Unity on Individual Effort Highly Desirable


Keghart.com guest-editorial by Viken L. Attarian, Montréal, 9 November 2010

Editor’s Note: On Oct. 22 Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in  Canada released an open letter to the the Armenian-Canadian community, calling for unity. The following day  the Congress of Canadian Armenians posted a very brief statement on its website "wholeheartedly" supporting the initiative. A week later ARF’s  "Horizon" newspaper published an interview with Raffi Donabedian, a representative of the ARF Central Committee of Canada. During the interview he stated, "Today, we think that it is time to act and take necessary practical steps toward creating a new pan-Canadian formation symbolizing our unity." Shortly afterwards, Armenagan Ramgavars’  "Abaka" weekly published its "view". All were posted in Keghart.com
 
As these calls for "unity" were being aired, some two scores of professionals and intellectuals discussed on-line and in 24April Forum the various aspects of the proposals and the counter-proposals, assessing the merits and shortfalls of such an initiative. Viken L. Attarian was one of the  participants  in the debate. His views are summarized and presented as guest-editorial of the week.

Large scale and assumed trustworthy cooperation for so-called unity, is not only unlikely, it is highly improbable. There is simply too much historical and institutional baggage that causes anything meaningful which could be achieved to rapidly disintegrate.

Unity on many individual initiatives is however a highly desired state.
 


Keghart.com guest-editorial by Viken L. Attarian, Montréal, 9 November 2010

Editor’s Note: On Oct. 22 Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in  Canada released an open letter to the the Armenian-Canadian community, calling for unity. The following day  the Congress of Canadian Armenians posted a very brief statement on its website "wholeheartedly" supporting the initiative. A week later ARF’s  "Horizon" newspaper published an interview with Raffi Donabedian, a representative of the ARF Central Committee of Canada. During the interview he stated, "Today, we think that it is time to act and take necessary practical steps toward creating a new pan-Canadian formation symbolizing our unity." Shortly afterwards, Armenagan Ramgavars’  "Abaka" weekly published its "view". All were posted in Keghart.com
 
As these calls for "unity" were being aired, some two scores of professionals and intellectuals discussed on-line and in 24April Forum the various aspects of the proposals and the counter-proposals, assessing the merits and shortfalls of such an initiative. Viken L. Attarian was one of the  participants  in the debate. His views are summarized and presented as guest-editorial of the week.

Large scale and assumed trustworthy cooperation for so-called unity, is not only unlikely, it is highly improbable. There is simply too much historical and institutional baggage that causes anything meaningful which could be achieved to rapidly disintegrate.

Unity on many individual initiatives is however a highly desired state.
 

To achieve that, I believe that the approach should be project-based. Such projects should have very specific criteria for measurement and merit.
 
  • They should make a difference in the daily lives of Armenians in Canada.
  • They should not require massive financial input (at the megadollar level, but can be achieved at the six-figure dollar level).
  • They should be completely non-discriminatory (i.e. non-denominational, non-political, non-social class related, non-identity related etc.), thus reaching everyone.
  • They should have a strong participatory youth component.
  • Their results should be shareable equally and its benefits should accrue to the Canadian-Armenian community at large, not to specific groups or subgroups thereof.
 
It is for these reasons that I have proposed several such projects on various occasions both in writing and in public appearances.

I personally believe that there are two such projects that can immensely benefit the Canadian Armenian community, which also satisfy the above criteria. While these projects are not the only meritorious ones, and others can come forward, there is some thought put behind these so I am sharing them.

Project 1.

  • University education for all Canadian Armenian youth of the university attending age. (19-25, this is arbitrary and flexible). Regardless of field of choice. Basically the slogan being NO ONE LEFT BEHIND. To achieve this, all ASA (Armenian Student Associations) and youth organizations as well as traditional orgs can be mobilized. We need:
    • Organizing of paid tutoring in all subjects by youth for youth (donors target their money to pay the tutors and to the administration of this system).
    • Ongoing evaluation of the above tutoring to ensure quality.
    • Organizing of paired one-to-one mentoring between high school students, university attendees and young professionals.
    • Organizing of educational field related specialized events, to encourage kids to stay in school. E.g days for health care professionals, legal professionals, scientific professionals, business professionals, teaching professionals, media professionals etc.
    • Organizing to include children of new immigrants and specifically children who DO NOT attend Armenian schools in such programs.
    • Recognition events and prizes for the above.
    • Lobbying of governments to chip in financially and in other forms of assistance, to encourage such community-based broad initiatives.
 
