About the Armenian gaze

N. Lygeros

Translated from the Greek by Evi Charitidou

How to see the Armenian gaze in all this blood? How to perceive the pain of the invisible? Why to suffer for the unknown? These questions prove not only the suffering provoked by indifference but also the indifference towards the suffering.

There is in the nature of genocide an inherent phenomenon: the loss of the identity of the victims. Even when we hear about the pain, this is only an abstract idea, because it is deprived of a material substance. Incapable of visualizing the horror, we end up by thinking that it is preferable to consider that it has never taken place. In the beginning, this refusal is not negation, but it ends up by becoming that, because there is no resistance on our part. We are victims of our own dehumanization. So, how to cope with the Armenian gaze? How to see these features without committing the mistake of insisting on characterizing ourselves as humans, so as not to feel guilty of the ineptitude of our own inaction.

Yet, there is even worse than that; because this is always possible in the path of the horror. Even a descendant of the survivors ends up by not looking himself on the mirror under the pretext of living, while he limits himself in just existing. He does not disturb anyone with his pain so as no one finds him annoying. Thus, he ends up by not talking anymore about the history of his people to his own children to avoid traumatizing them; without realizing that in this way he also contributes in the most stable continuation of the genocide of memory. He cannot respect the victims any longer and as regards the survivors he sees them as beings that ought to be forgotten so that he lives in peace. This is the reason why Primo Levi’s suicide remains incomprehensible to him. This is the reason why the actions of the Armenians seem to him as attempts against the modesty of the society, which is nothing different than the oblivion and indifference. He feels good and he is happy, because he himself has forgotten the Armenian gaze. Without knowing any longer what this consists of, he is satisfied by remaining indifferent.

It is only by the time and death of his ancestors that he listens again to the voice of memory which for the first time sounds to him like the voice of resistance. And then he discovers that his own children have become potential enemies, because they are already manipulated by the fanatics of oblivion, who have never ceased working to the direction of continuing the genocide of memory. He unintentionally realizes how easy it is to belong to the society of oblivion and above all how difficult it is to belong to the humanity. For, through the loss of the Armenian gaze, he becomes aware of the fact that he himself has lost the Armenian gaze. By deleting his Armenianness, supposedly for the best of his children, he ends up by dehumanizing himself and becoming what the genocidists have been always accusing him of.

This is the problematic and the concept set by the Armenian gaze. It accuses us in an Emil-Zola-style of collaborating with our executioners. Only that we still have the possibility to change, because the crime is imprescriptible.

free counters