A Declaration of War

The end is nigh. All hope is lost. Vultures await our death. Armenia and the Diaspora are on the cusp of disappearance.

At least that’s what you might think if you read any Armenian news or interact with Armenians in person or online.

And the time has come for me to make a confession: I’ve had it with everything Armenian sucking. Diasporans complain about their organizations. University students complain about their Armenian Student Associations. Everyone complains about Armenia.

Sometimes I think Armenians suffer from the first known case of perpetual national depression or, PND, as it’s been known ever since I coined it just now.

The despair is suffocating and, frankly, boring. For the uniqueness-seeking among you, it’s just unoriginal. A leftover of past generations’ incessant focus on slights against Armenians, real or perceived, now basking in an anachronistic rebirth. Positivity should be in vogue if only because it might be considered a rejection of societal norms.

Little is more disheartening than hearing a young person, hardly of age, repeating the loathsome banalities of their parents about hopelessness, annoyances, and resignation about their nation. Young adults and their slightly older brethren galvanized in their drear against any rationality may be the only thing worse.

If you want a reason to prove things are just falling apart like some Achebean hell, I’m sure you’ll find plenty – although it will only serve to prove your insistent myopia and pessimism than any reality.

First, the rotten apple of everyone’s eye: Armenia. It has problems, as we can all agree, but they’re not apocalyptic. And if they were, the last person I want solving the problem is someone wailing at the top of their lungs that the apocalypse is coming. Think asteroid and ask yourself the type of person you want figuring out how to handle the seemingly impending doom.

Not to be outdone, the Armenian Diaspora also has its problems. Surprising, I know. But if you were waiting for Diasporan organizations to cater to you as if you were seated at the I Want To Do Something Armenian restaurant, worry not for you are in Elysium and you are already dead. Well, dead as a productive Armenian (thanks, Gladiator, for always pulling through).

Fact is, there is no restaurant; only a kitchen. If you want something, cook it up – you’ve got all the ingredients at your disposal. If it fails, try again if you have an actual desire for it to get better. But don’t spit on the other cooks or their dishes when you don’t like their food but aren’t willing to help or make your own. And if you can’t handle the heat, which in this case represents your overwhelming dejection and self-pity, you know what to do. And please don’t walk out banging pots and pans, causing a ruckus. I can assure you that nobody cares.

(If you think it was strenuous reading that metaphor, imagine writing it.)

There is seemingly no effort unscathed by naysayers ready to pounce on an opportunity to undermine. No proverbial good deed that goes unpunished. Some have even developed what can be called a regrettable talent of being able to extract negativity out of even the most positive news.

Thus, I am officially declaring war on the demoralizers of our nation. Those keen on sucking the joy out of being Armenian, intent on wickedly stealing the confidence and ambition and optimism of a people. The ferocity of Hayk and the Sassountsi and the heroes of Sardarabad and Artsakh will be unleashed to flood out your dastardly grief-mongering. (Curious how there is nary a myth or legend or history about the hopeless.)

Pre-mourners, what I’ll call those of you awash in the melancholy of a death expected but yet to occur: you are not needed. If it’s lamentation you crave, lament your own uselessness and not the impending downfall of the Armenian nation. Your campaign of despondence will be confronted with the fertilizers of strength and progress: encouragement, resolve, invigoration, principle, and love.

I know how difficult it is to remain devoted – I’ve been surrounded by you my whole life, after all. I know how much easier it is to curse and bemoan than to create and refine – I’m guilty of the former. But, despite my ongoing shortcomings, I’ve chosen the latter. It’s the least I can do to reciprocate the good fortune of being born Armenian and having an Armenia that I can love and cherish, till death – surely mine – do us part.

Neither Armenians nor Armenia are your whipping boy and they will not be. I just created an army of at least one to make sure they are not.

Հերիքա:

By: William Bairamian

Hetq Editor Calls Diasporans “Rascals with Fat Bellies”

Hrant Gadarigian, the English-language editor for Hetq, posted a note on Facebook earlier today that read, “The Armenian communities of the Diaspora are dominated by shopkeepers, pseudo-intellectuals, and clergymen. A miscellaneous crew of rascals with fat bellies and swollen egos.”

The full text is in the image below.

Hrant Gadarigian - Diasporans shopkeepers

The post was subsequently deleted.

Hetq About Us Page - HG highlight crop
Hetq.am About Us page

Hey, good non-pseudo-intellectual take on Diasporan Armenians!

I forgot to mention that Gadarigian himself is an ex-Diasporan. But, like many who have moved to Armenia, is all too ready to disparage the Diaspora when the opportunity arises.

If an editor at Hetq is writing something like this publicly, might it be safe to assume that there are others who feel similarly but who aren’t as brash as Gadarigian? Might we assume that Gadarigian’s mentality has influenced his work or those who have come in contact with it?

Hetq logo.
Hetq logo.

