We Eat Our Own Children

Once there was and there was not …

show_image_NpAdvHover.php… a man, mid 40s, wide awake at 2:24 AM, staring at his keyboard trying to fulfill a promise to himself and his editor that he would write a weekly column. He is a weak man at this hour, considering not to ever write again when newspapers of his day via the Internet have become bathroom stalls where any reader with a keyboard can scribble nasty notes and tell the writer to shut up because the reader thinks the writer has no substance.

It’s not a good week or a good world when it starts off with the writer seeing a Chihuahua pup defecated in a two-by-six glass cage it shares with a Poodle pup in the storefront of a pet store at the intersection of Vermont and Lexington in Little Armenia. Not that there is anything wrong with a Chihuahua pooping, but when the Poodle walks over to the feces and eats it, then the injustices of the world cloud any sane mind, and the week continues with visions of all things that can go wrong and have gone wrong.

Thanksgiving is about being grateful and eating, but the writer isn’t grateful. Rather, his ego isn’t. He watches people who can’t pronounce “Artsakh” or did not care enough to learn how to pronounce “Artsakh” ask for money for Artsakh’s children. Many times they asked for money for the children of sushi.

He watches a correspondent report from Armenian villages, not succeeding in connecting to the people he is reporting about. The writer knows from decades of media practice that stories about real people connect the viewer to the issue being addressed. He’s disappointed that the reporter didn’t spend more time meeting the people, getting to know them, or appreciating them as humans. He’s disappointed he saw random Armenians as caricatures of villagers, poor folk with no water.

The writer watches rapper Chris Brown – accused of beating his girlfriend Rihanna – make an appeal for donations. Was a violent, abusive man, because he is famous, supposed to be appealing to our people? Are we saying since there’s domestic violence in our community, perhaps we would identify with Mr. Brown and donate?

The writer watches men and women who won’t dare pronounce Armenian names walk around and ask phone bank teenagers to read donor names off index cards. He watches the control room staff cut away from one of the most talented hosts in mid-sentence during the most poignant pitches for donations.

He watches donors, who drove out to the studio on a holiday, get snubbed and not say their peace. He hears hosts announcing the half-right names of schools. He watches students who diligently raised money for over a whole year to give to their peers in Armenia get ignored. Some don’t get to mention the amount of their donation. Others don’t get a chance to perform their rehearsed speeches.

But Chris Brown gets applause and the head of a gossip site, TMZ, gets to make a pitch. Is that who we are as a people? Domestic abusers and paparazzi appeal to us?

Is this all we can offer our nation for a show that costs half-a-million dollars to produce? That’s quite expensive just to hear mispronounced names of donors for six hours. It would be cheaper to buy a page of advertising in our community newspapers or on one of the many local and international Armenian channels. After all, these channels and newspapers need your support too.

Surely television can be more potently used to move people through images, words, and carefully crafted stories about poverty, community, and the importance of giving, of being human.

The writer is comforted that Armenians continue to make an effort to work together. He’s happy that the Himnadram or the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and Kirk Kerkorian’s United Armenian Fund (UAF) are able to bring our organizations and churches and schools together for a united cause. Wouldn’t it be great if those two were also one?

Then there is more heartbreak.

He returns to Los Angeles from the serenity of the land of Saroyan to hear that an unprecedented pan-Armenian cultural event celebrating 21st century Armenian music and musicians is being sabotaged.

For more than six months, nearly a hundred people have come together to organize a spectacular entertainment and awards show at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, December 13. Legend Charles Aznavour, rocker Serj Tankian, pop stars Nune, Tata, Karnig, Harout, Armenchik, rappers, flamenco guitarists, are all scheduled to be under one roof to celebrate our vibrant culture, acknowledge the culture makers, share their art and music.

