Commentary: New Challenges for a New Year

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

The year end is a stage when individuals take a moment to ponder the past 12 months, evaluate their achievements and learn from their mistakes. It is also an occasion to make new resolutions, which though one seldom keeps, one can feel good about possibilities for the coming year.

When it comes to collective entities, evaluations are done by groups of people, as well as the resolutions made. Therefore, individuals become responsible to each other and to the collective entity.

Our lives as Armenians have dual complementary phases: our existence in the diaspora and our commitment to Armenia. Those among us who shirk responsibilities to Armenia have a more comfortable existence, albeit by forfeiting part of their identity. Those individuals who have to cope with both challenges have a more responsible life, which in the end is more fulfilling and more full.

As we review the year 2011, the diasporan life looks like a rudderless ship, with fragmented leadership and divided loyalties. In the past, when the Internet did not churn information and challenge all authority, the community was more cohesive and the leadership had its values and its place. That is how collective efforts paid off and major projects were achieved.

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In today’s world, cynicism abounds, people challenge authority, yet they fail to produce what authority could provide. That has led us to an amorphous existence.

The diaspora derives its meaning and the source of its cohesion from Armenia. Wherever Armenia is ranked in our priorities, that will mark the extent of our cohesive life.

During the year 2011, Armenia projected itself into the diaspora in many ways; politically, economically and spiritually. But that projection seldom extended beyond slogans. Because of a mutual lack of understanding, the diaspora as a whole does not fully understand Armenia and vice versa. The Diasporan Ministry was a welcome addition, and in time, may develop in-roads in the diaspora life. Yet thus far, its activities and projection have been stiffled in Soviet style rhetoric.

The problems and the challenges facing Armenia seem to require more resources and skills than the leadership there can provide; the Karabagh conflict, economic leadership and the resulting depopulation of the country would tax even the most resourceful leadership.

We always maintain that the diaspora has great potential to help Armenia. Yet that contention is never tested to prove its veracity. Those Diaspora Armenians who have tried to invest in Armenia have been badly burnt. That is why all invitations to take part in Armenia’s economic development ring hollow. That also deters others from extending any help. The laws are in place only to be broken. There is a legal system in place, which runs on the principles of cronyism. The past year and the years before prove that showering medals is no cure. It only devalues those medals. Armenia is in a hostile neighborhood, surrounded by enemies and friendly foes. Yet regional politics has awarded it a strategic value, which the leadership has been trying to tap.

Domestically the country is divided. All the electioneering has weakened the two opposing factions, namely, the government and the opposition. And now they have realized they need each other in order to maintain a viable nation. The year 2012 will prove to be a watershed, because parliamentary elections are ahead of us. The world is watching and most of the foreign aid depends on the outcome of those elections. In addition, domestic political realignment will come to solidify the foundations of statehood.

This nascent republic faces an uncertain future. Twenty years of existence and survival is a feat in itself. Was that the making of its leadership or historic circumstances that developed during the last 20 years? Perhaps both.

The election is our challenge, yet the advent of the year 2012 brings us closer to the centennial of the Genocide. A high-powered committee was founded to mark the centennial. No one has yet heard a progress report from that committee, while Turkey puts to action its well-oiled state machine to counter any political initiative from the Armenian side. They are already prepared to make a preemptive strike even before we make our move. It is not just the Turks and Azeris who hinder us. The benefactors who had planned the Genocide Museum in Washington are at loggerheads and they don’t need any action from Turkey to kill the project.

As we look back over the year 2011, it seems pretty somber, while 2012 is full of new challenges.

Armenian history is not a chain of happy moments, yet Armenians have managed to survive. The very fact that we are still able to analyze our problems is an indication that we are determined to conquer the future. Our mistakes and our failures will educate us to plan for tomorrow, to whip up diaspora into action, to help Armenia emancipate from its medieval political culture and prepare for the onslaught. Our enemies are too many and our friends are too few. Yet we have to depend on each other, to complement each other and chart our course for the 2012. Unity, harmony and cooperation will be our wishes and our goalsfor the New Year.

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