Sunday, September 02, 2007
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SUSPICIOUS BUGGERS
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For a good number of years my Ramgavar relatives and friends thought I was a Tashnak, and my Tashnak friends kept their distance because they thought I had gone to the highest bidder. The first time my anti-partisan stance was questioned, I was outraged. Now, whenever an Armenian believes what I say, I immediately assume I am dealing with a brown-noser who wants his book reviewed or translated. Living among Armenians does that to you. It’s easier for an Armenian to understand Turks than fellow Armenians. I have never heard an Armenian say, “I don’t understand these Turks.” But every other Armenian is convinced anyone who disagrees with him has something of the renegade and the traitor in him – he is, in short, an enemy of the nation, perhaps even a Kemal-worshiping hireling of Ankara.
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The problem with Abel was that he trusted Cain; and the problem with Cain was that he was an anti-Semite, the first of the species, if you don’t count the serpent. About the real identity of the serpent, there are a number of theories. If you ask an anti-American Armenian from the Middle East or a crypto-Stalinist from the former Soviet Union, he will tell you the serpent was a CIA agent, perhaps even a McCarthyite.
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De Gaulle once complained that Frenchmen were difficult to govern because they produce 174 varieties of cheese. He should have counted his blessings. It’s a well-known fact that whenever two Armenians are stranded on a desert island, they build three churches, the third being the one they don’t go to.
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Monday, September 03, 2007
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ON BIAS
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As children we are taught a set of rules. As adults we discover that others have been taught different sets of rules. Still others recognize no rules, or if they do, they are more readily disposed to break them with an easy conscience.
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More often than not the certainties that are instilled in us do not even qualify as lies or fallacies; they are no better than absurdities. Consider the certainties in the name of which we are willing to kill and die: I belong to a superior race; I am a member of the chosen race; my god is the only true god; the mud of my homeland is better than any other mud, including the mud on the other side of the mountain or river. But there are other absurdities that we are not even taught but which we take for granted, such as, I am the center of the world. There you have the source of all bias.
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If your certainties outnumber your doubts, you may more easily qualify as a barbarian than a civilized man.
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The relation between what we say and what we think is about the same as that which exists between who we are and what we pretend to be.
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If I am wrong, I will be the first beneficiary. If I were a believer, I would go down on my knees four times a day and say, “Please, Lord, prove me wrong so that I may live happily ever after.”
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Tuesday, September 04, 2007
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ON SOLIDARITY
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It all began, or so we are told, with our impassable mountains, deep valleys, and long winters: a clear-cut case of landscape shaping the profile of a nation, or the unthinking ruling the thinking. Then came ruthless empire builders from the East – actually, also from the North, West, and South – who, as everyone knows by now, rule by dividing. What we are not told in this context is that the barbarians divided us because we allowed ourselves to be divided or, since we were already divided long before they appeared on the scene, we saw nothing unusual in staying that way.
I once heard an Armenian-American academic say that an Armenian queen bequeathed her kingdom (or is it queendom?) to her two sons by dividing it into two equal parts – good for family harmony, bad for the survival of the nation. Had the Ottoman sultans adopted this system, Turkey would have been wiped off the map by now. If the Ottoman Empire lasted 600 years (surely, a record in the history of mankind) it’s because the sultans adopted a system that would prevent all future wars of succession: they strangled with a silk cord all but one son (a silk cord because it was against the law spilling royal blood) – bad for the innocent victims of strangulation, good for the empire. The West being slightly ahead of the East in matters of civilized conduct solved this problem by establishing the principle of primogeniture whereby the eldest son inherits the throne.
Who divides us today? The only answer I can come up with is our DNA – another instance of the unthinking ruling the thinking, or the gut dictating to the brain.
I ask again, who divides us today? Consider the parable of the two Armenians and three churches on a desert island: who divided them? Surely, not the solitary palm tree on the beach, or the remains of a crab being washed by the blue waves of the sea.
Our leadership and us: another instance of the unthinking ruling the thinking (if you will forgive the overstatement). If this is not a popular subject with our editors and ghazetajis, it may be because they are manipulated by our leadership as surely as we were under the sultans and commissars, and because subservience is in their DNA. They are as carefully selected, trained, tamed, and housebroken as the pet dogs of the wealthy.
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Wednesday, September 05, 2007
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PROBLEMS AND THEIR SOLUTIONS
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An Armenian is an Armenian
Another Armenian is another Armenian
And never the twain shall meet.
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Most of our problems (like the one stated abnove) are in the convolutions of our brain – assuming of course we have one, a daring assumption at best. On the day we express a willingness to engage in dialogue, as opposed to issuing dogmatic statements, a great many of our problems will collapse into a heap of dust and will be gone with the wind.
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Whenever I have a choice between blaming the world or myself, I choose myself. It is within my power to change myself. As for changing the world – let me begin by saying I have no desire to add megalomania to my long list of failings.
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The aim of the blame-game (or ascribing our failings to others) is to adopt a passive stance and do nothing, except perhaps to bitch and lament – two activities in which we excel.
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The most frequently unspoken Armenian sentiment: “Because you are wrong, you deserve to die.”
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Instead of saying “you are wrong,” we should say, “Obviously, I failed to explain myself.”
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Doubt is more civilized than certainty.
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I like today’s quotation by Erich Fromm in our paper: “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself.” Elsewhere a famous Hollywood actor is quoted as having said, “How do the bad people among us end up our leaders?” It can happen to all of us, I guess.
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