Mass & Density

Garen Yeghparian


Mass is how much stuff there is. Density is how tightly packed the stuff is. It’s the old “Which weighs more? A pound of feathers or a pound of lead?” query. Which, in turn, begs the question, “which one can have more impact?”

It seems to me there’s a human analogy to this that applies to our Diaspora’s communities.

We have large and small communities (mass/stuff). Some are compact, even ghettoized, while others are sparsely populated (density/tight-packing). But in this analogy, density doesn’t always measure just the concentration of Armenians living in an area, but how well organized they are to pursue collective needs.

We need “density” in the sense of organization. However, we can probably make do, for brief periods (maximum one generation), with large “mass” in our communities. Ideally, we would have mass and density, but that’s not always possible, nor always desirable.

An example of “mass” is the Los Angeles area multi-community. Some of its component areas’ Armenian settlements are both massive and dense (though not in the organizational sense, just geographically)— Glendale, Hollywood, North Hollywood. This kind of density is useful in that identity maintenance is somewhat easier because everyone and everything— community structures, family, friends, organizations —are all physically very close, so everyone goes their merry way “being” Armenian, never having to think about it. But take any one person familiar with this kind of community and drop them in Nebraska instead of NoHo, and they’re lost to the Diaspora. That’s because s/he is not integrated organizationally and awareness-wise into our community, s/he is just “there” living, not doing things that are helpful, participatory, engaged.

Conversely, in places like Houston, where we’ve developed a reasonable level of organization, despite small numbers, the community does good work. And that’s in a state like Texas where the political deck is stacked against us because of oil-based chumminess with Azerbaijan (among other reasons).

When organized, we can nurture one another and pursue resolution of our issues and concerns. But one thing we often fail to do, even when we are “dense” organizationally, is to develop the AWARENESS it takes to maintain that very same “density” so that the next generation can do the same. How many people do you know who counsel their family member or friends who are chasing work in the Montanas and Mexicos of the world, that s/he who is moving should immediately contact the new locale’s Armenian groups and plug in; or, absent existing groups, to quickly organize one, and start to educate the political leadership of the area and establish strong bonds of community with any other earlier Armenian arrivals in the area.

Look at what non-“massive” but “dense” communities such as those in Racine (Wisconsin), New Orleans, Cyprus, Australia, etc. have achieved recently or ongoingly either in the political realm or in building and maintaining community/identity.

Please get involved, that’s the first step to solving any of our problems. Maybe “involvement” can be your New Year’s resolution two weeks from now.


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