Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Women in Politics

Years ago I thought of a way to open the minds of Armenians to the idea of women in power by conducting a mock campaign for myself: Arsineh for President. No one knew who I was, but the idea of a female name on a presidential bid in Armenia would have been a nice way to test the waters. Not for myself, I have no political aspirations. But I wanted to challenge the people to think about it. I never followed through for several reasons, mostly because campaigns are not cheap, and a mock campaign seems... anticlimactic.

I now see some interesting discussions taking place in the US post-Weiner sex scandal and wonder how they would unravel in Armenia. With the help of a dear friend who shares many of my views, I cam across an article in the New York Times (with these blogs you'd think I'm a regular reader, but I'm not at all).
“The shorthand of it is that women run for office to do something, and men run for office to be somebody,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “Women run because there is some public issue that they care about, some change they want to make, some issue that is a priority for them, and men tend to run for office because they see this as a career path.”
Men behaving badly is an age-old story, but there are changes in Western society that are changing the way the public views these men. First, we are so much more exposed as social networks and media scrutiny dive further into the personal lives of public servants. Call it what you will, I'd prefer my public servants to be under a very big magnifying glass so we can see just who is representing us. That said, I really feel sorry for Weiner's family for the aftermath of this public lynching that has no business dominating worldwide headlines for as long as it has.

However, if this discussion opens us up to a better alternative, then so be it. Now the media is turning to women in power to see if they will better serve their constituents. The simple answer to that is yes, but this is not to say that any woman would be better than any man. In Armenia, we've seen our share of women who are just as bad if not worse than their male counterparts, as I'm sure has been the case in the US. It's possible that the environment is so male dominated that women have a harder time getting things done because the system is really just a power game rather than a structure that allows leaders to serve the people. According to the NYT article, women don't get into these positions to be somebody, rather to do something.

I did a little research on women in Armenian politics and came across an article by ArmeniaNow.com that exposes the unbalanced scales of gender in politics.
Armenia has one of the lowest percentages of female politicians in the world, a study has revealed. Despite having a high percentage of well-educated women who hold leadership roles in civilian life, Armenia is near the bottom in female political representation, according to a report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
There is a general view in Armenia that the workforce is dominated by women and that if you ever want to get things done, you hire women. It's rare to see an office with more men than women. Among my many friends who own businesses, there is also a realization that women are usually more productive than men. Some have said that men are less willing to do what the job requires because it belittles them (ego), whereas women are used to getting things done in the home or in the workplace because of society's expectations.

But the question remains, can women excel in executive and leadership positions. I'll be honest, I see very tough women with great qualities of leadership that would be fantastic in these roles. There are a few females in these positions, but the balance is so far off and there is a long way to go before women are treated equally.

So what of women in politics? Is Hranush Hakobyan setting the stage for more to come? Is this a society that feels comfortable with a government full of women?
...Voters will determine the role Armenian women will play in helping to solve these problems. Women currently comprise less than 5 percent of the country's parliamentary members, putting them among the most under-represented in the world.
As I've observed over the years, I have seen this country as a boys club where women have virtually no voice, and the concern of corruption has spread every year. Could this be the solution for much of Armenia's crippling problems, and possibly change the waves of violence against women with a sense of empowerment as well?

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Death of Doctor Death: The Greatest Human Rights Activist

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, 1923-2011.
I remember finding my respect for Dr. Jack Kevorkian when my father spoke of him in the early 90s. He had respect for the man as a doctor who is serving his patients' best interests. Since then, I have followed his career to understand how it is he came to believe so strongly in euthanasia.  I guess it was curious to me because I didn't really understand the argument against it and why people were so invested in their certainty that it is immoral.

He passed away today, and this weighs very heavy on me for two reasons. I know death is a natural part of life, as I learned most from Jack, but there is a very large void he leaves in this world as a unique human rights activist, and also as a true hero of mine.

This was a brave man who stood by his beliefs that every man is born with natural human rights and no one can take that away from us. You are born with your right to live and your right do die. Everything else in between is what is forced on us for the sake of others to control us. When asked once in an interview if he believed that heroin should be legal, he said yes. Simply because if someone wants to do such harm to themselves, it is their natural right to do so.

If the world has not learned enough from Dr. Death during his living years, let them learn from him now. Life is to short to waste on such trivial things and we have lost our ways, forgetting the differences between right and wrong. In his passing, I only hope that the rest of us can learn to live without fear, without lie, with respect for human rights and respect for honesty. Rest in peace Dr. Kevorkian, you have earned it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How Do You Prepare for War?

The New York Times has just published an article titled 'Frozen Conflict' Between Azerbaijan and Armenia Begins to Boil. The entire article is a pity piece for Azerbaijan's refugees who have been brainwashed by anti-Armenia propoganda to believe that the "cursed Armenians" are responsible:
Though conditions vary widely and some resettlement is now taking place, a visit to a dormitory in Baku found children growing up in squalor. Roughly 100 refugees were living along a dank, fetid hallway, on one floor of a former office building. Three rough, foul-smelling holes in the concrete floor served as toilets for 21 families, residents said. The hallway was open to the elements, exposing residents to bitter cold in the winter. In the summer, mosquitoes breed in stagnant water in the building’s basement, rising in a cloud to the floors above them, they said.
“They cannot stand it anymore, they want war,” said Jamila, 41, of her neighbors. “They don’t believe the promises anymore.”
The journalist either irresponsibly or quite intentionally neglected the Armenian side to this story. Unfortunately it seems to be the case where the side who screams the loudest for attention wins. Armenians don't want war, nor do they spew out hate propoganda towards the Azeris. Surprisingly, I find Armenians to be somewhat peaceful towards our neighbors to the East.

