BY HEGHINAR MELKOM MELKOMIAN
Corruption, economic crisis, murders labeled suicide, covert domestic violence against women and children, too many oligarchs, unemployment, emigration, low living standards – you name it, we have it. If you want to point out Armenia’s problems, shortcomings and negative sides surely you will need more than your fingers to count on and maybe even your toes. But life isn’t just about the negative, is it? There is always good, a ray of hope, belief, sometimes hidden deep in our subconscious minds. Always – otherwise we cannot be.
Everything in this life begins with birth and under the right conditions and circumstances grows and prospers through baby steps, a phenomenon underrated on so many levels. This is how we deal with things in so-called third world countries. To expect and achieve too much at once is, mildly put, impossible. To hope to achieve something or anything is more realistic. Those who continue to live here see the great picture, have a vision and a lot of nerves of steel for the change to come with baby steps. A lot of baby steps…
For me these steps are the different civic initiatives organized and held by NGO’s, activists and ordinary citizens. Those who want to see the change try to bring change by being the change. There is no other way. Armenia’s “online community” is getting more active day by day. Young enthusiastic people are trying to find ways to raise awareness, to spread the word, to plant the seeds of hope that all is not lost, to encourage the baby to stand up and move forward.
Civic initiatives which were “secretly” and “beautifully” triumphed during recent years, such as the fight to preserve Moscow cinema’s open-air hall, Aram 30, Mashtots Park and other public spaces and/or historic structures are our seeds. Just because we lose more battles than we win does not mean we should put our weapons down and give up. And it certainly does not mean we should surrender, pack our bags and leave. This is the story of our lives, we have stayed and fought tooth and nail and see where we stand now – an independent country with a new generation of bright, aware youth who know there are many more battles to come.
We may not be “responsible” for the situation in other countries and our compatriots living there, but we are for Armenia and those in it. This is not a call or lecture for patriotism. The dictionary definitions of this word may be irrefutable, but the way it is felt and perceived is surely individual. And how we perceive is how we act. To live, is to constantly struggle and we all have our different ways. One brings change through organizing and heading an initiative, the other works as “part of the regime” to make a change from the inside; another doesn’t offer bribes or uses the crossroads to cross roads and sets an example. Baby steps made me walk. Baby steps made you walk.
And these are the steps that inspire, give hope and courage – the horrific and equally heroic act of a father trying to bring the corpse of his murdered son to Republic Square to demand justice, non-profit online auctions organized to help both adults and children in need of expensive treatments abroad, mothers franticly spreading footages and articles of families and children living in extreme poverty and extending a helping hand by sending them diapers, clothes, etc., friends and random people joining in a cause to “breathe life” into the dull walls of children’s’ hospitals through pictures and colors on walls. Most of these methods are not sustainable, but they instill empathy and hope; they instill civic consciousness.
When the brain commands the body to stand up and walk, the body obeys. Through trials and tribulations, shaky legs, numerous falls, tears and failures the body wins. The people of Armenia are trying to switch gears and become the brain; to command and to rule. This is our tomorrow, for there cannot be another way. We rise and we are pushed down, put in walkers and playpens, buckled in highchairs and strollers to become immobile for as long as possible, but one day our muscles will develop, our power will prevail and we shall stand and walk strongly and independently, for there cannot be another way.