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Ara Baliozian: Ways and means


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#21 ara baliozian

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Posted 04 May 2001 - 09:51 AM

MORE ON THE O/Z CONTROVERSY
*********************************************
Totalitarian regimes silence dissidents not because they are afraid of them (imagine a Stalin or Hitler commanding vast armies and a ruthless secret police being afraid of defenseless scribblers!) but because they are afraid of the truth, and more precisely, because they donít want to be exposed for what they really are: a criminal gang. And when these regimes collapse itís not because of what the dissidents wrote or said but because sooner or later reality is bound to assert its inflexible laws, two of them being: you canít fool even fools all the time, and you canít intimidate even cowards forever.
Now then, ask yourself this question: Why is it that our political parties find it necessary to denigrate and sometimes even silence some of our writers? -- and I am not talking here about our Communist Party in Soviet Armenia but our own so-called "Democratic" (ADL) and "Revolutionary" (ARF) parties in the diaspora.

#22 ara baliozian

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 06:02 AM

ROLE MODELS
*****************************
No one has ever said to me "After reading Odian I realized I was a Panchoonie," or "After reading Baronian I realized I was a damn fool," or "After reading Charents I realized our dividers are our gravediggers."
Speaking for myself: after publishing thirty books and more than three thousand commentaries, I have succeeded in only one endeavor: making enemies who hate me unto death.
What have we learned from our literature?
Nothing!
What have we learned from our former lords and masters?
Everything! -- and above all how to hate.
Which may suggest that, those among us who preach Armenianism prefer to practice Ottomanism.

#23 ara baliozian

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Posted 05 May 2001 - 06:38 AM

MEMO
*******************
Nothing I say is original.
When I promote originality,
all I am doing is recycling the biblical dictum
"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Or rather,
I am reminding those who make a comfortable living
by delivering sermons on self-sacrifice
and speeches on dedication to principles
that the very least they can do
is make an effort to practice
a tiny fraction of what they preach Ė
if, that is,
they donít want to be exposed as grave-digging charlatans.

#24 ara baliozian

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Posted 06 May 2001 - 07:20 AM

BEFORE & AFTER
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Before I translated Zarian, I was a solitary creature living in the middle of nowhere. After I published my Zarian translations, every other Armenian writer became my close friend. But their friendship came to an abrupt, and sometimes even rude, end when they realized I had no intention of translating them. Now I know how women feel when they are pursued not for their minds but for their interstices.

#25 ara baliozian

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Posted 07 May 2001 - 06:01 AM

OF SYMBOLS & MYTHS
***********************************
While watching a TV documentary on Armenians in America, I have trouble identifying myself with old-timers speaking about the massacres and young ones speaking about lokhma. Which raises the question: What are the symbols and myths that identify us as a nation?
The tricolor? (Until recently it tribalized and divided us, which is not what symbols are meant to do).
Vartan Mamikoan? (He was probably a Chinaman).
The Battle of Avarair? (Historians have questioned its authenticity).
Mt. Ararat? (It belongs to the Turks, and the Kurds say itís theirs).
The massacres? (They only certify our status as triple victims: of Turkish savagery, Western double-talk, and the incompetence of our own leadership).
No wonder most Armenians feel more secure when they shed their Armenianism, change their names, and acquire an odar identity (Henri Troyat, Arthur Adamov, Nina Berberova) as our poets lament and complain and say, we are few, we are few, we are fewÖin an effort to cover up the fact that our sense of solidarity (or nationhood) is weak, our mortality (or massacre) rate high, and our alienation and assimilation rate even higher.

#26 ara baliozian

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Posted 07 May 2001 - 10:01 AM

THE EASIER OPTION
*************************
One reason why we have at no time in our history beheaded our kings or revolted against the state is that we have always had an easier option: emigration and assimilation. Consider recent developments in the Homeland. If all those who emigrated had organized a political party, they would have overthrown the ancien regime and everyone connected with it without any difficulty. The same applies to the Diaspora. If all those who are not satisfied with the status quo raised their voices, things would improve instantly. What they prefer to do instead is assimilate. I am personally acquainted with Armenians from Greece who feel more comfortable in the company of Greeks: they go to Greek church and picnics and they send their children to Greek schools. Instead of saying, these Armenians are bad Armenians, we should question the values of those who consider themselves to be better. Speaking from my own personal experience: whenever I have dealt with an Armenian who thought of himself as la creme de la creme, I have discovered him to be instead la creme de la scum.

