Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
It never leaves a favourable impression when the super-rich tell the rest of us how to save the planet. The annual bash in Davos turns this virtue posturing into an art form. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is the event's official title. And the theme this year? ‘Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in an Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. What the f**k does that mean? Answers on a postcard, please.
Every year, the self-proclaimed great and good gather in the Swiss mountains to blather about the world’s problems. In the process, they wash their guilt away in the pristine mountain air. Unfortunately for them, a stench of hypocrisy hangs over this orgy of self-indulgence.
In attendance are about 3000 folks: the majority European men, and amongst them a fair number of tax dodgers. Topping that list is Saint Bono, the patron saint of sunglasses, virtue signalling and crap rock. Joining him are a multitude of billionaires, dodgy politicians, and royalty. Prince William put in an appearance, and David Attenborough spoke. I also note Jane Goodall, the primatologist and anthropologist, was present. I can only assume to study the antics of the most alpha of alpha males.
Jane must be disappointed that Trump stayed away, as did President Xi and Putin. The opportunity of watching this lot interact could produce a lifetime's worth of deliberations. Better than watching chimps go to war.
Of course, Bono and his mates expressed concern about global warming and pollution. In an acknowledgement of this did they opt to arrive by bicycle, hybrid car or train? No, they deployed 1,500 private jets.
Saint Bono treated us to his views on capitalism and how we need to tackle poverty. Here’s an idea for addressing poverty. Bono pay your taxes. The Paradise Papers saga pulled back the veil on the deceit that is Bono. In short, he and his mates used elaborate deals that shifted their money around to avoid tax. That he fronts up at Davos to lecture on poverty is absurd in the extreme.
Don't confuse Davos with an egalitarian event. Even amongst the elite, there is a pecking order. A tiered badge system has the very top folks issued a white badge with a hologram. Journalists get a yellow badge that is easy to spot and so avoided. Individual rooms are out of bounds unless you have a white badge.
The WEF defends itself “we created a shared space for peer-to-peer conversations and that the key was to get leaders to realise they have a shared interest in the problem.” Wonderful words. It’s just that action appears thin on the ground. Insiders portray the event as one massive party disguised as an important deliberation. What emerges of benefit is not evident.
Could I suggest that ‘shared space’ would be more credible if the forum adopted an African township or a rustbelt city as its venue? Unlikely, because the participants need high-end hotels and don’t want to rub shoulders with real poverty.
It’s worth pointing out that the WEF is a club that you pay to join, although they make great play of inviting certain people to speak. Do these invitees get a white badge?
Without irony the 'white badges' discuss how the poor should change their lifestyles to avoid climate change. That stench is rising above the Swiss mountaintops.
I suspect the game may be up for Davos; without Trump and Xi Jinping in the house, it garnered less attention. Also, the rich folks are beginning to recognise Davos exposes them to ridicule. For the most part, the corporate elite now treats it as another business meeting.
Our own Chief Executive attended boosting about inclusiveness in society. She failed to mention she’s treating the elderly poor with contempt or the massive wealth gap in Hong Kong. She didn’t show pictures of old women collecting cardboard to scratch a living. No mention either of people sleeping in MacDonalds because housing is so expensive. Davos is the perfect forum for Carrie Lam because you can get away with talking nonsense.
The one highlight of this years event came from guest speaker Rutgers Bergman. He's a Dutch historian. As the week went on, he grew annoyed at the attitude of the 'white badges' to his suggestion that they need to pay their fair share. In his final panel discussion, he went for it. He told the audience they must stop avoiding their responsibility to pay tax. This idea didn’t go down well. But, it made Bergman an instant sensation in the real world.
Davos is starting to look tired and irrelevant. That stench may be a rotting body. Anyway, I’ll check in next year for more lectures from pop stars and the super-rich about how I should behave. Meanwhile, they’ve jetted off into the sunset with their ego's soothed.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.