Saturday, December 29, 2007


Saturday, December 29, 2007
“If genocide means the systematic extermination of a nation, how come you are still around?” a Turkish reader wants to know.
No matter how systematic and efficiently carried out, a genocide is seldom successful. Even the Germans, the most efficient and systematic of nations, failed to exterminate Jews and Gypsies.
Another Turkish reader writes: “The Turks are too sloppy a people to have organized and carried out a policy of systematic extermination.”
It is equally true that Armenians are too divided to agree on anything. And yet, not only they agree on the reality of the genocide, they have also been successful in convincing an important fraction of the world to agree with them.
My quarrel with our genocide pundits is not that they misrepresent reality but that they live in the past. “Let the dead bury their dead,” we are told, especially at a time when the living are dying.
To speak of Armenians only in the context of massacres: is that not a misrepresentation? Or, as Gramsci points out somewhere: Why would anyone care about a people known only as victims?
It is easy to make enemies, much more difficult to make friends. Our challenge is to convert our enemies to friends, and not to convert our brothers to enemies.
Civility and patriotism are not mutually exclusive concepts. Rules of civilized conduct apply even to superpatriots. So do rules of logic, common sense and decency. To say otherwise is to equate patriotism with barbarism.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Friday, December 28, 2007
The combined wisdom of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle has been wasted on the Greeks. Greek history is a disaster area. The divided city-states of Greece were at each other’s throats for centuries until they were conquered and mongrelized by, among others, the Turks.
What remains of Buddha’s wisdom in countries like India, China, Korea, and Japan? Mostly superstition and ritual (for more details, see Arthur Koestler’s THE LOTUS & THE ROBOT).
Individual wisdom does not always translate to political know-how for a very simple reason: the pursuit of wisdom and greed for power are mutually exclusive concepts and antagonistic movements from which greed for power will invariably emerge the winner.
Because I share my understanding, I have become an enemy. A fool will reserve his agreement for men who tell him what he already knows and understands. That’s because, as a fool, he doesn’t understand that knowledge is an endless search.
If straight talk offends you, who is to blame but your ego?
Speaking of theory and practice, I read the following headline in our paper this morning: “Hindu Hardliners burn Christian churches, Christians retaliate and burn Hindu homes.”

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Thursday, December 27, 2007

A regime, any regime, even a regime of swine, will have its supporters.
In America today only 50% of the people vote. When asked why he doesn’t vote, a wise man once replied: “I don’t believe in encouraging them.”
One thing I have learned about my fellow Armenians and myself: We are human beings like the rest of mankind. Anyone who says we are better is either a brown-noser or a damn fool.
Propaganda teaches us to overestimate ourselves and to underestimate our adversaries, which promotes the view that our leaders are shepherds and their leaders butchers. But then, where would butchers be without shepherds?
If we are what we have become it’s because of liars whose favorite sport is the blame-game.
Self-assessed smart Armenians will never agree with me because agreeing with me would amount to admitting they are fools who have been taken in by liars.
After calling them “enemies of the people,” fascist leaders silence their critics. It is always the same story. After confusing fact with fiction they commit unspeakable crimes against humanity with the full support of their dupes. This may explain why there are people today (not all of them Turks) who believe Talaat was a great leader and his victims traitors who deserved their fate. This may also explain why some of the greatest butchers in the history of mankind, from Caligula and Nero to Stalin and Hitler, had their supporters.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Wednesday, December 26, 2007
If you prefer fiction to fact, don’t read what follows because I plan to speak of reality, and reality in our case is seldom pretty.
If we are angry we have every right to be. Throughout our millennial history we have been ruled by foreign ruffians and domestic riffraff. My disagreement with my fellow Armenians begins when they take out this anger on fellow Armenians, and this without provocation -- unless you call a minor semantic or political disagreement a provocation – as if, throughout our long and happy existence we have known nothing but peace, harmony, and brotherhood among ourselves.
One does not have to be a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Freud to understand what I have said so far and what follows, namely that this vast store of accumulated resentment is not directed against our victimizers but against fellow victims, for the simple reason that our victimizers are either beyond our reach or, when within reach, they are invulnerable. This has been said by far better men than myself but it bears repeating: An Armenian’s worst enemy is not an odar but an Armenian, and this “other” Armenian is none other than himself.
On more than one occasion I have been told I have no right to speak of our problems unless I also propose a solution. This, needless to add, is a cheap rhetorical maneuver whose message is “Shut up!” To those of my readers who have not yet given up reading me so far, my suggested solution to the problem outlined above is a simple one: awareness. Because awareness of a problem is almost a solution.
If I were to describe an Armenian in a single sentence, I would say he is one who knows everything but understands nothing. As a result, his degree of awareness is that of a dinosaur. This may explain why Toynbee in his 10-volume STUDY OF HISTORY calls us “fossils,” like Jews. But whereas Jews were outraged and promptly rejected the label (see Maurice Samuel’s THE PROFESSOR AND THE FOSSIL), as far as i know, none of our professors rose to our defense. Is it because they secretly agreed with Toynbee? Either that or our professors are not in the habit of sharing their understand with us, probably because they know the torrents of verbal abuse that will be unleashed against them by our riffraff and their brainwashed dupes. Perhaps our real tragedy is not that we don’t understand but that we don’t want to understand, and that, I regret to say, is a problem that has no solution.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


