A Blueprint for the Future

Editorial, 12 June 2015

It’s time “The Viability of a Worldwide Armenian Organization” by Dr. Z.S. Andrew Demirdjian was reprinted and with a much bigger run. The book, published in 2010 by Xlibris, is a blueprint for the future of the Armenian nation. The slim volume (185 pages) should be pored over by every Armenian committed to a bright future for Armenians.

The book makes a persuasive case on how to connect the fragmented Armenian Diaspora. Dr. Demirdjian believes the creation of a pan-Armenian organization would be the first concrete step to unite Armenians and subsequently proceed with their campaign for compensation and restitution from Turkey. A meta-Armenian organization can be a permanent entity looking after the national interests of all Armenians.

Dr. Demirdjian has written hundreds of articles and editorials in refereed journals and received over twelve best article/author awards for his research. Among his half-a-dozen books are “The Emergence of the Ottoman Empire: A Pattern of Passionate Behavior”, “The Demon in Diplomacy” and “The Triangle of Trade in The Cradle of Civilization” where he proved that Armenia was a constituent member of Mesopotamia and the bona fide birthplace of civilization.

Editorial, 12 June 2015

It’s time “The Viability of a Worldwide Armenian Organization” by Dr. Z.S. Andrew Demirdjian was reprinted and with a much bigger run. The book, published in 2010 by Xlibris, is a blueprint for the future of the Armenian nation. The slim volume (185 pages) should be pored over by every Armenian committed to a bright future for Armenians.

The book makes a persuasive case on how to connect the fragmented Armenian Diaspora. Dr. Demirdjian believes the creation of a pan-Armenian organization would be the first concrete step to unite Armenians and subsequently proceed with their campaign for compensation and restitution from Turkey. A meta-Armenian organization can be a permanent entity looking after the national interests of all Armenians.

Dr. Demirdjian has written hundreds of articles and editorials in refereed journals and received over twelve best article/author awards for his research. Among his half-a-dozen books are “The Emergence of the Ottoman Empire: A Pattern of Passionate Behavior”, “The Demon in Diplomacy” and “The Triangle of Trade in The Cradle of Civilization” where he proved that Armenia was a constituent member of Mesopotamia and the bona fide birthplace of civilization.

He argues that it’s time to establish a worldwide meta-organization to unite Armenians with the primary goal of campaigning for the return of Western Armenia and Cilicia to Armenian rule. To reach that goal Armenians need critical mass. “The contention that large number are the common denominators of any organized political effort at achieving results has been a truism in the past, present, and the future is beyond refutation,” he says. It would take an enemy of the Armenians to disagree with the assertion.    

The author is not a Pollyanna unaware of the challenges—external and internal. For example, he talks about the famous/notorious individualism of Armenians who always want to be in control (“All chiefs and no Indians”) and do not get along with one another. The Lone Ranger trait has resulted in disunity in fragmentation in weakness in defeat and in loss of homeland. Rather than look into the mirror, Armenians have, for hundreds of years, deplored this characteristic of other Armenians. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Every Armenian talks about unity, but no Armenian does anything about it.”

But before demanding land and property, Armenian organizations have to coalesce and to rally around a single strategy. Dr. Demirdjian suggests the coining of a word—“Araratism”—which would serve as the name of the ideology of all Armenians working together to regain at least parts of Western Armenia and “for enhancing conditions for the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh.”

While we talk about being a nation of 8 million we collectively punch way below our weight because of fragmentation and our rejection of compromise, he says. A pan-Armenian organization would give us the critical mass so that we would be taken seriously in international fora. The success of Genocide centennial commemorations demonstrated that when we work together we can make our voices heard above the international media din. It’s safe to assume that he Pope wouldn’t have been familiar with the Armenian Genocide had his Armenian acquaintances  in Buenos Aires not familiarized him with the great calamity inflicted upon our nation by Turkey.

While Dr. Demirdjian makes the case for the necessity of a pan-Armenian organization, the nitty-gritty of setting up such an organization is provided by Harut Sassounian, the publisher of “California Courier“. In the book’s last chapter (“Proposal to Create a Framework for Uniting the Diaspora Armenians”) Sassounian provides a toolbox for the construct. 

