The Egyptians did it. They dispelled a regime that they knew to be oppressive and corrupt, which limited their freedom of expression and movement and held them hostage to failed opportunity and poverty. For over two weeks they struggled against all odds to bring about the change they expected and they eventually reached their main goal–to push Mubarak out of office. And it was all because of the youth, a dedicated corp of individuals who decided that enough was enough. Through social networking they got the message out and people took to the streets, refusing to relent until their demands were met. Mission accomplished.
But here in Armenia, chronic whining reigns society. People here, young and old alike, are so obsessed with the idea of “the country’s not a country” that they see no other way out of the similar problems that Egyptians dealt with for over 30 years. Prices for energy and food keep going up while wages stay the same, and thousands of people go out of work overnight because Yerevan’s new mayor can’t stand seeing people sell fruit in courtyards and alleyways. And not to discount the Armenians’ suffering, but Egyptians seemed to have suffered far worse during their decades of tyrannical repression and “emergency” rule. In the meantime, more Armenians in the new year are doing without and no one’s making any noise about it. They only complain to each other. And when the opportunity arises they leave, never looking back.
Armenians take pride in their millennia-long existence, their churches, their heritage, their sacrifice, their values. The Armenians governed vast kingdoms and controlled routes of commerce. They wielded influence throughout the Near East, Asia and Europe, trading and networking, winning the respect and admiration of other nations, notwithstanding the hardships they endured for centuries, deifying their enemies, refusing to abdicate their faith. Their courage is what made them endure, their perseverance and resilience brought them the independence and freedom they enjoy today.
But they’re disappointed. The country’s not a country. They want a better future for their children, free from nepotism, corruption and inequality. But they don’t want to work for it, they want it handed to them on a silver platter. They’re quick to criticize but are hesitant to enact the change they expect–whatever that is–citing fear or more often than not, apathy. Can Armenians really afford to be afraid and indifferent to each other?
I’ve had a few conversations with people about the events in Egypt, and they recognize the need to do the same here. They realize the missed opportunity they had in March 2008. But they also know that no one’s ready to try again. The youth, as a dynamic source of potential, are inactive. The opposition is as fragmented as it ever was. There’s no unity amongst the Armenian people here, and until everyone gets on the same page to work for the common goal, the country, in their eyes, will remain not a country. That shouldn’t be an option.
Photo: Al Jazeera English