The irony is that every talking point the Azeris provide seem to be replicas of our own in our claims of genocide against Turkey. There's one big difference. We suffered genocide. Every legitimate historian in the world will agree, and some may provide evidence. Your refugees mirror our refugees who suffered the Sumgait pograms and escaped Baku. Azerbaijan did not suffer a genocide. The Armenian government did not order their men to find every man, woman and child of Azeri heritage and wipe them out, as did the Turks to Armenians. It was war. There were terrible losses on both sides which are all truly regretful.

The author did not allow comments which leads me to believe that he knows just what people have to say in response to his poorly written article, and he has no interest in hearing it. This with the bias portrayal of a highly complex conflict leads me to believe one thing: this is a planted article with the deliberate intent of sparking new conflict. It's very convincing, too:
It is tempting to forget about the “frozen conflicts.” The enclaves of Nagorno-Karabakh, Transdniester in Moldova, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia are among the most headache-inducing legacies of the Soviet Union. The Soviets granted them a sort of semi-statehood, a status that ceased to exist just as nationalism flared in the ideological void. But the 2008 war in Georgia serves as a reminder of how quickly and terribly they can come unfrozen.
No Ms. Barry, YOU serve as a reminder of how quickly and terribly they can come unfrozen by publishing such articles like this one.

No citizens wants war, I am sure of it. I guarantee you that absolutely no one in Armenia wants war. I'm quite sure if their government provided proper housing for the refugees, perhaps one of Aliyev's mansions around the world, the refugees would not want war either. So what is this article about? Is this a game being played out by the US and Russia? Does Aliyev need anger management? Whatever the truth is, the reality on the ground is that the people are bracing themselves for war, just 17 years after a ceasefire. And how does one prepare for war? What do you do? What happens to businesses, do they close down? Will the banks remain open? Do I need to arm myself? It amazes me that in today's day and age, I am actually thinking this way. I would have figured the human race would have found a way by now to make war obsolete.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Return to the Blogosphere: Dusting Off Armenia

I stopped blogging many years ago after a long run of what I think was productive blogging on cilicia.com. I guess I didn't think I had so much to say that was worth publicizing to the world. I was finally living in Armenia, and I was simply living life happily. End of times, nothing to report, right? Far from it. I haven't stopped having opinions about things around me and there are critical issues that do matter and need to be discussed on a global platform.

Only when I see a properly functioning society all around me can I say we've reached the end of times, and I haven't seen anything remotely close to functionality. My views may not be as politically driven as they were before, but they are just as important. So here we go again...

A daily conversation in Armenia often turns to the visual changes in recent years, both in commercial development (not necessarily progressive) and the brain drain of Armenia. It's clear to all of us why people are leaving, wether we want to accept it or not. Es aprelu tegh chi (This isn't a place to live) is what they all say. But my question to those people is this: where in the world is a place to live without problems, and why are we as a people not strong enough to face those problems?

I understand the struggle, I'm not a cold-hearted ignorant fool. I've seen first hand what people have gone through, especially this last winter. Thousands lost their jobs, corruption has extended it's arms deeper into our pockets, and prices have inflated drastically across the board. But what we've been doing until now isn't working, so maybe it's time for a change in our approach.

I'm not telling everyone to suck it up, rather dust yourselves off and stand tall. Progress and potential exist around every corner. No, it's not easy and yes a lot is at stake, but even more is at stake if we sit back and watch things deteriorate.

I wrote my book in the aftermath of the March 8 riots and struggled with the ending because I felt defeated after this dark time in Armenia. The entire book was written except for the last couple paragraphs. I didn't know how to end without such a negative outlook. But I was finally inspired and this is what I ended up writing. This is now my outlook on every day in Armenia (my apologies for quoting my own book, but I didn't know how to say the same thing twice):
This ancient culture of three thousand years is now face-to-face with a new era. Crime and violence are just as real today as potential and hope. Ambitions, both good and bad, exist everywhere and those who are ready to endure all the obstacles will be the ones who prevail in defining Armenia’s future. Though independence was born of a shattered nation, Armenia has seen rapid growth, seemingly without regulation. We are often our own enemy, but as I’ve seen throughout my life, comfortable complacency is the cause of apathy. We have a long road ahead to weed out the cancers of our society, and as history tells us, we always answer to the calling. Each new-born child with a fresh start to life, each diasporan I see walking on their land for the first time, shine light on new hope and potential for a modern age. I believe the best pages of Armenian history have yet to be written, as a nation and our impact on the world.
I'm done with sitting back as an observer. Let's get our hands dirty.