Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Sunday, February 20, 2011
What is a writer deprived of free speech?
Worst than a gagged and hogtied Mideast Arab
at the mercy of corrupt potentates
so fearful of being exposed for what they really are
that they are willing to slaughter their own people.
As an Armenian writer – that is to say,
as an unemployed and unemployable misfit –
I respect everyone except those
who make no effort to earn my respect
not so much as a writer but as a human being;
and when I speak as an Armenian writer,
I do not speak of myself alone
but of all those who came before me
and were misunderstood, rejected,
betrayed to the authorities and
murdered in cold blood.
Armenian writers have been perennial scapegoats
of our Ottomanized and Sovietized leaders
and their brainwashed dupes.
In his efforts to explain and justify this state of affairs,
one of our elder statesmen once said to me:
“You speak as though you were the only writer
who has been unfairly treated.”
To which I had no choice but to reply:
“That is why I speak with the strength of many.
My question to you is: On whose side are you?”
I never heard from him again.
Shortly thereafter he died.
May God have mercy on his soul, if he had one.
Monday, February 21, 2011
“He is nuts!”
I once overheard one of our elder statesmen
say of another – both members of the same political party.
Which may suggest we are not just divided but also subdivided.
Even our divisions have divisions.
Armenian politics:
I can't imagine a more depressing subject.
Does anyone know or remember
when was the last time we had a single king
or head of state who was not the puppet
of an alien power structure?
If our elder statesmen have a low opinion of one another,
what is their opinion of the people?
“Sh*ts” and “assh*les” according to two friends
quoting two of our “statesmen.”
The Armenian equivalent of “cherchez la femme”
is “cherchez le Panchoonie” -- that is,
the bureaucrat who makes a comfortable living
by parroting someone else's propaganda line.
Which reminds me of Zarian's celebrated line:
“Even our garbage has not been picked up
from our own streets!”
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
We all agree that as Turks they behaved like Turks,
and as Armenians we behaved like Armenians.
Turks behaving like Turks we understand.
But what do we really mean when we say
Armenians behaving like Armenians?
Did we believe in our own propaganda?
Did we underestimate
the ruthless determination of the opposition
and God's indifference?
Did we confuse our wishful thinking or illusions with reality?
By emphasizing Turkish motives and responsibility
and ignoring or covering up our own,
we condemn ourselves to understand nothing.
Can we understand ourselves
without understanding others
and the world in which we live?
Whenever I speak with a member of a political party
I assume at least a fraction of what he says
is recycled propaganda, that is to say, a shameless lie.
No matter how deep runs my contempt
for some of my fellow Armenians,
it will never be as deep and venomous
as their contempt for all selfless intellectual labor.
The Human Condition
We walk like apes
Eat like cannibals
Talk like parrots
Fight like dragons
And call ourselves
Civilized human beings.
La condition humaine
Comme les singes nous marchons
Comme les cannibales nous mangeons
Comme les perroquets nous parlons
Comme les dragons nous nous battons
Et nous osons nous dire
Des êtres humains civilisés.
Little toadstools
On the lawn:
Reminders of Hiroshima.
De petits champignons vénéneux
Sur la pelouse :
Rappels d’Hiroshima.
When dreams
Come true/They turn
Into nightmares.
Lorsque les rêves
Se réalisent/Ils se transforment
En cauchemars.

Textes extraits de :
Armenian-American Poets: A Bilingual Anthology,
éd. et trad. Garig Basmadjian
(Détroit, Michigan: Alex Manoogian Cultural Fund of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, 1976).
Source :
Traductions : © Georges Festa – 02.2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

on love

Thursday, February 17, 2011
An anonymous reader writes:
“The only reason why you keep posting your garbage on this forum
is that no editor in his right would publish you in his paper.”
My reply:
“For your information, editors who decide
what gets printed and what gets rejected
are not men of superior literary judgment
but cowardly idiots like you,
afraid to offend the sensibilities of their brainwashed readers
and potential advertisers on whose goodwill they depend.”
