Keeping Mum Not a Choice Team Editorial, 11 October 2010

Some Armenians believe we should not discuss certain touchy subjects, our shortcomings and problems in the media. We should talk about our challenges in private, within our living room walls, in community centres, they argue. “Washing our dirty linen” in public assists Ankara to gauge our mood, concerns … and plan strategies to counteract our efforts. In an even more potent figurative language, they maintain that by airing our issues publicly we act like besieged people who wail their plight over the walls of the harried city, tipping the enemy of our vulnerabilities. Team Editorial, 11 October 2010

Some Armenians believe we should not discuss certain touchy subjects, our shortcomings and problems in the media. We should talk about our challenges in private, within our living room walls, in community centres, they argue. “Washing our dirty linen” in public assists Ankara to gauge our mood, concerns … and plan strategies to counteract our efforts. In an even more potent figurative language, they maintain that by airing our issues publicly we act like besieged people who wail their plight over the walls of the harried city, tipping the enemy of our vulnerabilities.

“Balderdash,” we say.

How can we remain silent about the recent killings and “suicides” in the Armenian Army?

How can we not comment on the recent and frequent Artsakh/Azerbaijan firefights when the Armenian side, more often than not, is suffering higher casualties than the enemy?

What kind of confidence do the above tragic cases inspire among Armenians when almost on a weekly basis Baku threatens war against us?

How can we ignore the Humvee-escorted mafia oligarchs who prance in downtown Yerevan, intimidating everyone and corrupting everything they touch?

How can we not discuss the plight of three pillars of the Armenian Church—the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Istanbul, the Mkhitarists in Venice and Vienna?

And what about the crevasse in two of our three Diaspora political parties? Should we not address the divisions which hurt not only the parties involved but the Armenian nation in general? Finally, what about the major political party—Tashnagtsoutune—which takes its marbles and goes home when it doesn’t like an aspect of inter-Armenian community cooperation? While we admire Tashnagtsoutune for its remarkable efforts against ‘Jermak Chart’ (White Massacre), shouldn’t someone say out loud that the political party’s ‘lone wolf’ act is arcane and damaging to us all? We wonder how many members of Tashnagtsoutune really know the mission statement of the party, its strategy, its thinking, where it’s headed. And what’s the big secret about the doings of the "gomides" and "bureaus"? Is it necessary to repeat the lack of cooperation among our political leaders that hurts our fragile Diaspora?

Yes, we wouldn’t be surprised if Turkish intelligence agents are monitoring our media. In the Age of Internet, surveillance has become much easier to conduct. But putting the lid on our festering problems will not make the problems go away. We all know this, but sometimes choose to forget that shedding light is the best serum.

Rather than advocating ‘circumspection’ and ‘keep it in the family’, these preachers of silence should come forth with constructive ideas, and expose their opinions to the test of intelligent and knowledgeable debate.

Pick a copy of the famous “Bartlett’s Book of Quotations” and you will find that it is replete with sage advice on the benefits of the free exchange of ideas. Ditto the Bible.

Letting Ankara know of our challenges — in Armenia and in the Diaspora — is not something we are eager to do, but the alternative suggested by some wary Armenians is worse for our nation. Silence obstructs communication, leading to ignorance or to the monopoly of information by committees and “insiders.’’ Silence can also lead to complacency and lack of accountability. As Montreal intellectual and activist Viken Attarian pointed out at a recent gathering in Toronto, centralized structures, such as the Soviet Union, are doomed. The impossibility of effective communication in large or complex structures is one of the reasons monoliths will go the way of Ozymandias.

Every day we receive letters at Most of them are well-informed and all are well-meaning. Some are controversial, others express views we do not adhere to. But it is by publishing them all that we and readers can determine the brightest and the most constructive ideas.

The recent history of Armenians has made us a global nation. Thanks to electronic communication we are connected by a magical, invisible network. Whether we live in Melbourne, Moscow or Marseilles, we are just clicks away from fellow Armenians. The Internet reveals our concerns to Ankara, but it also bonds us, and helps us work together. Let’s take advantage of this ‘God-sent’ facility.

