Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pashinian: Analytical essay. Pt 1

This is Nikol Pashinian's analysis of the opposition movement afoot in Armenia. It is the best analysis that I've ever read of what happened to transform the movement from the small one it was to a raging phenomenon threatening to overthrow the government, written from a person inside, indeed, central, to the movement. The essay is nice and long, with plenty of details, asides, and room for developing ideas, so I'll be translating it in parts. I anticipate 4 or 5 installments. It's an absolute adventure and a pleasure to be walked through the history of the movement by an intellectual of Pashinian's caliber. In this installment he talks about when the moment of transformation occurred that changed the entire character of the movement into a genuine people's movement, as well as the reason behind the participation of young Armenians upon their meeting Ter-Petrossian, when they had been absent in the beginning of the movement. It also drops a tasty psychoanalytic morsel about the character of the Kocharian camp's way of doing things. I'm fairly certain that it was posted on Paykar on March 16, 2008. Enjoy.

Nikol Pashinian's analytical essay: Up until March 1st and beyond. (I)
What happened on March 1st, 2008? Could the leaders of the opposition have foreseen what happened? What is going to happen now?

Hayastantsis are concerned with these questions more, perhaps, than any other [questions]. And these questions become all the more urgent with the government's vulgar sermons* as their backdrop, because these are not even sermons, but a betrayal of a contempt the government harbors toward it's own people or, more correctly, it's own slaves. But let us turn to our questions and try to find their answers.

Even before the elections, it was noticeable that the first president's, Levon Ter Petrossian's, movement is an exceptional one in the history of the third government. This has been the first Armenian political movement since the National Movement of 1988 that has had a progressive but easy course. All other opposition movements after independence, on the other hand, have suddenly caught-afire and just as suddenly become extinguished. On the day that the sermons regarding the Armenian general elections began, the movement led by Ter-Petrossian had already had four months to campaign publicly. This was preceded by a period of rather thorough strategic deliberations. (We won't even mention the first president's ten years of experience and reflection). These references are significant not only as descriptions of the situation [that obtained]: That situation [in turn] beares witness to the fact that this [movement] is not a rote political flare-up, and one should not expect it to die the usual death. Perhaps the government understood this, as well. And since the political and, indeed, nation-wide movement was formally connected to Levon Ter-Petrossian's being declared a presidential candidate, the Kocharian-Sarkissian pair decided to end the elections quickly, giving Serj Sarkissian 53% of the vote. This did not have the government's desired effect, and the people were further angered by that type of behavior. But the government did not arrive at the necessary conclusion from this [backlash], and continued with its premeditated plan. Indeed, the theivocracy does have an imprudent tendency to carry through its fixed ideas [idees fixes] to their very end. After Ter-Petrossian's speech on September 21st, all the television stations began flinging mud at him, yet what Ter-Petrossian had to say nevertheless progressively became more and more understandable and acceptable to the people. The categorical anti-sermons continued; Ter-Petrossian's popularity continued to grow. The anti-sermons grew increasingly vulgar; Ter-Petrossian's popularity grew all the more quickly. I am describing this process in order to show that this thievocratic government is primitive to an extreme degree and has not mastered variety in its solutions. I am reminded of Tigran Levonian's comparison. During an interview, he compared the Kocharian-Sarkissian pair to a crocodile. It is a very fitting comparison: however terrifying a crocodile is, it is a very primitive animal and has only two or three moves in its arsenal. The same is true of the thievocratic government, which only knows how to buy, terrorize, and eliminate...oh, and how to cry crocodile tears.

