The main characters of the global game are dealing mostly unprepared with the contradictions of the future world, Claudio Gallo writes.
As the old joke says: capitalism’s centuries are numbered. Everybody knows that Marx’s millenarian predictions went wrong: the New Man didn’t come, and we are still here in a world divided between the haves and have nots, as Hemingway titled his most social novel. But the Western economy’s contradictions are indeed stronger than ever. Take the recent World Economic Forum Global Risks Report. It draws on the views of over 12000 country-level leaders: after two years of the pandemic, the most perceived medium-term risk for societies are “social cohesion erosion“, “livelihood crisis”, and “mental health deterioration”.
Notably, “Social cohesion erosion is a top short-term threat in 31 countries — including Argentina, France, Germany, Mexico and South Africa from the G20”. In the long term, the threat of “involuntary migration” lurks. The majority of the people interviewed judge the efforts to contain or regulate migration and refugee waves as absolutely inconsistent.
You can argue that Davos is “about rich men arriving on private planes to discuss climate change, sexism and inequality” and “most of its predictions are worthless”, as Simon Kuper wrote in the Financial Times. But the reality that our societies are crumbling away before of our eyes is difficult to deny. Instead, the Davos paradox is whether the very elites that create these problems are able or only willing to solve them.
WEF report says that by 2030, 51 more million people are projected to live in extreme poverty compared to the pre-pandemic trend. “Income disparities exacerbated by an uneven economic recovery risk increasing polarisation and resentment within societies”. In the U.S., these divisions are taking a unique and disruptive form. A recent poll in the United States found “division in the country” to be voters’ top concern: they expected it to worsen in 2022. The attack on the U.S. Capitol in January 2021 was one clear sign of the instability that political polarisation risks may create.
You can call it a democracy’s crisis. The Western system, largely symbolic and confined to the theatrical moment of the ballots, seems no more capable of answering the people’s fears. The impact of migration on Western countries is fated to grow dramatically. Davos’ gurus are not reassuring. In the following years: “A bifurcated recovery is likely to prompt an upsurge in economic migration. At the same time, worsening extreme weather and rise in political instability, state fragility and civil conflict, are likely to further swell refugees numbers”.
While in the West, ordinary people were receiving the vaccine booster against COVID-19, the super-rich’s richness was boosted by the circumstances created by the same virus. It is the conclusion of the recent Oxfam report “Inequality Kills: the unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19”. “A new billionaire has been created every 26 hours since the pandemic began — the document says — The world’s 10 richest men have doubled their fortunes, while over 160 million people are projected to have been pushed into poverty. Meanwhile, an estimated 17 million people have died from COVID-19—a scale of loss not seen since the Second World War. These issues are all part of the same, deeper malaise. It is that inequality is tearing our societies apart”.
Everywhere the same sad music. The perception of social decay is faced with mild desperation or the neoliberal choir’s same old song: “there is no alternative”. But, as Noam Chomsky said, in a 2021 interview on Jacobin Magazine, the corporate sector is “running scared”. “They’re concerned with what they call “reputational risks,” meaning “the peasants are coming with their pitchforks.” All across the corporate world — at Davos, and at the Business Roundtable — there are discussions of how “We have to confess to the public that we’ve done the wrong things. We haven’t paid enough attention to stakeholders, workforce, and community, but now we realise our errors. Now we’re becoming what, in the 1950s, was called ’soulful corporations,’ really dedicated to the common good.”
Indeed, the corporate world needs a new mammoth global PR campaign. The Green Economy is ready to be just another example of commodification of every life’s aspect and not the beginning of a more human business’ era. The electric automotive big new frontier rush is not bound to really reduce the global pollution but only to open a new market with many environmental unsolved questions. A ridiculous result of this neoliberal “Greenwashing” wave is the European plans to allow gas and nuclear to be labelled as “green” investments. You can see here Western democracies’ crisis in action: instead of confronting the challenges, they change the meaning of the words.
It is not a surprise that the Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 found a world “ensnared in a vicious cycle of distrust, fuelled by a growing lack of faith in media and government. Through disinformation and division, these two institutions are feeding the cycle and exploiting it for commercial and political gain”.
The Edelman’s Barometer has been polling the world’s nations for years on trust in their governments, media, business and NGO. Today it says that “anger wins the clicks”, creating a “government-media distrust spiral”.
“The public has become widely aware that the media does not play it straight”. “We really have a collapse of trust in democracies,” said Reuters Richard Edelman, whose communications group published the survey of over 36,000 respondents in 28 countries interviewed between Nov. 1-24 of last year. The biggest losers of trust over the previous year were institutions in Germany, down 7 points to 46, Australia at 53 (-6), the Netherlands at 57 (-6), South Korea at 42 (-5) and the United States at 43 (-5). Russia wins the palm of the more sceptical nation. The very fact that countries not famous for their democracy, like China, United Arab Emirates and Thailand, are at the top of the trust’s index may show that their citizens do not share so much the faith in Western’s democratic ideals. They value more a “sense of predictability about policy” a “coherence” among the national leaders that the Western public seems to lack at all. China shows a staggering 83% public trust in institutions. Definitely, optimism about the future lies more in the East than in the West.
The Davos report rightly stresses that our world needs more than ever a “global governance and a more effective international risk mitigation” not only for the Covid’s threat but also to cope with “geo-economic confrontation”. Unfortunately, the numbers are telling a different story. The main characters of the global game are dealing mostly unprepared with the contradictions of the future world. Weak governments of divided European countries face geopolitical crises, as the Ukrainian one, trapped in the old American imperial scheme, entirely against their national interest. The West needs a “colour” revolution, not the East.