During the coming weeks I will be writing blog entries from the capital of the Armenian Diaspora, Los Angeles. Actually, I am currently residing in Irvine, as I am here on a business trip for up to two months. So I will try to write about my observations here regarding Armenian life as well as about current events in Armenia.
For the most part so far I have been surprised about how one segment of Armenians lives. Armenians constitute one-third of Glendale’s population of about 200,000 people. Glendale is supposedly one of the safest cities in the country, although there is an average of five murders a year as well as about 180 robberies. The median household income in 2000 was $41,805, and the median house value the same year was $325,700, but I have heard that it has since nearly doubled. The city is clean and lined with trees, parks, and so forth, as are many areas in the Southern California that I have so far visited. For some reason I expected to find a dirty, dilapidated dust bowl. Instead I found a rather pleasant environment, although I cannot imagine living there personally. And I don’t know why recent Armenian emigrants would necessarily choose the valleys of semi-tropical Southern California over the mountainous terrain of their native Armenia to live since they are at two totally opposing extremes. Armenians are mountain people. They belong in their native environment. What I saw didn’t seem natural to me; it seemed like an artificial farce, as there are huge cultural differences, not to mention social ones. Then again, my native Armenian community of Boston now seems the same. I have yet to explore parts of West Hollywood, otherwise known as “Little Armenia” or the other areas where many of the total 1 million Armenians supposedly reside.
The other day I overheard a conversation at a social gathering. A young woman who has become totally “Americanized” leaving Armenia at least 10 years ago complained that she feels no attachment to her homeland because “people and things” have changed, including landmarks and so forth. I felt like telling her quite bluntly that it wasn’t Armenia that changed—it was clearly her. Her remarks irritated me because they demonstrate a total apathy for Armenia and its potential. She represents thousands of young Armenians that fail to do anything to bring about positive change in Armenia, even from a distance. Many potential leaders continue to leave, although they may be professionally successful, citing that they cannot withstand corruption. The interesting thing is that corruption is not necessarily felt in lower levels of society, unless of course people sell out their votes at election time or pay off cops when their vehicles are pulled over, for example.
Although I should point out that I do not blame young Armenians living in Glendale or elsewhere since economic or even political factors were at play when they left Armenia, probably unwillingly. Many are no longer Armenian citizens. But I expect activism from them nevertheless.
In the next few days I hope to comment on the coming events in Armenia, namely the vote on the constitutional referendum, the public’s view of it, and the opposition’s negative reaction. It is important to closely look at Sunday’s elections (Nov. 27) to understand what Armenians perceive as being democracy as well as what they are prepared to do to ensure that the democratic process works. However, I am not convinced that Armenians understand what that process means for them, nor what they expect of their own future.
Labels: Personal Experiences