Fortunately, Gadarigian seems to represents the remnants of a fading need – nagging urge even – to blindly undercut fellow Armenians. Unfortunately, he has a soapbox in Hetq where he is able to publish content skewed by his vision. Indeed, his mentality is echoed by some much younger than him who are anxious to continue such libelous rhetoric instead of being builders and leaders. Then there are those – and I like to believe they are more numerous – who reject the poisonous and corrosive mentality put on display by him.

Thus, Armenian youth, behold this example set for you by a member of a generation past. Know that you must be better and know that when you are, so too is your nation.

By: William Bairamian

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Sanctions Proposed Against Armenia

That’s right. Sanctions – remedial punishment for perceived wrongdoing – against Armenia. Except it’s not another country proposing them: it’s Armenians. There is a not-so-impromptu effort to get people to stop donating to the All-Armenian Fund during its annual Thanksgiving Day Telethon, money from which will go to development projects in Armenia

As with most sanctions, they will affect not the governors that are ostensibly the source of contempt but regular people.

Behold a pernicious effort to divide a unifying force among Armenians that’s unfolding in our midst. At first it looks disjointed but it’s more coordinated than it seems.

Deftly timed to be released ahead of the All-Armenian Fund (called Armenia Fund in the U.S.) Annual Telethon which raises money for different projects throughout Armenia, the Policy Forum of Armenia released a report about its views on corruption in Armenia.

Ara Manoogian, a member of PFA and the creator of The Truth Must Be Told, has had a personal crusade, now at least a few years old, to assail the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and has urged people to not donate to the organization that completes humanitarian and strategic projects in Armenia.

Ara Manoogian - Fellow at the Policy Forum of Armenia
Ara Manoogian – Fellow at the Policy Forum of Armenia

It just so happens that the PFA promotes Manoogian on its facebook page and Manoogian uses the PFA report to dissuade people from donating. 

PFA facebook page
PFA facebook page
Manoogian on his local TV show (video below)
Manoogian on his local TV show (video below)

First, I’d like to note for the record that I’m not a big proponent of blindly donating money to Armenia. I think there are lots of other ways Armenians can and should help the homeland.

That said, I certainly recognize the immensely large impact the All-Armenian Fund has had on Armenia but, more than any other, its linking of the Republic of Armenia to the Republic of Artsakh and the development of the North-South Highway.

Second, I love criticism and critique. They are the exercises that allow our minds to expand, that require us to prove to ourselves the truths in which we believe, or change those beliefs altogether. That’s why I take such a dim view of what I’m going to discuss (and have before in this blog): poor, unsubstantiated criticism is not only worthless, it gives criticism a bad name.

If you’re going to tell me the “truth” because it “must be told,” you damn well better be able to prove it. 

Here are the most common arguments I’ve seen for not donating to the All-Armenian Fund:

1) Don’t Donate Because Armenia’s Government Is Corrupt.

PFA Armenia Fund 1-redacted

So, forget that the PFA doesn’t bother explaining how the government embezzles “more in a year than your combined donations,” they’re telling you to not donate to the All-Armenian Fund because of it.

That is, “government embezzles money -> don’t donate to the All-Armenian Fund.” Wait, what? Is that a logical leap or am I living in a different universe?

Oh, and if you want to know to whom you should donate, according to the last comment made by the PFA there, figure it out for yourself. This is called un-constructive criticism. Mostly because you’re not constructing anything to replace the destruction you’re attempting to wreak. 

2) Don’t Donate Because All-Armenian Fund Is Corrupt, Too.

Ohhhhhhhhh.

PFA Armenia Fund 3-redacted

So it’s not just the Armenian government, Diaspora individuals, Diaspora organizations, but the All-Armenian Fund is also corrupt. Got it. So, I’m guessing the only non-corrupt thing in the Armenian world is the Policy Forum of Armenia…and Ara Manoogian.

Protesting election of Serzh Sargsyan in front of US Rep. Adam Schiff's office. Ya, I don't know either.
Incorruptly protesting election of Serzh Sargsyan in front of US Rep. Adam Schiff’s office in Burbank, CA. Ya, I don’t know either.

And since the evidence for all this corruption is in plain sight, I guess they’re right. Except, no.

Well, there is this video where expert opinions are presented as evidence:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUA5XFXkC1A&w=560&h=315]

I didn’t know there were so many well-informed people ready to comment on Armenia’s economic situation at the Americana in Glendale, whose motto has recently been changed to, “Where you can shop till you drop and interview scholars on Armenia all in the same afternoon!”

I’ve also tried visiting TheTruthMustBeTold.com which is the website where the To Donate or Not To Donate? white paper by Ara Manoogian is contained. Unfortunately my computer won’t let me visit the site because my anti-virus detects a virus deemed a severe threat. Nevertheless, I found the white paper that Manoogian publicizes every chance he gets.

If anyone can extract something from that that actually proves endemic corruption in the All-Armenian Fund, please let it be known.

