Emerging from Parochial Mode into Global Vision


By Edmond Y. Azadian

A tumultuous year is nearing its end. The US survived one of the ugliest and most highly contested presidential campaigns, which catapulted Donald Trump into the White House, stunning even him. Sadly, this is no “reality” show, but reality. Once he realizes that in this reality there are real-world consequences, he might begin to regret his campaign.

Trump’s enemies and friends alike are all confused; many of his former enemies are lined up as friends looking for a share of his newly acquired power.

The Hillary Clinton camp is obviously disappointed because it felt that victory was almost at hand. President Barack Obama leaves office with his legacy tarnished. He had turned around the US economy, controlled inflation, brought the unemployment rate to a historic low, cut down the national debt and made health care accessible to the masses. (President Obama can take solace from Churchill and de Gaulle, who lost elections after their historic victories.)

On the other hand, President Obama all but abandoned America’s gunboat diplomacy, bringing a vicious nuclear escalation with Iran to a peaceful resolution and halted regime-change mania in its tracks, including ending the diplomatic freeze with Cuba. The previous administration had triggered the “Arab Spring” to create blood baths in Iraq and Libya, with Syria and Iran being groomed as next on the target list.

Of course, warmongers were equally frustrated at not being able to put into immediate use all the modern military hardware churned out by the military industrial complex.

Armenians in America do not know where they stand on the president-elect’s priority list, if they even figure on it.

But the most powerful man on earth, the commander in chief of the US armed forces, has also his limitations. For eight years, President Obama was not allowed to say about the Armenian Genocide what he had intended to say; this demonstrates the power of entrenched diplomacy, which even the president cannot override.

The fact that despots like Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have direct access to Donald Trump to congratulate him on his election and Armenia’s president had a narrow window of opportunity to utter his congratulations to Vice President Elect Michael Pence, says a lot about the relationships of these leaders to the current power structure of the world.

During the past year, Armenia survived an attack from neighboring Azerbaijan, at a very heavy cost. The April war demonstrated how fragile and vulnerable Armenia is in that hostile region. The conflict forced some domestic changes which are cosmetic at best, except perhaps the appointment of the new prime minister, Karen Karapetian. He inspires hope for the future for the despondent population of Armenia. He has his work cut out for him, however. His plans and enthusiasm seem promising, but his joining the discredited Republican Party is not considered a wise move.

Armenia is also losing the media war. While the oligarchs and the government officials abuse the nation’s wealth, Armenia does not even have decent news outlets in foreign languages to plead its case.

Government officials and Republican Party members are all geared and ready for the parliamentary elections next year, when they will try to continue holding onto power. But no similar zeal is demonstrated by the same elite for feeding the people, cleaning the stench from the Gumri domiks where 3,000 families are still housed, thus sending a signal to the potential emigrants to stay put.

But all is not lost. We can face the new year with a glimmer of hope because the Armenian creative mind is at work. With all the gloom and doom in Armenia and the diaspora, a group of progressive people have emerged who think outside the box.

Indeed, a group of affluent people (mind you, no one would listen to them if they were not so) has determined to bring the Armenian thinking from its parochial parameters and adopt a global approach.

There are many Armenians who once they attain wealth or success, extricate themselves from their ethnic roots and they create a global mode of living only for themselves. But this group of Armenians brings its wealth, experience and wisdom back to serve its ethnic roots and tries to pull up the entire nation.

On October 28, the Global Armenians took a full-page ad in the New York Times to launch their ideas. We find the names of these prominent Armenians under the above ad and they include Ruben Vardanyan, Noubar Afeyan, Vartan Gregorian, Charles Aznavour, Lord Ara Darzi, Ambassador Edward Djerejian, Dickran Tevrizian, Samvel Karapetyan and others. Certainly more celebrities will gravitate toward this group and their ideas. The idea has been around since 2001 and originally sprang from the project Armenia 2020 conceived by Noubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan to mushroom into becoming a huge project to embrace the global Armenian community.

After the initial list of signatories was seen, many women suggested that their gender was poorly represented on the list, thereby eliciting a positive response from the Global Armenians, who said that the initial list of names was just that and that women and those with lighter pocketbooks were included.

The IDeA Charitable foundation was developed to support programs and projects of monumental dimensions, which were meant to move Armenia from survival mode to one of prosperity. Thus far the group has achieved an impressive list, including the reconstruction of St. George Cathedral in Tbilisi, the Tatev Revival (Wings of Tatev), the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and the United World College in Dilijan.

All of those projects have been achieved without tapping into government resources or funds from existing organizations. All are unique, rooted in history and looking ahead to weave Armenia firmly into the world of tourism, education and charitable giving.

We have naysayers all around. This group, as well as that of Kirk Kerkorian and Eduardo Eurnekian before them, have been able to rise above all the negatives to do good and well for Armenia. Where there is a will, there is always a way to do good.

Armenians in the diaspora have completely lost — rightfully so — their confidence in the government of Armenia. They have the attitude of obstructing every hand helping the homeland if the elite don’t have a cut of it. This is generally the rule rather than the exception. The deceptions practiced there are too many to cite.

As a practical group, the IDeA Foundation can serve as a bridge between Armenia and the diaspora to restore confidence in the homeland.

The other observation which needs to be brought up is that Global Armenians do not depend on traditional resources to achieve life-changing projects. The success of groups such as IDeA Foundation demonstrates one basic truth: that the traditional diaspora structures are obsolete and have outlived their usefulness to guide this nation to prosperity. A new path, without undermining the role of traditional organizations, is the only way forward.

Last, but not least, the ideas and projects promoted by this group are intended to broaden our vision to feel comfortable in a global society and be able to play by its rules.

We would like to embrace the New Year with this global vision.