Wednesday, June 30, 2010

scumbags

June 27, 2010
***************************************************
SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
*********************************************
When men in a position of power and responsibility
promise one thing and deliver the opposite,
I call that much worse than incompetence,
I call it criminal conduct.
When our revolutionaries promised
freedom, independence and our historic lands
and they delivered
massacres, starvation, pestilence, and dispersion,
and having done so they now say
none of it was their fault
and they are believed by dupes,
I call that much worse than
b.s., lies, and charlatanism;
I call it the quintessence of evil.
*
I love books that expose b.s.
One such book that I enjoyed recently is
Laura Penny's
YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US:
THE TRUTH ABOUT BULLSHIT.
In this morning's paper
I read that Laura Penny has published another book titled
MORE MONEY THAN BRAINS:
WHY SCHOOL SUCKS,
COLLEGE IS CRAP
AND IDIOTS THINK THEY'RE RIGHT.
I have something to look forward to.
#
June 28, 2010
***************************************************
THE KING IS DEAD,
LONG LIVE THE KING!
*********************************************
Prophets and reformers may change the world
but they cannot change human nature.
What have the major religions really changed?
The 20th century has seen more revolutions, wars, and massacres
than at any other time in history.
That's because human nature tends to adapt,
that is to say, to lower
the noblest ideas and ideals
to its own level, namely the gutter.
*
I suspect the honesty and integrity of men
who subscribe to a belief system
simply because as children
they were educated (that is, brainwashed)
to trust and respect their elders.
I am not saying
all Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Marxists are dupes.
I am saying most of them are.
Exceptions exist.
But I don't speak of exceptions.
I speak of rules.
*
Reformers may change the power structure
but not human nature.
And changing the power structure means
replacing one set of rascals with another.
You gain nothing by replacing one sultan
with many mini-sultans,
or one czar with many commissars,
and many commissars
with many more crypto- or neo-commissars.
#
June 29, 2010
***************************************************
SELF-ANALYSIS
*********************************************
Confucius: “If you see a good man, emulate him.
If you see a bad man, examine your own heart.”
*
If you want to know what's wrong with us,
Naregatsi tells us, examine your conscience.
Exposing and naming your own sins
is more important than
bitching endlessly about your enemies.
In that sense, Naregatsi, like so many of our writers
from Khorenatsi to Zarian,
may be said to have been a dissident.
*
You want to know why I write the way I write?
To keep alive the voice of dissent in our media.
*
If revolution is organized and armed dissent,
I may be said to be an unarmed and solitary revolutionary.
Which is why I feel justified in maintaining
I am not silenced by the offspring of revolutionaries
who dared to challenge the might of an empire,
but by empty suits whose greatest enemy
is neither the Turk nor the Russian,
but their own fear of being exposed as cowards.
#
June 30, 2010
***************************************************
ON OUR MEDIA
*********************************************
Freedom of the press will not turn bad writers into good ones.
Granted. It may, however, de-emphasize Turcocentrism,
which shamelessly exploits our emotions
and distracts us from focusing on our present problems
of which we have many.
*
SCUMBAGS (I)
***********************
A capitalist makes money at other people's expense
and to combat his guilt, he builds churches
and by doing so he compounds his felony
by making the blasphemous assumption that
God can be bribed by scumbags.
*
A MATTER OF CHOICE
*********************************
The world or reality provides evidence
for contradictory belief systems.
As a result, both a believer and non-believer
will find all the evidence they need
to justify their choice of credo
and to accuse the other of siding with the devil.
Our convictions are not based in reality
but on our perception of it
and our choice of evidence.
*
SCUMBAGS (II)
*****************************
There is a type of scumbag
who thinks the only way to prove he is right
and the other wrong
is by going down into the gutter
on the assumption that a decent man
will refuse to follow him there.
But then he runs the risk
of running into a scumbag like me
who can take it as well as dish it out.
#

