BY PAUL CHADERJIAN
Once there was and there was not …
Sometimes if you’re watching the clouds, the genius algorithms of our connectivity and oneness in the universe spell themselves out in plain sight.
Last Sunday, I was watching large jumbo jets landing and taking off from the Honolulu International Airport, passing through the few well-defined, fast-moving and magical clouds over Hickam Beach – a private military beach at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Oahu.
My friends had taken me to the beach on my last day of a quick visit to Honolulu. The night before, I’d watched the stars of Hawaii Five-0 ram a black van into a bench on the driveway of the out-of-use emergency department at Leahi Hospital. The actors had then fallen into gurneys, sporting fake gunshot wounds to the arm and gut.
While Hollywood was making media content on Oahu, a group of friends was doing the same 8,000 miles away. I wouldn’t find out about their project until 12 hours later when my phone buzzed while I was watching the clouds, waves and jets.
What shifted my focus from the sky to my phone was an alert I’d subscribed to on YouTube to find out when CivilNet.am posted a new video. The new email said there was a three-hour video just posted.
I clicked on the email and the images and sound on my phone immediately transported me to the Tavush region of Armenia, where the Shamshadin Honey and Berry Festival had just taken place in the village of Bert.
Staring at the beautiful images coming from this magical place a four-hour drive north of Yerevan, watching Maria Titizian doing interviews with villagers and visitors while I was physically on an island in the middle of the ocean turned into a moment of awakening.
While feeling the Pacific sand under my feet, I knew that the Armenians of the Ararat plain had bridged a huge gap with eternity. We, as a people, had just crossed into the Twilight Zone, ventured into the forever and soon-to-come technological singularity.
For anyone, anywhere in this world, to be able to watch news events as they unfold in our ancestral homeland in real time, or tape delayed because of time zone difference, is beyond amazing.
As I watched the play-by-play, blow-by-blow 3-hour CivilNet coverage of a festival in a forest in Armenia, the world instantly became a much smaller place.
The survival of diasporas is no longer an issue now that we are forever connected virtually with the source of our ethnic identity.
Yes, we’ve had media before. We had cuneiform tablets sent overseas by our ancient sailing ships. We had parchment paper documents carried in scrolls to remote corners of our world.
We had books and newspapers printed in Venice, Madras, Persia, Western and present-day Armenia.
We have websites and apps like this newspaper’s, email-lists like Groong and word-of-mouth media.
But now, to access LIVE streams of video in Armenian and English as news events are happening in the homeland is beyond dreams of news junkies come true; it’s an instant ownership of the homeland in an Armenian co-existence, co-experience and co-presence beyond borders, geography, financial restraints of travel or excuses drummed up from apathy.
The living, breathing flesh of Armenia, its acne, scars and smiles are within reach of our smart phones; and we are no longer disconnected or distant.
Flashed through my mind were the high speed drives down the 405 in 1989 and 1990 when Stepan Partamian, Kerop Manoukian and I would take turns delivering the one-hour Horizon ¾-inch videocassettes from Glendale to West Los Angeles.
Videotaped images of the latest developments in our newly formed third republic that Executive Producer Garbis Titizian had secured and arranged to be delivered by travelers from Yerevan to Los Angeles would go out on the air over channel 18 in Los Angeles.
Horizon news was the first that made it possible for diasporans to see, hear and understand the human stories of the complicated realities being experienced in the homeland after the earthquake, post-independence and during the Artsakh Liberation War.
How times have changed. It had taken 18 months for images from the Sumgait Massacre in February of 1988 to surface on Horizon in the fall of 1989. Now, we can watch Barevolution meetings, mayoral debates and a honey and berry festival in real time, anywhere in the world.
How wonderful and even more amazing is that Horizon now airs half-hour CivilNet reports on Saturday nights at 7 p.m. and Mondays at noon for people who don’t and can’t access the internet.
These CivilNet broadcasts on Horizon are a metaphor for Armenians closing our infinity loop, especially for one of the founding members of Horizon, Salpi Ghazarian. The Civilitas Foundation Director created CivilNet, and now both her media entities complement and enable one another every time CivilNet reports air on Horizon on digital channel 31.6 all over Southern California.
Our media practices and hence existence have changed, and I know that soon our classrooms, gentrons (centers), gyms and homes will be using Apple TV and smart television sets to be tuning in and living life virtually and simultaneously with folks in the homeland.
Last month, activists in Yerevan – some extremely young – took to the streets to protest a bus fair hike. The number of people getting involved, exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly, was liberating for the Armenian soul. There was a sense of rebirth and a fresh burst of optimism on the bright-eyed and smiling faces of the teens, 20-somethings and others on the streets of the City.
Some compared the bus fair protests to the unity and synergy of the public meetings when Armenians stood up against the iron fist of the Soviets and demanded and won independence.
This month the activists are trying to stop the construction of a proposed highrise that is jeopardizing the structural integrity of surrounding homes. Police have been cracking down, sometimes manhandling the protestors inappropriately and unjustly.
And all this is being televised.
What some government officials fearfully dismiss as opposition media is changing the type of stories mainstream media is covering and how they’re covering it. This is truly revolutionary and historic for our fledgling democracy.
Even non-Armenians across the world are taking notice.
Thanks to new tools of technology, home video cameras, smart phones and laptops, those who are participating in the new surge of activism in Armenia are also broadcasting it so that Armenians and non-Armenians anywhere in the world can tune in and experience these historic days in the homeland.
Stay tuned. Better yet, get involved.
And three apples fell from heaven: one for the storyteller, one for him who made him tell it, and one for you the reader.
Paul Chaderjian is a broadcast journalist with work experience at ABC News in New York, at the ABC station in Hawaii and at the NBC, CBS and FOX affiliates in Fresno. He also served as the Arts & Culture and West Coast Editor of the Armenian Reporter, anchored English-language news at Armenia TV and has hosted the annual Armenia Fund Telethon. He may be reached by email: [email protected]