Saturday, 21 October

We Are In The Era of Pro-Active Citizenship



What I am going to reflect in this article are my assessments, analyses and suggestions as a free and critically thinking person, specialist and activist, who has been participating and leading a constructive and determined struggle in general, and particularly in the  Armenian reality, for freedom, justice, dignity and solidarity for more than 20 years.

This has been an attempt to counterbalance the global oligarchic and domination agendas and projects that have embarked on a new phase since 1980.  The founding of the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR) in 1999 with my professional expertise, knowledge and background in international experience and my personal financial resources is part of that constructive struggle aimed at shaping a new generation with new quality political and civic culture, with appropriate set of values, knowledge and skills, able to build through pro-active citizenship, a free sovereign constitutional Armenian state based on the rule of law and justice.

In this connection, I would like to briefly assess the current developments and then touch upon the challenges and suggestions.

A- Essentially different world views and strategies; free and conscious national and civic forces, on the one hand, and global oligarchy and domination forces, on the other.

Regrettably, democracy and the rule of law do not operate at international level, and international relations continue to operate on unequal and unjust principles. Interests of global oligarchy and their service or residence states prevail here. Since 1980, global oligarchy’s consolidation and aggressive campaign have led to weakening of states and creating a global platform of permissiveness and impunity to favor unlawfulness by transnational corporations.  State sovereignty, boundaries and legal framework are powerless to withstand them, because they are not bound by and are above national legal jurisdictions, whereas the international political and legal framework still lacks a relevant feasible political will, legislation and efficient mechanisms to restrain and hold them accountable. This global exploitation is administered with these financial powers and the states’ powerful ideological and technological policies, whose axis comprises the unleashed financial speculation, materialism and vanity, and whose authority serves to satisfy highly personal and group narrow interests of a minority of super-rich “civilized and progressive” criminal oligarchy. The high price of it all is paid by ordinary people, nations, states, humanity, nature and the earth.

The new global domination idea, unprecedented in the history of humanity, has been implemented since 1980, transforming global developments to suit its interests via its aggressive policy, using the spent Cold War and the obsolete double-pole autocratic world.

With the collapse of the Berlin Wall and since 1990, the global domination projects and policies have mostly been redefined. Agendas entitled “Development Aid”, “Democracy Support” and “Protection of Human Rights” became primary in international relations, whereas the struggle for their interpretation and implementation entered a new phase. On the one side of the struggle is the global domination standpoint; from this standpoint, the aforementioned agendas are deemed to be global oligarchy’s main policy of imposing their global domination geopolitics, legitimizing their unleashed interventions in inner-national and inner-state areas. One of their key strategic goals is the weakening of nation-states and hindering the establishment of new states as truly sovereign states. They manage to actualize this via spreading consumption cultural values and manipulating ideas and minds, thus ensuring the consumption of material overproduction, concentration of natural and intellectual resources and directing them towards global oligarchy and resident countries servicing it. States that are sovereign only theoretically have formal democratic systems where election mechanisms become a central tool to manipulate and control the inner administration of these states and serve them to foreign interests. This policy corrupts inner political powers, figures and elites, i.e. specialists, intellectuals and public speakers. They are allotted a share from the global oligarchy’s accumulated profits, something that ensures their complete loyalty, dependence and servility to the latter’s projects, which, as a rule, contradict human and inner-national interests. Those individuals and structures that reject such corrupted cooperation are ousted or neutralized and replaced with other stooges. In this global domination worldview the whole inner system of people, nations and states becomes controllable as per global oligarchy interests. Financial and commercial/trade international organizations are a key tool to subtly implement those agendas and projects, with their armies of local and foreign experts, foreign loans and conditions imposed thereby and the so-called “inner, quasi-participatory processes”, where the nation and all its healthy elements are excluded or neutralized (in case of available independent locally-owned agendas and projects, of course). The so-called “state development” agendas and projects are made to mostly serve foreign interests. The formation and development of self-determined and self-governing powers are sterilized and marginalized within such states, and even if those powers happen to exist, they receive the status of the “black sheep”; the controlled and corrupt elites try to neutralize them via co-opted political and non-governmental/NGO sectors. Any agenda or program aimed at the development of a free and conscious pro-active citizenship and building of a self-determined human and individual, society and sovereign state poses danger for those foreign powers. They need consuming creatures, easy to blunt and manipulate, crowds to partake in elections like zombies and likewise vote for stooge political powers and figures, and states in formal format, without any constraints or restriction mechanisms, particularly in spiritual, cultural and intellectual sense.

