The Exuberance of Citizenship Discovered


Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

It’s nice to be able to kick off the new year with an upbeat article.

One of the rays of hope emanating from the Republic of Armenia is the very evident beginnings of “civil society”, as it is now vogue to refer to the phenomenon. I like to see it more simply, as something starting from Classical Greek times, of people acting like full citizens.

I got a very strong sense of this from Yeghia Nersesian when he visited Los Angeles last month. Once alerted to this, I started noticing more indications, mostly in the writings of people who now live or spend extended periods of time in the RoA.

It is not just the palpable sense of “this place is mine, and I’ll be damned if a bunch of crooks is going to deprive me of it and the blessings of home”. It is more positive. It is ordinary folk recognizing that change will not come from above. It is everyday Armenians recognizing that change, true, transformative societal change comes from “We, the people” acting as masters of our own nation, country, governance, and future.

The cosmetic changes of governmental and economic form based on the euphoria that followed liberation from Soviet occupation and misrule were perhaps bound to fail. People living in dictatorships don’t have the benefit of learning self-governance on a visceral, intuitive, subconscious level. The last two decades have probably served to provide some of that missing awareness.

Of course, no progress is perfect. There seems to be some excessive caution regarding some aspects of citizen participation/organization that might otherwise be seen as a perfectly natural part of the civic landscape. It seems to me these are relatively small matters that will work themselves out over time.

The key aspect of all this is that average people in Yerevan and elsewhere are saying to those who are on the cutting edge of activism “we’re with you” and asking to be contacted when something is up. They are providing food, supplies, support, and most importantly, participation.

Interestingly, though unsurprisingly for me, the particular avenue through which this civic movement is being manifested is environment. Many might sneer at this, or allow it to obstruct their view of what’s going on in the country. That would be a loss to all of us. That’s because the growth of citizenship may have come about through the need created by many other aspects of life. But currently, abuse of our homeland’s environment— air, land, and water —is the most pressing issue in people’s lives, so naturally citizen activism unfolds through this arena.

This is how unstoppable waves, nay tsunamis, of progress emerge. Jump in and support this movement towards our full national liberation. Help realize the “free” part our slogan of “free, independent, and united” Armenia.

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