A dead jackass is not afraid of the lion.
Sorrows are easier to survive than hunger.
Honey will attract flies even from Baghdad.
To a poor orphan, more bread, less advice.
Life is a battle and what counts is not the first defeat
but the final victory.
He is wise indeed whose learning begins in the cradle
and ends in the grave.
Some books make better friends
than the best of friends.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007
To those of my readers who disagree with me, sometimes violently, I say: I hear you. I feel your pain. Once upon a time I too was brainwashed to think, or rather to feel, as you do. To learn to think, to think for oneself, which also means to think against oneself, is a painfully slow process. It takes time. Be patient with yourself and tolerant with those who try to reason with you. Evolution is a law of nature. Never say therefore you will not change, for that way lies stagnation, degeneration, and death.
Instead of saying, the great powers deceived us, we should ask, why did we behave like dupes? Instead of saying the Turks massacred us, we should ask ourselves, why did we surrender our fate into their hands for 600 years?
A man who is convinced he knows everything he needs to know is a case of arrested underdevelopment.
The more you deceive yourself the more transparent you become to others.
If you know 100 things and claim to know 101, sooner or later someone is sure to expose you as an ignoramus.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Monday, December 24, 2007
If bad things happen to good people, let us ask ourselves:
How good are we?
How good are our “brainless leaders”? (Avedik Issahakian).
How good are their dupes who believe we never had it so good because we are in good hands?
How good are the alienated who stay away from Armenian affairs? How good are the assimilated who have given up on us?
How good are our “best and brightest” who so far have failed to convince the world that our genocide is not a figment of our collective imagination?
How good are our intellectuals from Khorenatsi and Yeghishe (5th century) to Zarian and Massikian (in our own days) who have been unanimous in saying our leaders can’t even lead a dog to the nearest hydrant?
How good are our intellectuals and why should be believe them?
Well, what choice do we have? It’s either them or our politicians?
Are politicians capable of speaking the truth when they speak about themselves?
By the way, I don’t agree with Avedik Issahakian. Our leaders are not brainless. After all, they were brainy enough to have a plan B for themselves.
Believe in God, if you must, but believe no one else. Use your brain instead (if you will forgive the overstatement), and may the Good Lord have mercy on your soul (if you have one).

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Sunday, December 23, 2007

One of my gentle and anonymous readers, whose spelling leaves something to be desired, takes me to task for my ignorance of our history. “Armenian history,” he reminds me, “is an extremely complex topic,” and since I obviously do not know as much as he does, I should shut up about it. I am more than willing to concede that I don’t know all there is to know on the subject. But then who does, beside the Good Lord Himself, who so far has consistently refused to publish His version. As far as I know, no human being has ever dared to claim that after a lifetime of study he is now prepared to assert that he knows all there is to know about Armenian or any other history.
When after a lifetime of study Toynbee published his monumental ten-volume STUDY OF HISTORY, he was attacked and sometimes even verbally abused by an international array of historians who questioned the accuracy of his facts and the reliability of his conclusions. Dutch historians criticized him for his ignorance of Dutch history; Jewish historians tore him to shreds because he had dared to call Jews “fossils”; English historians dismissed him as a megalomaniacal mystic and charlatan; and Soviet historians treated him as a heretic because he did not share their faith in Marxism. It would be no exaggeration to say that both Spengler and Toynbee, the two greatest historians of the 20th century, have more critics than fans among their fellow historians.
Even when they deal in facts and nothing but facts, nationalist or ideologically committed historians lie because they select only those facts that support their particular thesis, and since the number of facts, documents, and eyewitness accounts is nearly infinite, they can do this without much difficulty.
Who takes nationalist historians seriously? Only themselves, their dupes, and the power structure within which they operate.
What matters about history is not how much we know or how many facts, documents, and eyewitness accounts we have at our disposal, but what have we learned from it. What have our nationalist or patriotic historians learned from our past? The very same thing that Turkish historians have learned: namely, to paint themselves all white and their adversaries all black.
History does not have to be the propaganda of the victor or the consolation of the loser. Our sympathies may be with the losers but that does not make their version of events more honest, objective, and impartial.
The aim of nationalist historians is not to learn but to teach. But teaching that is not preceded by learning is at best propaganda and at worst conditioning or brainwashing. Politics and history don’t mix. To allow politics or ideology to contaminate the study of history amounts to prostituting the past.
A final note on our revolutionaries: history judges us not by our intentions (remember the old adage: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”) but our actions; and actions have consequences. It follows, we should judge our revolutionaries not by their intentions but by the tragic consequences of their actions.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Saturday, December 22, 2007
How much of what I say is right? As a prejudiced observer I cannot be a reliable judge. You tell me! But instead of asking whether I am right, say, How right are those I quote and paraphrase, beginning with the Biblical dictum (“A house divided against itself cannot stand”) and Toynbee’s (“Civilizations are not killed, they commit suicide”).
As masters of the blame-game, our denialists assert they had nothing to do with our misfortunes, which amounts to saying, they reject all responsibility in shaping our tragic destiny, thus implying their role in our history has been that of nonentities or absentee landlords.
Writing in the 5th century, Movses Khorenatsi speaks of our divided and corrupt leadership (see his LAMENTATION, not to be confused with Naregatsi’s, which was written in the 10th century). Writing in the 20th century we have two distinguished witnesses who support Khorenatsi’s verdict: Avedik Issahakian (“our brainless leaders”) and Zarian (“Our political parties have been of no political use to us. Their greatest enemy is free speech.”) In our own days, listen to what Kocharian and Levon Der Bedrossian are saying about each other.
If I repeat myself, it’s because I don’t have a phobia of repetition. If you do, I suggest you see a shrink. If you can’t afford one, stop reading me. Never say I speak of problems without suggesting any solutions. But if you reject my solution to your problem and continue to read me, I thank you. Have a nice day.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Friday, December 21, 2007
He is one of those writers everyone praises but no one reads, except our academics who are unanimous in naming him our Dante and Shakespeare combined. But whereas every Italian and Englishman is brought up to learn a few lines from Dante and Shakespeare by heart, I have yet to meet the Armenian who can quote a single line from Naregatsi.
One reason Naregatsi is not a popular writer is that he cannot be said to be a cheerful fellow. His LAMENTATION is an endless catalogue of sins, failings, and vices. A typical passage reads: “I constantly have recourse to lies, / Never uttering the truth…/ I am diligent in malignant acts of ribaldry; / I am ever active in satanic inventions.”
In his INFERNO, Dante speaks of hell as if it were a real place. Naregatsi has a more modern, not to say, existential view on the subject. “Hell is me,” he seems to be saying. And if “hell is other people” (Sartre) it’s because there is a “me” in all of us. It follows, in the eyes of our holier-than-thou propagandists, Naregatsi is bad news. Because if we are as bad as Naregatsi tells us, then perhaps we deserved our fate. But Naregatsi does not write to promote self-loathing and despair. His final message is one of hope. Salvation is yours, he tells us, provided you plead guilty as charged and repent. Not exactly a condition that will be welcome by our charlatans who parade as paragons of virtue.
Naregatsi wrote in krapar (classical Armenian) but he is now available in both ashkharapar (the spoken idiom) and English (in an excellent translation by Mischa Kudian).
Naregatsi lived a thousand years ago, long before we were Ottomanized and Sovietized.
One way to define our holier-than-thou sanctimonious pricks and dealers in chauvinist crapola is to say, they are jackasses who believe, when they bray, they sound better than Pavarotti singing “Nessun dorma.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Baruir Sevak: "It is better to be a good reader
than a bad writer."
Karekin Nejdeh: "When a man falls down and
doesn’t have the will to stand up, no amount of
help will be of any use to him. It is the same
with a nation that does nothing but complain,
lament, and beg."
Anonymous: "The worship of money is a terminal
Raffi: "The message of the world is clear: If you
don’t learn how to kill, you forfeit your right
to exist."
Gostan Zarian: "If a thought cannot be expressed
in a few words it cannot be worth expressing."
Shmavon Hovsepian: "A jury of tigers, crocodiles,
wolves, and hyenas is not qualified to condemn to
death a cat guilty of killing a mouse."
Hagop Baronian: "Avarice is an addiction whose
eyes are bigger than its belly."


