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People who like white furniture. Children wearing designer clothes. Hotel and gym critics on social media called Brianna things like that. People who eat at Nobu without irony. Dear Paulo Coelho readers.
There are prejudices about the crowds that flock to Dubai. I won't pretend I didn't see them at all while traveling here this week. But this trip was a better education on world affairs than what I got at Davos during the same period.
A landlocked town in a landlocked country is a foolish place to host the World Economic Forum. As the Houthis have an opportunity to remind us, the world economic forum is the ocean. The Davos setting encourages a very turn-of-the-century obsession with ideas, “trends,” and technology over geographical facts. The abstractions of that discourse may not reveal how much of modern life still depends on the safe passage of material objects through bodies of water (or the distribution of mineral deposits). In Dubai, it's easier to understand what makes the world tick, despite the increasing de-intellectualization of things.
But that's the bare minimum. At a time when the world was becoming more American-led, market-based, and more democratic, Davos was a great distillation of that. Dubai, where the United States has multiple influences, capital is more state-driven, and political values are negotiable, is now a truer portrait of the world. When sanctioned Russians move from Knightsbridge to the Palm Jumeirah, or when sovereign wealth funds acquire foreign assets rather than private funds, globalization increases and not just from a Western perspective.
I don't think we'll ever see a “capital of the world” again. Power is too diffused.but tendency Everything in the world is best seen in Dubai. (Bangkok is also a good vantage point.) From the faces and voices of shoppers at Dubai Mall, which has been the best place to live in the country since 1945, it's hard to even guess whether Europe is better off than India. you can't. Except at the airport, I listened to only one American talk all week. (“It’s crazy here,” she said twice about the mall, not without insight.) If the men and women of Davos are rich people from wealthy countries, then Dubai’s equivalent is a domestic are rich people in poor middle-income countries. their parents' lives.
To be clear, I preferred the world of Davos. As I get older, I'm becoming more of an Anglo-liberal absolutist. But if it's important to you to have some sense of where things are going, it's shrewd to fly through Dubai from time to time, as a kind of pulse check. What are the alternatives?The untenable conceit that globalists know London and Paris.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Thomas Mann's birth. magic mountain. Set in a sanatorium in Davos, this book recreates the world before World War I on a miniature scale. Some patients represent liberal humanism, some patients represent conservative reactions, and others represent decadence. In the final scene, when the protagonist descends from the mountain to do battle, the reader learns that hell has descended on the entire civilization.
A century later, Davos once again has the air of a chronic or terminal illness. The once invincible order seems to be starting to sow. Dubai is worth a visit, as it proves that this fear is at least half correct. That's right, the economic center of the world (people have spent time trying to calculate its exact location) is moving east. You have to see the fruits of that new wealth up close.
At the same time, notice how much Western elements still remain. The US Navy is stationed in Bahrain. Dubai International Financial Center has common law. How much would the port of Jebel Ali be worth if America left the security of its shipping lanes to a non-liberal rival? What foreign investor would leave contract enforcement to a whim of a decision rather than legal precedent?
The decline of Davos World has been met with great joy throughout the world. That doesn't mean there's an alternative model. Dubai's wisdom lies in not choosing. This mental divide extends to its tolerant but also rigid moral codes, its Western but non-Western architecture, and the UAE's ambiguous geopolitical orientation. I can never decide whether this is the most subtle place on earth or the most subtle.
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