Friday, February 18, 2011
God has no reason to hide from us.
He is within us as well as around us.
If we are blind to His presence,
it's because we have failed to develop our faculties.
A dog's sense of smell is far superior to ours.
A cow has many more taste buds on its tongue.
Idiot savants have remarkable powers
of perception and calculation
incomprehensible to the average man with a normal IQ.
Rats can predict tsunamis and earthquakes better
than our most sophisticated instruments.
These achievement have been made
not by an act of will or choice
but by allowing nature to take its course.
Which may suggest our limitations are of our own making.
As children we are dependent on received ideas.
As adults we are predisposed to respect authority
even when authority is in the hands of liars and criminals
who pretend to know better.
Popes and imams: variations on the same theme:
fascist megalomania.
Crusades and jihads: premeditated, cold-blooded massacres
conceived by blood-thirsty barbarians
who speak in the name of God
even as they do the Devil's work.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Love: a biological malfunction that blurs the line
between reality and illusion.
One of the first questions
that an Armenian asks about another Armenian:
“What does he do for a living?”
Second question:
“How much does he make?”
In my case, the two answers are:
“He scribbles,” and “Nothing.”
“I think therefore I am?”
Not so fast.
If you are an Armenian, it would closer to the truth to say,
“I think, therefore I am not.”
If a Jew is ever elected president of the United States,
an extremist group will identify him
as a former agent of the Mossad
whose forefather was not Adam
but the Serpent.*
I have been taken in so many times by my fellow Armenians
that I now reserve my trust only for an Armenian
who speaks against his own interests –
not something that happens every day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011
Nothing infuriates me more than paying $40.00
to a fat-assed plumber for tightening a screw –
something I could have done myself in less than a minute.
But then what options do I have?
Whenever I try to fix something on my own
I make things worse.
There are times when I cannot help thinking that
by writing as I do I fix nothing.
I may even make things worse.
The words obstinacy and resistance immediately remind me
of an Armenian who has made up his mind and thinks
anyone who dares to disagree with him – or rather,
with the propaganda line he has swallowed hook, line, and sinker –
is either a Turk in disguise or a retard.
Perhaps that's also what happens to all “fixers”
who meddle in human affairs.
In the last century alone mankind has been the beneficiary
of a long line of fixers who made things worse.
Mussolini and Hitler come to mind,
also Stalin, Mao, Latino juntas, and last but far from least
our own glorious turn-of-the century revolutionary heroes.
Let us not be surprised therefore
if things get from bad to worse in Egypt.
Monday, February 14, 2011
To be read by readers who find me unreadable.
Judging by the number of insults hurled against me,
I must be doing something right.
They are, by definition, dissenters in words as well as in deeds.
And yet, ours seem to be afraid of free speech.
They talk endlessly about Turkish atrocities
but avoid all mention of censorship.
They use someone else's suffering
to cover up their own uselessness.
What saves them is their own insignificance.
“Wretched, isolated, demented people,
misled by a wild stupid band of adventurers
whom they take for mythical heroes.”
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Authoritarian regimes remain in power
so long as they systemically and successfully moronize their subjects.
Lincoln said, “You can't fool all the people all the time,”
because he was born and raised in a democracy.
Had he been born under an authoritarian regime,
he would have said, “You can't moronize all the people all the time.”
In a commentary in this morning's paper, I read:
“The democracy movement in Egypt is like a tiger
that has been living in a tiny cage for thirty years.”
They were sheep.
They are now born-again tigers.
All it took was the decision to think for themselves.
To be brainwashed and to be systematically moronized
are synonymous operations.
Most problems and their solutions
begin and end in the convolutions of our brains.
Authoritarian regimes are afraid of free speech
because it may expose them as systematic moronizers.
To how many of my readers who insult me
on the grounds that they are smarter and better Armenians
I could say: “I know how you feel. I too was brainwashed once.”
I doubt if I will ever meet an Armenian
who has not been taken in by another Armenian.