Thursday, December 20, 2007
Just when I think I am done with Armenians and their problems, a new one comes up or an old one that demands a novel approach. Who gives a damn about Armenians and their problems, anyway? Not even Armenians, it seems. I dream of the day when I will exhaust the subject and start writing love stories, adventure yarns, and murder mysteries. I love murder mysteries. I have read hundreds of Simenons… We all have our cross to bear. The smaller the nation, the heavier the cross.
If you want to convince a civilized man to behave like a barbarian, you tell him barbarians are at the gate even if there is no one there, and if there is one, he is either the gatekeeper or a harmless pilgrim.
Whenever I feel depressed, I console myself by saying that even those who hate me read me. Writers have this is common with women: they want to be irresistible.
Since there are no final answers, not even in science, every assertion is open to debate, provided of course the rules imposed on us by reason, common sense, common decency, and grammar are followed. And no one will ever succeed in convincing me that reason, common sense and decency, and grammar are anti-Armenian.
When I wrote flattering commentaries, I was published. When I wrote critical commentaries, I was published too. But when I started getting at the truth, I was silenced. Truth was my undoing.
I write for readers with an open mind. Not even the Good Lord can reach brainless idiots or, for that matter, brainy bastards. Consider the influence of the New Testament on the likes of Stalin (a seminarian) and his countless dupes, among them some very smart Armenians, like Anastas (ditto).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Wednesday, December 19, 2007
If we are unique, that’s because every individual, tribe, nation, or for that matter, snowflake and grain of sand is unique. Whether this uniqueness is an asset or a liability I will let you decide, provided you don’t adopt one of our ubiquitous dealers of chauvinist crapola as your guide. Speaking for myself, I will say that our uniqueness is not what concerns me. What concerns me is our problems and there is nothing – repeat, nothing -- unique about them. Corruption, incompetence, divisiveness, authoritarianism, prejudice, and intolerance are as old as mankind. So is unawareness of them or self-deception. We either confront our shortcomings and make an honest effort to overcome them or we pretend there is nothing we can do because they are an integral part of the human condition. Again, speaking for myself, I am all for calling a spade a spade, a charlatan a phony and a wheeler-dealer not a man of vision or a noble specimen of humanity but a low-life and a bottom feeder.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Tuesday, December 18, 2007
A community or a nation is not a congregation that will sing the same tune in unison. There will always be discordant voices. Get used to them. Our degree of tolerance and civilization depends on the manner in which we handle dissent.
I have been rereading Herodotus. What a great storyteller he was! Speaking of a certain Greek city-state, he writes that its citizens preferred tyranny to freedom. Impossible, I thought. Who in his right mind would choose tyranny when he can live in freedom? And then I thought of my fellow countrymen and remembered the words of our progressive and enlightened citizens (self-assessed of course) who tell us we are not yet ready for democracy. If by “we” they mean our leaders, they may be right. If they mean a fraction of the people that have been brainwashed, ditto. But I have no doubt whatever in my mind that, given a choice, the overwhelming majority will choose to live in a democracy. You want proof? Consider Armenians in the United States and Canada who did not immigrate en masse to Armenia under Stalin.
After centuries of oppression we have accumulated vast stores of resentment, anger, and bitterness. Our leaders are aware of this. That is why they channel this suppressed fury in the direction of the Turks. What motivates them to do that is self-preservation.
The chances of the unthinkable happening will be diminished if we think about it. If the unthinkable did happen it is because those who thought about it were ignored. “Zohrab effendi is exaggerating,” they said…
There is a type of critic (make it, kibitzer) who is so blinded by his own brilliance that he does not mind making an ass of himself. But he is smart enough to do so anonymously and dumb enough to add cowardice to narcissism.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Monday, December 17, 2007

