A Death in a Murder of Crows: A Lesson Not to Learn

Andrew Demirdjian PhD, Los Angeles, January 2011

We are all Armenians; we are all into this together. We either sink or swim. For centuries we have survived the odds; we have endured through many crucible massacres, the vicissitudes of wars, and the horrors of the Genocide –the nadir in the history of the Armenian nation. Yet, then as now, we have not learned to get along with one another outside our own families and the clans to which we belong. Becoming complacent is a dangerous thing for if we continue acting like this we may not eventually survive disunity this time around.

Andrew Demirdjian PhD, Los Angeles, January 2011

We are all Armenians; we are all into this together. We either sink or swim. For centuries we have survived the odds; we have endured through many crucible massacres, the vicissitudes of wars, and the horrors of the Genocide –the nadir in the history of the Armenian nation. Yet, then as now, we have not learned to get along with one another outside our own families and the clans to which we belong. Becoming complacent is a dangerous thing for if we continue acting like this we may not eventually survive disunity this time around.

The twenty-first century is upon us. Let us overcome those psychological barriers which divide us and deprive us from working together for mutual benefit, for the benefit of our children, for the benefit of our culture, for the benefit of our homeland.

Be your own psychologist for a change. Examine your inner sanctum for a moment. You would see that the one you hate is an Armenian exactly like you in most, if not all, aspects. Prejudice is the projection of one’s inner problems unto someone else. Hence, there is no justification for “self-rejection” as an Armenian.

It is human to disagree. It is also human to come together in the face of a challenge. And a few challenges are as urgent as the social, economic, and political conditions in the Republic of Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk are currently facing. Together, we can solve some of their tough problems through a joint effort.

One hundred fourteen (114) years ago, Dr. Edwin Bliss, who was born in Turkey, lived and worked there for the large part of his life, stated in his book titled the Turkish Cruelties upon Christian Armenians: A Reign of Terror (c. 1896) that the Greeks, the Bulgarians, and the Serbians became independent, but the Armenians had failed.

Dr. Bliss offered three sobering reasons as to why the Armenians had failed: 1) “There was no organization that bound the Armenians together”. We still do not have an organization to bind us together. 2) “They were scattered communities with no bond of union, except their language and church creed”. We still are scattered all over the globe and do not have “a bond of union” such as a common ideology to unite us in our strife. 3) “These were communities who were ignorant of each other and jealous of each other’s prosperity”. We are well into the 21st century and yet we still have not established good relations based on mutual respect and admiration. The long-standing internecine conflict still continues in the social, economic, and political landscape of the Diaspora, the Republic of Armenia, and Artsakh.

Can’t we all just get along? What can be done, one may ask? Part of the calculus is, therefore, the priority of coalescing, coalescing to form a large worldwide organization based on critical mass and teamwork toward achieving a common ideology of the people.

Humans, animals and some machines possess the ability to learn. While animal learning is essentially intuition based and by trial and error, human learning may occur as part of education, personal development, or training. Currently, the new generation of Armenians is highly educated and experienced. Despite all that progress, we still have not acquired the elasticity of the mind to work together for the common good.

For example, much-maligned crows may have annoying calls and scare away other, more attractive birds from your yard, but they are so smart that even humans could learn a few things from them. As you may know, next to apes, elephants, and dolphins, crows are one of the most intelligent animals; that is why they are nicknamed the “feathered ape.” Crows are very resourceful animals that turn all kinds of objects into usable tools for getting food from hard-to-reach places. They use tools as only elephants and chimps do, and recognize 250 distinct calls. One particular talent they have been discovered to possess is the ability to recognize individual human faces and pick them out of a crowd up to two years later – a trick, they say, that Hollywood might use in a horror movie. Crows also possess great respect for their elders, and watch older birds when they want to learn a new skill.

New research has robustly established that crows are not only smart, but that they are also among the most intelligent animals on the planet. When do we learn not to act like crows, though? If you were to kill one crow, the entire murder (i.e., refers to a flock of crows, and not to anything murderous!) will hold a grudge against you and never return to your neighborhood again for a long time. These are social birds that mate for life and raise their young for up to five years. And they learn from each other’s misfortunes. When one is killed in a farmer’s field, it’s not uncommon for them to change entire migratory patterns so that no crows fly over that field for as long as two years.

There is one thing Armenians must not learn to do as the crows do, though, and that is hold a long-lasting memory of hurtful things of the past. Our three political parties are sill feuding over the past which separated them from coming together and are still holding grudges against one another. Basic psychology of human behavior indicates that grudges can easily become the wedges of division; the grudge holder suffers from an open wound. It is always an expression of contempt and hate. As a result, the grudge holder is never a happy person because of internal conflict. Holding grudges threatens unity in the community. It can be said that the grudge condemns, patriotism forgives. Thus, the sooner one gets rid of deep-seated kind of resentment and bitterness toward others, the sooner one liberates his or her mind from the self-inflicted malady of poisoning one’s thinking. Armenians badly need unity not division when there are looming challenges on the horizon.