Several competing businesses, three television stations, local bands are all coming together. Hayastansi, Beirutsi, Amerigahye are all joining forces. Investments have been made, and people are working hard to create a pan-Armenian event. But a businessman from Armenia, knowing this event has been planned for months, unveils last-minute plans to hold a comedy show in Pasadena featuring performers who appeal to the same crowds who would go to the music and music video awards show at the Nokia.

The writer is saddened. This intentional double-booking is beyond a simple faux pas of two dinner-dances on the same night. It’s beyond two lectures in our church halls on the same day. This act is similar to two simultaneous and competing April 24 marches in LA, something we simply don’t do. There has always been a civility in our community where, for example, the Diocese and Prelacy churches in Fresno have for decades scheduled grape blessing picnics on different Sundays. That, after all, is what community is about.

He thinks community is supposed to be about circling the wagons against that brutal world of dog-eat-dog and dog-eat-poop. He think community is about taking up arms to collectively fight for community aspirations like cultural preservation, seeking justice, and ensuring positive cultural acceleration.

He wonders: Why do we call ourselves a people or community if we come to it to treat it and its members as our enemies? Why do we take our own people’s name in vain and call ourselves Armenian when all we can show for it is degradation of our character, the belittling of our names, the forgetting of our language, the non-attempting to say our names properly, the preferring of non-Armenians over Armenians to do the work we are doing inside our community for our community?

What is it that we are truly doing when we try to defeat members of our own extended family? Why do we sabotage other Armenians rather than build them up and celebrate their successes?

He asks himself: Are we really a community? Are we really a nation? Or did we sell-out decades ago and just want to keep up appearances?

Then the writer obsesses about the puppy eating poop. His mind’s eye sees the painting by Goya of Saturn eating his children. He keeps thinking of the Biblical references to parents eating their own children. He thinks about Hollywood and how it’s a dog-eat-dog business, but he can’t reconcile his mind with the idea of dog-eat-brother or the image of dog-eat-poop.

If we eat our young, he thinks, if we eat our brothers, if we celebrate criminals and criminal acts, if we eat poop, who are we today and who will we become tomorrow?

There’s no hope in this story, in his story, because sometimes reality overwhelms hope and you – the reader – see puppies eating poop, because you see Armenians sabotage other Armenians. There is no hope when you see people make money by putting the word “Armenia” on humiliating and demeaning television images of our people.

There is no ho
pe when disgusting Armenian stories are broadcast into each American home and into homes around the world. And the images are of Armenians killing Armenians over money and films of murderous teen thugs beating up innocent people. These are stories of thieves, of Armenians snorting cocaine, boys groping girls while sitting naked in saunas. And our nation’s name in its tricolor identifies all those behaviors as the Armenian character.

Nations, ethnic people, Native-Americans, African-Americans, Muslims, Hispanics have waged costly court and public relations battles to change the stereotypes of their people in global media, and Armenian television shouldn’t build negative stereotypes for a quick buck from their own community. It shouldn’t reaffirm to millions that the Armenian names of criminals they hear on the evening news are truly representational of a nation of ten million around the world.

As a people whose Diasporan identity has focused on seeking justice, how does the writer – how do you – react when some among us know nothing about cultural dignity, have no integrity, and shame us by their selfish greed, lack of transparency, and loss of any positive sense of community.

Sorry to be vague, but shouldn’t someone figure out a way to license the words “Armenia” and “Armenian” in this litigious and Babylonian century, so that we can preserve our culture without it being hijacked by the ruthless among us who have no sense of right and wrong?

Perhaps when we can copyright and license the name of our people, then we can decide to do something like the annual celebration of our culture, of all of our arts – like the music awards – on Thanksgiving Day next year.

Perhaps we can book the Nokia, charge people double the price of the cost to the event, and share the revenue with our poverty-stricken brethren in the Homeland.

That should bring in the one or two million dollars that the pedestrian among us – donating $20, $50, or a $100 – cobble together to add to the amounts pledged by the millionaires.

