Sunday, November 04, 2007
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HAYADIATS
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It happened when I was nine or ten. After a very brief exchange with a Greek official, an older friend of mine said: “That man is hayadiats.” That was a new word for me and I couldn’t even guess what it meant. Later I realized it meant “Armenian-hater.” Jews are better off – they only have anti-s; we have haters, and not all of them goyim. Did the Greek official know enough about Armenians to hate us? I doubt it. Hatred, like love, has nothing to do with knowledge or understanding. It comes from the gut and is therefore blind. Some people have an instinctive drive to hate anyone who is different perhaps because they consider themselves the equivalent of the gold standard. Because I hold views different from theirs, fellow Armenians have called me all kinds of names. In the Ottoman Empire Armenians who betrayed Baronian to the police, and in the Soviet era Armenians who betrayed our ablest men to Stalin’s executioners (not all of them Russians or Georgians) probably thought of themselves as law-and-order gold-standard types too. And if you think the era of sultans and commissars belongs to our irrevocable dark past, it may be because, like a Chagall character, you float in a realm that is above the clouds.
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GOSTAN ZARIAN
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When I first read Zarian, I sensed immediately that I was in the presence of an Armenian with his feet planted firmly on planet earth. Don’t get me wrong. The average Armenian is not a daydreamer. In the marketplace he can be a tough, shrewd, ruthless operator (hence the popular Italian saying: “It takes seven Jews to fool an Armenian”). But when it comes to writing, he turns into a timid little rodent afraid of his own shadow.
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MORE ON ANTI-SEMITISM
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Anti-Semites have the questionable habit of putting Jews under a microscope and seeing things there that are not visible to the naked eye. It doesn’t even occur to them that if they were to give the same treatment to the Vatican or to any other race, creed, nation, or tribe (including Armenians) they will be surprised at the amount of dirt they can dig up. We all swim in the same “enfer de merde” and none of us can afford to assume a holier-than-thou stance.
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A FINAL COMMENT ON BETRAYAL
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About the Soviet-Armenians who betrayed an entire generation of our best writers to Stalin’s executioners: far from being anonymous, faceless, brainwashed dupes, they were the elite of our intellectual and political leadership. For more on this subject, see PAK DERNERI GAGHTNIKE (The Secret of Closed Doors): CHARENTS, BAKOUNTS & OTHERS, by D.V. Gasparian (Yerevan: Apollon, 1994, 727 pages).
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Monday, November 05, 2007
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THE COBRA & THE MONGOOSE
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The best things in life are free, they say. They also say, you pay most for the things you get for nothing. Flattery, for instance, may be free but it can also come with a heavy price, especially if you believe it.
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You tell a fool he is smart and he will think he is infallible; he may even adopt a criminal career thinking he will never get caught. Hence, the more than a thousand Armenian inmates in Los Angeles prisons. I am reminded of the cobra that got so used to biting rats that it ended up biting a mongoose.
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Differences of opinion among us are so radical that we might as well be aliens to one another. Instead of counteracting this dangerous trend, our speechifiers and sermonizers encourage it. Only when it comes to raising funds do they emphasize the importance of brotherhood.
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A writer does not choose his readers, in the same way that a law-abiding citizen does not choose his mugger.
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“Who remembers Armenians today?” Well, what about Biafrans? Who remembers them? I suspect not even Armenians.
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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
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TOOTHLESS DOGS AND PROPHETIC GOATS
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Whenever I am insulted anonymously or from a safe distance, I think of the old Armenian saying: “A toothless dog always barks from a distance.”
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There is more common sense in our people than in the wisdom of our bishops. Hence the saying, “If there were wisdom in beards, goats would be prophets,” and “Better a wise delinquent than a foolish saint.”
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Willed ignorance is the kind of ignorance that is freely chosen because it is thought to be to one’s advantage. People who know or ought to know better but pretend otherwise are like the jackass that “travels to the Holy City forty times but it still comes back a jackass.”
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You may think of reading and writing as harmless activities. Medieval Jewish scribes who copied the Holy Scriptures knew better. “A single misplaced word or even letter,"they said, “may mean the destruction of the world.” The bloodthirsty disposition of men is such, however, that even when copyists do a perfect job the result may be war and massacre. Millions of people have died because someone at the top of the food chain did not understand what he was reading, or he understood but pretended not to. What could be more clearly and unequivocally stated than “Thou shalt not kill”? And yet, at one time or another theologians have justified and legitimized torture, war, and massacre in the name of the Almighty.
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At the source of all our divisions and misfortunes search for the “fool who threw a stone into a well and forty wise men could not haul it out.”
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Hagop Baronian: “Do you want to dine and wine to your heart’s content every day? Be a bishop.”
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Rick Bayan on bosses: “The alpha male in a tribe of baboons.”
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Neshan Beshigtashlian: “Priests wear black cassocks because they are in perpetual mourning, and what they mourn is the death of the human being within.”
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Wednesday, November 07, 2007
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GULBENKIAN, MIKOYAN,
BARONIAN & PARAJANOV
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My BREWER’S DICTIONARY OF MODERN PHRASE & FABLE quotes “Mr. 5%” (Calouste Gulbenkian) as having said it was “better to have a small slice of a big cake than a big slice of a small cake.”
The M in “MiG” we are further told stands for Mikoyan, the G for Gurevich, and the “i” means “and” in Russian. I am sure our aghbers from the Homeland know all this already, but their aghbers in the Diaspora may not.
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Speaking of what we know and what we don’t: There is a type of Armenian who knows more about Turks than about Armenians, and the only thing he knows about Armenians is that they were massacred by the Turks. I once asked one such specimen if he knew anything about Armenian literature and he said he did not. Had he read a single Armenian writer, I asked next, and he replied he had not. Someone must have told him reading Armenian writers is a waste of time because none of them will tell him anything he doesn’t know already, even if what he knows is nada.
VIVA LA REVOLUCION!
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Speaking of Armenian writers: in the introduction by one of our pro-Establishment pundits to an English translation of Baronian I read that Baronian had been so nasty in his depiction of his contemporaries in Istanbul that he fully deserved to be betrayed to the Ottoman police. Is it conceivable that no one, not even the translator, bothered to point out the fact that this pundit was legitimizing betrayal?
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Another case in point: Speaking of Parajanov, I remember one of our chic Bolshevik elder statesmen saying: “He was a syphilitic homosexual and a black marketeer. They should have sent him to the Gulag and let him rot there.”
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As you may have guessed by now, I am not one of those who says, if it’s ours, it must be good, or my country right or wrong, or my mother drunk or sober.
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