Yegparian: Should Less Oppose More?

Let’s say you and I are seeking some things, some benefits, goods, whatever they might be. Let’s say, too, that I want two “items” and you want seven. Should we cooperate on the common, shared parts of our endeavor? Or, should I oppose you and disrupt your efforts to get what you seek just because it is different (more)?

There seems to be that sort of dynamic going on sometimes.

Historically, before the re-independence of Armenia, that happened all the time in the diaspora. Around April 24, when people got more active, ARF circles wanted to demand recognition, reparations, and return of our lands in a free, independent, and united Armenia. Opposition circles wanted to have nothing to do with talk of independence and freedom, since it smacked of putting down their patrons in Soviet Armenia. Consequently, talk of lands and reparations would have to be subdued, at best. This is an example of “less” opposing “more” and causing “more” harm.

We have the example that was the topic of my piece last week, author Meline Toumani. She point blank states she is not interested in pursuing genocide recognition. That’s fair. Perhaps she’s not an activist, political type, or even simply has other interests that hold greater appeal. What doesn’t make sense is when she makes statements, orally or through the content of her book and preceding articles, that impinge on others’ ability to pursue and achieve that goal. This is another example of “less” opposing “more” and causing “more” some degree of harm.

When engaging in negotiations, does one start by asking for less or more? To ask for less would be cutting one’s own throat, even if less is ultimately acceptable. To start by asking for less would almost assuredly lead to receiving even less than that. Ergo, even from the self-interested perspective of the “less” seeker, it makes sense to go for more.

Also, if the desired result is YYY, but the seeker, trying to be clever, asks only for Y, calculating “I’ll ask for one Y, then another, and then yet another,” then this disregards human nature in that once people give something, they are far less apt to give that same something again, especially to the same recipient, or, even something different to the same recipient.

The more times someone asks for something, the less credible that person is perceived as being. Soon, s/he is seen as a nuisance, a beggar to be pitied, but, alas, not taken seriously.

If a team is seeking something, then discord among the members of the team impacts negatively on the chances of achieving that goal. This is particularly true of cases where the less-versus-more dynamic is manifested.

How are any of these disruptive “lesses” and their advocates equitable, fair, just, reasonable, or sensible? Why would anyone accept or tolerate such destructive behavior?

I ask my compatriots to do what you can in pursuit of whichever aspect of the Armenian struggle most interests and engages you. But please, don’t impinge upon the ability of those compatriots who may be working on a broader portion of the spectrum of that struggle. Please, don’t even succumb to the temptation of being so-called “reasonable,” and consequently seeking less than you otherwise would. Remember, a quarter century ago, the re-independence of Armenia was deemed by many to be UN-reasonable, just a pipe dream.

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Garen Yegparian

Asbarez Columnist
Garen Yegparian is a fat, bald guy who has too much to say and do for his own good. So, you know he loves mouthing off weekly about anything he damn well pleases to write about that he can remotely tie in to things Armenian. He's got a checkered past: principal of an Armenian school, project manager on a housing development, ANC-WR Executive Director, AYF Field worker (again on the left coast), Operations Director for a telecom startup, and a City of LA employee most recently (in three different departments so far). Plus, he's got delusions of breaking into electoral politics, meanwhile participating in other aspects of it and making sure to stay in trouble. His is a weekly column that appears originally in Asbarez, but has been republished to the Armenian Weekly for many years.
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9 Comments

  1. Is this piece written for pre-schoolers or something? Why on earth does the author insist on talking down to us, as if we’re all illiterate bumpkins?

    Paring down and abstracting the point being made does not make that point more convincing, it just makes the author sound silly. Why write a piece that conspicuously ducks addressing the nitty-gritty of Armenian justice?
    The messy, complicated, unflinchingly political context of attaining justice for genocide has to be faced head-on, not in parables or syllogisms.

    I simply don’t see how Meline Toumani, who frankly is inept as even a part-time student of history and politics, is impinging on any Armenian’s ability to seek justice for the genocide. Her memoir is not curbing any of our legitimate demands for Turkey to be held to account. She is explaining how for her the genocide became an all-consuming part of her identity, and she wanted to try to figure out how this came to be so. Her book is not programmatic or politically actionable at all, it is a memoir consisting of short New Yorker aspiring essays. It is an attempt at some inner dialogue. She is not writing off justice for the genocide, or encouraging laxity in our efforts. So she wanted explore what it is to be Armenian in this day-and-age and she felt she had to try to understand as many aspects of the Turkish psyche and the her own Armenian psyche as she could to do this. So what? If anything her reportage, even the parts that are mealy-mouthed and trite, can be of use to us, not simply in attaining justice, but in understanding how to keep our communities and identity vibrant and strong.

