and all religions are minorities) they dehumanize the majority.
      *
      Efforts to reconcile belief systems, like those made by Aldous Huxley in his book, PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, and by Toynbee in the final volume of his 12-volume STUDY OF HISTORY, have been ignored, sometimes even ridiculed. Who remembers today Gandhi's noble, even if only semantic, effort to elevate the status of atheism from the opposite of religion to that of religion?
      *
      As for the positive contributions religions have made: consider the fate of a respectable citizen who has done nothing but serve his fellow men for many years, but as a result of unforeseen circumstances, or confluence of emotional experiences, he commits a criminal act. He is caught, arrested, tried, found guilty and punished. His standing within the community is wrecked. He is disgraced. He becomes a pariah. And now consider the case of the Catholic Church and its many corrupt popes: what has happened to the institution of the papacy? What has happened to Christianity and Islam after their countless crimes that have claimed millions of innocent victims?
      *
      To those who say, the abuses of individuals should not be ascribed to their institutions, I ask, What if these abuses were committed in the name of these institutions? Should we continue to assert these institutions can do no wrong or they are beyond criticism, and anyone who exposes these abuses is a blasphemer, an idiot, a lunatic, whose ideas are dangerous, negative and anti-social?
      #
      Monday, September 13, 2004
      ************************************
      A TURKISH NOBELIST.
      A TURCOPHILE HISTORIAN ON TURKS.
      ANKARA'S ROLE IN WORLD HISTORY.
      PROPAGANDA WAR.
      TOYNBEE'S VERDICT.
      ************************************************** *
      In the August 30, 2004 issue of the NEW YORKER (New York) John Updike reviews a novel titled SNOW by Orhan Pamuk, a contemporary Turkish writer, several of whose books have already been translated into English and published in the U.S. and England. After comparing the author with Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, and Dostoevsky, Updike writes: "Pamuk, relatively young as he is, at the age of fifty-two, qualifies as that country's most likely candidate for the Nobel Prize."
      It is to be noted that the novel takes place in the city of Kars and the Armenian massacres are not mentioned in the lengthy review.
      *
      In the August 21 issue of the SPECTATOR (London) David Pryce-Jones opens his review of Andrew Mango's THE TURKS TODAY with the words: "Mustapha Kemal, otherwise Ataturk, took the corpse of the Ottoman Empire and reanimated it as Turkey. Breaking both the old sultanate and the hold of Islam, he laid the foundation of a democratic state. It was an extraordinary achievement, not to be witnessed again until Mikhail Gorbachev broke the Soviet Union and the hold of the Communist party - and that was more by accident than design." Armenians are not mentioned in the review.
      *
      In the August 19 issue of LE POINT (Paris) there is an interview with Semih Vaner, identified as a French expert on the Middle East, who is quoted as having said: "Ankara can play an essential role between the West and the Muslim world." And: "It is time to view the Muslim world in all its diversity. Turkey has a parliamentary system that is competitive and democratic."
      Again, Armenians are not mentioned.
      *
      Is there an Armenian military leader comparable to Ataturk? General Antranik comes to mind. But he might as well be a non-person to the world at large, thanks to our own political leadership that rejected him in mid-career.
      *
      Did we ever produce a writer who could have qualified as a candidate for the Nobel Prize? The answer is, yes, certainly, many. But we silenced all of them. I have in mind not only writers of the Soviet period that were systematically purged by our commissars, but also writers of the Diaspora, like Zarian, Shahnour, and Massikian, who were rejected and silenced by our own political and literary establishments.
      *
      If we are losing the propaganda war, whose fault is it? Is it because the world has a short memory? Or is it because we have allowed our destiny to fall into the hands of mediocrities whose number one enemy is excellence?
      *
      I am reminded of Toynbee's dictum: "Nations and civilizations are not killed, they commit suicide."
      #
      Tuesday, September 14, 2004
      ***********************************
      Persian proverb: "Adam and Eve spoke in Persian, and the angel who drove them out of Paradise spoke Turkish."
      *
      I have heard it said that poets are useless, writers deal in verbiage, intellectuals are addicted to words, and you cannot cook pilaf with words. I have also heard it said that man does not live by pilaf alone; and if the man happens to be an Armenian, he will also want some shish kebab.
      *
      Churchill, not exactly a daydreaming poet, once said: "Jaw-jaw is better than war-war."
      *
      Ludwig Wittgenstein: "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." It follows, to silence writers means limiting our options, and with them, our chances to survive and to achieve excellence, both of which are interconnected. To survive in the jungle, you need all your faculties.
