Category Archives: Social

Living in Shame

Hetq Online, which sponsors this blog, just posted a new opinion piece that I wrote about Armenians’ obsession with shame and being shamed and the guilt complex some Armenians cope with perhaps their entire lives.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Amot eh” is single-handedly quelling creativity and freedom of thought in modern Armenian society. With its submissive waive of the hand as if to state “no more,” it discourages entrepreneurship and spurns innovation. Living in fear of failure because it is perceived as shameful essentially leads to a repressed, uneventful life, to be content with the mundane because society deems it safe. Progress is ironically being suppressed.

“Amot eh” strangles ingenuity and favors complacency. Just like a scouring sponge, shame completely absorbs potential for exacting progressive change then scrubs out the inspiring light. It renders its victims incapable of consciously deciding of their own free will: “I want” or “I do not want.”

“Amot eh” promotes resentment and anger, as the victim yearns to break free from the confines of conformity and behavioral normalcy. People overact because they are not free in mind, spirit and conscience. They are in a constant struggle with themselves to behave as expected, to move about as predicted, and when the boiling point of frustration is reached they explode. And the process is cyclical, uncontrollable.

To read the entire article go to http://hetq.am/eng/news/31266/armenias-amot-eh-complex—living-in-shame.html

Stop the Custom’s Agreement from being Signed with Moscow

Armenian citizens should not allow the customs agreement to be signed with Russia.

Joining a still-abstract Customs Union, with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan confirmed onboard, is a disaster in the making and would the worst thing the Armenian republic ever did in its 22 year history. It would be tantamount to entering a screeching time vortex and landing in the dark ages, complete with the classic communist slogans pasted across the city walls and statues being re-erected glorifying the days of the Soviet dream. Putin’s dream is to bring it all back, under a different guise, but all the same associated nonsense.

After 4 years of negotiations with the EU on signing the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, which would have entered its final phase with a formal signing ceremony in November, one man’s abrupt decision should not lock Armenia’s fate and compromise its long-term sustainability and prospects for expanding growth. The Armenian people themselves must decide their own future, not someone who places his own personal interests over those of the people he is supposedly serving.

Any citizen who has had the privilege of studying or even visiting Europe, the US and other free democratic nations, and has a concept of what living in a democratic society means, and cares about the long-term viability of Armenia for his children and future generations, and wants to see expanding growth on all levels — economic, social, cultural, educational and so forth–must not permit the agreement for Armenia to join the Customs Union to be signed. It will neutralize the Association Agreement with the EU–this has been confirmed by EU officials.

According to RFE/RL’s report:

Elmar Brok, the German chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, likewise said Armenia’s Association Agreement will not be signed any time soon. “I feel very sorry because it is legally — because of certain conditions — not possible to be a full member both of the Customs Union and have an association agreement and free trade area agreement with the European Union,” he told an RFE/RL correspondent in Brussels.

It’s not too late to stop this customs agreement with Russia from going through by any means. Fatalists in Armenian families, especially anyone over the age of 50, need to be locked up in the closet. It’s time to ensure that Armenia does not squander its opportunity for tighter integration with the west and opportunities abound for Armenia’s sustainable development. It’s time to demand that the Armenian government intervenes and forces the President to go back on his promises in Moscow. Armenians need to stand up.

Yerevan’s Digital Billboards – Are They Really Necessary?

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About six weeks ago a mounting stand for a digital billboard was fixed on the corner directly across the building in which I live adjacent to the printing house, at the intersection of Vartanants and Hanrapetutyan Streets. It was supposed to be installed across the street but someone came by and complained that it would block their windows, and remarkably whoever was in charge listened, then they hauled the thing away. Last week the LED  screens were installed, and yesterday the blinding advertisements for luxury ski resorts, casinos and expensive furniture stores began, in the heart of a middle-class neighborhood.

I have become so numb to such buffoonery that I’m not even trying to understand the logic in installing this billboard and others like it in the first place. But I wanted to get an estimate for what such a billboard would ordinarily cost and I found a web site that provides instant quotes.

I’m not very good with guessing measurements but to my eyes the billboard measures about 3 x 3 meters.  The screen seems to be high-resolution, judging from the picture quality and brightness, which brings the price at around $18,600. The stand seems to be constructed of some heavy duty metal, perhaps iron–the site estimates it to cost around $11,800. Then there’s shipping and installation to take into consideration, about $800 and $1800, respectively. At 7 cents per kilowatt, the current price of electricity that is scheduled to increase incidentally, the monthly operational cost is just over $103. Altogether, including other fees such as connectivity, the total expenditure comes to around $56,640, and again, this is according to the data that I fed into the calculator, it’s not meant to be an accurate figure.