Saturday, June 26, 2010

parallels

June 24, 2010
***************************************************
MORAL OF THE STORY
*********************************************
To be brainwashed means to be blind to reality.
I speak from experience.
*
If God is love,
why is it that there is so little of it in jungles
(both natural and man-made or asphalt)
or anywhere else for that matter?
Are we to assume gardens are planted by God
and jungles by the Devil?
Who in his right mind
would introduce an evil serpent in a beautiful garden
knowing full well what will happen next?
If we are dealing with symbols
whose intent is to understand and explain reality,
then I suggest the explanation is not a very convicning one.
Which is why it is rejected by the majority of mankind.
God's ways are not our ways?
If so, let us agree once and for all
that He is incomprehensible and unknowable
and theologians who try to explain His actions
are no better than charlatans and blasphemers.
*
Moral of the story:
Don't be a dupe!
#
June 25, 2010
***************************************************
REFLECTIONS
ON OUR PRESENT SITUATION
*********************************************
Nothing can be more misleading than to think the men at the top know better.
*
History is made not by people who know better but by charlatans who have mastered the skill of organizing dupes.
*
When a member of the Party writes, it is not his brain that speaks but his loyalty. No one can be as brainless as a partisan.
*
The moment you surrender your freedom of thought to a closed system, you cease to think for yourself.
*
History is the propaganda of the victor, we are told. What we are not told is that losers too have their propaganda line whose intent is to make them look blameless and morally superior.
*
To think of oneself as morally superior is the surest symptom of moral bankruptcy.
*
If there are those who prefer the victor's propaganda to the loser's boast, it may be because they think winners may know something losers don't.
*
The only endeavor in which our Turcocentric ghazetajis have succeeded so far is grooming another generation of haters and braggarts.
*
Where the profit motive is supreme, there will be first-class merchants and an abundance of dead poets.
*
We have been brainwashed to believe politics is a filthy business, except of course our politics.
*
We don't choose our belief system, it is thrust on us.
*
It is a well-know fact that you can teach children to believe anything.
*
Prejudices are as carefully taught as the multiplication table.
*
That which is good for the few is bound to be bad for the many.
*
Anyone whose powers and privileges depend on the support of the people, will never say anything remotely critical against a system that allows the brainwashing of children.
*
At the root of all crimes against humanity, there will be a generation of brainwashed children.
*
As long as we think criticism and dissent are un-Armenian, we will never acquire the status of human beings – or “mart bidi ch'ellank.”
#
June 26, 2010
***************************************************
PARALLELS
*********************************************
The Palestinians have been so consistently wrong in overestimating their military might and in believing they can defeat the Israelis that nothing they say can be trusted. I am not talking about right and wrong here, or about principles and moral values. I am dealing with facts. Morally superior losers are a dime a dozen. Neither am I talking about the Palestinian people in general, most of whom are no doubt very much like most other people, including ourselves, dupes of their incompetent and megalomaniacal leadership, and as such guilty only of poor judgment.
*
When the popes sanctioned the persecution and torture of heretics, what were they defending? God or their own power?
When heretics were willing to die for what they believed in, what were they defending -- beside their freedom of thought?
*
To say that those in power are more interested in the truth than philosophers is to ignore such facts as countless wars and massacres.
*
A charlatan is one who not only claims to have the final answers but also to know better than you what you should think, feel, and believe.
*
Minor errors of judgment are covered up and ignored; but catastrophic blunders are explained, justified, and believed. I suggest truth is not what deceivers and their dupes conspire to believe in.
*
When it comes to reading, we tend to reject ideas, feelings, and values that do not spring from our own experience. It is almost as if the purpose of reading were to reinforce and legitimize our limitations, prejudices, and fallacies. Knowing this, propagandists and charlatans (but I repeat myself) are more than willing to adjust their message to the lies that are most in demand.
#

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

words

June 20, 2010
***************************************************
SKINHEADS ARE NOTBORN BUT MADE
*********************************************

QUESTION: Who is a skinhead? Can you define him?

ANSWER: If you insult those who disagree with you, you qualify. It goes without saying that where there are skinheads, there will also be architects of a context within which skinheads thrive. Likewise, where there is racism, there will also be academics, historians, political and religious leaders and pundits who will equate patriotism with fascism.

Q: Do we have such a thing as a dominant idea today, and if we do, how would you define it?

A: Turcocentrism is our dominant idea and I would define it as the misconception that Turks are the source of all our misfortunes. It goes without saying that Turks deserve all the epithets we heap on them. It is equally true that we could heap the same number of epithets and then some on ourselves and our own leadership.

Q: Such as?

A: Incompetence, lack of self-reliance, ignorance of history, divisiveness, tribalism, intolerance, myopia bordering on blindness, inability to discriminate fact from propaganda, too much dependence on benefactors and charity and hardly any discernible effort on exposing and eliminating corruption.

Q: How do we combat these aberrations?

A: We begin by not silencing or insulting those who disagree with us.

#
June 21, 2010
***************************************************
READING GANDHI
*********************************************
“We hold that the civilization that you support
to be the reverse of civilization.”
*
“I am fighting against three opponents:
the British, the Indians, myself.”
*
“Violence is a result of fear.
Dishonesty is fear.
Fearlessness is the key to Truth.”
*
“God is neither in heaven, nor down below,
but in everyone.”
*
This last quotation might as well be a paraphrase of
“The Kingdom of God is within you.”
But if the Kingdom of God is within us,
so is the Empire of the Devil.
How else to explain wars, massacres, and man's inhumanity to man?
*
And speaking of fear:
I think of readers
who insult me anonymously
and from a safe distance.
What are they afraid of?
What else but being exposed for what they really are –
skinheads who have been brainwashed by liars.
*
More often than not men look up to liars for moral guidance
and are more than willing to kill and die in the name of a lie.
How else to explain organized religions
and religious wars, persecutions, and intolerance?
*
Primitive man was wiser and more civilized
when he believed in an unknown and unknowable Power
which was the source of all good as well as evil.
#
June 22, 2010
***************************************************
KIND WORDS
*********************************************
“What have you really done for your country and fellow countrymen?” I am asked once in a while by readers who, as dupes of “men of action,” have been brought up to believe contemplation is a waste of time and those who engage in it no better than mental masturbators.
To them I say: Sometimes what we don't do can be as important as what we do.
Allow me therefore to tell you what I have not done:
*
I have never said, as God's favorite people, we can do no wrong.
I have never spoken in the name of God (whom I believe to be incomprehensible) or Truth (which I believer to be unknowable).
I have at no time tried to legitimize our failings by saying we have none.
Neither have I covered up our contradictions of which we have many.
I have not treated my readers as dupes who will believe anything they are told.
I have never written a Panchoonie letter that ends with the line: “Mi kich pogh oughargetsek” (Send us a little money).
I have not violated anyone's human rights by silencing him.
I have never said “Yes, sir!” to leaders whose number one concern is number one.
I have consistently refused to join the chorus of our Turcocentric ghazetajis and speechifiers in ascribing all our defeats and catastrophes to our enemies and phony friends.
*
Have I accomplished anything?
I don't know.
What are my chances that some day I may succeed where far better men than myself have failed?
Probably next to none.
Why do I go on writing?
That is a question I ask myself every day and so far I have failed to come up with a remotely satisfactory answer.
Am I a useless member of the community?
If I am, I do not consider that to be entirely my own fault, but the fault of readers who believe action (even the wrong action) to be superior to contemplation.
*
In a commentary in today's paper I read the following quotation by Al Capone: “You get much further with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.”
If so far I have failed, it may be because I have used only kind words.
#
June 23, 2010
***************************************************
DANGEROUS WORDS
*********************************************
If I were to name the two most dangerous words, they would have to be “I believe.”
*
The wold is too ready to criticize and condemn Jews for the suffering they have inflicted on Palestinians during the last decades but less willing to criticize the world for the suffering that has inflicted on Jews during the last centuries, not to say millennia. I call this disparity a symptom not of anti-Zionism but of anti-Semitism – an 'ism” or a belief system as dangerous as any organized religion that has declared and fought wars, committed massacres, and murdered innocent civilians in the name of God or Truth.
*
Speaking of religions with their holy books and monopolistic claims: I suggest they should be judged not by their intentions or principles but by their history. Theory is one thing, practice another. Ideologies like nationalism and communism may have good, even noble intentions, but their abuses have been such that even some of their most dedicated adherents had no choice but to reject them.
*
As for capitalism: recent economic and political developments in America have made it abundantly clear that in practice, it means free enterprise for the poor and the unemployed, and socialism for the rich and chief executive officers.
*
Organized religions like Christianity and Islam have not only behaved as though they had a license to kill not only the foreign infidel but also the domestic heretic. Consider the case of Catholics versus Protestants, or Shiites versus Sunnis...
*
A belief system acts on the human brain like a potent drug or alcohol.
*
And speaking of drugs and chief executive officers: Early this morning I heard on the radio that the tobacco industry has given up the claim that smoking is not addictive or that it does not cause cancer. We may now look forward to the day when the Pope of Rome will also give up his absurd claim of infallibility. But I for one am not holding my breath.
#

