as i see it - Pt. I
Posted 27 October 2001 - 09:51 AM
If you recycle propaganda, you will be hated by the opposition. If you
speak the truth (or, let’s say, if you refuse to recycle crap) you will
be hated by both sides. If you voice moderate or middle-road views, you
will run the risk of being run over by both sides of the traffic. Hence
the unspoken slogan most Armenians appear to have adopted: "A plague on
both your houses!"
"Truth shall set you free," we are told. Not always. Especially not in an
Armenian context. An Armenian who thinks truth is on his side behaves
more like a slave to his Ottomanism.
When asked to explain why he bought himself a parrot, Nasreddin Khodja is
said to have replied: "I was told a parrot lives to be two hundred years
old. I wanted to make sure this is true."
Napoleon didn't much care for music. "Music is the most expensive noise,"
he once remarked to a composer, who retorted: "Not as expensive as the
noise of cannon."
To the question, "Are you faithful to your wife?" the well-known French
actor and womanizer, Lucien Guitry, replied: "Yes…of course…frequently!"
Posted 27 October 2001 - 09:53 AM
An honest politician is an oxymoron. So is an honest lawyer or, for that
matter, an honest businessman. "All professions are conspiracies against
the laity," Shaw said (and he was speaking of medicine). One reason I
went into literature is that I thought it was one of the very few fields
of human endeavor in which honesty was a sine qua non. I was wrong. I was
dead wrong! I know now that there are more charlatans there than anywhere
else, and nothing is penalized as severely as honesty. As soon as you
make an honest statement you are set upon not only by a large number of
philistines, propagandists, parasites and phony pundits on any given
subject but also by their families, relatives, friends, and brainwashed
supporters who have not yet mastered the difficult art (difficult
especially for Armenians) of thinking for themselves: all of whom
consider truth as their number one enemy because it may expose them for
what they are.
"He who speaks does not know," we are told, "and he who knows does not
speak." I have not yet mastered the wisdom of silence but I am looking
forward to it.
Posted 29 October 2001 - 10:09 AM
1. Very often, in our context, "You are wrong!" is only the first half of a
sentence, the unspoken second half being: "Because you don't agree with
my favorite propaganda line," which might as well mean: "You can't be
right whenever you think for yourself and refuse to recycle the crap of a
boss, bishop, or mullah."
2. He who overestimates himself will underestimate the opposition.
3. Where is the Armenian who will speak as a member of the human race as
opposed to a fraction of it? -- and he will speak without the need to
recycle someone else’s cliches, prejudices and complexes.
4. Why is it that before an Armenian decides to recycle crap he assesses
himself as smart?
5. It is not easy doing the wrong thing when you know what’s right, but most
people take a perverse pleasure in it.
6. It’s not easy learning from one’s mistakes; impossible if you don't think
of them as mistakes.
7. It is useless to speak in an environment where fools have succeeded in
convincing themselves to be wise.
Posted 29 October 2001 - 10:11 AM
What’s happening to Afghanistan today happened to us at the turn of the
century – with minor variations of course: a threatened empire, a
helpless nation (or collection of tribes) at the mercy of a ruthless and
fanatical minority that has assumed leadership, the slaughter of innocent
civilians, countless refugees, death by disease, exposure and starvation,
moderate leaders who are executed by the fanatics….
And when the Taliban is defeated and dispersed around the world, they
will organize small cells that will plot vengeance against America.
Reconciliation? Not on your life. They are right today and they will be
right a hundred years hence, because they have truth or Allah on their
side. So what if the nation is destroyed and countless innocent civilians
slaughtered? You cannot make an omelette without breaking a couple of
eggs. That’s right, a couple of eggs. That’s all the people are worth to
Moral I: You cannot attack an empire and hope to remain unpunished.
Moral II: You cannot lose a war and misrepresent it as a moral victory.
Moral III: You cannot divide and dismember a nation and pretend to lead it.
Moral IV: You cannot destroy a nation and parade as its saviors.