Our nation’s patrons would give as always with or without a show on television.

Rock & Roll.  

And three apples fell from heaven: one for the storyteller, one for him who made him tell it, and one for you the reader.

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23 Comments

  1. Adrineh Gregorian said:

    Thank you for putting a mirror in front of our community.
    Thank you for also pointing out the seriousness of domestic violence in Armenian households, which is quite regularly neglected–especially as we are in the midst of the annual 16 days awareness campaign against violence towards women and girls. 
    Paul, not only do you enlighten us with your editorials, you continue to encourage a new wave of writers and have given them a platform to share their voice!!! You are extraordinary–you encourage, motivate, inspire others to reach beyond their preconceived limits to become exceptional. 
    Now that’s a contribution to the Armenian community, and it didn’t cost a thing :)

  2. Ninsky said:

    Paul, djan, tsavd danem.  Let’s be more optimistic; as Little Orphan Annie says, “The sun will come out tomorrow”.
    As Christians we need to remember our faith and belief in the Almighty God. So long as we have faith there is hope. Miracles do happen, but we need to pray that we as a people return to our faith so that God will grant us some miracles for our communities and for Armenia.
    Our Christian heritage is so rich and righteous,  that by simply reviving our faith we will not only bring our people hope, but that faith and hope will in turn give us a shared purpose and direction.
    Never lose your faith, Paul djan.  Without faith everything simply turns to poop.

  3. Gayane Khechoomian said:

    Great piece!  As for “Dog-eat-Poop”…
    Considering that “we are what we eat,” we might all end up in deep sh** very soon- perhaps too much to dig out of. But I still sense an underlying optimism towards the end, which is why this piece is ‘great’.

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  5. vatche said:

    Night and day both exist together . So maybe things could look bad but be equally as good!
    Must not lose faith!  or Humor!!

  6. Armineh Hovanesian said:

    i feel the writer’s pain… it’s a tough road ahead for all of us…
    another heartfelt and true observation

  7. Garo said:

    Paul,
    It is about time this laundry is aired publicly by someone of your stature in the Armenian media.  Armenians need to recognize that professionalism and transparency, at all levels of community life, will help all organizations prosper and provide the highest level of services to the communities they strive to serve.  I hope your article will begin a healthy dialogue.
    Keep up the good work.

  8. Dickran said:

    Aside from butchering or not bothering to butcher armenian names, the folks running the show didn’t even know the difference between euros and dollars. Many US residents donated euros (€) instead of dollars! I hope they know how much they actually donated.

  9. sylvie tertzakian said:

    paul, i sense the tortured soul in your writing. if more people in our community protest the wrong, the Armenian community will be a happy village than a soulless place, where we all exist. unfortunatley, the vacuum left by the lack of a credible and sound leadership, leads us to emulate and worship hollywood with all its faults, and criminal elements.your courage will serve as a guiding light us for the rest of us.

  10. Peter Musurlian said:

    Although I rarely agree (entirely) with any columnist, I read many of them…from all ends of the spectrum. That noted, I observed Paul Chaderjian to be one of the most thoughtful, insightful and provocative writers in the Armenian-American community…today.

  11. Tsoghig said:

    For the first time in my life, I spent my Thanksgiving outside of LA and I wasn’t able to watch the telethon.  I was upset that I wasn’t able to watch the telethon  but after reading your column I’m really glad I didn’t.  This must be the year that Armos feel good about screwing each other since our very own President Serge sold us all out and supported the protocols.  It’s hard to find hope in our community if our leaders continue to behave the way you  have so eloquently put in your article.  Thanks for the column but I see little hope.  What is it all for,, keeping our culture alive through our language if our own leaders, the government of Armenia and the leaders in the diasporan communities, choose to sell out?  Thank God for the Asbarez, the ANCA and the AYF…this is the hope I have/see in our community.