#27 ara baliozian

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Posted 08 May 2001 - 05:59 AM

ADVICE AND DISSENT
**********************************
A garbage dump of useless advice by frustrated commissars of culture: thatís how I would define the situation of an Armenian writer today. Every other reader, it seems, knows better and he is not only willing to share his wisdom but also feels authorized to make demands. "If you want to make a difference," or "If you want to make yourself useful," a routine advice runs, "you must do this, that and the other." There are even those who demand heroism and martyrdom from me. To them I say: You are barking up the wrong tree. I am not your man. I further maintain, those who makes such unreasonable demands on their fellow men must be either megalomaniacs who think they deserve someone elseís sacrifice, or worthless nonentities who want to have their existence certified by someone elseís blood. We are a nation of countless heroes and martyrs. What makes anyone think another will make a difference? And why this thirsts for more blood? Have we become a nation of vampires?

#28 ara baliozian

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Posted 08 May 2001 - 09:52 AM

NOTES / COMMENTS
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The most incomprehensible Armenian to me is the one who can listen to a long-winded stentorian speechifier or sermonizer without a single unkind thought.

There is no truth, only lies that must be exposed.

No matter how clear you are, some people will choose to misunderstand you.

If you speak up against bloodsuckers, donít expect the support of vampires.

I write not to change anyoneís mind but to let those who think as I do that they are not alone.

There are two things about which I am certain: (a) life has a meaning, and (b) we are destined never to find it.

It is not easy writing for an audience of commissars.

It is extremely difficult for me to be civil to people who in a different time and place would have been my executioners.

There is a type of critic who resents you because you dare to be ahead of him without his consent.

What could be more pitiful than the spectacle of a man who, in his efforts to prove himself superior, exposes himself as the lowest scum on earth.

#29 ara baliozian

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Posted 09 May 2001 - 06:05 AM

BEING ARMENIAN
*******************************
If a writer recycles propaganda he is dismissed as a derivative mediocrity.
If, on the other hand, he speaks the truth, he becomes an outcast.
Now consider a benefactorís options:
If he says yes to all those who make demands on his generosity he is seen as a dupe.
If, on the other hand, he says yes to a few and no to many (as he must if he doesnít want to declare bankruptcy) he makes more enemies than friends.
Which may explain why, when a wealthy Armenian-American went up to one of our established benefactors and said: "I have some extra money: what do you suggest I do with it?"
"Burn it!" was the reply.

Moral 1: Being an Armenian writer is a lose/lose situation.
Moral 2: So is being an Armenian benefactor.
Moral 3: So is being an Armenian, but it helps if you have the skin of a crocodile.

#30 ara baliozian

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Posted 10 May 2001 - 06:03 AM

POLITICS
***********************
Politics, it has been said, is organized hatred. The Communist Party needed capitalism, the Nazis needed Jews and other inferior races, conservatives need liberals, and we need the Turks. One reason our bosses and bishops are popular with a fraction of the community today is that they legitimize hatred Ė and hatred not only of Turks but also of Armenians who donít share their ideology or orthodoxy. They legitimize hatred by convincing their followers that their hatred is not motivated by Ottomanism but by Armenianism and what could be sweeter than to hate in the name of God and Country? And I go on writing not because in the near or distant future I hope to prevail but because I see more merit in fighting and losing a just war than in collaborating with the forces of darkness. Besides, I belong to a nation that has lost all its major wars and losing comes naturally to me. Question: Can you name a single Armenian writer who may be remotely described as a winner?

#31 ara baliozian

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Posted 10 May 2001 - 10:50 AM

WHY DONíT YOU WRITE MORE LIKE SAROYAN?
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Meaning: why donít you write wonderful stories about wonderful Armenians?
May I confess that wonderful Armenians have been mighty few in my life. But thatís not the only reason why I refuse to be a third- or fourth-rate Saroyan (of whom we have more than enough already). Rather, I am not even remotely tempted to entertain or flatter the vanity of a nation that has consistently chosen to ignore the central message of its literature; and I have no desire to emulate vodanavorjis (versifiers) who write beautiful lines about nightingales serenading the moon. As for the eternal snow of Mt. Ararat: if they are really eternal they can afford to wait.

