The Century of Renaissance

Great risks and opportunities confront the human civilization; paradoxically it is a time of palpable gloom and of tremendous hope. In some respects we are witnessing the destruction of much that was powerful, the weakening of that which was dominant. Depends on your vantage point ; as a student the teacher is now not either all-knowing nor all-controlling; as a child the parents appear inadequate as guides; as a citizen the state is incapable of providing security of yesteryears; as people of medicine the spread of disease outstrips the discovery of cure ; the ever lethal technology-fed war machines are no longer providers of security indeed feeble deterrents for the armed and angry of our planet; the speed of development in many nations is competing with the strides of poverty. Overarching trends of our times, indeed of this century are the connected crises of politics, of State, of security and of legitimacy.

While globalization, unresolved conflicts, technological revolution, rapid urbanization, depleting income levels, the increasing divide between the haves and have-nots and proliferation of small weapons have generated pressures on existing systems and structures that govern human existence, there are two specific factors that have allowed these pressures to generate crisis. One the inability of the Centers and wielders of power to comprehensively respond to the colossal challenge that these pressures generate and two the gigantic leap forward in human consciousness which now embraces all that occurs on our planet. The information revolution is singularly responsible for this increase in human consciousness. Yet the response to this challenge that this radically enhanced consciousness generates which should have been crafted by the human intellect jointly with a value system has not been forthcoming.

Adhoc reactions more than reasoned and comprehensive responses are have been forthcoming. Indeed if human civilization has to blossom the twenty-first century must be the century of renaissance; a global renaissance where different people bring what is beautiful and is sustainable. Our renaissance cannot belong to a singular people, not to the Europeans , the Middle Easterners, the South Asians…it must be a global renaissance which belongs to the human race.

The European renaissance I would like to remind ourselves was a response to a collapsing political system and dominant degenerate cultural-intellectual context. Renaissance which first began with Italy was a great intellectual and cultural movement of the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; a period in which the Europeans saw the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 Renaissance gained a further impetus because of a number of Greek humanists who moved from Byzantium to Italy. It was marked by a revival of interest in classical literature and the classical ideals. It was a great revolt in Europe against the intellectual sterility of the medieval spirit, and especially against scholasticism, in favour of intellectual freedom and its first sign was a passion for the cultural magnitude and richness of the pagan world. The second period of the Renaissance is marked by a continued zeal for classical study, and by the developmental of a broad learning and the new view of the intellectual life which is now known as Humanism.

Idealism and humanism in a frustrated political and intellectual context were the combined triggers of the Renaissance. Plato’s dialogues deeply influenced the men of the Renaissance. Love and the search for the ‘beautiful’ became a powerful factor that drove the Renaissance. Once in his Symposium Plato assembled at a banquet a number of people, among whom were some of the most prominent men in Athens including of course Socrates. After dining, one by one they spoke in praise of Eros, or Love. Socrates, who as usual gave Plato’s own viewpoint, reports a conversation that supposedly took place several years earlier with the wise woman Diotima. He reports that she opened with a general statement that the desire to create is natural to all mankind. Some men are content merely with begetting children in order "to provide themselves with immortality, renown, and happiness." Other "godlike" men, among whom are the poets and artists, desire to create "beautiful and deathless" offspring embodying "wisdom along with every other spiritual value." And in no uncertain terms she indicates to Socrates her preference for artistic creativity. Such was the artistic creativity that became the spirit of the Renaissance; the heart and the head combined to produce the beautiful moving away from the ‘ugly.’

The demands of our times are no different. If we must prosper as human race then we must consciously leave behind the century of chaos and of destruction and travel the path of renaissance embracing all aspects of human existence; art ,culture, literature, religion, philosophy, commerce, politics and government. The guiding light in renaissance has to be the spirit of compassion and of fair-play. A conscious human race today understands at mass scale the compulsions of fair play and of compassion. The state of the world today requires a renaissance; one that will redefine the culture of power and politics veering it towards humanism that cuts across all religions and ideologies.