168Hours: The Time to Come Out of Trenches: Mikael Minasyan

15/06/2019 10:29

168Hours: The Time to Come Out of Trenches: Mikael Minasyan


Armenian women can curse, and they are really good at it. This discovery was perhaps the biggest surprise on social media this past year, and this refers to very real Armenian women living in Armenia and abroad. Of course, it’s the level of mutual intolerance that a shock delivers any public discourse impossible.

Clearly, this is a global phenomenon that did not occur overnight but has gradually gained momentum. In 2015, the Pew Institute conducted a survey to find out if people can write a public comment, if that comment might offend another group of people. Some 35% of those surveyed said they could. In other words, one out of three people believe it is normal to post something on a social media, knowing for sure it might offend someone. Taking into consideration the polarizing policy in the world and Armenia, it is no accident that the numbers of such people and the degree of aggression in comments have hiked since 2015.

On the one hand, a divided, polarized and hostile society is extremely predictable. On the other hand, it is extremely vulnerable. Societies have become internally hostile, clashed and weakened before suffering defeat from an external enemy. This has many precedents in history, starting from the Roman Empire and leading up to our days.

To understand the societies you are dealing with explore its urban legends. In this sense, Armenia operates on medieval morals:

  • The purpose of the struggle between the government and the opposition is to eliminate each other politically and morally. If you don’t curse at or eliminate your opponent, you are neither a real government nor a real opposition.
  • The foreign relations discourse does not go beyond unfeasable dreams or unrealistic notions, and the person who proposes an idea about advancing Armenia’s interests immediately becomes pro-Russian, a pro-Western or pro- something else.
  • In regard to the Artsakh issue, Azerbaijan borders Artsakh, but we Armenians have dug the trenches among ourselves. Those trenches enclose the political parties of peace and war, patriots and traitors, patriots and bigger patriots, traitors and bigger traitors, as well as people who are ready to make concessions and concessions-over-my-dead-body attitudes.

The society is polarized, and the public evaluations are at extremes:

  • In Armenia, people are either heroes or criminals.
  • In Armenia, the government is either always right or always wrong.
  • In Armenia, the opposition is either in prison or a cheap puppet.
  • In Armenia, a beloved artist is either posthumous or lives abroad.
  • In Armenia, a businessman is either a benefactor or an oligarch.

As for oligarchs, we Armenians declare our wealthy compatriots abroad as heroes, but refer to the local manufacturers and businessmen in Armenia as internal enemies or “nation’s leaches”. Instead of seeking more effective mechanisms for social justice, we proclaim that nobody should live well until everyone lives well.  It’s like the well-known joke when the widow of a participant of the October Revolution asks the Bolsheviks what the people are fighting for, the Bolsheviks say people are fighting to make sure there are no wealthy people. After that, the widow says her husband was fighting to make sure there are no poor people.

Examples are plenty and destructivism continues. It sure is one way to live —by hating, dividing, labeling and discrediting. After all, you can eliminate, align, remove, empty and desert everyone, but what happens after that? Does that make us happier? Based on the happiness index, it doesn’t! Armenia has always been in the list of the unhappy, holding the 116th place out of 157 countries in recent years.

They say the memory of mankind is fortunately limited. It must be true; otherwise the erosive and useless debates about the past, as well as hindsight stand-offs would be more far-reaching. Groping along the post-independence years we keep opposing one decade to another, one leader to another, clashing teams, destroying achievements gained by predecessors, and we do it with a very special cruelty and thoroughness.

What is, after all, the purpose? What is the purpose of the cursing on social media, feeding social frustrations, cleansing and judging, revolutions and reforms, governments and oppositions? What is all this for and what will happen? What will be the consequence of removing, splitting, labeling and discrediting? Does it improve people’s lives or will it?  If so, then everything is right. But clearly there are no paths leading these actions to those results, are they? However, people want to see their dreams come true. People want to live a good life, as they always did. People aspire for welfare and look up to a leader who can take them there. Do the recent or ongoing events serve the purpose of creative the good life or is it simply an end in itself?

We can go on and on. This way we are building a punitive and aggressive society in which everyone lives and works to get to a point when it’s their turn to punish and be punished. In fact, the society of the future has to be encouraging, multiplying a good model, accomplishing a good initiative, and developing good thinking. There is simply no other path to live the good life and live prosperously. It is impossible to keep a war of hating, humiliating and eliminating each other with rotating success and still claim the good life. World experience shows that only societies capable of reaching an agreement on how they can create a good future will have the opportunity to live the good life. The right to live the good life can only be gained in an environment of realizing common interest, solidarity, mutual trust and partnership.

We have a collective choice to make — to live in solidarity or fight and eliminate everyone and everything, or move forward by fixing the mistakes. Today we have all we need — the same mistakes that several generations have made along with the consequences. We have the chance to not make those mistakes again and the opportunity to avoid making new ones. We have citizens who are ready and a generation that is able. All we need to do is to stop, take a deep breath, draw a line and start from scratch, and this is possible.

Mikael Minasyan

Former Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See

 
 

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