#32 ara baliozian

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Posted 11 May 2001 - 06:13 AM

EDWARD ALEXANDER’S OPUS
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OPUS (482 pages) is a combination of thriller and quest story whose focus is not a crime but a lost musical score and more specifically a Beethoven CELLO CONCERTO. The time is shortly after World War II and the places Germany, Hungary, Russia, and Armenia. The dialogue is gripping, the erudition unobtrusively and elegantly handled. Alexander writes like a polished pro. As a journalist and diplomat with a degree in musicology he has first-hand knowledge of the people and places he writes about. Every line rings with authenticity.
The author of two widely admired books, THE SERPENT AND THE BEES (about an Armenian KGB agent) and A CRIME OF VENGEANCE (about the Armenian genocide) Alexander has produced here a masterpiece of suspense.
[For more information contact .]www.Xlibris.com].

#33 ara baliozian

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Posted 12 May 2001 - 06:03 AM

PROBLEMS / SOLUTIONS
*********************************
To those who say, "We know all about our problems; what we need is solutions!" here is a short list of both:
charlatanism / honesty,
divisiveness / solidarity,
tribalism / nationalism,
authoritarianism / democracy,
intolerance, tolerance,
censorship / freedom of expression,
fanaticism / moderation,
corruption / accountability.
And if you were to ask, "How do we go about introducing honesty in an environment dominated by charlatans?" I would say: "I can only provide solution; I am in no position to implement them. That’s up to our organizations." But if you were to insist and say, "What’s the good of a solution if it cannot be implemented?" I would say: "If I had the power, I would begin by impeaching the present leadership on the grounds that (a) after creating our problems they have deceived the people into thinking they cannot be solved, and (b) for silencing anyone who said otherwise."

#34 ara baliozian

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Posted 14 May 2001 - 05:58 AM

CALLING A SPADE A SPADE
***************************************
When a nation produces a messiah, prophet or dissident (who also happens to be an intellectual giant), it does not mean that it may now look forward to a brighter future;
it simply means that it is in deep trouble.
After Christ was crucified, the condition of the Jews did not improve.
On the contrary!
After Socrates was condemned to death, the Athenian Empire collapsed and neither Plato nor Aristotle could alter the course of Greek history.
Fascist states have been defeated but fascism and all its offspring (from racism to censorship) continue to be with us.
Nothing bad ever dies.
Our only option is to be vigilant and to call things by their right name.
To say or to imply that if it’s ours it must be okay amounts to allowing the cancer to spread.
The Good Lord has given us a brain with which to discriminate right from wrong.
We don’t need a messiah or an intellectual giant or prophet to tell us honesty is better than charlatanism, knowledge better than ignorance, and truth better than lies.

#35 ara baliozian

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Posted 14 May 2001 - 10:29 AM

There will always be bullies and fanatics on both sides of a controversy who will preach hatred and death to the enemy even if it means massacring the innocent and dragging mankind back into the jungle.
Patriotism is popular because it legitimizes our killer instincts.
One of the most painful discoveries I have made about human nature is that there is a cannibal in all of us, but whereas some people recognize it for what it is, others call it heroism and uncompromising dedication to noble principles.
The most convincing lies are the ones we tell ourselves.
The barbarians are not at the gate. They are within. But we cannot recognize them because they are us.
To be a barbarian does not mean to behave like a cannibal but to be unaware of one’s own cannibalism.

#36 ara baliozian

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Posted 14 May 2001 - 10:33 AM

WHAT I THINK I KNOW
ABOUT OUR POLITICAL PARTIES
***********************************
Hunchaks: Since most Armenians have no idea what a Hunchak is or what he stands for or whether he even exists or not, it is safe to assume that the only endeavor in which the Hunchaks have been successful is in staging a disappearing act.

ARF: They identify themselves as socialists but their leaders are bourgeois speculators, Levantine wheeler-dealers, and capitalists.

ADL: An insider once informed that a Ramgavar delegation once went to the Kremlin and shook hands with Stalin as a gesture of gratitude for all the wonderful things Uncle Stalin had done for Armenia. Some may call that pragmatism, but I call it "drop-your-pants-and-bend-overism."

