The takeaways are still rolling in, like toppings for a pizza. At last count there were ten, each country insisting it had carried the day. Not sure if many of you caught it, but there were some very endearing moments at the just concluded G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. For a start, heads of state and government, all twenty of them buffeted by heads of bilateral and multilateral agencies were furiously looking for an agenda. In between, we saw a very rude United States (US) President Donald Trump wagging his index finger at all and sundry in the country of the genteel and the polite. Between them, these countries drive billions of dollars of the global economy. Scary, right?
His daughter, Ivanka Trump, decided to butt into conversations with French President Emanuel Macron and International Monetary Fund (IMF) President Christine Lagarde who was reduced to rolling her eyes as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (also ignored by most, especially China’s Xi Jinping) looked like he was trying to avoid the camera. What else could Lagarde do – anything else could mean no job back home in Washington two years from now. Maybe.
Not that she is some wallflower herself. On the passing of the King Abdullah Bin Aziz of Saudi Arabia some years ago, Lagarde told the world he was a “discreet” feminist, a comment so gross it brought her much ridicule. The lady has always kept an eye on the economy – hers, for a start.
Speaking of the Saudis, slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s ghost hung over the very official dinner between Trump and Abdullah where presumably the dignitaries had oil soup. Famous people make famous mistakes and say famously foolish things. In Trumps case, it was an absolute delight to watch him admonish Russian President Vladimir Putin with his index finger asking the former not to meddle in US elections as Putting grinned. Do try and catch Trump’s interaction with Putin that went viral to understand how silence speaks a million words.
It’s time to be insolent, dear readers and high time we call out the nonsense that plays itself out in a world that is not just unpredictable, but increasingly poor and heartless. There were leaders who behaved with dignity and douceur the occasion required and this includes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and most Europeans who rarely speak out of turn (hello Ivanka Trump) China’s Xi Xinping and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. It’s called Maryada or manners as defined by the host.
The bad boy according to the Western media was Vlad – you got that right. Vlad. He said western liberalism is obsolete. Starved for headlines and most likely bored to tears, that statement did the rounds for 24 hours as if Putin had said something new. The problem with Anglo Saxon media – especially based out of Washington and London – is they don’t read. Which may explain their strong opinions on all issues.
If there’s one thing the recent elections in the European Union (EU) showed it was capitalism and its uncle globalisation had foisted their failures on the voter. The tenets upon which the continent were built no longer spoke to the people a vast number of whom felt left behind and unaddressed, even disrespected. Putin was overstating his case, but only just. The axis of power is shifting from Washington towards to Eurasia, irrevocably as populations and people rise, read and reclaim.
I use the word uncle. Globalisation was a myth to begin with. It was about free trade in goods, market access, banking and financial services and finally people. In other words when globalisation finally took wings, an Indian should have been able to find a job in London or Brussels except that by the time the promise of that paragraph rolled out, there was a financial crisis in the West and immigration was an issue. People became immigrants with families. In hindsight, it was always meant to be that way because Western nations had tightened immigration laws making it difficult not only for Eastern Europeans to migrate and settle in the west, but certainly large parts of former colonies in Africa were kept out of the loop as Europe shut itself around concentric circles of exclusion. Waters separated the US and the United Kingdom (UK).
Language came to the rescue of the illogical as we were then were told globalisation is female, climate change hurts women most, poverty saps children of their best years and there’s no plan B. Millions of dollars were mobilised for conferences and commas and career paths. Osaka did not make any statement.
Twenty years ago, the G20 summit in Toronto saw mayhem and violence on the streets, the patience of people running out. There were tear gas battles in other parts of Europe when such summits were held. The fact that Osaka passed without incident is not because the world’s leaders are in complete concert – it’s because nobody cares and that is a terrible thing. They are not even relevant to merit our irreverence.
On the one hand we have nanny states wanting to control everything from the Internet to what we eat while on the other, countries are sinking under the weight of their own contradictions. Empathy – that’s the word I was looking for. How much is too much and how much can one country spare to ensure that another gets up on its feet. Why must every conversation be a dispute, whether a trade one or with gunboats and mortar?
Summits like Osaka are vacuous, so far removed from their original mandate that entire generations have been served pale banter. I was left wondering what the Sherpa’s (teams that prepare preliminary documents and notes) were doing considering there were so many photo ops. How many side meeting can you fit into two days and what is the outcome, as the leaders seemed agreed on nothing except snubbing the other every now and then?
Shekhar Kapur, actor-director and one of India’s finest thinkers tweets often under the rubric “Lessons of Life.” Today he wrote: “We have forgotten. Once we worshipped Water. We worshipped Trees. We worshipped Nature. Now we worship Profit. We worship money. We worship consumption. We worship ownership. No wonder we have lost the trust of Mother Nature. No wonder she is turning against us.” Wise words for movers and shakers of the world as they lay the foundations for the second quarter of the 21st century.
There simply isn’t enough in this world for everyone to own the vast quantities we want whether that is nations, people or communities. We have lost self-respect and meetings like G20 only highlight the desperation and desolation that is heaped on us.
No, there was no Love in Osaka. It might as well have been called the summit of the ignored. Now expect US to give India some kind of NATO status. Bad news.
(The views and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Republic TV/ Republic World/ ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd.)