    If Yegparian could perhaps cite passages in the book he refuses he read that he thinks inhibit our collective ability to get justice, he could be taken more seriously. If there is anything at all in Meline Toumani’s personal story that can derail our cause, than it is in a much more vulnerable state than any of us could have imagined. Fortunately Yegparian’s pronouncements are made from a position of willful ignorance.

    It is intellectually dishonest, patronizing, and disingenuous to state something as if it were fact, as if any concrete explanation or analysis is out of hand. It seems like Yegparian feels threatened that some young Armenians were interested in the book and have actually welcomed new avenues of discourse.

    To preempt a barrage, I am not endorsing the book, though I have read it and found some it to be useful, some of it to be unreadable, and some of it to be sincere, open and jocular. It is not a master work, yet it is not tripe. But it is certainly not inflammatory or harmful in the slightest. Only someone extremely insecure would feel this way after reading it. This is actually one of my own salient take-aways from the book – that Turkish identity is built around deeply ingrained insecurities and that Armenians, if we were wiser and more inquisitive would have realized this, been able to use it to our advantage, and taken care not to emulate it.

  2. Since Stepanos is a learned individual and not an “illiterate bumpkin,” perhaps he can explain to me why Turkish activists and Turks, who deny the genocide, praise Meline Toumani’s work?
    Here is one troubling example:
    http://www.tallarmeniantale.com/psychology.htm

    Tall Armenian Tale is a high-profile hatesite. But, its disinformation-purveyors seem to love Meline Toumani, as seen in the excerpt below:
    QUOTE: The Burden of Memory — Below are excerpts from an article entitled, “The Burden of Memory,” appearing Sept. 3, 2004 in The Nation… revealing interesting psychological insight. The author is Meline Toumani, who is near certainly of Armenian ancestry, based on revelations in the last paragraph. END QUOTE

    Look it up Stepanos. You, an anonymous person (unfortunately), have something in common with the hatesite Tall Armenian Tale: You both have nice things to say about Meline Toumani.

    Most Armenians would not wear that as a badge of honor.

  3. Thanks for sharing this link, I was unaware of it and it is indeed interesting.

    Perhaps this will be difficult for to you understand but this has no bearing at all on the points that I am making.

    I am not defending Meline Toumani’s entire oeuvre – I had never heard of her or until this book came out. I am not defending the entirety of her recent one book either, which is the only thing I have read of her work. I am neither praising her or condemning her – I have neither nice nor nasty things to say about her and don’t know why you think otherwise. I previously wrote that her writing is amateurish and trite at times and that her politics are not my own. All I am doing is calling out Yegparian for being paranoid, insecure, close-minded and scared in condemning a book he hasn’t read, which actually has some interesting commentary here and there.

    It offends me on a basic level that he wants to shut down intelligent debate and prevent people from deciding what to make of Meline Toumani’s book for themselves. If he had read her book, he would be entitled to offer an opinion that we could take into account. But he has anointed himself top-ostrich censor for us all, from a position of triumphalist ignorance. That does not sit right with me, precisely because I care about the Armenian community.

    Sadly, you are not addressing my points, instead you’re trying to insinuate that I am a Turkish agent! Well, no-surname-Peter (incidentally, if this is Peter Musurlian I got a real kick out of how my friend Babken absolutely dismantled you in a brilliant fb back-and-forth!) seems like you would not be satisfied unless I were to give you my full name, patronymic, baptismal certificate, and the ARF-D credentials of my entire male lineage. Sorry to break this to you, but most people commenting on an online discussion forum are anonymous because they are people who have too little going in their lives and usually don’t feel like advertising that fact. I certainly have no wish to.

    As to your point (you don’t have to patronize me, I am familiar with Tall Armenian Tale) I don’t know why they deemed an article in the Nation that she wrote in 2004 interesting, but my guess would be that they periodically need new content or else their site gets stale and repetitive and they were drawn to something slightly mainstream. I don’t know why you call that quote praise, but that’s beside the point. But anyway how cheap of you to try to tar me with that brush. I don’t have what you claim in common with the authors of this site because I never read that article and never described it, as they did, as “revealing interesting psychological insight” – wow, earth-shattering! I am sure she is a beloved real Grey Wolf icon. Give me a break. An article she wrote in 2004 got a weird mention in a fascist hate-site so she is forever untouchable? And wow, that all-caps ‘end quote’ was just brutal man! So for Tall Armenian Tale’s own twisted purposes an article that she wrote for the Nation is “interesting” to them. So anyone who finds anything Meline Toumani writes at any point in her life interesting is a Turkish collaborator? I might find a Grey Wolf rag or even Mein Kempf interesting or revealing in some way and still be appalled by it. So what?!

