Singapore is the Holy Land for lots of us, as, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew and his family, they succeeded to build a modern state with an amazing infrastructure. Singapore -small, not blessed with natural resources- had to overcome colonization and occupation. It’s the only state I know that has two ministries for education; this demonstrates impressively the importance of education for the government. Singapore created a syllabus on character building for primary and secondary schools, and it’s certainly worthy to analyze how this approach is relevant for Armenia.
Another Holy Land besides the real one, Israel, is certainly Rwanda. All the three nations: Armenia, Israel and Rwanda, have the post-trauma of the genocide in common. It’s interesting to see how these relatively small countries, and especially Rwanda, flourish. It is like a miracle. It’s amazing to see what has been build up. Paul Kagame is like Lee Kuan Yew, an autocratic leader, and the country is strictly controlled in order not to endanger the bigger plan to overcome the humanitarian disaster, mitigate the gaps of former enemies, work on their reconciliation and tighten the bonds among the survivors, while also being able to build up a national identity. If you are looking for benchmarks in building a nation, Rwanda is certainly a source of inspiration.
What’s the current situation?
Armenia is a unique country. More people live abroad than in the country itself, and it’s a great challenge to keep a national and cultural identity for those who live in the Diaspora. Armenians, who remain in their homeland are tempted to immigrate, because life perspectives seem to be more attractive outside the borders. The country has inner-political challenges to master, there is the big issue of corruption, and it is in a geopolitically difficult location with neighboring and nearby countries like Iran, Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia is ranked the 121st among the 156 countries of the world by the level of happiness, and the 107th among the180 countries by the Corruption Perceptions Index. The average income of 24 USD a day indicates the economic challenges for the vast majority of the Armenians.
Hence, the four major challenges Armenia is facing today:
— Lack of cultural, spiritual, historical and national bonds, especially among the youth
— Brain drain of young talents and lack of attractions to return to the homeland
— Linguistic genocide as the language is threatened by extinction
— Political instability in a volatile geopolitical setting
These are challenging prerequisites, and it’s a big endeavor to build a global nation, preserve the language, assure a peaceful coexistence with the neighboring states and to be a desirable place to live for those who want to leave or return.
Armenia is unique, as it succeeded despite a century-long suppression to survive and remain as an important contributor for the world’s sake. It’s a proud nation with a strong cohesion and high self-esteem, resilient, national and international at the same time. A well-known sociological theory explains that outer pressure strengthens the inner link. There is a strong bond, but it’s in danger to erode under the current premises of globalization.
Learn from the Past to Save the Future
George Santayana says wisely: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The genocide coins the mind and soul of the Armenians. To belong to a nation of victims is psychologically difficult to handle. It is a shame that only a minority of the UN member states officially accepts the genocide. Turkey as the main perpetrator still denies their responsibility and has not officially apologized.
It is important to keep the memory alive. Projects, which witness the genocide are important to overcome the collective trauma, and to give a voice for those who were murdered. Approximately 1 million Armenians were killed. The task is to collect 1 million voices for each single victim. This can work with social media to attract foremost the younger generation, and is a purely communication effort. The model of the German stumble stones in remembrance for the Jewish victims of the Shoah can be updated with modern technology. At all places where Armenians lived sensors can be installed and via an app an interested person can learn more about the person that dwelled there. The process of coming to terms with the past happens not only at memorials. It happens where the crimes took place. To mobilize memory is of utmost importance for the identity of the Armenians, and appealing ways especially for the youth need to be found.
The experience of the genocide and the strength of the Armenians to endure as a peace-loving nation can become one facet of the nation’s brand. Armenia is relatively neutral in politics, and can become a hub for peace building and reconciliation. It is predestined to play this role in the region. A peace building center can be set up like the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue in Norway. Especially the Turkish – Armenian relations need to reconcile, and people from both nations should work together on models to maintain peace and coexistence. Jean-Paul Samputu, survivor of the Rwandan genocide comes to my mind: Forgivness is for you, not for the offender.
Build a Brand
Armenia – The Global Nation. That’s a strong brand. The brand stands for certain values, which need to be worked out. A widespread basic research needs to be facilitated to learn especially from the young Armenians in the diaspora, what Armenia actually stands for. At least 500,000 voices must be heard to create a movement to build up the nation’s brand. That’s a scientific process.
Global – Local
Like the Jews, Armenians are scattered around the world. In consequence they have access to a broad spectrum of resources and knowledge as insiders of the hosting countries. These sources can be utilized for the sake of Armenia’s future. The question to be answered: How to assure that the information flow of knowledge and skills can build intellectual capital in the homeland?