Thursday, February 28, 2013

You say you want an evolution

Compared to 2008, the crowds are more civil, less incited by cries of hatred.  Likewise, the members of the law-enforcement are more properly behaved.  Raffi continues to be vague with the plans, but his rhetoric is a few steps more refined than the "let's blow this whole thing up" approach by Nikol, Levon and the retreads from 5 years ago.  The authorities led by Serzh are more tempered in their style than the more prone to action Robert-led version 5 years ago.  And there has always been the air of discussions in the mix, with some past and some hopeful future one-on-one negotiations between Serzh and Raffi, the most likely scenario to actual improvements.  Most other scenarios can be summed up as the pumping up of unrealistic expectations, some sort of awkward end of the episode, and lots of naive people wondering why it all fell apart, ultimately and unnecessarily feeling despondent.

I hope that March 1 will come and go without provocation or blood.  It is the responsibility of all players to come to some mutual understanding as soon as possible: every day this situation continues, the biggest casualty is the weakening of the state.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Advice for barevolutionaries

Guest post from a friend

I, like many others in Armenia, are steering clear of Raffi and his mob.   Sure, now that the ARF has decided to capitalize on its pre-election propaganda campaign against the legitimacy of Armenia  and dragged its rank and file into the fray, it may seem more political and less personal, but in the end this is about grudges.   Some of the grudges are between oligarchs, the exclusive club to which Raffi, Serge, LTP, Tsarukyan, Paruyr, and the other dozen or so figures with whom the public is on a first name basis and who have arrogated to themselves the right to decide the outcome of elections behind closed doors.   Other grudges are between ordinary people and functionaries who overplay their hands, smug and abusive.   Others are societal, between various groups that believe they are entitled to a bigger piece of the pie.  So what do we have, our post-election ritual - a bunch of people trying to settle their grudges on the streets.   When they see a brawl in the making, thoughtful people stay clear or try to calm things down.   The idle, gawk.   The bored and irresponsible, goad.   The instigators and beneficiaries, gloat.     In the face of this, the result of the elections that most independent observers said were a step forward for Armenian democracy is preferable, regardless of who was elected.   The peaceful process that we took part in is now being undermined by the mobocracy with a former American citizen as its ring-leader.   Nice job, Raffi.   Just what we've waited 10 years for you to do - make a royal mess of things and package it in tired slogans about truth, justice and the American way - you must have missed the class on Al Gore.  

Instead of asking for power, it would be nice to have a substantive list of things that will make life better for people:

1.   more support for the elderly

2.   fairer tax collection, especially from oligarchs

3.   cheaper natural gas

4.   less regulation and more protection for small business

5.   support for families with children

6.   compensation for farmers who've been foreclosed after being forced to buy defective seed wheat from the Government

And the list goes on.   It would be nice, but unlikely that Raffi will turn his leverage to actually improving something for real people in Hayastan - instead he and his coterie will likely focus on getting positions for themselves, on the theory that first they get power, then they will attend to the needs of the people.   But they've got their priorities backwards.   The people should come first.

Barevolution is the term he coined and also the color is orange, just like in Ukraine. Smart people learn from their own mistakes, really smart ones from mistakes of others. Where is Ukraine after the "revolution"? Georgia? Both worse off today than before. Georgia's final loss of territories is part of that equation.

I think realistically he will try to drag this mobilization to Yerevan's mayoral election. There's nothing else from a rational political calculus that is workable.


Reaction to the post-election mess

A week has passed since the elections in Armenia.  There is a waiting game of sorts being played out in Yerevan, and I have been in lots of discussions with various folks about what is going on.  I'll share some thoughts with whoever is interested.  The nation is in a precarious position, and it is a good time for analysis.  So, here goes:

The ARF has been priming this for more than a year both inside and outside Armenia with propaganda that this cannot be a "fair" election, while demonizing Sargsyan - "anyone but Serge."

With a demon as the focal point, the stage was set for polarization and taking the cause to the streets, since no political or legal process can be trusted.  Conveniently, Raffi was a wasting asset who was on his way to being a wannabe has-been, but still had some unspent value as a public face with fewer negatives than LTP.  So they are doing a rerun of 2008.   RH is a prop for both ANM and ARF (whose American branch has a soft spot for their junior member and his family), plus one or more external powers that want a very weak Armenia in 2015 (can you think of any?).   The external powers have already achieved their goal.   All that remains is for the internal malcontents grab some power, positions and money (which they call justice for all, not self-aggrandizement).    Of course, even as they are digging an hole for themselves and the nation, they still believe that they will magically make a better Armenia.   But there's nothing in their track record to justify such a leap of faith.

Wasn't RH the Foreign Minister in Feb. 1992 who incompetently bungled Khojaly so that the Az.-perpetrated massacre is still being blamed on the Armenians and then spent the past 20 years globetrotting with recycle slogans, doing nothing to correct this botch up except grandstanding and mimicking Gandhi for a while?   Isn't this the ARF that has been unable to do anything about anything in decades, here or in the diaspora, except collect money to perpetuate itself and now is willing to be in political alliance with its arch-enemy the ANM that banished them?  Isn't this the ANM which are peas in the pod with the very oligarchs they rail against, for whom the only thing bad about monopoly money is that they aren't getting their "fair' share?   Politics makes strange bed fellows, but this is beyond pathetic.  The flailing of the incompetent in the hands of the amoral, self-serving and sanctimonious  - not pretty sight.  

So it seems the analysts may have been right all along.   They said that all the world is feudal and oligarchic - don't let the public pageants fool you.   The people are props in their hands.   The "springs" and "colored revolutions"  too are in essence oligarchic power grabs played out as street theater for the wretched masses thirsting for their share of patronage when "their guy" seizes power, packaged in worn slogans as dignity and justice for all.   It doesn't matter how their guy wins, just so he wins and the crumbs trickle down.   Few will see that until it is too late. Unfortunately, it is always, already too late.   There a few limits on the extravagant self-pity of the self-righteous in this quest or to the sacrifices they will make, of their own and the national interest, once they are entranced by the glimmer of reaching the promised land.   Even if they doubt they will make it, they are still ready to sacrifice, if not for themselves for their children, they say.   That sacrifice becomes sacred in itself, as the wretched, filled with self-loathing at their helplessness, are swept up in the ennobling romance of being bigger than life, making history.   When played out against the perceived aloofness of those in power who were unwilling or unable to rein in the company they keep or to use the power entrusted to them to protect the people from those who bully them, the stage is set for this kind of pathos.   

Credits:  Eric Hoffer, who had this nailed 50 years ago. 


Just a place to share my thoughts about Armenia, Armenians, and where we are going.  Tune in for more.