The State of the World Forum

Written by Andrey Slivka on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.



"Nuclear weapons don’t
care whether you’re a Jew or a Christian. All our hearts are beating with
the same energy. If that’s not unity, I don’t know what is."


A rhetorician’s pause;
Davis punches the air with a li’l fist.


"It’s not a new
idea. We’re just at the end of the road now… We’ve got to do it
together… Well, it’s either the millennium or Armageddon. We’ve
been given the responsibility to choose whether the human race is going to go
on. It’s a big responsibility."



Ba-dump!



("Support Your World
Government Air Force!" declares one of Davis’ pamphlets.)


"It’s so simple!
It’s so self-evident! Unity!"


And the hive buzzed on…


In the New York Hilton’s
ballroom, meanwhile, the eerie 21st-century hum of projectors throbbed through
space and the video screens loomed over the audience. And at one side of the
room–a curtain, several stories tall, in front of which security men stood
at staggered depths in their New World Order suits. An endlessly deferred revelation:
What grand expression of millennialist-globalist human consciousness, when the
suited men stepped aside, would the parting curtains reveal? Here at the State
of the World Forum?


It was hard to tell, because
the idea of "globalism"–much less what we’re supposed to
think about globalism–is too diffuse to pay off in hard conceptual
currency. Stalin was a "globalist"; so was Gandhi; so’s Bill
Gates. And yet the State of the World Forum (sustainability, trade ethics, etc.)
arrived last week in the Hilton’s seminar halls, advertising such illustrious
participants as Mikhail Gorbachev and George Soros (and Garry Davis, for that
matter), but attracting little media attention. The Hilton’s luscious,
overwhelming interiors–waterfalls of ceiling crystal, lonely expanses of
gold plating presiding over haunted acres of patterned carpet–accommodated
the energies of those who comprised this convocation: academics, environmental
activists, new-agers, millennialists, alt-press veterans radiating the caustic
energies that apparently sustain them in this, the endgame of the great media-revolutionary
nonevent to which they’ve devoted themselves since the 60s. Intellectuals
walked from seminar ("Indigenous Healing"/"Indigenous Wisdom")
to seminar ("Making a Profit While Making a Difference: How to Invest to
Earn Market Returns and ‘Social’ Dividends"), shuffling, looking
for someone to talk to.


Danny Schecter, veteran
of the anti-corporate-media effort, stood around the margins of one seminar
room, talking to Victor Navasky.


"Did you get my new
book?"


"Hm?"


"My new book."


"Did you send it along
to The Nation?"


"Sure."


"Oh, terrific, terrific."


Thus, hondlings and small
tribal interpromotions. The President of Indonesia revealed himself at some
point to great enthusiasm. As did Her Majesty Queen Noor. Thabo Mbeki. Deepak
Chopra.


The Forum represented the
intersection of several intellectual forces. First, the legitimate self-interests
of "developing" societies screwed by the new liberal-capitalist corporate
imperium, expressed by saried women and poker-faced African functionaries with
ramrod posture, many of them articulate in that aggressive way that characterizes
intelligent people who have finally–finally–found someone who will
listen to them. Also, the poststructuralist academic theme of Otherness, filtered
through philosophical and theological and area studies departments and applied
here toward the development of a globalist model of ethics and engagement. Also
the earnestness of watchdog organizations like Public Citizen Global Trade Watch,
and of the leftish think tanks.


Finally, there was–thank
God–a slight residue of good old American anarchic freakdom. The State
of the World Forum was the type of, um, "space" in which an Indian
statesman could converse with a philosopher swinging around a Derridean vocabulary
while Schecter moseyed about introducing himself jocularly as "a legend"
to young women and a wonderful all-American eccentric like Garry Davis (straight
outta Burlington!) carried on not far from a table bearing Terence McKenna videotapes.


There was also evident in
the air a hint–like the weakening effluvium of your old man’s Old
Spice at the end of the day–of early 90s Internet millennialism. Remember,
back before the Web became the 1990s version of the junk-bond industry, it was
going to revolutionize human consciousness? And everybody would live in Humboldt
County yurts with their laptops and Patagonia baggies and smoke Thai stick all
day with John Perry Barlow and Stewart Brand and cultivate organic turnips and
rock climb and participate in chatrooms with Eskimos and read Wendell Berry?
I do.


On the other hand, a bit
of a profit’s nothing to sneeze at, is it? From the "State of the
World, Inc. Executive Summary" distributed to Forum participants: "Sustainability–of
natural resources, the environment and human development–is increasingly
a critical factor in business and government decision-making. From this heightened
awareness, Forum management and its senior advisors see an extraordinary business
opportunity developing. To capture this opportunity, the Forum has launched
a new, for-profit enterprise, State of the World, Inc. (‘SWI’ or ‘the
Company’). The purpose of this venture is to: Identify and capitalize upon
the business opportunities emerging in the sustainable development marketspace…"


Dashikis, saris, the stern
sexless suits of Canadian activists (of all things), big scraggly hippie domes.
Philosophizing clusters spread over darkling acreage of ballroom carpet. Ghostly
super-hotel corridors. Whispering foreigners in the Hilton’s sleazoid caverns.
Intersections of biology, theology, ethics, statecraft and futurism. The world,
in its unmanageable profusion of meanings, radiated out from its center at 6th
Ave. and 53rd St., Manhattan, NY, USA.


But no one can even tell
you what "globalism" means. A generation ago, the educated classes
were supposed to be for globalism, properly understood as a phenomenon
administered by genocidal Sorbonne-educated Third World ideological peasants.
So we’re subjected to a variety of what, if you were paying attention in
college, you were taught was capitalism’s postmodern sublime: you’re
lost in a decentered space, without signposts, where the terms of orientation
are so diffuse and shifting as to be without stable meaning, and George Winston’s
playing the bloody piano for some reason (he was, one night) and everybody keeps
right on talking.


And, apparently, earning.
Remarkably, somewhere in the stratosphere beyond the seminar-room walls, people
who I’m not sure showed their faces have figured out how to spin profit
from the theorizing of global ethics and sustainability. Move the guards, pull
aside the curtains and one of the things you’ll be faced with is the rattling
of the accounting room.


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