  12. Paul Chaderjian said:

    Mr. Aram, you’re awful defensive about another issue. I am not criticizing the Fund. I am criticizing the pointless and worthless and costly television program the Fund produced. For the amount spent on the broadcast, about 1000 people could have been employed in Armenia for one year. That’s 1000 families fed and sheltered for a show of unprofessional and inexperienced broadcasters walking around saying names.

    I have been an advocate and fan of the Armenia Fund since its inception. I have spent a decade writing about all the great things the Fund has accomplished. My stories have included personal pitches for people to help the Fund. I made another pitch in this very same column two weeks ago.

    This year the Telethon producer, a non-Armenian who cannot understand the language of the show he his producing promised “a fresher and more exciting” show. What we saw on television is NOT acceptable for a transparent and humanitarian organization concerned about helping our brothers living in poverty.

    I am also pointing out simple issues that could make the Telethon so much better than it has ever been and did not point out one person, because the person you mention is a non-issue. Bless Mark’s heart for volunteering his time, and I love him for that.

    I blame the producers of the show for making a mockery of their hosts, not preparing them, not educating them, and not giving them a chance to make an electronic community when they have the chance-of-a-lifetime. I can get singing and dancing on YouTube or in my community? Tens of thousands of dollars worth of airtime should be spent building communities and communicating our story.

    There are true dynamic personalities in our community who care about Armenia, yet they are not invited. Dr. Alina Dorian is one such woman, who has for decades helped the Fund. Anita Vogel is a Fox News correspondent. Roger Kupelian is a documentary filmmaker putting his career on the line to make an Armenian movie. He could have easily been hired to make films for the Telethon. Sevag Vrej is a producer and filmmaker. Ara Soudjian is a filmmaker. Ara Madzounian proved himself as the most talented Armenia Fund Telethon producer for years. Where is he? Stefani Booroojian is a 25-year veteran anchor woman. Armen Keteyan is a network anchor. Should I go on? How about Silva Harapetian or the women from KTLA’s Hollyscoop. And Jill Simonian. And Gasia Mikaelian from San Francisco’s top rated news team. How about Lois Melkonian, a veteran broadcaster from San Francisco and now Denver. There are too many to name, especially the young aspiring talents like UCLA Bruin’s editor-in-chief Alene Tchekmedyian. Shahene Martirosyan and Gayane Kechoomian, who launched the Armenian Chronicles at UCLA.

    These are the broadcasters and journalists and filmmakers in our community that can tell our story and care about the story. Why ignore them in favor of the novices and the Armenia Fund committee members who can’t even talk. This is not the image we need to put out to the world…

    That is my point. And please, next time use your own real name instead of a pen name unless you plan to make nonsensical arguments just for the sake of criticism without constructive criticism.

    • Tanto said:

      I cringed the third time they looped the “poor folk with no water” report by the unconcerned correspondent on this year’s telethon.
      I laughed when the ridiculously inept morning hostess pretended to give a damn about the Armenian school children there to donate a say a few words (and wondered whose daughter she must have been; really, how many things can you screw up in a few hours time)!
      And I have to wonder how and why the new “talent” from M-Club (Anoush) was hosting?Tatevik does an amazing job, but because of this self absorbed excuse of a spokesperson, she disappeared for extended segments–WHY when she’s effective, seasoned and young?
      Aram, call a spade a spade for the sake of progress. One more year of this idiocy and not many people will be tuning in.
      Progress is a good thing. Regress not so good.
       

  13. Shah said:

    Paul, I loved this! I just feel the need to sya thank you for writing it. I think many people want to express their views but are to affraid to do so in public.

