Myopic Global Futures Past at Davos

The question of belonging has emerged as a central concern of our times, but it entails the question of global as well as national belonging. The question of belonging somewhere in the world necessarily raises the question of belonging as a part of the world, not apart from it. The 2017 World Economic Forum fumbled this question. Although it was asked, it went wildly unanswered.

The forum, on the whole, was a wash, adding nothing new, but neither conceding globalist pretences. Over the past few days, no big new ideas emerged. No one proposed any bold new directions. The tone was a mix of defensiveness and soul searching. Defensive calls for business as usual were the most ‘visionary’.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres speech, ‘A New Vision for the United Nations’ lacked thinking beyond the old bureaucratic platitudes of more multilateralism and a more independent United Nations.

The ambitious panel, ‘A Positive Narrative for the Global Community’, made no suggestions or proposals for what such a narrative could be. There was also a general awareness that world transformative technologies are on the horizon. Yet, there was only a sense that technology would make change, without a clear image of preferred changes.

Joe Biden called for the international community to restrain a rogue US and defend the liberal internationalist world order, but did not admit the evident limitations of that order and need for world order change. Dreary Dr. Kissinger at least called for an alternative world order, but had no substantive ideas of his own, beyond the need for dialogue, and the need for ideas.

Theresa May’s vision of Britain being apart from Europe but a global actor was the most ambitious, but also the most contradictory. If apart from the EU, what is the globe that Britain would be part of? In closing her speech, she championed globalization to bring ‘security, prosperity, and belonging for all’, but one felt she meant only national belonging, forgetting the question of global belonging in the global world Britain would be a part of.

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