    To condemn her for no rational reason, based on paranoia, just because she is taking a different approach to explaining her Armenian identity to herself and to others, is just so lazy. I think we can do better. This is precisely how you drive intelligent young Armenians away from the community. Stick to your clannishness and try to control every angle of discourse and our future looks pretty dull. Sorry if this sounds snarky, but I wouldn’t be writing this if I was not genuinely concerned about these matters. Anytime you want to attempt to have an intelligent discussion I would be willing.

  4. Sadly, you are not addressing my points, instead you’re trying to insinuate that I am a Turkish agent! Well, no-surname-Peter (incidentally, if this is Peter Musurlian I got a real kick out of how my friend Babken absolutely dismantled you in a brilliant fb back-and-forth!) seems like you would not be satisfied unless I were to give you my full name, patronymic, baptismal certificate, and the ARF-D credentials of my entire male lineage. Sorry to break this to you, but most people commenting on an online discussion forum are anonymous because they are people who have too little going in their lives and usually don’t feel like advertising that fact. I certainly have no wish to.

    As to your point (you don’t have to patronize me, I am familiar with Tall Armenian Tale) I don’t know why they deemed an article in the Nation that she wrote in 2004 interesting, but my guess would be that they periodically need new content or else their site gets stale and repetitive and they were drawn to something slightly mainstream. I don’t know why you call that quote praise, but that’s beside the point. But anyway how cheap of you to try to tar me with that brush. I don’t have what you claim in common with the authors of this site because I never read that article and never described it, as they did, as “revealing interesting psychological insight” – wow, earth-shattering! I am sure she is a beloved real Grey Wolf icon. Give me a break. An article she wrote in 2004 got a weird mention in a fascist hate-site so she is forever untouchable? And wow, that all-caps ‘end quote’ was just brutal man! So for Tall Armenian Tale’s own twisted purposes an article that she wrote for the Nation is “interesting” to them. So anyone who finds anything Meline Toumani writes at any point in her life interesting is a Turkish collaborator? I might find a Grey Wolf rag or even Mein Kempf interesting or revealing in some way and still be appalled by it. So what?!

  5. It is troubling to see that “Stepanos,” like his buddy Babken, continues to promote the writings of the mixed-up, middle-aged Meline Toumani. “Stepanos,” I would love to take you up on your offer. Perhaps you would like to be interviewed, on-camera, for the piece I will be doing on the book…in late 2015. That would mean, of course, you would have to no longer hide behind your anonymity. If you can’t own-up to what you are writing here, your thoughts are worth less than the disinformation of Justin McCarthy.

    In the meantime, you and your intellectual-behemoth sidekick, Babken, can revel in your self-styled, iconoclastic “intelligent young Armenian” views, by praising a 40-year-old first-time author, who disparages the Armenian community by writing that its members are “obsessed” with the Armenian Genocide.

    If you think that false premise is a starting point for dialogue, you might want to research the incredible diversity-of-action and interests [of the international Armenian community]that have nothing to do with the Armenian Genocide. The genocide is at the top of the list, but I see individuals and organizations [everyday] that focus on rebuilding Armenia, defending Armenia, and engaging in athletic, cultural, educational, and flat-out fun endeavors.

    We cannot stop the Toumanis of the world, who turn on their community to get a little notoriety. All we can do is point it out. And, if others, like you, criticize her, but then suggest that people read her book because it has something to offer, we cannot stop that either.

    I bought the book. I read the book. I would suggest no one else follow my lead.

    • My god, Peter, get it through your head, I am not promoting her writing! In fact I said I found it amateurish and trite in this the one thing I’ve read of hers. Plus in this book she does the thing that peeves me more than anything: misuse of the phrase “begs the question” when she meant to mean ‘warrants asking.’ That her copy editor did not catch that suggests the kind of company she keeps.

