Convivencia: What can the 2nd world teach us?

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BBC FOUR — I have confused you with that, haven’t I? “Second world.” Well, how else can you bring together the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries and the Middle East?

We in the Occidental world have a typically imperial view of these parts of the world. They’re not part of the third world, but their not part of our world either. They are secondary. They can only learn from us, we seem to say.

There’s plenty to support this view.

This BBC show, fronted by Rageh Omaar, is called An Islamic History of Europe shows how much of a conceit that is. Dipping into the 500 years of Islamic Spain it rightly names our Islamic forebearers as:

…renaissance men before the Renaissance.

Pharmacology, pathology, and some of civilisations most enduring medical equipment were developed in this time. Items still used in hospitals for 1000s of years after! Philosophy, jurisprudence. Astronomy. Algebra. Algorithms. Translation of great manuscripts were made from ancient Greek into Arabic, Catalan and Latin.

When Europe was in the Dark Ages the lights of literacy were still burning in southern Spain.

“Convivencia”, living together, was how they described life in Andalusia in the 10th and 11th century.

In some ways it feels more civilised than today.

What has wiped out this historical link from our understanding of the world? How are we taught that things progressed from Classical civilisations to the Enlightenment? We’re not. Or I certainly wasn’t anyway.

And you don’t have to think too hard to realise that we are still at it today. It is the enlightened business that recognises that people don’t have to look and/or talk like us to still represent the future.

But if that hasn’t gotten through to your business plans, culture and strategy. Don’t worry. Some better people than us have been denying it for thousands of years.


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