      *
      Where critics are starved, crooks, charlatans and liars grow fat. Hence the old saying: "Priests have seven stomachs."
      *
      You say I complain too much, but isn't that what you are doing too?
      *
      "Every concept is in itself an exaggeration," Jose Ortega y Gasset tells us. So that if you say I exaggerate, you are saying I deal in concepts, to which I can only reply, I don't know any other way to express my thoughts, and I refuse to apply fig leaves to them.
      *
      Zarian was right. We don't have literary critics. What we have are petty meddlers and frustrated commissars of culture who, given the chance, will gladly put a bullet in the neck of anyone who dares to disagree with them.
      *
      According to Shaw, "A thought is an assault on the unthinking." Every unfamiliar thought is therefore bound to violate our inner balance and thus put us on the defensive. Our first impulse is not to understand it, but to reject it and to silence the thinker.
      *
      The hardest thing about being Armenian is to disagree with a friend without losing him, and to win an argument without making a mortal enemy.
      *
      By concentrating on someone else's criminal conduct (which is what we have been doing) we learn nothing. But by exposing our own blunders we may learn not to repeat them.
      #
      Wednesday, September 15, 2004
      **************************************
      VERSIONS OF THE PAST.
      HISTORY AS THE PROPAGANDA OF THE VICTOR.
      ON THE MEDIOCRITY OF OUR WRITERS.
      THE NUMBER TWO IN NATURE.
      ************************************************** *****
      To appreciate the absurdities of history as taught to millions of unsuspecting children, consider a Turk's version of Armenian history. I once heard a Turkish historian say that there has never been such a thing as an Armenian nation. Christian Turks, maybe. Armenian nation, never! It follows; to speak of the Armenian genocide is to speak of the Genocide of a non-existent entity.
      *
      In his book, THE DA VINCI CODE, Dan Brown exposes the dark side of Christianity. When told by readers that his book contradicts everything they have been taught, he replies that history has always been written by the "winners (societies and belief systems that conquered and survived)." So that, in gauging what is true, we should ask: "How historically accurate is history?"
      *
      Hindus treat their cows with greater respect than their Untouchables. I should like to see a history of Hinduism written by an Untouchable, or a history of the United States written by an American Indian or a Negro. Unless of course you say the testimony of an American racist is more valid than the testimony of a Negro.
      *
      Even belief systems whose central idea is mercy can be merciless against their critics.
      *
      After silencing and starving our ablest writers, our commissars of culture say: "Our writers are mediocrities."
      *
      A hooligan once said to me: "Books speak about the past. I am more interested in the future." He is thinking of his next screw, I thought.
      *
      Nature seems to be partial to the number two: we have two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs, and a forked tongue.
      #

    13. #43
      ara baliozian
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      propaganda etc.

      Thursday, September 16, 2004
      **********************************
      To speak of the wisdom of propaganda is like speaking of the shadow of a non-existent object in a dark room.
      *
      Fascists make good speechifiers, but I see more eloquence in the braying of an ass.
      *
      Two individuals from two different cultural environments do not speak the same language even when they speak the same language.
      *
      Confucius: "Clever talk and a pretentious manner are seldom found in the Good."
      A variant translation: "A garbage-mouth cannot harbor a golden tongue."
      *
      I am not in the business of changing anything. I am in the business of understanding, and whenever I am allowed, to share my understanding.
      *
      When a reader tells me he hates what I write, I make an effort to be more hateful. I don't write to entertain, amuse, and flatter.
      *
      All censors are cowards because they are afraid of ideas, especially ideas that will expose them as cowards.
      *
      Judge a tree by its fruit, a man by his ideas, and a belief system by its history.
      *
      To say nothing is better than to call someone an ignoramus, especially if he is one.
      *
      An easy riddle: "What does an Armenian with an opinion have in common with the Rock of Gibraltar?"
      #
      Friday, September 17, 2004
      ************************************
      AGAINST TURKISH MEMBERSHIP IN THE EU.
      ON THE ORIGINS OF PROVERBS.
      WAS KOMITAS A TURK?
      THE FALLACY OF CENSORSHIP.
      ************************************************
      In an interview published in LE POINT (Paris, August 12, 2004) Pierre Moscovici, a member of the European Parliament, cites the following three reasons why Turkey cannot be admitted into the European Union: "The role of the military on the margins of the regime;
      the rights of minorities, notably that of the Kurds; and
      the recognition of the Armenian genocide - this final point is for me decisive."
