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ALFAZ DEL PI, SPAIN, Jan 17 2012 (IPS) - The self-appointed “World Economic Forum” will meet again in Davos, Switzerland, 25-29 January 2012. We can expect a new load of gratuitous advice to emanate from the meeting. Yet its invited participants were utterly unable to comprehend the September 2008 manifestation of the world economic crisis when they met three years ago. So, what are they going to talk about now?
Lee Howell, managing director of the WEF, ives us a preview in “The failure of governance in a hyperconnected world” (International Herald Tribune, 11 January 2012). The general question he poses is “What risks should world leaders be addressing over the next 10 years?” We would expect the answer to be the massive suffering and indignity at the bottom of world society. “Nearly half of Indians under five are malnourished” (IHT, 12 January 2012). What a shame! We would expect, of course, the take-over of the world economy by the finance economy, with recurrent and worsening crises, starting in the US, spreading, causing, and caused by flagrant inequality. And we would expect global warming and environmental calamities in general caused by economic activity. But what is Howell’s answer?
The “Global Risks 2012” report (Howell is in charge) presents three risk cases with a common theme, “governance failure in a hyperconnected world”. The first is “seeds of dystopia”, the worry that globalisation is not delivering on its promises. Then comes “How safe are our safeguards?” and the issue of whether governance is lagging behind accelerating complexity. And finally, the “dark side” of Internet connectivity, “the potential of terrorism, crime and war”, in the virtual world.
In what world are the authors of such a report living? The top one percent world!
Globalisation could have and could still produce a beautiful world with both genders, the three generations (old, middle-aged, young), the four classes (economic, military, cultural, political), the five races by skin colour (white, yellow, brown, black, red) pulling together, for a life in dignity for all, with sustainable livelihood for human and non-human life and nature in general. The UN agencies come close.
But we know what we have instead: “globalisation” of, by, and for male, middle-aged, upper-class whites -MM-AUWs- the usual suspects. We would hardly expect them to care for much more than their own self-interest, as Adam Smith recommended. There was a built-in dystopia from the very beginning when the term “globalisation” was used to mean the globalising stock exchanges for the finance economy, of by, and for those people.
But, there is a safeguard; how effective it is is another question. The safeguard is the people; the form of governance is called democracy of, by, and for the bottom 99 percent. The Arab Spring, the Indignant ones, Occupy Wall Street, and similar movements. Of course, they have been spied upon by the top 1 percent, using CIA-FBI and its clones all over the world. But it is remarkable that no single contact with the Occupy Movement by any leading US politician has been verified, nor by the powers-that-be with the other protest movements. Nor by the authors of the “Global Risks 2012” report addressing virtual world threats. We take note of their concern for crime, meaning above all theft. Theft is more of a concern for the haves than the have-nots. The latter live and suffer in the real world as a result of the governance exercised by the haves, the 1 percent world. Maybe it is worth focusing on the have-nots?
Terrorism is a problem, but until discussion includes state terrorism it is meaningless. States still consider waging war their right, maybe in response to the perverted logic of the UN Security Council in which there is no veto power for the huge Islamic world. Imagine if the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation had a veto and the top 1 percent had heeded the 15 February 2003 outcry against invading Iraq in March, heard from 600 places around the world and 15 million people -the closest to a world public demonstration yet. If they had, governance from below would have shown itself to be an effective safeguard. Thus the answer to the Howell’s second topic is clear: yes, governments are lagging behind -behind the people.
Today the real-world clouds are darker than ever. How are the top 1 percent going to handle the US, which has attacked more countries and peoples than any other, mainly in defense of a special type of hyper-connection: hyper-capitalism? It still has a monopoly on the world reserve currency exercised by a club of private banks, among them the worst culprit in the finance economy coup, the Federal Reserve. How are they going to handle the US’s hold on the rating agencies, and growing inequality, from their comfortable seats at the top?
Answer: the same way as the feudal aristocracy in 18th century France -by not handling it. They may deplore the lack of concrete proposals from below, including from the World Social Forum. But maybe awareness comes first. And mobilisation. Some well-chosen confrontations. And, maybe the complexity -we agree on that term- demands complex, pluralistic solutions, respecting the immense diversity of the planet, not a handful of catchy slogans for running the whole world the same universal=Western way they are used to. Maybe the world is also the sum of a myriad of diverse, local, autonomous worlds. Maybe even Davos could become one of them, and not a museum, like Versailles. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
(*) Johan Galtung, Rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University, is author of “The Fall of the US Empire-And Then What?”
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