This morning my wife and I were having a conversation about the transformation of Armenian society after I began to rant about rudeness taking hold of the way people function day in and day out. This is a recurring theme for me unfortunately in my experience in Armenia and small things, even completely unrelated to rudeness, can set it off, like a useless trip to the store to buy bread that hadn’t yet been delivered.
I complain to her about my inability sometimes to go through the day, when I am not in the office, to accomplish something without getting into a kind of hassle with someone who gets in my way of doing what I intend. It could be something simple like buying apples in the open market, for instance, or as difficult as registering a car. Although it is certainly not an everyday occurrence, I have noticed that my mood can change abruptly when I sense that someone is trying to take advantage of me or is going to make me wait for the service I am paying for.
Or else, it has to do with simple kindness and consideration for others. At all hours of the night, for example, you can hear horns blaring outside the apartment building where I live, which is in a downtown residential neighborhood. People beep their car horns to indicate they are about to run a red light or to make a taxi driver, who is half asleep in the middle of his 24-hour shift, move his Lada through the intersection.
She shared with me that she also has to cope with rudeness on a daily basis, and although she understands the mentality behind it, she is still unable to deal with it. She mentioned some days she doesn’t even want to leave the house to avoid people, and I sometimes feel the same.
That’s because along with the increase in material wealth comes inconsiderate behavior. Seems the more stuff people get, like a new or used car, and the more they are able to do with this newfound wealth, the more likely they will develop arrogance and pompousness. They will be more brazen in the way they strut down the sidewalk, as if they owned it, and even how they park their cars—on the corner of an intersection making turning problematic for other drivers or on the sidewalk, thereby blocking the path of pedestrians. People, young and old alike, talk a lot louder now, while on their cell phones or chatting with buddies along the curb. And, they tend to argue more.
It is this new, brazen sense of entitlement fostered by so many affluent Armenian citizens that is most troubling to me. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.
In the car on the way to work this morning I came to realize that perhaps the advance of arrogance in response to increased personal wealth is not necessarily an Armenian trait. Arguably the same problem occurs in all societies. A Wall Street banker who has been working for 10 years and has acquired a lot of stuff since he was first employed is likely to be more arrogant and pigheaded than he was at the start of his career. You could probably say the same about a villager in Congo who earns more money trading at the market now than he did a year or two prior. When you get more stuff, you are proud you have it and everyone else has to know about it. Perhaps it’s human nature.
Money changes people. It’s no different in Armenia. The problem is, I expected it to be. I didn’t want to see people acquiring wealth to forget about their humble backgrounds and where they came from, to lose their sense of benevolence. I cannot change the “vochinch” mentality and the “this is not a country” doctrine that many people live by day to day, but I expect people to still be kind to one another, to be patient and tolerant of each other’s quirks or what they don’t yet have. Am I being naïve?
Labels: Personal Experiences, Social and Cultural, Thoughts and Musings