“Nothing you say makes sense!” a reader writes; and another: “Tell us something we don’t know.” These two contradictory comments suggest that I may well be on the right track. But perhaps I am deluding myself.
I understand illusions. I have quite a few of them myself, as a matter of fact. I believe reason matters. I believe common sense is transferable. I believe explanations work. I think I may be able to make a difference. I like to hope where far better men than myself failed, I may succeed. Call it optimism run riot. Call it hubris. Whatever it is, it allows me to go on.
“You repeat yourself,” I am reminded once in a while. So do our Turcocentric pundits. So do our sermonizers who quote the Scriptures from hundreds of pulpits every Sunday. Has anyone ever dared to stand up and accuse them of repeating themselves? Once when I said as much in a commentary, the secretary of an archbishop wrote an angry letter to the editor in which she said: “How dare you, sir, comparing the trash you dish out [I am now abridging and paraphrasing] with the Holy Scriptures which happen to be the word of God?” My answer: Almost everything I write may be considered a paraphrase or variations on the Biblical dictum “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Scratch a defender of the status quo and expose a hireling for whom the establishment is manna.
There are no new ideas, only subtle adjustments of old ones.
I should like to meet an Armenian whose first impulse is to understand rather than to dismiss as absurd that which he makes no effort to understand.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Sunday, December 16, 2007
When the Greeks executed Socrates, they did not just kill a man but someone who represented the very best of Greek wisdom. To silence a thinker is like burning down a library.
The difference between an editor violating someone’s human right of free speech and a head of state ordering a massacre is one in degree. In both instances power is being abused at its maximum. Promote the editor (or a forum moderator) to head and state, and vice versa, demote a head of state to editor, and they will behave the same way.
Stalin or Hitler saying they have no use for intellectuals is the same as an architect saying he has no use for higher mathematics. The result will be buildings that collapse as surely as Stalin’s USSR and Nazi Germany did.
Hitler had no use for Jewish scientists. As a result, he lost to America some of Germany’s ablest minds, including Einstein. Had he been less of a racists, he would have won World War II and I would now be writing this in German. Toynbee is right: civilizations and empires are not killed, they commit suicide.
What our critics were saying about Levon Der Bedrossian and Robert Kocharian, they are now saying about each other; and if what they say is true, they both deserve the hangman’s noose.
Those who declare wars have a better chance to survive them than those who do the actual fighting.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


By Yeghishe Charents,


I - poet of Hayastan -
Fogbound land
Haunted by death -
I now sing
To all!
I sing
Once more
But why must I sing alone?
I, alone, and not they -
Who lived through and overpowered
These rough stormy days.

Under the sun, in the dust.
On foggy days dripping wet.
They strive, combat, and toil
In the grime of the soil.

And like sweat they flow
On the face of the earth -
As the wind hurls them hither and thither
And joins and mingles one with the other.

You may not be aware
That every humble workman
that toils hard all day long -
Carries in his iron lungs
A hundred, a thousand songs.

If you weren't aware of this
Hearken to my voice then,
Open your ears wide!
- for this world of ours
They are the only true bards!

And do you know what they sing?
What they sing and fashion? -
Songs of steel they sing,
Songs of fire and ardor.

They sing -
And their song
Towers over time
Immense, secure -
Their song -
The world -

Polytonal songs,
Miraculous songs.
Greetings, exalted companion!

Why should I sing alone?
Let all of them sing!
To all, to all, to all!

And why should he sing alone?
He alone - Nairi's Boghos -
Why not Ivan, Yousuf, Chung-Fu?
Who - brothers all under the skin -
Have known each other for years.

Haven't you heard? -
A Hun-yun from Tibet today
Can fly to Rashid, Petrograd. Tiflis
Or, like a windswept autumn leaf
A Garo - or Hugo for that matter -
Can fly and reach
Marseilles, Yerevan, Tifllis,
Peking, Chicago, Cairo.

O for some time now
The earth has changed
Into a short, tiny street
Yes, for some time now
From yellow-tinged Peking
A Chung-Fu can extend his hand
All the way to Nork and say:
Comrade Boghos, good day!

Why should he sing alone?
Let all men burst into song.
Let the whole world burst into song.
And chant!
And ring
And carol!

July 1914, Yerevan

Astafian Street.
On the road.
Deep in thought
Boghos, a workman,

Under the broiling sun.
Weary and exhausted.
He walks along.
It is stifling hot.
Summer. High noon.
The oppressive air.
The dusty road.
Urged on by his thoughts
Boghos hurries along.

Heat and dust;
oppressive - as always.
Everywhere -
Icy, water,
People. Carts. People.

And no one can guess
That on Astafian Street now,
A miracle will come to pass . . . .

And the miracle - it was very simple . . .
Suddenly a drop of sweat
From the workman's forehead

(As urged on by the heat he hurried along)
Fell in the dust on the road.

It fell and for an instant
Reflected the infinite space
And the sun - a distant spark.

And suddenly from that drop of sweat.
That had fallen in the dust -
Countless armies rose!
Immense, audacious, fearless . . . .

Soldiers by the million rose,
Warriors of iron and bronze -
Toilers all like Boghos
Without hope, without arms.

They suddenly rose
From the dust of the road -
Fearless warriors by the million

Mighty men at arms.

Swords blazed and sabres shone,
Brave voices burst into song,
Red flags and crimson flags
Flew and rippled with frenzy.

It happened on Astafian Street
Under the broiling hot sun
As workman Boghos advanced
His eyes fixed in the distance.

No one, but no one saw.
It happened in a single instant.
Then - the wheels of a cart crunched
On the dusty, oppressive road.

(Let me explain this miracle
By mentioning that ]
Boghos was on his way
To see an old friend
Who had spoken to him
Of events of enormous import
That were about to take place
And that the hour of the great struggle
Was . . . .)

Astafian Street.
Dormant repose.
Dust in the eyes.
A quiet. peaceful town.
And "Ayi! Ayi! Ay!!"
The braying
Of an ass,
To an ass,
By an ass . . . .

