Shakeh Kaftarian
Ph.D, Co-President of the Armenian American Mental Health Association of Southern California

Thank you for including me in the review of this seminal paper, which is a thoughtful, informative, and well-written piece of scholarly work with practical applications. It is a concise yet comprehensive analysis of the journey of the Armenians through the Millenia, in the context of the world events, all of which have helped shape the modern Armenian ethos, with the possibility of a path into a bright future. 

This paper patiently explicates the roots of our national identity, and how this identity has served us over the Millenia. It acknowledges complex and painful subjects that continue to hinder our existence, wellbeing, and progress – as a people and a nation. It assigns significant value to education, innovation, and most importantly talent. I agree that innovation based on talent translates into wealth, which is exponentially more valuable than any other form of wealth. You also explain how private initiatives of outstanding heroes in our history have mostly happened in the context of our rich cultural heritage. This paper describes the role of the elite in making informed and courageous decisions at different points of our history. It presents an astute vision of how Armenia can draw from its past, and capitalize on its talent, to break into a leadership position in the 21st Century global economy and politics. 

You have put forward a vision that is informed by not only the lessons from the history, but also the realities of the present-day global society. It reflects on the "…remarkable ability of the Armenian people for rapid economic, cultural, and demographic revival, given favorable circumstances." One is left with the impression that now in another one of those opportune moments in time, which should be capitalized on by the Armenian collective. I commend you for your overarching vision of addressing the diaspora and homeland together, and for wanting to conduct frank discussions based on historically documented strengths, while staying away from the destructive weaknesses of our people. 

Commentary 1: Women and inclusivity 

This paper emphasizes at length the value of "inclusivity." Somehow the reader is left with the expectation that the authors would also address the importance of the full participation of men and women alike – since girls and women are for the most part marginalized in the Armenian society. One is left wishing that a paper of this weight and caliber would address the importance of infusing the future with the talent and potential of men and women in an equitable manner. 

This paper will be significantly strengthened if it explicitly emphasizes the significance of a dual-gendered and equitable approach to social and economic participation and progress in Armenia. It should clearly and explicitly explain how without the full integration of girls and women of cities, towns and villages in all arenas of education, training, professions, and leadership the country will fall short of its ultimate potential for a powerful and 21st century-worthy future. Frankly, the concept of "inclusivity" will be rendered obsolete in this paper without the inclusion of a significant discussion of the participation of girls and women in a meaningful manner. 

Commentary 2: An epigenetic explanation for the trans-generational transfer of Genocide trauma. 

It is a fact that the collective Armenian "we" has gone through many phases of silence; denial; quiet pain; some level of acceptance and normalization; revenge; lobbying and demands for "recognition" in a serial fashion over the last century. It is also true that there is a "waning" in the interest of the world community in the Armenian Genocide. However, there is not yet a significant "waning" in the trans-generational transfer of trauma, because such trauma has not been treated appropriately, nor is it completely healed. 

It is a fact that "…the true significance of the Genocide as a tragic rupture in the natural succession of generations is not yet fully understood." However, I would like to invite the authors of this paper to consider explanations for our continued feelings of victimhood through a newly evolving area of science called epigenetic (i.e., nexus between neuroscience and genetics). According to an epigenetic explanation extreme trauma leads to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and turns the function of selected genes (e.g., genes for anxiety, depression, vigilance, etc.) to an "on" position. Epigenetic studies (i.e., the Holocaust, 9/11, etc.) indicate that in the absence of significant intervention (e.g., recognition, validation, reparation, personal psychotherapy, etc.) the genes which haven't turned "off" are passed on to the next generation(s) in their "on" position. Thus a plausible explanation is that the feelings of victimhood may be inherited, and may persist even a century after the trauma. 

I agree that it's our common wish that our younger generations would see themselves not as victims, but as offspring of a victorious nation. However, given the epigenetic explanation, we should find not only a science-based understanding for this lingering trauma, but most importantly science-based methodologies for its healing process.  

Once more I would like to point out that the review of this seminal paper has been a privilege. Many of my own thoughts and worries were articulated eloquently, and confirmed systematically. Your gentle suggestions of plausible paths to solutions were credible and impressive. I sincerely hope that this thoughtful analysis of the past and informed synthesis of the future will be seriously discussed by the political, civic and economic leaders of Armenia and the diaspora alike, hopefully in an "uncharged" and methodical manner. 

Congratulations for having the ability and the resolve to rise above what is comfortable in life, in order to make a significant positive change in the lives of others. 


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