Clarification: the need for Armenian Activism

I want to add some explanation to my previous post. I did not mean to say—and will never say—that the popular protest is over and that the situation is hopeless. What I meant to say is that the period of large popular rallies is past us. If the rallies were double (or even larger) the size they were, maybe rallies would have been effective, but that is simply speculation. What needs to happen is the hard work of institutionalizing the spirit of the opposition. Pre-Parliament is a great example of this, as is the Barev Foundation. I wish Raffi could have started building these institutions weeks (months) ago, instead of saying “I’ll announce my plan next rally.”

These institutions can form the bedrock for future change. These popular institutions can provide both the manpower and the skillset to do something big. Want to run for mayor in Yerevan? Fine, tap into this network to get hundreds of volunteers to pass out leaflets or go canvassing. Want to stop a polluting mining operation? Great, brainstorm with the intellectuals and elites to develop a strategy to force them to change their operations. Raffi was able to show that there are tens of thousands that will support and contribute to a strategy of change. Unfortunately, he never developed that strategy.

Developing the long-term strategy is hard but absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, a long-term strategy needs hope and commitment. Two things that too many hayastanci lack. Instead, too many of them are waiting for a leader to solve the country’s problems, while also waiting for a green card.

One great example from America’s history is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP’s) strategy to combat racial segregation in education. Racial segregation in education was legal in the US and the NAACP was able to make it formally illegal in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. But, this case was only the latest in a long chain of victories.  The NAACP knew that with a prejudicial Supreme Court, there was no hope to try for a grand victory, so they started with the smallest and least objectionable issue they could find. They argued that Missouri was violating black students’ rights by not having a single law school for blacks within its borders, and they won. They then argued that black law students deserved access to equally good law libraries and law professors, and they won. The NAACP correctly counted on the Supreme Court being more interested in the study of law than on perpetuating segregation. Finally, the NAACP could go after its big goal of general educational segregation in Brown v. Board and the Supreme Court had to rule in its favor because of the precedents of equality it had created for itself. This victory didn’t completely solve America’s racial segregation problem, but it was a huge step in the right direction.

Barevolution as a popular movement signified by rallies is over; barevolution as a demand for change is doing just fine.

The question for Armenians is what is your strategy to improve the country?

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