Architects (Mardiros Altounian – designer of the Lebanese Parliament building), engineers (Zaven Khedeshian – engineer of Bikfaya Monument), authors (Claudia Marchelian - screenwriter), photojournalists (Harry Kundakjian – AP photographer), painters (Paul Guiragossian), religious leaders, doctors, comedians (Pierre Chammassian), athletes, psychiatrists (Dr. Antranig Manoogian), composers (Jelalian), merchants, businessmen, and industrial leaders. Those are some of the 20th century’s reputed Armenians of Lebanon who produced magnificent magnum opuses in their respective avocations.
Unfortunately much changed after the civil war when a large portion of our pundits emigrated to greener pastures. The younger generation was left without its chef d'oeuvres to emulate. Today, many Armenian youths in Ashrafieh, Bourj Hammoud, Dora-Amanos, Fanar, Rawda, Jdeide, Zalka, Jal El Dib, Antelias, Mzher(Dzaghgatzor), Naccash, Dbayeh, Jounieh, Jbeil, Tripoli, Zahle and Anjar have precipitated into mediocrity. They have no aspiration to achieve noble heights. All they perceive around them are drug dealers, drunkards, businessmen who make illegal money, pimps, and political leaders who go on bickering endlessly against each other. Legions of bright adolescents have plunged into having an affair with the petty philosophy of hedonism – going high on drugs and wasting their lives pursuing the luscious night life and the so-called no-attachment-sex. On the educational arena, our schools have fallen behind in reforming the teaching methods and hiring teachers with updated skills. Moreover, Armenian families have failed to engrave self-confidence into their children and bestow upon them the love of books and education.
From another scene in Hamra, Verdun, Zkak el Blat, and Ain Mreisseh, where the majority of the communities belong to the Muslim faith, the picture is quite different. Today our Muslim compatriots are leading the country on most grounds – intellectual, moral, and spiritual. Muslim families are elevating the self-confidence of their sons and daughters, encouraging them to be proud of their religion and ethnicity, and enrolling them in superior schools which would prepare them to graduate cum laude from European and American universities. By the same token, Muslim families have succeeded in preserving the sacredness of family and advocating extracurricular activities by registering their kids in fine arts classes from dancing, music, and theater to painting, sports, and foreign languages.
During a TV interview I was watching about a year ago, ex-Financial Minister Damianos Attar, who had served in Prime Minister Mikati’s cabinet back in 2005, made an interesting remark stating that the reason Christians were spearheading Lebanon in all spheres was because of their possession of moral integrity. Hence, the only way for Christians – and Armenians in specific – to effectuate nobleness of character is to regain their lost faith and moral ground.
To counter the waves of pessimism and self-loathing the Armenian Church, community, parties, institutions, and leaders should seek out the younger generation, build communication bridges, and become their life mentors before our youth further slip into the abyss of doom right before our eyes. The older generation and our sages have much to teach and pass on to the next generation. They were the offspring of bruised, torn, and hungry Armenians who successfully carved into their children’s hearts the will to achieve, the tenacity to persevere, the morals to nobility, the love of family, and the faith of our forefathers in order to have life and have it abundantly.