Project 2
  • A full demographic statistical database of the Canadian Armenian community. The purpose being to have a common tool to use for joint organizational policy initiatives. Such a database would have information about:
    • Number of families (Armenian-Armenian or of mixed lineage).
    • Their countries of origins and generational immigration data.
    • Gender distributions and roles (marital status, employment status etc.)
    • Education levels.
    • Age
    • Social status levels (e.g. welfare recipients, income supplement recipients etc.)
    • Professional and employment information.
    • Migration patterns (within the city, within the province, within the country, and to and from Canada).
    • Geographical distribution of place of living (province, city and district level).
    • Size of families
    • Other information as required
 
This is not about creating mailing lists, individual information is irrelevant. It is about creating census-type aggregate information on which we can base actions in terms of social policy, such as government lobbying, designing of community services, designing of our institutions and ensuring their future etc. For example, there have been several attempts in the past and even recently to create Armenian retirement homes or homes for the elderly, the argument being that our elderly do not speak English or French and prefer to be with other Armenians (services to include Armenian cooking, church services and Armenian traditional activities). While this might have been the case 30-40 years ago, there is no scientific evidence that suggests that this is true today, i.e. that 10 years from now we would actually have a group of retirees who would want, need and be ready to finance such an effort. We could be wasting a lot of resources raising the funds to build such an institution but it could be simply another enormous waste of our resources. I am not saying that such need does not exist, simply that we have no proof thereof. A statistical database would provide a strong impetus for such initiatives and it will help us uncover trends and needs which we do not even suspect today, for example on how to reach the children of numerous Armenians who have chosen to marry non-Armenians; how to welcome them and integrate them etc.
This project would require a scientific and professional approach to design the data collection mechanism, to maintain it on an ongoing basis and to share the results with our community organizations. In a sense, it would allow us to see the reality of our communities and remove our self-imposed “blindfolds”. One cannot drive any vehicle blindfolded, let alone steer the “ship”s of the Diaspora(s) to safe shores. Is it any wonder that we have had disastrous “collisions” and ran ourselves into the proverbial walls and icebergs?

The question is, can all Canadian-Armenians and their organizations agree that they need to come together to implement these projects? What can they contribute (place, finances, administrative help, website development etc.)?

The benefits of such projects would be enormous, apart from their direct benefits related to their objectives.
 

  • Canadian Armenians would be coming together to help themselves,
  • Enormous trust can be earned between the traditional institutions and individuals.
  • It would be a concrete demonstration that we can work together on something beyond Genocide-related or Armenia-helping issues (which are very laudable projects in of themselves).
  • Lessons learnt from an ongoing cooperation and surely mistakes that we’ll be making can become valuable tools.
  • Processes and mechanisms of cooperation can be created and validated for bigger and greater projects.
  • Working models to replicate within the Diaspora can be tested.
  • A new generation will grow up taking pride in their identity and who they are seeing how being Armenian is actually BENEFICIAL not DIVISIVE and FUTILE.
  • A source of pride in what we can achieve together
 
To repeat, the point is unity yes, but unity for a purpose. Specifically, for a purpose that is achievable, beneficial, whose benefits can be measureable relatively quickly and whose benefits accrue to everyone.

The Canadian Armenian community has an opportunity to act as a model. The Diaspora is changing and morphing much more rapidly than ever before. Can we truly harness this globalization of our people for something meaningful? Can we choose to become the masters of our own destiny? That is the question that every single one of us should ask ourselves.

4 comments
  1. Unity starts with fundamental first steps

    Any type of unity starts with fundamental first steps so clearly outlined by the author. Reason? They are achieveable & beneficial to the community as a whole & not just a faction of it. Therefore, any bishop or individual in similar positions who preach unity are only daydreaming. I consider others who try to ride the unity bandwagon opportunists full of hot air.
  2. With great anticipation

    With great anticipation I was hoping to see a new article by Viken Attarian to appear in Keghart, and I was gladly not disappointed.

    Clarity unfortunately lacks in most of what we read in the media when we talk of unity. I have had a chance to read Serpazan’s letter, Horizon’s interview with Mr. Nalbandian and Abaka’s view. They abound with slogans and ideals, but are short on real practical proposals or solutions. In that sense Attarian’s article stands way above the rest. It’s not only clear what he says but makes you think based on realities.

