Lost opportunities: G-20 summit and Obama-Putin Meeting and Our Common Predicament by Harry C Blaney III

Heads of state and diplomats have packed their bags. Their minions are putting a positive spin on the results of the G-20 and Obama-Putin meetings. But the reality is that the G-8 countries reached no consensus on how to deal with the many global crises of today. Obama and Putin simply seemed to agree to continue their dialogue amidst some rancor.  More meetings are taking place or have taken place in Moscow, Rio, Brussels, etc. to address pressing issues but with low expectations of worthwhile or definitive results.

Even sadder is the fact that this failure comes in the face of a worldwide economic meltdown, growing havoc of a climate change catastrophe, a Syrian civil war, and a rebalancing and destabilization of the world’s power relationships.

Constructive and bold actions out of Mexico City at both the G-20 and Obama-Putin summit were trumped by parochial interests and petty quarrels of the past and present.

If not now then when will world leaders act?  That is the question people everywhere should be asking. Obama tried to point to paths forward.  He is just about the only major figure who has coherently articulated the globe’s challenges and formed a truly coordinated approach to solving them.

The “austerity-cabal” of Merkel, Cameron and others remain steadfast.  These leaders appear oblivious to a second recession in Britain.  They ignore continued massive drops in GDP in European countries that either have been forced to accept austerity imposed from the outside or have taken austerity measures in the vain hope that good economic theory and historical experience are wrong.

Not surprisingly, these myopic and destructive ideological stances continue to be supported by the world’s one percent. Their disproportionate power over political parties and governments ensures that enlightened and rational policies that benefit the many–on a national or global scale–will not be pursued.

The necessary question is what might change this destructive trajectory? The answer lies at two levels. The first is the question of leadership. The second is the existence of a kind of prejudice and ignorance within our mass culture, our mind set, our politics, and our religious communities that is corrupting our civic society.  Influenced by a coarse mass media and sometimes wakened and misdirected educational institutions, citizens and governments are failing.

The result is that too many government leaders are controlled by vested and narrow interests or by authoritarian governments with little care for the common good. In too many countries ignorant and greedy financial and business titans support the most hateful, greedy, and vulgar sentiments and policies of our day.

The remedy at the leadership level is the need for exceptional individuals with both vision and courage and the ability to articulate to their citizens and to the global community a common destiny, a common interest, specific remedies, as well as provide hope. Yet often countries are led or congresses are dominated by the worst elements least willing to take corrective action.

But citizens also need to be more engaged and aware of the challenges they face and of the wrongheadedness of their conservative or authoritarian leaders that stand in the way of progressive policies and programs. They need to demand corrective action rather than dithering and simply looking after the moneyed interests of the few.

For the moment, unfortunately, the most likely path is half measures that muddle through but do not fully solve the challenges we face – effectively and systematically. But each day the global and national multi-crises like Syria, Egypt, the spread of nuclear weapons, the Euro/European economic debacle, and climate change become more dangerous and the capacity of nations  to act becomes weaker and weaker. 

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