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Ara Baliozian: Ways and means


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#1 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:01 PM

NOTES & COMMENTS
***************************************
To Armenians who demand solutions from me
and choose to ignore the solutions advanced by our historians and writers
from Khorenatsi and Yeghishe in the 5th century AD to our own days,
I can only say:
As long as there are Armenians like you,
our problems will remain insoluble.
If I know my Armenians,
they will never come to terms with their enemies:
too much blood.
Hell, they will never even come to terms with their fellow Armenians:
too much bad blood!

Whenever I express an anti-ARF or an anti-Anteliassagan opinion,
I am thought of as a Ramgavar or an Etchmiadznagan,
and vice versa,
even though I have openly declared myself to be an anti-partisan atheist
whose motto happens to be:
"If you can loathe both sides for the same money,
why settle for one?"

I donít believe in inspiration.
I believe in stimulation,
and nothing stimulates me more than unfair criticism.

A note on capitalism and fascism:
both are expressions of greed, of money and power respectively;
and of the two,
greed for power has proven to be far more dangerous.

Only fools brag.
Decent men are, as a rule, too busy trying to maintain their decency
in a crooked world to have time to brag.
I donít remember to have met a single decent Armenian
who bragged about his Armenianism.
But I have met quite a few windbags with single-digit IQs
who bragged about their moral and intellectual superiority.

The very same people
who raise the same phony questions again and again
also accuse me of repeating myself
whenever I take the trouble to answer them.

Great nations need big lies;
small nations need bigger lies.

Fool: anyone who is easily seduced by the strength of his own arguments.

People who ignore good advice
have no right to say
"What was bound to happen, happened!"
or "It was written!" or
"It was Godís will!"

It is an unfortunate fact that some people
tend to confuse kindness and civility with weakness.
I hate rude people and I hate being rude.
But what I hate even more is being intimidated
or shouted down by garbage-mouth bullies.

Patriotic poetry has as much appeal to me as
patriotic music, patriotic art, and patriotic science.
Frankly, Iíd rather watch a TV commercial
than read our patriotic poets:
at least TV commercials seldom last more than a few seconds.

There is money in flattering idiots, especially wealthy idiots.
There is no money in calling them idiots.

I wish I were a good actor
so that I could drive my enemies nuts by pretending to love them.

To be brief is an art.
To be long-winded is a collection of vices
ranging from arrogance and laziness
to narcissism and contempt for others.

To express a political view
does not make one a pundit
in the same way that
to take an aspirin does not make one a doctor.

There is common sense and there is common humbug
and of the two
the second is much more universally distributed.

He who brags will insult and threaten.
The secret ambition of every windbag
is to be a fire-breathing dragon.

Why is it that
whenever one of our eminent authors
writes an honest book
he is eager to inform everyone that
it will be published only posthumously?

--------------------

ara baliozian

P.S. Ara's original text has not been altered. Just some formatting has been performed. -MJ

[ April 04, 2001: Message edited by: MJ ]

#2 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:08 PM

PRESENT COMPANY SUSPECTED
*************************************
Nothing comes more naturally to an Armenian than to look down at a fellow Armenian and to give him unsolicited advice; and if you were to ask, "Isnít that what you do too?" I will say, thatís what all writers do; and if you were to ask, "Who authorized you to be a writer?" I will say, thatís the very same question that a Soviet judge once asked Joseph Brodsky, and thatís not a question but an insult ("Who the hell do you think you are?") and a threat ("If you donít shut up we will make you!"). And sure enough, after spending a number of years in the Gulag, Brodsky was thrown out of the country and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Moral: To say or imply that the social order we have created is so perfect that it has no use for critics or dissidents is a statement worthy of a philistine, a fascist, and an idiotÖbut I repeat myself.

--------------------


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#3 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:13 PM

AN ANECDOTE
*************************
"Why do you complain so much?" one of our high-ranking bureaucrats once demanded to know. "Do you think you are the only writer who has been treated badly?"
"No, of course not!" I replied. "That is why I speak with the strength of many."
He said nothing, but I could sense that he would have preferred if I had kept my mouth shut, dug a hole in the ground, crawled into it, and buried myself alive.
Moral:
No one likes to be told "You are wrong!"
If you are right, you get angry.
If you are wrong and didnít know it, you get angrier.
And if you were wrong and knew it,
you want to kill the bastard who dared to expose you.

