An excerpt from

Pages From My Diary, 1986-1995

by Ara Baliozian

* Ara Baliozian's latest book, PAGES FROM MY DIARY (1986-1995), is distributed by Armenian Reference Books Co., POBox 231, Glendale, Ca 91209, Tel. (818) 504-2550.

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


Excerpts (Part II)

1991

"When I read this, I immediately thought of you," a reader writes on the margin of the following quotation:

"We, the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little that we are now qualified to do anything for nothing."

At the age of twelve I lost my faith and with it my ability to pray; but if I ever relearn how to pray, I would say: O Lord, let me be satisfied with what I have even if it amounts to very little. I was nothing and I will return to nothingness; let me therefore be satisfied with nothing and be happy with anything that is better than nothing, including pain and degradation. Give me the strength to accept all misfortunes except those that are inflicted by human greed, stupidity, ignorance, and ambition: because to accept them would mean promoting evil and collaborating with the forces of darkness.

The devil is always ahead of us. Doubt him and he will convince you that he doesn't exist. Acknowledge his existence and he will convince you he is everywhere but within you. Acknowledge his existence within you and he will assume the disguise of an angel.

1992

Once upon a time there was a man who built such a beautiful sand castle on the beach that he fell in love with it. And when the tide came and washed it away, he felt as bereaved as a king who had lost his kingdom.
Something similar happens to all of us.
We fall in love with our own illusions, and whenever someone points out the inconsistencies and contradictions in them, we feel offended instead of liberated.

Beautiful thoughts beautifully expressed: that's how most philistines define literature.
Literature is struggle.
Countless writers have died to make of literature what it is. To confuse literature with some kind of polite chitchat at a cocktail party in a suburb is worse than a lie; it is a betrayal.

I make a list of our ablest contemporary intellectuals and I shiver to think what would happen if I were to live in a country with one of them as Minister of Culture. The fact that I live in a place that is beyond their reach is to me a constant source of comfort and joy.

History books are people's efforts to come to terms with their own past by falsifying it systematically in order to make it more palatable.
Underdog nations falsify their past by ascribing their decline to others and by portraying themselves as innocent victims of predatory nations.
Top dog nations falsify their past by covering up their acts of plunder and piracy.
As crimes against humanity go, we Armenians may well be the least guilty nation on earth, but we are guilty all the same of many petty crimes against one another as well as crimes of cowardice, betrayal, and collaboration with the enemy.

A reader writes: "I am fed up with our newspapers. All they print is pictures of bishops and millionaires. We brag about our culture but all we can talk about is our aghababas and imams having a good time at banquets - celebrating what? Themselves! - what else?"
I should like to see one of our intellectuals writing with such honesty and courage.

When the Athenians arrested, tried, and executed Socrates, they did not say he is undermining our authority," but "He is offending the gods." Nothing comes easier to a man of authority than to identify himself with God and view himself as His sole representative on earth.

1993

Money without moral authority is nothing but an instrument of exploitation, oppression and blackmail. Everyone knows this except our benevolent benefactors and their flunkeys who behave with the arrogance of men who are convinced that money is the greatest blessing of the Lord and as such a source of undeniable moral force.

Again and again we are told if it weren't for our bosses, bishops, and benefactors, we would have no churches, no schools, no community centers, no culture, no identity, and no future. What we are not told is that our churches are run by wheeler dealers, our schools cannot even teach our children to speak Armenian, our community centers have become shish kebab and pilaf joints, our writers behave like spineless yes-men, our culture is debased, our identity has become a source of embarrassment to most decent Armenians, and our future is far from certain.
We are a living example of the dictum that says, Money can't buy everything even in an environment where everything has a price.

Let us not be deceived by abundance. An accumulation of footnotes does not make a masterpiece. A large collection of information does not amount to knowledge. And a vast quantity of gold does not spell happiness.

What's dangerous is not corruption, but corruption that is not exposed, and when exposed it is not acknowledged; so that no one resigns, no one is fired, no one is impeached. This type of permanent institutionalized corruption is such a potent obstacle to progress that even if we had all the gods on our side, we would be unable to move a fraction of an inch towards improving our condition.

How to explain the irrelevance of our contemporary literature? My guess is, some time in their formative years, our writers and versifiers were exposed to the philistine theory that says, the function of literature is to say profound things about noble subjects. Homer sang of gods and heroes, Shakespeare of kings and princes, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky of mighty passions...Since there is nothing noble, heroic, or mighty about our present condition, it follows that it must be avoided or ignored. One cannot produce great literature by writing about petty problems and pusillanimous characters.
This is the only way to explain why our writers continue to write about sunsets and our cultural organizations continue to sponsor seminars on Khorenatsi and Naregatsi... as the nation slides deeper into the quicksands of decline and degeneration.

Chinese saying: "If a man, sitting alone in his room, thinks the right thoughts, he will be heard thousands of miles away."

Last night in a dream someone handed me a piece of paper with the following message: "Instead of criticizing others, you should have a dream of your own and work towards its realization."
And the first thought that occurred to me when I opened my eyes was: I too have a dream. I dream that some day our dreamers will not be at the mercy of butchers of dreams.

A political party is nobody's property. Its sole function is to serve the people - all of the people and not a fraction of it. As a matter of fact, the very survival of a political party as an institution depends on its ability to convince the people that it is dedicated to serving their interests. The moment a group of individuals say, this or that political party is "our thing" (literally "Cosa Nostra" in Italian), they become a criminal gang.

I ask a friend from Yerevan: "Is any of the help from America reaching the people in Armenia?"
"Yes," he replies, "and it's making a select few very rich."
"What are the chances of this select few being caught and hung?" I ask next.
"None while I am alive. After that, it's hard to say."
"Another friend who has just returned from a visit to Yerevan, tells me: "In seventy years the situation may become normal but not before."
"That's exactly what our crooks and profiteers are counting on too - seventy years of abundance.
People whose experience of poverty is based on hearsay, think of it as the total absence of all luxuries. But the absence of luxuries is the least offensive thing about poverty. Poverty, real poverty, means constant uncertainty and anxiety over the future, also fear, humiliation, degradation, despair...

There is a kind of silence that says nothing; and then there is a kind of silence that speaks volumes. Silence is as eloquent as its source. Don't look for wisdom in the silence of an imbecile.

In Chinese mythology, the god of writers and gamblers is one and the same. That makes perfect sense because to be a writer and hope to survive is a gamble.
In Armenian mythology, as far as I know, writers don't enjoy the protection of a god; which may explain why anyone may abuse and exploit them with impunity.

I think we should have a Talaat Pasha medal and award it annually to those among us who have contributed most to our decline as a nation.

Some of my readers have described me as a prophetic voice. That to me is just about the saddest commentary on our community life; because it means that we have fallen so low that to qualify as a prophet all one has to do is to state the obvious.

After reading in one of our weeklies the venomous exchange of letters between two bishops (letters in which there is talk of criminal conduct, embezzled funds, and hired assassins, among other things), I wonder: Why should anyone want to see these gentlemen united? If they can do so much harm divided, how much more harm will they do when united? If they can expose so much dirt divided, how much more dirt will they cover up when united?

Undeniable proof of celebrity in America: to publish a bestselling book without having written a single line.

Copyright 1996 by Ara Baliozian

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