Moral V: You cannot brainwash yourself with slogans, cliches, ideological
propaganda and mumbo jumbo and pretend to understand history.
Posted 29 October 2001 - 10:11 AM
A couple of months ago a man committed suicide after killing his wife and
children in a small town not far from here. There is now an inquest to
find out what went wrong and what could be done to prevent such future
Such inquests, hearings, and commissions in which witnesses, experts and
lawyers testify under oath, are a constant feature of democracies. By
contrast, in authoritarian power structures it is assumed those in
authority know all they need to know. They know because they base their
knowledge on holy scriptures or a specific ideology (which they tend to
confuse with theology).
What would have happened if, after the first massacres of 1894, someone
had proposed setting up a commission? I can imagine the voice of
authority saying: "No need to study anything! We are right and the Turks
wrong! That’s all there is to it. We must persevere in our single-minded
quest for freedom. God, justice, history and the West are on our side."
Those who oppose TARC today repeat that refrain. Instead of saying,
"This is a great opportunity for us to expose the mindset of nations that
commit genocide," they say: "The Turks were bloodthirsty savages; so are
their children and their children’s children! We cannot deal with them
because we reject evil in all its disguises."
This type of mentality is clearly outlined in the Old Testament, where
God orders His Chosen People to massacre not only their enemies, but also
their wives, children and cattle because they are all contaminated with
But I suspect there is another reason why they oppose TARC and that’s
the possibility of being themselves exposed as incompetent, blind, and a
disgrace to the concept of political leadership.
Posted 30 October 2001 - 08:14 AM
If my loathing of tribalism makes me see nothing good in Arabs,
I can imagine what anti-Semitism does do anti-Semites.
Every civilized and progressive nation has a set of laws whose sole aim
is to protect the people from their leaders. Since we never had such
laws, most abuses of power in our institutions and bureaucracies have
gone unexposed, and when exposed, unpunished.
I tremble to think what will happen on the day the average patriotic
Armenian discovers this fact.
When I was young I entertained many ambitions. But old age has taught me
humility and acceptance of my own limitations. My main goal in life now
is to puncture the swollen egos of our self-satisfied swine. As for
changing things: I leave that to our megalomaniacal morons with messianic
I like this thought by Jean Rostand: "In a future age we shall be just as
astonished to find that we have had politicians as leaders as we are,
today, to find that we once had barbers as surgeons."
Some of my readers are critics because they cannot be assassins.
The surest symptom of inferiority: assessing oneself as superior.
Where a part-time janitor makes more money than a full-time writer, there will be an abundance of trashy propaganda and a total absence of ideas.
The trouble with fanatics and fascists is that they
don't see themselves as fanatics and fascists but as men of principle; and the worst part of it is that there will always be dupes who will be taken
in by their empty verbiage.
Posted 30 October 2001 - 08:16 AM
When I went into this business (make it, racket) twenty-five years ago, I
knew less than nothing. Less than nothing because I was blinded by
clichйs, platitudes and patriotic mumbo jumbo; and when you are thus
blinded you cannot see reality and the abyss before your feet. And then
the inevitable happens. You open your eyes and you realize you were
Armenians are smart, sensitive, musical: you will find these and many
other clichйs in my first books, all of which are mercifully out of print
now. Among us too trash is more popular.
Smart? Can a naпve dupe be smart?
Musical? Is davul zurna music?
Sensitive? How about touchy, self-righteous, arrogant?
Am I a case of from one extreme to another? If I am, then all I can say
is that I now look forward to the day when I will view my fellow
Armenians as ordinary joes very much like the rest of mankind: neither
very smart nor stupid…. But I suspect if that day comes, they will no
longer be a source of irritation but boredom, and to the delight of our
charlatans I may have nothing further to say on the subject. Yes
Posted 30 October 2001 - 08:57 AM
Posted 30 October 2001 - 02:29 PM
The condition of the Armenian culture will be improved when we become better parents, especially the men. Our culture will improve when our mothers nurture their boys' souls as much as they nurture their daughters'. Our culture will improve when ordinary Armenians begin to read. How can an individual Armenian help? Not by pontificating nonsense, I can tell you that.