Saturday, June 19, 2010

comments

June 17, 2010
***************************************************
A SUGGESTION
*********************************************
Juvenal: “No one ever reached the depths of wickedness all at once.”
*
Since so far divisions have been of no discernible use to us, why not give solidarity a chance to fail on its own demerits?
*
Divisions begin as aberrations by overambitious leaders who care more about their own powers and privileges than the welfare of the people. It's never too late to see this and begin a movement in the opposite direction.
*
Divisions are expensive luxuries. By contrast, solidarity is much cheaper. One school, one community center, and one place of worship for every large community, would save enough money to feed and house thousands of families living below the poverty line in the Homeland.
*
It should be mandatory to include the initial “S” (for Solidarity) in the acronyms of all our organizations.
*
WANTED
**********************
Speechifiers who will unleash a verbal torrent thick with insults to dead ancestors; and comedians who will make merciless fun of our dividers.
*
READING
**********************
I have been reading two books on the ephemeral nature of power and wealth, especially when they are illegally, not to say criminally, obtained:
THE MADOFF CHRONICLES by Brian Ross (New York, 2009), and
KHRUSHCHEV REMEMBERS: THE LAST TESTAMENT, Translated and edited by Edward Cranshaw (Boston, 1974).
*
Brian Ross on Bernard and Ruth Madoff's lifestyle: “They sought the 'old money' look, even though their money was freshly stolen.”
*
Khrushchev hated Stalin but loved using the power amassed and concentrated by him.
*
ONE-LINERS
*********************************
Among Armenians, yesterday’s friend may be (and often is) today’s enemy, but today’s enemy will never be tomorrow’s friend.
*
I repeat myself because I am told again and again that the earth is flat.
*
The credo of all ideologues and partisans should begin with the words: “I believe in a false god….”
*
If you are wrong, they may forgive you. But if you are right, they will silence you.
#
June 18, 2010
***************************************************
FROM ZERO TO INFINITY
*********************************************
Not all stories in one's life have a clear or even a discernible beginning and end. “At the beginning was the word” is a sentence conceived and written by men, not by God or Reality. It is more likely that both beginnings and ends in one's life take place when we are asleep, sometimes even long before we were born.
Our genocide began 600 years ago when we surrendered our destiny into the hands of the Sultan, and even long before that, when we welcomed our enemies by failing to present a united front to them.
*
READING KHRUSHCHEV
************************************
In his memoirs Khrushchev speaks of “loafers, charlatans and toadies who overcrowd our institutes, bloating the staffs and gobbling up state funds without giving anything in return.” And I think of our own institutes – schools, churches, centers, political and cultural organizations – and above all newspapers (with their respective publishers, editors, assistant editors, and correspondents) of which we have a good number when one or two will do just as well – assuming their function is to publish news (as opposed to pushing their respective propaganda line) and not to provide employment to loafers, charlatans, and brown-nosers.
*
“SMALL PEOPLE,” AND “LIFE BACK”
***********************************************
It is in thoughtless moments that we reveal our real thoughts – as BP executives may have realized by now.
*
DOSTOEVSKY SPEAKS
***************************************
“Russian thought is preparing a grandiose renovation for the entire world…and this will occur in about a century – that’s my passionate belief.”
There you have it: one of the greatest writers of all time confusing wishful thinking with prophecy -- all in the name of faith and patriotism, of course.
*
AN ARMENIAN PERVERSION
**********************************************
Instead of studying our present complexes and contradictions, our academics prefer to study our graves.
#
June 19, 2010
***************************************************
NOTES AND COMMENTS
*********************************************
In Saramago's obituary I read this morning: “A militant atheist who maintained that human history would have been a lot more peaceful if it weren't for religion, his novels are preoccupied with the question of God.” Which reminds me of the words of a theologian (Karl Barth?) who said: “You may let go of God but God will never let you go.”
*
First you are taught to respect your elders, then you are lied to.
*
Better a useful idiot than a useless genius.
*
If I disappoint some readers it may be because I dare to think for myself as opposed to delivering the same speeches and sermons they were exposed to as children.
*
To those who accuse me of pessimism, I say: To write is to hope, and to hope is a symptom of optimism.
*
Capitalism is morally superior to communism if only because greed for money is better than greed for power.
*
More often than not bias is expressed in the selection of facts rather than in their misinterpretation.
*
Jean Rostand: “There are some persons we could not cut down to size without diminishing ourselves as well.”
*
Anonymous: “Skinheads have more hair than brains.”
*
Anonymous: “A friend in need is history.”
*
Once in a while I am tempted to remind my fellow Armenians that there is more, much more, to being Armenian than Turks and massacres.
#

