BY MARIA TITIZIAN
Involvement and commitment are two words that are sometimes used interchangeably. If you’re involved, that means you’re committed. If you’re committed, that means you’re involved. Or does it? Thinking about these terms, I was reminded of a story someone told me not so long ago. It was about a pig and a chicken, or a plate of hams and eggs.
Think about a round white plate. On it, imagine a couple of scrambled eggs and a few slices of ham. The chicken provides the eggs – maybe somewhat painful to lay an egg, but after the exercise, the chicken survives. The pig provides the ham, the pig is the ham, the pig is dead. So, while the chicken has given something of herself, she continues living, the pig isn’t as lucky. The chicken is involved, the pig is REALLY committed. To be fair, although the chicken is merely involved and the pig is really committed (or sentenced, if you like), both are needed to produce the dish. In this scenario, the rooster is not part of the equation really; its role is not very productive. But that’s another story for another day.
There is a whole theory behind this metaphor that has to do with something known as agile project management or agile software development but this is not the point of this particular story either.
For me, the plate of ham and eggs or the story of the pig and the chicken is a metaphor for us, our nation. Excuse me for the expression but the Diaspora is the chicken, the rest of us living in Armenia are the pigs. Sometimes, we’re not very good at being pigs but then again, the Diaspora seems to be a renewable resource that keeps eating its own eggs.
If we look deeper and think harder, we will see that we are a multi-functional group of people playing for the same team. We need involvement and commitment. We have both, so what are we doing wrong?
If you are involved, that means you’re providing the egg. Who are you providing it for? For the self-perpetuating notion of an ill-defined or confused identity of being Armenian somewhere other than in the Republic of Armenia? If you are the pig, what are you sacrificing yourself for? Once we have the answers to these questions then we might be able to conceive of a holistic development strategy that would empower the homeland and sustain the Diaspora.
In the past year, Armenia’s sovereignty has been subordinated to quick-fix, irresponsible and dangerous deals and agreements. President Serzh Sarkisian’s decision to navigate the country toward the Russian-led Customs Union and the recent Russian-Armenian natural gas deal that was pushed through parliament has been a severe blow to the country. The “involved” segment of the nation has largely ignored the problem, while the “committed” segment is only half-baked.
Armenia has now accelerated the process to streamline its legislation and customs regulations to adhere to the Customs Union. It really isn’t even a Union, its membership in Russia’s customs framework. I would bet my life that most people don’t even know what the so-called “union” entails or means for the country. Our membership in the Customs Union might be a good thing, but because there has been no transparency or accountability in the process, we don’t know and we are now being “asked” to trust a regime (not an administration or government but a regime) that has lost the trust and backing of its people. How will our membership affect the very small industrial complex of our country? How will the country protect is producers and exporters? Will membership mean higher costs for food and clothes for consumers? Will it encourage industry or decimate it? These are questions that will be answered when it might be too late. Also, do we really have any security guarantees that are being touted by many as one of the main reasons for Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union? How will our membership deter Russia from selling billions of dollars of armaments and military hardware to Azerbaijan? How will Russia, our big brother, deter continued Azerbaijan aggression on the Line of Contact and on the state borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan? Maybe the Diaspora feels secure that Russia will rush to Armenia’s aid if war broke out…let me tell you, Armenians will rush to Armenia’s aid.
Since 2011, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources continually said that the cost of Russian natural gas imports had not gone up. By the end of 2013, we learned that the regime had been secretly subsidizing those costs to ensure victory in three consecutive elections (parliamentary, presidential, Yerevan city) and had amassed a staggering $300 million debt. The regime was forced to sell its remaining 20 percent share in Armrusgazprom to the Russian natural gas giant Gazprom. And not only. The highly controversial deal sets conditions that are really unbelievable. All current and future Armenian governments, until 2044, cannot raise taxes or make any changes to the regulatory environment for the now-Gazprom-owned network. Additionally, Armenia must ensure that domestic gas prices are set at a price which allows Gazprom to recoup 9 percent of its capital investment. According to the deal, the next five presidents of Armenia must adhere to these conditions stipulated in the agreement.
Let us return to the story of the chicken and the pig. While the pig is dilly-dallying, not sure if it wants to sacrifice itself to protect its sovereignty, the chicken has left the conversation.
We need to get back to the table.