Caucasus Cowboy: “Dirty Hovik” measures out consumer complaint, Armenian style

I’m watching a news clip from Iraq, or perhaps another of too many war zones. There are military tanks in the street, with steel wheels and steely-eyed boy-men with nervous fingers in easy reach of death triggers.

Attached near the gun turret is a flashing blue light, like you find on cop cars.

Here’s the moment of clarity: “Dear God, please let me never live in a neighborhood where gun machines are so common, they need a flashing blue light to gain attention.”

I figure it this way: Whether I’m on the Ashtarak Highway or the LA 405 or High Street or the Autobahn, if I look in my rearview and see a Bradley on my bumper, that thing don’t need no stinking emergency flasher to get me to move out of the way.

Such things considered, and with the exception of the occasional water canon at political rallies, Armenia is a right fine place to call home.

Then I have to reflect on this: I live in a country where the Minister of Culture carries a gun. Where is the culture in that?

I should say the former Minister of Culture. After Hovik Hoveyan pistol whipped a couple of attendants at a Yerevan power station during the holidays, he at least had the, shall we say “culture”, to resign his elegant post.

To recap: On New Year’s Eve the electricity went out temporarily in the building where Hoveyan lives in central Yerevan. It happened again January 4 when, according to a spokeswoman at the Electric Distribution Networks, a power source had to be switched. Should have taken about 15 minutes the woman said.

It wasn’t only the minister whose holiday feasting was interrupted. Others in the building lost power too. It’s not an unusual thing and was put in perspective by one of the neighbors: “We called. They said there has been damage, but we didn’t go (to the station). Who likes going to the network’s office during the New Year days, when it’s so far from our place?”

Hoveyan later said he wasn’t too keen on rushing out to raise a raucous to get his power restored – especially since he’d been ill and had a fever. But, the minister’s son and some bully pals were eager to put a whuppin’ on the minimum-wage miscreants whose inefficiency put the pork roast in the dark. The minister said he went along to try and keep the “discussions” civil.

And, of course, he took his pistol. What authority does a Minister of Culture (and Youth Affairs) have, if he ain’t packing heat?

I make my living off irony. But that aside, am I the only one who finds this slightly off the scale?

(Before you dismiss me as an anti-gun nut: 1. I am a nut. 2. I am anti-gun. 3. I am not an anti-gun nut. My daddy often carried a pistol. I only saw him show it once, when a man threatened my dad’s dog. And in my dad’s defense, “Speck” the pointer was a dang good bird dog – perhaps worth doing time for. As far as I know he never put the gun to use on any living thing other than varmints and one or two curs with a taste for livestock blood. My old man was nobody’s minister. But he understood discretion.)

Hoveyan said he used his pistol on the heads of two power station workers because he, the Minister of Culture, was protecting his son (who, daddy’s protection notwithstanding, had engaged in a brawl in an effort to sort out the power issue that had darkened the season of peace on earth and goodwill to men).

Apparently the minister found it perfectly within bounds to use a firearm to get his lights back on. Otherwise, why was he carrying it? God knows what the man might have done if we were still in an energy crisis. (The source of the pistol has not been revealed, but this episode reminds of the November situation when a mayoral candidate in a nearby town shot to death an opponent, using a pistol given him by the Prime Minister.)

More troubling than the weapon, is the arrogant mentality represented. Which is this: Men of power do whatever they want here. And they get to be men of power by exercising the very disregard for decency that Hoveyan demonstrated.

If this is how men of leadership behave, what can be expected of those they govern?

They should at least wear flashing blue lights so we can see them coming . . .