Features Australia

Davos Man on life support

(Can someone switch off the damn machine?)

19 March 2022

9:00 AM

19 March 2022

9:00 AM

I attended the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland just the once. It took me several years to recover.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a picture-perfect location and the infrastructure that has sprung up to accommodate the many Davos men (and a few gals) and the sycophantic hangers-on is impressive. But if the stench of hypocrisy were at all toxic, I and the many other attendees would have died on those picturesque slopes.

There were just so many aspects of the conference that any rational, intelligent human being would baulk at. Like Russian oligarchs and US billionaires, having flown in on private jets, banging on about the dire problem of wealth and income inequality.  Like evil African dictators and island dwellers screaming about climate change and the need for immediate compensation from the West.

Like the consistent propaganda about the benefits of unbound globalisation no matter how unsavoury some of the leaders of the countries involved in the group-hug.

From my point of view, probably the worst aspect of the whole event was the fawning and unquestioning approach taken by most of the assembled journalists and commentators. You have to understand, Davos is a gravy train and those who have been invited (and paid for by their employers) regard themselves as being privileged to be there.

No objections are raised about the colour-coded press passes that provide degrees of contact with the rich and famous – so much for fighting inequality. Some of them even involve themselves in the childish endeavour of spot the celebrity.

(I am the first to admit that popular culture is not my strong suit. I could have collided with Bono or Angelina Jolie and not realised. Who is Bono again?)

Most of the journalists and commentators, who are housed in a separate barn-like building away from the main conference centre, simply swallow the guff served up to them. They churn out puerile pieces about the wonderful ‘reform/reset’ initiatives being discussed by the hand-picked elites, headed by the indestructible Klaus Schwab who got the whole thing rolling.

I am pleased therefore to announce that Davos Man (and the whole edifice surrounding the World Economic Forum) is now on life support. Trapped by the despicable embrace of the worst dictators in the world and kowtowing to woeful world leaders/business types/celebrities/civil society apparatchiks, poor old Schwabby – who has become a very wealthy man on the basis of this long-running talkfest – and his pals need to realise their heyday is behind them.

Let us not forget here that Vladmir Putin gave a special address – by Zoom, it has to be admitted, because of Covid – to the Davos Agenda 2021. That’s right – 2021. Putin had been a fairly regular presence at the annual confab in that quaint village in the Swiss Alps over the years. There was only one year (post-Crimea) when there was a bit of a kerfuffle over whether or not he should be invited.

And who should be the opening keynote speaker at this year’s remote Davos conference? You guessed it, that other freedom-loving dictator, President Xi Jinping of China.  The theme of his address is that we need to discard a Cold War mentality. This could be quite hilarious if it were not so serious.

Here are some of his other key points:

  • Amidst the raging torrents of a global crisis (Covid), countries are not riding separately in some 190 small boats, but are rather all in a giant ship on which our shared destiny hinges. Small boats may not survive a storm, but a giant ship is strong enough to brave a storm.
  • Economic globalisation is the trend of the times. Though the countercurrents are sure to exist in a river, none could stop from flowing to the sea. Despite the counter-currents and dangerous shoals, economic globalisation has never and will not veer off course.
  • We should never grow the economy at the cost of resource depletion and environmental degradation, which is like draining a pond to get fish; nor should we sacrifice growth to protect the environment, which is like climbing a tree to catch fish.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That the person responsible for drafting this florid bilge should be sent to the same re-education camps that the Uighurs are sent to (which don’t exist, obviously). My particular favourite is the last quote: black is white and white is black.

But let’s be serious for a moment. The reality is that globalisation is now in full retreat given the West’s sanctions on Russia. In all likelihood, these sanctions, which harm the Russian economy but also those imposing the sanctions, are likely to remain in place for some time.

Three oil majors – Shell, BP and Exxon-Mobil – have already lost a cool $US30 billion-odd on their assets located in Russia. Having spent literally decades grovelling to various vile Russian presidents and powerful bureaucrats and oligarchs, these companies did their dough in a matter of days. Russia has been effectively gifted these energy assets, without a rouble/dollar exchange taking place. To be sure, the loss of their technical expertise and bespoke equipment will eventually take its toll, but it’s not such a bad deal for Putin.

And when you hear ‘rules-based order’ next time, pause to think what does this really mean? These are the Davos rules, the rules established by the elites seeking even more billions. That China was admitted as a member of the World Trade Organisation when it was – way before it met the criteria for admission – was just part of the push for a ‘rules-based order’ type of globalisation.

Mind you, adherence to the rules is very much in the eye of the beholder as well as a day-to-day proposition. Take the case of China imposing sanctions on Australian coal, barley and wine, among other goods. Was this within the rules? Is being pissed off at the mere suggestion of an inquiry into the sources of Covid-19 sufficient for China to flout the rules? By the way, international law is basically an ‘intellectual rort’, to use Helen Dale’s fine description.

Hopefully, it’s farewell Davos Man and hello to those who regard economic and personal freedom, as well as national and energy security, as the highest priorities of sovereign countries. But while he may be in intensive care, let’s just watch. There is a still a lot of money at stake – for instance, in relation to the decarbonisation panic. So the advocates of unbridled globalisation won’t give in easily.

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