Tuesday, 04 August 2020

E Editorial

To Govern Means to Capture People’s Hearts and Minds

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Armenia’s public is in a state of disorientation.  If last year life was comprehensible—the game was on between the “blacks” and the “whites” and the line between heroes and anti-heroes, the honest and corrupt was discernible—currently everything has gotten mixed up.  The colors have lost their distinction and have begun to dissolve into gray.

Why did it come to this, who is to blame, for what did hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in 2018 and effect regime change?  The answer to these questions is very important, not only to understand what happened then, but to clarify what the new government had to do thereafter.  Oddly enough, these points of inquiry are presently absent from the agenda of Armenia’s political mind at a time when they had to be the principal theme of political life.

The goal of the struggle launched more than 30 years ago, in 1988, was clear: “Karabagh is ours.”  And the authorities of the day solved that issue to the best of their ability.  They had assumed no other obligation before the public.  In the next phase, however, the people apparently began to present a new demand to the authorities, but this time they did not pay attention to it.  Let us try to understand in comparison what Armenia’s society was desiring and accordingly what the present-day governors had to do.

“To realize power” means first and foremost to carry out intellectual work, that is to assess the past and to present to the public a new conception for development.  And any such platform is based on understandings of philosophy and worldview.  Among the principal precepts of political theories are Liberty, Equality, and Justice.  Each of those has had interpretations during every historical epoch.  From ancient Armenia to the present those approaches have been analyzed variously and have been set at the foundation of administrative systems of sequential states.

The motto “Karabagh is ours” was a matter of liberty; in other words, the people of Artsakh has the right of freedom and self-determination, in the name of which many went to war and won and yet others paid with their lives.  With that Armenia’s public consciousness registered a degree of growth, but as human history has shown the idea of liberty alone is not sufficient to build an efficient and just society.  In 2018 the public came to present another demand and that, it seemed, was the demand for justice and equality.

Our objective here is not to present and interpret these tenets—for this, one would need to study the history of man and the evolutionary flows of ideas.  Those demonstrate that taking any idea to its extreme can result in adverse consequences.  In particular, absolute freedom leads to anarchy, as a result of which the political mind takes to one other extreme the concept of absolute equality—communism—in which case people are deprived of their liberty and electoral rights but are legally equal.  And absolute justice gives rise to an atmosphere of hate and the validation of totalitarianism because in this guilty world it is hard to find a perfectly just personality.  A situation comes about where everyone becomes the target and that completes the path to totalitarianism and the establishment of a “witch-hunt” state.

The “Reject Serzh” slogan consolidated a large mass of people, but the force that came to power was unable to explain what “serzhism” meant in order to clarify finally what we had rejected and where we are going.  The new government's refusal to choose any of the classical political “ism”s has placed it in an “intellectual trap” or, better perhaps, pressed it into a “vice of mental nothingness.”  It is no accident that in the National Assembly's non-governmental factions there are individuals who can influence public opinion, whereas the media under government-related control are incapable of formulating a public agenda.

To govern is to capture the hearts and minds of people and to offer platforms for development.  To such things we do not bear witness and, in all probability, we shall not—but that is not the worst news.  The worst news is that the other political forces also find themselves in mental collapse, and so at least for now the political alternative is absent from the scene.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies

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