Some alternative, more constructive ways to put that $56,640 to use:

1. Subsidize low income housing for two newlywed couples. In more remote parts of the city like Sepastia, Nor Nork or even Avan, Soviet-era apartments could be found for $25,000, maybe even less. Give them another few thousand to furnish the place properly and inspire them to be good citizens in the process. Or, find housing for families living in crammed quarters like sardines in the Erebuni hostels. The homeless, naturally, could also benefit from proper living conditions and mental rehabilitation.

2. Renovate one or two schools in dire need of repairs, especially in rural areas of Armenia far from the capital. Many still have broken windows, improper heating, dysfunctional lavatories. State-subsidized hospitals are also in need of funds–the shabby, unhygienic maternity ward where my child was born in Zeytun comes immediately to mind.

3. Build additional playgrounds, especially soccer fields, and thereby encourage children to be more active in playing sports. While your at it, might as well start a physical education campaign to get kids off their asses and exercise properly.

4. Increase the wages of the invisible street sweepers who are out there at 4 o’clock in the morning each day. Who knows what they make–it can’t be much more than a hundred bucks a month, realistically half that.

5. Install new, clean public toilets, especially in areas heavily frequented by tourists, like Republic Square and the Vernisage. If Armenia aspires to be European, it needs to act like it and properly cater to so many of its guests from Italy, France, etc.

The list goes on. I could sit here all night and think of more useful ways to spend that fifty grand, and I’m sure anyone reading this will have some other useful suggestion in mind. Installing digital billboards is not the answer to demonstrating progress. It comes from smaller, tangible things that are not easily noticed but make a huge impact on the community. That’s how society expands and transforms.

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Why I Love Election Time

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Two days ago the Yerevan municipality was repairing the roadway through the courtyard behind the apartment building where I live. Huge potholes ran along the pavement making both driving and walking troublesome. They also installed brand new lighting on the walls of the tunnel leading into the courtyard, making the evening stroll back there less ominous.

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But repairs are being made in other parts of my neighborhood, too. Here’s a photo of a commonly traveled shortcut between two garages up the street that has been completely repaired, the exposed rocks, concrete and broken asphalt covered over.

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The area in front of my rented garage (above photo), which was laden with potholes and strewn trash thanks to the location of the garbage bins, has also been redone. The ugly metal cans have been replaced with new, heavy-duty plastic bins that have folding lids, so the broken styrofoam and cellophane bags won’t fly around any longer when a gust of wind blows. The walls have also been patched up since this was taken.

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Critics will cynically argue that city hall is making all sorts of cosmetic repairs around town, like changing the curbstones (which I do think is a needless expense), as a way of vote buying. But I don’t see it that way. Rather, I see my tax money being put to good use. I want the taxes I paid to be spent on improving my community. This is work the Yerevan municipality should have been doing anyway, regardless of whether elections were around the corner. It’s definitely a good thing.

I really hope the upcoming Yerevan municipal elections are held democratically without vote rigging, intimidation, ballot stuffing, etc. But I’m not putting my hopes on that. I will, however, commend the great work the current administration is doing for my community, albeit four years plus late. At least it’s finally getting done. And I hope it continues, regardless of who’s in charge a few weeks from now.

Barevolution in the Rain

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Despite the strange weather, rain for five minutes and muted sunshine for ten more, a sizable crowd gathered in Liberty Square to hear Raffi. The sound system was a lot better today and his voice boomed throughout the square, lambasting his critics while acknowledging recent “mistakes,” poor judgement or however you want to describe it. He seemed more strong willed than ever before.

I was most impressed with the remarks his wife Armenouhi made. I wasn’t aware on that tumultuous night of April 9 she had been knocked down by the riot police and momentarily lost conscious, and when she came to she realized one of her shoes was missing, so she marched about barefoot for the rest of the evening. The tears that many saw in her eyes were not from pain, but for the policemen, who are essentially very young men as was made obvious in a recent photostory on Hetq and who were simply following orders, against their own will. I also cannot fault them for essentially doing their job, although no certainly one deserved to be bashed around and thrown to the ground. Having said that, there clearly were policemen, especially those in plain clothing, who were particularly cruel and unjustifiably callous in the way they handled the student protesters earlier in the day as amateur video footage revealed so candidly.

A week from now on April 9 a summit is planned at the Ani Hotel where political organizations, intellectuals and civil groups will devise a plan about how to move forward. It’s a step in the right direction.

He didn’t touch upon his curious trip to Moscow on Thursday, not that he would, but that’s not actually important. What matters is that this movement continues to gather strength, despite the pitfalls it inevitably faces yet manages to rebound each and every time. That seems to be what’s happening, although I have read and heard from many in the last several weeks that “Raffi’s not a leader.” Naturally, no one could ever expand upon that or give an example of what a leader in Armenia should be. Like him or not, he clearly is one, and conscious Armenian citizens have faith in him. They are counting on him to deliver an Armenia that is full of promise, one where the rule of law functions and equal opportunity exists for all. What right does anyone have to discourage them?

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