Privatizing the “voice” of the “people”
Privatizing the “voice” of the “people”: A reaction to Lorig Titizian’s response to Mako Meguerditchian’s article in the Asbarez
I read the article written by Lorig Titizian (LT) in the January 29, 2021 online edition of the Asbarez, in response to Mako Meguerditchian’s (MM) article in the January 14, 2021 issue of the same publication, which I had also read.
LT’s patronizing description of her family’s relationship with MM’s is, to say the least, offensive. By referring to MM as a “devoted” mother and “dedicated member of the ARS,” LT implies that MM lacks the qualification to express her opinion on the current situation in Armenia.
More importantly, however, MM’s article has much more substantive merit than LT’s shallow thesis. Although I do not agree with all of MM’s analysis of the recent developments in Armenia, as it is more layered and complex than presented, she makes important observations, which are validated by historical parallels in world politics. LT fails to properly read and understand MM’s primary message. Her response is simplistic, lacks a real message and, in essence, ends up being a justification for her euphoric and undiscerning support of Nikol Pashinian’s policies before the war.
In her article, MM does not degrade, undervalue, or underestimate the importance of the “people.” In fact, her observations and criticism are not directed to the “people” at all. Her criticism is actually directed to those leaders, who, in the name of the “people,” give themselves a “carte blanche” to act as they please and unilaterally shape the destiny of an entire nation without review or oversight. In doing so, they use the abstract and incalculable concept of the “people” to undermine the true interests of the “nation” and its constituents.
Abusing the mandate given by the “people” is not a notion limited to Armenia, the velvet revolution, or Nikol Pashinyan. We have seen it throughout history. “People” have always had legitimate grievances against governments or rulers. In some cases, the expression of such grievances has been crushed, in others, an activist or group of activists has successfully consolidated the popular sentiments and seized the leadership of the country. Tragically, however, on too many occasions, those who have come to power through popular support, have “privatized” the rights and wishes of the “people” and in their name have committed all sorts of evil deeds, thereby undermining the true interests of the “nation” and especially its constituent citizens (the “people”). Cases in point, the Soviet Union, China, etc.
Speaking in the name of the “people” or transforming the concept of “people” to a supreme political value neither translates into respect of “people’s” wish, nor bestows legitimacy upon leaders, when they are unchecked.
The above is the core message of MM’s article. LT has failed to see it. I hope other readers have.
MM’s suggestion that Soros and foreign powers have orchestrated the velvet revolution and subsequent developments, may be a bit reductive in the context of political analysis. To lay the entire responsibility for the current situation in Armenia on Soros or other foreign dark forces is not a fruitful direction as far as political analyses go. Clearly, Soros has not masterminded the velvet revolution. The velvet revolution was the doing of the “people” (correct use in this context), which was led by Nikol Pashinyan, and culminated in a bloodless change of power due to Serzh Sargsyan’s decision to swiftly resign, rather than resist. Notwithstanding this however, the role and influence of foreign-inspired political concepts and worldviews in Armenia cannot be ignored.
It is true that institutions such as Soros’ various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) have generously funded a number of local subsidiaries in many countries, including Armenia. Those local subsidiaries, in turn, have employed a large number of young activists, and supported them in getting university education, learn languages, and establish international relationships. The philosophical foundation and worldview of such NGOs often clash with the national interests and traditional values of Armenia. Those young activists, who had developed a certain mindset working in those NGOs, emerged as strong supporters of Nikol Pashinian’s movement and were rewarded with key positions upon the movement’s success. Therefore, they bear their share of responsibility for political developments during the past three years, including the Artsakh war. I will refrain from analyzing or assessing such responsibility; I trust that readers can do that on their own.
I agree with LT that the “people” in Armenia wanted change and their pursuit of a better life was genuine and legitimate. Nikol Pashinyan came to power, clearly by popular demand. However, the abandonment of scrutiny and oversight over the conduct of the new Government, blind support and amplification of every slogan uttered by the new leaders, without assessing the congruity of such slogans with actual policies and actions of those same leaders, essentially amounted to giving Nikol Pashinyan and his colleagues a “carte blanche” to act as they desired, with unchecked arrogance. For this, these blind supporters also bear their share of responsibility for political developments during the past three years, including the Artsakh war.
