Friday, June 5, 2009

“There’s a joke here about someone making a wish that he could live ‘in the Armenia they show on National Television news,’” our visitor said. “And today we see another example of the reality behind this joke. National Television is saying the recent election had problems, but that whatever violations that might have happened didn’t affect the outcome. A group of Europeans, bought off as usual, said the same thing, yet we expect that from them. But when our own refuse to admit the truth, it’s bad.

“Like what the representative from Heritage said on a local television station today… ‘I saw lots of violations in the two polling stations I observed…’ but when asked by a viewer if this meant the violations were widespread, the Heritage person said, ‘I can’t say for sure.’ When people see the supposed opposition talking like this, kind of swimming along, not saying anything definite, they lose hope in any sort of democracy taking hold here. Also, it wasn’t National Television, but a smaller, local station that showed several local observers opening a bag of supposedly cast ballots, but the bag was open, which is illegal, and the ballots in it were bent, folded, obviously not ballots cast by the voters. I wish they’d show this kind of thing on National Television, for Diaspora Armenians to see, but no such luck.

“Armenians in the Diaspora, those that are able to watch Armenian television, watch National Television, Armenia, or Shant. Outside of occasional good programming, these stations are doing nothing but promoting pop singers, mafia-style serials, ridiculous music competitions with self-promoting judges, and low morals in general. They tried to stop funding for ‘Hye Aspet,’ a show in which young students test their knowledge about Armenian history, traditional song and dance, and the like. Luckily, they found the money. There’s never a problem in getting money for the serials, etc., but for something cultural, like ‘Hye Aspet,’ they have to beg for money.

“This all makes me wonder,” he continued, “if life was better then (Soviet times) or now. When walking up to your house, I passed by several new garages and a new little shop, made out of metal (bootka, in Russian, meaning a sort of makeshift, small building), so I asked the men working on the shop if they were going to sell books there. They got mad, knowing I was making fun of them. In Soviet times, none of this would have been allowed. People needed written permission, a document, to build something, make an addition to their house, that sort of thing. Now, no matter how much your neighbors might object, if you bribe the right person, you can build what you want, where you want. Is this good?

“My Kessab-born father, who never felt at home here, still talks about how people treated others with respect in Soviet times, and how they had morals, real morals. He always tells the story about someone he worked with who, back in the 1980s, got divorced and didn’t take care of his former wife and children properly. This person was ridiculed at work, almost lost his job, and was later forced by the government to make payments to his ex-wife. This definitely isn’t the case today. Sometimes I wonder how things could have changed so much in 15, 18 years.

“But, in spite of all this, there are good people here. The good people need to stay here, otherwise we’re finished. Too many here have one foot in the country, one out of the country…they don’t know where they are, or want to be. I know someone who had it made, actually, was fairly rich, in Soviet times. He ran a huge flower business, and was able to keep it fairly quiet, as this kind of entrepreneurship wasn’t allowed then. When the Soviet Union collapsed, for some reason he thought he had to leave the country. Now he’s washing dishes in Los Angeles. He’s an honest type, so couldn’t go the route so many Hayastantsis take there, many of whom end up in prison for their schemes, so he’s washing dishes, of all things. And another old friend, who owned several shops, some of them downstairs in the Hamalir, and had plenty of money, took the same route after Independence. Now he’s driving taxi in Los Angeles.

“It’s crazy here, but we need to stay here, and work our way out of this. This is our last chance. If we leave the country to the elements running things now, what will future generations say about us?”

Leaving, and nearly out the door, our visitor turned back and told what he had just heard, from a very reliable source. “An American-Armenian donated a certain sum of money, which he used as a write-off on his US taxes. But this was with the condition that the organization here give back 25% of the money supposedly donated. I know all Diaspora Armenians aren’t like that, but, I’m tired of hearing about our people here raking off funds coming into the country, when there are those from the Diaspora who do the same thing pretty well…”

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