One can start by becoming good, dedicated parents, and raising good kids who view Armenians as their extended family. One can do more by becoming an educator in an Armenian school, and by trying to propagate an enlightened, intelligent view of the world and ourselves to the next generation.
Generating endless amounts of shallow, simple-minded, hateful garbage (mixed, to be fair, with impossible-to-disagree-with platitudes quoted out of context, to throw off the unsuspecting reader) as Mr. Baliozian has been doing, is unlikely to be helpful to anyone.
Posted 31 October 2001 - 10:08 AM
Why is it that throughout history all forms of authoritarianism and
despotism have been more popular than democracy? The answer is rooted in
religion, psychology and politics.
Religion: God the all-powerful and the all-knowing Father. The despot
assumes the role of God’s representative on earth; or, if he denies the
existence of God, he creates a new religion and declares himself its God
Psychology: The family unit whose head and supreme authority is the
father. The word "unit" must be emphasized here. No outsider can replace
any member of this unit. Which is why anti-semitism is one of the pillars
of nationalism and its twin, fascism.
Politics: The existence or the creation of a cunning, ruthless, powerful
and evil enemy that will represent the Devil on earth. Remember the
Afro-American slogan, "White man is the devil." To Stalinists it was
Capitalism. To the Arabs it is Israel and America. To us, Turkey. To
maintain this illusion the despot must control the press. All forms of
dissent are seen as treason and collaboration with the enemy. On more
than one occasion I have myself been identified as an agent of the CIA
and the Mossad. My Ramgavar friends think of me as an agent of the ARF, a
vice versa: in the eyes of my ARF friends I am a hireling of the
Ramgavars. A well-known writer of the Diaspora once told me: "Why bother
translating Zarian? The man was a hireling of the Kremlin." When asked
for some evidence, he said: "Vahan Tekeyan [a poet of the Diaspora] says
so in one of his letters." Which brings up the subject of gullibility.
Despotism without dupes is unthinkable. In order to thrive despotism
needs dupes and dupes come in all sizes, shapes and degrees of
sophistication: from the most eminent philosophers and novelists
(Heidegger, Hamsun) to the suicidal Muslim teen fanatic willing to kill
and die in the name of Allah because the mullahs have promised him
eternal bliss and a harem of virgins – also a fat check to his family.
Posted 31 October 2001 - 10:10 AM
Some of my critics are eager to see me admit fallibility, even though, on
more than one occasion I have stated that if I am wrong I hurt no one but
myself; but if our partisans are wrong they undermine the integrity of
The integrity of the nation: this might as well be a remote abstraction
whose meaning and importance have not yet penetrated the thick skulls of
our bosses and bishops and their dupes who accept their authority as
Because I promote solidarity and democratic values like freedom of speech
and other fundamental human rights, my partisan critics demand that I
admit fallibility; and because they not only promote fascist values but
also practice divisiveness, they demand that we accept their authority as
In Arab countries the press is allowed, even encouraged, to criticize
Israel and the United States but not its own regime. Our own partisan
press operates on similar principles: "Criticize the Turks, the West, the
U.S. and the rest of the world as much as you want, but leave the Party
alone!" This piece of blatant perversion gives our partisans the
illusions of being beyond criticism.
Posted 01 November 2001 - 08:55 AM
Casting pearls before swine.
I like the sound and rhythm but above all the meaning of that sentence.
Casting pearls before swine.
Coined by an anonymous speaker thousands of years ago,
repeated countless times since,
it has lost none of its authority and power of penetration.
Someday I would like to write a verbal fugue
in which this sentence appears and disappears, enters and exits again and
again until it penetrates the thick skulls of our self-appointed
commissars of culture
(actually, serial killers speaking in the name of God and Country to
camouflage their true identity).
Like Hitchcock, making a brief appearance in all his films,
I wish I too could interpolate this sentence
in everything I write to remind our chauvinist charlatans of who and what
Casting pearls before swine.