Among the steps Sassounian offers is this: “My proposed scheme involves the establishment of a unity framework representing Armenians throughout the Diaspora, excluding those living in the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh who are already represented by their respective governments. The estimated seven million Diasporans would be entitled to elect one representative for every 20,000 Armenians living in a particular electoral district.”  

The Sassounian proposal has been out there for more than five years but so far hasn’t been put into practice. Following the publication of Dr. Demirdjian's “The Viability of a Worldwide Armenian Organization”, a symposium dedicated to the subject was held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in November 2010 and another organized by Armenian Women's Association of Canada, Manuel Keusseyan Armenological Lecture Series (AGBU, Montreal), Nakhijevan Institute and Keghart.com in Montreal in March 2011. They were well-attended and received enthusiastically. An attempt to create an all inclusive Armenian representative body along democratic lines was made in Paris but it was short-lived.

There are a number of organizations which are trying to represent the Western Armenians (the National Congress of Western Armenians, the National Council of Western Armenians, Government-in-Exile of Western Armenians). Most Diaspora Armenians know little or nothing about them primarily because the Diaspora media—often controlled by the political parties—are reluctant to cover the activities of “rivals”, let alone promote them. It’s this divisiveness which Dr. Demirdjian rightly condemns in his timely book. 

Will our “leaders” continue to dismiss the concept of a pan-Armenian organization or will they unshackle themselves from the “business as usual” dead-end model? Will they continue to behave like our divisive and destructive ‘nakharars’ or embrace the bracing idea? When will they realize that the Diaspora could vanish in a few generations if the Diaspora establishment doesn’t get its act together?

 

11 comments
  1. Pan-Armenian

    I hope Dr. Demirdjian's proposal and that of several groups doesn't become dust in the usual turf wars of Armenian organizations.

    Tashnagtsoutune (the ARF) has a particular responsibility in this instance. As it has assumed the mantle of the biggest and most effective Armenian Diaspora political organization, the ARF should walk up to the plate and help a pan-Armenian organization become reality. However, it should treat other Armenian organizations as equals, and not go home with its toys if it doesn't have a final say in everything.

    The ARF should put the interests of the nation ahead of its century-old designs and attitudes. It should also remember that if there's no Armenian Diaspora, there's no ARF. It's time the ARF realized that "with us or against" us is divisive and has driven away even some loyal party members.

    The dwindling number of Hnchags and Ramgavars should be a cautionary tale for the ARF. The party might share the fate of those two parties if it doesn't wake up.

    Armenian first, then Tashnag, Hnchag, Ramgavar.

  2. Questions to ponder

    Andrew Demirdjian is a bright Diasporan mind whom I had the pleasure of meeting and discussing with on several occasions, including, when we met at the Unity Symposium mentioned in this article.  We even had a chance encounter in Yerevan a few years ago.  His positions and arguments should be compulsory teaching in every Armenian school as a source of healthy discussion and debate.

    But one must ask an important question: Why would any organization which, if it believes, that it is in a leadership position in a collectivity, and that position being its source of revenue, give up that position?

    The answer(s) may appear simple: (i) for the common good, (ii) for the national interest, (iii) to fulfill our destiny, (iv) because the times demand it etc. etc.

    There is not a single shred of evidence in any theory or practice that an organization, or a business, or a corporation, or any entity has actually done that for those reasons.

    The real answer is actually alarmingly simpler.

    Because they do not want to be the last and biggest fish in a rapidly evaporating pond.

    But for that to happen, they must first realize and accept this reality, and then transform themselves into being one part of something different that will evolve beyond the pond.

    Otherwise the species will not survive.

    Paregamoren

    Viken Levon Attarian

    1. Some Leaders

      It seems that some of our Diaspora leaders adhere to the "apres nous le deluge" school of politics while another group has no objection to being king over ruins. They must believe the Diaspora is a temporary entity… it will disappear soon…so why not enjoy the ride, the perks, and the glory while the going is good.