I’m open to being wrong and if someone can show me that there is proof of corruption in this video which is being circulated, tell me.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4KGbMbHwec&w=560&h=315]

3) Don’t Donate to All-Armenian Fund Because…Well, Just Because! Ufffff.

“And don’t ask me why because I’m so annoyed!”

Lara Aharonian, the founder of the Women’s Resource Center in Armenia, is also not a fan of donating to the All-Armenian Fund.

i.e. "It's so bad, I'm not going to bother proving it to you."
i.e. “It’s so bad, I’m not going to bother proving it to you.”

The WRC has an office in Shushi and I’m not sure how they would drive there from Yerevan if it wasn’t for the road built by the All-Armenian Fund (see below).

It also receives money from Counterpart International, an organization which receives funding from the U.S. government. But it’s really unclear what the WRC is using their money on. Actually, there is no publicly available report of how the funds at the WRC are spent. Is it unreasonable for taxpaying Armenian-Americans to ask how their money is being spent? 

More Ara Manoogian. Start, if you can bear it, at 33:18 and observe what “truth must be told.” If you want to skip ahead, take a look at 49:37.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/_AAH_-eND-U?t=33m18s]

If the All-Armenian Fund provides an annual report and audits of its work by an internationally reputed accounting organization because it wants to show that the money of donors is being spent for the uses for which it is intended, let’s require the same of Armenian organizations that are receiving money from the U.S. government.

In case you’re interested:

2012 All-Armenian Fund Annual Report

All-Armenian Fund Physical Audit Report performed by Grant Thornton

It’s rather audacious, and arrogant, for one to expect the assumption of good intentions about themselves while suspecting others of wrongdoing.

glass house - architecturaldigest.com

If the argument is that there is graft and that’s why people shouldn’t donate, could the same logic be applied to not paying taxes because there is terrific waste in government spending? Or perhaps we shouldn’t donate when natural disasters happen, as they so often do, because all the money doesn’t get to where it’s intended. Or maybe we shouldn’t donate at all. Is it really possible to be totally sure your money isn’t being used for something other than what you intended?

Actually, it almost certainly is. But that’s why you’re donating and not running the organization to which you’re donating in the first place. You entrust the people who are in charge to complete the task they’ve said they’re going to complete. You’re not supposed to manage

And you know what? Even part of the money being donated to the All-Armenian Fund is disappearing (of which there is no hard evidence, mind you – pesky thing that evidence), so be it. You know why? This is why:

Built by the All-Armenian Fund.
Built by the All-Armenian Fund
Built by the All-Armenian Fund
Built by the All-Armenian Fund

In my trade, highways are called “supply routes.” That is, if you need to get supplies, for example, to soldiers, that’s what you use. Without them, all the weapons that you have stored in various facilities throughout the land are worth squat.

Put more simply:

When this happens

explosion - flickr.com

And you have this

no road - flickr

Your

Armenia tank - 1280px-T-72B_-TankBiathlon2013-30 -

Might end up like

NoRoad0 - sperone.free.fr

Ջոկի՞ք:

Now, it’s one thing that to be annoyed at moronic attempts to get people to not donate to an organization that’s verifiably doing work, and good work at that. It’s quite another when someone suggests that that organization (the All-Armenian Fund) is doing wrong or shouldn’t be doing the work at all when that work is protecting Armenians from very real enemies.

If you don’t want to donate, don’t donate. But don’t lie to people when you can’t come up with a good reason for them to support you.

I’m going to donate $50, a paltry amount about which I am ashamed. If you’re able to donate more to make up for the boycott this year, you can follow the link here. If not, at least do Armenia this solid and don’t go around trying to convince others not to help.

I bid you a very Happy Thanksgiving and I’ll leave you with a final thought by the estimable Armenian hero, Garegin Njdeh, posted on the very cool blog People of Ar:

flyer 1.FH11

Hayrenik

I’m William Bairamian. I’m from the Diaspora: the Armenian one. The center of it: Los Angeles. I’m now in the Hayrenik (Homeland). No, I wasn’t born here but yes, I consider it my homeland nonetheless.

This is my second time here. Last time was in 2007. Yes, it’s changed, as it seems to every time you blink. Of course, the change most people mean when they say it’s changed is of the superficial variety: new buildings, bigger cafes, nicer cars, better restaurants (all in Yerevan, mind you). There are other changes, more subtle, perhaps in the people, perhaps otherwise. I’m more interested in the latter. And observations. And opinions.

My commentary will be about Armenia, Armenian people, the Armenian people, the Diaspora, and related thoughts. If I happen to write about skydiving one day and you’re hard-pressed to find its connection to Armenia or Armenians, try not to hyperventilate and deal with it. I welcome any viewpoints, even critical ones. Just try to maintain a modicum of decorum with me and with others who might participate.

Now breathe. It’s fresh. And rancid. But never stale.

You can also follow me on Twitter at @Bairamian.

Welcome to theGampr.

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