      *
      If "to kill with words is also murder" (German proverb), who among us will dare to plead not guilty to the crime of massacre?
      *
      Anonymous: "Let not your tongue cut your throat."
      *
      More and more frequently now, in English-language books of quotations, Armenian proverbs are identified as Turkish. Since no one has ever come forward and said: "I was there when this proverb was first spoken," I suppose, any nation can identify a proverb as its own. The same applies to the origin of dishes and folk tunes.
      *
      I remember to have read somewhere that in some Turkish reference works Komitas is identified as a Turkish musician, I suppose, in the same way that Mikoyan and Khachaturian are identified as "Soviet," Saroyan as "American," and Adamov as "French." But since present-day Turkey has disassociated itself from its Ottoman past and its many crimes against humanity, it would be more accurate to use the qualifier "Ottoman" in reference to Armenian proverbs and personalities who were active in Istanbul before World War I.
      *
      By silencing a writer and suppressing his testimony, censorship attempts to arrest the advance of time, but the best it can do is to slow it down and to postpone the final catastrophe.
      *
      Whenever I reflect that a fellow Armenian, who insults me or bans me from a forum, would have betrayed me to the authorities or put a bullet in my neck in a different time, place, and regime, I feel like celebrating.
      *
      To how many of my Armenian critics I could say: "Your aim is not to contradict but to murder with words."
      #
      Saturday, September 18, 2004
      ***********************************
      ON PROPAGANDA AND
      RELATED ATROCITIES.
      *********************************
      Propaganda is the enemy of literature because literature is the enemy of propaganda.
      *
      Speechifiers and sermonizers are not used to being contradicted.
      *
      One of our elder statesmen once told me: "Why do you bother replying to your readers? F*** them!" To which I remember to have replied: "No, I refuse to adopt our leaders as my role models."
      *
      I write brief sentences to fit the attention span of my readers. To write long paragraphs would be like serving gourmet dishes to addicts of junk food.
      *
      When a jackass brays he does not expect to have the applause of his audience. But if the jackass is an Armenian he is sure to think his braying is as good if not better than an aria from DON GIOVANNI or THE BARBER OF SEVILLE.
      *
      I grew up among survivors of the massacres who spoke Turkish among themselves. They had no illusions about their fellow men regardless of nationality. They may have been functional illiterates but they had an instinctive understanding of the role of destiny in human affairs. They didn't make a career of hatred and a full-time job of the massacres. If someone had said to them, by writing books, newspaper articles and letters to the editor, or by delivering speeches and sermons we may be able to persuade the Turks to apologize, they would have looked at him in silent astonishment as if to say: "Of the forty-four types of insanity I have heard about, this must be one of them."
      #

    14. #44
      ara baliozian
      Join Date
      May 2004
      Location
      canada
      Posts
      3,521

      killers

      Sunday, September 19, 2004
      *********************************
      SCHOOLS OF ARMENIAN CRITICISM.
      *******************************************
      Armenian critics come in all sizes and shapes. A tentative classification follows.
      *
      The Partisan: Every word he utters is a result of conditioning.
      *
      The Hooligan: He slings mud on a windy day and he is too dumb to know that the mud will boomerang.
      *
      The Kibitzer: A smart-ass whose sole ambition in life is to appear better informed rather than to know or understand better.
      *
      The Fanatic: His brain is so narrow that he is incapable of entertaining more than one idea at a time, and the idea he entertains is either a prejudice or a fallacy.
      *
      The Garbage-mouth: Imagine a skunk with bad breath that insists on getting up-close and personal.
      *
      The Parrot: One who operates on the assumption that if he repeats what his daddy, schoolteacher, or parish priest told him when he was a little boy, he can't be far out.
      *
      The Pontiff: He can say or do no wrong because he knows better; and he knows better because he is better; and he is better because he is in constant touch with the Holy Ghost.
      *
      The Stalinist: A frustrated commissar of culture who puts a bullet in your neck and calls it dialectic.
      *
      The dogmatist: He believes every inanity he utters is the alpha and omega of human thought from the ancient Greeks to the present.
      *
      The Born-again: He has made a religion of patriotism and believes faith can move mountains even though so far he has done nothing to move the dunghill in his backyard.
      *
      The Phony: He recycles a line from the morning editorial and expects to be taken for a pundit.
