FRANCE WRITHING IN PAIN
By Etyen Mahcupyan

Zaman, Turkey
Oct 25 2006

The bill that criminalizes the denial of the so-called "Armenian
genocide," which was adopted despite the low attendance in the French
Parliament, a fact that gives a clue to the background of the entire
issue, first encountered fierce reactions in France itself. Almost
everybody agrees that the bill contradicts the freedom of thought
and expression. Apparently, the basic fact that making somebody agree
with an idea is possible only if others are allowed to express what
they think has not been fully comprehended yet. If your objective is
not to impose an idea by means of coercion, then, you need reciprocal
conversation, which requires listening to the ideas or arguments of
others, no matter how absurd and falsified they may be.

Hence, the French bill has too many defects, holes and ambiguities
not only in terms of the freedom of thought but also in terms of
the simplest socio-psychological knowledge. Based on this fact, we
can say that the gist and objective of this bill is not the Turks
accepting the so-called "Armenian genocide"... What is more, the
objective is not even to make the "Turks" adopt a more constructive
policy vis-a-vis today's Armenians. Because, this stance does nothing
other than sabotage the dynamics and resurgence that guide both sides
to reevaluate, understand each other, and express the outcomes gained
through this experience.

If France had aimed at Turkey accepting the 1915 massacre as
"genocide," it should have refrained from taking steps that could
possibly hinder the normalization process in Turkey. Furthermore, what
we are witnessing right now is not an approach based on humanitarian
concerns which support the afflicted.

In other words, this bill does not serve Armenia's interests. French
authorities reported that the Armenian President [Robert] Kocharian
had stated his opposition to the bill during [President Jacques]
Chirac's visit to Yerevan; and this report was extensively covered in
the media. This is because Armenia is aware that its future depends
on Turkey and does not approve of any action that could harm its
relations with Ankara. Finally, this bill contravenes not only the
legal criteria set by the European Parliament for member states,
but also the EU criteria. If the EU is a peace project, perhaps what
is expected of France is to pursue a policy that would foster peace
among EU members and their partner countries.

However, France could not have done this... At first sight, it seems as
if the votes of the Armenian community in the upcoming elections had
a determinative effect over adopting the bill. No doubt about it, the
Armenian lobby in France has no inherent power and political leverage
to do this on its own. The lobby perception in Turkey is nothing more
than an exaggeration that helps us conceal our weaknesses. However,
when it comes to vote-hunting, it was already crystal clear that no
party would refrain from populism. So, why was this bill brought
to parliament and why was it adopted? The reason is that France's
self-isolation suggests a new EU project implying Turkey's exclusion is
under way. The bill on the denial of the so-called "Armenian genocide"
is essentially a direct message to the EU, not Turkey. That is why
EU authorities immediately realized the situation, and labeled the
French move as "stupid."

What is behind all this is the inability of this country to adapt
itself to changing conditions and circumstances. France is a country
that sees itself on the zenith of modernity, thinks it is aware of
universal truths and has solved all its social problems, and possesses
a mood of psychological arrogance as inherent identity.

However, this is mere illusion... But the French have not fully
understood this yet. They have only recently begun to understand
that they are in fact adherents of an authoritarian mentality, which
thinks positivist secularism is liberty, confuses homogenization with
equality, and finds solidarity and brotherhood only in assimilation.

It is painful for societies which have abandoned critical thinking
for a while to resume it. Just like us...