--------------------

ara baliozian

#4 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:18 PM

MUMBO JUMBO
****************************
When I analyze and diagnose our ills,
I refuse to behave like a jungle medicine man, the kind who prepares a concoction made of elephant dung, crocodile tears and cobra venom (or so he says to give his backyard manure more class), mutters incantations, emits grunts, chants, dances, after which he tells you to go home and you have nothing to worry about.

In the West, things are done differently.
The doctor comes right out and says you have cancer and your chances are 50/50 (thatís what happened to my mother 28 years ago);
and if your death wish is stronger than your urge to live, you succumb and die of fear.
My mother is now 87 and she lives!
--------------------

ara baliozian

#5 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:28 PM

MORONS & OXYMORONS
*****************************************
Regardless of the severity of a crime,
a good lawyer will never run out of arguments
in defending his client.
The same applies to our partisans
who confuse ideology with theology.
In their view the party is never wrong;
and to prove their point
they assert their honesty and patriotism.
They forget that
an honest political party is an oxymoron,
and patriotism is not a hammer
with which to break skulls,
especially not the skulls of fellow Armenians
who may well be as "honest" and "patriotic" as they are.
Speaking for myself,
like most men with a minimum of common sense,
I have a tendency to mistrust a charlatanís claim of honesty,
a megalomaniacís assessment of himself,
and a dupeís claim of superior wisdom.
--------------------



ara baliozian

#6 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:30 PM

P/R=B/S
**************************
What could be more innocuous than trying to make a good impression? And yet, if you consider the consequences and ramifications you may begin to entertain second thoughts.
As I see it, the first problem with thinking in terms of making a positive or favorable impression is that you automatically or perhaps even unconsciously assume everyone else is doing the same thing, that is, misrepresenting himself to some degree; and what is misrepresentation if not a form of deception? And the problem with deceivers is that they assume speaking the truth is a luxury beyond their means, perhaps even an act of aggression if not against individuals than against accepted modes of conduct.
Result? A culture that swims in a sea of inflated commercial claims, propaganda, rhetoric, partisan verbiage, public-relation stunts and lies whose cumulative aim is the exploitation of the underdog by top dog; and what is exploitation if not using man not as an end but as a means to an end, a selfish aim (such as the acquisition of prestige, wealth and power) and power in the hands of a deceiver means oppression, injustice, tyranny, violations of fundamental human rights, and ultimately war and massacre.
Which is why, I maintain, whenever we make an effort to make a good impression, we become actors in a human comedy with an inevitable tragic denouement.
There is no merit in trying to make a good impression if deep inside we remain less than good.
--------------------


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#7 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:39 PM

FROM THE AMEN CORNER
************************************
Again and again I have to deal with Armenians (and I am not talking about average joes but doctors, lawyers, and academics) who insult, threaten, and bully me and call it criticism. To how many of them I could say:"I have worked for Armenians long enough to know the difference between a critic and a commissar of culture,
or, for that matter, between a commissar of culture and an executioner; and you, my good friend, are neither a critic nor a commissar!" And to those who blame it all on our Ottoman or Soviet background, I say:
"My own experience tells me, there are no good guys and bad guys, only bad guys, worse guys, and their victims. If you want to change the world, begin with yourself and may the Good Lord (if He exists) have mercy on your soul (if you have one).
Amen!"
--------------------


ara baliozian

#8 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:43 PM

A TOTALLY UN-ARMENIAN PROPOSAL
*******************************************
If I have had a series of negative experiences, what I write is bound to be negative. And if you have had a series of positive experiences, what you write is bound to be positive. It would be absurd of me to write as if I have had your experiences and vice versa.

