This morning I cut into a lump of braided string cheese, which I bought in a neighborhood store that mostly sells produce and foodstuffs made in villages of Armenia. Just after pulling apart a segment of the cheese I found a long strand of hair that was intertwined with one of the braids. There was also some kind of unidentifiable wheat colored dust in the cheese, which could have been breadcrumbs. That surprise did not actually await me for the first time, and I had stopped buying homemade string cheese years ago (from the Gomidas market) for that reason alone.
This blatant lack of quality control tells me a few things. One, the woman (I assume based on the hair’s length) who made and braided the cheese did not evidently bother to wear some kind of head dress — a scarf, hairnet, whatever — to prevent her hair from falling into the cheese. The mysterious specs of dust shows that the cheese was not made in a sterile (okay, let’s say somewhat sterile), sanitary environment. I can only imagine how unclean her hands were. Simply put, the woman doesn’t care about quality, and furthermore she is demonstrating disrespect towards her customers by not ensuring that her product is free of debris. Moreover, her carelessness shows a lack of self-respect by not giving a damn.
I often wonder when complaining, discontented Armenians are going to awake and start standing up for something, anything. I’ve told people time and time again, and have written in my blog entries, that change in society and governance must come from the bottom-up. It’s the people who have to demand that apathy not reign in their own society, and they can’t be afraid to push their government to meet their needs, whether economic or social. You hear complaints everywhere — in markets and taxis, in newspapers, on the Internet. But nothing changes — the same issues related to unemployment, social inequality, and economic instability not only continue but are worsening. But people don’t get it, and they continue to complain and moan. Ironically, the main opposition block, the very one that was supposed to represent the marginalized and unlucky, is “negotiating” with the government, the details of the talks still unclear.
But regardless of how hard life may seem to be, you have to foster dignity, you need to respect yourself before you can respect others. Armenians must understand that change comes from within, it comes from the soul. You have to embrace the hope and potential of change. You have to believe it.
That can start by making high-quality cheese.