BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It will come as no surprise that during these days of intense activity on the occasion of the Genocide’s centennial, some serious discussions occur, despite how occupied everyone is with this intense activity. Some are inspiring, others banal; some irritating, others activating; some profound, others superficial; some with the usual activist suspects, others with people who have just come on or returned to the scene; some constructive, others distracting.
This piece is something of a compendium, amalgamation, interweaving of the notions and topics that have crossed my attention in these days.
Perhaps the most important idea is the necessity of recognizing where we stand. We are, indeed, at a multidimensional crossroads:
– for all practical purposes, we have no more survivors who can tell our stories first-hand
– we are buffeted by the assimilative forces of the countries we have settled (and resettled) in
– globalization in the economic and communications spheres impacts new generations’ perceptions of their/our place in the world
– the more individualistic cultures of the West in which many of us reside clash with the more collective culture of the place that is our origin, yielding not just practical issues that must be addressed, but psychological ones which have previously gone unnoticed
– we have functioned in certain ways associated with structures (community, family, organizational, and every other aspect of life) that were established or reaffirmed a century ago in response to the Genocide, fall of the first Armenian republic, and dispersion of our nation
– Turkey is (excruciatingly slowly) opening up
– we face the challenge of reincorporating into our nation the descendants of Islamicized Armenians, some of whom now “look like” Kurds and Turks
– there is a very flawed and challenged Armenian republic trying to find its way in the world
– this is a time of excitement and engagement which will lead some of us to “taste blood” and want more involvement, while others will peter out with a sense of “I’ve done my share; it’s been a hundred years; just leave me alone”
– we will encounter ever more members of our community who will either opportunistically or ignorantly adopt stances that are inimical to our interests
Simply put, the centennial of the Armenian Genocide finds us in a radically different “place” than we have ever been before. Naturally this calls for radically new approaches, simply to keep up with the times.
This applies from the perspective of both focus and mindset. We can no longer be concerned only with the two current Armenian republics and Javakhk; nor can we be concerned only with the traditional Diaspora, geographically speaking. Western, Turkish occupied, Armenia must become a focus once again along with Nakhichevan. Let’s remember that a little over a century ago, the mindset in Eastern, Russian occupied, Armenia was one of going to the “yergeer” (homeland) which, paradoxically from our present-day perspective, was seen as lying on the other (western) side of the Russian-Ottoman border! I think one of the biggest changes we must adopt is working with our Islamicized cousins, and not just those who made that transition at the time of the Genocide, but going back centuries, and not just the Hamshentzees! We can work on reintroducing the Armenian alphabet to them as a bridge to reconnecting with the rest of us. We should have sister city arrangements with places in Turkish-occupied Armenia, starting with those locales that are the most “Armenian” and expanding as our efforts grow. Every center, school, and church we build or organizational chapter/structure we add and create should have as part of its program soccer games and scholarships, farming and fundraising, pen-pals and political connections with our semi-lost compatriots in Western Armenia.
The radical/new/different approaches should also apply to our organizations and structures. It is very difficult to get a 30-something (and younger) to sit through a meeting in the traditional sense. Why should s/he? Everything can be obtained at the touch of a button. Yet a physical encounter with peers/co-workers/comrades is irreplaceable from a human standpoint. A hybridized approach must be found. Models now abound, since many people are achieving significant successes in this new environment. We have to go out, participate, learn, and adopt techniques that work and “Armenianize” them as we have done for millennia while living at the crossroads of civilizations. We’ve always chosen what worked for us. It’s time to reinvent ourselves again and play the exemplary role we have at various periods of our history.
Over the past decade, we’ve had a buildup of energy, excitement, and involvement leading up to the “auspicious” centennial mark. Let’s harness this before it dissipates. We can build coalitions within our communities and with other groups. Get busy. Sign up with the group(s) closest to your way of thinking. Create new ones. Be open to new ideas and linkages. Just do, do, do, and learn from failures. Activism in its best and noblest sense and forms is the path to a much better Armenian future.