I want to stress the difficulties I have had of late with overcoming a profound sense of complacency amongst the youth here, particularly the male youth. There is a strong tendency for young men to adopt a policy of indifference regarding circumstances circulating in their own environment—whether political, social or cultural—and even regarding their own lives. But this complacent mentality is also predominant amongst parents, many of whom are unable abandon what life was like in their Soviet past and look forward to achieve what is possible comparable to their resources. I have labeled this mentality, which is paralyzing the socio-political movement of Armenia, the "vochinch" mentality.
"Vochinch" can be translated from the Armenian in several ways, depending on the occasion it is used. The direct English translation is "nothing," yet infrequently is it used in this context in conversation. More commonly, "vochinch" is used to express unconcern, as are the terms "whatever", "it doesn't matter", or even "don't worry about it" in English lexicon. "Vochinch" is also used to describe something as being "okay" or "so-so" in response to an inquiry regarding the quality of a good or service, and can also vary in degrees of acceptance based on the mood of the respondent.
This term is thrown around numerous times each day by a good number of Armenian citizens, and depending on the person the context in which it is used varies. I myself have also conceded to using the term in the "okay" and "don't worry about it" contexts, but do not consider myself as being complacent, at least regarding Armenia's society and development potential. However, the sense of indifference that is generally attached to the usage of this term is unmistakable, and it has long been a complaint of mine.
I have taken surveys amongst various youth during the last three years or so and an overwhelming majority feels that there is little to no way to change the system in which they live, and no job opportunities exist for them. Yet some of them make no strides in finding ways in which to overturn their misfortune or seek opportunities that are not obvious to them. I have even spoken to young men and women living and working in the US who have no intention of returning to Armenia as they insist there is nothing to return to, and that there is nothing they can to do live normally, without fear of corruption interfering in some capacity. But when I dig deeper, I cannot find any concrete reasons for their stances.
The main indicator of this “vochinch” phenomenon amongst the youth is the fact that there are virtually no youth actively involved in politics in Armenia. Parliament members are typically over 40 and have no appeal to younger generations. Rather than mobilizing, the youth remain silent regarding all politics, as they believe that the system cannot change, and that it is futile to even try. Or, they are simply uninterested.
I do not blame the youth for being frustrated with their government and the weak presence of law and order. But fear and indifference is not making their lives easier. They fear being oppressed, either by physical force or socioeconomics, thus they do not attempt to make changes from within. Those that have an inkling to get out of the country and the option to leave do. And I do not see any movements amongst the youth to activate and set into motion the change they expect to be realized.
Yet I have meet several people, and I have had the good fortune of developing friendships with some, that are willing to continue their lives in Armenia, with no intention of leaving or giving in to indifference. They obtain the training and education necessary in order to land the job opportunities that are available. They stay close to their families, and ensure that their homes are secure. And they do believe that things will change in their society and government, albeit slowly and by the hands of a few.
By far, young journalists are the greatest opponents of the “vochinch” mentality, but this same spirit can also be found in people working in civil society-building organizations working throughout the country, and even in the youth working in the services industry. So as much as “vochinch” seems to be spreading, there is a counterweight that is becoming heavier by the day with each fresh news report about governmental corruption and suppression of free speech through harassment.
The “vochinch” mentality and its scope will further be explored in future log entries.
Labels: Personal Experiences, Social and Cultural