  3. Armenian New Day Co-Op

    The idea of one single Armenian organization representing all Armenians reminds me of "the New Day Co-Op," a fictional drug organization from "The Wire", an HBO television show from the 2000s. The Co-Op was created as an umbrella organization between Baltimore drug-dealers as a mechanism to stop fighting between rival drug-dealers in order to deflect attention away from the Baltimore Police Department. The Co-Op initially started off well, fulfilling its objectives. However, power imbalances between rival drug-dealers eventually lead to the Co-Op's dismantling, where all drug dealers would have to go through Marlo Stanfield, the most ruthless drug-dealer in Baltimore. To quote Marlo when he dismantled the Co-op:

    "I think it’s best we suspend these meets. In fact, I’m not really one for meets nohow. Anyone got a problem from here on out, bring it to me or sit on that s***. Those of you on the West Side need to re-up, holler at my man Monk. He gonna handle supply over there. On the East Side, Cheese. One more thing: Price of the brick going up. Aight, enough of this s***.” [Emphasis added.]

    Were Armenians to have their own version of the New Day Co-Op, how would all Armenian fragments be represented? The most likely scenario is that initial tacit approval of the Armenian Co-Op would lead to the strongest Diaspora group (whoever that is) taking over, and suspending all "meets" further out, like Marlo Stanfield. It's not as if Armenian Diaspora (or homeland) organizations are known for fostering open and frank discourse. 

    Advocates of the Armenian Co-Op also argue that one mega-organization will create unity among all Armenians. The premise of this argument is that unity cannot be achieved by spirit but only through organizational means. Well, the New Day Co-Op saw unity only through organization, and the death of drug-dealers like Proposition Joe, Stringer Bell, Hungry-Man, all productive members of the Baltimore drug trade. With the ascent of the Armenian Co-Op, the question that comes to mind is, which Armenian voices will be forever silenced, figuratively, and no longer be a productive member in Armenian discourse?

    Finally, the author of the article paraphrases that "[i]t would take an enemy of the Armenians to disagree with the assertion [for the creation of an Armenian meta-organization]." Well, the last group of people who established an Armenian "meta-organization," was the Ottoman Empire, through the use of the "Millet"-system. Does the author of the book and article mean to say that the Ottoman Empire was not the enemy of the Armenian people?

    1. Little Similarity

      Ted,
      When observing commonalities between two entities, it's obvious that the two should have basic similarities.
      You've compared a drug-peddling network with an Armenian civic network.
      The differences between the two are many and crucial:
      The drug network is fictional, American, criminal, and the priority of every member is financial gain.
      The Armenian network would be real, international, law-abiding, and its priority would be promoting national interest.
       
      Your second point that the Ottoman "Millet" was similar to the proposed Armenian network. Again the similarities are superficial.
      The Ottoman "Millet" is dissimilar to the proposed Armenian group.
      It was:
      1. Imposed.
      2. It was imposed by non-Armenians (Ottoman Turks).
      3. It was imposed by an authoritarian government.
      4. It was not a democratic organization.
      5. It was created to control Armenians in the cheapest way possible.
      6. It wasn't created to advance the interests of Armenians.
      7. It was controlled by the Sublime Porte and the Armenian establishment.

      Hayorti

      1. Similarity Beyond Superficiality

        Hayorti,

        Human nature is human nature. If you want to focus on the exterior, i.e., fictional, American, criminal, go for it. But, there will eventually be a Marlo Stanfield in some form, who will take over the Armenian Co-Op, and the issues I raise will be very real (unless of course, it is your group that is the strongest).

        In reference to the "Millet" system, the deleterious effects of imposition by a foreign power may be less worse than the deleterious effects when members of a group blindly agree to such a system, without any mechanism for recourse once things go awry. What was the adage? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely? One Armenian organization to represent all Armenians will attract the most power hungry among us. It always does. 

        Finally, food for thought: Let's assume that the most dynamic Diaspora globally is the Jewish one. They have been a Diaspora for two thousand years, where we have only had a Diaspora effectively for 100 years. Why do the Jews succeed with a plethora of organizations representing their concerns? And why should we Armenians lock ourselves down with only one?