  14. Sarkis Kotanjian said:

    And, again…. Armenian journalism has degenerated into a compilation of fake intrigues,  cheap sensationalism and self pity…
    I suggest to all those criticizing the show, including Paul Chaderjian, who criticizes it because he wasn’t invited to be host,  to have their own show and implement all the “wonderful” suggestions. As for this Telethon — it was by far the best Telethon ever organized — both by its programming, video segments shown (which for the first time showed real results, gave detailed reports on how the money raised in the previous years was spent and how it improved lives of people living in the border villages of Armenia and Artsakh), number of donors and funds raised from the general public.
    As for the cost of the show — compared to the size of the show, the broadcast hours and broadcast reach (over 55 million households in the U.S. alone) — it is really inexpensive and most importantly – fully funded through Armenia Fund corporate sponsors.
    As for the argument that the cost of the Telethon can feed 1,000 people in Armenia over a year — nonsense, you won’t be able to do that, Paul. Life has become expensive in Armenia. Plus, it’s a wrong and dangerous argument — by the same token you are not too far from saying that all the funds that we as community spend on the genocide recognition in Washington DC could feed thousands of people in Armenia and Artsakh…  This is a bad argument, Paul.

    • Admin said:

      We appreciate your interest in asbarez.com. Our columnist, Paul Chaderjian, expressed his views on the telethon, which he believed this year was not up to par with previous years. It was his impressions of the event and cannot be deemed as having any bearing on whether he was invited to take part in the event. Just as you believe that his column signals that “Armenian journalism has degenerated,” his belief is that this year’s telecast had room for improvements.

    • Vartan Dudukjian said:

      Sarkis, you made a very audacious claim: That this was “by far the best Telethon ever organized.” Yet you provide no substantive evidence to back your claim. You merely present anecdotal information about the segments and so-called transparency.

      Furthermore, you try and associate Paul’s not being asked to host the event as the cause for his criticism, which in my opinion is a faulty argument.  This is called a Fallacy, an Ad Hominem to be exact. Look it up. (here’s a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem)
      Now, please enlighten us all through reason and fact, how this was the “best”  Telethon ever? Especially when last year’s telethon announced that it raised $35 million dollars, while this years announced $15.8 million. That’s a failure, I don’t care how you spin it. 

      Success is measured in many ways. For a telethon, the amount of money raised is usually the strongest indicator for success or failure. Next, I would say is the telethon’s ability to appeal to as wide a target population as possible, then I would consider the quality of programing and production.  

      We have already covered the fact that the telethon failed to even raise an equal amount as it did last year. Now lets look at appeal. Did ArmeniaFund really appeal to more people than it did last year?  I am not sure, please provide us with an exact breakdown of how many people donated to the telthon this year compared to last year, as well as comparison of the money raised from each respective region of the telethon between this year and last year. Being able to broadcast to “over 55 million households in the US” doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean that 55 million or even 1 person are watching the telethon, and it doesn’t mean they are donating to the telethon. It’s just a figure and not a sign of success…just empty rhetoric .

      I do know that a recent report on Radio Free Europe that ArmeniaFund failed to attract donations from prominent Armenian-American businessmen and philanthropists as well as businessmen in Armenia. You can read the report here: (http://www.armenialiberty.org/content/article/1899725.html)

      And as for the quality of programing? In my opinion, as well as many who shared thanksgiving dinner with me that day, It was pathetic, boring, repetitive and amateurish. Nothing any of your hosts said was captivating, motivating or compelling. They spoke poorly and it was very evident that they were doing something they have no business doing. Meanwhile, I found it boring and annoying that the same short documentary segments were replayed over and over again throughout the day. Now this is all subjective, but how else do you measure a successful program that appeals to the interests of television viewers?
      I don’t mean to rub this in your face again, but I would like a logical (non character assassinating explanation) as to how you can make the claim that this year was the most successful telethon if in 2008 ArmeniaFund announced 35 million in donation pledges and in 2009 it announced on 15.8 million.
       

