It’s quiet, oh so quiet…

The flu got me, that’s why it has been so quiet here, even though I had planned posts this week about the result of the Dutch elections, an interesting workshop I attended on gender issues in Armenia, about how to celebrate two birthdays and a birth on the same day and about cleaning up swastikas. See Thomas’ blog Follow the Way for pics of that.

By the way, there are new signs on Baghramian already, one on the exact same spot where we cleaned a swastika. Does this have to turn into a weekly event???? At least our work got noticed. 😉 Well, it did actually, already while we were cleaning. Noticeably, the only people who commented on what we were doing, were people who were old enough to have lived through World War II and maybe even fought against Nazi-Germany themselves. These people were all very positive about what we were doing. Other younger people just looked at us as if we were a bunch of weirdos (which, according to them, probably we were).

I will be back when I don’t feel like my head is filled with bambak any longer.

7 thoughts on “It’s quiet, oh so quiet…

  1. Hello. First off I’d like to say I enjoy reading your blog. Armenia is one of the places I want to go in the future, and reading about it now just perks up my interest.

    I got a little question. Why do you clean up the graffiti/tags? This may be a rude question, but as I am new to your site, I don’t have a lot of background.

    And speaking of tags, when I was in Prague, I saw tons of those. And a Czech friend of mine told me that they first thought that it was “cool” to have those so people made tags everywhere after the Communist era came down.


  2. Hi Myrthe,
    I just discovered your blog because I found that you had a link to mine!
    I am looking forward to exploring your blog more. I had a friend growing up who was Armenian and I have always wanted to learn more.
    Here’s my chance.

  3. Myrthe,
    I hope your head is feeling better. I looked around a bit on your blog and am very curious about what brought you to Armenia and what you there. I am sure I will find out eventually.
    Take care,

  4. Linguist-in-Waiting,

    I promised you an answer to your question why I (we) would go around cleaning swastika’s and racist graffiti.

    The reason why it took me so long to get back has partly to do with your question (the other part is just plain procrastination. Won’t get into that ;-p). My immediate reaction to your question “Why?” was: “Why not?”, but that is too easy, I guess, so I wanted to think about it and give you a slightly better answer. That’s where the procrastination came in. Also, the thinking led me along other paths to more general ideas about why people volunteer, why people do (or don’t do) things that may not be directly to their own benefit. I got slightly distracted from the original question.

    First off, let me just make clear, that there is plenty of other graffiti on the buildings of Yerevan written by Ashot, Marat, Artyom and others who felt the urgent need to let the world know they exist. These tags we left alone, stupid though they are, they are not offensive. We only cleaned up swastika’s, SS-signs, slogans like “No Arabs” and “Sieg Heil”, because these are offensive, racist, intolerant and hate-inciting. I passed some of the swastika’s twice a day on my way to and from work and seeing them annoyed me every single time. In my world, you just don’t go around painting hate-signs and racist-slogans.

    Also, less ideological and more practical, you should probably know that there is no municipal cleaning service or something like that that you can call and report the graffiti and they will go and clean it up. Neither are other inhabitants of this city prepared to make the effort to get rid of this graffiti in public places. It’s not their own property, so they just don’t give a sh**. Very often (if not in general), Armenians have a hard time understanding that you can actually get active yourself and do something that may not be to your own immediate benefit.

  5. Hello Myrthe,

    I guess I didn’t realize that expressions of hate such as the types of graffiti you mentioned are so prevalent in Armenia. Maybe that is partly because I don’t see Armenia as a topic in the news nowadays, or probably of my own ignorance as well, or probably of my apathy with regard to what’s happening in the world.

    I have to admit the reason why I asked that question in the first place. **Warning: Philosophical sentence ahead** I believe that humankind in general is inherently selfish. That whatever happens, what benefits oneself will be the utmost goal of a human. That belief of mine was partly formulated in reaction to a professor back in undergrad who wanted to indoctrinate us students with Communism, and I just felt that Communism would never work because humans are inherently selfish. Another reason why I see that philosophy feasible is because of the rampant corruption I see with different world governments. I come originally from the Philippines, and there are plenty of cases in which other humans just take advantage of others.

    But then I read your blog. The other side of the coin. Thanks for blogging about your efforts. I’ve learned something here.


  6. Hi Liguist IW,
    Just to make something clear: these are the only expressions of racial hate that I have ever seen on the streets in this country. I wouldn’t call Armenians a racist people either, even though the population of the country is very homogeneous and non-white people are still fairly rarely seen here and they are stared at. But then again, pretty much any foreigner is being stared at here, even in the capital. In private you might occasionally hear some other things about Jews or black people, which I would say are based on ignorance most of all.

    Also, I am not so sure your theory doesn’t hold up against seemingly non-selfish acts. Eventually these non-selfish acts might be done because deep down will make the person who does the none-selfish thing him feel better about himself. That is selfish, too, I guess: doing something because it makes you feel better. And oh yeah, in the process it did some good to other people as well.

    Or is this too cynical of me?

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