And so, when it became clear to the government that the perverse falsification of the elections had created a wave of protest, they decided to take the next step. The Central Elections Committee (CEC) announced the final results, according to which Serj Sarkissian was the winner in the first round. The results were made public at a time when the round-the-clock gatherings at Freedom Plaza were already into their fifth day, and the numbers of the participants were progressively growing. By manipulating the CEC, the thievocratic pair hoped to instill in the people a feeling of hopelessness in the coming struggle, as if [since] the struggle was for Levon Ter-Petrossian's presidency and the CEC had made it final that Serj Sarkissian had been elected president [then the struggle had lost its purpose]--meaning, "Protest all you want." At this point it became necessary for the first president to say something. Ter-Petrossian approached the microphone and calmly announced, "The CEC's announcement has no bearing on our struggle; the struggle continues." To speak truthfully, I consider this to have been the people's movement's most important stage. Here, the movement underwent awe-striking metamorphoses. This is now a struggle carried out, not in the name of having one or another candidate win the presidency, but in the name of freedom, in the name of respect, and in the name of civility. This is a struggle in the name of the future. Truth be told, we conceived of the struggle in exactly those terms from the beginning. But there weren't just a few skeptics [regarding the occurrence of a transformation], either. For me, the symbol of that great transformation became an odd bit of news: my friends told me that an "anti-Levonite" tent had appeared in Freedom Plaza. At first glance, this was troubling news: Perhaps they'd come to incite false-flag violence. But the explanations of the tent's occupants convinced us that we were on the right track. The stance of the "anti-Levonites" was the following: We're here not to struggle for Levon Ter-Petrossian's election, but in the name of our freedom and our rights; we've come to use Ter-Petrossian, as he, himself, has advised, as a tool for freeing ourselves from tyranny. This was truly an important change. Ter-Petrossian had been able to form a truly pan-national people's movement. The next important change was the activation of the youth. The invitations to assemblies made by Armenia's first president in the months of October-December were discouraging in terms of youth participation. The majority of the participants were over 35.

The assemblies after the elections, however, belonged to the youth, and this lent a terrifying power and energy to Freedom Plaza. And Ter-Petrossian, for his part, was a true revelation for them. The students present had either never seen Ter-Petrossian or didn't remember him. Representations of him were limited to those in official sermons [state propaganda]. But then the youth saw in him a completely different person: an erudite intellectual, a matchless rhetorician, an unwavering warrior for the cause, a loved papa, a fantastic conversationalist, and a man who, despite having been the nation's founding president, doesn't eschew breaking into dance right in front of his people's eyes, doesn't eschew even doing, as he puts it, "the jaggy-jooggy" to cheer-up the youth. And, finally, a man who spends the night at Freedom Plaza [with the people] and, in the morning, greets the people standing next to him by dancing the kochari with them. And the youth, who no longer expected anything good from their government, saw the nation's founding president in a completely new light, as a living human being, as a great leader, and as a friend in the struggle. And they began to believe in the future, began to believe in themselves, began to believe in the Constitution, according to which he is the leader of the country. And, by the way, when Ter-Petrossian remembered the "Struggle, struggle, until the end" slogan during his first assembly, many considered it old and useless. But now that slogan is the most favorite one among youth, and its famous remix is at the top of the hit-shkerti [charts].

*By "sermons" Pashinian means the propaganda campaign undertaken by the Kocharian camp against Levon Ter-Petrossian, a very vulgar and nasty one, indeed. There's an hour-long documentary called "Who is Levon Ter-Petrossian" on YouTube, aired on Armenian state television, that is a good example of what he's talking about: it is so over-the-top in the number of lies it tells about Ter-Petrossian and so overtly seething with hatred that it's impossible to watch. The only political ads that I've seen on American TV that are even remotely comparable--and I do mean remotely--are the swift-boat ads about Kerry preceding the '04 elections. Rush Limbaugh is perhaps a better example, especially during periods when his Oxycontin withdrawal symptoms have surmounted his mind and he has gone off on one or another pathological rant about the "lib'rals." Otherwise the "sermons" are standard Stalinist propaganda combined with an infantile lack of professional self-restraint. Sad, but true. It makes the viewer feel sorry for the narrator who is obviously so ethically and, probably, financially compromised that he doesn't mind making a complete monkey out of himself passively mouthing ridiculous lies on national TV.

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