    What’s most appealing is his call for not getting carried away with ideals without substantive data which are based on facts. Without knowledge of the facts it’s impossible to engage in an almost rudderless journey despite cherished goals.

  3. Small concrete steps towards unity

    I wholeheartedly agree with Viken’s approach. Unshakeable unity is hard to achieve in a traumatized and polarized community such as ours… Disagreeing with one another is something we’ve become so good at, it’s scary! The only hope of unity we have is the willingness of individuals to work together, based on common grounds which no-one can really disagree with (the latter is the important part, although it’s something easier said than done). In a way, Viken is focusing on small yet concrete steps towards finding that common ground.

    He’s proposing two approaches which he calls "projects", but I think these as more "vectors of attack" in his distinctly scientific way of analyzing and breaking down things… This is, in my opinion, one of the best ways of driving towards unity: findings common "projects" which we all agree we have a need for…

    If the basic premise is to find "projects" or "vectors" we all agree we need to work on, then the first obvious choice is " the youth". In our ever-increasing fear of our nation’s future, our community can easily see that it needs to concentrate its efforts on developing and empowering the future generations. Therefore, Viken’s first project heads directly down this powerful “vector of attack”: University education for all Canadian Armenian youth of the university attending age. This project, in my opinion, is by far the most important one our community could ever undertake, hence the importance for it to be successful… The youth are our future, and without them, we wouldn’t have the luxury of even considering unity, as we’d be so divided we wouldn’t know where to start…

    Viken’s second angle of attack is more scientific: he suggests a project to gather data that would be useful to all… Data mining is undoubtedly a good idea in a general sence, yet this project is a little more tricky to undertake, as it will be very difficult to convince everyone that the data will not be more beneficial to some than it would be to others. However, this project is also interesting, in that it can also help us measure our success since it would undoubtedly generate some form of data on the trends in the community… Furthermore, I’m also sure that some elements of Project 2 could be tackled in the context of Project 1… Interesting thoughts indeed…

    In the spirit of selfless pursuit of unity, I support both his projects with their stated objectives, as is. Although I’m tempted to inject my own experience into his first project’s goals (more specifically, I’d slightly reword one of his objectives, and possibly add one more), I think we should all make an effort at leaving behind our individual paranoia for the good of the collective effort. God knows how many people are more than willing to share (read: impose) their points of view in our community, therefore the only chance of success we have is to “convince” those individuals to get on the boat is, without having them redesign the whole thing in the process. The motivation is simple: either get on the boat, or be left behind. Our community’s future leaders will have to be the type that “get on the boat”, lest they be “left behind” from their leadership positions. In any case, I can share my feedback with Viken directly, and being open minded, I’m sure he’d listen.

    Basically, the point I’m making is that I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree with the general lines of both of Viken’s projects, and therefore we should all try our hardest not to get stuck in rewriting these projects, and instead we should concentrate our collaborative effort at making them happen… So how can YOU help make Viken’s projects come to life?

  4. Thank you to my commentators

    To Mike, Nareg and Hagop (and hopefully future commentators as well),

    It is very difficult not to sound artificial, but I truly feel humbled by your comments. Thank you for all your kind words.

    As I have expressed before, when one writes about a topic that one thinks about a lot, it becomes almost impossible to avoid the sensation that what you write is a "message in a bottle".

    Several hundred have read and yet only a few like you have chosen to comment.  Hagop’s comment is in fact a posting in itself.  The message in a bottle that is read by anyone can truly achieve its calling only when the reader reacts to the message.  Commenting is the first step, talking about the ideas and spreading them around is the next, working together to implement them is the real challenge.

    And please, do not call these ideas Viken’s projects.  These would be projects adopted by our community that would be implemented for our community. The ideas might have come from me, but they could have come from anyone else, and I can assure you that I was inspired by many who have conversed with me, debated me, argued with me and have discussed other ideas with me.  In a sense, I have been influenced by all that I have dialogued (and multi-logued) with over the years.

    Perhaps, as momentum grows, we can go knock on the doors of our institutions and ask them to get involved with all of us.  To roll up our sleeves and make our communities better places to live in.

    Paregamoren

    VLA

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