From our viewpoint, as free and conscious people and individuals, civic and human rights activists and agents of change, human rights, democracy and elections are the inner creative processes of peoples, nations and states, locally owned and developed. This approach counterpoises the global domination and new colonial policies, which use democracy and elections as a technology to dictate and impose their rules form outside-in and top-down as models to rule over peoples and states, making inner corrupt elites their allies.  We continue this struggle up to date. This is a struggle between essentially differing and conflicting value systems, between human and national self-determination rights and development policies, for the conception and realization of adequate models of a just and solidary co-existence and governance of a free individual and free nations. We are struggling in the positive spirit of constructivism and generate systematic positive and radical changes.

The struggle between global oligarchy on the one hand, and free and conscious, national and civic, healthy powers, on the other, mostly occurs in the spiritual-cultural, intellectual and knowledge and awareness areas.

Global oligarchy shapes dull and manipulated creatures, elites, governments, political parties, NGOs, mass media, states… Whereas we, free and conscious human individuals and civic agents of change, try to enhance the formation and harmonious coexistence of a free and conscious human- individual and nations, building of just and solidary societies, models of political, civil, cultural, social and economic coexistence and sovereign states, based on free, independent, just and solidary set of values that stem from internal interests. This is an unequal struggle, for the power relationship is disproportionate, in their favor. The main issue is to change the weight of this power relationship in our favor. This can mainly be achieved by conceiving independent locally owned and developed agendas, rules of the game, policies and road maps in the value system, spiritual-cultural and knowledge and awareness spheres and contributing to their in-dept comprehension, adhesion and application by people and societies at large.

 

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Elections as a tool; 2008 and 2013 presidential elections in Armenia

Elections are a key tool to maintain the interrelation of foreign and internal healthy forces in their favor and make the latter controllable. This is implemented via “Democracy and Electoral Assistance” agenda and projects. Elections are only a tool; they acquire value and yield results only when applied in the context of real democracy. The real democracy can exist and develop, where there exists a free and conscious pro-active citizenship, developed civic and political culture, where there are various independent political programs, introduced and explicitly explained to public via free and conscious political debates and discourses and allow the possibility of a conscious choice among those political programmes.

However, since mid 1990s the electoral process has been utilized by global domination as a key agenda and the legitimacy of it is untouchable and unquestionable. The essence and substance of democracy is thus minimized and conditioned mainly by elections. The rules of the game are set and imposed and everyone is forced to play the same game by the same rules. Systematically and formally, two political poles and ruling and opposition political powers are formed, and continuously constitutions and legislations are cosmetically drawn up and amended, and reformed. It is important to draw the attention to these formalities to distract the inner-national vigilance and power and to prevent directing them towards formulation and development of locally owned and developed independent agendas, projects and policies that derives from free, conscious pro active citizenship and genuine civic and political forces within those societies and states. In this formal game there is no real involvement of pro-active citizenship in political processes (in terms of participation); there is no substantial discourse or debate. The key figures of this performance are the bogus and foreign-controlled parties, political forces, formal projects, skillfully controlled, dulling and manipulating mass media and public speakers, who manage to further manipulate and mislead the citizen with their superficial and low-level materials. The main challenge for those who set such rules of game is to ensure the actual physical participation of voters in elections, to make the election entertaining and on the top of public agenda, it is important to have two formal poles, formal campaign and predetermined results.

As I have previously and numerously written and announced, the current political and societal system that prevails in Armenia is a criminal-oligarchic one and it has spent itself. Spent are the ruling elites and their attributes and functions. A new generation has come, a more self-determined and independent one and which nurtures healthy shoots of free and conscious pro-active citizenship and manifests its positive change generating potential. Global oligarchy has been trying its best for awhile (6-7 years, I dare say) to get rid of “provincial” criminal oligarchy and establish a “progressive” and still criminal one, this time in compliance with “civilized” global oligarchy norms to better serve the system. The Armenia’s presidential elections of 2008 were within the scope of a scenario similar to Africa and Arab world; bloodshed, capitulation, a more controllable elites and a weakened state system. Armenian people paid the same price with only ten victims, since “stability” was a priority for this regional geopolitics. Yet, in the following period Armenia capitulated; migration flows highly increased, more conditions were imposed on the state and the degree of the elite’s dependence on foreign programs escalated further. The scenario of the recent presidential elections (February 2013) has some resemblance to that of neighboring Georgia. Three major political forces, spent or in power sometime in the past, were not to partake in the elections but leave the stage to two poles; the current ruling power and the type of opposition that has never been in power and has a “progressive” democracy- inspiring image, i.e. Raffi Hovanessian and his tiny “Heritage” party, that have doubtlessly been a part of the system for years now. Other candidates were to be harmless and pose no threat to the game, simply adding interest to it. When attention and interest decreased, diversion events were staged, e.g. attempted murder, false epic tournaments, etc. Mass media and public speakers were to consciously or unconsciously legitimize the game. The efficiency of the elections, according to the foreign scenario, was to ensure that the elections weren’t compromised and discredited and there was enough physical participation. Hence, the appeals to partake in elections by the three non-participant parties like ARF-D just on the election eve. According to the scenario, participation by 60 % of the electorate legitimizes the elections, as well as the predetermined and even “forecasted” figures (58% vs. 38 %). According to the scenario, ruling and opposition poles should be ensured, a precondition for the system’s smooth and civilized transformation into a parliamentary government.

