Astana: Bad Impressions

I think you should go read Jamais Casio’s post Astana: Impressions, then I think you should go read Casio’s live tweets from the final round table of politicians, Nobel laureates, CEOs and media figures.

“The most notable part of the event was the roundtable discussion on the final night, bringing together political leaders (current and former Prime Ministers and Presidents), a half-dozen Nobel Prize laureates in economics, a couple of executives and a couple of media figures to talk about the world’s economic situation. About a quarter of the way in, I started “live tweeting” the event — I simply couldn’t believe what was being said, and I knew that others would have the same kind of aghast reaction.” – Jamais Casio

“Again, a single telling example: in the 90 minutes of the discussion, unemployment was mentioned once (about 45 minutes in), and briefly, while inequality or similar concepts never came up. What received the most attention was the need for even more austerity (and how to handle the annoying groups of citizens who don’t like it), alongside casual discussions of tossing Greece out of the EU.

Here’s the problem: AEF is a prime example of how the global conversation about development and economics takes place without much regard for anything beyond the interests of the most wealthy and powerful. This is hardly a surprise; what was surprising was the utter lack of subtlety about it. Nobody bats an eye at the obsequiousness of Nobel laureates and global media executives towards the President-for-Life of an up-and-coming petrokleptocracy. Jokes are made about how democracy is ruined by having to rely on voters. The fate of the planet gets decided over bad (and infrequent) coffee and semi-functional translation.” – Jamais Casio

This post and series of tweets is of interest to me not for the content and portrayal of figures of institutional power and authority. I could read about far worse elsewhere. For me it’s about the author. Jamais Casio is what I might call unrelentingly reasonable. He is not a conspiracy theorist, or even that cynical. He is progressive and practical. When he sees this type of misanthropic and anti-human policy projected openly and without artifice of concealment then I think that something has changed in the world. Maybe not an avalanche, but a slow, burbling creep that’s starting to lap at the base of the collective neo-cortex.


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