Instead of calling each other names, let us learn from each otherís experiences. If we insult each other, we both lose. But if we learn from each other, we both profit. You may now guess which of these options
is favored by Armenians.
--------------------


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#9 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:45 PM

ON COLLABORATION
******************************
If you read the testimony of French collaborators
(the very same collabos
who were condemned to death after the Liberation),
you will discover that they did whatever it is that they did
in the name of God and Country;
if it werenít for them,
things would have been worse.
In short, they were heroes
and the nation should be grateful to them.
But the nation was not grateful:
it found them guilty of treason and condemned them to death!
And because we have at no time tried
to de-Ottomanize and de-Stalinize ourselves,
we now swim in a sea of corruption, incompetence,
pseudo-Ottomanism and crypto-Stalinism.
ON CHARLATANS
*************************
An honest man expresses his disagreement honestly.
By contrast, a charlatan does so with passion.
Thatís because it is not his views that he defends
but something much more important:
his self-esteem, his prestige and power,
perhaps even his source of income.
Yes, he has every reason to be furious
in the name of God and Country.
Give such a man a friendly regime and a machine gun
and he will gladly terrorize and massacre
to prove his loyalty to the Leader.
Am I talking about Turks and Germans?
No, my friends, I am talking about homo sapiens
and I am saying we donít belong to a different species.

--------------------



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#10 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 06:06 PM

YANKEE GO HOME!
*****************************
Criticizing Americans or for that matter Turks I now consider a total waste of time and an exercise in futility. I know what I am saying because after 30 books and 3000 critical commentaries, I have failed to enlighten a single dupe, expose a single charlatan, and reform a single Panchoonie.
To those who say, "Thatís because you are a bad writer and a worse critic," I ask: "What has been Odianís influence on our Panchoonies?"
To be an Armenian these days means to be a constant target of phony reports by Panchoonies whose favorite punch line is "Mi kich pogh oughargetsek" (Send us a little money).
In the words of a fellow writer: "The only time my fellow Armenians remember I exist is when they want my money."
Now I know why some benefactors prefer to remain anonymous and others, after hiring press secretaries or creating committees, use them as shields against rapacious wheeler-dealers and professional bloodsuckersÖbut even then they are taken in, again and again and again!
--------------------

ara baliozian

#11 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 06:20 PM

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
*********************************
You cannot trust the solution of a problem to those who created the problem or to those who profit by the problem. The first will never admit the existence of the problem and the second will never do anything against their own interests.
An eye for an eye is a legal principle that can be enforced only among equals. When a tyrant deals with a dissident or an empire with an unfriendly minority, itís more like an eyebrow for both eyes, ears, limbs, lungs, liver, heart, and a few other vital organs thrown in for good measure.

Tyrants neither explain nor reason. They lie and threaten. Even when they say nothing they lie. Even the blank spaces between their lines and words are menacing. Even their punctuation marks thirst for blood.

The world provides us today with many examples of nations and tribes in all stages of development, decline, and degeneration. My guess is, in terms of international prestige, we stand somewhere slightly above the Gypsies and Kurds and below the Turks.

Where dissent is silenced, a fraction of the people are also silenced; in the same way that where books are burned, people will also be burned.

A fanatic is one who thinks if he screams loud enough no one will notice the total absence of meaning from what he says.

An Armenian writer has as much of a future in an Armenian environment as a sardine in a pool of hungry sharks.

The more successful the charlatan the more honest the mask.
The greater the power or wealth the more impenetrable the skull.
The deeper the Ottomanization the more strident the patriotism.

A partisan defending a fellow partisan is like a wolf defending another wolf to an audience of sheep.

After witnessing forty years of steady decline and degeneration I find it extremely difficult to be optimistic. The best I can do is being a pessimist who has lost his faith in miracles, but not quite yet.

--------------------

ara baliozian

#12 MJ

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Posted 04 April 2001 - 06:27 PM

THE PHANTOM OF STALIN
**********************************
It was bound to happen sooner or later and, in retrospect, I am surprised it did not happen sooner. It took our partisan editors more than ten years to silence me. It is almost as if an invisible Stalin had picked up the phone and said to them: "Drop the bastard, he is not one of us!"
After being published regularly for more than a dozen years in ARF (Tashnak), and ADL (Ramgavar) weeklies in the United States, Canada, and the Middle East, I suddenly acquired the status of a non-person.
I am not complaining. On the contrary! Think of what would have happened to me in the Ottoman Empire at the turn of the century (I would have been denounced to the Sultanís secret police) or in the Soviet Union in the 1930s (shot).
This may explain why I am tempted to go down on my knees every morning, noon, and night and thank the Lord (in whose existence I donít believe) for allowing me to live among people who donít just brag about being civilized but behave in a civilized manner by respecting my fundamental human right of free speech.
--------------------

ara baliozian

#13 MJ

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Posted 11 April 2001 - 04:53 PM

