An excerpt from

Pages From My Diary, 1986-1995

by Ara Baliozian

Shant Norashkharian has full authorization from Ara Baliozian to reprint any of his works/writings on the Internet/World Wide Web.


Excerpts (Part I)

1986

Somewhere George Orwell says that at fifty everyone has the face he deserves. Whenever I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror I can't help thinking: This isn't quite what I had in mind. But then, I say this about a great many other things: my fellow men, life, the meaning of life, or rather its meaninglessness.

1987

All people with a long history of oppression are short-tempered. When an Armenian loses his temper, the message he is trying to convey is: "I took it from the Turks for a thousand years; I don't have to take it from you." The "I" of course stands not just for himself but for all his ancestors as well—or his collective unconscious.

Whenever I read a book by an odar Armenologist, I cannot help thinking that he is more interested in our past than in our future. He values our antiquities much more than ourselves. These academics will probably be happier if we were to vanish from the face of the earth, thus providing them with a clear-cut ending and a final chapter to their field of inquiry.

Whenever I read a critical letter from one of my readers, I am reminded of a friend who runs a pizza parlor. "Armenians are hard to please", he is fond of saying. "Everyone likes my pizza, except Armenians—they always have something critical to say. Some day if you ever go into pizza business you will know what I mean."
I have never bothered to explain to him that I am myself a battle-scarred veteran of many wars; and that unlike the owner of a pizzeria, an Armenian writer is asked to bear not just the cross but also the cost of Armenian literature.

Nothing can be more repellent to me than the self-satisfied smile of someone who thinks he has got it made. Whenever I see such a smile on the cover of a magazine, I feel like going down on my knees and saying: "O God, allow me to die a miserable failure in order that I may never smile like that."

1988

A reader writes: "In one of your articles dealing with wealth, you speak of pirates and merchants as if these two terms were interchangeable. As a businessman myself, I resent that very much. I think you owe all businessmen an apology."
This businessman is right, trade is superior to piracy. But on this point, let me quote the words of an old wise man: "Trade is much superior to piracy. You can rob and kill a man but once, but you can cheat him again and again."

It is a mistake to think of writers as members of an exclusive club - self-centered eccentrics overly fond of abstractions that have little or no bearing on reality and our daily existence. There are no fundamental differences between writers and ordinary human beings.
The most important difference between an ordinary human being and a writer is that a writer has discovered a way or developed a skill which allows him to transfer his inner world onto a piece of paper—that's all.
To those who say: Since writers are no better than the rest of us, why should we bother with them? I say: To ignore a writer's words would be as risky as ignoring or dismissing the advice of a physician, an electrician, a plumber, or for that matter, a garbage collector.

The earthquake may have been an act of God, but we, all of us, must bear some degree of responsibility for its tragic—and tragic to the point of being genocidal—dimensions.
When I speak of catastrophes I have in mind the kind that can be prevented. Man-made catastrophes as opposed to acts of God. Catastrophes can be easily foreseen if we decide to open our eyes and choose not to take refuge in prejudice, ignorance, and apathy.
Again and again I have heard Armenians say: "God must have something against us!" or, "We are not God's Chosen People but Cursed People!" I say, we can no longer afford holding God responsible for all our misfortunes. We must learn to accept responsibility. Because earthquakes don't kill people; buildings do.

1989

It is a mistake to name our schools after millionaires because it sets our children a bad example. Since every illiterate may become a millionaire, a child may be justified in thinking that he doesn't have to bother with arithmetic and spelling because when he grows up he will be a millionaire; and as everyone knows, a millionaire can always hire a secretary and an accountant (who are a dime a dozen) who will handle both his spelling and arithmetic.
If the choice is between schools that bear a millionaire's name and no school at all: then let us at least have the decency to explain to our children that our hands are tied and that the name of the school is a matter of necessity rather than free choice,and that financial profit and the accumulation of wealth are not the noblest and most admirable pursuits in life.

So much valuable time is wasted in life to prove to morons that you are not a moron.

Loyal, dependable reliable: I loathe these terms. Superiors use them to describe those they exploit. I have worked for a large variety of employers none of whom was, and for that matter, cared to be, loyal, dependable, and reliable. Loyal to profit, yes. Loyal to their employees, certainly not. Loyal to principles and ideals—don't make me laugh.

The two supreme aims of American behavioral sciences: (i) How to make workers more productive; and (ii) How to make consumers more greedy. Understand this and you will understand many other facets of American life.

Thomas Carlyle: "I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."

Will anyone ever brag that he studied political science in Beirut, literary criticism in Teheran, historiography in Ankara, and architecture in Yerevan?

There are people whose only talent consists in being consistently wrong, and they are the very same people who insist on telling others what to think.

A novelist once said that whenever he takes a dislike at someone he puts him in a book and draws royalties on him. I do the same minus the royalty part.

Oscar Wilde in De Profundis : Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinion, their lives a mimicry, their passion a quotation."

Anton Chekhov in his Notebooks : "The university brings out all abilities, including stupidity."

1990

Sometimes in the middle of the night I receive telephone calls from distant places by individuals in search of immortality. These individuals seem to think that I have influence in those places where immortality is dispensed. I try to explain to them that I have problems of my own, that I can't even make ends meet, that my so-called influence is a figment of their imagination, that the status of an Armenian writer in our communities is that between a janitor and an unemployable misfit, and that even if I were to write to a flunky, the chances are I would be completely ignored.

The Arabs castrate rapists and cut off the hands of thieves. Both procedures may be viewed as forms of censorship. Literary censorship is even more barbaric because it attempts to castrate or maim the expression of man's mind and soul. Literary censorship is the first step on the road that leads to massacre.

Some of our academics appear to have made the brilliant discovery that, the more useless and irrelevant their field of expertise, the more they can count on institutional support. I am personally acquainted with academics who know everything that happened to us 70 or even 700 years ago but pretend to know nothing about what's happening today in their own community.

"Why have you given up writing?" I ask a friend who until very recently contributed regularly to our press.
"How can you go on writing?" he replies.
A good question. I wish I knew the answer.

Copyright 1996 by Ara Baliozian

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