Armenians and Their Sherep: Some Thoughts

Mkrtich Khrimyan (Khrimyan Hayrig) made the analogy of the 'iron ladle' in his famous speech

BY SARKIS BABIKIAN

It was Thursday evening, the 24th of April. My foot and hands were driving me home while my head was having some thoughts: we need a new sherep[1]! The one we have today is useless. It’s so soft that it can hardly hold some water, let alone some herisa[2]! We need something very strong. No, metal won’t work. Actually, the one we have is made of some type of metal. I think we need something made of these new exotic nano-engineered materials. Our new sherep has to be super strong and light, yet super shiny and sleek. So shiny, sleek and strong that others must get jealous. Nevertheless the most important is this: it has to say “Made in Armenia” on it.

Oh no! I think I started to sound too futuristic, or even idealistic… as always. Making something like that will be extremely difficult and very expensive. We don’t even know how to make it, let alone be able to afford it. Maybe we should stick to metal. We can use something stiffer, like titanium. But oh…..you’re right, Sako… as you don’t know that even titanium is useless with these days’ extremely sticky, dense and heavy mixture they’re calling “herisa”! Thanks to the genetically modified gorgod and mis….. Yes, we definitely need to use a new exotic material. After all, we always take pride of how smart we are as a people. We should be able to learn these novel technologies from the others, or better yet, we should be able to develop our own technology to engineer this new sherep. It’s not something that we haven’t done before. Back in the days, we came up with our own pioneering technology to make our very first iron sherep[3], and it was a damn good one! Life taught me that change is the only constant. Yes, we should aim for a change. We should aim for a new, exotic sherep.

Earlier that day I went to the commemoration of the Genocide. The event was organized by my fellow Armenian students at UC Irvine. My colleagues beautifully delivered the message of the day, as well as presented a flavor of the Armenian heritage to the audience. The guest speaker, Prof. Marashelian, reviewed the Turkish public opinion towards the Genocide, and presented observable and important changes in this opinion in the recent years, due to the continued campaigning and raising of the topic by Armenians worldwide.

Recalling Prof. Marashelian’s presentation I couldn’t help but think: Thirty nine years[4] of political activism, campaigning and lobbying for Genocide recognition and reparation, or in other words, thirty nine years of using paper shereps to eat herisa, have brought us to a world that says: “yes, we know what happened to you and we’re sorry for what happened to you, but we cannot act against our own interests”. Is this a tangible gain in our fight for the cause? Sure it is. Had we not put all these tremendous efforts and devotion, the world would have long buried and forgotten the Genocide. However, it is also a fact that so far, we have failed to achieve anything beyond mere sympathy from this world. Some would argue: “what more could a small nation possibly do? Our only strategy is to keep demanding, to keep raising our voices and hope for that day to come, when there will no longer be any conflict of interests between the world and our historical rights”. Scientifically speaking, that might be a valid strategy since there is the mathematical probability, no matter how small, for that day to come. Of course that will require throwing the dice an indefinite number of times. There were times in the past when our capabilities mandated us to adopt this strategy. However, today we are living in a different world: A world that has “Republic of Armenia” on its map. It is time to change our strategy…

Back in my thoughts, I was wondering what the rest of the people in that room were thinking about regarding our sherep. Without a doubt, everyone would have agreed that it wasn’t good enough. There are too many defects and impurities[5] in the metal that it is made of. Surely everybody was thinking about how to get rid of them so that our metal sherep could become stronger and unbreakable. Yes, it is a fact that certain impurities in metals are destructive and they render its structure weak. However, there is also another fact that many people are not aware of, or don’t want to accept: it is impossible to remove impurities completely from a material because, according to the second law of thermodynamics, that would require an infinite amount of work and energy[6]. Yet there is another interesting piece of fact: impurities are not always harmful or bad. In fact, sometimes they can be extremely useful if you’re smart enough to know how to use them to your advantage[7]. We Armenians don’t like impurities. We always fancy idealistic notions like perfection and purity. I believe that has to change. We have to learn how to engineer the atomic structure (arrange the atoms) of this new exotic material, so that these impurities can strengthen our sherep instead of weakening it…[8]

Urgent questions started to rise in my head: but where to start and how to start making our new sherep? What is the recipe we need to follow?

