Hollow Dream of Unity

Keghart.com Team Editorial, 4 October 2010

…the phenomenon of the Armenian potential should be expressed not in the similarity of ideas, but in their diversity and competition.
–Arman Jilavian, publisher of Moscow-based ‘Yerevan’ magazine

Nature has multiple personalities. It can be chaotic, but also harmonious; it can be generous, but also cruel; it can be deliberate, but also accident-prone. Since the ancient Greeks, it has been acknowledged that Nature is a dynamic entity in constant flux. Even a billion-year-old rock is in a state of evolution.

Keghart.com Team Editorial, 4 October 2010

…the phenomenon of the Armenian potential should be expressed not in the similarity of ideas, but in their diversity and competition.
–Arman Jilavian, publisher of Moscow-based ‘Yerevan’ magazine

Nature has multiple personalities. It can be chaotic, but also harmonious; it can be generous, but also cruel; it can be deliberate, but also accident-prone. Since the ancient Greeks, it has been acknowledged that Nature is a dynamic entity in constant flux. Even a billion-year-old rock is in a state of evolution.

Are Nature’s laws applicable to human society? Some believe so–with good reason. Nations, countries, societies, communities are all in a constant state of transformation– in evolution or devolution. Conflict, some maintain, is the driving force of any group, irrespective of whether the outcome of the conflict is degradation or progressive change.

The above elemental musings are not an attempt at idle philosophizing, but a search to establish a contextual base for understanding certain terms and notions that are frequently used within Armenian communities in Diaspora. Unity is one such a concept. For decades we have sought the realisation of a unified Armenian nation. Trillion words, give or take a billion, have been devoted to the quest–be it the unity of our Churches, political organizations, or the much-cherished and august national goals.

Is it a futile goal, like Don Quixote’s assault on the windmill? Probably yes, because Nature favours diversity and abhors unanimity, uniformity, centralization. Society, as part of Nature, follows–or should follow–the same laws as Nature does.

One is reminded of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s words, “Unity of India is in its diversity.” Did it make sense when he uttered them decades ago? Does it still make sense? Are unity and diversity contradictory terms? It’s a matter of interpretation and application. For Nehru, the leader of one of the most populous and ethnically-diverse countries, the notion of unity in contradictions served a clear goal, a strategy that guided India for decades following its independence in 1947.

Can the same principle be applied to Armenian communities in Diaspora? Will the same principle serve our common good and the survival of our far-flung communities? Perhaps it would if we were to perceive unity of contradictions as an expression of harmony.

It certainly makes better sense to talk of harmony rather than unity. This is not demagoguery… or preaching an impossible dream. Tearing each other apart because of the disunity of our Churches or political organizations will lead us nowhere. If we continue down this injurious path, our community will disappear in a few generations. Notwithstanding calamities, the survival of our community will depend on the absence/presence of inner conflicts, the social skills of adaptability and flexibility, intellectual potential, correct interpretation of geopolitical forces, and not necessarily physical enormity.

The Armenian-Canadian community is in a unique and fortunate position to set the trend of looking at issues through its own prism. There is almost a complete absence of arcane animosities among Armenian-Canadian intellectuals and activists. On the contrary, there is an atmosphere of mutual respect despite the partisan affiliations of some. The local partisan press is not acrimonious. And a variety of non-partisan small groups have taken their initial steps in opening up to the community at large and accomplishing deeds worthy of a reputable organization. Our professional associations function without partisan banners. People of one persuasion attend the functions of their competing groups.

Probably these trends are more apparent in Montreal than in other Canadian cities. Was it a coincidence Harout Chitilian’s recent  election as a council member in Montreal? Far from it. It was the concerted effort, particularly of young people, who irrespective of their party affiliations, side by side with their non-partisan colleagues were able to gather sufficient political mass to assist Chitilian to win.

Let us follow their example. Let’s accept the presence of two Apostolic Churches and three rival political camps, with their affiliated cultural and other associations. Ad nauseam talk of who is right and who is wrong will not make a dent on the political make-up of our community. What will bring about real change toward harmony is participation in community activities and by simply ignoring which organization says what or does what.

