The other day I was informed about an open letter that recently appeared on the Groong Armenian News Network written by Dr. A. K. Spurkian. I am an admitted former Groong addict having been Groong free for a few years now; I was one of many victims who refreshed the latest news listing page 20 times a day or more, making sure that I was informed up to the minute about things like an upcoming conference to debate whether the Armenian Genocide was really genocide or when someone was releasing a book discussing the genocide in some way. But, I am fortunate enough to have been directed to this interesting letter. I would have posted the link to it but unfortuantely the page is no longer valid for some reason. So below is the complete text.
----------------Dr. Spurkian’s New Year’s Wish List For Armenians
By Dr. A. K. Spurkian
Well, it’s that time of the year where people wait in ridiculously long lines at check out counters at malls to buy presents or at post-offices to mail letters, cards and packages to loved ones in an ever-shrinking world. As is the case with many people I decided to make a wish list and see if any of those wishes would be realized in the coming year. That being said I have to mention that not being on Santa’s ‘nice’ list, I have very low expectations that any of my wishes will come through, however on the plus side getting my wish list out there in an ever-expanding cyberspace I hope that some people might pick them up and try to realize some of the thoughts and wishes.A Wish List For Armenian (Dis)Organizations In The Diaspora
First of all Armenian organizations have to realize that they are NOT as important to Armenia as they think they are. Certainly in larger context most of the Armenian organizations operating in all over the world have some usefulness but they are all stuck in a conundrum: How to be of help to Armenia while keeping their power base in the diaspora? Well unfortunately a solution of that conundrum is far from the ability of anyone to solve (even Santa’s) and hence it is better not to dwell on it. Of course if there were to be a solution to that duality, then the simple answer would be that diasporic organizations need to get their act together first, adapt themselves to changing times and realize that the environment that they are working in is not the same as the Caucasus in late 19th century, Egypt in the early 20th century, Middle East in the 1950s-70, nor is it the United States in the 1970s and early 80s. It seems that Armenian life outside of Armenia is stuck in a time capsule and most of the ‘leadership’ of the diasporic communities look to the past -- rather than the now and the future -- for answers.
The realignment of space-time continuum of the raison d’etre of the organization is only the first wish that I have in my mind. Thus an even more important wish is that people who are in charge of these organizations stop thinking of these organizations as vessels to achieve their own goals (those goals being personal ones or their own vision of life). It’s unfortunate but true that in many cases the work of an organization is put on a back-burner in exchange for visibility of those who are doing the job. This wish is quite challenging to Santa because in most cases those people who are in charge of various organizations are usually inept in doing anything else. Don’t the masses realize that those who claim to lead them are usually individuals who cannot operate outside of the Armenian realm and subsequently their worldview remains confined to the narrow horizon of their own world. On the other hand of the spectrum there are leaders who have been successful individually and have financial independence (or super-independence) and they suddenly realize that having money automatically buys them intellect and that they could lead the various organizations -- and through them the ‘nation’ -- to a better status.
Going to a more ‘manageable’ wish for the diasporic organizations is for them to realize that they are organizations in the diaspora and as such they need to take care of diaspora first. Of course this wish would render half the organizations useless but the truth of the matter remains that the organizations -- with all their shortcomings, vanities and superiority complexes -- have, in the last 15 years or so, neglected the communities that they claim they lead. It is true an Armenia-centered strategy should remain in the hearts and minds of Armenian but the challenge of ‘holding two watermelons with one hand’ (or 3 watermelons with both hands) will only make a mess since all the watermelons will fall and create very slippery floors on which the communities will not be able to walk. For this wish it is important for diasporans to realize that Armenia can survive on its own -- after all it has done so in the past -- while the diaspora need constant nourishment, care and attention to strengthen their chances for continuity.
As a follow up to the above wishes, I wish that the diasporan media stops recycling old concepts and terminologies and starts critically addressing the problems that Armenians face. While the constant repetition that things are ok and would eventually make people believe that things really ARE ok, but it won’t MAKE things ok. The inability of most organizations and communities to adapt to changing circumstances will only make the disappearance of the diaspora a reality in a shorter period of time.
Finally, diasporans, stop thinking that you know what is best for Armenia. There are as many opinions of what constitutes a ‘true Armenianness’ as there are organizations. However, there is no single organizations which has a messianic mission and the last time I checked with the gods (through official email inquiries) I was notified that none of the Armenian organizations were given authority to claim that they know the ultimate ‘truth’. So stop acting with a sense of self-importance and start really engaging the communities you work in to make things better for them and by extension eventually helping the state.A Wish List For The ‘Leadership’ In Armenia
Stop thinking about yourselves and start doing what a political leadership should be doing -- taking care of the state and its citizens. Achieving power and keeping it should not be self-serving and it needs to be used to make things better (however that is defined). Realize that the country does not consist of just the capital city nor of the dozen or so villages in border areas. There are over 900 villages which need to be nurtured and developed to make the country a reliable place. In order to achieve that, the first step for Armenia’s leadership is to stop making more money. The business of politics is politics not business. It is logical to assume that one cannot run a business and a country simultaneously (remember the watermelon analogy mentioned above).
As important as the first wish, it is important that the political leadership realizes that relying on outside help - be that the diaspora, Russia, or the West -- will not get them anywhere. It clearly hasn’t helped in the past two centuries or so, yet politicians keep talking about the importance of outside (f)actors in making Armenia ‘stronger.’ The last 15 years have shown that the more Armenia relies on outside entities, the longer will it take to rely on itself. No one cares about Armenia except Armenians and no one would like to see a strong Armenia except for the Armenians.
A very important wish that I would like Santa to give to Armenia’s leadership is for them to realize that politics and power achieved at the top level -- presidency, defense and foreign ministries, etc -- is not real power. Never, in the past several presidential and parliamentary elections, has any candidate tried to listen to the people and what they want. This has created a situation where the ‘elite’ has treated the populace in a way where they told them ‘If we need your opinion, we’ll give it to you.’ Of course the remedy of this situation is when citizens of Armenia take ownership of their country and truly have power to elect their representatives, but alas the sad fact remains that elections in Armenia are all about the ability to buy votes. As I write this I realize that relying on Santa to achieve this wish list might be a tad difficult since Santa could be easily bought off by the politicians in Armenia and the wish list could be altered for their own benefits.A Wish List For Me
Being the egocentric entities as humans are, I figured out I could slip my own wishes in the package of wishes mentioned above. I wish, when I write about the issues that concern Armenians, to hear from more people about their own opinion about these issues. While ideally I wish most of the response are not in the nature of questioning my sanity or analyzing my family background to see if I am an Armenian or not (of course in a more colorful language than I can use in this forum), I believe such interaction would help people think collectively and question ‘conventional wisdom’ with the hope of achieving ‘enlightenment.’Dr. Spurkian is a self-styled intellectual (the emphasis is on the ‘self’) living in the Disapora(s) and criticizing everything and anything relevant to things Armenian. Comments to the author may be emailed to dispersed2007@ yahoo.com (yes, it’s a real e-mail address).