Everyone’s heard the attribution of “let them eat cake” to Marie Antoinette. It turns out she probably never said it. The same, or a similar, line appears in a French source at a time when she was but a child, and it’s attributed to a princess. The same sort of story apparently circulates in many societies, attributing utter disregard, incomprehension, and lack of empathy for those who are in poverty by those who are wealthy and/or in power.
Well, now, we, Armenians, can proudly assert that we have the real thing, not just some apocryphal story. In fact, we got two for the price of one, Hakob Hakobyan and Khosrov Harutyunyan, both members of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) and seated in Parliament (National Assembly).
Last week, in the context of discussions about raising the price of various items, Hakobyan, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on health care and social welfare, said: “Price hikes won’t impact the poor, because they don’t have money and essentially they aren’t able to buy anything. They don’t buy expensive products such as butter or meat, because they don’t have [money].”
Harutyunyan, who heads the parliamentary standing committee on economy, chimed in: “Poor people don’t have money, hence they don’t buy anything. What difference does it make if meat is expensive or cheap,” adding that “potato eaters don’t eat meat.”
To the party’s credit, RPA spokesperson and deputy parliament speaker Edward Sharmazanov lamented his colleagues’ statements. Representatives of RPA’s coalition partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), have also spoken to the scandalous comments made by the wannabe Antoinettes.
Unfortunately, all the criticism has been tepid, at best. And it seems to be minimal. Not even the usually loud voices from civil society and opposition parties seem very audible now. It’s just incredible!
These two louts, who are evidently quite well endowed financially (based on the declarations they are required to file as parliamentarians), should be hearing a crescendo of naming and shaming. They should be urged (quietly) by their party and (vociferously) by others to resign their seats in the National Assembly immediately. There is, and can be, no excuse for this kind of insensitive, spoiled-brat, behavior.
And for those thinking “leave the Republic of Armenia alone; don’t try to make it like the U.S. or Europe; it is growing and evolving slowly; be patient,” I can only respond, “Wake up!” I’ve heard this mindset expressed twice in the last two weeks in discussions about our homeland. Even if this approach is the right one, it doesn’t apply to this instance.
The kind of smug and heartless arrogance manifest in Hakob Hakobyan’s and Khosrov Harutyunyan’s comments exited the realm of even remote acceptability with the French and American revolutions, the downfall of czars and shahs, and removal from the scene of the petty (often military) tyrants who bedeviled Latin America for a few decades.
Get on the phone or start hammering away at your keyboard and call the Armenian embassies and consulates expressing your dismay and disgust. Demand the resignation of the cake-eating duo. It would probably even be fun for those who have artistic skills to draw up a few caricatures and start circulating them on social media.