Fighting a Cold War, On Being a Soldier During Peacetime
Most of us will not give the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The reasons we give to not join the armed forces will vary in validity, but a time will always come when some of us are forced into physical conflict for the sake of others. During those sad and unfortunate times when might makes right, pens become less valuable and history is written in blood. Yet, the times after war and tragedy are precisely when great philosophies are forged, during the aftermath and digestion of what has occurred.
The time that followed the culmination of WWII saw a revival and evolution of many philosophies: Jean Paul Sartre brought the rebirth of existentialism; J. Robert Oppenheimer saw himself “become death” after his work on the Manhattan Project; the Geneva Conventions sought to have humane wars in the future (if such things exist); and, of course, the Cold War was born.
Today, Armenia seems to beg for a renaissance and a revolution. The country has been independent for over twenty years and, aside from the Artsakh War, the greatest threats to our nation have come from within. The Armenian people have slowly allowed an oligarchy to take control — an oligarchy that no longer feels the need to even mask itself as a democracy. An authoritative government that preaches democracy yet does whatever it wants is a government that fears the power of the people. Armenian politicians no longer have that fear because even the greatest philosopher cannot overcome tank shells and bullets. The people’s responsibility is to stay involved in government and create an atmosphere that welcomes critical discourse, debate and conflict. Kings are mortal, but ideas are not.
The enthusiasm and nationalism that we have seen in America through Armenian Students’ Associations, the Armenian National Committee of America, the Armenian Youth Federation and other organizations is very motivating — yet most of the American-Armenian population is out of the loop and apathetic to the current and future welfare of Armenia. The community leaders in America and in Armenia must nurture an active populace and a rich marketplace of ideas. We must elect officials unafraid of being wrong — officials who are not conservative or reluctant to change because of their ego and image to uphold. In our search for the truth, we must not forget that we can only seek it and never posses it. We must humbly defend our opinions with the knowledge that we may be wrong. Above all, we must respect others who seek to find the truth, and distrust all who claim to have found it.
We as a people are not unique in our challenges. Countless other societies have been conquered, enslaved and discriminated against. We are not unique, but that does not diminish the amount of blood and suffering our ancestors have endured for us to still be here. The thought of losing all feeling provokes a great deal of emotion, because to lose life is to pay the highest price. And to learn nothing from those who gave all to death and abandon our memories of them is to commit treason against humanity. On the cosmic scale, all human drama, tragedy and conflict seems petty and anthropocentric. In 1969, we went to the moon and discovered the Earth, yet on our pale blue dot we continued to kill for our imperfect thoughts and opinions on life. We must not forget that we are humans first and Armenians second, although humans have not yet collectively evolved to care about one another globally. Our genes are most common within family first, culture second and finally in people from other ethnicities. Charity starts at home, and so our most precious and grueling fights must come from within.
The ways in which you choose to serve our culture are many, but to do so is imperative. A stagnant culture is built from stagnant individuals who resist change because of fear, bigotry and ignorance. Paruyr Sevak, speaking of Armenia, once said “I have not participated in any fights, but I have never in my life taken half a step that hasn’t brought me to you, I start and end with you, like a circle.” The resources are in front of us and the demand for bright ideas is strong; all that needs to be done is to start walking towards the truth – while never forgetting road we traveled.
– Hovhaness Mkhitaryan