After almost three years, monopoly in the economy has not diminished and the likes of Samvel Alexanyan (Leffik Samo) have continued to prosper, having switched their allegiance, and having found new “partners.” It has become obvious that the new leaders’ goal was not to eradicate monopoly, but rather to coopt it.
After almost three years, not a single person has been convicted of corruption. This is a sign that the real intention of the Government was not to curb corruption, but rather to become its new beneficiary or to use it as political leverage (difficulty in finding proof as a justification for not securing convictions is not convincing; The controller (Gancapet) of the Government of Armenia for almost 25 years, Atom Janjughazyan, is now Finance Minister. His knowledge of the movement of funds in the country spanning over a quarter century is unparalleled).
After almost three years, the historically objectionable behavior of law enforcement in Armenia has not improved. In the contrary, Nikol Pashinyan’s first act, as prime minister, was to consolidate his control over various law enforcement agencies. Moreover, when heads of agencies refused to implement his orders because they were illegal, they were promptly replaced by cronies who would not question his impetuous orders. He has equipped the interior forces with the most modern and fashionable equipment and uniforms (including face masks never used before), rather than directing such funds to the underequipped and underdressed armed forces.
During the past three years, no substantial new investment has been made in the country, demonstrating that while the Government’s rhetoric generates euphoria and blind support in the “people,” it fails to inspire confidence in investors.
And never in the past, a President or Prime Minister in Armenia has publically ordered his supporters to block the entrance of a courtroom, in order to prevent a decision he disagrees with.
For about two decades, Armenia Fund functioned as a genuine charitable entity, with a reputable board of trustees and operations that matched the standards of the best run non-profits in the world. Projects were carefully chosen and expenditures made as planned with proper oversight. Overnight, the current Government tarnished the reputation of the Fund and risked its charitable status, by ordering the transfer of funds to the Government budget without the required consideration and approval by the Board, using proceeds, at least in part, to pay bonuses to Government employees.
Never in the past, has a President or Prime Minister in Armenia lied to his own “people,” claiming that a war is being won, when he undisputedly knew that thousands of young soldiers were being massacred.
For the past three years, huge State resources have been spent on investigating the four-day Artsakh war, where, apparently, the most egregious crime was the “theft” of expired canned food from the armed forces by Manuel Grigoryan. No such enthusiasm is shown by Nikol Pashinyan supporters to investigate the $130 Million purchase from Russia of four fighter jets, without ammunition, or the $27 Million purchase from Jordan, out of all places, of second-hand anti-air missiles, which turned out to be scrap metal.
For most of the 44 days of war, for unknown reasons, Nikol Pashinyan rejected opportunities to end the war, insisting on the empty rhetoric of “haghdelu enk,”despite the fact that representatives of the opposition, as well as five former Presidents, were willing to share responsibility for making substantial concessions in order to stop the war. This cost our nation thousands of young casualties, Shushi, and much more.
Finally, Nikol Pashinyan publicly stated in the Parliament that “dark” Shushi was 90% Azeri, thereby undermining the legitimacy of our historical claim over the City and its thirty year Armenian control. The “people” reacted to this reprehensible statement with a fraction of the passion expressed during their two and a half year of blind support for Nikol Pashinyan before the Artsakh war.
Lorig Titizian treats the last 3 years merely as a failed experiment, minimizing the catastrophic and, in some ways, irreversible damage it brought upon the Armenian nation.
If, Lorig Titizian and those who think like her are just “disappointed” with the performance of the current Government and find the catastrophic state we now find ourselves in “unfortunate,” we will never “create an Armenia that offers THE PEOPLE a reason to stay and live there happily”. In calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation, I wish Lorig Titizian and those who think like her, had demonstrated a fraction of the enthusiasm they showed when praising Nikol Pashinyan and his policies. When they do, maybe then we could move out of the quicksand that we now find ourselves in.