Where to start, I think, should be the most trivial part of the process: Armenian people living and flourishing on Armenian land[9]. Yes, that’s right. That is the seed crystal[10] from which we are going to grow our sherep. However, I think I also have an idea about the recipe, too… Or at least I’m suspecting of one little ingredient that could make the real difference, if added, but I’ll hold onto that for later.

It was Wednesday evening, May 28th. My foot and hands were driving me to our agoump[11]. My head was having thoughts, again: tonight we will celebrate the Anniversary of securing a piece of land… The only place in the whole universe where Armenians can exist indefinitely, and the only cornerstone in the whole world that Armenians can lean on in their struggle for their rights: the seed crystal of our sherep. If we want to get our rights back, we have to bring clean water, electricity, education, health care, security and good quality of life, to every village and every city on today’s independent Armenian lands. Yes, I repeat: if we want our rights back and if we want to gain the respect of our enemies and friends, we have to build a leading country in science, technology, industry and economy[12].

Mutually beneficial cooperation[13]. Yes, mutually beneficial cooperation is the one little ingredient that will make the much desired difference, I believe. No, not patriotism, not volunteer work, not social/political activism, not heartfelt money donations, but mutually beneficial cooperation is the key. Most, or all, of the Diaspora’s efforts are based on the kind of activities that require the workforce to supply some level of self-sacrifice[14]. However, today we know how difficult it is to sustain a workforce based on such an idealistic concept. These types of activities, while extremely vital, can only serve as “catalysts” to start the desired “chemical” reaction of growing our sherep. Mutually beneficial cooperation is the only sustainable force that can drive the “sherep reaction” between the components of the Armenian reality (all the atoms and including the impurities) in a continuous and healthy way. After all, we are a life form, and we are part of this universe. The laws that govern the nature also govern us. If we observe nature, we see that relations between life forms are either cooperative for mutual benefits, or competitive. If we look in the mirror, we see a huge multi cellular organism. Yes, we humans (and all other species) are not one single “being” but we are made of billions of tiny “beings” or cells that decided, at some point on the evolutionary path, that they wanted to live together in order to survive together. Each cell has a specific duty for the “cause” but each cell also receives its portion of nutrition and oxygen. They don’t work for free and they don’t sacrifice.

That being said, conditional self-sacrifice can still exist among us humans in individual cases[15]. That is because we are intelligent beings and our behavior can be programmed by ideals and emotions. Nevertheless, it is a big mistake, I believe, to consider that a general rule, and build the strategy of a nation on the expectation that every Armenian can, and should, be programmed to self-sacrifice for the cause. It is our strategy, or the working mechanism, that has to change and adapt to our most basic instincts and needs as animals, if we want to survive and flourish as a nation.

We always think of ourselves as a nation with limited resources. That is not true. A nation who has given, and is still giving, the world prominent scientists, engineers, doctors, philosophers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, financiers,…and as well as musicians, composers, poets, writers,… cannot be a resource-limited nation. A country that is bringing world-class chess champions year after year cannot be a resource-limited country. Nonetheless, the truth is, we are a nation with limited vision. Throughout history, our prominent scientists and professionals[16] were always adopted by others, who also enjoyed the fruits of their work[17]. With an independent Armenia on the map, that can be changed. It has to change. We have to use our resources to invest in the Armenian lands especially, of course, under the big headline of mutually beneficial cooperation[18]. With such working mechanisms, Armenian entrepreneurs, businessmen and financiers could be working hand-in-hand with Armenian intellectuals and professionals to bring investments and development to the country, thus enhancing the quality of life and empowering the nation in all aspects. Every Armenian should see Armenia as a land of opportunities where he can invest for both his own personal benefit, and his country’s benefit. Mutually beneficial cooperation should be the “handshaking protocol” between all the components, all the atoms, all the molecules, and all the impurities of this new exotic, nano-engineered sherep[19]. Lastly, mutually beneficial cooperation should also be our “handshaking protocol” with the world. I believe that is the only way for sustaining our existence, and taking our rights back as well.

It was Wednesday, late in the night, May 28th. My hands and foot were driving me home. My head was having a vision: an unknown date in the future. I’m reading the news with my morning coffee. In the news: “The Congress of the United States passes a binding resolution calling upon Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide, and compensate Armenians for their losses”. The resolution was strongly backed by technology companies in Silicon Valley and Orange County, who have strong partnerships with technology companies in Aghavnatsor[20] Valley in Armenia…

Supplementary comments:

1. Sherep means ladle in Armenian. Here it refers to the concept of power as first used by Khrimyan Hayrig in his famous speech, Iron Ladle. An English translation of his famous speech can be found here.