Yes, I like the sound of that sentence ever since a gentle reader said
that’s what I have been doing.
Casting pearls before swine.
Posted 01 November 2001 - 08:56 AM
Investigative reporters are the eyes and ears of a nation. This point
should be emphasized. A nation without investigative reporters might as
well be blind, deaf, and dumb.
Some leaders behave like shepherds: first they fleece, then they butcher.
I have at no time thought of our leaders as my friends, let alone as my
servants, but as my enemies.
I will never understand people who feel the need to support one side
against the other. If I can loathe both sides, I don't feel compelled to
choose; and whenever asked to choose, I quote Dr. Johnson’s celebrated
dictum: "Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a
louse and a flea."
Eliminate corruption and silence those who justify it in the name of this
or that principle, and all our internal problems will be solved.
You cannot argue with somebody who thinks he is somebody and you are
Forgiveness comes easy to those with thick skins and thicker skulls.
A typical Armenian leader has a Plan A for the nation, but a Plan A and
Plan B for himself. Even when the nation loses, he wins.
Posted 02 November 2001 - 09:29 AM
Because I speak for myself I have become an enemy even to my friends.
Most people don't speak for themselves; they prefer to speak in the name
of a noble principle or ideal like God and Country. Most people don't
speak for themselves because they cannot think for themselves and they
try to camouflage this deficiency beneath noble-sounding and derivative
platitudes. Those with warlike instincts speak of peace. And those who
are eager to justify their hatred of their fellow men speak of love. To
the average man another average man isn't worth a sh**! Which is why he
who speaks for himself is seen as an enemy: and he is perceived as an
enemy because he threatens to expose their killer instincts.
Posted 02 November 2001 - 09:31 AM
There are men of good will but they are few in number; and then there are
the bastards who are many. What complicates matters is that the bastards
think they are the good guys.
Those who condemned Socrates to death thought they were acting in the
name of law and order and the gods. Those who crucified Christ thought
they were acting in the name of Moses and all the prophets of the Old
Testament. The fanatic who assassinated Gandhi was a Hindu, like Gandhi,
but he was convinced he was a better Hindu than Gandhi. The theologians
who excommunicated Tolstoy did so in the name of Christ and the
Scriptures. Their successors, the commissars, who persecuted Solzhenitsyn
acted in the name of their own prophet and messiah, Karl Marx, who very
much like Christ, promoted justice and the brotherhood of all men.
It doesn't take much to brainwash dupes. Sometimes you don't even have to
brainwash them because they brainwash themselves.
What’s the solution to this perennial problem?
There is an old Chinese saying: "If you see a good man, emulate him. If
you see a bad man examine your own heart." In the meantime, my advice is:
do not parrot slogans, do not recycle crap, and where millions of dupes
think alike, search for the recycled crap.
Posted 04 November 2001 - 11:10 AM
Prejudice is very probably the most abundant commodity in the world and
the least acknowledged.
As an Armenian I see nothing positive in the history of the Ottoman
Empire, and yet it lasted six centuries. By contrast the Soviet Empire
lasted only six decades and very probably it claimed many more victims.
Does that mean the Turks were more competent or compassionate political
leaders than the Soviet commissars schooled in Marxism? Is Marx to be
blamed for failing to foresee the abuses his system would generate?
As a former brainwashed Catholic and present agnostic, I see nothing
positive in the history of the Catholic Church – from its destruction of
Greek and Roman monuments, brutal persecution of heretics, warlike Popes,
the Inquisition, its alliance with corrupt and oppressive monarchies to
its support of fascist regimes in our own days; and yet, it has lasted so
far two millennia with millions of adherents throughout the world.
My disapproval of the Catholic Church turns into downright loathing when
I view the history of Islam – from its imperialist warlike beginnings to
its present tribal rivalries and jihadism.
We are all children of prejudice, which means we all have our blind spots
and those who claim to have none are the blindest of all.
