By Prof. Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Los Angeles, 30 August 2021
The Second Artsakh War or rather Azeri/Turkic invasion of the Republic of Artsakh caused damage not only to Armenian fighters but also to civilians who suffered death and destruction–loss of home, property, and now they live in fear and daily indignities. When the Armenian Diaspora reaches out to them, the vanquished people of Artsakh get re-energized to continue their quest for a decent life and sovereignty.
A case in point is Appo Jabarian’s visit to Artsakh with his journalistic team consisting of a number of highly accomplished military people, such as U.S. Army Major General (Ret.) Mark MaCarley, U.S. Army Col. (Ret.), Wellesley University Foreign and Defense Policy Professor and Journalist Robert Cassidy, Hollywood cinematographer and photojournalist Aaron MaCarly. The purpose of the visit was mainly to discuss the critical issues regarding the daily life of the citizens and the security of the Republic of Artsakh in the aftermath of the war. The unintended consequence of the visit was providing the people with “moral support” (known in Armenian as paroyagan adjagtstune) that they are not alone, that there are people out there who care for them.
The Diaspora could offer a number of social psychological support. The human touch is more empowering than, for example, tangible things such as food or money. Thus, Jabarian teams visit may have served as a motivation mechanism to regain the spirit of resiliency to fight for a meaningful life in their ancestral land. Jabarian deserves to be commended for conducting the first organized visit to Artsakh to assess the conditions of the war-torn Setepanakert.
The byproduct of such a visit is the subject of this article: to explore the benefits of social support in general, and moral support in particular, which serves as a powerful “miracle” for healing the wounds of the vanquished, downtrodden, and disillusioned victims of an invasion perpetrated by Turkey and Azerbaijani joint military forces and aided and abetted by Israel, Pakistan, Syrian Jihadists, and a horde of other mercenaries.
Allow me to clarify why the phrase “moral support” is used, when it seems it would be more accurate to use “morale support”?
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “moral” originally meant “pertaining to character as opposed to physical action.” Originally, however, it did not relate to social values or manners. Therefore, “moral support” means support that is intangible, rather than financial, military, or other physical support.
There are four common types of social support theorized and tested in social psychology. They run the gamut from moral support (requires presence and use of words), emotional support (requires presence and touch such as giving a hug), informational support (advice-giving to know of potential next steps to take) to tangible support (presence not required to take care of necessities by giving food, money, shelter, etc.).
There are six fundamental human needs: Food, Water, Shelter, Sleep, “Others” (e.g., human touch), and “Novelty” (e.g., need for information). The last two kinds of needs require explanation: Others- babies and adults require connection (physical or emotional) with other humans to release certain hormones like oxytocin. Babies if they are not touched and spoken to, they tend to die from lack of human warmth no matter how well they are fed. Human touch is so important that when we are young, our brains do not develop properly without it. Regular connection to others allows babies and adults alike to maintain a sense of well-being that allows for self-care.
As for novelty, it creates the opportunity to learn through gaining information/knowledge and the potential to fail, which stimulates dopamine release in the brain. Without regular novelty, the need for information, motivation wanes and a healthy sense of well-being is lost or ceases to exist. Humans are curious animals; they need to know by exploring their environment. Without that need, none of the sciences would have been established and advanced thus far.
Social support has been shown to be associated with lower depression incidence in various populations used as experimental subjects. Social relationships can also help people to remain motivated when trying to accomplish their goals. Talking to people who are going through the same experience can often be a source of support, empathy, and motivation. The reassurance, encouragement, and understanding we give or receive to a person through any type of social support are perceived as given by people who understand, encourage, and reassure us.
Informational support has its own effect on the group of people downtrodden rather than on specific individuals. Those offering informational support by means of advice-giving through lectures, webinars, articles, cartoons, etc. assist people. This kind of support can also involve gathering and sharing information that can help people know of potential next steps that may work well for them. For example, an article written and published for circulation about the efficient way of arming the Artsakh Defense Forces with UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) weapons, could benefit the nation by providing informational support on how to achieve that crucial goal.
Tangible support is important and it has its kind of effect on the recipient. It is usually looked upon as a humanitarian act by a philanthropist or someone who cares about his or her people in general to share his or her resources (e.g., financial) with others. However, offering moral support means you are sympathetic to another’s cause or plight against an external source of conflict, such as instigated by Turkey and Azerbaijan. This support can be very vocal or overt.
Emotional support, on the other hand, is a more intimate sympathy with another’s feelings, not usually shared with anyone outside of the emotional circle. Moral support, however, is regarded special for it is usually coming from a stranger who wants you to regain your courage and face your enemy with resolve.
Both emotional and moral types of support have the same or similar idea. They are social-psychological, not physical, support like in the tangible support is. However, emotional support has to do with emotions like empathy, compassion, and concern that you show for someone. Moral support is not as emotional and intimate; it is rather synergistic to show the vanquished that you are there for him or her when the time comes to fight for your rights. Moral support boosts the self-esteem and courage of the dejected person to carry on a fight for liberation and improvement of a bad situation.
Basically, moral support is a mysterious source of encouragement to face perceived danger or risk. When a person picks up the pieces to face reality, the healing of the wounds is expedited. A downtrodden person rises through the ashes to stand up for his rights are miraculous.
It is like a child refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by entering alone into nurse’s cubicle, but when his mother accompanies him, he picks up courage to face the risk of being hurt by the needle. Moral support solved the impasse.
While emotional and tangible support types have positive effects on people to remain motivated to achieve their goals, moral support seem to heal the psychological wounds of the despondent and vanquished; moral support seems to revive and maintain the courage in the individual to fight for his or her rights. The miracle in the moral support seems to gyrate around its healing power and empowerment and encouragement.
How do the Armenian people value the different types of social supports? An educated guess would indicate that tangible support to be at the top and Informational support to be at the bottom of the scale. In fact, the reverse should be the correct rating for especially in the digital age, information is the key to any kind of progress.
President Ilham Aliyev has praised profusely and lavishly compensated the Azari soldiers who had supposedly fought this time fiercely in the 44-day war. Of course, the reason is very obvious –the Azari soldiers had the moral support of Turkey’s and Israel’s best military advisors plus their experienced remote pilots of their deadly drones. Even a mouse would have roared like a lion given all that tangible support in terms of modern weapons. If the Armenian forces had Russians fighting on their side, or if they had modern weapons, their morale would have been higher as well. They would have overcome the Azari aggression rather easily as they had succeeded to do so during the 1994 war.
Imagine yourself for a moment you are one of the Artsakh citizens and living in Stepanakert. How could you have a peaceful night of sleep when you know that the cruel enemy is only half a dozen of kilometers away, perched on the highland of Shushi overlooking the capital city of Artsakh? One must have iron nerves to go through these ordeals.
Of all the times, it is most important for the Diaspora to visit the people of Artsakh now more than ever before. They have just gone through nightmares, of whose effects will linger for many years. Each one of us can contribute toward a social support; they are all within the reach of most people including tangible support to give as much as one’s budget would allow.
We should plan our next vacation to be in Artsakh to share their grief of the losses in lives, property, and dreams, to hug the brave survivors there, to show them that we care about them.
We should not deprive the people of Artsakh of the miracle of the moral support to encourage, embolden, and ensure them of success in the perpetuation of the sovereignty of their democratic country established on their millennia-old ancestral lands. Visiting Artsakh is not the only way to show moral support for the people you care about. Your creativity will open other windows of opportunity to reach them, to tell that you stand by them, you believe in them, and you love them to let the miracle of moral support work its wonders to hasten the healing of their wounds so as to courageously face the future.