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

reflections

June 13, 2010
***************************************************
CONFESSIONS OF A MEGALOMANIAC
*********************************************
My megalomania knows no bounds. I remember instances in my life when I thought my arguments were so irrefutable that they had a good chance to change the mind of an Armenian ignoramus. I keep forgetting that dupes of propaganda are never wrong.
*
Propaganda is like an old pair of shoes – after you put them, you forget about them. By contrast, a new idea is like a new pair of shoes that pinch.
*
Self-interest is the most powerful argument. All Turks have to do to convince Americans is to say that Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were like Indians on the American continent.
Victimizers speak the same language regardless of nationality.
*
People can be as smart as dogs when it comes to smelling fear.
*
I was brought up to respect authority. I now think there is hardly any difference between respect for authority and fear of authority. A man of authority knows that anyone who respects him is also intimidated by him.
*
I have yet to meet a man of authority who was not a contemptible jerk. I assume there are exceptions. But then, I write about rules not exceptions.
*
On more than one occasion I have been taken to task (a euphemism for I have been verbally abused) for not being as brilliant as Hagop Baronian. If that were a crime, I deserve to be hanged.
*
Giambattista Vico: “Crowded city life produces men who are unbelievers, who regard money as the measure of all things, and who lack moral qualities, particularly modesty…. Emancipated from ethics generally, they live by mutual spying and deceit.”
*
If you can’t contradict the idea, insult the man.
*
If you play it safe and write about birds serenading the moon or the eternal snows of Mt. Ararat, be prepared to be called a vodanavorji and ignored.
If, on the other hand, you decide to live dangerously and analyze our present situation with some degree of objectivity, be prepared to be reviled by readers who cannot chew gum and fart at the same time.
#
June 14, 2010
***************************************************
CONTEMPLATION VERSUS ACTION
*********************************************
Christ and Renaissance popes,
Luther and televangelists,
Marx and Stalin:
men of contemplation and men of action are different
to the point of being contradictions.
What one builds the other destroys.
Where one enhances our understanding,
the other bullies and moronizes.
*
You have political ambitions?
Teach yourself how to lie and how to believe in your own lies.
Be a sincere hypocrite.
Speak honestly with a forked tongue.
*
Men of power are ruthless
because where there is power
there will be those who will want to take it away from you.
Men of power know this
because they suffer from the same disease – greed for power.
*
We call our major defeats tragedies
and our minor victories triumphs.
*
Intolerance of dissent is a confession of fear –
fear of ideas, fear of words,
and fear of being unmasked for what one really is:
a coward and a fool.
Only idiots cannot see this.
Authoritarianism is a conspiracy of fools and dupes.
*
What could be more self-defeating
than an abundance of money and a total absence of ideas?
An abundance of fund-raisers
and a scarcity of intellectuals
is the surest symptom of a morally bankrupt community.
*
There are no final answers.
Neither are there perfect answers.
An idea makes perfect sense
only when its contradiction or antithesis is suppressed,
that is to say, when progress is arrested.
*
Mankind has always been at the mercy of better organized fools.
*
Wars are declared by fools and fought by dupes.
*
The only way to understand our enemies
is by being objective about ourselves.
#
June 15, 2010
***************************************************
DEAD END
*********************************************
When one side says one thing and the other the exact opposite for one hundred years, we have no choice but to conclude either one side or both are obstinate, dogmatic, self-righteous, and intolerant of dissent.
Has anyone ever said we are open-minded, tolerant, willing to engage in dialogue, and eager to develop a consensus by means of compromise?
Has anyone ever said diplomacy is our strong suit?
If Armenian cannot agree with Armenian, can he ever agree with the Turk?
I am not casting aspersions, just asking questions.
*
ARMENIAN ETIQUETTE
*******************************
When you don't understand what you read, call the writer an idiot.
When you disagree with what he writes, call him a traitor.
*
KHRUSHCHEV ON DE GAULLE
**************************************
“Was he smart or stupid? For a while he was considered an idiot and a fascist. But in fact he was a very smart fellow.”
*
KHRUSHCHEV ON MALRAUX
*****************************************
“De Gaulle's Minister of Culture was a well-known writer. I think he had the same last name as that other famous French writer, Moliere.”
Which reminds me of the story that when Malraux was named the winner of the Nobel Prize, Mailer received several congratulatory calls from American friends.
*
REFLECTIONS
*********************************
Some day even the most absurd occurrence may make perfect sense, but by then the perceiver and the occurrence may well be one and the same.
*
About Armenians and Turks: There is probably something true in the saying that if you hate somebody too much it may be because you see yourself in him.
*
When I was young I was unteachable. Hence my intolerance of phony pundits.
There is an old Spanish saying: “Women and horses: let someone else tame them.”
And I say: “A horse’s ass: let a shrew tame him.”
#
June 16, 2010
***************************************************
RANDOM THOUGHTS
*********************************************
“The true source of wisdom,” Socrates tells us,
“is not knowledge but moderation.”
*
I don’t look for enemies;
they find me.
*
Just because a man is not bought and sold
it doesn’t follow he is not a slave.
Likewise, just because we silence critics
it doesn’t follow we are not open to criticism.
*
It was Kant who said that very often
ignorance is nothing but cowardice in the face of knowledge.
*
Self-criticism is not treason.
Silencing criticism is.
*
An insult is as difficult to refute as a massacre,
perhaps because it is verbal massacre.
*
According to Buddha:
“That which is spoken, heard, and understood
are three different things.”
What scathing book reviews Buddha would have written
of the Bible and the Koran!
*
Our history is an apt illustration of Murphy's Law:
“If things can go wrong
they will go wrong at the worst possible time.”
*
The aim of philosophy is to open the mind.
The aim of a belief system is to close it.
*
When I hear the word Islam,
the first four words that come to mind are:
giaour, imam, fatwa, and jihad;
and I loathe these words as much I loathe the words
boss, bishop, benefactor, and commissar.
#