Posted 04 November 2001 - 11:10 AM
If someone you know makes a mistake, you correct him. If he makes the
same mistake again, again you correct him. But after correcting him three
or four times you give him up as incorrigible.
Why is it that some of my readers never give up correcting, attacking and
insulting me? Is it because they consider me corrigible? I doubt it. I
suspect the answer to that question lies elsewhere. They attack and
insult me because I expose them as dupes. Their goal is not to correct me
but to defend their status as undupes – and in their futile efforts to do
the impossible they reveal themselves to be perennial dupes infatuated
with their own infallibility, which amounts to saying, enamored with an
absent factor or nothingness.
And if you were to ask, why is it that you too refuse to give up
correcting and criticizing our leadership? My answer is: All power
structures will have dissenters and there will be dissent as long as
there is free speech. There will also be dissent against dissent or
Posted 04 November 2001 - 11:52 AM
No saint has ever assessed himself as a saint, and I have never heard a
good man say "I am a good man." If you ever hear anyone say "I am a
saint," you can be sure of one thing: he is a rascal. And yet there are
those who think all they have to do to be a good Armenian is to assess
themselves as one, or to think or to believe to be one. It never even
occurs to them –and it doesn’t occur to them because they are stupid as
well as dishonest -- that before one qualifies as a good Armenian one
must first qualify as a good human being; and the criteria by which a man
is seen as good are universally acknowledged. It follows that to be a
good Armenian means to allow one’s actions and way of life to speak for
themselves. Which is why, whenever an Armenian portrays himself as a
patriotic Armenian, I immediately assume him to be a charlatan and a
bloodsucker with political ambitions; and for reasons that I won’t bother
explaining because they are obvious to any objective observer with some
experience in Armenian affairs, no one can be as dogmatic, arrogant,
narrow-minded, intolerant, and in one word, repellent than an Armenian
with political ambitions.
Posted 05 November 2001 - 09:49 AM
How does one explain the existence of people who believe everything their
own propaganda says but dismiss the propaganda of the opposition as a
tissue of lies? Or religious leaders who preach war against heretics and
infidels knowing full well that they too are seen as heretics or infidels
in the eyes of other religious leaders? And what about Armenians who say
"The only good Turk is a dead Turk!" and consider themselves morally
superior to Turks who say "The only good Armenian is a dead Armenian"? Or
Armenians who say patriotism is a good thing if it is Armenian but a bad
thing if it is Turkish? And then there are people who take mullahs and
their version of history seriously. But then, in what way are they
different from readers (and millions of them too) who until very recently
believed everything PRAVDA and IZVESTIA said but didn't even bother
reading the NEW YORK TIMES or the WASHINGTON POST? And what is one to
make of dedicated patriots who preach confrontation and war so long as
they happen elsewhere and at a very safe distance for themselves and
their families. And who could be more contemptible than the man who is
outraged when you treat him the way he treats you?
Posted 06 November 2001 - 09:03 AM
The secret, perhaps even the unconscious, desire of my hostile readers
and kibitzers is to make me give up in disgust by making themselves as
disagreeable as they can. I take great pleasure in the knowledge that I
must be a constant source of disappointment to them. But sometimes I
can't help wondering: What is it that I share with this type of Armenian?
Why is it that what strikes me most is not that which unites us but that
which separates us? Could I ever be – would I ever want to be – a member
of a tribe within a tribe? Will they ever qualify as members of the human
And what I find most astonishing about them is their stubborn refusal to
acknowledge the fact that six centuries of Ottoman oppression has done –
must have done – irreparable damage to our collective unconscious. They
think all they have to do to resolve our Ottoman complex is to ignore it,
to pretend they are not products of history but self-creations. But
reality can't be fooled. Reality has its own inflexible laws. Reality
makes demands on us which we cannot ignore. Sooner or later we must come
to terms with our past and the world in which we live. Because the more
we isolate ourselves and the louder we extol our nonexistent virtues, the
more we expose ourselves as dupes of our own chauvinist propaganda.
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