* * * * *

At a recent Armenian Association of Toronto and AGBU-organized gathering in Toronto, Viken Attarian, a Montreal intellectual and veteran activist, cited five crises of the Armenian Diaspora: Retention of identity and language, anti-intellectualism, disinformation, and lack of legitimacy. To overcome these challenges and be positioned in a positive groove, the Armenian-Canadian community–especially its organizations and leaders–is in dire need of concrete data. We lack valid and crucial demographic data, said Attarian. No one knows, for example, the true statistics of the Armenian-Canadian population, the number of marriages and mixed marriages, the educational levels and migration patterns… When there is no concrete data, myths are born; without concrete data, there can’t be concrete action. Without data, to paraphrase Attarian, we can’t create common points of purpose. No matter the ideology, the orientation, and mission of an Armenian organization, it can’t move forward and develop a common ethos without concrete information. Even organizations which are diametrically opposed require a factual, identical data as a foundation for their action plan. Data can be interpreted in different ways, but it continues to remain the unquestionable, agreed-upon truth even among groups which are not in unison. Metaphorically speaking, community statistics is the musical note; the various organizations are the musical instruments. The piano, violin and flute produce different sounds, but the end result is harmonious, sweet music. Working in coopeation, Canadian-Armenian organizations should create their own statistical data base. We can’t find these statistics in government or research company computer files.

Solid data would help us critically evaluate our roles and subsequently create solid action plans. An honest goal to create solid and novel action plans (based on factual data) would open spaces for new ideas to be heard and for detached intellectuals and former activists, sitting on the margins, come forth and participate in diasporan nation-building. By asserting your presence as a person, a group, an association in a common ethos we will witness true harmony evolve. Let Armenian-Canadians help lead the way for the sustenance, survival and prosperity of the global Armenian nation.

  1. Hollow Dreams of Unity

    Congratulations on a brilliantly written explanation of what is needed to accomplish our common goal – to not perish from this earth as the Turks wished.

    Our ancient civilization is worthy of any and all efforts to continue to flourish. It is up to all of us, intellectuals as well as the average individuals to do their part by supporting all aspects of the Armenian community and its activities. We must overcome the lines of political divisions in order to accomplish this.

    Bravo to my Canadian paregams for this worthy work of penmanship. Keghart messages continue to be important information for all Armenians to digest and take to heart.

    Betty Apigian Kessel

  2. Unity? No, Convergence & Cooperation-Miapanutyun

    I beg to differ with above post completely.

    The word Unity (miutyun), believe it or not, has been intentionally over-emphasized amongst Armenians – the work of Turkish agents amongst  us – since we emerged like Phoenix through ashes and commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

    They got the wind of it and were alerted  that the "Ermeni" rayas were not exterminated from the face of the earth  like the Babylonians. You want facts?

    Only about a year ago they officially announced that there were 120 Turkish military officers learning Armenian language, history etc. at their highest military Academy in Ankara, where they have established a chair  for that purpose. They knew  then, that  is  as of 1965 that these Armenians meant business. Thence they initiated  the Armenian studies amongst their special families (read the Gov. and military) enrolling their children at  Bolis’s  more than 30 Armenian schools with different  names such as Ihsan Vartanian, Hovsep Mufidoghlu, or plain Hagop markarian, thus to confuse  the Diaspora Armenians above  all.

    These children having learnt the language as fluently as  any Armenian kid, they would then be sent to their Ankara Special Services section to complete their assignments, that  is entering with different passports into countries with Armenian Diaspora communities.

    Taking advantage of the Cold War era and ensuing animosities between Armenian political parties, they disseminated falsehood by saying for example, "We Armenians will never  unite", Armenians do  not approve of Unity etc. thus driving a wedge amongst  us.

    Indeed, this has changed  a bit  since  the Lebanese  Civil  War, when the Armenian political parties  unified  their efforts. Since then, however,  the Turkish propaganda machine and the undercover agents have intensified their work.

    Why I do  not believe in the word "Unity" as described: trends, political party differences etc., amongst  us?

    France  is known to have  all kinds  of political parties (contrary to the Anglo-American model). They have left and right, ultra left and ultra right, who are in constant  friction with each other. In Armenia they are at  each others’ throats.