      *
      The Hypocrite or the Forked-tongue: He believes as long as he says the opposite of what he really feels and thinks, he will be on safe ground.
      *
      The Fundamentalist: He identifies his verbal crapola with Holy Writ.
      *
      Question: Is it a waste of time reading these critics?
      Answer: No, if you want to understand why our past and present are a disaster area and why the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train with a toxic cargo.
      *
      To those who say, "If you want your readers to respect you, you should respect them." I say, I am not in the business of respecting the irrational, the irresponsible, the phony, the pretentious, and the dishonest. I am in the business of exposing them.
      *
      And if you were to say, "Why is it that you are the only writer who has such a negative and pessimistic view of our reality?" I will say: No, I am not, not by a long shot! Three generations of Armenian writers before me were brutally cut down before they had a chance to sound the alarm: first time in the Ottoman Empire by Talaat, second time in Soviet Armenia by Stalin, and third time in the Diaspora by our partisans. So much so that I have heard even our chauvinists admit that we have no more literary giants, only contemptible midgets.
      *
      But in all fairness to our lost writers, many of them predicted the coming catastrophe and were ignored whenever they were not murdered. Shahnour and Massikian come to mind; and Zarian, who said: "Our political parties have been of no political use to us. Their greatest enemy is free speech"; and "Armenians survive by cannibalizing one another." Also to be noted: Zarian ended a chapter in his TRAVELLER AND HIS ROAD , written in the 1930s, with the words, "Vdank, vdank, vdank!" (Danger, danger, danger!) If that's not an S.O.S., I should like to know what is.
      #
      Monday, September 20, 2004
      ************************************
      ANALYZING FANATICS.
      INSURANCE CLAIMS OF GENOCIDE VICTIMS.
      LIES THAT FLATTER AND TRUTHS THAT HURT.
      ************************************************** ****
      To understand some Armenians it helps to read Muslim pundits on their fellow Muslims, because fanatics are fanatics regardless of national origin.
      According to Chahdortt Djavann, an Iranian writer and author of a book titled WHAT DOES ALLAH THINK OF EUROPE? "Islam is a closed system that excludes non-Muslims and condemns to death all apostates…. In the Muslim world, Islam has confiscated all thinking. There is no such thing as a thought that is not religious…. [Muslim intellectuals are silent] because the alternative would be to question the legitimacy of the Koran…. Islamists know how to convert the frustrations of the young to religious energy," (LE POINT, Paris, August 26, 2004).
      *
      On the subject of reparations and insurance claims, I read the following in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE: "The international Commission of Holocaust Era Insurance Claims offered victims $41.5 million in settlements while lavishing more than $40 million in expenses on itself. Neal Sher, head of the commission's Washington office, resigned after an investigation found that he has misappropriated funds. He was later disbarred." Had he been an Armenian, I thought, he would have run for office and would now be the Armenian minister of foreign affairs, perhaps even the prez."
      *
      To some Armenians the word "kind" might as well be a four-letter word in a foreign tongue.
      *
      An Armenian says, "Turks are evil and Armenians good." A Turk says, "Armenians are evil and Turks good." Both are believed by millions of their fellow countrymen because a lie that flatters will always enjoy more popularity than a truth that hurts; and because I refuse to be a brown-noser, I have acquired many enemies who would like to see me silenced permanently.
      *
      But I shouldn't complain because if it weren't for my enemies I would probably have no faithful readers and a steady source of inspiration. As for readers who agree with me: I wouldn't be in the least surprised if I bore them to death. I too would be bored with a writer who tells me nothing I don't already know.
      #
      Tuesday, September 21, 2004
      ********************************
      A FAILED EXPERIMENT?
      DOUBLE UNDERDOGS.
      INDIANS AND FORKED TONGUES.
      *************************************
      "Armenia is a failed experiment," a friend keeps telling me, "and writing for Armenians a waste of time." Is he right? I am not sure. One reason I continue to write for Armenians is that, as an underdog, I prefer to write for underdogs - make it, as a double-underdog, I prefer to write for double-underdogs. Because, if you didn't already know, we happen to be underdogs not only of Turkish barbarism and Western hypocrisy but also of our own incompetent leadership.
      *
      Consider our revolutionaries at the turn of the last century: they knew massacres to be a strong possibility, and yet, they didn't have a plan B. They may have had a plan B for themselves (as in the Ottoman Bank caper) but not for the civilians. And they should have had not only a plan B, C, D, and E but also X, Y, and Z. But the fact remains: they did not. And what was bound to happen, happened.