Saturday, June 12, 2010

essays

June 10, 2010
***************************************************
AN UNDIPLOMATIC EXCHANGE
***********************************
To emphasize his humble origins, Nixon once said to Khrushchev that his father had a grocery store in which he and his brothers had worked. Khrushchev's comment: “All shopkeepers are thieves.”
For more hilarious exchanges, see K BLOWS TOP: A COLD WAR COMIC INTERLUDE STARRING NIKITA KHRUSHCHEV, AMERICA'S MOST UNLIKELY TOURIST by Peter Carlson (New York, 2009).
*
ANOTHER FIRST
******************************
Yesterday on the evening news on TV we were informed that a 5000-year old shoe had been discovered in Armenia. The leather shoe looked like a comfortable moccasin in excellent condition.
*
FREUD ON SHAKESPEARE
************************************
Freud thought Shakespeare was French and his real name was Jacques Pierre. And I think Cyrano de Bergerac was Armenian and his real name was Giragos. But that's only one proof of his Armenian identity, the other being the length of his nose.
*
DEFINITION (I)
*************************************
I have read several definition of courage. To insult someone anonymously and from a safe distance is not one of them.
*
DEFINITION (II)
***************************
Cicero defined freedom as “participation in power.” As far as I know, no one has ever defined freedom as saying “Yes, sir!” to idiots.
*
ON ISLAM
****************************
John Selden (1650): “The Turks tell their People of a Heaven where there is a sensible Pleasure, but of a Hell where they shall suffer they don’t know what. The Christians quite invert this order; they tell us of a Hell where we shall feel sensible Pain, but of a Heaven where we shall enjoy we can’t tell what.”
*
DEFINITION (III)
*****************************
My definition of bliss: The awareness that one is no longer dependent on the charity of swine and on the approval of morons.
#
June 11, 2010
***************************************************
KHRUSHCHEV AND THE KGB
***********************************
After he was ousted from office and acquired the status of a non-person, Khrushchev was ordered by the KGB not to write his memoir. “I refuse to obey you,” he told them. The order was unconstitutional, he said; so were the bugs placed in his home. “You stuck listening devices all over the dacha,” he told them, “even in the bathroom. You spend the people's money to eavesdrop on my farts.”
Eventually his memoir was smuggled to the West by his son. Translated and published in many countries, it became a best-seller. His son is now an American citizen.
*
READING CHAMFORT
*******************************************
Nicolas de Chamfort (1740-1794), French writer who was arrested under the Revolution and committed suicide. He is the author of THOUGHTS, MAXIMS, AND ANECDOTES, published posthumously.
*
“One is happier when one is alone because in solitude one thinks of things, but in the company of others one is forced to think of men.”
*
“Women are made to deal with our weaknesses and our foolishness, not with our reason. There exists between them and men epidermic sympathies but very few of intellect, soul, and character.”
*
“There are well-dressed foolish ideas just as there are well-dressed fools.”
*
“Nature never said 'Be thou not poor,' much less 'Be thou rich'; but she cries, 'Be thou independent!'”
*
ON MY CRITICS
**********************************
When my critics (if you will forgive the overstatement) hurl insults at me (and anonymous insults at that) it means only one thing: they have run out of arguments, assuming of course they had them to begin with -- and that's assuming a great deal.
To insult is not to criticize. And to insult anonymously is to compound stupidity with cowardice. Why would anyone be afraid of a minor scribbler who writes today and will be forgotten tomorrow? And to think that these are the offspring of men who a hundred years ago challenged the might of an empire.
A far better man than myself once said: “Once upon a time we shed our blood for freedom. We are now afraid of free speech."
I repeat: why would anyone be afraid of someone like me whose most formidable weapon is his common sense – which, it has been said, is the least common of all faculties.
#
June 12, 2010
***************************************************
ON CERTAINTIES
*********************************************
The closer I get to a certainty
the more I am haunted by its contradiction.
*
I have been wrong so often that
I never know when I am right – if I am ever right.
*
I am here to assert not certainties
but to expose lies.
*
God may know
but those who speak in His name do not.
It would be more accurate to say,
it's because they don't know
that they feel the need to speak in His name.
*
There is a type of patriotism
that is reserved only for those who agree with us.
I suggest that's less patriotism and more dogmatism.
Whenever our enemies want to divide us
they rely on our dogmatism
and they are never disappointed.
*
Those who understand the past
have a better chance to predict the future.
A prophet is first and foremost a historian.
*
Both Ottomanism and Sovietism are based on the proposition
that the man at the top is always right
and to even suggest he may be wrong is treason.
*
At the root of all wars and massacres
there stands a man who says
“We are right and they are wrong.”
All crimes against humanity are consequences of that lie.
*
To adopt a propaganda line and to be wrong
might as well be synonymous.
*
I don't ask my readers to believe in what I say.
All I ask is that they learn to think for themselves – but perhaps
that's asking too much.
*
The Tree in the Garden was not of Knowledge but of Ignorance.
#