    But….when a momentous national issue comes  up that  needs to be addressed, they all become ONE FIST…

    Therefore,  forget about  trumpeting that Unity. What  we need  to do is come up with a new concept of an Electoral System and Governance and above all begin to COOPERATE  AND CONVERGE.

    1. To Gaytzag

      Your claims are far fetched. Turkish kids being groomed as Armenians in order to spy? To be credible one needs proof, documents to support this phantasmagoric premis. I would be very much interested to learn about your sources.

      Having said that, I like to draw readers’ attention to the fact that EVEN Armenian kids are having a hard time to speak Armenian in schools. The government of Turkey has done away with the Armenian language and it is taught ONLY a few hours a week. The rest is in Turkish. If any parent still speaks Armenian at home…well…maybe the kid can converse in basic Armenian.

      How would a Turk do with no Armenian speaking parents? There is no way that a Turkish kid would learn enough Armenian in school by a few hours of instruction in Armenian language . A modicum of understanding for sure, but enough to work for MIT ( Turkish Intelligence services). Just recently we read in the press that Turkish University that was going to instruct Armenian language could not find qualified teachers… It would be interesting to see the source of your claim.

    2. I tend to agree with Serj

      I tend to agree with Serj, and may I add that it’s not only far fetched what Gaytzag claims but simply fiction.

      Assumptions should not be confused with facts.

      Granted, the Turkish intelligence service follows almost every move that Armenians make and say – this too is an assumption, but more of an educated guess. However, claiming that they were sending their children to Armenian schools simply defies logic.

      Incidentally we tend to neglect that there was a period when a certain group(s)/faction(s) in the Armenian Diaspora co-operated with the Turkish intelligence under the umbrella of Prometheus to "liberate" Armenia from Soviet Union.

      Is the enemy of my enemy my friend? It seems the answer is yes in politics. Is there a payback time/price to Turkish "help" of the past?


    3. Missed the point

      It seems Gaytzag Palandjian has missed the point that the editorial makes, and ironically advocates the same idea as outlined, telling at the end "Cooperate and converge".

      1. Not really N. Nalbandian
        Dear Nareg,

        You have conveniently changed the subject matter (the one you brought up) that "Facts" should be presented to support.

        Well, I did, but shall again confirm that it was published in Paris based – quite revered – Armenian Nor Haratch daily. Also it was broadcasted on RA H1 T.V. channel.

        As to the core  of the editorial, indeed  it has been the centre  of my thoughts in my ""paper"s to Armenia-Diaspora Conferences and to a few web Forums (Armenian). It is to be noted  that  in my posts  I also indicate ways and means  as to how to plan-formulate the convergence and cooperation, not just advocate.

        Thanks for reading me


  3. Solving the problem
    Well, solving the problem of the Diaspora’s remaining Armenian is quite easy. More programs like Birthright Armenia and the Armenian Volunteer Corp. which will help Armenians connect physically and emotionally with Armenia and our compatriots there. We have many wealthy Armenians in the Diaspora; a number of them donate to such causes but there are still too many who do not; this must change!

  4. To Serj

    Firstly, please rephrase your query. I am not "claiming".

    The Paris based "Haratch" (now Nor Haratch) Armenian publication  first wrote about  it, months ago, as to the Armenian chair  being established in Ankara at the Military academy.

    If you do not believe  what  I have read in that publication, write to them and find out, from them what  the source  was.

    As to rest of your Phantazmagoric stuff  that  you have mentioned, you must be a very "Paremid" person as to compare what  the Turkish government does -as you yourself  wrote suppresses and restricts  hours  of Armenian learning-teaching  in Istanbul  Armenian schools.

    Why are  you  so surprised  that  even a Turkish kid could learn perfect Armenian at those schools, which are amongst the best  in the Diaspora. They teach  very good Western Armenian there.

    One more  thing, in Europe, also in Armenia there are kids whether European or Armenian,  who learn a few languages and speak and write them. Indeed you can not expect  that  in North America, where even one extra language speaking kid  is hard to come by…

    You ask how could they "Turks" find  Armenian teachers. The older, rather previous generation Bolsahyes produced  best of  these, some  of whom are not only active in Bolis  but all over the Armenian diaspora communities countries now.



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