ON OUR OBSESSION WITH ODAR IDEAS
*********************************************
We love ideas but only if they come from abroad.
We love odar ideas even if they may result in our destruction.
As for our own ideas: we treat them like trash.
Let us consider the three most important ideas that shaped our destiny as a people: Christianity, nationalism, and Marxism.
Christianity reduced us to a giaour island in a Muslim sea.
Nationalism brought on a series of massacres that resulted in the 1915 Genocide.
Marxism in its Stalinist phase systematically exterminated our political and intellectual elites.
And now, consider the idea of solidarity, which may be said to be the central idea of our literature from Yeghishe in the 5th century ("Solidarity is the mother of good deeds, divisiveness of evil ones") to Charents in the 20th ("O Armenian people, your salvation lies only in your collective powers").
To those who say "We donít need criticism; we need constructive ideas, we need solutions!" I say, it is not the absence of ideas or solutions that prevents us from realizing our potential as a nation but tribal leaders with thick skulls and single-digit IQs who canít tell the difference between literature and recycled enemy propaganda.
--------------------

ara baliozian

#14 MJ

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Posted 11 April 2001 - 04:55 PM

OF MICE AND MEN
*****************************
There are people out there
-- and I mean highly trained professionals Ė
whose main job consists in introducing complexities
where none exists.
One could say that they are trained
to take a simple straight line
and to make of it a maze so intricate
that even a mouse of genius
could not extricate himself from it
even if he tried for a thousand years.
Which is where we come in.
We might as well be that mouse
at the mercy of professional charlatans
who have created such a complex
and serpentine maze around us
that we have failed again and again
to emerge from our tribal stage
and establish our place in the sun as a nation.
The enigma of our destiny?
What nonsense!
Understand this and consider the enigma
(which was never there to begin with)
solved.
--------------------

ara baliozian

#15 MJ

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Posted 11 April 2001 - 04:56 PM

THREE SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT
****************************************
The first says,
our problems are so complex that
they have resisted all solutions.
The second says,
our problems are our source of strength,
which is why we shouldnít even try to solve them.
The third says, problems?
What problems?
We have none.
The world has problems.
We donít!
And sure enough,
these dime-a-dozen self-appointed pundits
spend most of their time and efforts
providing solutions to the problems of the world,
including the Middle East, the United States, the Caucasus,
and strange as it may seem,
Azerbaijan and Turkey.
--------------------

ara baliozian

#16 MJ

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Posted 11 April 2001 - 04:57 PM

WITH APOLOGIES TO MT. ARARAT
**************************************
Again and again I am accused of having a low opinion of my fellow Armenians. Nonsense! I have a low Ė make it, very low Ė opinion of charlatans, brown-nosers and parasites (regardless of nationality). I loathe all lies, half-truths and propaganda.
As for being a proud Armenian: In a world of proud Gypsies, Kurds and Turks, I have no use for pride.
I should like to see a world inhabited by humble men.
I should like to see my fellow Armenians reflect and meditate on our collective failures as opposed to bragging about our individual successes (Mikoyan, Saroyan, Gulbenkian, MamoulianÖ), or at least to refrain from using our celebrities to cover up our shortcomings, and if thatís too much to ask, may Mt. Ararat forgive me.
--------------------

ara baliozian

#17 MJ

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Posted 11 April 2001 - 05:05 PM

