Don Pablo Edronkin

A Brief Reflection On Our Power To Commit Mistakes.




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Something to think about the power to commit mistakes: Repeated errors with silly ideas can destroy empires more effectively than atomic bombs.

It took dozens of centuries for us humans to develop a way to fly like the birds. It takes a couple of minutes to crash an aircraft.

Never underestimate the power of the mind to commit mistakes.

We strive for perfection as an ideal, yet mistakes are part of our nature; we shouldn't feel ashamed of being wrong from time to time. We should be afraid of not learning from our mistakes, of not being intellectually able to repair the damage to ourselves and other that our mistakes might produce. Sometimes it is impossible to repair the direct damage of a mistake; then, the only thing that we can do is to change our attitude, learn not to repeat the mistake and warn others to act differently. But at least is something.

Sometimes it might take a long time to realize that we have erred, but even then we should be committed to repairing what has gone badly. Even a gesture is better than nothing. If we let time go by and never repair our mistakes not only we might be acting unjustly with others, but we would be "improving" our mistakes with practice, making them, the same attitudes, more effective at causing disaster.

Good leadership always require that mistakes do get recognized; many would-be leaders assume that admitting errors is tantamount to showing weakness, but it isn't. Instead, it meas that the leader can improve or change attitudes and avoid repeating the same mistakes at a larger scale under different or larger frameworks of responsibility, and even prevent new ones that might surge as the consequence of a concatenation of attitudes.

That is, if you have two attitudes that are bard right now, and both lead to separate kinds of mistakes, if you don't learn from your experiences, in the future those two attitudes might combine under a different context to produce the same mistakes of today, possibly at a larger scale and with more consequences, but also new mistakes that right now you might not even suspect.

The Inquisition gained a strong foothold in Spain in the year 1492; a few decades later, the same happened in Portugal. Among the victims of the Inquisition, the Jews, either converted - many times forcibly - to Christianity were often the choice, since the actions of the Inquisitors had strong backing of an essentially anti - Semitic public opinion. Among those "New Christians" or "Marranos" as they were called, not even those who embraced their new faith sincerely were safe: The Inquisition targeted the conversos with special zeal.

The problem was that Sephardi Jews were living in the peninsula since the times of the Romans and were integrated into society by countless interfaith marriages, so many among Christians had Jewish relatives and naturally, since the Jews were well established, they were influential, well educated and wealthy (see The Age of Discovery and its Financiers.) That explains in part, while some known descendants of Jews also took part in the structure of the Inquisition. They were rejecting their origins on the basis of fear and the consequences of social rejection.

Also, the monarchs and the Inquisition expected to seize the assets of those wealthy Jews and take advantage of the whole situation. What happened in reality is since to be wealthy in general you have to be smart, those Jews managed to get away from Spain and Portugal with most of their wealth; thus, there was little gold for the crown. But wealth does not consist solely in money, but the ability to get and use it; wealthy Jews always had a strong social network that allowed them to run business smoothly. Once the Jews were gone, they not only took with them their coins, but their intangible networks as well.

The Ottoman Turks were exceedingly happy at these events and even sent ships to the Iberian Peninsula, offering those Jews a free passage to their empire, since they knew that they were qualified immigrants that would bring progress and knowledge. In some countries of Christian Europe happened the same; the Dutch were among those that received large numbers of Jews. In Poland and England happened the same, and even many German cities and towns accepted those Jewish immigrants since they calculated rightly that economic development would follow soon as, in fact, happened.

So, by uprooting the Jewish culture from Spain and Portugal, the Inquisition expected to seize the wealth of their victims but ended up with nothing but gaps in the social structure of Spain and Portugal that could not be filled with their own. People began realizing that it had been a mistake to sack the Jews, yet the authorities - even knowing the fact - did nothing. Meanwhile, the Inquisition continued suppressing ideas, censoring books and threatening people. The collapse of the Spanish and Portuguese empires became an inevitable consequence.

These two empires got destroyed by stupid ideas, not by armies; the will to keep on repeating mistakes proved to be more powerful that an atomic arsenal.

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