Yet, the meaning and the outcome of it all is a whole program of social-economic and cultural “amendments”, attempted to be implemented here via soft revolution and euphoria. True, provincial Armenian oligarchy will be suppressed, which is great. However, Armenian society and people do not know enough or  fully recognize the “beautiful and cotton” taste of global oligarchy, does not recognize the true monster, that has done its best for 21 years to prevent Armenian from becoming a sovereign state, imposing a 4 billion US dollar-worth foreign debt on Armenian generations under totally dictated conditions; through a membership to International Trade Organization they have eradicated Armenia’s home agriculture, made the country a victim of offshore mining industry at the expense of plunder of Armenian intellectual and natural resources. And according to these plans, the plunder is to grow fiercer; look at Greece, Spain and other more developed states that are being dismantled due to those global oligarchic plans and projects within their “beautiful and progressive” formats. Whereas particularly in post-soviet countries, the elites, intellectuals and specialists admire the West and fail to critically consider the world policies; righteously criticizing local provincial oligarchy, they shut eyes to global one, their plans and rules of the game. When we suggest that the political and civil society actors draw up their own agendas, they seem to do so, but they actually reproduce what international and financial organizations propose via their agendas. A major part of local elite representatives work at and are financed by financial structures like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund, thus the ideology of these structures forms part of their mentality and they reproduce it. On the one hand, to borrow loans that impose conditions targeted at implementation of unequal and unfair social-economic programs and expose the state to foreign debt, on the other hand, the need to overcome poverty… are those two compatible? Furthermore, is it possible to develop an independent and sovereign state under these conditions? And those programs create participatory formats via formal performances, borrow ideas proposed by pro-active citizens, free and conscious national and civic agents of change, to falsely and flexibly stage them, since the corrupted local elites are also an accomplice and ally to foreign forces. At the same time, the public, the people are left out of the procedures and are manipulated in a variety of means, ranging from dulling soap operas to low-level education system and crowd-controlling political and civic performances. For those foreign forces, their stooges and the local corrupt elites it is vital that the political and civic consciousness remain on a very low level for them to succeed in any type of manipulations and to control and dominate. 

*        *        *

B- Challenges and strategic principles for a new quality, sovereign and constitutional state building

The issue and challenge facing us, pro-active citizens and agents of change, the healthy forces, has been until today to counterbalance all this with creative and constructive spirit and action. That is why we have been trying for years to build free and conscious pro-active citizenship and nourish a new generation with political and civic culture in Armenia. We strive to put the key issues on the agenda and realize the reality imposed on us, with its grotesque and cruelty, accept it and try to counterbalance and reform it with positive systematic changes. We realize we cannot for now avert the foreign policies, but we stay loyal to the human and national value systems and self-determined and smartly navigate and maneuver, and our key strategy in all these processes (as has been during last 13 years) is to form an independent, free, conscious and pro-active HUMAN, NATION AND CITIZENSHIP. We are making and doing this through intellectual and creative work, by empowering and by combining the conceptual together with the practice. Being aware and conscious of the corruption of global and local oligarchies, their strategies and rules of the game, we strive and aspire to shape a free will, refuse to be manipulated and fearlessly, step by step build our free, just and constitutional SOVEREIGN state governed by the rule of law, that is the spiritual-cultural Armenia, founded and developed on national and universal spiritual-cultural and intellectual heritage.

Strategic principles and suggestions:

We, free and conscious people and nations, have to efficiently conceive and develop our independent agendas, policies, plans and rules of the game of our own free will and create and implement our ideas ONLY and SOLELY within that field and NEVER play by the rules of the carrier and imposer of the adverse set of values OR become a manipulated MARIONETTE in their hands. To establish free and constitutional Armenian state based on pro-active citizenship and governed by the rule of law, we shouldn’t allow conspiracies by the corrupt political elite with the vicious “dark spirit of clandestine agreement” that has been in power for years.

