Are We Machines or Men?

A clock stopped at 11:38 on Dec, 7, 1988 when the earthquake hit Spitak
A clock stopped at 11:38 on Dec, 7, 1988 when the earthquake hit Spitak

A clock stopped at 11:38 on Dec, 7, 1988 when the earthquake hit Spitak

BY STEPHAN AMATUNI

Disasters, war, bloodshed, and tragedy have accompanied my nation throughout the chapters of its history. One such tragedy was the 1988 earthquake, also known as Spitak. On December 7, the Armenian nation marked the 31st anniversary of this calamity.

I switched on my notebook and went online to watch the news, and I read a report about my Prime Minister and other government officials visiting Spitak – the town that was entirely destroyed by the tremor in 1988. What I am about to write might be misunderstood, but I was shocked and disgusted by what I saw.

One would imagine that, on this day, the nation is supposed to be united more than ever before, just as we do – or at least pretend to do – on April 24. But, what I saw in the videos was entirely different, and those images pushed me to write this article.

The videos featured images of a grey, colorless, and sad Armenian countryside, with locals having encircled the “chinovniks” from Yerevan near their Mercedes cars. Numbers, numbers, and more numbers. Exupéry was right, grown-ups really do only care about numbers and calculations.

Although I believe that this day ought to be about what we feel in our hearts and souls, it seems as though Armenians have, regrettably, begun to feel nothing.

With all due respect to all those who are still feeling the consequences of what happened 31 years ago, bringing about social questions and complaints on this day to visiting government officials is wrong, to say the least. And, with all due respect to my government officials, speaking about money, some “subvention” programs, numbers, and projects is also something you don’t do while visiting a disaster zone and “paying homage” to the memory of the victims. Honestly, these images were incomprehensibly unnatural to me. At one point, you could even hear a reporter’s laugh from behind the camera, when a wreath was being laid in commemoration. To an extreme extent, the current society is doing everything for the sake of formality.

Why have we lost our ability to feel? In this 21st century world of technology, have we lost our humanity and become machines instead of men? Are we really hard, unkind, and heartless machines? I would personally sacrifice all machinery for the sake of having more humanity.

Now, more than ever, Armenians need to cherish and help one another. We must love, create, and unite around universal issues, and not be ashamed to smile and reveal human softness – something history has forced us to conceal. More than ever, we need strangers to smile to one another; we need laughter and smiles, tears of joy, and an ocean of happiness.

I sincerely hope that my people overcome their hardships, that they find true happiness, and rediscover kindness within one another.

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