Breaking the wall of silence, indifference, and apathy
Starting posts like this is always the hardest part. But not expressing what is on my heart and mind is even harder. Authentic self-expression is something that I value and encourage in this space.
Another thing I encourage is to speak up and speak out about injustices and other social causes that we care about. People often tell me that I put to words what they’ve been thinking and feeling but didn’t have the language for. And that it inspires them to speak the truth without mincing their words, beating around the bush, and using feel-good euphemisms to avoid being seen as “divisive.”
This will not be the most articulate post I’ll ever write. But it’s an important one.
In the midst of our busy lives, I’ll speak for myself when I say that its become too easy to turn a blind eye to the humanitarian injustices happening around the world. We get lost in the noise, the distractions, the relentless pace of our capitalist hellscape where we’re all just trying to survive. I get that. Sometimes I too feel guilty for not “doing more” but then I remember that I’m just one person, and it’s not my responsibility to bear the burden of the world on my shoulders.
And it’s not yours, either.
As I grapple with the weight of heavy emotions, the flood of thoughts, and the complexity of feelings that swirl within me, I have to push past the discomfort and remember that this is not about me. It is about humanity. And that includes all of us.
In these moments, I’m reminded that some of us simply don’t have the privilege to disengage or ignore those injustices that shake the very foundation of who we are. The “stuff” that we’re made of—our identity, ethnicity, religion, culture, language, ancestry—to look away would be a form of self-betrayal that’s hard to walk back from.
BIPOC and SWANA communities understand this. Their ancestors have lived it. They know what it’s like to live in a world where your status on the proverbial social ladder is largely determined by the pigmentation of your skin and/or the geographic location of your country of origin. The most vulnerable and disenfranchised communities are always one step ahead of the trends, and not by choice. Societal collapse falls on their homes, their lands, their places of worship, their hospitals, schools, and other civilian institutions. Their lives.
I don’t think the human mind is capable of wrapping itself around atrocities like ‘ethnic cleansing.’ The details are too much to bear—so we have just reduced it to one word: colonization. But most of us still don’t really know what that looks like—we see it as something outside of ourselves that can only transpire across geopolitical or historical lines. Now with technology, we can see it happen right on our fingertips. The biggest challenge is to get it from our fingertips to the tip of our tongues.
Some people use guns to fight their battles. Others use their voice.
One such voice that has been cutting through the noise on my social media feed is Mary’s. Mary is a Diasporan Armenian who lives in Artsakh, (offically recognized as Nagorno-Karabakh), a mountainous enclave in the Caucuses where 120,000 indigenous Armenians, including Mary, are being ethnically cleansed from their ancestral lands under Azerbaijan’s dictatorship. They are losing everything; hundreds have already lost their lives, including children.
In a space that is dominated by likes, popularity, and status, Mary’s story is a lifeline to sanity. It’s a plea for justice and a message to the world that demands our attention.
I feel it is my responsibility to relay Mary’s message about the profound injustice and victimization endured by ethnic minorities simply for who they are and their wish to live on their homeland. Because it deserves to be told. And more importantly, we deserve to bear witness to it. We are, after all, made of the same blood and flesh and bone.
Right now, as you read these words, a genocide is unfolding before our eyes. It’s not hidden in the shadows or buried in history books; it’s happening in real-time, in the 21st century. It’s being documented on social media. The Armenian people are enduring horrors that should have no place in our modern world.
And yet here we are.
I feel it would be a great disservice not to stop and ask ourselves: why is this humanitarian catastrophe not on the tip of everyone’s tongue? Why does it not dominate our newsfeeds and conversations? The answer lies in the collective awakening that has yet to occur—the one we keep talking about but not taking action on. We have not fully grasped the power of our voices and the collective responsibility that we bear for each other’s wellbeing. We have yet to see ourselves as interdependent. And from the looks of it, we’ve got a long way to go.
The silence that shrouds this humanitarian emergency is not a new phenomenon. It’s the same silence that has permitted past genocides to unfold, often under the world’s apathetic gaze. It’s the same silence that has allowed fascist dictators and oppressive regimes to continue operating throughout history.
When will the collective silence be broken? What’s it going to take to wake us up?
As Adolf Hitler chillingly remarked, "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"
We do. We speak of it, not just for Armenians but for the rest of the world. Because genocides don’t happen overnight. They don’t always look like ethnic cleansing—they also look like economic disenfranchisement, social inequity, mass poverty, environmental degradation. Armenians understand that when genocides are not talked about, when they are not acknowledged and condemned, they have a way of repeating themselves.
What is happening to the Armenians in Artsakh is a canary in a coal mine. It’s an indication of an imminent danger that threatens all of our human rights and freedoms that we cherish so dearly—we’re just too busy, too distracted, to self-absorbed, too tired, too ignorant to see it. And that is exactly what the capitalist propaganda machine counts on to continue upholding a status quo that places profits over human lives every day. The socially and economically disenfranchised communities are most vulnerable to the impact of this; but no one is immune.