1)   True, there may be foreign scenarios but when there is free and conscious pro-active citizenship, different, free and conscious individuals and groups consistently recognize and reveal these ideas, plans and scenarios, on the one hand, and are able to efficiently impact and counterbalance them with their value system and intellectual strategies, on the other, averting their course in favor of people’s and state interests. We are aware and alert. We interact within spiritual-cultural, intellectual and action fields, trying to embark the political struggle based on proactive citizenship and constitutionalism on a new phase, to build, realize and achieve new quality of politics.

2)   One of the preconditions for building a sovereign state with a new quality of politics is the establishment of truth and self-cleansing of corrupt elites, with further crystallization of an individual and nation. People have to be respected; this means being truthful towards them, without heroizing or reproaching them but respect and nourish them with truth, with political agenda and road-maps based on human and constitutional values. The elites that have been erring for 21 years are not to be trusted, unless they truly and profoundly self-cleanse, their misdeeds unveiled, and bear civil and/ or criminal liability and accountability and correct their mistakes. Otherwise, their permissiveness and impunity will further enable them to make further mistakes at the cost of national and state plunder. We shall not allow it in terms of principle and we shall not concede it in terms of strategy. Genuine crystallization should take place in society and nation to enable the development of a new spiritual-cultural and intellectual quality.

3)   Dulling and manipulation of youth are also inadmissible for us in principle and unconcedeable in terms of strategy. The development and impact of the new quality new generation’s creativity has the effect of a catalyst. This is also a precondition for the development of spiritual-cultural and intellectual new quality in public and nation.

Youth is not to be controlled or made controllable, it has to be inspired with virtuous ideas and spirit. It can be stated without reservation that the power uniting and inspiring our nation and youth can never be Serzh Sargsyan or corrupt elites, opposite to what may be insinuated by some. Healthy youth is the element that is attempted to be made CONTROLLABLE and is feared by all those people and forces that are not free, just and dignified and that implement the scenarios dictated to them. Our youth that has inherited the vices of age long slave-mindedness and colonialism of our nation is to be educated, provided with role models and inspired by values of freedom, justice, dignity and solidarity, for the sake of strife for independence, freedom of thought, critical thinking development and application, for them to be willing to join us in our mission to build a spiritual-cultural human and individual and build a SOVEREIGN Armenian state. Our youth has to make a free and dignified flight with their own wings of their own FREE WILL, whereas we can guide them and give them the compass and impart the knowledge and wisdom of how to use it.

4)      Harmonious creativity of female and male sides of politics as well as universal values and heritage are also necessary to create a new quality. This can be conditioned by a person or agent’s being male or female, though sex is not a condition precedent. I am speaking of Goethes in the West and Confuciuses, Lao Tzus, Gandhis in the East. They were men but they harmonized the universal as well as male and female parties/sides. The male side is more forceful, abrupt, superficial (apparent, visible), which is necessary in politics, whereas in female side prevails the in-depth (invisible) and the intuitive, care, generator of solidarity, consensus and unity. This is not the property of the East or West, this is universal wisdom, wealth and heritage. Conscious public figures of the Armenian nation, like Kostan Zarians, realized the spiritual-cultural heritage and wealth, served as one of their intersections, comprehended and renewed the meaning of it in the development of Armenian national thought and creative spirit.

Thus, we have to nourish our youth and people with this, instead of getting them involved in the current provincial ignorant and vain politics. Young people should read and study and not just spend time without purpose in Facebook or in front of TV. One has to nourish and learn from all cultures and nations, whereas in Armenian current reality they narrow-mindedly shun instruction and fail to value and renew the meaning of their own heritage while looking down on southerners, for example (Africans, Latin Americans), some of whom have surpassed us in recent decades in their aspiration and experiments to build political models based on pro-active citizenship.  The value of a sovereign state is mostly that it take the ownership of its peoples spiritual-cultural and intellectual values and heritage, renew their meaning in the context  of modern times, serves as an axis and bridge between different generations in order to nourish and flourish the consciousness and spirit of that spiritual-cultural creativity and heritage.

