I. TEXTUAL COMPREHENSION
A/ Read the text carefully and answer the following questions in English. Use the information given in the text but don’t copy the sentences.
1) Why does the author present the World Economic Summit at Davos as a gathering of hypocrites?
The Davos summit is indeed portrayed by the author as a veritable circus self-celebration for the wealthiest people in the world, of an almost obscene level of hypocrisy. This is because the participants loudly trumpet how much they care about the poor, and how they’re worried about rising inequality, all the while enjoying luxurious accommodations in the company of people just like them. Their time is mostly spent, seems to say the author, looking for ways to appear righteous, and earn even more money.
2) Briefly sum up the consequences of today’s “skewed distribution of wealth” according to the Oxfam report.
The Oxfam report outlines how the imbalanced distribution of wealth in the world today contributes to a state of affairs in which the richest are the real decision-makers, as they exercise an undue influence on governments, and are able to bend the rules to perpetuate their dominance and ensure that their assets are safe from taxation. As a result, the foundations of democracy – in which everyone is supposed to have an equal voice – are jeopardized, and essential features of modern societies such as equal opportunity are endangered.
3) How does the author think Davos participants will react to the Oxfam report’s findings?
In the author’s view, it is highly unlikely that the findings of the Oxfam report will elicit anything other than feigned concern for the most needy. As a matter of fact, the louder they lament the plight of the poor, the less they actually intend to commit themselves to some basic sacrifices such as progressive taxation, and the less they will actively advocate for the implementation of measures such as a basic living wage. Behind the scenes, they will probably, on the contrary, get together to figure out how best to resist the increasing pressure to curb their excesses and to force them to ‘put their money where their mouth is’, as the expression goes.
4) What is the author’s implicit assessment of the true purpose of the World Economic Summit?
The tone of this article clearly reflects the author’s intense disgust at the spectacle of the super-rich, perching in their lofty Alpine retreat, delivering unctuous, mellifluous statements about the disturbing state of the world economy and their commitment to changing things for the better. IN his view, the Davos summit has no other purpose than to reinforce the networks of the wheelers and dealers, the movers and shakers, and to attempt to convince the media and the public of their sincerity and their good intentions. Like the moon, the dark side is always out of view…
After selecting one of the two questions, write a two-page essay with a clear argument. Circle the number of the question that you have selected.
1) Who do you think should take the lead in addressing the three topics outlined in the Davos report: business people, politicians, or the public/citizens? Justify your answer.
2) Do you agree that the saying ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ can be applied to the improvement of the world? Why or why not?
The issues facing mankind today are numerous and urgent to address. The Davos risk report focuses upon what are no doubt three of the most pressing questions we face: how to get the economy back on its feet, how better to redistribute wealth, and how to save our planet from runaway global warming. Given the extent to which governments are overall failing to do anything meaningful about these problems, one can legitimately ask whether it’s not a question of misplaced leadership: do we expect too much from our politicians? Could businessmen or citizens do a better job tackling the world’s troubles?
In spite of Elliott’s righteous rant about Davos, businessmen’s reputation for greed is not entirely well-deserved. Let’s be clear: it was financial manipulation by speculators and bankers that caused the economic crisis the world is still reeling from, not entrepreneurs. We can debate forever about robber barons as opposed to captains of industry; undeniably, there are plenty of selfless rich people, who donate their entire fortune to worthy causes such as the Clinton Global Initiative or the Gates Foundation’s drive to eradicate diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. They are spearheading worldwide efforts to boost developing countries in their bid to lift their people out of poverty. It would be wrong-headed and misguided to claim that businessmen are all disconnected from reality.
As citizens, we feel more and more powerless to do anything about issues like global warming for example, especially when we consider that developing countries need to boost their economies through manufacturing, and that as consumers, the economic recovery depends to a large extent on our willingness and our ability to keep on playing that role, even though that means contributing further to global warming. How can we escape this vicious circle? Indeed, it seems easier to blame politicians for their inaction, or businessmen for their rapacity. But we should consider that our actions and attitudes toward change are crucial, for politicians tend to obey public pressure when it is felt clearly enough. We have the government we deserve, don’t we? So let’s take the lead in terms of learning as much as we can about these issues, and make our voice heard in novel ways, such as in the social media, so that politicians – and business leaders – are forced to listen and take heed. We won’t improve the world by sticking our head in the sand, or, out of a cynicism of convenience, withdrawing into our creature comforts, lucky as we are not to live in a place like Tuvalu – soon to become the first nation to disappear under a rising sea.
In conclusion, the challenges we face today must be confronted together, because, as Einstein said already half a century ago, if we are to solve them, we will need a radically new way of thinking. The kind of genius that requires will most likely be a collective one!