Our enemies in Ankara maliciously claim that our leaders employ the “myth of the Armenian Genocide” as a glue to hold us together and preserve our identity. Let’s turn that false claim on its head. Let’s use the Internet as a key to advance our cause, even if Ankara spooks are reading our communications.


  1. I fully agree with the author

    I fully agree with the author of "Keeping Mum Not a Choice". Being open to discuss our pains and propose adequate solutions does not mean to release state secrets. On the contrary, it will not allow to  use hot issues and various opinions around those issues as an excuse to continue cultivating "meaningful" silence and lack of competence of our decision makers re: salient and important areas of our life. 

    We, Armenians, have to learn from scratch how to talk to each other, communicate in all types of media, in any language, not necessarily in Armenian, how to debate and negotiate things. History says we were brilliant negotiators in old times as merchants. Times are different now, and the communication language and art of debate is different. Let us build a civic culture of internal and external national dialogue.

    God bless us all!

  2. Mum, Not the Answer
    I am eager to read the reaction of Tashnagtsoutune members to your brave editorial. After its founding some 120 years ago, the two key "achievements" of the party have been taking over–briefly–the leadership of Armenia, and the dubious conquest of the Antelias See. It’s time for the party to make a big, radical, and positive move.

    1. Big, Radical, Positive Moves
      Mesrob, I am curious to know what are, at least, some of the big, radical and positive moves, in your view, that Tashnagsoutiun should make to qualify the party being on the “right tract”?

      1. Keeping Mum
        To Vahe, For starters,

        1. Tashnagtsoutune should be less secretive about its agenda. 

        2. It should address all Armenians, rather than only its adherents. It should demonstrate to Diaspora Armenians that it’s relevant to most, if not all.

        3. As the party controlling the Cilician See, it should return that institution to Echmiadzin, thus putting an end to the church-school-agoump split. Such a move should be accompanied by the depolitization of the Church and be more attractive to those who are spiritually/religiously inclined. I have heard of young Armenians in North America who attend religious classes, Bible classes at non-Armenian religious groups because these young people think our Church is politics by other means. 

        4. While retaining its identity and strategy, Tashnagtsoutune should be forthcoming/inviting and work with other political parties for the common good.

        5. Diaspora needs a strong voice in Armenia and its government. Right now our voice is negligible. Tashnagtsoutune and the two other parties, which are feeble in Armenia, should come up with a unfied strategy to make Diaspora’s voice heard in Yerevan.

  3. Anahit´s last paragraph is worth deep study…

    Editor’s note:

    Below is an abbreviated and edited version of Mr. Palandjian’s  lengthy comment. It may not necessarily express accurately all his thoughts. Whoever is interested in getting details of his plan about how to organize Diaspora may contact him at [email protected]

    What the editors imply is in place as to  whether to continue disclosing our national issues on forums, media, etc. or commence  dialogues in appropriate inner circles. It behoves to adopt a method that would most suit us.

    For over three decades my interest has been to see our  present structures re-organized as follows:

    There are already independently acting  professional establishments, such as  health/medical associations, the Bar of legal professionals, the engineers & scientists, the sportsmen, the jewellers and other tradespeople, etc. In each Armenian populated communities these associations can elect/designate representatives who ultimately form the the elite leadership with a supreme council  of Diaspora.

    If we keep the status quo, then we shall continue acting under BBBs that Ara Baliozian describes, i.e. Bishops, Bosses and Benefactors..

  4. A Lapalissian Truth

    As far as I am concerned, mum is not a choice or an option, is a Lapalissian truth, especially since Internet with its countless bloggers is a fact of life. Therefore, I concur with the said editorial having stated the self-evident.

    However, this editorial seems to present the overwhelming majority of Armenians as members of a large audience awaiting the different parties operating “outside” its midst to come on the podium and present their cases and causes. Is that because the overwhelming majority of us does not subscribe to Armenian press and read?