A drowsy ass.
Like a pleasant dream -
Summer dust -
Yerevan . . . .


And innkeeper Hamo
Grumbled about the heat,
Longing for the light,
Sweet breeze of spring . . . .

The world was a dusty road
Where lived
A Hamo,
A Garo,
A Boghos.

As in a dream Hamo saw
In the sunny distant road
Himself - Hamo
Perched on the sun
Feet dangling
Humming a song . . . .
And mentally counting
- Eleven . . . . twelve . . . thirteen . . . .

The wine of the sun flows . . .
But business is slow . . .
Soon it will be evening -
And he will go home
To return
Once more
On the morrow . . . .

The sun will rise again,
The heat will be oppressive
And in that heavy torpor
Will anyone ask
For wine and liquor?

Such were the dreams
Of drowsy, weary Hamo;
The world - a hot dusty, road,
- Morning,
And night . . . .

Innkeeper Hamo's soul was blind
To such things as miracles
And when they came and said "War!" -
He did not budge and inch.

He did not hear, or feel, or grasp.
Was it like a wedding perhaps? -
Where red wine would flow and flow
Without measure . . . . without end . . . .

And when evening came
And he rose to go home
He heard everyone shout:
- War. War! War!


Did you hear?
They rose -
Huge armies, ironclad.
Did you hear?
They rose-
In battlefields
Around the globe.
They rose
And they marched
From the Urals to the Carpathians
And from the Carpathians to Erzerum,
And from Erzerum - to Tripoli and Rome.

They came from all directions -
From New York they came,
From the islands of Tahiti
And from distant Baghdad -

They came -
And they came
Like windswept dust
From London - Peking.
Sarikamash -
Like dust they came
In a raging storm.

And they roared -
"Vo-vo-vo - Vo-vo" -
Dry-throated cannon -
"Vo-vo" -
And night.


And it was thus
Soldiers by the million
Confronted one another -
From Baghdad to Berlin.
And from Berlin to Calais
And Dover

From many worlds
And many shores
From New York to Peking
From the Urals to Milan.

Thus it was
That the world mingled
From one end to the other
And entire cities of flesh
Confronted one another.

Under the broiling hot rays
of the nearby sun
The earth seemed to rot
Like a stinking carrion.

Thus it was
Didn't you hear?
Didn't you see in your dark heart
That thousands perished
In a single black night.



Astafian Street.
Innkeeper Hamo in his chair.

The road - toothless mouth
Is now filled with refugees -
On the wet sidewalks,
Endless files of refugees.

Thus it was
That innkeeper Hamo
Longed for the light
Sweet breeze of spring.

And he thought:
The Russians by now
Must have reached Baghdad -
Have these people
Escaped from Bitlis,
From Mush, from Baghdad?

Why are they here
And not in Bitlis. Bassen -
Has not
Invincible Antranik
Marched into Erzerum? . . . .

With these thoughts in his head
Hamo went home to relax
As an orphan lay dying
On the sidewalk by his inn.

Thus it was.
Innkeeper Hamo
Did not even see Boghos,
Now a soldier,
Reach Paramushir . . . .

And when business was slow
To keep himself awake
He sang again and again
"My beloved Hairenik . . . ."



That is to say - Nairi.


Crossroads of continents
Where East and West meet
Stands ancient Nairi -
A blood-stained
Question mark
Like a dream
Driven deep into past -
Is that not Nairi? . . . . .

The days are flying
Days of fire -
Flying fast . . . .

Shall I grasp your soul
And hurl it
like an iron disk -
Hurl it into the future . . . .
They are now
Re-building the world -
Re-building it
Street by street -
A Muscovite workman
By the name of Ivan,
A Chung-Fu,
A Hans,
A Boghos -



Now -
Everywhere -
Can you hear?
Bells ringing . . . .
Ringing with defiance!

I tell you the world has become
A street of universal joy
And a Chung-Fu from Peking
Drinks and shouts
-To your health, Boghos!

And if my bright hopes
Were to turn to ashes
I shall continue to sing
Hosannas to you
Mighty iron-brother!

And if these days of fire
Were to end in disaster
I shall continue to sing -
Sing your glorious deeds
I - a feeble
Final voice . . . .

(Translated by Ara Baliozian)


There is an old tale
About a boy
An only son
Who fell in love with a lass.
“You don’t love me,
You never did,” said she to him.
“But if you do, go then
And fetch me your mother’s heart.”
Downcast and distraught
The boy walked off
And after shedding copious tears
Came back to his love.
The girl was angry
When she saw him thus
And said, “Don’t you dare come back again
Without your mother’s heart.”
The boy went and killed
A mountain roe deer
And offered its heart
To the one he adored.
But again she was angry
And said, “Get out of my sight.
I told you what I want
Is your mother’s heart.”
The boy went and killed
His mother, and as he ran
With her heart in his hand
He slipped and fell.
“My dear child,
My poor child,”
Cried the mother’s heart,
“Did you hurt yourself?”
(Translated by Ara Baliozian)

more quotes

"I am called a dog because
I fawn on those who give me anything,
I yelp at those who refuse,
and I sink my teeth in rascals."

"Truly, if I were not Alexander
I would wish to be Diogenes."


Raffi: "Collaboration [with the enemy] and betrayal
are in our blood."

Gostan Zarian: "Armenians survive by cannibalizing one

Nigoghos Sarafian: "Our history is a litany of
lamentation, anxiety, horror, and massacre. Also
deception and abysmal naivete mixed with the smoke of
incense and the sound of sacred chants."

Shahan Shahnour: "The enemy is not the Turk but us."

Yeghishe: "If a nation is ruled by two kings, both the
kings and their subjects will perish."


