Notes From Hairenik
On Tuesday a report was published by RFE/RL about a beating which took place at a cafe in Yerevan owned by a prominent radio and TV journalist named Artur Sahakian. The assailants, who are believed to be the bodyguards of parliamentarian  Levon Sargsian, were apparently after Sahakian but he managed to escape, although two of his friends were beaten up and one of them later died in hospital. Sargsyan is a member of the Republican party and is notorious for his criminal activities. 

Such kinds of incidents are not rare in Armenia, and several go unreported. Albeit someone may not necessarily die in an altercation but stories of unprovoked, sudden beatings and antagonism/harassment seem to always be in the news or spread by word of mouth. And if you are caught speaking out against criminal activity you are chastised, beaten or even arrested for purportedly being an oppositionist wanting to cause trouble. Some have lost their jobs for having been sighted at opposition rallies or being associated with alleged oppositionists. 

Unfortunately the attitude and mindset promoting this type of behavior has long  taken root in society. I manage to run into people several times a week who have a certain defiant air about them and walk around with a mentality that they are always "doing good" by conveying a sense of valiant ignorance or failing to be courteous to unknowns who are near them. Their pride in their percepted, flaunted intelligence is a mockery of all that is considered to be the traits of someone humbling possessing unattested knowledge. 

Case in point: the entrance to the office building where I work is habited by loiterers every morning. They are mostly male in their late teens or early 20s. There happens to be a medical "institute" on the upper floors of the building and remarkably most of the students are young women. I don't understand if these men are also students themselves or are simply waiting for their girlfriends to come out of class, but they are always rude and hardly ever move aside for people to enter or exit the narrow doorway. In fact I have found that the only option to get by is to gently push them out of the way. One day that set one of them off and he tried to exchange words when he called after me in his ruffian tone, but I basically ignored him since I can't be bothered with wasting my time arguing with some clueless punk. Nevertheless, I always come away from such situations frustrated or even angry, whether someone addresses me rudely or not. Even the office security guards, who seem to change every few weeks or so, sometimes tend to be rude and discourteous to the employees, hardly ever saying "hello" unless someone who enters says it first for instance. The current security guard, when he learned from a coworker during a discussion about politics over coffee that I was an expatriate living in Armenia, immediately responded, "Where have you come?" In other words, he was implying that as Armenia is such a miserable place I am a jackass for moving here to live and work. I have heard this same sentiment expressed by many others, even policemen. This kind of thinking demonstrates irresponsibility and indifference regarding one's own society, and it also promotes the criminal behavior that is rampant today. And when you express that it is up to them to bring about change they become silent, or else more defiant

The youth look up to people who are brash and consider themselves as well as by others to be tough and untouchable. Men with some sort of banal influence, who are often associated with government officials basically regarded as thieves, drive in convoys through the city center in black Japanese sedans or SUVs registered with nearly identical license plates. These types and their deciated followers speak what is know as "thief-like Armenian," whereby the language is spoken with bad grammar and is peppered with Russian, Turkish, and Farsi words, not to mention expletives. Often they speak with a thick accent, distorting the vowel sounds in such a way as to produce an audible effect that they are literally chewing on their words. It is difficult to understand them unless they begin to shout at the top of their lungs, but even then their speech is barely comprehensible.

Basically I am doing everything I can to avoid contact with people who transmit negative vibes, whether they are fruit vendors, bus drivers, or acquaintances of acquaintances, but sometimes it is not possible. Eventually someone is going to rub you the wrong way with their indifferent, crabby attitude on life and their own immediate environment. The challenge is steering away from such confrontational people, especially those who may turn out to be the chauvenist ruffians of some ignoramus who believes he is calling the shots and is thus placing too much importance on himself. But I have to express that my sightings of or occasional dealings with loudmouths and cretins never fail to disappoint me. And lately I have started to wonder how long I can put up with it all. Perhaps many of the hundreds of thousands who have left the country had the same sentiment.

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3 Comments:
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Let these "big fish" leave their own little 'Small pond" and see how they stand up against a truly engaged society with citizens who take no such crap. They'll soon crawl under the rocks they came from. Armenia is awash in false bravado and macho posturing that has nothing to do with being "cool". The mentality of tyese jerks is so distorted that, as you say, you really can't take it seriously or be bothered.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Why are you still living there?

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Why not? :) It's not all doom and gloom here. Read posts from the blog archive to find out more about my impressions.

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