World Economic Forum 2014: Sharing is Caring


I can remember sitting at the dinner table as a small child, crying, because there was a small pile of lima beans placed in front of me. 
"It's what's for dinner, so you will eat it if you are hungry," my mom would tell me, "There are starving children in this world that have real reasons to cry about food."


"But mom," I would argue through very real tears, "I am not that starving child. All I am is me and I KNOW I hate lima beans, so that's why I am crying. It's all I know."


Of course, it hardly ever worked, but my point was there. And continued to be there through other life events that presented themselves to me; events and situations where I KNEW I shouldn't be upset because my level of suffering was literally and figuratively NOTHING compared to the global injustices and harm and pain that others felt every day. At the end of the day, though, all I have is me. My way of understanding the world is all formed from my personal experiences. I knew that at a very young age and I continue to believe it with each passing day. 


Enter the idea of globalization. (A timely topic, no doubt, because the World Economic Forum is taking place this week in Switzerland.)

Globalization is defined as 
"processes of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture. Advances in transportation and telecommunications infrastructure, including the rise of the telegraph and its posterity the Internet, are major factors in globalization, generating further interdependence of economic and cultural activities."

On the same day of the first day of the summit, Branko Milanovic, lead economist of the World Bank's Research Department and Professor of Economics at Johns Hopkins University, wrote an interesting -- if not difficult to decipher if you are a word and not a numbers type of person -- article that appeared on HuffPo. Milanovic named the winners of globalization as the rich and the Chinese middle class while the losers are the American Middle Class. 
So it's no real surprise that the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Reports basically says the same thing. The Risks Report was published before the forum so that folks could have something to talk about. A recap of the results as well as ongoing content coming out of the forum appeared in the special section of the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The results of the risk report indicate a dangerous trend where the richest 1% will continue to grow at a rate that will diminish the global income growth of the middle class; a class that compared to the majority of humanity has it pretty good, but as the disparity continues, will fall farther and father behind. This "squeezed middle," as the WSJ writer Stephen Fidler calls it, will ultimately oppose globalization and will someday -- sooner than later if the trend continues -- refuse to aid global economic progress and will instead focus more on doing whatever possible to attain capital (mostly real estate.) Which is another way of saying, "I understand that kids are starving in the world, but it really sucks that I've worked my ass off and all I have to eat is lima beans. Screw it, I'm not eating the beans and I'm not going to continue to work my ass off for beans I won't eat." 
Which, of course, makes me look at the digital and social landscape that act as the backdrop to all our happy -- and tragic -- experiences. I mean, if there is one place to really examine the socioeconomic indifferences in American culture, you need not look farther than American-made media.


Let's start at the bottom; we've got the Kardashians. 'Nough said. Then we've got the Rich Kids of Instagram, Honey Boo-Boo, Justin Beiber and Teen Mom 2 battling for air-time and branded dollar paychecks against the likes of Kate Plus 8, a van full of drunk housewives, or some poor little teenage boy swinging on a wrecking ball. That's not good. In the middle of the masses is the technology options (necessities to some) that act as equalizers. Having the same iPhone as Beyonce signals something alright. Following her on Facebook means something too. Making your own Twitter handle that says "LoveBeyonce" or "Beyoncesgirl" or whatever else means something even more. It means we are desperately clinging to the idea that one day we can be part of the ultimately popular and ultimately successful 1%. Of course, near the top we celebrate those who are not afraid to celebrate themselves in all their lux galore. I'm talking about celebrities. I'm talking about the world's billionaires. The more time spent in the middle, the more we care about these people. Why? Because we are stuck in the middle and can't find a way out. Watching star-studded televised award ceremonies and political shenanigans may not place us in the throws of such extravagant lifestyles, but it reminds us of the possibility. 
It reminds us that we are actually a lot closer than the majority of people on this planet, so for that we should be happy. But at the same time, we should be sad that we are not doing more to help those who can't help themselves and who wouldn't know Michelle Obama from Beyonce if they were to meet on the street. 

Which is a perfect time to tell you that after thinking long and hard about those starving children who didn't have any lima beans of their own, I remember gobbling up every last one in my tiny hand, placing them carefully in my pocket so later I could send them across the world to where they would be loved. Because I was lucky enough to know that sharing is caring. 

How do think American media affects globalization? What role does technology play in creating a more balanced playing field for world economies?

And finally, who really likes the taste of lima beans? I mean, really. 

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