CONFESSIONS OF A FAILURE
****************************************
Some of my critics may not be aware of the fact that
once upon a time I thought what they think,
I felt what they feel,
and I attacked anyone who dared to voice the views
that I voice today.
The transition from what I was to what I am
was not an easy one, and it didnít happen suddenly
as a result of a single insight or experience.
Rather, it was a painfully slow process that took many years.
There was a time when I, too,
after a bad experience with a fellow Armenian,
would dismiss it as an anomaly
or ascribe it to conditions and forces beyond our control.
Which is what most of our chauvinists tend to do today,
with the result that things keep going from bad to worse.
Can I, or a thousand writers like me, arrest this downward spiral?
I doubt it.
But then, I speak as a skeptic, a pessimist,
and as my critics are fond of reminding me, a failure.
The questions that need to be asked here are:
Has the dogmatism of our bosses and bishops
solved any one of our problems?
What if optimism in our context
is just another word for wishful thinking or self-deception?
Finally, in what way is my own failure as a writer
different from our failure as a nation?
Or, why is it that my critics
gloat over my failure as a writer
and choose to ignore our failures as a nation?
--------------------

ara baliozian

#18 MJ

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Posted 13 April 2001 - 12:48 PM

GUNGO-HO ARMENIANS
**********************************
It happens all the time.
Gung-ho Armenians come to me and say:
"Letís do this, that and the other!
After all, we are Armenians and
we should do whatever we can for our nation,"
or words to that effect.
What happens next?
They are seldom heard from again, alas!
And why?
I have no idea, but I can guess.
After a minor setback,
a harsh exchange of words,
or a silly misunderstanding,
they forget all about their beloved nation
and busy themselves with more important things,
such as making a living,
raising a family,
collecting stamps,
or surfing on the internet.
Not that I blame them.
I donít mind admitting that
I too am tempted to quit every day.
If I go on,
itís because I like doing what comes easy.
If tomorrow I find a better-paying job,
I will quit before anyone can say
Jack S. Avanakian.
I reject the mantle of hero
and I have nothing but contempt for readers
who demand martyrdom from me.
I am an ordinary joe
whose sole aim in life is to live in peace
and make himself useful to people
who are civilized enough
not to spit in his face.
I admire the Don
but Sancho Panza is my man.
--------------------

ara baliozian

#19 ara baliozian

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Posted 03 May 2001 - 10:58 AM

THE REST IS SILENCE
*********************************
We Have all met the Armenian who has been
so thoroughly Ottomanized or Stalinized
that he considers democracy an aberration,
intolerance (which he thinks of as inflexible adherence to noble principles) a virtue,
and human rights an evil concept
invented by the corrupt West
whose ultimate aim is drag the rest of the world down
to its own level of moral decline and degeneration.
Whenever I confront such an Armenian
I cannot help thinking that
these are not his ideas but those of a parish priest
(whose prejudices have been blessed by a bishop)
or a schoolmaster (whose ignorance has been legitimized by a bossÖ
all in the name of God and Country, of course,
and to hell with reason, common sense and decency).
And I write not because I want to change anyoneís mind
but because I am not old and wise enough to reconcile myself to silence,
and even as I go on writing
I look forward to the day when
I will no longer feel the need to writeÖ.

#20 ara baliozian

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Posted 04 May 2001 - 06:01 AM

THE O/Z CONTROVERSY
***********************************
How right were Oshagan pere et fils in asserting that Zarian was just another East-Armenian windbag without a single original idea in his head?
Let me begin with a digression. About thirty years ago I remember to have read a book by an American academic named Stern (I forget his first name) in which every single one of Sartreís ideas was traced back to Plato, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger and a few other lesser-known precursors. The purpose of the book was to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sartre was a derivative writer. Thirty years later Sartre has lost none of his prestige and professor Stern none of his status as a marginal figure, and marginal to the point of irrelevance.
Poetry, it has been said, happens when two words meet for the first time. One could also say that originality happens when two ideas are brought together for the first time. It follows that, even if Sartreís and Zarianís originality consisted in combining ideas, they both deserve a place in world literature and a hundred Sterns and a thousand Oshagans are powerless to alter that fact.
Questions: Why is it that the Oshagans and their students find it necessary to denigrate Zarian? Why is it that this anti-Zarian faction is associated with the ARF (Tashnagtsoutiun)? Is their hostility towards Zarian an expression of their own convictions or is it an extension of their loyalty to the Party?
To be noted: Zarianís contempt for the Party was well known: "Our political parties have been of no political use to us," he once said. "Their greatest enemy is free speech."




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