Saturday, December 15, 2007
Where charlatans are in charge,
honest men will be silenced.
Where ignoramuses are in charge,
knowledge will be outlawed.
Where the blind are in charge,
the one-eyed will be blinded.
I don’t tell you things I already know.
I tell you things that I discover as I write.
Why should I trust the judgment of underdogs whose sole ambition in life is to be top dogs so that they will have the pleasure of stepping on underdogs, even when the underdogs happen to be their brothers?
The worst mistake we can make is to assume that Comrade Panchoonie is a character in a satirical novel by Yervant Odian written a century ago. Every other day I get a letter from him that ends with the word “mi kich pogh…” something similar could be said of Hagop Baronian’s “honorable beggars.” Characters in great literary works live much longer than their creators. Or rather, great writers achieve immortality through the characters they create.
Our standards have fallen so low that every panchoonie, honorable beggar, and ghazetaji parades as a defender of the faith and the savior of the nation.
What if I am wrong? There is always that possibility, of course. In my defense I will say that if only the infallible were allowed to speak, the only voice would be that of the Pope of Rome, we would all be Catholics, and Latin would be the most widely spoken language in the world.
I.B. Singer: “I am not a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the health of the chickens. For animals, every day is Treblinka.”

Friday, December 14, 2007


Friday, December 14, 2007
When nine out of ten are unanimous in believing one thing, go with the tenth, for believing and thinking are mutually exclusive concepts.
I disagree with anyone who holds views that were mine thirty years ago; and if I don’t stand on ceremony with them it may be because I don’t stand on ceremony with myself.
The man who views the world and his fellow men in black and white terms, as opposed to shades of gray, will invariably classify himself as all white even when he is pitch black.
If character is destiny, as the ancient Greeks thought, the question we should ask is: To what extent our character as a nation has been shaped by 600 years of Ottoman oppression followed by 60 years of Bolshevik tyranny? If this question has so far gone unanswered it may be because our nationalists and masters of the blame-game have done their utmost to ignore or cover up that aspect of our identity.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Thursday, December 13, 2007
Political lies have been with us for a long time. Even Plato discusses them in his Dialogues, which where written 2500 years ago.
No one lies as surely as he who speaks in the name of truth or God. In the Bible we read that God asked Cain where Abel was, the implication being that Cain knew something God did not. And Cain replied: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).
Speaking of lies, murder, and brotherhood: Our Turcocentric ghazetajis tell us they don’t hate Turks. Their sole aim, they say, is justice. But justice, like truth, is an abstraction. No one has ever laid eyes on it. Instead of abstractions, let’s speak of reality. The truth about reality is that we cannot speak about it, only fractions of it. That’s because we have only a limited number of words and reality has an infinite number of levels and complexities. That’s one reason why when we speak we lie.
Does that mean Cain did not kill Abel? No. Of course not! It only means we don’t know why Cain became a murderer. Was it envy? Why should envy lead to murder? What is envy? What has made us capable of envy? Or rather, who has instilled envy in man? For what purpose? The infinite number of complexities generates an equal number of questions until the final one, which is also Cain’s: We don’t know because we are not God’s keeper.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Wednesday, December 12, 2007
In one of his books Ben Bagdikian says that conservatives like Murdoch, Conrad Black, and Buckley control most of the media in America, and yet they bitch about the liberal media. Something similar could be said about our own pro-establishment right wingers, who control not only our media but also our community centers, schools, university chairs, and institutions. Hence the misconception that we never had it so good because we are in good hands. As for the one or two minor problems, like our mafia democracy in the Homeland: they will fix themselves in twenty or thirty years. What about dissenting voices? What dissenting voices? I don’t hear them. They don’t hear them because they have been ruthlessly and systematically silenced.
There is a tendency in America to exaggerate the importance of words spoken in anger – Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade when arrested for drunk driving, for instance. When angry we say things we don’t always mean. I have myself said many harsh things in anger even about my mother whom I love very much. That doesn’t make me anti-motherhood or for that matter, God forbid, anti-apple pie.
Speaking of motherhood: some Armenians look down at fellow Armenians who cannot speak their mother tongue. To them I ask: What’s the use of speaking Armenian if the sentiments you express are Ottoman?
I have been called a variety of names, none of them remotely close to honest. And yet, that has been my sole aim in life: to be an honest witness.
If you think you are a better Armenian, it is of course your privilege to do so and I will say nothing to disabuse you -- only warn you: if you expect all Armenians to agree with you, be prepared to be disappointed and end your days as a bitter old man.
As for our ultra-conservative Turcocentric pundits and their ubiquitous, predictable, and cliché-ridden commentaries: the only way to describe them is to say they are ideal instances of diarrhea of words and constipation of ideas.
As Brahms used to say on his way out from a party: “I apologize to anyone I may have neglected to offend.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Tuesday, December 11, 2007
If Armenians and their endless petty little problems bore you, join the club. If I go on writing about them it’s not because I am overly fond of them or would like to solve their problems (no one can do that except themselves) but because I want to understand my fellow men. To be bored with Armenians means to be bored with mankind, and ultimately with oneself.
We are a microcosm. If we are a failure as a nation, so is mankind. The history of mankind is a disaster area because the average man is a dupe at the mercy of megalomaniacal, self-satisfied frauds who will say and do anything in defense of their powers and privileges. The list of sultans, kings, presidents, popes, and chief executive officers who abused their positions of trust or preached virtue and practiced vice stretches to infinity.
Athens executed Socrates, Florence exiled Dante, Russia excommunicated Tolstoy, India assassinated Gandhi. You may now draw your own conclusions.
When charlatans and dupes conspire, they end up praising honesty and burying honest men.
To say that God punishes men for their transgressions is to misrepresent reality. It is man that punishes himself. The real tragedy of Oedipus is not that he killed his father and had sex with his mother but that he thought by blinding himself he could avoid seeing reality.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Monday, December 10, 2007
Q: Do you classify yourself as a good Armenian?
A: Frankly, I am so busy trying to be an honest man that I don’t even think about being an Armenian, let alone a good one.
Q: What do you say to readers who are outraged by what you write?
A: I say, Relax! We have survived centuries of oppression by brutal tyrants, countless wars, massacres, deportation, destitution, life in alien slums…we can survive the opinions of a minor scribbler who may well be, in your own estimation, a misguided fool.
Q: What it’s like writing for Armenians?
A: A butcher delivering a lecture to an audience of brain surgeons may be in a better position to answer that question.
Q: Do you think you have had any influence on our policy-makers?
A: Hell no! Even if I were a thousand times smarter and lived as long as Methuselah I doubt if I could change the mind of a single dupe who is brainwashed to believe he is too smart to be deceived.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about being honest?
A: Trying not to give in to the temptation of being dishonest and remembering all those instances in the past when I failed.
Q: Any projects?
A: Many.
Q: Such as?
A: A dictionary of Armenian misconceptions, which I will never write because it may well be as long as WAR AND PEACE and THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV combined.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