#37 ara baliozian

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Posted 15 May 2001 - 10:17 AM

FROM MY NOTEBOOKS
*********************************
Sometimes I am urged to look at the bright side, to see only the good in people, to concentrate on the positive by adopting Saroyan and Pollyanna as my role models. But that’s like asking a doctor to ignore bacteria and tumors, or a janitor to ignore dirt, or a garbage collector to ignore garbage. And speaking of garbage: when I was a boy I wanted to be neither a doctor nor a janitor but a garbage collector. I guess I can truly say now that I have realized my childhood ambition.

If my adversary is an Armenian (one of my pet illusions goes) we will eventually reach an agreement provided we explain our respective positions clearly. That’s because reason and common sense are universal faculties. But facts, reality, our own history tell me if two Armenians agree on 99 things, they will find an issue – and if they cannot find it they will invent one – on which to disagree to the point of hating each other unto death.

On the difficulty of speaking Armenian in America: What are the Armenian words for home, gentleman, honest, highway, parking lot, hamburger, hot dog, donut, jello, and supermarket? An Armenian writer once informed me that the Armenian word for supermarket is hanrakhanout – a word I have never used and I don’t intend to use because it sounds too close to hanradoun, which means bordello.

#38 ara baliozian

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Posted 15 May 2001 - 10:57 AM

NOTES / COMMENTS
**************************
Knowledge and experience are limitless.
We as individuals can hope to have access to an extremely tiny fraction of it. To say, I know all I need to know might as well be an admission of incurable mental paralysis.

Sooner or later all ideologies and movements that divide mankind into fractions – them/us, friends/enemies – will be usurped by bullies who will engage in cannibalism.

I find charm seductive but no matter how hard I try I cannot forget Camus’ dictum "Charm is shit."

To those of my readers who find my views strange or un-Armenian, I say, that may be because your conception of Armenian literature has been carefully filtered, bowdlerized, and distorted by partisans and monks. There is more, much more, to Armenian literature than the pilaf and shish kebab versions, or, if you wish, the eternal snows of Mt. Ararat nonsense and the banality of "forget your mother but do not forget your mother tongue" b.s.

Emigration, alienation, assimilation, assassination: they too may be said to be criticism and dissent by other means.

A Canadian poetess once said, as soon as you think you have been screwed every possible way, you come across a publisher (or is it a critic?) who has read the KAMA SUTRA.
I am now beginning to suspect the author of the KAMA SUTRA was an Armenian who adopted an Indian pseudonym. (Some Armenian writers and poets in Istanbul did exactly that.)

#39 ara baliozian

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Posted 16 May 2001 - 06:32 AM

WHY I THINK
THERE IS SOMETHING
HORRIBLY WRONG WITH OUR
POLITICAL PARTIES
**************************************
During World War II the ARF supported Hitler and the ADL supported Stalin.

An ADL leader once wrote an editorial in which he stated that Antelias was a puppet of the CIA. When I asked him the role of the KGB in the manipulation of Etchmiadzin, I became his mortal enemy.

Once when I wrote a letter to the editor of a partisan weekly questioning the facts in an editorial, I was informed: "It is not our policy to print letters that question our editorial policy."

During the Soviet era, a member of the ADL once told me: "Paradjanov is a syphilitic homosexual and a black marketeer: Siberia is too good for him."

#40 ara baliozian

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Posted 16 May 2001 - 10:00 AM

RANDOM THOUGHTS
*******************************
Free speech is a fundamental human right only for individuals who respect the free speech of others. To silence a barking dog or a braying ass is not censorship.

Turks hate us because they have been brainwashed to believe we are giaours with evil designs on their homeland. Why does an Armenian hate another Armenian? Who brainwashed him? For what purpose? Explain that and you will expose the roots of our tribalism.

I define a partisan as someone who survives on a steady diet of verbal crap.

To think, to really think, means to go beyond the boundaries of the already thought.

About the racist concept of the Chosen People: Why would God choose a fraction of mankind when just as easily He could have chosen all of it.

Another question: Why does God allow misery in this world when without any extra effort on His part He could eliminate it? To those who say, misery enables us to appreciate bliss, I say, how about little miseries? A touch of flu or a mild headache instead of terminal cancer or a paralyzing stroke? As for those who say it is our free will that leads us to sin, misery, and crime, I say, that may apply to the sinner or criminal but not to his innocent victim.

We like to say that God created us in His image and that there is a divine spark in all of us. But consider the differences: God created the universe and we cannot even create a speck of dust.




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