Davos: The 1% world

By Johan Galtung

From Alfàz del Pi, Spain

We are heading for a new load of advice from the self-appointed “World Economic Forum”, still having fresh in mind their utter inability to come to grips with 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, in “The failure of governance in a hyperconnected world”, International Herald Tribune, 11 Jan 2012, gives us a preview. General question: “What risks should world leaders be addressing over the next 10 years?” We would expect, of course, the massive suffering and indignity at the bottom of the world society: “Nearly half of Indians under five are malnourished (IHT, 12 Jan 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 USA, spreading, causing and caused by flagrant inequality. And we would expect global warming and environmental calamities in general caused by economic activity. Now, what do we get?

The “Global Risks 2012″ report (Howell is in charge) presents three risk cases with a common theme, according to them, “governance failure in a hyperconnected world”. That there is some failure somewhere is obvious, that the world is connected is obvious, whether the term “governance” captures it might be problematic. But, let us first have a look at the three risks they focus on.

They are “seeds of dystopia”, the worry that globalization is not delivering on its promises. Then comes “how safe are our safeguards”, that governance is lagging behind accelerating complexity. And then the “dark side” of Internet connectivity, “the potential of terrorism, crime and war”, in the virtual world.

In what world do authors of that kind of report live?

The 1% world. Of course, there could be a beautiful globalization with both genders, the three generations (old, middle-aged, young), the four classes (economic, military, cultural, political), the five races by skin color (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: “globalization” of, by and for the males, the middle-aged, the economic upper class and whites, the MM-AUW, the usual suspects. Nobody in their right mind would expect them to care for much more than themselves. In other words, to expect that kind of globalization to promise anything beyond self-interest, the Adam Smith recommendation, smacks of naïveté. There was a built-in dystopia from the very beginning when the term “globalization” was used for globalizing stock exchanges for the finance economy, of by and for those people.

But, there is a safeguard; how safe is another question. The safeguard is the people; the governance is called democracy of, by, and for the 99%. The Arab Spring, the Indignant ones, the OWS-Occupy Wall Street and may other places. That the MM-AUWs have been spying on them using CIA-FBI and its clones all over is not to be doubted; but no single contact with the Occupy Movement by any leading US politician has been registered, nor by the powers-that-be with the other two. Nor by those who made the report, the virtual world threats. We take note of the concern for crime, meaning above all theft. Theft is from those who have something, hence a concern more for the haves than the have-nots. These live and suffer in the real world due to governance exercised by the haves, the 1% world. Maybe it is worth focusing on?

Terrorism; a problem. But where is state terrorism in that formula. That states still consider the war option as their right, maybe be guided by a perverted Security Council without veto power to the huge Islamic world. Imagine that a veto existed, by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, and imagine the 1%’ers had heeded the Feb 15 2003 voice against invading Iraq in March, from 600 places around the world, by 15 million people–the closest to a world public demonstration we ever got–well, then governance from below would have been the safeguard. Yes, governments are lagging behind, behind the people.

And today the real world clouds are darker than ever.

Thus, how are the 1%’ers going to handle the country that has attacked more other countries and peoples than any other, and 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 culprits in the finance economy coup, the Federal Reserve. How are they going to handle the US hold on the rating agencies? And the growing inequality, from comfortable seats at the top?

Answer: the same way as feudal aristocracy in France in the 18th century; 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? Mobilization? Some well chosen confrontations? And, maybe the complexity, we agree on that term, demands complex, pluralistic solutions, respecting the immense diversity of the world, 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.

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