Army-Nation vs Family-Nation: Between Public Communication and Private Entity

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The authorities speak to the society – the nation, the population, separate groups or individuals – through long or short narratives. Pictures and sources are of special importance in providing a basis for common communication. Common history, fate and experience are necessary factors that should preserve communication and contribute to mutual trust. It is noteworthy that in any case a conversation is inevitable – be it in the form of a monologue or multilogue. On the other hand, any authority has to bring or it brings a new culture, new language of communication, which is a necessary condition for building a new narrative and a new world. The authority, be it political, social or cultural, stands out with its very language – the vocabulary and narratives used to describe the present and picture the future. Although repeating that the language should not be perceived in its direct (textual) meaning, it is worth mentioning that nowadays narratives are predominantly in the form of pictures and built within the logic of pictures even in case of texts.

Keeping in mind these necessary preconditions, we can begin with speaking about more practical situations. Discourses are in a constant struggle with each other in the society, representing themselves as dominant (primary) and secondary (residual) discourses. For instance, in our case, the security discourse and the vocabulary linked to it are mainly dominant, whereas, for example, the human rights discourse is secondary. The prehistory and foundation of this situation, containing archaic elements, are subjects to a different discussion and are beyond the logic of this work. The fact that other political and public issues are subordinated by the security  is out of question and is clearly obvious.

The former authorities, having low public legitimacy and trust, were obliged to emphasize the security discourse and vocabulary, trying to adjust them to all the spheres of public life, including the private, otherworld life. It is important to keep in mind that this situation can sometimes be a trap when using the same vocabulary all the time, they unknowingly become its prisoners, using the same militarized language in all, sometimes even mutually exclusive or radically different situations. The logical solution to all this in the context of depleted public support was the birth of the concept “army-nation”. A concept, which is the well-forgotten old, at least taken from the cultural and political vocabulary of the Bolsheviks, who considered all society members to be “soldiers of different fronts” – cultural, economical, scientific – so, the society was an “army” itself. Of course, this was a consequence of a historical period when the authority and its tools of speaking to the society were created as a result of civil war and were simply bearing its mark. On the other hand, the objective reasons of our case – the unfinished war, ceasefire, border tensions – are having a positive impact on the development, dissemination of the discourse and the preservation of its relevance. Within this logic there already were the signs of the diminution of the power: the representation of the “defeat” of the April War in 2016, its propaganda, the following occupation of the Patrol-Guard Service as a “necessary” means of preventing the impending “doom”.

Due to its horizontalism, extensive participation and national character, the 2018 revolution gave hope that it would bring along a new language, new communication narratives that would reduce the prevailing security discourse or at least strengthen the other secondary and competing discourses. And as we know from biology, the inflation of one field and the concentration of resources can lead to dystrophy of the body.

Following this logic, a seemingly new but actually modified variant was suggested, conditionally called “family-nation”. So different social groups, sometimes severely competing with each other, were unified around a new narrative – the concept of “family”. With the traditional Armenian notion of “family”, the symbol of the private was brought to the public field, ascribing society-creating and state-creating functions to family. This already was another approach of archaism, which should have cardinally been opposed to the basic principles of social studies. And the principle is the following: the society or citizens are bearers of contractual, individual relations, in contrast to family, in which there is no room for choice, everything is decided based on the fact of birth, and the relations with a family member are formed on the basis of private family relations. Besides, according to all the rules of archaism and traditionalism, to avoid acting as the dominant of the family means to be left out. Now here an interesting phenomenon arises. If the former authorities adjusted the army, a public institution, to the private field (claiming everyone to be fighters, soldiers), then now the shift is quite the opposite: the public is occupied by the private. The family is claimed to be the centerpiece of public relations, different social groups and individuals are “proclaimed” identical. To understand the logic behind these two approaches, we should begin with understanding the priorities of the authority. Accordingly, any authority is intended to rule and in order to do that it has to have the picture of what it is going to rule. The latter requires either powerful social structures, institutions, which should provide the rulers with objective knowledge about the society, or the rulers have to create the picture of that society for themselves, based on their own experience. I.e. claim the society to be a family and rule it in the logic of a family. This is a tempting risk of identifying the picture with the narrative, when complex systems are simplified to ensure an easy process of ruling. Short-term problems may be solved with this logic, but approximating a complex system like society to a family, the authorities will definitely get a false picture and then unsolved problems. Such problems usually emerge during ubiquitous crisis situations, such as the pandemic, when it is necessary to use the individual approach to all social groups and society members, to require individual responsibility but meanwhile to pay tribute to the leading discourse and to refer to the family as to a soldier in the battle against the pandemic. I.e. to preserve the family language and to speak of individual responsibility,  of the importance of one-man combat. All this inevitably leads to dystrophy.

Of course, it should not be forgotten that the concept of the new authorities implementing a new culture and the need to communicate with a new language is a necessary, but not mandatory condition. It is required to create a new reality of better quality and content, but it is not inevitable. Using the vocabulary of the leading discourses, again, is tempting for the authorities because it does not require a special effort for creating a new language, a new communication culture, but uses the current “regulations” and simply improves them.

Author: Gor Madoyan © All rights reserved.

Translator: Luiza Mkhitaryan