To promise a miracle in good faith, or even something less, and then it doesn’t happen, is not ‘fake news’ – but to claim afterward that a miracle did happen, when it didn’t, that’s fake news.

Last week, the rich, powerful and famous met for the World Economic Forum’s annual conferences, seminars and networking in the high-up mountain town of Davos, Switzerland, as they have done every January for 46 years. Their stated aim this year was to improve the fractured and uneven world they have made. That was what the founder and executive chairman Professor Klaus Schwab said. Somehow, I tend to believe Schwab’s intentions – although generally I believe less in economists and engineers than in many other thinkers in the social sciences, humanities and other fields.

What about the rest of the speakers and the elite participants, can we believe what they said? No, probably not, they were salespeople, including President Donald Trump on the last day of the eventful week. Besides, the speakers and participants were a mixed cattle of fish, some rotten and some fresh, some with spine and muscles, and some with little more than a heavy underbelly, which they wanted to grow heavier and fatter. Even if the rich decided to share, they would only share as much as they thought was in their own interest. Privileges aren’t given up for free; a fair share can only be obtained through the struggle of needy themselves.

It is not fake news to forecast results, food for thought, from a week of events for thousands of participants and hundreds of formal and informal speeches, plus all the informal breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffee sessions and parties. The communication and dialogue could indeed contribute, at least a tiny bit, to sawing some seeds for improving the fractured and uneven world we live in.

If anything really happened, if the richest and most successful, and shrewdest, businessmen and a few women, actually had contributed to finding some ideas for their visions and means of reducing the gap between rich and poor, in the fractured world, as they theme was this year, that would have been good. Yes, it would almost have been a miracle, because few others than Professor Schwab believed it. And if he really did, maybe he needs to pinch his arm and wake up. Yet, he did try to wake up others, and that was something.

And then, what were the rich and successful all going to Davos for – the economists and the politicians, those who are responsible for having created and are administering the fractured world, even justifying the growing inequalities as a part of creating growth? Maybe they feel that if the capitalists create growth, real or imaginary, in important fields or in totally unimportant fields, then they have done their job? But then some may indeed have begun to worry if it has gone too far, and if not the growing inequality is indeed negative for growth and stability.

True, I believe that some politicians who are genuinely worried about political fallout in their countries, and they may have come to Davos in a hope to get ideas that could help them in finding new ways ahead, realizing, too, that the voters may dump them and find their own ways if they don’t. The promised trickle-down doesn’t really happen as well and as fast as it should. What if the populist movements that we have seen in recent years in USA, France, India, and other countries, become common everywhere? What if the old, responsible parties are rejected and we are up for a time of populism without any ideology or social responsibility? Yes, what if politicians aren’t more socially responsible than the capitalists? After all, politicians are to a large extent exactly there to regulate and clean up before and after the capitalists. The welfare states in the West are indeed possible because the capitalists have done so well, yet, it would have been a disaster if they were also not curbed by the mostly social-democratic politicians.

But why did other groups bother to come to Davos – academicians, civil society organizations, including a few people in art and culture? Well, some may have gone to see the real winter wonderland and hoping to be inspired by that. Some of them may even have been naive enough to believe that there are capitalists with hearts whiter than snow. Besides, they might just find it nice to rub shoulders with the elite. And some researchers and charities would have gone for the opposite reasons, notably to ask impertinent questions to the capitalists and the politicians.

Davos was this year again dominated by those who run the world – maybe to the cliff edge – even if Klaus Schwab had turned more to the political left than before, as some observers said. But he is a cautious German-Swiss, so he doesn’t risk too much, and he, lives within the world the capitalists created and the moderate politicians regulated. Instead of working for real change, capitalists may open up a ‘social window’, such as Klaus Schwab and his wife Hilde Schwab in 1998 did when they established the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, assisting youth and others.

I believe that the Klaus and Hilde Schwab, and many of the economists and politicians that come to Davos every year, have seen the need for alternative development, for more welfare and social support, for giving back to society more than they take out. Yet, they are too careful to follow what they believe is right. Perhaps the world doesn’t change in the right direction, that is, to the left, because there are too many careful people, who think about their daily profit and loss, not the longer-term future? The pillars of society may actually become the opposite in the long run.

Today, the world has the resources – and the duty – and he duty to allow all human beings have a decent life, if we want to develop real ways of sharing, more than charity and zakat. We may not need much economic growth at all. We just need more compassion and care, more inclusion and welfare, more national and international regulations. We need to in find ways and mechanisms to change the fractured world we have.

What is it that is so difficult about making a more equal future for all, not just talk about a shared and interdependent world? We can do it if we want. Next year, I hope that Klaus Schwab will let his hair down (well, I talk about it figuratively). If he did, he would not only be remembered for the impressive annual status-quo meetings in Davos; he would be remember for having made real contributions to real change, to a more democratic and a less fractured world, where we can all share what God keeps giving us – not a miracle, just plain logics.

 

The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with experience in research, diplomacy and development aid.

atlehetland@yahoo.com