CULTURE

How selfishness hinders solidarity

Ignacio Ramonet stood in front of a world political map, his black suit and crisp white shirt in the foreground. The mutlicolored world was in the background. The former editor-in-chief of the Le Monde diplomatique monthly publication, who spoke last week at the Athens Concert Hall, can be proud of the fact that his magazine has turned its attention to the smallest, humblest nations of the world. In contrast with most mass media which focus on the big players, Ramonet and his staff have opened a window to places that can best be described as «blind spots.» This interest in the forgotten corners of the world is a matter of great importance, because only then can a person have a clear image of what is happening in the global village. Globalization was one of the two main topics addressed by Ramonet in his lecture. The other was the strong and rapid rise of China as an economic superpower. In contrast to his successor, Serge Halimi, who spoke a few days before him at the French Institute, reading directly from his notes, the 56-year-old Spanish-born French citizen resembled more a lecturer speaking to his students, talking from the heart. That is not to say that his approach was governed by sentiment – quite the opposite: «I will be talking to you for about 40 minutes. During this time 40 women will die while delivering their babies and 80 children will die from malaria in Africa,» he told the audience in a matter-of-fact tone. The public flocked in their hundreds to the Athens Concert Hall to hear Ramonet speak, and not a sound was heard from the auditorium until he finished his presentation and held an open discussion. The editor-in-chief of Le Monde diplomatique for 17 years, who has at last left behind conference rooms and now has time to travel and to lecture, used harsh illustrations to show how poverty is one of the most critical geopolitical issues today: «Over a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, while a cow in Europe costs 4 euros a day to support. Ultimately, it is better to be born a European cow than belong to the populations of our more poverty-stricken countries.» Ramonet stressed that this era will go down in history as «a time of globalization, a time where the market opposed the state and selfishness opposed solidarity,» which is now going through its first major test with the subprime mortgage crisis. In reference to China, he emphasized that never in history has a country that did not have a national army become so powerful, so quickly.