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

the key

June 6, 2010
***************************************************
AN ANGRY OBJECTION
**************************************
A reader writes:
“When you speak of Ottomanism and Sovietism – are you sure you are not projecting your own problems on the rest of us? I too was born and raised in an Armenian family and I feel neither Ottomanized nor Sovietized.”
There may be two explanations for that:
(one) you are either an exception to the rule – and when I write I speak of rules not of exceptions, and (two) you are in denial. Though your inability to entertain ideas that are not your own may well be seen as a symptom of Ottomano-Sovietism.
*
My function as a writer is to make the unconscious conscious; or to light a candle, not to convince you to like what you see. I can give you an explanation. What I cannot give you is understanding.
*
I define Ottomanism and Sovietism as two belief systems that legitimize intolerance and the right to silence those who do not believe in their lies and fallacies. In that sense, both the Sultan and Stalin are not dead; they are very much alive in all of us as assumptions that intolerance is not a vice but one of the cardinal virtues.
*
Ottomanism and Sovietism are not the only two aberrations to which we subscribe and from which we suffer. Even more dangerous and far more insidious is Levantinism – the notion that Capital and God are one, that the profit motive is a respectable one, and that benefactors and their hirelings are not empty suits but royalties.
*
Dzour nesdink shidag khosink.
Very much like the Yanks in the McCarthy era, we too have a HUAC or a House Un-Armenian Activities Committee, whose members belong to a church, political party, or philanthropic organization, and sometimes all three at once, who believe it is their patriotic duty to silence those who, by disagreeing with their dogmas, plot the destruction of the land.
*
In a French magazine I read the following headline about a grizzly murder: “He was the most subservient husband but one day he beheaded her.”
We too were the most loyal, that is to say, subservient subjects of the Empire...But to paraphrase an old Chinese proverb: “No honeymoon under heaven is endless.” To quote another familiar French saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
The Sultan and Stalin are dead. Long live our mini-sultans and neo-commissars!
*
As for the charge that I have en eye only for the negative: that's like saying to an oncologist, “You have an eye only for tumors.”
#
June 7, 2010
***************************************************
QUOTATIONS
**************************************
Since I spend most of my time reading, the most enjoyable moments in my daily existence are quotable lines.
*
BALZAC
**********************
“The fate of the house hangs on the wedding night.”
*
“Nature makes only dull animals; we owe the fool to society.”
*
“Love and hatred are feelings that feed on themselves, but of the two, hatred has a longer lifespan.”
*
KURT VONNEGUT
*******************************
“Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith. I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.”
*
DEFINITIONS FROM
A DICTIONARY OF PHILOSOPHY
********************************************
“Generally speaking megalomania is a reaction to failure. The megalomaniac represents himself as he would like to be but as he is not. Megalomania may also be a symptom of the decline of one’s critical faculties.”
*
On dogmatism:
“It stands in direct contradiction to criticism, skepticism, empiricism, and realism.
It fosters intolerance and fanaticism.”
*
ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN
***************************************************
“Who is a Zek’s [an inmate of the Gulag]] worst enemy? Another Zek.”
Zeks too, I thought.
*
EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
**********************************************
“And he whose soul is flat – the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.”
*
MARILYN MONROE
**********************************************
"Khruschev looked at me the way a man looks on a woman."
#
June 8, 2010
***************************************************
SUMMING UP
**************************************
Anything that is worth saying is worth repeating.
*
Don't believe everything you are told or everything you read, including what follows. Don't rely on someone else's brain if it means not using your own.
*
Between a lie that flatters and a truth that insults, always choose the insult. You may be wrong in doing so but never as consistently wrong as when you choose flattery.
*
Propaganda works because it flatters by emphasizing the positive. Literature doesn't because it exposes ignorance or emphasizes the negative in those who parade as leaders of men and their dupes.
*
At all times and everywhere, ignorance exceeds knowledge even in the wisest of men. We owe wars that are lost and revolutions that fail to men who refused to acknowledge his simple fact.
*
Another instance of ignorance exceeding knowledge, and arrogance exceeding objective assessment is writers who write for readers who know better.
*
I don't make policy. You have nothing to fear from me. I only expose contradictions. If you cannot see the contradiction, don't blame me. I cannot make the blind see, and no one can be as blind as the man who refuses to see.
*
I suspect all talk of Armenian intelligence and cunning. There is an old Italian saying: “It takes seven Genoese [the smartest Italians] to fool a Jew, and seven Jews to fool an Armenian.” I now see this saying as a warning to all those – including Armenians – who dare to deal with Armenians.
“After shaking hands with an Armenian, count your fingers.”
“After kissing an Armenian, count your teeth.”
If we were half as smart as we like to think we are, our history would not be the disaster area that it is.
*
We have been victimized, true. But to suggest we had no say in shaping our destiny as a nation is a lie created by pathological liars, that is to say, propagandists.
*
Understanding reality is a journey without end.
We can only take small steps in the direction of the truth.
The man who is searching is closer to the truth than the man who says he has found it.
No one can be as brainless as he who claims to have all the answers.
#
June 9, 2010
***************************************************
THE KEY
**************************************
The poor are told the rich will go to hell. This works to the advantage of the rich who are thus left alone to exploit the poor and to enjoy their wealth in peace.
*
Where there is power there will also be tyranny, injustice, and oppression.
*
If you were to add up oppressed or exploited minorities in “the land of the brave and the free,” or anywhere else for that matter, you will end up with a majority. But this majority is powerless to act because it is divided.
*
Dominant minorities are experts in adopting and implementing what were known even to the Romans as “divide and rule” policies. Hence the phenomenon of Armenians whose enemy number one is neither the Turk nor the Russian but their fellow Armenians.
*
What divides us are not truths voiced by honest men, but lies conceived and repeated by charlatans.
The question we must ask at this point is: Do our dividers know what they are doing?
My guess is, the men at the very top do, but their flunkies may not.
The men at the very top may not even be Armenian.
*
Khorenatsi tells us the Mamigonians were of Chinese descent. The Bagratunis identified themselves as Jews. One of our elder statesmen once informed me that some of our community leaders today are not of Armenian but of Turkish descent. “They may speak Armenian fluently, they may know all there is to know about us, but they are not Armenians.”
But i suggest an Armenian does not have to be a Turk to undermine the integrity of the nation. Greed for power (which is also universal) will render him blind – and we all know what happens when the blind lead the blind...
This indeed is the key to understanding our history.
*
A so-called Armenian with so-called leadership qualities is first and foremost a man who is committed to the proposition that greed for power is thicker than loyalty to the tribe or any other principle of honesty, compassion, justice, and fair play. He will preach patriotism and practice treason without batting an eye. And if things go wrong he will come up with a thousand reasons why he should not be held accountable. And he will be believed, in the same way that most honest Christians believe the rich will go to hell and “the meek shall inherit the earth.”
#

