BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
I recently noticed something, or more accurately, assembled disparate pieces, accumulated over the years, to form a complete picture.
It’s about the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. It’s THE Armenian organization that many people love to hate. At the same time, it’s also the Armenian organization that many people apotheosize. Both perspectives are extremes, of course. This commentary stems from something that many people in the first group do.
When you have a predisposition to see things in a certain way, then a lot start to “fit” that expectation. The adage “if the only tool you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail” comes to mind. And this is what people do who are ill disposed towards the ARF, simply insufficiently informed about the organization and its principles, overly prone to a pseudo “objectivity”, or just plain jealous of its extensive doings for the good of Armenia and Armenians.
The particularly odd mode of thought or approach that some of our compatriots have towards the ARF amounts to this: If a member of the ARF does something bad, the shame accrues to the organization. If a member of the ARF does something good, the respect does not accrue to the organization; rather, s/he is perceived as acting on their own.
Why this double standard? I can understand that when a member of an organization, acting in the public eye, particularly on the community or political scene, screws up, the organization looks bad along with the individual. But usually, the opposite is operative, too. In the case of the ARF, this whole phenomenon reeks of the efforts during the late-Soviet period to separate our late-18th/early 19th century freedom fighters and their exploits from the organization which enabled those successes. Unfortunately, this approach persisted post-independence. The phenomenon I’m describing may arise in part from this cynical abuse of our heroes.
Now, if an ARF member successfully assists the development on a remote village in Javakhk, it is often misrepresented as having nothing to do with the ARF. But what of the training—ideological and practical— the organization provided that individual? What about the context the ARF provides through its public relations efforts for people to undertake such projects? What about the politically enabling role of the ANCA, a positively perceived structure that many dissociate from its founder and ongoing driver, the ARF?
This silliness must end. I have no problem being held individually and organizationally accountable for failures. I just hope that you will never begrudge the ARF, or any group, due credit and respect for its successes, which, inevitably are the product of the work of its members.