Sat 4th Feb 2017
More than ever in human history, we're caught in a tug of war that threatens to destabilise entire populations and even to redefine geo-political and cultural boundaries.
And, surprise, surprise, viewed under a traditional light, the might side claims to be the right side. The winner calls itself Globalisation, though it may be a Pyrrhic victory. Its focus is economic, benefitting people who control what happens in far-away lands. That control is assured by military and other repressive means.
At the other end of the rope, and trying a much different tactic to redress some balance, is a far less muscle-flexing presence. Some call it One-world, or even Populism. This diverse unofficial network encompasses a range of ideas mostly based on commonality. So, given that all peoples of the world share problems of survival, this side exchanges possible solutions using both local and wider knowledge. It's not driven by any economic model. Conflict becomes unnecessary, replaced with cooperation.
The irony is that the actual words dividing the sides might represent the same thing. It's just that the "Globalisation" terminology has been relentlessly applied to itself by the more powerful side. And their interpretations of populism tend to demean it, often implying a lowest common denominator, rather than a plea for a systemic re-examination. Solution seekers are castigated as naive and dismissed with the kind of snigger displayed by 18th century popinjays behind their lace cuffs. That has driven an ideological wedge between those who feel they can and should dictate the shape of things to come, and those who are most severely affected by such a manipulated and dangerous future.
There's no balance. It's a patronising tyranny. A nanny-knows-best, don't worry your pretty-little-head approach. And don't you dare answer back, because I SAID SO! Lower-orders eagerly tug forelocks, "Yessir, sir."
Global in itself is not an economic construct. It's outRageous that it's been high-jacked by those in current control of our allotted worth to them. We're talking those big fish swimming in the mainstream - governments, multi-nationals, the fawning press - you know who! Clearly, for those who believe in preserving a global order, Globalisation seems inevitable. According to a recent pronouncement by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, "arguing against globalisation is like arguing against the laws of gravity."
But is it? Does might HAVE to mean right? And, crucially, can it be creatively circumvented with wit and intelligence?
Before multi-nationals got their mitts on it, 'global' conjured something universally shared, a threat or benefit to everyone on the planet. It was not synonymous with the European focused OECD's definition: "“The geographic dispersion of industrial and service activities, for example research and development, sourcing of inputs, production and distribution, and the cross-border networking of companies, for example through joint ventures and the sharing of assets.”"
However benign the interpretation, that's a statement of pure capitalism with scant regard for the effect on those exploited or disadvantaged by such close control of international economic policies. In fact, by implication, this world order model completely ignores the individual elements that define humanity. I mean those qualitative, immeasurable ingredients of dreams, aspiration based on ideals not bottom-lines, and the generation of ideas which both unite people and allow, even celebrate, their differences.
Instead, Globalisation as used by global traders, can only exist in the land of quantification. Cold-hearted numbers are key. When the measures are defined by those in power, the whole game is skewed. One-world can never triumph. Nowhere and at no time has there been such a compelling focus for such a self-declared capitalist agenda than at this year's Davos gathering.
Before I slam this annual invitation-only event - and be sure, I will! - please consider whether a 46-year-old forum whose slogan reads: Committed to Improving the State of the World, might even just once have been held in a location that more fairly reflects such improvement? Davos speakers and closed-door panellists luxuriate in a closed-off billionaire's ski paradise secure in the heart of economically unaccountable Switzerland, home to the undeclared dosh of many of the participants. Just suppose all those Forum Funds were spent in the Brazilian Favella, or a Dogan mud city in Mali. Just suppose all those BigBiz honchos had to live alongside the garbage scavengers and shacks awash with open sewers. Would they last out the week, let alone imagine the venue as a home for life?
A Post-Hippie Peekaboo
Without examining all the nooks and crannies of the era-defining 1960s, one of the scariest threats perceived by the power-balance elite, was the spreading flame of free thought, fed by hippie music and other cultural influences from California to Greenwich Village to Carnaby Street to Central Europe and back again. This was no anticipated teen rebellion, but a conflagration of cultural unity. The mood on the street was jubilant, hopeful of true change for "improving the state of the world."
But the power elite were melting in the heat. A threat, yes, but they are claspers and grabbers supreme - masters at maintaining their power, no matter what. Their prime weapons were displays of armed might, such as shooting into a crowd of students at Kent State University; and absorbing the threat of rock music, long hair for men, and mini-skirts into mainstream fashion, followed by designer ripped jeans and safety-pin earrings when hippies morphed to punks. Perhaps the biggest weapon was the founding of the European Management Forum, which quickly became the World Economic Forum, ostensibly a nonprofit organisation. And so began a series of annual events pretending world-wide inclusivity, but adhering to the most wealthy nation agenda sewn up by the OECD.
And, just a quick blitz about that Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Its 35 members comprise the so-called Developed World whose two mission planks rest on democracy and the market economy. Its genesis grew out of the post-WWII Marshall Plan, originally supposed to include the Soviet Union, which was crowbarred out. The USSR later tried to form a similar alliance of post-war reconstruction with China and Korea, while America's increasing right-wing agenda-formers were busy branding its wartime ally as a cold-war villain.
The Davos Deception
What's so clever about Davos on paper, and reported in papers, is the rhetoric. Consider the theme for 2017: responsive and responsible leadership. This has been broken down into five key areas: strengthening global collaboration, restoring economic growth, reforming capitalism, addressing the identity crisis which has caused the current populist revolution, and preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Gosh, that sounds like a tasty menu. It was further set to make your delegate mouth water when head chef, China's Xi Jinping delivered the opening speech in his capacity as the first Asian leader to chair the prestigious event. Amid an enthusiasm for the scores of discussion sessions and direct addresses by international leaders, he declared “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.”
