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Question: How can we spur on the next global renaissance?

Parag Khanna: I believe that we’re in a period that does resemble the high Middle Ages. That was a time of great commercial expansion. That was when the royal families and merchant houses of Europe were financing great exploratory voyages. The Silk Road was being built across Eurasia. The first global, at least in the sense of Eurasian trading system was being developed. There were innovations, compass, the double entry bookkeeping, gun powder, a variety of things, so this was a time of great change in a way and that eventually did culminate in the renaissance.

So how is it that we would get from here to there today? I think that similarly we would want to leverage the technological revolution that is underway and that of course means the Internet. It means mobile phones. We will soon, very soon, 5 years, 10 years from now live in a world where every single human being either has a mobile phone or has access to a mobile phone at the family or the village level. That is a tremendous connectivity and empowerment, and it really speaks to the renaissance in the sense of the flourishing of the local, the flourishing of vernaculars, the ability of each person to speak with their own voice and to connect to others, so I really think there is a potential in the current technological revolution to achieve another renaissance.

Another core component of it is psychological. Moving-things like global consciousness, creating capitalism. The awareness that- the mutual awareness that so many people have of each other and of people around the world is an amazing driving force in what could become a global renaissance rather than one that is just about stabilizing the western world or creating a new diplomatic order. There is something much more deep that can happen as a result of the technological revolution and the psychological revolution. If you put those two together I think we know what to do and it’s just a matter of doing it, that would allow us to get to this next renaissance much more quickly than I think we will right now.

Question: What will the world look like during this new renaissance?

Parag Khanna: Right now we’re facing a perfect storm of crises. We feel that we are in the midst of global chaos. There is financial instability. There are resource competitions going on around the world. There is a sense of vulnerability among the poor because of food and resource price spikes and things like this, so clearly this is not a stable environment where every local community feels like they are able to provide for themselves, whether it is a nation or whether it is a village.

So I think that if we were in a new renaissance I think it would look like one where at the community level, where at the provincial level, at the state level there would be a much greater sense of stability, not necessarily of self reliance, but a sense that through the connections that exist in a world of mega diplomacy, in a world of technology that one can get what one needs whether it is through foreign aid groups, whether it is through their own agricultural growth, whether it is through corporate supply chains the sense that one is resilient. The sense that one can fend for one’s self, provide for one’s self. That sense of stability would be the greatest indication to me that we have achieved a new renaissance and it won’t be a new renaissance just of nation states. It will be a new renaissance among a whole different set of communities. It will be religious groups feeling like they are not at war with the State either where they are based or with other states. It will be a sense that tribal communities or indigenous peoples will not be oppressed by the states that they are in. It will be a sense that virtual communities in a way can thrive, their identities can flourish in a transnational way. There will be a very different, very diverse set of identities that will be out there, but they will feel that they can coexist in this way because they can all be stable in and of themselves, but they can all relate to each other and connect to each other.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

More from the Big Idea for Tuesday, November 01 2011


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