Some day if the Rock of Gibraltar sinks,
it can be easily replaced with an Armenian
who has made up his mind.
I am told again and again to get involved in community affairs.
But I am involved.
I became involved when I decided to think for myself.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
In an interview published in LE POINT
(Paris: February 3, 2011, page 22),
when asked if French intellectuals exercise
any influence on national affairs,
Marine Le Pen replied:
“No. I think our intellectual elites are totally disconnected.”
The same cannot be said of our own intellectual elites
simply because we don't have them.
They don't exist.
They have been silenced, alienated, exiled, and marginalized
to the point of irrelevance.
Our speechifiers and pundits may quote
Charents's line on solidarity
but no one does a damn thing.
They operate on the assumption that
they can solve all our problems with speeches.
And as our problems get from bad to worse,
and from worse to worst,
they explain their failure by blaming it on the opposition.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011
Silvio Berlusconi: “Never in my life have I paid for sex.
I find it degrading to do so.”
He is right, of course. But only literally. Or is it legally?
People in his income bracket have “people”
who deal with the questionable aspects of transactions.
Give an honest man a title and a regular salary
and he will be as loyal to his boss as a dog to his master,
but a dog, who like all dogs,
knows his master
but not his master's master.
As a boy I had more friends than enemies.
As an adult I have many enemies and very few friends.
But whereas most of my former friends and present enemies
have titles and a regular salary,
I have been and remain an unemployed and unemployable misfit,
all because I speak more of human rights and less of massacres.
Among us talk of massacres is in,
all mention of human rights is out.
What's done and cannot be undone is in.
As for what's being done:
why mess with perfection?
Nothingness is the only perfection we will ever know.
Friday, February 11, 2011
For most of my life I thought, felt, spoke, and wrote as a dupe.
I know first hand how easy it is to be taken in by flattery.
“Superior race.”
“The Chosen People.”
“First nation...”
Bias is popular because it flatters.
Bias and lies are as close as bum and pants.
So are propaganda and prejudice.
Education is a hidden tool of oppression.
Flattery does not need proof.
Propaganda is not free speech,
but a license to lie.
Propaganda is as carefully premeditated and planned
as cold-blooded murder.
The rules of the game have changed.
Mubarak has now been exposed as a tyrant.
A violent crackdown would further expose him
as a bloodthirsty fascist guilty of crimes against humanity.
In which case he may run the risk of losing
both his freedom and his wealth.
He is between a rock and a hard place.
To put it more elegantly:
He is in deep sh*t and he knows it.
He also knows everybody else knows it.
Sooner or later and inevitably
all dictators must contemplate the following two questions:
Will I be shot and hanged like Mussolini?
Will I be cornered into committing suicide like Hitler?
Saturday, February 12, 2011
“No one knows what's going to happen next in Egypt,”
according to an editorial in today's paper.
Pundits who write editorials may not know, but historians do.
In the French Revolution the beheading of the king and queen
was only step one.
Like rats abandoning a sinking ship,
Mubarak's cronies will start their exodus –
unless of course they made a deal with the junta.
Revolutions only replace replace one set of rascals with another.
This is well known to historians but not to the masses
who are now too busy celebrating their victory –
probably on the grounds that a hollow victory
is better than a catastrophic defeat.
In Turkey 133 military officers have been arrested.
About 1600 Tunisians have landed on a tiny Sicilian island –
rats abandoning ship?
My only hope is hat “people power” will act like a virus
and infect not only Arab regimes in Africa and the Middle East
but also in China, Russia, and Armenia,
even if it means their victory will be hollow, as it is bound to be.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

good / bad

Sunday, February 6, 2011
To be a good Armenian it is not necessary to hate all Turks
including the dead and the unborn.
Likewise, patriotism does not mean to love all Armenians,
including crooks, liars, bloodsuckers,
and fornicators who preach chastity.
In politics and human affairs in general,
words are used to cover up the true intent of actions.
