Don't want to post? Email me instead.

cavehillred AT yahoo.co.uk

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Superclass and the Untermensch

I'm the underbelly. I'm the untermensch.
Though it can be hard to remember that while being ferried by taxi to a five star hotel.
Now, global rich list might say otherwise. But I don't feel like one of the priveliged people, even if I am in the lucky-enough position of being able to say 'fuck it' when accommodation somewhere like New Delhi goes belly up late at night, and can buy my way out of trouble temporarily.
There may be air-conditioning, and all-night net access and a fresh water swimming pool and special slippers. But I'm just visiting, and paying a large price for the privilege. I don't get to live here.
But some do, and it is worth remembering that. People would like you to forget. I see them in their chosen environment on my rare visits, though. I see them, in their suits, with their expense accounts picking up the tab, and they're relaxed, off the hook, among friends.
Over a few drinks in the hotel bar, they look almost human.
But you can't forget that these people are the ones running the world for their own personal benefit, so that they can have the air-con on full blast while Delhi swelters, and their pick of Scotches from the bar.
All over the world, especially in the developing world, your prospects in life are closely defined by one perameter only - your proximity to the superclass.
I've been reading David Rothkopf's fascinating eagle-eye account of the superclass in his book that came out last year. I've been meaning to read it for some time. Another benefit of time off is catching up on the reading.
Rothkopf was a regular attendee at Davos. He rubbed shoulders with the extremely small coterie of people exercising nearly all the power and managing most of the money on the planet for decades.
And even though he is utterly an insider with an unjaundiced degree of admiration and affection for them, he is enough of a journalist and writer to point out the simple fact that the whole planet is run by a very small number of extremely connected people.
In a very real sense, we're currently in a re-run of the late Nineteenth century, when most of the most powerful people in Europe were all related to Queen Victoria. Late imperial battles where invariably also family squabbles writ large.
At the top of investment banks, major economies, trans-national industrial entities and diplomatic circles runs the same small number of people in tight little circles encompassing each other's boards of directors, advisory councils, Bilderberg and Carlyle, Halliburton and Davos.
Rothkopf reckons that the large bulk of wealth and power on the planet inhabits a little over 6,000 people, most of whom he has at some point or other met.
They all know each other, is Rothkopf's point, and they know and like each other a lot better and have much more in common with each other than they have with the rest of us, the untermenschen.
Rothkopf's qualifying criteria for his chosen few is admittedly somewhat arbitrary. But power is not a simply transparent thing to measure, any more than wealth is.
But it works out at an exceptional few, almost entirely male, mostly white, each one a one in a million compared to the number of us who aren't part of the party.
It's also a shifting feast, with some in and some out each season in keeping with current policies and fashions.
So Bono and Peter Sutherland are in, Mary Robinson and John Bruton are too, Bertie was until recently, but McAleese and Cowen never were and likely never will be.
Whether you accept this tiny coterie of the superclass as a beneficent oligarchy or not, that's what they amount to. Democracy is little more than tokenism and the methodology for ensuring a small crack open to permit new blood.
Their loyalties, ultimately, are to ensuring they can have the air-con on full blast while Delhi swelters. Their interest in the underbelly is only to make sure they stay above it.

No comments: