On Coronavirus, Armenia’s President Cites Legendary Saladin — Nothing & Everything
In an international webinar call on the “Post-pandemic World Order: Transformation Scenarios,” Armenian President Armen Sarkissian compared our battle to the battle for Jerusalem in the twelfth century. President Sarkissian, who is also a world renowned physicist, computer scientist and global statesman, insightfully made reference to the legendary leader Saladin, who directed the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader armies, when he was the de facto Caliph of Islam.
Sarkissian, who was hosted by Armenian-American innovator Armen Orujyan, founding CEO of Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST) in Yerevan, first set up the battle we are facing worldwide. He suggests that in many countries, the pressure on citizens is becoming less controlled (loosened) but that the coronavirus is still there, and is very dangerous. In Armenia, there are 100 new daily infections being reported. “It won’t disappear next week, so we must continue to be serious. But through self discipline, we will win the battle,” he encourages.
Strongly warning that this pandemic is much more complicated than just a “medical and health issue,” Sarkissian underscored that the Covid-19 battle is much like the battle for Jerusalem, offering, “In 1187, after many lives lost and a heavy battle, the Christian-held city of Jerusalem was about to fall to Saladin’s army. Negotiations were held between Balian of Ibelin and Saladin.” Saladin preferred to take Jerusalem without any more bloodshed, but those inside refused to leave the holy city, vowing to destroy it in a fight to the death rather than see it handed over peacefully. But after consulting his council, Saladin proposed peace and handover terms that were agreeable to Balian.
In the Ridley Scott epic movie, Kingdom of Heaven, which brilliantly captures this battle, after the two adversaries agree terms, Balian presciently asks, “What is Jerusalem worth?” Saladin replies, “Nothing.” He steps away, then stops, smiling and adding quixotically, “Everything!”
From a rational secular viewpoint, Jerusalem the city as a geographic location, as cold stone, was almost worthless — Nothing. But from a spiritual and emotional viewpoint, Jerusalem was — Everything.
As a result, Sarkissian adds: “What is this virus — we’ve been having them for thousands of years — and more people probably died from pandemics in the Middle Ages than now. So, as another virus, it’s ‘Nothing.’ But the world has changed. ‘Everything’ has changed. Because the world has changed, we’re globalized and interlinked, with crowded huge cities and malls. We move very fast, with huge numbers traveling. So, it’s the same story, the pandemic is nothing, another virus. But today it has become everything because our world has changed in a short period of time. And, this pandemic is having and will have a huge impact on economies, culture, health care, future plans. The coronavirus is one of the consequences of our changed world. It’s nothing but it’s everything!”
The Zen paradox and tragedy of the human condition summed up in two words.
As for President Sarkissian’s host, Orujyan’s FAST is an exciting rapidly growing organization with a focus on entrepreneurial endeavors. As a nation, Armenia has a number of inherent assets, including a strong science base, a large Armenian diaspora and traditional national values that emphasize education and skills. So, FAST empowers innovators to bring cutting-edge, commercially viable and globally competitive solutions to life. For example, Orujyan says, “We are already creating opportunities on our side — we launched grants for biotech and for AI, to have top scientists work with our young innovators here. But we need to have even more programs for young scientists to mix with the global brain power out there.”
The President was one of the co-creators of the 1991 Tetris spinoff game Wordtris, and even suggests that “the time of smart games is coming and they will matter, as educational games will be more important.” Sarkissian agrees with Orujyan that we are now entering a new world, and that exciting and developing technologies like artificial intelligence will actually help us identify new viruses quicker.
But he cautions that jumping to conclusions about exactly how our world will look post-Covid-19 is “premature,” adding, “The old ideas will be washed away by this virus. This is a message from god that something is wrong on this planet. The world will not be the same as before — we cannot go back. The coronavirus is one of the consequences of a changed world. The virus is also a TEST for us all as individuals; as families — living in a small flat, how will they survive; a test about how good you are as a neighbor, a test of how friends work together; a test of humanity, and how culture (theater, music, cinema) is experienced; a test for businesses that are suffering hugely; and, for Governments. With or without the virus, the world is already moving to huge change. So, for sure, the world will be dramatically different. Pandemics will come, and we must be ready. But, if we want to succeed, we have to change ourselves!”
The optimistic President concludes, “The most important things in our lives will happen in our future. This pandemic is tragic and a huge difficulty. But the future can be wonderful if we handle it right and learn lessons about life and Nature.”
Indeed, if we learn from—Nothing, Everything.
This Futures Studio webinar was organized with FAST — drop in for grant and other opportunities. And, author/blogger Ashley Jude Collie’s new sci-fi, dystopian novel, REJEX, is available on Amazon (US) and Amazon (UK), and Amazon worldwide.