Civic Musings

Garen Yegparian


BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

There’s a lot going on in the Republic of Armenia, the U.S., and across the world that impacts us as citizens.

We are buffeted by social, political, and economic winds that impact not just what we do, but even what we are inclined, or have an interest in, doing.

We are citizens, sometimes dual citizens, of the countries and localities we inhabit. We must, as engaged, caring, citizens follow and participate in the life of the country we inhabit. Yet nostalgia and human nature tug at our hearts and cause us to care about where we used to live/grew up. Add to that our concerns for Armenia (all of it), and things can get pretty complicated. Just to take my own example, having been born in Lebanon, raised in New Jersey, attended college in Philadelphia, worked in New York and New Jersey, and currently living in Burbank (Los Angeles basin) with friends/relatives in and interest/curiosity about all those places means I try to follow the politics and events in Lebanon (and, consequently Israel/Palestine/Syria), the NY/NJ/PA area, Burbank/LA and Sacramento, Washington, Turkey, and Armenia. It can be very dizzying.

Then, we have the efforts of some to DISengage citizens. In recent years, these efforts have often taken the form of voter disenfranchisement laws masquerading as “ID laws.” More generally, there is the grind of work-a-day life which can become so energy-draining and time-consuming that civic involvement can’t help but fall by the wayside. This is because, as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has observed:

“The truth of the matter is that the media, large corporations, the people who control politically our country today do not want you to participate. They want a low turnout of primarily upper-middle-class people, they want big money to dominate the political process. Their nightmare is that young people, lower-income people, working people jump into the process. They do not want that.”

We have a similar dynamic going on in the Republic of Armenia as well. The emigration from Yerevan to… wherever, is at frightening levels, yet the current administration takes no real steps to stop it. Why? It suits the interests of the powers that be in the country. Emigration serves as a pressure relief valve, just as it has for centuries, millennia even. That’s why barbarians attacked Rome, Turks arrived in our homeland, Eastern Europeans raced to the U.S. around the turn of the previous century, and Mexicans cross the U.S. border illegally—it takes economic and policy pressure off incompetent governments or is a consequence of environmental/economic degradation. In our homeland’s case, with people desperate for work, they leave, which allows the corrupt, oligarchic, kleptocratic system to perpetuate itself, further disenfranchising, disgusting, and disengaging citizens.
Then we have large and super-large corporations who have become almost impervious to law or public pressure, going about their business, regardless of the civic, environmental, and human costs of their activities. This too takes its toll on our polity and citizenry. Fortunately, there are some bright spots where the “triple bottom line,” or the three E’s (economics, environment, equity), is replacing the traditional, dollars-only, bottom line. This change is occurring thanks to the efforts of engaged, caring people— citizens in the truest sense of the word.

That’s what we all must do. Be citizens, good ones. Get involved, stay engaged, and stand up for what’s right. It’s the only way our lives will improve. I’ll see you at the next ___________.

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