Sunday, 22 June 2014

Small World

We keep on hearing about globalisation and stuff, but one thing I keep on noticing at this Brazilian World Cup is how unfamiliar I am with the bulk of brands advertised by the sides of the pitch. I suspect it goes the other way around when a South American is watching the Aussie Open, but the point is still the same: our world isn’t as small as we often think it is.
And that’s probably a good thing.

One of the things I’m most proud of with the project I’m currently working on is the team I’m working with. It is a genuine emblem of diversity, with various nationalities, races and sexes. Only one of the people on the project was born in Australia, and even he is the product of an immigrants’ family. In other words, none of us would qualify as laymen’s Aussies, yet we are all Aussies.
In your face, red necks.
Almost needless to say, this situation creates for interesting scenarios. A few weeks ago we were taking part in one of those excruciating team building efforts. The powers that be decided to divide us into groups designated with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters. This caused one of our team members some puzzlement: what is this Michelangelo tag that they’ve been assigned with?
It took me a while but eventually I figured it out. They had no idea who Michelangelo was (the real one, not the turtle). You see, they are from China; as clever and sharp as they are (reminding me of my younger self, before corporate life spoilt this formerly promising product), they had no idea.
In a few brief sentences I provided your basic Michelangelo introduction, Sistine Chapel and David included, but seriously – can I truly convey what people like Michelangelo meant to the Renascence with a few sentences? No, I can’t.
One can obviously argue for the deficiencies of the Chinese education system. I read/heard it severely restricts history studies, under the assumption that people unfamiliar with history are more likely to let the Communist Party rule continue unopposed. Regardless, given the number of people we are talking about, we have ourselves a huge portion of humanity that is probably unfamiliar with cornerstones of Western culture. And you know what? The same can be said about me and my familiarity with Chinese history and culture.
I don't need to focus on Chinese culture in particular. The World Cup is currently taking place in South America; what do I know about South America and its cultures? Most of what I know of Brazil comes from Michael Palin. In the absence of similar documentaries about the rest of the continent I am truly ignorant about their Michelangelos.
In other words, it’s a small world after all. And that’s probably not a good thing, because with the challenges facing this world it would be good to know we are all able to look at our past and draw conclusions for the future.

Image by Stephen Coles, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) licence

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