Under capitalism and communism,
to cover up exploitation and abuses of power respectively.
In Egypt today there is talk of an orderly transition
following thirty years of disorderly conduct.
I have been deceived and misled so many times by my “betters”
that I no longer trust anyone, including the trustworthy.
Divided we were defeated and massacred,
and divided we stand today.
Who says experience is a good teacher?
Germans were a disappointment to Thomas Mann
as Armenians were to Zarian,
as the French were to Sartre,
and as Greeks were to Kazantzakis –
the very same Greeks who shat on his grave.
Sartre loathed his fellow Frenchmen (including De Gaulle)
to such a degree that he embraced Stalin, Mao, and Castro.
In his diary of the 1930s Mann quotes a German bishop
who looked up to Hitler as a messianic figure.
I have been awarded several Canadian literary prizes and grants
but not a single Armenian one.
If I am ever awarded an Armenian prize I will say,
“I accept the cash but I reject the honor.”
Monday, February 7, 2011
As long as I wrote what was expected of me,
I was published in over a dozen Armenian newspapers
in Canada, United States, and the Middle East.
Sometimes I was even compensated for my work –
always less then minimum wage, of course,
but enough to cover a fraction of my expenses
such as stationery, postage stamps, and typewriter ribbons.
But on the day I decided to write what I wanted to write
and say what needed to be said,
I became an abominable no-man.
Newspapers sponsored by political parties
turned against me because I was against them.
Non-partisan papers turned against me
because their owners are capitalists
in whose eyes I am a Bolshevik.
And Bolsheviks in the Homeland classified me
as a reactionary hyena with a fountain pen.
Recently when asked
how much I would charge for reviewing a book,
I said “a million dollars.”
No one laughed. No one even smiled.
Money is a deadly serious subjects with us,
especially with those who have a great deal of it.
I write a page a day with my morning coffee in the kitchen
when I am alone and it is dark outside.
For many years I thought I was the only Ara Baliozian on the continent
until another Ara Baliozian in California made headlines in the papers
by murdering his wife.
Ever since then whenever my name comes up in some circles,
I am told, I am identified with the murderer.
When asked by a woman where I live,
I said I live in Ontario, Canada
(there is another Ontario in the United States)
and informed her that I was not related to the wife-killer.
I never heard from her again.
This woman knew instinctively what took me years to find out:
Never trust another Armenian,
especially when he assesses himself;
and if you think the worst of him,
you will be closer to the truth.
If Adam and Eve had been Armenian,
it would be said of Eve that she was a nymphomaniac,
of Adam that he was an adulterer,
and of the Serpent that he was
a writer who wrote not what was expected of him
but what he thought needed to be said.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
It follows: a patriotism that divides is treason.
When exposed, traitors identify themselves
as patriots of a superior brand.
Our dividers never say it is a good thing to divide the nation.
What they say is:
“We are for unity; it’s the other side that divides.”
And to think that these are the kind of people
who accuse me of repeating myself.
The spirit of contradiction in some Armenians
is so highly developed that
if you were to agree with them
they would disagree with you.
May I confess that I don’t always read my critics.
It is painful to the extreme reading thoughts
that I entertained as a child but rejected as an adult.
A religion that emphasizes dogma
at the expense of love, is an invention of the devil.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
“Egypt is not ready for democracy,” some say.
I have heard the same thing said about us:
“We (Armenians) are not ready for democracy.”
A nation with a long history of subservience
to ruthless and bloodthirsty tyrants
has no use for freedom and human rights?
The difference between a schoolyard bully
and someone like Mubarak is that
the bully is too smart to say,
“I do what I do as a favor to my victims.
They enjoy being bullied.
They love it.
It enhances their self-esteem.
It is the best solution to all their problems.”
When asked if it's true that Mubarak has amassed
a fortune of 70 billion dollars,
a Middle-East Pundit in Canada said:
“Much more than that. Much, much more!”
Hegel is right: “No one gives up power without a bloody fight.”
