Skip to comments.Davos man's death wish
Posted on 02/03/2005 5:52:11 AM PST by white trash redneck
Davos man is mainly white, middle-aged and European or Anglo-Saxon. Of course, some of the participants at this year's five-day meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain resort were Indian, Chinese, African or/and women. But they continue to be a minority. The dominant culture of Davos remains that of white western man.
Samuel Huntington, who is credited with inventing the term "Davos man", argued last year that members of this global elite "have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite's global operations". Piquantly enough, his article was published in a journal called The National Interest.
William Browder, the head of the Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management fund, would seem to bear out Huntington's contention. "National identity makes no difference to me," he told Time magazine. As if to demonstrate this, he took British citizenship in 1998. "I feel completely international. If you have four good friends and you like what you are doing, it doesn't matter where you are. That's globalisation."
It's a lovely idea - a kind of capitalist communism. Not "the worker has no country" but "the venture capitalist has no country". Yet I must say that Mr Browder, when I met him briefly in the teeming Davos congress centre, and heard him speak at one of the discussion sessions, struck me as very American. His accent, body language and style of dress, his no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase conversation all bespoke a powerful national culture. As, incidentally, does Harvard's Professor Huntington.
If anything, at this year's Davos the Americans seemed more American, the Europeans more European and the British more than ever torn between. At a lunch with the leaders of some of the world's largest multinational firms, the suppressed tension between Americans and Europeans was palpable. When I described worldwide hostility to George Bush at the opening of a BBC World debate, the Republican senator John McCain and the Democrat senator Joseph Biden both jumped on me with acerbity for European "Bush-bashing". Senator McCain insisted that Bush is not "a jerk" - although that was not language I or anyone else had used.
At a discussion towards the end of the forum, another senior American politician poured out an emotional lament. He had "taken his stripes" for three days, he said. The general message he received was that "Americans are barbarians". To hear him talk, you would have thought he had spent three days with street activists from CND or French anti-globalisers, not up the magic mountain with the global business elite. Europeans, he went on, had to understand that diplomacy without the credible threat of military force is a debating society. When Iraqis turned out to vote in large numbers on Sunday, Europeans should understand the good that America was doing in the world.
He emanated a raw sense of hurt at the US never being given credit for anything it did right. To my surprise, a liberal American friend, committed to translatlantic partnership, joined in to say she sometimes felt the same way after conversation with Europeans.
Reflecting on these exchanges, a shrewd American suggested that the danger is no longer US "physical isolationism" but rather "psychological isolationism". Americans, he argued, live increasingly in a different psychological reality to Europeans. No longer bound by the great common enemy - the Soviet Union - we see even those things that threaten us both, such as international terrorism or global warming, differently. Even when we use the same words - "freedom", "democracy", "human rights" - we don't mean the same thing. We may both want to call a spade a spade, but to some of us it looks like a fork. Those who try to translate from American to European and back again, like Tony Blair, find their tongues stretched to breaking point.
I have argued that this divorce is far from inevitable. A sober analysis of the long-term vital interests of Europeans and Americans shows they are largely coincident or, at the least, complementary. Condoleezza Rice, the new US secretary of state, is coming to Europe this week to seek common ground, followed by Bush later this month.
Moreover, a liberal intellectual in New York still thinks and talks more like a liberal intellectual in London than like a member of the American religious right. The polemics between red and blue America are as fierce as any across the Atlantic. And blue (that is, liberal) America looks with hope to Europe. On my website, listed at the end of this column, one blue American reacted to the re-election of Bush by humorously calling for Europeans to invade the US to save the country from "Christian theocratic fascism".
Yet I was worried by what I saw in Davos. After all, the businesspeople here are (to this extent, Huntington is right) among the most international around. They represent companies that all have major interests on both continents. The paradox of the decade-and-a-half since the end of the cold war is that while the political relationship across the Atlantic has weakened, the economic relationship has become stronger than ever, through cross-ownership and investment. Yet still emotions run so high.
Four more years of such a "dialogue of the deaf", plus another major transatlantic crisis, perhaps over Iran, could prompt a psychological coalescence in two continental camps. Blue America could move closer to red America in its wounded pride, while so-called "new" Europe would converge with "old" Europe in self-righteous indignation.
