The headlines seem pretty positive and exciting – people power has worked in Armenia, stopping former president and wannabe prime minister Serzh Sargsyan from extending his decade-long grip on the throne.
And if I was in primary school, back when I knew Captain Cook didn’t discover Australia because uh-uh it was Dirk Hartog, I’d probably be happy about this news.
But now… well, I’ve read too much history and it always tends towards the collapse of high ideals into venal grasping.
Oh, not in Australia, obviously, where we’ve always maintained our commitment to egalitarianism, the social safety net, affordable housing and recognising Aboriginal people as the original custodians of the continent Hartog nailed his pewter plate to.
But the rest of the world, they can’t be trusted.
Right now, I’m reading a history of Algeria, and I don’t have to tell you that the entire circa-1834 negotiation process between Abd al-Qadir and Louis-Alexis Desmichels was poor form on both sides. Pertinent treaty clauses phrased differently in French and Arabic to allow ambiguity on both sides? Whaaaaa? Am I right? But seriously.
I didn’t know a single thing about Algeria before I started this book, except that it was in the top part of Africa and Beau Geste was partly set there. Now I’m 14% of the way through it, according to my Kindle, and I realise once again that learning a small amount on any given topic just reminds me of how ill-informed I am in that field.
The same goes for Armenia.
I know where it is on a map, I know they have strong genocide-based grievances against Turkey and I know someone who has an Armenian friend called Armineh, which is pretty cute.
Is that enough to justify having a strong opinion either way on the geopolitical implications of a potential strongman leader, with close ties to Russia, stepping down at the behest of his streets-taking people? Can I confidently and straight-facedly appear on a pay-TV news channel to spout my opinion on the reversal of opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan’s arrest and what this signals for the future of the region?
Well, let me answer those questions with a personal anecdote: Back in 2013, at work drinks, I said Syria was going to be bad for a very long time.
So I have form as a pundit, and I’ve read heaps more history since then (spoiler alert: every nascent golden age turns to garbage). Just give me a sec to read 14% of an Armenian history book and a pronunciation guide, then put me on camera, coach!