Sunday, December 09, 2007
Organized religions are popular for the same reason that Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini were: people hate to think for themselves. Shaw once said that he has made a fortune and enjoys an international reputation as a clever man because he takes the trouble to think for himself once or twice a year.
Everything that is popular is based on a misconception, which is also why astrology is popular too.
Organized religions contradict one another – Christians and Muslims believe in an Almighty God; Buddhists don’t. That doesn’t mean one is right and the other wrong. That only means, if God exists, you must live your life as if He didn’t, because God will not do your thinking for you for the simple reason that He has given you a brain, which happens to be a valuable piece of equipment that is a miracle of design as mysterious and incomprehensible as the universe itself.
The hardest thing about writing is convincing philistines that you are worth listening to.
Because I refuse to be a fool among fools I am called all kinds of nasty names, including infidel and atheist.
Once upon a time we trusted our destiny on dividers, sultans, commissars, and charlatans (both foreign and domestic) and when things started going wrong we blamed it on bloodthirsty neighbors, bad location, and the Almighty Himself, never on our brainless leaders and their dupes, namely ourselves.
My favorite 11th commandment: Thou shalt be self-reliant.
God does not sermonize or speechify; mullahs, priests, and charlatans do that.
We have become a bunch of whiners -- compliments of our nationalist historians and Turcocentric pundits who are masters of the blame game.
Thou shalt not ask God to do your thinking for you.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


Saturday, December 08, 2007
Propaganda is cunningly tailored to have (i) mass appeal, (ii) to be accessible to the average dupe, and (iii) to flatter his ego. By contrast, understanding reality or getting at the truth is an infinitely more demanding and sometimes even painful enterprise. Consider as a case in point the word survival as used by our propagandists. The nation survived, granted, but its best brains did not; neither did the best part of our own critical faculties. That is why when someone like Zarian, Shahnour, or Massikian tries to explain what really happened to us, we turn against him. That is also why I have trouble reaching Armenians who confuse ideology with theology, or politics with religion. Faith or a closed system of thought cannot be shaken by common sense and logic. Faith can only be replaced by another faith or closed system of thought. To put it differently, explanations work only with people with open minds. Hence the sorry spectacle of a sanctimonious prick or dealer in chauvinist crapola parading as a leader of men, defender of the faith, and savior of the nation.

Friday, December 7, 2007


Friday, December 07, 2007
The two most incompatible things in the world: dishonesty and sunlight.
You ask me if I would be willing to die for my country. Allow me to introduce my answer by saying, the only reason my country has not yet killed me is that I have been beyond its reach.
In an English literary magazine I read a book review by a historian that ends with the words: “How many policy-makers know their history well enough to learn from its lessons?” I should like to see such a sentence produced by one of our dime-a-dozen pundits who are masters of the blame-game.
“I heard you have become a pessimist,” an old friend whom I have not seen for fifty years tells me. And I reflect that where illusions and lies are dominant, truth and reality will be anathema. When Krikor Zohrab predicted the Genocide, they said, “Zohrab effendi is exaggerating.” And because I question the honesty of our pundits and propagandists, I am thought of as a pessimist.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Thursday, December 06, 2007
************ ********* ********* ********* *******
In America the higher your rise on the greasy pole the more of your posterior you expose. The average American today probably knows more about the Clintons than about his next-door neighbors. What do I know about our own leaders? Just their names and sometimes not even that. “I once called the Catholicos in Etchmiadzin,” a friend tells me, “and it was the KGB that answered.” When a Ramgavar semi-boss once promised to pay me a goodly sum if I undertook the task of writing profiles of prominent Ramgavars, I informed him I didn’t even know who they were, neither was I interested to know. Speaking of bosses, I am reminded of another incident with one of our national benefactors – let’s call him Jack S. Avanakian – who wanted me to translate his father’s youthful diary. “I translate only literary works,” I explained and added: “I am not aware of anyone by the name of Avanakian who has written a single line worth translating.” On the subject of jackasses: Did you know that our writers refer to one another as “boys”? I once heard an 80-year old writer say about Zarian: “I knew him – he was a good degha!” This was at a convention of Armenian writers (my first and last) during which I heard another writer refer to a national benefactor as “baron.” “Baron Jack S. Avanakian would not be interested in supporting such a project,” said he. I was a newcomer then and the thought occurred to me that I had landed not only on a different continent but also on another planet.