The three political parties must realize that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Let us bear in mind that studies of ethics indicate that most wrongdoing is not due directly to wickedness but is performed by people who did not plan to err. Therefore, these parties must learn to forgive and forget for the good of their fellow Armenians. They should learn from the new generation, the intellectual blood bank of the nation, to cooperate for the maximum benefit of all?

Basically, learning is a change in one’s behavior through acquiring new knowledge, behavior, skills, values, preferences or understanding or through synthesizing different kinds of information. After so many national calamities, haven’t the Armenians learned to put their differences aside and work diligently toward the realization of a common ideology for the enhancement of their communities around the world? Haven’t they learned that “United we stand” not only speaks professedly volumes of common sense and has critical mass, but it also has sex appeal -–it attracts attention, it commands obedience!

Currently, the Republic of Armenia is like a baby nestled in its tiny cradle. It needs nursing. It needs nurturing. It needs the tender loving care of the Diaspora. The Diaspora should continue to serve as the Big Brother. Granted, corruption is rampant and is disappointing many Armenians to accept the reality of the situation. Increasing numbers of Diasporans, who have been burned one way or the other, swear never to have anything to do with the people there. Nevertheless, the baby should not be thrown out with the bath water. The fact is that there are many honest, ethical, and hardworking people in Armenia. These honest folks should not be victimized because of their bad cousins.

I know how it is to feel cheated by one of your own as a result of letting down your guard because of perceived kinship. The feeling of hurt, the nagging pain would be deeper when one of your own deceives you, but we need to learn to deal with these fraudulent individuals carefully in the future. Rejecting the whole because of the unscrupulous part of the population would perpetuate the problem.

Against the backdrop of increasing dearth of well-paid employment, Armenia is quickly reaching the tipping point at which the remaining highly educated and highly skilled workers will leave the country in search of better jobs and better pay. Nearly half of those surveyed had recently indicated to being ready and willing to leave the country when the first opportunity would present itself.

The Big Brother has to intercede and even try to reverse the trend by investing in this country. Some of the Diaspora Armenians feel like the proverbial dream where you are watching something frightening happen and you struggle but are paralyzed. Be it individually or collectively, we all could make a difference in some ways. The important thing is to take steps toward easing the burden on the Armenians in that fledgling nation.

We are all well aware of the fact that “on the road to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand appointed to guard the past.” Let us get out of the snare of the past for a change and do what is right for us all. A progressive nation consists of a grudgeless people.

Diversity is fine, but unity is divine in the face of a common enemy, such as the impending jaws of assimilation, the looming threat of the hostile neighbors, and the relentless brain drain from the dwindling population of the Republic of Armenia. These and other pressing problems make it imperative that we coalesce and cooperate with one another by not acting clannishly and —by not behaving like the crows which harbor grudges and refuse to forgive and forget the past trespasses of others!

  1. Here we go again

    Honestly, I am getting more and more annoyed reading over and over again this antiquated theme that Armenians are not united and that they should overcome their psychological barriers and so forth and so on.
    As far as I am concerned my life as an Armenian born would have been suffocating and infinitely dull had there not been the different Armenian religious denominations, the different political parties and their affiliated cultural, social and athletic organizations and the like. I may be an exception, so be it.  

    I admit, however, that reading this article I learned something new I would not have otherwise, and that has to do with crows. 

    1. Unity within the Armenian community
      Well, it is good to hear that the division within the Armenian community brings excitement to your personal life. However, the division creates inefficiency and waste. Professor Andrew Demerjian is to the point when he talks about the situation in the Diaspora. We must put our personal ambitions to the side and fight for the common cause of the Armenian people and their future.

      1. Armenian Unity .. continued

        Armenian unity or disunity is surely a matter of personal perception and perception is reality, as they say. Rather than divisiveness within Armenians, I perceive differences. Those who expect that one million people of Armenian descent in North America will row the same boat to the same destination will surely continue to be disappointed.
        I cite Antranig Zaroukian from his eminently readable book, "Heen Yerazner, Nor Janpaner" (Old Dreams, New Paths). His remarks were written after his return from Soviet Armenia. He was one of the very few from the Diaspora who was privileged to visit Soviet Armenia in 1959/1960, amidst the Cold War. He visited Armenia at the invitation of the late Catholicos of All Armenians Vazken the First.
        Zaroukian wrote, “They are Marxists–they are Armenians. They are Communists–they are Armenians. They advocate brotherhood of all nations– they are Armenians. They do not believe in God–they are Armenians. They believe in Lenin–they are Armenians. That is why, even though they do not go to church, they place the Patriarch of the Armenian Church over their lay leaders.”

        Ashot, please cite, if you will, Armenian organizations that do not put “personal ambitions to the side and fight for the common cause and future,” each, of course, in its own way, according to its ideological and spiritual conviction or make-up. 

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