      What I am promoting is an open and fair discussion and as opposed to a head-in-the sand blacklisting that makes Armenians look scared, insecure and cliquish. And I don’t take your boilerplate interpretation of her starting premise as the point departure for a productive dialogue stemming from her work, by the way. Her book is not asking “why are we so obsessed with the genocide?” It is asking what it means to be Armenian today and narrating how she further explored that identity, for herself. Take it or leave it. It is a personal account. Do I agree with her conclusions? – no. Do I share her world view? – not in the slightest. Do I laud her writing style – not at all. I didn’t even like her approach. In fact, I found it cloyingly innocuous to point of being tip-toeing around a number of issues that she was not informed enough to really comment on and did not attempt to make herself more informed of. But at the same time I appreciated that she put her personal story out there and tried to initiate a dialogue. She doesn’t deserve to shunned by her community for this. That is all I am saying. Reconfigure that into whatever delusion you might.

      Wow, you’re making a video on a book you thought wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on? Quite a vendetta you’ve got. Yes, I would love to be interviewed for it. I actually have a lot of experience on camera but I have only ever been interviewed twice in my life, both times in Hayastan. Fair warning, I am not a spokesman for anything, have no professional title or credentials – in fact I am just an underemployed “whippersnapper” with too much time on my hands, which should be obvious to you by now. Let me know where and when in ‘late’ 2015. (Just hope you are not as a big bully in person as your online!)

    • My god, Peter, get it through your head, I am not promoting her writing! In fact I said I found it amateurish and trite in this the one thing I have read of hers. Plus, in this book she does the thing that peeves me more than anything else: misusing of the phrase “begs the question” when she meant to mean ‘warrants asking.’ That her copy editor did not catch this suggests the kind of company she keeps.

      What I am promoting is an open and fair discussion, as opposed to a head-in-the sand blacklisting that makes Armenians look scared, insecure and cliquish. And I don’t take your boilerplate interpretation of her starting premise as the point departure for a productive dialogue stemming from her work, by the way. Her book is not asking “why are we so obsessed with the genocide?” It is asking “what makes it so complicated to be Armenian today?” and narrating how she further explored that identity, for herself. Take it or leave it. It is a personal account. Do I agree with her conclusions? – no. Do I share her world view? – not in the slightest. Do I laud her writing style – as if. I didn’t even like her approach to topics that I am actually very interested in. I found it cloyingly innocuous to the point of tip-toeing around a number of issues that she was not informed enough to really comment on and around which she did not adequately attempt to make herself more informed. But at the same time I appreciated that she put her personal story out there and tried to initiate a dialogue. She doesn’t deserve to be shunned by her community for this. That is all I am saying. Reconfigure that into whatever delusion you might.

      Wow, you’re making a video on a book you thought wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on? Quite a vendetta you’ve got. Yes, I would love to be interviewed for it. I actually have a lot of experience on camera but I have only ever been interviewed twice in my life, both times in Hayastan. Fair warning, I am not a spokesman for anything, have no professional title or credentials – in fact I am just an underemployed “whippersnapper” with too much time on my hands, which should be obvious to you by now. Let me know where and when in ‘late’ 2015. (Just hope you are not as a big a bully in person as you are online!)

  6. I hope the following news release, from the ANCA, does not give Meline Toumani or Stepanos or Babken…heartburn.

    “ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian spoke with Vice-President Joseph Biden today on Capitol Hill regarding the status of President Obama’s still unmet pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Their discussion took place in the Canon House Office Building, during a day of swearing-in ceremonies for Members of Congress. In response to Nahapetian’s request that the Obama Administration honor its pledge to speak truthfully about the Armenian Genocide, the Vice-President answered: “You know where I stand.”

    Nahapetian, who grew up in the Vice-President’s home state of Delaware, worked on Biden’s Capitol Hill legislative staff during his tenure in the U.S. Senate. As a Senator, Biden consistently championed Congressional legislation seeking clear U.S. condemnation and formal commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.”

    • I don’t know why you believe this should give me… heartburn. I am glad for the work being done towards recognition and want to see us achieve justice. You can stop associating me with Meline Toumani, if you please. I am only expressing my disappointment that she is receiving such vitriol from her own community because of her rather innocuous and poorly written book. I find it is bizarre and fascinating that you are so threatened by it. As for Babken, I am sorry I made that aside. The man has devoted himself to Armenia, gotten the shit kicked out of him in the process, and does not deserve your dripping condescension. You, on the other hand, appear to have devoted yourself to personal wealth accumulation and celebrity-fucking, while burnishing the very same military alliance that props up Turkey on the side. Good for you, Peter, continue to parade your ego and keep patting yourself on the back, but don’t expect every Armenian you come across to swallow your delusions whole and blindly kiss your ring.

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