The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann's great novel set in Davos, shows how the economically interdependent pre-1914 Europe, knitted together by a sophisticated international elite of aristocrats, businesspeople and, not least, monarchs, was torn apart by national prejudices and ideological arguments, such as between the secular humanist Ludovico Settembrini and the Jesuit Leo Naphta. It ends with its young hero, Hans Castorp, plunging into the gunfire of 1914 - the beginning of western civilisation's second thirty years war, and an orgy of European self-destruction that culminated in Auschwitz.
So Davos man has a troublesome pre-history of combining brilliance and stupidity, of being blinded by national and ideological prejudice to his own long-term interest and destroying with one hand what he has built with the other. If Europeans and Americans repeat at the beginning of this century the mistake that Germans and French made at the beginning of the last, I don't think that this idiotic descent will end in another war within the west.
But it will hasten the rise of the east. The Chinese and Indians present in Davos watched with sharp, ironic eyes as the Europeans and Americans irritably indulged what Sigmund Freud memorably called "the narcissism of minor differences". Astutely, they said nothing but observed all, quietly conscious of their growing economic power. If the west goes on playing Hamlet, then Asia, like Fortinbras, will inherit the kingdom.
interesting read. bookmarked for future ref. thanks.
They have not come to grips with this turn of events. The Euros believe all of the propaganda they have been spewing out about the EU over the last decade - much of which is certainly unfulfilled and most likely will never be.
America must turn its focus to Asia. That is where our future will be decided.
But, of course, to do that they would have to admit that they are wrong, and not only are they wrong, every thing that the believe is wrong.
It is a hard pill to swallow.
Note how Ash also sets up a false dichotomy between "liberal intellectuals" and the "religious right," artfully ignoring conservative intellectuals or even the fact that as a political, cultural and social movement conservatism is much more thought out and "intellectual" (in the true sense of the term) than is modern "Liberalism."
We Indians will quietly wait for our time to come. Maybe America can just abandon the sinking ship called "Europe" and concentrate more on Asia. Europe is history, tomorrow's sun shall shine on Asia.
The mooselimbs will take care of the "Davo" man and woman.
They are too comfort driven, stingy, unmanly to have proper militaries so they do battle with us in the Euro-created World Court, the UN and WTO type trade agreements. Where they seek to leverage the only power they have, economic. Where they pump their holier than thou morality.
The UN is where they get Muslim and 3rd world kleptocrats and thugs to gang up with them against the United States of America
Europe is a strange little ,iddle class parody of the 18th golden age of 19th century Europe - the so called "Bella Epoch." It is, in a way, a cargo cult.
It may turn out after all the the 21st century will in fact be the "American Century," and that century will see the emergence of a truly native America civilization that only be lineage has European elements.
Certainly, if America leads in the colonization of the solar system, its impact on the world will but increase. IMHO, this movement of real, work-a-day civilization off world will in the end be the great accompishment of our new century. And it could well be that Asia plays a larger role in this than Europe. It is my guess that, barring a collaspe of American society, that America will play the central role in this great historical leap.
So I would not count America down and out just yet - we keep surprising the world about this, and do so from generation to generation.
But, yes, India will certainly eclipse Europe by mid century provided that they can hold together internal political, ethnic and other demograqphic strifes, broaden wealth in the country and give a stake in the future for all Indians. I doubt that India will fail at this, but it will be a challenge.
BUt you are certainly rightL America;s future is to be found in Asia, not in Europe.
be lineage=by lineage
Noit proof reading very well this AM
I don't think that India will be the focal point in the future; in fact I see more of a transnational future where the focus is more on "types" of individuals, perhaps related by membership in some type of transnational organization. I think that the "nation-state", as we have known it, is losing influence and being replaced by various types of "transnational organizations held together by constructs such as religion, educational level, etc. Martin Van Creveld's book, The Rise and Decline of the Nation-State, explains this idea in great detail, and I agree with him. An example of a transnational organization, religiously based is... well you get the picture.
I have no doubt that you are correct that India will solve these problems. I think my remarks still stand.