Saturday, June 5, 2010

back to Bach

June 3, 2010
***************************************************
DIARY
************************
Finished reading Siblin's book on the Bach Cello Suites and Casals.
A remarkable achievement by a remarkable writer.
To write the book, Siblin not only read everything on the subject, he also travelled all over the world, attended lectures and symposia, visited museums and libraries housing Bach manuscripts, interviewed cellists, Bach expert, and Casals biographers, joined a Bach choir and learned to sing a cantata in German, took lessons by a cellist, and studied countless CDs. A veritable Odyssey by a phenomenally brilliant researcher. Reminds me of the dictum that if you want to achieve anything in life you must be a fanatic.
While reading his many footnotes and divagations, I was reminded of Nabokov's translation of Pushkin.
*
READING ZARIAN'S NOTEBOOKS
****************************************
“I have a deep antipathy for Kafka whom I have tried but failed to read.”
And yet his (Zarian's) experiences in the Homeland and Diaspora are quintessentially Kafkaesque.
I suspect like all nationalists Zarian was deeply suspicious of Jews.
*
“The majority of men don't think; they prefer to rely on someone else's thoughts. Thinking is a habit they seem to have lost – probably out of fear, in case they get into trouble by thinking the wrong thoughts.”
*
After our Golden Age and Silver Age we must now be at the summit of our Garbage Age – and as Zarian suggests in his TRAVELLER AND HIS ROAD, not even garbage picked up from our own streets.
In the Homeland we are at the mercy of neo-commissars; in the Diaspora, mini-sultans.
*
CHURHCILL TO AN ADMIRAL
**********************************************
“Don’t talk to me about naval tradition! It’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash!”
Bravo beh!
#
June 4, 2010
***************************************************
THE PAPACY
************************
I have been reading a book on the Borgias and Renaissance popes, and I can't help wondering why there are still people who take Vatican pronouncements seriously. My only explanation: there is no limit to human ignorance and stupidity.
*
ON FAITH
***********************
Faith is a placebo which, unlike opium, is legal. This is a well-known secret to its administrators but not to its consumers. This may explain why when Mother Teresa lost her faith, she confided only to her confessor.
*
WHY I WRITE
*******************************
When asked why I write, I say: “Writing has become a habit I can't give up.” When told that's not a good enough reason, I have no choice but to agree. On the other hand, if I were to say “I write to save the nation,” I would be accused of megalomania run amok. How dare I think I can succeed where far better men than myself have failed? Not all bad questions have good answers.
*
WHAT HAS MY ARMENIAN IDENTITY
MEANT TO ME
**********************************************************
When I dealt with Armenian publishers, editors, bosses, bishops, benefactors and their assorted hirelings and flunkies, I became an alcoholic, developed an ulcer, and was hospitalized on several occasions. Now that I keep my distance, I am both healthier and happier. But even more important, I have a more objective view of myself and my fellow men. Also, I can afford the luxury of relying on my own judgment, which fallible as it probably is, it is my own and not someone else's, who in addition to being a fool may also be a crook, a bloodsucker, and a gravedigger.
#
June 5, 2010
***************************************************
BACK TO BACH
**************************************
He composed, he said, “for the greater glory of God and the instruction of his fellow men.” But he was better known as an organist rather than as a composer. Now completely forgotten composers were far better known and compensated than he was. Even his own sons, themselves professional musicians of some renown, looked down on his unfashionable style. Ladies and gentlemen of the court (on whom composers were financially dependent) demanded music that was more easily understood and played, like Haydn and Mozart. As a result, a great many of his works were buried, forgotten, and lost. And when a hundred years after his death, some of his masterpieces were resurrected by among others Mendelssohn, celebrated poets and philosophers like Heine and Hegel failed to appreciate them. I am now told even rock musicians borrow and steal from Bach. Entire books have been written about such marginal works as THE MUSICAL OFFERING and the CELLO SUITES.
*
SARTRE ON BACH
***************************
“He taught how to find originality within an established discipline; actually – how to live.”
*
SCHWEITZER ON BACH
********************************
“In his strict polyphony a volcanic emotion and thought were embedded.”
*
STEVEN ISSERLIS
****************************
I have been listening to his rendition of the CELLO SUITES. Too “correct” and mechanical to be of any interest. I much prefer the “perpetual rubato” of Casals which gives the Suites the natural flow of human speech thus making them more human and accessible.
*
TWO THINGS TO AVOID
****************************************
Clich├ęs – unless in an ironic context.
Self-assessments – unless negative.
*
A QUESTION OF IDENTITY
*****************************************
I question the Armenian identity of readers whose every word drips with the concentrated venom of seven Turkish vipers.
*
MONTHERLANT
******************************
“It is important for a man, at least once in his life, to have believed he is about to die: parenthetically, this is one of the gifts war gives to man.”
#

