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Missing in action

Ángel Marroquín

A few days ago, I watched the opening speech of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Naturally, I was curious about how Secretary-General Antonio Guterres would address the results of the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report.

Direct to the point, Guterres told the representatives of 193 countries gathered in New York: “We are on the edge of an abyss and moving in the wrong direction.” But, of course, the abyss had been made clear enough after the IPCC report and its catastrophic projections. But what did he mean by the wrong direction? Here are some bullet points of what came out, then, of his Pandora’s box:

• The significant gap between rich and poor that the pandemic revealed.
• The alarming state of the environment and the growing effects of climate change, especially in poor countries.
• The terrorist threat, violation of human rights in places like Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and many other countries are simply not mentioned because the list would become endless.
• The growing threat of misinformation, confusion and mistrust spread over the internet and the adverse effects they cause on the population (polarization, ignorance or paralysis), breeding grounds for cronyism, populism or totalitarianism of all sorts.

My favourite part of the speech came when, feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of catastrophic evidence and bad news, the speaker launched a kind of lifeline or lifebuoy and said, looking directly at the screen: “Solidarity is missing in action when we need it most.” Great!

The issue is that solidarity is not missing in action but instead hijacked by a cartel demanding an impossible ransom. Each country member seeks to pay as little as possible, and ultimately the session ended without anyone making a decision. As we will see, solidarity will remain missing in action in New York.


Because solidarity means that one adheres to causes that do not respond solely to one’s interest, but one does it for the sake of a transcendent value, a collective one. In other words, solidarity means that one can suspend the ego for a moment and come to the aid of another person because one believes it is morally correct, especially in crises like the ones Guterres pointed out so carefully. But, unfortunately, there is no solidarity in the liberal world; there are only partners.

The countries’ representatives then looked at each other as if to say, “who is holding solidarity hostage?” Well, themselves. Most of their countries have love-hate relationships with corruption; they favour a lifestyle that presents millionaires and celebrities as role models; they sustain social inequality, gender inequality, discrimination, the poverty of the majority, and the wealth of a minority. All of them are afraid to regulate the markets of large companies; they all have education for the rich and the poor, they have their jails full of poor people.

Now, back to Pandora’s box. Who will help the Haitians who are on the United States border? Who is going to support the poor of Ethiopia or Yemen? Who will establish real restrictions on the big multinational internet companies and the millionaires who travel to space while the world is going to hell?

As you can see, we will continue walking towards the abyss with or without solidarity. Maybe we’ll meet there, who knows?

Photo: Special Patrol Group





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