5)      To conceive and apply the independent and sovereign political agenda and road-maps.  To undertake society-building and state-building through free, conscious and pro-active citizenship.

a- We need specific answers for what we should do with 4 billion USD foreign debt and poverty reduction; what should be done about the mining industry, like the Teghut case; how we are going to radically transform and renew our education, science and art systems to educate free and critically thinking citizens and specialists, to provide for their work and creativity for the development of our state.  How are we going to provide food for our population, when our agriculture is being doomed, food warehouses are empty and supermarkets are opening on every corner? How are we going to eradicate the culture of violence in general and in the family, army and workplace, in particular? How are we going to ensure women’s development and inclusion processes in public life, the emergence and development of healthy generations in our country? How are we going to maintain and develop our ecosystem and nature, how are we going to design and develop free public space and sphere? And finally, how are we going to create and develop a comprehensive Armenian culture in political, civil, cultural, social and economic spheres under the current circumstances by renewing the meaning of freedom, justice, dignity, solidarity? Etc…

Nobody is able to come up with definite answers to these questions from the viewpoint of national interests. Nobody has these answers since no solutions have been worked out. Not having an answer is no disgrace; one has to sincerely accept it and undertake human-centered and pro-state solutions and their implementation, actually involving the public and the nation. We cannot exist and develop in the autocratic/ new liberal world of global oligarchy by opening supermarkets and depleting our natural and intellectual resources. We possess natural and intellectual resources, we need to develop healthy agriculture to feed our own people and base our economy on intellectual resources and high technologies… these resources are available within us, but we have to genuinely direct and develop them.

b- Substantial and real alternative politics means new quality in terms of value system, coexistence models and governance system. To build a sovereign constitutional state governed by the rule of law and pro-active citizenship the Armenian nation needs to radically renew the politics not in the formal sense but in-depth and in terms of substance. This means new quality of politics and power, political institutions and powers, power relationship, development, formation and implementation of policies that are new in their substance and form. These must be based on value system of freedom, justice, dignity and solidarity and must derive from our spiritual-cultural values and not foreign policies of other states and global oligarchy interests. It should be founded on development and inclusion of free and conscious pro-active citizenship in all political processes.  This differs from a simply consuming individual and legitimization of formal and fake elections, a practice applied on global level since 1980s. The present era is the time of building free, conscious and pro-active citizenship everywhere, where the public takes the ownership of its individual, society, state and the world and thus counterbalances the puppetry of fake politics, politicians and political performances.

The positive systemic changes can be formulated in three main dimensions:

  1. Value system: freedom, justice, dignity and solidarity, source of human rights and nations self-determination right. Those are set forth in our state constitution, but have not yet perceived and envisioned by our elites and people widespread, do not constitute part of the general comprehensive culture, thus the renewal of their meaning is not active.
  2. Coexistence model: though the constitution describes our state as a “welfare state”, which are the solidarity models that we create? There are no universally bad or good traditions, they all need to be reconsidered and renewed. In present-day neo-liberal materialistic world we should create free, just and solidar society and new quality models of all-national coexistence that should be essentially different from the current criminal-oligarchic system; this is what we haven’t been able to envision and conceive as a community so far.
  3. Governance system: why presidential or why parliamentary? We have imitated and are reproducing the presidential, and now the parliamentary is put on the agenda. Why one or the other, how is it adequate and appropriate to the vision of the Armenia we want to build as a nation? Perhaps we should create a new governance system.

The key issues facing our public and society, as well as individual civic actors pursuing this claim in Armenia and Diaspora should be mostly included in the development processes of this new quality of Armenian politics, in substantial terms and not formal sense or by their instrumentation. This is how can succeed: the new-phase conception of consensus-based solutions and road maps built on the principle of all-national cohesion; their acceptance by various inner-national healthy forces; the comprehension and adhesion of people and public of these solutions and road maps;  as well as real election processes.

We won’t accept or admit any either-rigid-or-soft-format formal and mobist appeals and proposals which assume that everyone, and civic actors in particular, is included. There should be respectful relations on equal terms, based on truthfulness and mutual-trust, open, transparent and public. They should be founded on new quality discourses, debates, with a culture of free and critical thinking, and mainly with consideration of various standpoints of our people’s national, public and state interests,  in order to arrive at best solutions.  It is a big challenge for everyone of us in Armenia and Diaspora. We should address and overcome these challenges in order to consolidate the 21 years’ achievements of Artsakh liberation struggle; in order to finally establish the foundations of a real free, just, dignified and solidar sovereign statehood based on pro-active citizenship and governed by rule of law, and to independently develop our intellectual, spiritual and cultural positive potential and power by harmoniously orchestrating and directing them toward that one main collective goal. 

Armineh Arakelian 

Founder of the Institute of Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR), Political Scientist, International Lawyer 

March 1, 2013, Armenia 


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