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reflections
ara baliozian

Thursday, September 15, 2005
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The private conversations of a former Canadian Prime Minister have been published in a book. A big scandal! Politicians, even when they happen to be megalomaniacal wheeler-dealers, must sound like elder statesmen with vision. They are not supposed to have private thoughts and feelings that may reflect badly on others and themselves. But perhaps this is true of all of us. White man must speak with a forked tongue. To say out loud what one thinks is a luxury very few people can afford. Good manners compel us to pretend, distort, and lie -- unless of course we deal with a subordinate or someone who is dependent on our goodwill.
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We spent 600 years kissing Ottoman derriere and now we compensate by hurling verbal abuse at them. And when we die our epitaphs will read: "Here lies an Armenian who hated Turks."
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In one of his books Puzant Granian writes: "Whenever Armenians are mentioned, so is the Genocide, as if our sole contribution to world civilization had been victims of Turkish massacres."
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We have become a nation with a score to settle, and we divide the world into those who are for us and against us. As for the rest (the overwhelming majority) who are not even aware of our existence, we dismiss them as ignorant rednecks.
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And I ask myself: What do I really know about other people and places? I know that there is something rotten in the State of Denmark. What else? I know that the word "bugger" has something to do with a supposed birth control method practiced by Bulgarians. I may know more about Greeks because I was born and raised there. But what do I really know about Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Patagonia. Tierra del Fuego, the Inuit, Estonians, and so on and so forth
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We brag about the Golden Age of our literature but I wonder how many of us have read a single golden masterpiece?
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A boozed up British academic with ulterior motives and with the financial assistance of the Gulbenkian Foundation calls Armenia "the Cradle of Civilization" and we believe him. As Saroyan was fond of saying, "Ahmot!"
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Friday, September 16, 2005
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The roles we play in life are seldom ours. We adapt and we conform, which means we accept guidelines imposed on us by others. To be a good Armenian means to accept definitions and values formulated by others.
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During and after World War II Germans were divided into good and bad Germans. Thomas Mann disagreed with these distinctions. Every German, he said, carries within him qualities that were both good and bad. He went further and wrote an essay about Hitler titled "A Brother." Perhaps we will mature as a nation only on the day we call Turks "our brothers."
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Armenian role models come in all sizes and shapes. Armenians who say, "the only good Turk is a dead Turk," unwittingly echo Talaat for whom the only good Armenian was a dead Armenian.
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Sometimes I am criticized and even censored by self-assessed patriotic Armenians on the assumption that they are infallible and as if, as a human being with his share of limitations, I were not entitled to be fallible. But if I were to accept their definition of a good writer as one who is infallible, I would be no better than a self-righteous, dogmatic megalomaniac, a Stalinist without Stalin, a Nazi without Hitler, and a fascist without Mussolini. Which is why I feel justified in saying I'd rather be wrong as a human being than right as a fascist.
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Saturday, September 17, 2005
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There is a type of patriotism that gives patriotism a bad name. Example: patriotism that is an extension of one's salary. I once knew a professional propagandist who asked for a raise, was refused, and was never heard from again.
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If you are on the wrong path, sooner or later you will know about it. Even if you are the smartest man on earth, you cannot always predict reality's next move.
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Sharing one's understanding must also mean making the inaccessible accessible; otherwise it will be like serving a glass of water to someone who is not thirsty.
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You reject barbarism not by reasoning against it, but by behaving in a civilized manner. Sometimes the most effective refutation is silence.
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Even the wisest among us must teach himself to say "I don't know" and "I don't understand," because to be human means to have limitations.
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Totalitarianism in politics and dogmatism in religion recognize only one legitimate school of philosophy - deviate an inch and you are toast.
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When I think of all those writers and thinkers who were silenced and the strident voices of fools who are everywhere in our media and discussion forums, I want to hand in my resignation as a member of the human race.
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ٵݻ` ɻ Ƿ۳, س۳