Of all fears, fear of free speech is the most cowardly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Wednesday, December 05, 2007
You cannot argue with someone who is in a position to silence you. He has much more to lose than an argument. He stands to lose his infallibility. And no one can make an ass of himself as surely as he who thinks himself to be infallible.
I have said this before and it bears repeating: the need to assert superiority is the surest symptom of inferiority.
The only way for the inferior to come to terms with himself is to think he is better than others; and the only way to reach that objective is by being his own dupe. The problem with dupes is that they feel justified in deceiving others, as if to say, if deception is good enough for me, it should be good enough for you too.
To confuse visible Armenians (fund-raisers, speechifiers, ghazetajis, wheeler-dealers) with their invisible counterparts would be like confusing la crème de la scum with la crème de la crème. I know many hard working, decent Armenians who have never delivered a speech or made a headline in any one of our papers; Armenians who do not pretend to know and understand more than they do; Armenians who have not written a single line for publication.
It is better to do nothing than to do the wrong thing. It is better to know nothing than to know the wrong thing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Tuesday, December 04, 2007
“You call us dividers as if that’s all we have done,” an angry friend tells me during a recent telephone conversation, and goes on: “Why don’t you ever mention the many positive contributions we have made to the community and the nation?”
I say nothing. I have learned never to contradict an angry Armenian.
Dear friend, if you are reading these lines, I would invite you to consider the case of the butler who after serving his master faithfully for fifty years, he poisons him. At his trial and in his defense he says to the judge: “Your Honor, the prosecution and its witnesses speak of me as if I were a murderer. I suggest that is a gross distortion of my character.”
Or consider the case of a surgeon who kills a patient in a botched operation. When taken to court he says: “I have performed many successful operations. There are hundreds of people alive today because of me. And here I am being treated as a common criminal.”
What I am trying to say is that we all have a role to play in the community. We all make a living for our positive contributions. No one gets a raise or a medal for his blinders or crimes. And when a man, after being a law-abiding citizen all his life, breaks the law, he has no choice but to pay the penalty.
I don’t believe in capital punishment but I would gladly make an exception in the case of a political boss whose number one concern is number one. As for a political leader who declares a war he cannot win, I say impeachment is too good for him. I believe the only honorable course of action for such a leader is to follow Hitler’s example and shoot himself. Finally, I urge you to consider the case of revolutionaries who rise against an empire they cannot topple and as a result of their failure millions of innocent civilians die...

Monday, December 3, 2007


Monday, December 03, 2007
Those who are at the root of our problems will at no time admit we, or rather they, have problems, and if they have them, they can be solved, and if they can be solved it is up to them to solve them. Denialism is a favored word of ours provided of course it’s of the Turkish variant. As for Armenian denialism: we don’t even acknowledge its existence.
The Fascist general who drove Miguel de Unamuno out of his university at gunpoint in 1936 is said to have screamed “Death to Intelligence,” and “Long live Death.” Shortly thereafter Unamuno had a heart attack and died.
Ours is the wisdom of former slaves whose secret ambition is to emulate their former masters.
It’s easy to apologize after you step on someone’s foot. But how do you apologize for leading a million and half innocent human beings to the slaughterhouse? That’s why neither their leadership nor ours will ever apologize to the people.
My land, my people, my home, my rivers, my lakes, valleys and mountains, my backyard, my chickens. But never – never! – my blunders.
They brag about our victories and blame our defeats on others. If it were up to our propagandists, we would be the only nation on earth that has never committed a blunder or lost a single war.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Sunday, December 02, 2007
In a recent widely circulated commentary I read a list of our problems so long that it reminded me of the celebrated Stanislaw Lec aphorism “No snowflake in the avalanche ever feels responsible.”
If, instead of making long lists of problems we concentrate on those who create them, we may end up with Avedik Issahakian’s triad: “earthquakes, bloodthirsty neighbors, and brainless leaders.”
Problems like corruption, divisions that make no sense and serve no purpose, intolerance, xenophobia, Turcocentrism, incompetence, exodus from the Homeland, assimilation in the Diaspora, cultural decline, an appalling rate of unemployment, poverty, absence of solidarity, among others, have a single source: the undemocratic character of our institutions or the absence of accountability in our leadership.
In an authoritarian environment (and I say authoritarian to avoid saying Ottoman) problems will be explained and justified by saying they are extensions of political conditions and environmental factors beyond our control.
A partisan press will at no time shoulder responsibility so long as it can blame it on the opposition. Those who divide us will even go as far as saying that they divide us for our own good, to save us from the evil plans of their adversaries.
Where there is no free press, problems will proliferate until they become an avalanche, which will be explained as an act of god, and those responsible will emerge as innocent as a snowflake.
Now, suppose a small group of pundits come together and issue a number of recommendations, who will listen to them? Who will even acknowledge their existence?
Brainless leaders? Rather, brainy enough to make number one their number one concern and make it look like they are dedicated to the challenging task of saving the nation.
Speaking of our problems: you will find a pretty good list in Khorenatsi’s “Lamentation” written fifteen centuries ago. Which may suggest that it is not unawareness of our problems that makes them hard to solve but irresponsible leaders who might as well be deaf, dumb, dim, dull, and dense.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Saturday, December 01, 2007
Aznavour in a recent interview published in PARIS MATCH on his “Benetton family”:
“We are of all colors and creeds. My daughter’s husband is Muslim, I am Gregorian, my wife is Protestant. With such a family one is in a better position to understand other people’s problems. To have many cultures is great!”
On Reading:
“For an illiterate I am an avid reader. I have a huge library – all of Guitry and Simenon. At the moment I am rereading Proust for the third time. First time he was a pain…second time hard going…third time magnificent.”
On Politics:
“My wife threatens to divorce me if I ever run for office in Armenia.”
On Old Age:
“My age [83] is an interesting one. It doesn’t bother me one bit. But it seems to matter to others.”
On an Armenian Idiosyncrasy:
“In Armenia they all speak foreign languages. My mother spoke Greek and Turkish. My dad spoke Armenian and Russian. Though not Jewish, he understood Yiddish. All his life he spoke French with an accent so thick you could cut it with a knife.”