      *
      And consider our present situation. What's their plan B, or, for that matter, plan A, to arrest the exodus from the Homeland and the assimilation in the Diaspora ? - two ongoing processes that have been described as "white massacres." Again, they may have a plan B for themselves, as they did the first time around…and having survived the massacres, they published copious memoirs in which they portrayed themselves as heroes and dedicated servants of the nation. How to explain their failures? Elementary, my dear Watson. They blamed the West for its double talk (as if there ever was a time in recorded history when the West had not spoken with a forked tongue) and the Turks for their bloodthirsty disposition (as if that came as a surprise too).
      *
      Speaking of forked tongues: that's how American Indians described all white men long before our massacres. Which may suggest that our own leaders did not know what Indians knew before them. Why should we be surprised if a high-ranking Turkish diplomat is quoted as having said to Bush Sr. during a visit to the White House: "Armenians are our Indians." Thus implying, "If you tried to exterminate your Indians, why shouldn't we exercise the same right when it comes to our own?" And, "If you can speak with a forked tongue, why can't we?"
      #
      Wednesday, September 22, 2004
      ***********************************
      NATURAL-BORN KILLERS.
      SOCRATES ON GODS.
      THE NEGATIVE AND THE POSITIVE.
      ARMENIAN POLITICS.
      ********************************************
      An Armenian is a natural-born verbal killer. Zarian put it best when he said, "An Armenian's tongue is sharper than a Turk's yataghan." Who among us will dare to plead not guilty to the charge of verbal massacre?
      *
      When an Armenian from Lebanon and an Armenian from Iran (or anywhere else for that matter) converse in English, nuances are bound to collide, explode, and maim innocent bystanders.
      *
      Socrates, who has been described as "the big-bang of Western philosophy," once said what needs to be said of all religions: "Of the gods, we know nothing." (See Plato, CRATILUS). Which is why, when it comes to religions, we should have more questions than answers. Which is also why, he who speaks in the name of God should be declared a certified charlatan, a pathological impostor, and a fraud.
      *
      Everything has been said before. There is nothing new under the sun. Originality now consists in saying, or rather quoting, the right word at the right time and place.
      *
      Patriotic sentiments spring from the gut and appeal to the gut without a detour to the brain. Unless, of course, you say, "My patriotism is good, but my enemy's patriotism is evil."
      *
      To those who accuse me of negativism, I ask: "If to expose charlatanism is positive and to cover it up negative, are you not the negative one?"
      *
      I remember, whenever I would submit an essay dealing with our present situation to the late editor of ARARAT Quarterly, he would reject it with the words, "I don't want to get involved in Armenian politics," as if Armenian politics were a pestilential swamp better left alone than drained.
      #

    15. #45
      ara baliozian
      Join Date
      May 2004
      Location
      canada
      Posts
      3,521

      zoo

      Thursday, September 23, 2004
      **********************************
      DISAGREEMENT - ARMENIAN STYLE.
      THE LANGUAGE OF PROPAGANDA.
      FOUR RULES WITHOUT EXCEPTIONS.
      ***********************************************
      There is a type of reader who disagrees with me long before he has read the first word of the first line. Such a reader is a critic only in the sense that a cobra is a critic of a mongoose and vice versa. Some cases in point follow.
      *
      "You don't always mention your sources. Is it because you have none to back up your ridiculous assertions and theories?"
      More often than not my sources are anonymous readers like yourself whom I sometimes identify as Jack S. Avanakian.
      *
      "None of your explanations makes sense to me. Why do you insist on wasting your time and ours?"
      Perhaps you would like to share your wisdom with us, and if you have none to spare, perhaps you would care to mention another writer we could all read with profit. I hate to think I am the only game in town. Surely, our people deserve better than that.
      *
      To the gentle reader who tells me, "Haven't you got anything better to do than produce a steady flow of waste matter every day?" I can only say: What's a major intellect like you reading a minor scribbler like me?
      *
      It has been the destiny of Armenian writers to live among foreigners who don't give a damn about Armenian literature, and Armenians who care more about the false certainties of propaganda and less about the honest uncertainties of literature.
      *
      Power can speak only one language, that of propaganda. This is true of political as well as religious power. And propaganda and truth are as mutually exclusive as fire and water.
      *
      My source about the above assertion: life in three different countries - the first predominantly Orthodox (Greece); the second Catholic (Italy) and the third Protestant (Canada) all claiming to have a monopoly on truth, and when asked for proof, all pleading faith, the way cold-blooded murderers plead insanity.
