Diplomacy, Discipline and Dissent


EditorialCartoonjpgBy Edmond Y. Azadian

In present-day Armenian life, there are favorite targets which many people enjoy hitting to gain notoriety. No one tries to argue against those cheap shots, fearing being identified with those targets. This writer does not intend to be an apologist for those targets, but in an atmosphere of chaos, one is legitimately entitled to seek the positive, to propose the constructive and above all, to ask what would be our ultimate purpose after we destroy infrastructures, leaderships and symbols.

Armenia has been conducting a viable diplomacy, the best possible under its circumscribed conditions. Of course, diplomacy is most successful when it is supported by guns. For example, the US conducts its foreign policy at the butt of guns and we arrive always at the conclusion of La Fontaine that “The reasoning of the strongman is always the best.”

Armenia’s foreign policy cannot always achieve its goals and it remains vulnerable to criticism. That is why many irresponsible people take pot shots without being able to supplant that policy with guns.

Armenians have a destructive gene in their system. They cried for six centuries about their lost independence. Yet, once that independence has been restored, they muster all their energies to destroy that imperfect homeland rather than use those energies to improve it and make it viable.

Armenia is located in one of the nerve centers of the world. It is surrounded and threatened by its enemies. The leaders navigate the country through troubled waters. They may not be paragons of statesmanship but to repeat ad nauseam the mantra that they are corrupt is not any indication of patriotism. There is a zeal to destroy the corrupt government which could be justified if it did not reach a hysterical level, and, above all, if it could be accompanied by alternative recommendations.

Let us destroy anything and everything but let us come up with a replacement idea before we succumb to our destructive instincts.

Another target is the head of the Armenian Church at Echmiadzin. The organized manner in which social media criticizes and insults the hierarchy of the church has never demonstrated any positive prospect.

The religious hierarchy is based on discipline. Any clergyman — like any draftee in the army — takes a vow to abide by the rules and regulations of the system. Any clergyman who chooses to violate the rules has to live by its consequences. But any priest that is defrocked becomes an instant “victim”; the self-appointed critics of the Pontiff don’t have the compunction to inquire what may have caused the disciplinary action taken against the defrocked cleric. They even savor the occasion to direct their criticism against the authority that tries to maintain order in the system.

The critics have become so self-serving that they are ready to come to the rescue of an illiterate clergyman, who by some machinations and vote-buying has ascended the venerable throne of a Patriarchate and has the nerve to circulate crude letters in the media, trying to dispense advice to his superior, whose advice he needs more than anyone else.

But the self-appointed critics welcome the opportunity to glorify the message and the messenger, when instead they had to castigate that illiterate clergyman, if indeed they intended to serve the church.

Thus, the abhorrant acts become the standard in a mediocre society which has lost its priorities in confusing times.

Very few people take the time and effort to witness the edification which has taken place at Holy Echmiadzin, the scholarly publications, which have been issued and the new generation of clergy who have been educated after a lull of 70 years, as a result of Soviet rule.

Of course, no political leader or head of the church is above criticism, but the level of that criticism in Armenia and by extension in the diaspora is so low that it characterizes more the critic than his target.

Healthy criticism against authorities, be they religious or political, is always welcome, but we are at the verge of nihilism and anarchism, which do not enhance or promote any cause but instead only tear down.

Let no one bemoan that there is no free press or freedom of speech in Armenia. The criticism spewing from all quarters is so indecent that it demeans the concept of free speech. There is no sanity left. And any nation which destroys its icons, is doomed by that destruction.

Recently a group of armed young men took over a police station in Yerevan, killing also a police officer. The assailants were respectable Karabagh war heroes. Their motivation was noble and their desperation was justified. But their action was not commensurate with their ideals. Any self-respecting country would have taken harsher measures rather than have them engaging in lengthy negotiations. Eventually they surrendered and were incarcerated. But there was a groundswell of support for their cause. People came out in the streets to demonstrate and demand that their incarceration be labeled tyranny by a corrupt government.

A case in point is the terrorist act of Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, causing hundreds of deaths, including those of toddlers at a daycare center in the building. For his crime he received the death penalty. Can anyone castigate the US and call it undemocratic because of his conviction and eventual execution?

Armenians ascribe political leadership skills to those who have fought valiantly to defend Armenia and Karabagh, suggesting they should be entitled to rule the country.

History, however, has demonstrated time and again that revolutionary leaders and war heroes become the most ruthless tyrants.

I worry that criticizing misguided criticism can be construed as a defense of the individuals currently serving as targets of that criticism. However, the point is the sickening level of criticism which borders as cynicism.

Any criticism accompanied by positive ideas or suggested course can lead to healthy change and success.

There is a saying in Turkish (and the Turks are not always wrong): “If you plan to steal the mosque, you better prepare the cover.”