I'm just back from the small, and in truth not particularly charming, Swiss ski resort of Davos. All week it has played host to the Annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, where the global elite, experts, pundits and their entourages gather to discuss the state of the world.
The week started with Oxfam reminding us of the great wealth divide that exists today between rich and poor. And it ended with the inauguration of 'The Donald', a fully signed up member of the one-percent, ironically positioned as a great populist move to return the US to greatness.
A bizarre week by anyone's standards.
The narrative played out by the world's media, at least the dominant right wing element, has been focussed around the idea that power has returned to the people. But (spoiler alert), it has not. It has simply moved from left to right, quite far right admittedly. We are witnessing a spectacular shift from populism to nationalism.
Today the US and the UK are divided nations - the elite is still running the show, as evidenced by Goldman's spectacular return to influence in the US and Farage's fat cat banker roots.
The king is dead. Long live the king!
Yet despite all this and the fact that according to (competitor alert) Edelman's Trust Barometer, we have just seen the largest ever drop in trust across the institutions of government, business, media and NGOs (and in the UK, according to pollsters, apparently hairdressers are more trusted than economists), I do not despair.
From my vantage point I can see a 'thousand points of light' shining out all over the world. Echoing the famous 1989 inauguration speech of George H. W. Bush, I am given heart by the thousands of activists working in global NGOs, businesses, governments and media that are driven by purpose and a relentless desire to change and improve the state of the world.
It's in places like Davos, whatever you think about the gathering, that many of these experts and activists(granted... not all of them, and WEF must strive to be more inclusive) assemble. On the clear, crisp alpine nights that characterise the Alps, they shine brightly.
But unfortunately they are feint from other vantage places around the world and we must help them to shine brighter.
For too long those people working for the common good have been speaking the wrong language. The time has come for them to jettison the narrative and messaging that works so well with their dinner party guests in metropolitan cities, and adopt the language of the people.
That does not necessitate compromising on the subject. Experts must talk about health and wellbeing, climate change, water scarcity, economic exclusion, digital exclusion, pandemics and international development. The Global Goals is a good place to start. Adopted by 193 world leaders at the UN's annual General Assembly last year, they set out 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these Goals are completed, it would mean an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. Tackle these goals head on, fight for them, and we can redefine populism.
But to do that experts must find a way to make those subjects more interesting and relevant to people who have little time, understandably have more pressing problems of their own at home and are bombarded by other more entertaining things.
As we go about redefining populism it is my hope that we may surface a new generation of leaders in whom we can place our trust, safe in the knowledge that their agenda is our agenda.Suggest a correction