      *
      All rules have exceptions, except the following four:
      Where there are laws, they will be broken.
      Where there are principles, they will be corrupted.
      Where there is an ideological movement, it will be confiscated by power-hungry cynical manipulators whose number one concern will be number one.
      And (I owe the following to Toynbee): Where there are chosen people, they will have been chosen by no one but themselves.
      #
      Friday, September 24, 2004
      ********************************
      WARNING.
      ENFER DE MERDE.
      THE LESSONS OF HISTORY.
      PUNDITS & DUPES.
      ON INFALLIBILITY.
      ************************************
      In order not to be misunderstood, one must express the same thought in different ways, and the more ways, the narrower the gap open to misinterpretation.
      *
      What I am about to say you may have heard or read before. Feel free not to read what follows.
      *
      The world is an enfer de merde or a cesspool of conflicting interests and belief systems because, (one) only historians learn from history; (two) they invariably draw contradictory lessons; (three) they don't have the power to put into practice what they have learned; and (four) if they had the power, the world would be in a worst mess.
      *
      We are all authorities on at least one subject: what's good for us, and more often than not, we are dead wrong.
      *
      Where there is disagreement, either one or, more often than not, both sides are wrong, because any dupe can say, "my side is right," and have a counterpart in the opposition who says the same thing.
      *
      If we agree that what we don't know far exceeds what we know, or "of the gods we know nothing" (Socrates), or "we cannot answer the most important questions" (Chekhov), it follows, to assume being consistently right or infallible must be just about the surest symptom of being consistently wrong. This must be true not only of Muslims who speak in the name of Allah, but also of Catholics who speak in the name of the Pope, or partisans who speak in the name of the Party, or dupes who at one time or another spoke in the name of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Saddam, and countless others who pretended to know better.
      *
      If millions, perhaps even billions, have been wrong in the past, who among us will dare to pretend to be right or to know better?
      #
      Saturday, September 25, 2004
      ***********************************
      FROM AN AFRICAN NOVEL.
      MORE ON WRITERS AND COMMISSARS.
      ON ARMENIAN IDENTITY.
      THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE.
      OUR PANCHOONIE RACKET.
      GOD, OUR FATHER.
      ************************************************
      From a contemporary African novel: "as ugly and dirty as a hyena's anus."
      *
      No one and nothing can be as contemptible as a writer in an environment dominated by commissars of culture. Which is why I prefer to identify myself as a concerned citizen. And if, on occasion, I have committed the unforgivable blunder of calling myself a writer, it has been only in the sense of one who uses the written word as a means of communication - as in "the writer of this memo."
      *
      If you chart the family tree of a commissar of culture, you are sure to find at least two hangmen, three cold-blooded murderers, several career criminals, and a minimum of a dozen jailbirds.
      *
      In a non-democratic environment one cannot speak of the voice of the people ("vox populi") which has been identified in the past with the voice of god ("vox dei"). One can speak only of the voice of an elite or a power structure, which is more akin to the voice of the Devil. And now, consider the fact that throughout our millennial history we have at no time experienced democratic rule. Even in democratic environments like the United States, France and Canada, we are dominated by non-representative cliques that are as representative as exclusive clubs. As for the so-called democracy in Armenia today: it is as representative as a criminal gang or a mafia.
      *
      An Armenian born and raised in the United States will share more in common with his fellow Americans than with an Armenian born and raised in the USSR. Most Armenians today might as well be foreigners to one another. But whereas the laws of the land promote solidarity in America (which is also populated by foreigners), the absence of similar laws or values in our case moves us in opposite directions, namely, mutual mistrust, alienation, and assimilation.
      *
      The only time an Armenian will speak of brotherhood is when he goes into the business of raising funds, which I like to call our "Panchoonie racket."
      *
      I am willing to concede that even if god doesn't exist, we should live as though he did, otherwise we may end up slaughtering one another. But man, it seems, is so predisposed to slaughter that he will slaughter even in the name of a merciful and compassion god.
      *
      The aim of propaganda, it has been said, is to deceive your friends, not your enemies. Imagine, if you can, a Turk falling for our chauvinist crapola….
      *
      After being verbally abused by our commissars and partisans (but I repeat myself) I can truly testify to the fact that an Armenian's tongue can be "sharper than a Turk's yataghan" (Zarian) and uglier than a hyena's anus.
      #

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