BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
In the post-WWII era, many Europeans became rabidly anti-nationalist, an understandable reaction to the obscene excesses marking that cataclysm.
But that natural response has persisted in its extreme form and is sometimes exported to places where it is not only unnatural, but possibly even damaging. Armenia is one such place.
There are many of our compatriots who seem to eschew nationalism. Some of that comes from the lingering effects of seven decades worth of Soviet propaganda. But, some of it comes, especially among the newest generation, from exposure to and interaction with European mindsets.
A Facebook poll, recently brought to my attention, inquired whether people wanted to replace the Republic of Armenia’s anthem “Mer Hyerenik” with Charles Aznavour’s song “For You Armenia” which has been translated into Armenian from the original French.
Setting aside the tackiness, poor taste, and opportunism manifested by the timing of this poll, the more important question is why? What’s wrong with “Mer Hyerenik”? Is it too “associated” with the first three administrations (Levon, Robert, Serzh) of the RoA and therefore somehow tainted? Is it too associated with the first (1918) republic and the ARF and is therefore a target of anti-ARF sectors of society? How many people even know it came from that time (and was slightly modified)? Or, is it just a matter of people who fear/distrust nationalism and want as dainty a song as possible for the national anthem? Arguing that “Mer Hyerenik” is too sad of a song don’t hold water because Aznavour’s song is just as sad.
Despite all this, lots of people were supportive of the change, at least in the un-scientific representation of the FB poll.
To my mind this undue and overwrought fear of national pride must be nipped in the bud. Why are black pride, gay pride, and other identity groups’ expressions of pride acceptable, but not Armenians’? If Europe thinks it can do without nationalism, that’s fine, but for us, this pride is also protective given our bloodthirsty eastern and western neighbors!
Nationalism is a natural human instinct and a basic expression of pride, a basic societal organizing principle. It is also a good defense against the excesses of the capitalist and corporatist tendencies being foisted upon ever larger parts of humanity. That protection comes from the caring for fellow members of one’s own nation it engenders.
Where the line should be drawn is when nationalism is abused and corrupted, becoming chauvinism and rejecting others’ nationalism or inspiring hatred of those not in one’s own nation.
My request of all fellow Armenians is to stop engaging in these unnecessary and ultimately divisive and destructive diversions. Let’s focus on addressing and solving our real issues, such as the kerfuffle over when to hold snap parliamentary elections in the RoA. So much is happening so quickly on that front that I decided to hold off on commenting ‘til the dust settled a bit.