Why should we remember the genocide of Armenians? The sceptics would say that it’s just political correctness – the need to denounce any measure driven by identity pseudo-imperatives. In this sense, European culture has been trying to relativise, especially after the last war trauma, national identities, although today some say that the strategy has come to a dead end. On the other hand, there is a powerful prestige of therapeutic memory. Actually, conscience would not operate without turning to an evaluation of past experiences – fundamentally, man learns from mistakes.
There is also a trust in the virtues of historical truth, in the sense that the knowledge of the actual unfolding of certain events removes some of the ambiguities of consciences. This memory labour can only be commanded. However, this therapeutic perspective is just one side of the matter, and one needs to remember that it produces relative consequences. As it ahs been repeated, and not only out of cynicism, man hardly ever learns anything from the dramas of history. Any evolution seems just superficial, and that is a moral disappointment to many. However, the stake is not the utopia of a world less infested with violence, but the revolt against it, regardless of results. If we take a closer look, we could be surprised to see in how many cases crises are solved by very precise authors, with decisive action. Just one example- the rescuing of Bulgarian Jews during WWII was only possible thanks to the obstinacy and skill of a certain politician who was actually representing a pro-Nazi party, who blocked in extremis the depurations of Jews to German camps. And that tells us even more convincingly that the ‘good’ is a work that calls for serious commitment. In other words, it doesn’t exist ‘per se’.
But opposing the destruction of ‘the other’, the different one in some way or another, is not just about tolerance. It is also a more substantial existential chance we can be sure not to miss only in that way. I have already reminded of a re-thinking of identities, far too often mere phantasmatic coatings in the name of which so many absurd conflicts occurred. Looking ‘the other one’ differently should therefore consider this judicious relativisation. As a principle, ‘the other one’ is an opportunity to remove the rigidities of a self who does not lose its appetence for a fuller exercise of life, that becomes morally ankylosed. Instead of accepting the challenge, we often prefer the strategy of exclusion and discriminatory containment. But there is something that prepares the stiffness and hatred: indifference. But that is not just the product of lazy and self-sufficient souls, it is also the consequence of some older historical disjunctions that had remained ‘frozen’ for a long time. The ‘Orthodox’ Christianity has been looking at Armenians, as well as other mid-Eastern Christians, as heretics, since over one and a half millennium ago. Blaming ‘the other’ in this way drastically reduces mutual knowledge. We can expand the same view to the ‘neighbours who ignore us’. If we asked a Romanian how many Ukrainian, Hungarian, Serbian or Bulgarian authors he/she had read, there are minimum chances they will give you one name. The chance drops even more dramatically in the case of an Armenian author. Ad yet, the old Armenia was the first Christian state in history, before the Roman Empire, and its contribution to the old Christian culture is anything but marginal. Their cultural creativity is far from being on the decline. Remember the remarkable cinematographic surrealism of Sergei Parajanov. The Armenian are therefore not just the victims of a highly tragic history, but most often an almost unknown population, treated as a marginal one. The last century has reduced some of the self-contained cultural Euro-centrism. The Europeans have come to value cultures once scorned or at best looked at condescendingly as ‘exotic’ But it is a mistake to look at any culture indistinctly. There is a salutary and fertile competition of values. We should not be afraid of it, but we should also accompany it by a careful ‘demining’ of consciences engaged in the ‘competition’. The road from competition to conflict should be longer than usually and the opportunities of self-control out to be multiplied. We should not forget that a challenge like the mentioned one can be medicine but also poison. The careful dosage is an important moral requirement.