Armenia: The Good the Bad and the Good

Special to Asbarez By Armine Koundakjian

In this article–I want to dwell upon a terrible malaise that has gripped our Armenian Diaspora communities; namely the merciless and often unfounded badmouthing of our motherland Armenia. Especially disturbing is the evil and malicious talk that is heard–without exception from every expatriate who has left Hayastan for good. This scourge is sapping all hope and energy from those Armenia’s who are on the verge of becoming so to speak–’caring Armenia’s’in extending a helping hand personally–or through numerous charity organizations.

Many times I’ve been drawn into conversations with Hayastsanahyes–who paint their land of birth with one sweeping black and evil brush stroke–and have absolutely nothing good to say about their own ‘homeland’. This kind of reporting has poisoned the atmosphere to such an extent that some prospective travelers have called me for advise (knowing that I have lived there months on end during my dozen visits) about the safety features there such as–walking the streets–or drinking the water or taking a taxi. They have heard such horror stories that you might think the talk is about some God-forsaken hellish corner of the globe. The end point of these Preachers of the Doom is that "everyone is crooked–everyone is corrupt–and there is nothing and no one good." Hereby–I would like to plead to all of you non-Hayastanahyes–to listen to these rumblings with a big grain of salt! Most of them are speaking these evils to cover up a deep down guilty conscience. They are justifying their own act of expatriation knowing very well that they chose the easy way out. Knowing that they saved their own hide without taking any tough step for the common good of the rest of their countrymen.

I am personally sick and tired of listening to such accounts–and want to raise a semi-philosophical and pragmatic question. What are we accomplishing by perpetuating such bad mouthing and evil reporting? Are these "facts" substantiated? Do we check their motives? Who is applauding and cheering us other than our enemies? Do these rumors feed an empty stomach or provide a job for the unemployed there? Aren’t we hampering the heroic efforts of our cash strapped charity organizations that are scraping any amount of dollar to bring about improvemen’s we want to see in Armenia’s economy? Aren’t we stopping or discouraging those do-gooders from even lifting a finger to help Armenia? Wouldn’t it be better for us and for Armenia that instead of listening and repeating such evil–to probe–to read and to inquire about the good–no matter how small–and to spread that for a change?

I believe that by repeating the negative and the bad we are magnifying just that–the bad and the negative. I believe that we are not giving the good any chance or energy to go around to recruit others for the cause. Does anyone talk about those hard working entrepreneurial business folk who believe in the revival of their homeland so strongly that are willing to fight all kinds of bureaucratic obstacles to improve their lives and those of others? Does anyone talk about the threefold increase in businesses locally last year alone? Does anyone care to find out that during the first half of 2000 there has been 107.5 million dollars foreign investment in Armenia? Does any one talk about the fact that some smart Heryas and other odars are buying up valuable enterprises that will generate great wealth in the future?

From pockets to budgets–native Armenia’s are not used to having or thinking of their country as their own. Those who reach this maturity are doing wonders for their homeland. They are the winners at the end because they will persevere against all odds and will be better off and far ahead than their disappearing countrymen. Immigran’s know that by uprooting and starting life all over again they fall many years behind. Good deeds are contagious and invigorating. One of the numerous examples is the much loved mayor of the city of Abovian who is pushing and pulling his countrymen to weather the bad times–to work hard for the good of all involved in the city. If I could speak his mind or write a pep talk of any leader in Armenia–I would say the following:

"What has happened to our sense of self? What is wrong with being patriotic and working for our motherland? What has happened to all those noble feelings and aspirations of few years ago? Are those lines just poetry and rhetoric–or are we going to put them to work now that our homeland needs us most? Whatever we do today will benefit all of us and our children and their children to come. Dishonesty hurts all of us in the long run. Business and tax laws have been improved and there are a lot more reforms to be done yet. We must demand more and better from our leaders. We must learn how to self govern and how to instigate our leaders to be honest. We must remind them that they should think of the good of their constituents–those who elected them to serve. Along the line of major reforms–I urge that we encourage our women to get involved in all aspects of governing because they bring very different perspectives to societal events by way of being less confrontational–less corruptible and knowing new ways of dialogue and problem solving. Besides–history has shown that all progressive societies have faired better when women have been free to participate in all aspects of life."

I would also give a very strong critical message to the clergy and the church in general:

"Be the true shepherds of your flock. Don’t stay passive. Since the government officials are too busy at the trough–you should lead. Give a strong message of hope to your people. Reignite the love of motherland in your flock. Remember that centuries ago you the clergy were the revolutionizing power in this land. Put away your lazy ways and work within and amongst your people. Tell the people that grass in not greener in other lands. Re-start old-fashioned patriotism. Tell your flock that all of us together working together will make life better for all of us. No one will hand it to us on a silver platter–nor will things improve by you running off beyond the borders of you motherland. If our Mother Church wants to put an end to other denominations’ recruitment of followers–then it must put forward a big effort. It must demand her army of priests and bishops to become involved in the day to day lives of the mislead–the leaderless masses. Remember that when the church becomes irrelevant in the lives of the people–then the people seek out other means of spiritual satisfaction in the form of cults or anyone else who is willing to fill the void left by our Mother Church. If not us to re- build our Homeland–then who? If not now then when? Everyday we are losing hopeless and misguided citizens. Our women and young girls fall pray to the few evil men who sell them into sex bondage in foreign land. This is a universal scourge–and we must empower everyone–especially our women–with means to fight it like they are doing in India and other countries of Southeast Asia."

At last–every Armenian worth his or her salt wants to see a good and prosperous Homeland. Every one of us should put our money and our deeds where our mouth is–for in the final analysis–we believe that the good must and should overcome the bad. Let’s do it. Let’s change our old and destructive ways for it serves no good purpose other than making our enemies happy.

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