While some may agree with Nicholas Taleb that Davos “is….the International Association of Name Droppers”, it is indisputable that we heard a clarion call from the young this year at the WEF.
The six millennial co-Chairs tried to steer the world’s leaders to place well-being at the heart of things rather than politic. This is timely — or, perhaps, we have not been listening to these voices for a long time. The IMF tells us that income inequality has grown over the past 30 years in 53 percent of countries with, worryingly, “the advanced economies” experiencing “a sizeable increase". The WEF’s Global Risks Report 2019 wastes no time in asking right at the start of the document — “Is the world sleepwalking into a crisis?” and warns that while “risks are intensifying,” “the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening”.
The young co-Chairs, in arresting talks, communicated to the world that our troubles are owing less to lack of solutions and more to the reality that we lack the intent and will to take healthy actions.
Mohammed Hassan Mohamud, the displaced Somalian, wondered with sadness that “we talk about how we can be ethical with robots” and “want to solve death” but have not figured out how to ease human suffering. Juan David Aristizabal from Colombia pleaded with the world to recognise that we have “a learning crisis” — that “70 million young people are unemployed in the whole world” because they “are not learning what they need to learn.” Julia Luscombe, from the USA, pointed out that “what we are seeing now” is “the deterioration and dissolution of the institutions and ideals” that are needed to address the challenges humanity faces. Noura Berrouba from Sweden asked “how is it that we’ve created a system where it so easy to make the wrong decisions and so difficult to make the right ones” — and went on to boldly tell world leaders “step up….or step aside.”
What is inspiring about these young people is that not one of them is an armchair commentator. Each of them is engaged in active initiatives to change the world around them. By their actions, for more than by their eloquence, they tell us that however hopeless things seem, each of us can make a difference. These young people have clearly comprehended Stephen Batchelor’s message to humanity in The Faith to Doubt —
“We are responsible not merely for ourselves but for all that lives….”
Are we listening and acting?