Given that China has been positioning itself to fill economic vacuums as capitalist bulwarks crumble, his message for BigBiz was blunt. His keynote speech identified Globalisation as the focus, and a request to provide defences against protectionism. The target couldn't be clearer. Even old war horse Henry Kissinger - that proto-fascist apologist for the political destabilisation of democratically elected countries tagged as America's enemies - even he pronounced Jinping's speech to be of significance. Which, when you think about it for a moment, actually means nothing.
Yes, Davos has in the past played host to such passionate idealists as Green MP Caroline Lucas, musicians Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno, as well as this year's movie star celebrity Matt Damon. But for the most part, Davos sessions are dominated by the same economic celebs making FT and WSJ headlines - so often reporting bad news.
That's one of the baffling things about the side which pretends it holds authority to run the world. They talk a lot of hot air, and their alleged expertise is proved wrong over and over again.
Clues to the disparity between Davos bumf and Davos reality hide in between the lines. Remember, this talking shop's been gabbing for nearly fifty years, yet of the nearly 3000 attendees from some 90 countries, only 18% were women. Which admittedly is up on last year's 17%, but you take my point.
And, of the comparatively few women ready, willing and able to address both public and private sessions, the majority appear to have been invited for a bit of light relief. I admit that among the range of Davos sessions are a few which do appear to explore more creative solutions than controlling investment. Also true are platforms to examine global issues such as air pollution, protecting the marine environment, literacy improvements. But such sessions are marginalised in favour of those with a strictly business agenda.
According to Amie Tsang in the 17 January edition of the New York Times, Davos' organisers have now publicly admitted they cannot continue the annual event applying yesterday's rulebook. Adrian Monck of the executive committee introduced this year's emphasis on inclusive growth and development and reducing income inequality. He explained that was their response "to how capitalism has failed us - and how we need to fix it."
Well, Adrian, love, I've got news for you. Trying to fix a broken capitalist system with the broken tools which built it, is like applying a stun gun to cattle trussed up in an abattoir in order to bring them back to life in the meadow. An ideological fix from the point of view of IMF Director Christine Lagarde, a convicted felon who will receive no punishment, inspires zero confidence as she contributes to panels on an overview of global economy, gender roles in global markets, and presuming to repair what Davos calls "the middle class" crises.
Meanwhile bigtime player Thomson Reuters promotes PACI, the Partnership Against Corruption Initiative, under the aegis of the World Economic Forum. This cross-industry collaboration seeks to rebuild trust with crystal transparency between governments, business leaders, and civil society. PACI declares "The business community is uniquely situated to help unite all elements of society to identify and share innovative ways to develop collective action, deepen our shared understanding of the issues, and prompt change." Oh, really?! Sounds to me like code for how the hell are we going to make more dosh by putting out the word that we're now all clean and tidy.
I might be tempted to believe all this high-faluting bullshit if Davos made permanent room for at least some delegates who subsist below the poverty line throughout all participating nations. If debates weren't always predicated on making capitalism the a priori starting point for how to improve the system. If the overwhelming percentage of invitees weren't from the US and white Europe. And, crucially, if these same delegates so eager to commit big bucks to "Improving the State of the World" hadn't even now been caught out in some very expensive lies.
According to BBC News' Environment reporter Mark Kinver on 27 January, a cogent report by the NGO Bank Information Center [BIC] calls into question the World Bank's lending policy after it was caught with its economic panties down around its ankles. The fund administered by the Bank's Development Policy Finance subsidiaries is used to distribute some 15 billion dollars throughout Indonesia, Peru, Egypt and Mozambique for what sounds like such a worthy aim. Namely, to develop low-carbon solutions and help them attain the targets set at the Paris Climate Agreement.
Except, well what do you know! Those funds have actually gone as subsidies and substantial tax-breaks to companies dedicated to fossil fuel development. Needless to say, the Bank publicly disputes the findings. Just as HSBC disputes revelations that it's been funding the very palm oil companies which continue to destroy precious rainforest habitat, threatening such severely endangered species as Orangutans, elephants, and a basket of biodiversity.
Perhaps it considers them "alternative facts."
But BIC, in collaboration with international groups such as Greenpeace Indonesia and Friends of the Earth, is tasked to holding such capitalist giants as The World Bank to account. And speaking of Greenpeace, it's not the only real alternative.
Where in the One-World?
With global capitalism protected behind its largely hidden fortress of deceit and dirty dealings, is there anything that right-minded people can do and still feel morally clean? Yes, and it needn't cost the earth, in any sense of the word.
If the key drivers are to be non-violence and unity, then it makes sense to identify initiatives already in place, with the opportunity to combine with others. Greenpeace and its allies such as Friends of the Earth, Compassion in World Farming, PETA, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, and the Disaster Emergency Relief Fund are mostly run by informed volunteers to obtain an overview and organise non-confrontational events and protests. And, potentially the most effective is a twenty-year-old international organisation called We, the World.
Their mission as a Movement of Movements is "to maximize social change until we have a world that works for all." In addition to events and campaigns to raise awareness of social problems, We forms alliances and collaborations with a far-more diverse network than the World Economic Forum, to take action for real change for real people. Among We, the World's prestigious spokespeople are Jane Goodall, Reverend Desmond Tutu, and bestselling author Deepak Chopra.
This September We, the World is presenting 11 Days of Global Unity, spotlighting 11 Campaigns for Change as its annual umbrella of global events, coinciding on the 21st, with the UN International Day of Peace. This is no top-down double-dealing Davo dip in the hot-tub of global control. It's proof that the broken system of capitalism does have a hope, not for some half-hearted repair, but a true replacement of dodgy debt sheets for genuine human values. The website is chokka with goodies for the mind.
Let's hope the mainstream media are not too distracted tugging at the Globalisation rope to pay attention to this real winner.