Armenians are not ready for democracy?
If they have brainwashed us to believe
we never had it so good
because we are in the best of hands,
they have a good chance to brainwash us to believe
freedom and human rights are inventions
of the corrupt and degenerate West
and anyone who speaks of democracy and free speech
is an enemy of the people.
This is what Ottoman sultans believed.
This is what Soviet commissars believed.
And this is what our bosses, bishops, and benefactor believe today.
“Armenians are not ready for democracy.”
If we are not ready for democracy,
why don't they educate us?
Why waste their time and our money
by trying to convince us they will get even with the Turks?
If you have answers to these questions,
I would like to have them.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011
In a commentary on recent political developments in Egypt
an Arab pundit writes:
“Entire generations of Arab children are raised to believe
that good citizens are measured by their loyalty to government
and that critical thinking is treasonous.”
To put it more bluntly:
Arabs are smart but they are systematically moronized
by their leadership.
So are we.
Elsewhere I read:
“Critics are measured more by their courage to be disliked,
by their capacity for dishing it out and taking the inevitable backlash.”
Or, “Tell me who your enemies are and I will tell you how good you are.”
And if you were to tell me you have no enemies,
I shall have no choice but to conclude that
you must be a person of great charm,
which, in Albert Camus' definition, is “sh*t.”
Friday, February 4, 2011
Q: Not many people like you. Why is that?
A: I am in no position to employ and compensate anyone. What I say has no cash value, and our dominant mindset is grub first than ethics.
Q: Would you describe yourself as a believer? If yes, what exactly do you believe in?
A: I believe there is an element of wishful thinking in all belief systems, and I believe where wishful thinking enters, reality exits. I believe truth and power to be mutually exclusive concepts. That's because where there is power there will also be a big lie and a big liar: this is as true of emperors, kings, and dictators as it is of popes, imams, and rabbis.
Q: What about a democratically elected head of state?
A: People vote for a politician on the basis of his promises; and in politics, promises and lies might as well be synonymous.
Q: What about an honest politician who makes an honest promise?
A: Promises deal with a future which is unpredictable. An honest politician knows this. That is why when he makes a promise, he lies.
Q: You have said you are in the business of exposing contradictions and lies. Do you believe by doing so you will solve our problems?
A: No, of course not. I believe solving problems is not and cannot be a one-sided process. If the will to solve problems is not there even a messiah will be useless.
Q: Are we doomed?
A: I don't know because I don't know if death is an end or a new beginning.
Q: Where was God before the Big Bang?
A: The same place we were before we were born.
Q: What is your aim in life?
A: To understand and explain reality knowing full well that the most important questions are unanswerable.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
When I say we are a people like any other people,
I don't just mean the so-called civilized nations of the West,
but also Russians, Turks, Kurds, and Gypsies.
And when I say Russians I don't mean
Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov and their fictional characters
but Bolsheviks.
When I say Turks I think of one of our elder statesmen
who once said to me:
“Some key players in our organizations are not Armenians but Turks.
They may speak Armenian fluently
and they may know more about us than we do,
but take my word for it, they are Turks.”
I also think of Puzant Granian,
a prolific writer, critic, poet, and activist,
who once said to me:
“There is a Turk in all of us.”
Speaking of Gypsies:
In Greece, where I grew up, we were called Turkish Gypsies.
You say we need solutions?
Two words: de-Ottomanize and de-Stalinize!
Sometimes I am urged to get an agent.
Allow me to explain why I don't have one:
No one in his right mind would be interested in earning
10% of nothing.
The difference between the Pope of Rome
and the average brainwashed Armenian:
the Pope is infallible and the Armenian is never wrong.
Where there is no vision
there will be a total absence of ideas – and worse –
an opposition to all ideas.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

free speech

Sunday, January 30, 2011
When I was young I was exposed to the wisdom of our elder statesmen.
Now that I am old I am exposed to the insults of the young.
But I shouldn't complain.