What is happening to the Armenians in Artsakh is a stark reminder of how oppression, dehumanization, and violence escalate. It transcends borders and time, echoing the same patterns we’ve seen in other dark chapters of our human history. It’s what European settlers did to Native Americans. What Hitlers did to Jews. What Hutu extremists did to Tutsis. What the Pakistani military forces did to Bengalis. The list goes on. It’s the story of a group of marginalized people who were dehumanized until they became victims of unspeakable atrocities, simply for existing.
How long are we going to continue allowing this story to be a part of our legacy here on earth?
In a world where denial, misinformation, and propaganda reign supreme, the truth struggles to be heard. Cultures get erased. Ethnic cuisine, art, practices, music, get appropriated. And the very land that many people call home, which their ancestors built and rest on, become pillaged and stolen.
To be an ethnic minority and a part of a marginalized community means living in a landlocked predicament of denial, victimization, and ongoing assault of our human rights.
That’s the dominating narrative of our human civilization as it unfolds. What’s it going to take to change it?
This post is not meant to evoke doom and gloom—nor is it meant to cast judgement, guilt, or blame. It’s simply a plea for compassion and understanding. It’s a call to confront the biggest issues that unite us in this space—authoritarian control, disinformation, corruption, greed—those very things that threaten our democracy.
Sometimes that looks like ethnic cleansing; other times it takes the form of a wellness grift. The events may look different, but the underlying themes are the same. The perpetrators might look different but their motivations are the same: it’s about domination, control, power, and authority. At the end of the day, it’s about human greed and hubris: the shadow qualities that spiral us into our own self-destruction. I am asking you again and again: what’s it going to take to #stopthespiral?
For one thing, it starts with acknowledging the uncomfortable truths that belie the hard questions.
Hard question: What does genocide look like in 2023?
Uncomfortable truth: Genocide in 2023 is no longer only about mass killings or false diplomacy. It’s also about the normalization of crimes against humanity. It looks like being so burnt out by the toils of capitalism, that we simply don’t have the energy to care. It’s about having compassion fatigue to the point of numbness. It’s about apathy and indifference not only toward each other, but toward our own disconnection.
For Armenians, we cannot afford to look away. Not anymore; not again.
For the rest of the world, I implore you to sit with the discomfort of your own hypocrisy. I am looking at you, white liberals. Now would be a great time to ask ourselves: why did we get so outraged over the war in Ukraine, but have turned our backs on Armenians and the entire SWANA region that has been and continues to be collateral damage resulting from decades of colonization by imperialist powers? Why have we compartmentalized our compassion in this hierarchal way? Why have we collectively decided that these peoples’ don’t matter? That they deserve to be cast in the shadows, their cries drowned out by the humdrum of mainstream media while our tax dollars bankroll their violent and senseless bloodshed.
Is it because we can’t identify the location of their countries on a map? Is it because they have funny names we can’t pronounce? Is it because—dare I say the quiet part out loud—they’re brown and not deemed worthy by Eurocentric standards of “civilized?”
I know it’s hard to acknowledge just how much we have unwittingly chosen to be complicit in the ongoing crimes against humanity within these regions. I know it’s a hard pill to swallow. We want to wipe our hands clean, but our willful ignorance is going to catch up to us, sooner or later.
For those seeking solace in spirituality, I want to just remind you that true spirituality isn’t about turning toward the light but turning toward humanity. Yes our world is fraught with challenges, but we have to be brave and confront them rather than bury our heads in paperwork and memes. Doing so only perpetuates the power dynamics that profit off our apathy and ignorance.
During these dark chapters of our shared history, I’m reminded of the quote by Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
By writing this post, I’m choosing to turn away from indifference. And simply by reading it, so are you. I want to acknowledge you for that and ask you to do more. We need you.
Here’s how you can help Armenians facing ethnic cleansing in Artsakh:
Educate yourself about what’s going on. Read:
Take action: Contact President Biden, Vice-President Harris, and Congress:
Send this pre-written letter to demand the U.S.’s role in the UN to protect the people of Artsakh. This is the quickest, and most passive action you can take right now.
Follow accounts on the ground:
Mary (@mary8black) and Ashot (@ashotgabriel) are documenting their lived experience of ethnic cleansing in Artsakh. Following and sharing their stories humanizes a political conflict and demonstrates solidarity to let them know that people from around the world care about their plight and stand with them.
Astrig (@astrig) and Marine (@marinezaslanyan) are independent photojournalists who are risking their lives to document the atrocities committed by Azerbaijan. It’s important to follow them for unbiased reporting of this humanitarian crisis that is getting little on-the-ground coverage.
Donate to humanitarian organizations:
SPREAD THE WORD!
Please talk about it, share about it, help amplify Armenian voices during this critical time. Your support, voice, and action are powerful and so appreciated.
Thank you for your attention. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. And at the very least, we can choose not to look away in apathy. Take it from me when I say that you will look back in regret for not doing anything. It never feels good to stay indifferent to the suffering of our fellow humans. We can no longer allow the commercialized interests of capitalism to dehumanize us and disconnect us from our rage and empathy. These are the necessary emotions we need to access and alchemize into collective action.
The tagline for Seek with Ser is: change starts from within. But it doesn’t stop there. And to second that notion, I like to remind myself and others: who you are is how you show up. Now is the time to embody our shared values of integrity, accountability, justice, and social responsibility that we cultivate together in this space.
How will you show up?
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