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Age of Discovery

agethumbnail_Age of Discovery PB

Age of Discovery –
Navigating the Storms of Our Second Renaissance
By Ian Goldin & Chris Kutarna
Bloomsbury – £10.99

The new maps and media have also transformed financial connections. Finance is always a good place to look for evidence of social change, because it plays a fundamental role in society. We don’t always recognise that role: ‘finance’ is one of those concepts that get used so much, we have a hard time sorting out what it’s really about.

                                                                                            (‘New Tangles’)

In the big picture, the most important wealth gains happen not among the rich but among the poor, for whom increased income assets yield a dramatically different quality of life and powers of choice.

                                                                                             (‘Vitruvian Man’)

Are the above quotes audacious and far-sighted? Or utterly fraudulent and seemingly bonkers? Well if nothing else, many might interpret this book is a testimony to both sides of said argument, and definitely give people a run for their money – fyu pardon ye much used expression.

After all, haven’t a few of us been (t)here before?

The initial Renaissance, governed by the seminal likes of Columbus, Copernicus, Gutenberg and numerous others, redrew the lateral diagnosis of the world, whereby Western civilization shifted from the medieval to the early modern era. Even if such profound change, did came at a tumultuous price: primarily that of social division, political extremism, pandemics and economic turmoil.

Hmm, sounds like the social trajectory of today’s Tory Party – continuing to make people even poorer than they already are. Or ought to be.

Either way, Age of Discovery – Navigating the Storms of Our Second Renaissance is a tempestuous read of the highest order.

Take the following declaration from chapter eight: ”Donald Trump, prophet and doomsayer. He may shock contemporary norms with the seeming originality of his power-taking, but through a Renaissance lens he is an obvious plagiarist. Ever since descending a gold-plated escalator to declare his candidacy for president of the United States, Trump has stolen his lines and stage directions from a populist play-book that is as old as print” (‘Prophets and Bonfires’).

Let it be said that ”lines and stage directions” are not the only thing that Donald Trump has stolen. Other than holding the world to ransom, he has stolen much of America’s future – but far be it for me to misinterpret the intrepid deeds of such a vile human being.

Tread carefully and digest with caution.

David Marx

Age of Discovery

discovery

Age of Discovery –
Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance
By Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna
Bloomsbury – £18.99

If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all (Michelangelo).

To compare the current era to that of the Renaissance might well be a welcome yet debauched conversation piece amid the bars of France as the 2016 European Football Championship kicks off; but to seriously consider such a travesty of history (for that is what it surely is) is way, way off the mark of remote plausibility.

In Age of Discovery – Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New RenaissanceIan Goldin (who is a Professor of Globalisation and Development at Oxford University) and Chris Kutarna (who has a Doctorate in Politics at the same University) attempts to show how western society can ”draw courage, wisdom and inspiration” from the bygone age of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Whether seized by Gutenberg or Zuckerberg, their thesis has essentially been written ”in order to fashion our own age,” wherein ”this Renaissance moment dares humanity to give its best just when the stakes are at their highest.”

Renaissance moment? Surely this is complete and utter bollocks?

In the opening of chapter one’s ‘To Flounder or Flourish,’ the authors write: ”If Michelangelo were reborn today, amidst all the turmoil that marks our present age, would he flounder, or flourish again? Every year, millions of people file into the Sistine Chapel to stare up in wonder at Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Creation of Adam. Millions more pay homage to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Through five centuries, we have carefully preserved such Renaissance masterpieces, and cherished them, as objects of beauty and inspiration. But they also challenge us.”

Too right they do.

What, amid the current, bankrupt euphoria of celebrity culture, is even going to come anywhere near close to the above paintings? Or indeed, the actual Renaissance? Katie Price and her annual, squalid wedding? The Islamic State’s ideology of crass and pointless murder?

In the same chapter, under the sub-heading ‘The Past is prologue,’ they continue with: The present age is a contest: between the good and bad consequences of global entanglement and human development; between forces of inclusion and exclusion; between flourishing genius and flourishing risks. Whether we each flourish or flounder, and whether the twenty-first century goes down in the history books as one of humanity’s best or worst, depends on what we all do to promote the possibilities and dampen the dangers that this contest brings.”

Admittedly, Messrs. Goldin and Kutarana are right about one thing: ”The stakes could not be higher. We each have the perilous fortune to have been born into a historic moment – a decisive moment – when events and choices in our own lifetime will dictate the circumstances of many, many lifetimes to come.”

Indeed, the stakes could absolutely not be higher. And we do all have the perilous (mis)fortune to have been born during a time of nigh catastrophic change – where events and choices in our own lifetime will indeed dictate the circumstances of many, many lifetimes to come.

One need look no further than June 23rd, the day the nation votes on the European Referendum; where many millions of people will no doubt vote to turn the clock back to the dark ages. Or perhaps back to the actual Renaissance itself. Who knows? The frightening trajectory of which will invariably ”dictate the circumstances of many, many lifetimes to come.”

Alas, by the time one has reached the ninth chapter, simply entitled ‘David,’ bucolic bravado has finally subsided and an assortment of clear-cut-telling enters the fray: ”In the developing world, an estimated $1 – 2 trillion per year is siphoned away from public treasures by corrupt officials and cosy monopolists, facilitated by global investors and financial firms in the developed world. In advanced economies, scandals like the five-year diesel emissions fraud uncovered at Volkswagon in 2015, or the twenty-year Libor rate-fixing swindle conducted by London banks until 2012, remind us that people everywhere may cheat when given the incentive and opportunity.”

Key words in the above quote are ”developing world,” which to all intents and preposterous purposes, have nothing whatsoever to do with the Renaissance. Niente. Niks. Nada.

In fact, to compare today’s world with that of the Renaissance, is akin to comparing cement with Simone de Beauvoir.

David Marx