        Best regards,

        Ted

        1. Ted, Re your paragraphs 1 and 2

          Ted,

          Re your paragraphs 1 and 2, I would say that a democratic structure, transparency, and accountability would go a long way to scotch corruption, incompetence, ego exercises. No political entity is immune to corruption, etc., but that doesn't mean we give up and say since it can't be 100% snow-driven pure, it has no right to exist.

          Re the Jewish question. A long time ago I stopped comparing them with us. There are so many differences between the two peoples and their situation that any comparison is pointless, if not defeatist (for Armenians). We are Armenian. Let's do what we can with the tools we have. Let's not compare ourselves with the most successful ethnic group in the world. I don't understand where this "we have to be the top of the class or we are failures" attitude and ethos began.

        2. That there would be an umbrella organization

          That there would be an umbrella organization or Congress does not mean that individual Armenian organizations would no longer exist.

          The US Congress is composed of elected representatives, mostly  all Dems and Reps.  Some independents etc. though not a lot.

          But that does not mean that political parties in the US agree with the US Congress in all things. There are many other political power centers in the US too. There is much diversity yet there is one place that has the final say.

          An Armenian Congress would be similar, but it would not initially have as formal a legal mandate since unlike the US Congress it would not represent an actual country. Yes, there are many problems with such a Congress.

          But Western Armenian rights groups are now a hodgepodge.  Surely we can do better.

          Jewish organizations now have umbrella groups as such the "Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations" and some other ones.  But Jewish needs now are unlike Armenian ones.  Jews fight among themselves quite a bit too.

          In the 19th century, I believe, Jews had major Zionist organizations that negotiated with the Sultan and England to establish Jewish immigration into Palestine and then after the Ottomans fell, into an Israeli state.

          Do we Armenians have that?  No. We need it.
           

  4. WWAO Another Co-Up

    World Wide Armenian Organization (WWAO) sounds impressive for a title but lacks scientific foundation and is more of a wishful social thinking.

    Decades ago an assembly of Armenian organizations in the United States was de facto and de jure organized into a single entity comprised of representatives of Armenian organizations including (naturally) the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. Much like the Co-Op mentioned earlier, it started well, fulfilling its founding objectives and that’s all it did. Not long after “power imbalances” led to its dismantling as an assembly and now functions as another monolithic organization known as Armenian Assembly which now will be one more organization to integrate into the WWAO.

    What has been proposed is against the natural order of things for organizations which have distinct social and economic philosophies to organize under a centralized governing body.

    Let us not proclaim doom and gloom. In times of critical need, Armenian organizations have united for the common good and will do so again.

    1. Western Armenian Congress Good idea

      I think that what the editorial is suggesting is that a Western Armenian, or Diasporan, umbrella organization can be useful. Yes, there are many reasons why it may not work. 

      There are also reasons it could work.

      Who else will defend Western Armenian rights?  Armenia?  In many ways it either will not do so or is not in a position to. There are internal and external forces at play there.

      How about the ARF? Maybe, but its reach is limited–more than it might care to admit–and it is now in alliance with a very inadequate Armenian government. So the ARF is also part of the problem.

      It is unclear how Western Armenian rights can be safeguarded, to the extent possible, except by an umbrella Armenian organization or some sort of Congress.

      Western Armenian organizations must somehow stake claims, and be willing and able to negotiate for those claims, both in fact and legally.

      The quest for some sort of organization or Congress is quite reasonable and even realistic. How would its representatives be elected? We don't know. That and many other things would need to be worked out.

  5. Armenia’s Economy

    The Widening Economic Gap

    Turkey:  $810.0 Billion GDP – 2014 (18th World Ranking). Plans to beat Russia by 2023 and be 10th, doubling its 2014 GDP and its current $19,000 Per Capita GDP

    Armenia: $11.5 Billion GDP, doubled over the past 15 years, yet has been flat for the past three years, now with under $4,000 Per Capita in GDP.

    How to boost the growth rate of Armenia's GDP?

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