    A.R.F. has a rich press both in English and in Armenian languages. Readers of the Tashnag dailies or periodicals can be in tune with the objectives of the party. I do not remember which A.R.F general convention made a ruling that once a year the Tashnagsoutiun should come forth to the public and present their case to the community. I am almost positive that the Armenian communities in Canada are no exception to this yearly event. Some may claim that that’s drumbeating. If that is the proper choice of word to characterize this event, known as A.R.F. Day (Tashnagsoutiam Or), then don’t Republicans, Democrats, A.D.L (Ramgavars) drum beat their cases and causes, as any political party would?

    Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of Diaspora Armenians avoid membership in the traditional Armenian parties or any other party for that matter. Unless and until each and every one of us becomes an instrument of change we want to see by participating to a party or actively supporting an Armenian political party; Tashnag, Ramagavar and Hnchag parties or any other party will continue to be big disappointments as we dutifully wait for them to come to the podium to present their case to us, as spectators in the audience.

  5. Jermak Chart
    Is the editorial team serious when it states that it "admires Tashnagtsutioune (or any Armenian political party for that matter) for (their) efforts against the Jermak Chart…". This is truly a laughable statement considering:
    1. the divisions our political parties create & nurture in almost all aspects of community life, 
    2. the closed system of thought these parties encourage in their members & within the communities themselves,
    3. the silencing of dissenting voices & opinions through total control of media, leading to
    4. the alienation of a silent & powerless majority which is by defintion the Jermak Chart itself, as I understand it. 

  6. Beyond Victimization – Sunshine

    Throughout the 20th century there were important things which Armenians would not say and simply could not think without the utter debilitation of unbearable pain and anguish.  These were the Armenian victims.  God rest their souls.

    But I believe that there are Armenians around the world today who are beyond victimization and eager for the dignity and empowerment of transparency and open communication.  Such "sunshine" will often inevitably reveal infighting and backbiting, but those things can only flourish in the darkness of secrecy, misinformation and despair.

  7. Just ask yourself

    Just ask yourself, who are the people perpetuating the hatred?  It’s certainly not the church I belong to and I don’t associate myself with any Armenian political party. Anyone that tries to subvert my church is no friend of mine.  
  8. Great Editorial
    Great editorial article.

    Being silent about anything wrong starts at home and all the way to the political parties in the Armenian community. Ignoring problems, not facing them is taking our youth to a wrong direction. Never before we had so much problems in diaspora as we have now in Southern California (Glendale) among our young people. I don’t hear, read or see any Armenian organization taking a proactive step to discuss it openly in the community and addressing the issue.

    Problems will not go away by silence, they will grow and multiply and by the time our leaders will realize and do something about them they’ll  to be too hard and too late to overcome.

    What’s the role of our churches and "der Hayrs". Even they are caught up in political power game. No one is taking care of the community and their problems.Our political organizations are busy fighting each other and tackling same issues from different angles. Power struggle and incompetency is rooted in our political organizations. Where is our leadership in the homeland or in diaspora?

  9. Amen
    I have a single-word comment to your editorial. AMEN!

    Arshak Z. Davidian MD Stepanakert-Artsakh

  10. Bravo
    Excellent editorial.

    I have always heard, in a variety of speeches in our community centers, that we are our own worst enemy.  We fight and bicker amongst ourselves ad nauseum over politics, unity, culture, how to handle Turkey, etc.  Yet, resolution, agreement, compromise, and synthesis seem elusive.

    We must remember one thing:  in 1915 the Turks did not care if one was Dashnak, Hnchak, Loosavortchagan, Boghokagan, from this village or that, rich or poor, educated or a peasent.  Their only criteria was being Armenian.  That was good enough for them to kick in your door and drag you out to either a viscious immediate death or a long march to Der Zor.  The only criteria they had was:  Are you Armenian?

    We should apply the same standard to ourselves in the opposite direction.

    Are you Armenian?

    1. Mark I agree with you 100%

      Mark I agree with you 100% , and yes I am Armenian .

      Calgary, Canada

      1. Thank you, Vrejouhy
        Gee… it is rare that I get 100% agreement. Thanks. I, too, am Armenian. Maybe, we need a viral movement. People simply declaring: First and foremost, I am Armenian. All the best.

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