Diaspora and Armenian Identity (Part 4)

It is often said and repeated that next to the Armenian language the Armenian CULTURE is the best venue for the preservation of the Armenian identity in the diaspora, which is true. But we must be realistic and accept the fact that every successive generation will be more in tune with the local culture and lifestyle Ապրելակէրպ at the expense of the “authentic” Armenian culture and lifestyle of their preceding generations. Nothing alarming here, this is the norm for every none Armenian Diaspora as well. The challenge is how to keep the Armenian-ess in this “melting” process, as much as possible.

The Armenian communities in North America mostly live in big cities like Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles, Glendale, Boston, etc. Different, and sometimes contrasting cultures of the Armenian immigrants from Iran, Istanbul, Lebanon, Syria, Armenia, etc, have created a new “multicultural” Armenian lifestyle best manifested in the cities of Los Angles and Glendale.

Maybe “multicultural” Armenian identity is the right way to describe the Armenian culture and social lifestyle in North America. Maybe this is the norm, the new “authentic” Armenian cultural and social lifestyle created by successive immigrant generations that were heavily influenced by their local cultures where they lived before coming to North America. This is the reality that we have to live with.

To be able to keep our Armenian identity we must continue to socialize more with each other, be it during family gatherings, or community functions, where the lifestyle culture thrives. Forming independent new associations with people of common interests and goals, either in the professional, cultural, or social sphere that could meet and socialize with each other will be of great help, and should be encouraged and expanded.

The efforts by the art and culture lovers at the amateur level Սիրողական, whether literature, performing art, etc. must be supported and encouraged. These are the necessary “bread and butter” that we need and must cherish and support. The success of these endeavors mostly depends on the talents and dedication of the leaders of those endeavors that could attract and socially engage the volunteer performers. Quality is important, but we must be realistic and tone down our expectations, and especially avoid being “smug-ish”.

The successful professional cultural icons like Atom Egoyan, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Peter Balakian, Charles Aznavour, and others, that acknowledge their Armenian identity on every appropriate occasion, do indirectly help many of their Armenian followers to identify with them, and thus feel proud to be Armenian as well.

Having concerns about Armenia and getting engaged with Armenian citizens and associations with similar interests both, privately, or as organizations, do help preserve the Armenian identity as well. Need I say that most of these things are already happening and must be supported, encouraged, and expanded. No need for any pessimism and lamentations to justify our inaction, instead we must be proactive and in a CAN DO, mode.

Internet and TV channels are one of the best means to get the Armenian culture into our homes. Many videos on the internet, and TV programs, seem to be lacking the quality that is needed to attract, keep, and increase the number of their listeners, and watchers, and every effort must be made to improve them.

Let us not forget the contribution that Armenia has made in the past, and is continuing to do so today as well. The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia, with the cooperation of the Ministry of Diaspora at the state level, could help, encourage, and promote, cultural programs especially, geared towards the preservation of the Armenian identity in the Diaspora(s).

It has been twenty-five years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Republic of Armenia. It has been a continuous challenge to overcome the many difficulties and there are many challenges ahead. Compare to many signs of progress that the Republic of Armenia has achieved, the Armenian Culture seems to be lagging behind. It is about time to “catch up”, both for the benefit of Armenia to progress culturally, and at the same time help enhance the Armenian identity in Diaspora.

The preservation of the Armenian identity in diaspora(s) is an evolving process and challenging one as well. Every generation has done their share, some more, some less. The current generation is our best educated and most successful generation of professionals, academics, entrepreneurs, etc, and they will shape our social lifestyle as per their social needs and desires. It is their turn to lead the charge, and they do.

They are more mobile than the previous generations, and they are best qualified to use the internet to help preserve and enhance their Armenian identity worldwide which previous generations failed to do efficiently. Through the internet, they will be able to stay connected with others worldwide, especially with the Republic of Armenia, and avoid the trap of isolation both physically and especially intellectually.

Intellectuals, especially none partisan intellectuals, could best help by getting engaged, and connecting with the public at large is very and very important. Intellectuals should make the Armenian identity issue the daily “talk of the town” beyond academic or philosophical discussions, and true to their mission, become more proactive.

Let me conclude by saying that we, ALL of us, are part of this process, and each and every one of us within our own capabilities must DO our part to help improve the system. Սահման քաչաց զենք իւրիանց.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian


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