sept/20

Sunday, September 17, 2006
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Whenever I am reminded by concerned friends that writing for Armenians is a waste of time (as if I didn’t know) the best explanation I can come up with is that America is a big country with big problems, and Armenia is a small country with bigger problems. Americans, moreover, believe in democracy. By contrast, our own attitude towards democracy is closer to that of Muslim fundamentalists, who will attack the Pope for quoting a medieval Byzantine emperor but will believe everything their mullahs tell them, even when they promise to be rewarded with a harem of virgins if they kill as many infidel dogs in the name of Allah as they can. Which is why the average letter to the editor by an average odar citizen in our local daily paper makes more sense to me than the long-winded and monomaniacal commentaries of our self-appointed pundits in our weeklies.
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Being committed to democratic values means appreciating the importance free speech. One of our self-inflicted tragedies is that the overwhelming majority of our press and media in general, very much like our educational institutions, are in the hands of political parties, about which Gostan Zarian has said: “They have been of no political use to us, their greatest enemy is free speech.”
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Where educational institutions are run by ideologues, the result will be an overabundance of dupes and a scarcity of individuals who can think for themselves. My guess is, for every thousand Armenians there may or may not be one dissident but even that one will be too many for our commissars. And if you think I am being too hard on our partisans, consider that for every ten million Soviets there was one dissident but even that one was too many for Stalinists; and for every one hundred million Muslims today there may or may not be one or more dissidents, but they are too intimidated to raise their voices and be counted.
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Where the dominant ideas are rooted in ideology and theology, the result will be not truth but propaganda, and the dissidents will be treated not as critics with a valid perspective but heretics and blasphemers whose tongues should be cut out.
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We prefer monologue to dialogue, speeches and sermons to an exchange of views, and propaganda to truth. The average Armenian today thinks tolerance consists in being tolerant only of people who parrot his sentiments and thoughts. As for the others, they might as well be that lowest form of animal life, pro-Turkish denialists. But free speech means to respect even the free speech of Turkish denialists. Try to explain that to our fundamentalists in whose view the Genocide is not history but theology.
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Monday, September 18, 2006
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CONFESSIONS OF AN INFIDEL DOG
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Once upon a time in the good old days when everything I wrote was printed in Armenian weeklies on the continent and in the Middle East, whenever I came across a positive remark about us, I would quote it in a review or an article, and needless to add, I would do the same with every negative remark about Turks. Much later I learned that this was exactly the method employed by anti-American propagandists in the USSR. If I remember correctly, it was Mike Wallace who exposed this fact during an interview with the editor who handled Pravda’s (may have been Izvestia’s) anti-American department. Asked to identify her sources, the young female editor showed him the latest issue of the NEW YORK TIMES. All she did, it became apparent, was to select and edit the negative news items — things like murders, rapes, strikes, riots, demonstrations, homelessness, corruption in high places, and so on. Result: the average comrade in the street was convinced he lived in a Soviet paradise, while Americans were condemned to burn in their own hell, and serve those blood-sucking capitalist bastards right. Like Moliere’s bourgeois who spoke prose (as opposed to verse) and didn’t know it, I was a practicing propagandist and didn’t know it. With one difference: unlike the young Russian editor in her tiny cubicle, I wasn’t paid for my work. I did what I did because I loved Armenia and hated Turks.
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There are many things in life about which no one tells you anything. Case in point: no one ever bothered to tell me that the secret of living a comfortable life is to be a flatterer, not a critic, and that there is more money in kissing ass than in kicking it.
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Some years ago, after Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa on Salman Rushdie, many publishers and bookstores around the world, including America, refused to have anything to do with his SATANIC VERSES. More recently, American newspapers were afraid to reprint the Mohammed cartoons in the name of political correctness. And the Pope of Rome, because he dared to quote the testimony of a medieval Byzantine emperor about Muslim militarism, has now been effectively neutralized and gagged. The message of jihadists is clear: “We set no value on human rights and the free speech of infidel dogs. Step out of line and we will riot, burn, and kill.” (Today’s victim: a young Catholic nun if Africa.) As for anti-jihadist moderates: I sympathize with their silence because I have learned the hard way that you cannot reason with fanatics who speak in the name of God and Country.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
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To engage in dialogue means to be open to reason. To refuse to engage in dialogue means to condemn oneself to extinction. Case in point: When at the turn of the last century our revolutionaries refused to engage in dialogue with Armenians within the administration of the Ottoman Empire, they condemned the people to extinction. For more on this subject, see Pars Tuglaci, THE ROLE OF THE DADIAN FAMILY IN OTTOMAN, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND POLITICAL LIFE (Istanbul, 1993).
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And because Muslim fundamentalists today refuse to engage in dialogue with the West, they are moving in a direction that will make a showdown inevitable. As their genocidal threats towards Israel persist and their acts of terrorism and anti-Western riots increase in frequency and severity, the West will have no choice by to say to all Islamic states: “Recognize the universal validity of such democratic principles as freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and respect for fundamental human rights, or face annihilation.”
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We too are moving towards a showdown and our adversary is not “social and political conditions beyond our control,” but our tribalism and contempt for democratic values and dialogue. We may pretend to be part of the Christian West, but as Nikol Aghbalian has pointed out, we are more like Kurds and Turks, thoroughly tribal. Our nationalism is a sham because tribalism means loyalty to the tribe, and the tribe is not the nation.
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It is to be noted that Nikol Aghbalian (1873-1947) was neither a dissident nor a critic, but a political leader, an educator, and a literary scholar.
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Aghbalian on democracy: “When man does not submit himself to the rule of law, he will have to submit himself to the rule of men, that is to say, cliques and gangs.”
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Aghbalian on tribalism: “We Armenians are products of the tribal mentality of Turks and Kurds, and this tribal mentality remains stubbornly embedded even in our leaders and elites.”
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Wednesday, September 20, 2006
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IF I WERE BUSH
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I would begin by democratizing friendly regimes, like the Saudis, even if it means twisting their arms and threatening them with annihilation; after which I would convince them to use their own money and personnel (of which they have more than enough) to democratize the rest of the Middle East. But after writing for Armenians for a good number of years, I have learned the hard way that if an idea makes sense, it will be universally rejected.
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VOLTAIRE’S FRENCHMEN
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Voltaire used to divide his fellow countrymen into two distinct groups: “the enemies of reason and merit, the fanatics, the stupid, the intolerant, the persecutors and the calumniators,” and the others. And now, allow me to introduce that rarest of all beings, a concerned Armenian who was also a friend of reason, and as such would have enjoyed Voltaire’s full approval.
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ARTIN DADIAN
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He was a prominent Ottoman diplomat who in 1896 headed a commission appointed by the Sultan to resolve the conflict between the Empire and the Armenian revolutionaries. The following is a quotation from one of his letters to the Tashnak party: “I suggest that today we have 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 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 such 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.” (See Pars Tuglaci, THE ROLE OF THE DADIAN FAMILY IN OTTOMAN, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND POLITICAL LIFE [Istanbul, 1993]).
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