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

J.S.Bach

May 30, 2010
***************************************************
J.S. BACH
******************************************************
Books on Bach?
Forget it. Too technical and jargon ridden. Too cold and scholarly to be of any interest to the layman.
Two possible exceptions:
EVENINGS IN THE PALACE OF REASON: BACH MEETS FREDERICK THE GREAT IN THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT by James R. Gaines (New York, 2005), and
THE CELLO SUITES: J.S. BACH, PABLO CASALS AND THE SEARCH FOR A BAROQUE MASTERPIECE by Eric Siblin (Toronto, 2009).
Both books are unusual in that they read like thrillers. Entertaining as well informative and scholarly.
*
Vahe Berberian tells me the subtitle of the second book is misleading because the Cello Suites were never lost. On the contrary, they were widely distributed and studied by cellists and musical scholars. What Casals did was to introduce them to the concert repertoire.
*
Speaking of Casals and music: One of the most brilliant, insightful, and readable books I have read on many aspects of music composition, interpretation, and appreciation is CONVERSATIONS WITH CASALS by J.M. Corredor (London, 1956).
*
To be noted: In the bibliography of Siblin's book I run into the following item: BAROQUE PIETY: RELIGION, SOCIETY, AND MUSIC IN LEIPZIG, 1650-1750 (Burlington, VT, 2007) by Tanya Kevorkian. Which reminds me of our family doctor's observation that no matter where you go, you will invariably run into an Armenian.
*
Also to be noted: Three of the greatest Bach interpreters of our times, if not of all times -- Landowska, Casals, and Gould -- were not German, but Polish, Spanish, and Canadian respectively.
*
Grieg on Casals: “This man does not perform, he resurrects.”
#
May 31, 2010
***************************************************
ON FAITH
******************************************************
Faith proves nothing except the absurdity of belief systems – all ten thousand of them.
*
A MAN OF FAITH SPEAKS
*********************************************
In a recent interview published in a learned French periodical, a Muslim scholar proves to his complete satisfaction that Islam is a better religion than Christianity, and the only reason Christians outnumber Muslims is that Christianity is six centuries older. In the next six centuries, he goes on, Islam will surpass all other organized religions in popularity. That is one of the central problems with all men of faith: they think they know better and they are closer to God even when they behave like swine. And you may have noticed by now that it is not the good and the honest who assert moral superiority but charlatans and riffraff. "If I am no good," they seem to be saying, "the least I can do is pretend to be better even if it means speaking like an idiot."
*
CHINESE PROVERBS
*******************************
“A maker of idols is never an idolater.”
*
“Behind an able man there are always other able men.”
*
DANISH PROVERB
*****************************
“Unanimity is the best fortress.”
*
ON CENSORSHIP
**********************
Where there is censorship there will be fear: fear of knowledge; fear of objective judgment; fear of honesty; fear of excellence and originality.
Where there is fear there will be cowardice.
*
A CONFESSION
************************************
When writing against barbarians one should wield a civil pen.
May I confess that I have not always been successful in that endeavor perhaps because some barbarians tend to confuse civility with weakness.
#
June 1, 2010
***************************************************
MEN AND ROBOTS
********************************
One of the worst blunders one can commit is to believe what one is told at a time when one is not old or mature enough to think for oneself, on the grounds that the men at the top are fundamentally decent men who know better and should be trusted.
Whereas the truth is, “politics offers a larger field of observation than any clinic for mental illness” (Antonina Vallentin).
Or, in the words of Paul Valery: “...the work leads back, not to a man, but to a mask, and from a mask to the machine.”
By “machine” Valery here means impersonal factors that are dictated by a belief system that has degenerated to routine and ritual.
*
READING VOLTAIRE
*******************************
On the origin of religion: “From the meeting of the earliest scoundrel with the very first fool.”
*
“Since the whole affair had become one of religion, the vanquished were of course exterminated.”
*
ON ARMENIAN POLITICS
****************************************
If and when the multiplication table becomes a political issue, we will disagree on it too!
*
To speak of patriotism and to speak the truth are not always synonymous. On the contrary. One could even say that the greatest enemy of patriotism is not treason but objectivity.
*
We place too much emphasis on mental or intellectual IQs and completely ignore moral IQs. And yet, if you think about it, most of our problems are created by individuals with higher than normal IQs but non-existent or negative moral IQs -- or moral morons.
*
If you mention bloodsuckers in the presence of bloodsuckers, you can be sure of one thing: they will accuse you of anti-Armenianism.
#
June 2, 2010
***************************************************
SIMONE WEIL
********************************
“It is impossible to forgive whoever has done us harm if that harm has lowered us. We have to think that it has not lowered us but revealed our true level.”
Which is why those I criticize will never forgive me – and I don't expect them to.
*
OSCAR WILDE
***************************
“Women represent the triumph of matter over mind.”
The same could be said of men.
*
The ease with which we make mistakes; and even more astonishing: the ease with which we are successful in convincing ourselves we are doing the right.
Homo sapiens?
Seldom.
Homo ignoramus?
Always!
*
A.N. WHITEHEAD
*********************************
“Our reasoning grasps at straws for premises and floats on gossamers for deductions.”
*
COMMENTS
****************************
To know better is not the same as to know, or for that matter, to be closer to the truth.
*
Our tragedy: those who pretend to know lead those who pretend to understand.
Or, the unthinking leads the thoughtless.
This is no secret. It was known and stated thousands of years ago:
“When the blind lead the blind...”
*
Whenever I see the photo of an Armenian writer in the company of a boss or bishop, I can’t help thinking, “There goes the neighborhood.”
*
If you think A and I think C, the truth may not be in the neighborhood of B but somewhere beyond Z.
*
You say you are free but all I see when I look at you is the invisible ring in your nose and the harness on your back.
#