      • Sarkis Kotanjian said:

        As for comparing last year’s $35 million to this year’s $16 million – things are much simpler then they seem. Last year Armenia Fund had several very large donations coming in from Russia ($15 million from Samvel Karapetian, $3.4 million from Sergei Hambardzumyan, etc.).  This year same donors participated but with smaller amounts — you can’t expect same donors to donate $15 or $3 million every year.  Grand donors usually do not participate every year — their participation is almost always cyclical. They would skip a year or two and then donate again. However, the participation of the general public was unexpectedly high — more than 20,000 people donating in Armenia compared to last year’s 13,000; 12,400 donors in France compared to last year’s 11, 272; 10,700 donating in Los Angeles compared to 9,100 donors last year and so on for every large Armenian community. Every single community stepped up its participation.
        Also – don’t forget the unfavorable fundraising background this year – political developments in Armenia’s foreign policy, deepening economic crisis, etc…
        This Telethon was a big victory since it truly brought people together around something very good – helping the Homeland – after a year of divisions…
        Using this occasion I want to express my sincere gratitude to all the donors of Armenia Fund around the world, who pitched in to rebuild Shushi – a heroic town, the liberation of which was step one on the way of gaining back what rightfully belongs to the Armenian nation… 

  15. sevag said:

    Parev.This essay said nothing critical of the Armenian Fund. People should not confuse the Armenian Fund with the Tele-marathon or Phone-a-thon. I think the essay asks valid questions about a TV show. A TV show! How the quality and expesne of a TV show can be confused for some readers is false thinking. The Armenian Fund is not just the TV show and an opinion by one writer does not mean all Armenian journalism is faulty. That statement is also faulty thinking. Yes. It was a funny and nervous show to watch but the essay praises the Armenian Fund for helping Armenia. People must hear each other because they are talking about different things here.

  16. sevag said:

    One more pointer. It is clear that the Armenian Fund does not understant her diaspora and her diapsora does not react to the Armenian Fund. They say there are one million Armenians in California. Only 10,000 donations is not right. This is a big evidence. So we must ask how can diaspora come to dialogue with Armenia and thr reverse. This is serious issue. If Armenia and the Armenian Fund will reach diaspora, seriuos consideration must be taken for both sides to listen to each other’s story. Then maybe there will be unity about Armenian Fund and issues like Protocols with Turkish and Armenian governments. Clearly there is no dialogue between Armenia and Diapsora. This must change.

    • Sarkis Kotanjian said:

      Correction — it is a big myth that 1 million Armenians live in California. In reality the number is closer to 500,000. However, Armenia Fund’s Telethon broadcast reaches every single Armenian household only in Southern California, since here we have the most dense concentration of Armenians. Even though we do have a wide broadcast in Central California and San Francisco/Bay area, it is almost impossible to reach every single Armenian household there – due to the spread of the Armenian population over  a vast geographic area. Of course it could be done technically, but that would cost an arm and a leg, which Armenia Fund cannot afford.
      So in order to correctly gauge the response of the Armenian Diaspora to the Armenia Fund Telethon we should take as base our broadcast in Southern California through high power stations 18 and 23, coupled with Charter channels 281, 284, 285, 286 and 288 – as this way we reach almost every single Armenian household in Southern California.  The Armenian population of Southern California is around 300,000. Divide it by an average U.S. family (according to the latest U.S. census) of 3.14 and you have 95,541 Armenian families. According to the U.S. non-profit industry standards, a good response to any kind of mass solicitation is 5% of the total number of people solicited. Now, don’t forget that it is not 10,700 PERSONS that participated in the Telethon in Los Angeles, but 10,700 FAMILIES and BUSINESSES. 5% of 95,541 Armenian families solicited makes it 4,777 families. In case of Armenia Fund Telethon, the response is more than 10% of solicited public – 10,700 families out of 95,541 solicited.
      Dear all — non-profits is an industry that has been around in the U.S. for over a century.  Professional fundraising has its rules and accepted industry standards that allow non-profits to correctly gauge the response of the general public.
      Thank you.

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