Compared to many others I have been the luckiest of men.
Very few Armenian writers were lucky enough to live past the age of forty;
and those who did, spent a good number of years in fear
of Siberian exile or starvation.
To the poor everyone is generous with advice, my mother used to say.
“Write more like Saroyan.”
“Be as critical as you can provided
you also amuse and entertain your readers, like Mark Twain.”
“Be more positive and constructive.”
The implication of this final line is that so far Armenian literature
has failed in its mission because Armenians remain as divided today
as they were a thousand years ago.
But I believe Armenians remain divided today
not because Armenian writers have failed
but because the dominant mindset of our leadership has been self-interest.
If it's good for me, my family, my party, or my tribe,
it must be good for the nation.
Even when they preach patriotism
they legitimize treason by dividing the nation into tribes.
They confuse nationalism with tribalism,
and ultimately Armenianism with Ottomanism.
No amount of sermons, speeches, editorials, and commentaries
can alter this fact and the only Armenians who cannot see this clearly
are the ones who have been so thoroughly brainwashed
that they have lost all ability to see, think, and speak for themselves.
Monday, January 31, 2011
There are Armenocentric Turkish ghazetajis
as surely as there are Turcocentric Armenian ghazetajis.
These gentlemen (if you will forgive the overstatement)
operate on the assumption that
they discharge their patriotic duty
whenever they emphasize the criminal conduct
and lies of the opposition.
On the day they fall silent,
Armenians and Turks may have a better chance
to reach a consensus and establish peaceful coexistence
that may well be of benefit to both.
One of our elder statesmen once wrote me a letter
in which he said that I had a better chance
to achieve fame and fortune as a writer
if I were to accept his advice on what to write and how to write it --
one such advice being, “Write more like Saroyan.”
Shortly before he died he informed me
that he had 43 unpublished manuscripts to his credit
and asked me if I would be willing to edit and revise them.
Moral of the story:
After shaking hands with an Armenian
willing to share his wisdom
count your fingers.
I have noticed that Armenians who have met Saroyan
on even one occasions
never call him Saroyan but Bill.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
A private blessing, religious faith becomes a collective nightmare
when it acquires a leader, dogmas,
commandments, rituals, and mumbo jumbo.
Where there is a leader
there will be power and authority.
Where there is power there will also be greed for more power.
This is as true of emperors, kings, and dictators
as it is of popes, imams, and rabbis.
And where there is greed for power
there will be wars and massacres.
This is not theory or anti-religious bias
but historic reality.
Historians speak of holy wars but not of holy massacres.
And yet, when Voltaire said,
“Because it was a religious war, there were no survivors,”
he knew what he was saying.
If you know the right words, even if you are blind,
you can lead men with 20/20 vision into the ditch.
The trick is to ascribe your words not to yourself
or to any man dead or alive,
but to God.
Faith moves mountains, we are told.
What we are not told is that
it can also slaughter millions
with a clear conscience.
Everything I say is open to error
because I speak as a man
and all men are prone to error.
But if I were to speak in the name of God
I would become infallible by proxy.
God does not contradict Himself.
But men do. And when men who speak in the name of God
contradict one another, it is safe to assume that
they speak not in the name of God but in the name of the Devil.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
According to an American pundit,
Americans are such “know-nothings” that
some of them quote lines from Marx's Communist Manifesto
thinking they are quoting the Constitution of the Unites States.
Even their congressmen and senators, it seems,
can't tell the difference between the Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution.
What about us?
Do we have a Constitution?
And if we do, who takes it seriously?
Can you quote a single line from it?
Is there a paragraph in it in defense
of the fundamental human right of free speech?
Why is it that whenever I am silenced
by an editor or forum moderator,
no one raises an objection?
Why is it that these editors and moderators
consider censorship a patriotic duty?
Is it some kind of conditioned reflex
that we acquired during a thousand years
of blind obedience to alien and brutal tyrants?
Do you have answers to these questions?
If yes, please let's have them.
Because I don't!