2. Herisa is an Armenian traditional dish and is considered the national dish of Armenia. It is a homogeneous porridge made of previously stewed and boned lamb and coarsely ground soaked wheat.

3. These pioneering technologies refer to the ways and mechanisms that Armenians invented to form their armed resistance and revolutionary movements (their first iron ladle) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Beautiful and detailed descriptions of these technologies can be found in “Zartonk” by Malkhas and “Memoirs of an Armenian Revolutionary” by Roupen Der Minassian.

4. 1975 was the year the Armenian Diaspora started actively seeking international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and reparation for their losses.

5. Impurities: a term in material science that refers to atoms from other elements diffused into the atomic structure of an otherwise pure material. Impurities behave differently and affect the characteristics of a material. Here, impurities refer, by analogy, to the monopolistic people in the Armenian reality including the mafias, the oligarchies…etc, who behave differently and affect the society.

6. Again by drawing an analogy, we can point to the so called “Arab Spring” that brought only destruction to the atomic structure of these nations in an attempt to get rid of the “impurities”!

7. All electronics and computers exist today because of a smart little trick. They exist thanks to the impurity atoms, like boron, that engineers carefully insert in the atomic structure of materials, like silicon. One hundred percent pure silicon is good for nothing.

8. In a socioeconomic context, we can think of the rich monopolistic “bad guys” as the impurities of the society. Nobody likes them, due to the fact that we think they always do harm to the society. But is that always the case? What made wall street? What made Las Vegas? What made the whole US health care system, starting from its pioneering medical schools, all the way to its cutting edge hospitals?

9. Unless we fully appreciate this idea, we cannot proceed any further. People living on the land are the real source of power. Examples throughout history and present days are many: the case of Russian populated island of Crimea in Ukraine; The case of the Israeli settlements in Palestine; and of course the case of Artsakh with its Armenian population, and the case of Nakhichevan and Western Armenia with the depopulation of Armenian inhabitants. However, to clear any confusion, I’m not calling upon all Armenians to go and live in Armenia. Living in the homeland or elsewhere is absolutely a personal choice. However, building a country where people can have the choice to live with dignity and good quality of life is a must. In that case, many would want to be, live and die on their land.

10. A seed crystal is a small piece of single crystal / polycrystal material from which a large crystal of the same material typically is to be grown.

11. Agoump: the Armenian community center or the place where the Armenians in the Diaspora come together.

12. Abraham Lincoln once said: give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.

13. Mutually beneficial: mutually dependent; depending on each other; adj. for relationship between two entities that equally benefit from each other.

14. Self-sacrifice: sacrifice of oneself or one’s interest for others or for a cause or ideal; the act of giving up something that you want to have or keep in order to help someone else.

15. We might think of unconditional self-sacrifice existing in the behavior of a parent towards their child or the behavior of people defending their country in war times. But even that, I think, is not true because it is done to ensure the continuation of species (existence). However I can only see unconditional self-sacrifice in one case: Our fatherland and mother tongue are the ones sacrificing their existence due to the immaturity of the people (the children, us).

16. Sample list of prominent Armenian intellectuals and professionals can be found here.

17. The most powerful and “secret” weapon of the United States is the Student Visa…

18. Fair competition is also crucial to advance society. However, it is difficult to implement in today’s Armenia…

19. Our political organizations and leading bodies have the crucial duty to formulate these working mechanisms (engineer and rearrange the atomic structure of the Armenian realty).

20. I chose Aghavnatsor Valley for no reason other than that I have some good memories there from our international Homentmen panagoum sixteen years ago.

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5 Comments

  1. GeorgeMardig said:

    To the list should ad another powerful weapon: to Spread by word of mounth Turkey’s name as a Genocide perpetrator, which will dipp in the mud the name of Turkey world wide. 5 million Armenians if each spread the word to 10 people a year = 50 million people, year after year this can become a big problem to Turkey’s interest everywhere in the world.

  2. Nazareth said:

    Wow, for the first time in my 52 years I was speechless when I read the article this guy is fantastic, I hope he writes more.

  3. Panos said:

    This letter should be drafted as an OPEN LETTER TO ALL ARMENIANS, including the President of Armenia, all Oligarchs, and Diaspora institutions…..

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