Richard Branson is very worried
Owners and leaders of major corporate businesses have been worried for some time. Very worried. For years, outspoken leaders in the corporate business world such as Richard Branson have been warning about the rising tide of consumers’ anger towards crooked governments and greedy, powerful companies. “These are very trying times,” Branson explained to his audience somewhat nervously. “2016 has been a year of seismic shifts and tremors. Brexit and the UK and the US elections have created greater uncertainties than most of us have ever known in our lifetimes. And not for the first time, we’ve got aggressive nationalism and divisive populism — they’re rearing their ugly heads around the world.” Big business leaders can sense the shadow of the guillotines looming over their heads. So who or what can they turn to who has the authority and influence to successfully deal with the revolution of public discontent that is brewing wherever they look?
An answer from heaven
The answer to their prayers seemed to come straight from heaven when last December, a group of these sleepless CEOs gathered together in an opulent and stately hall at the Vatican. It was the conclusion of the Global Forum, an annual event for major international corporations like Monsanto, Bayer, Google, Microsoft and many more. While bankers have their annual get-together at Davos, the world’s economists attend the St Petersburg International Forum and governments go to their World Government Summit, the Global Forum is where illustrious companies address issues that could have an impact on their ability to do business in the global community. But this 2016 Time + Fortune Global Forum was different: they had been invited by none other than Pope Francis himself.
The ‘noble vocation of business’
So here, at the heart of this ancient ecclesiastical centre in Rome, they listened to the Pope call upon them to use their “noble vocation” of business to help create “a more inclusive and humane economy”. Francis reiterated the fears uttered by Branson:
The two great trends of the last half-century — globalization and digitisation — have created unprecedented growth and lifted billions of people out of poverty, but have also created a backlash. Inequality within nations is on the rise, and dissatisfaction with a system that too often showers its riches on a privileged few is growing. Populism and protectionism are rearing their heads around the world, and trust in business — as well as other institutions — has plummeted.
And in measured pontifical tones, he went on to stroke the corporatists' egos, thanking them for their work promoting "the centrality and dignity of the human person within our institutions and economic models, and draw[ing] attention to the plight of the poor and refugees, who are so often forgotten by society".
The papal praise was a glorious culmination to the tycoons' two intense days of work to flesh out a bold project that had been years in the making. The result of this collaboration was a document entitled Working Group Solutions, presented to the Pope for his blessing, which he gladly gave. The reason for this is clear enough: this project, if and when fully implemented, will give full control over the world’s citizens to a tiny handful of people. The various facets of this project go by a number of names, but can be summed up in one: Global Citizen.
What does Global Citizen claim to be?
In 2008, the Global Poverty Project (GPP) was founded with grants from the United Nations. By 2012, a showcase Global Citizen website and its accompanying Global Citizen Festival were also in place. These well-thought-out platforms were designed to stir young people to tackle social issues around the globe. This Global Citizen drive is presented as a utopian force for good: to eradicate poverty, promote health, provide clean water and access to other resources, and to safeguard the human rights of every person on the planet. It sounds very noble. Who could be against such initiatives?
Who is behind the Global Citizen initiative?
Big corporations with their own objectives — the very organisations which have blotted their copybook, in the view of ordinary citizens — have wasted no time jumping on this bandwagon. Some familiar names featured on the Global Citizen website include Johnson & Johnson, Hewlett Packard, Ericsson, Caterpillar, Microsoft and more. A quick look at Global Citizen’s board members reveals even more movers and shakers, and if we add the Global Forum 2016 delegates to the mix, the list becomes very impressive indeed (and more pharmaceutical-medical in flavour): Monsanto, Siemens, Virgin Group, Novartis and many more. The Global Citizen patron corporations find themselves in good company: we can find other well known organisations alongside them, such as the Gates Foundation, the George Soros conglomerate, and Tony and Cherie Blair’s initiatives.
What's in it for Global Citizen's corporate partners?
London banker Stephen Green once said in a 2009 interview: “Making a profit and promoting a social concept are not mutually exclusive.” As Global Citizen puts it, “Our unique ability to mobilize mass audiences allows us to achieve demonstrable policy success”, which to big business translates as promotion, profit and branding (improving a company’s public image). However, such is still not sufficient to explain the degree of interest that the corporate partners have in Global Citizen. Rather, they favour it because it addresses the main fears these CEOs have: loss of potential profits, losing their businesses and perhaps even losing their heads on the chopping block if a revolution of discontent were to sweep through their precious markets. The Global Citizen organisation may look lucrative in the sense of promising short-term business pay-offs, but there is a thought behind the plan which is far more wide-reaching in scope, and that is the challenge to bring the world’s citizens under firm control: to harvest their data, to maximise their production, to regulate their lives in such a way that big business can reap maximum yield from their lives. By joining hands with the Vatican, the CEOs are convinced that they have gained a powerful patron to safeguard their personal wellbeing and financial futures.
What will the life of a Global Citizen look like?
The basic plan is for each human being on the planet to receive a digital financial identity (alias global tax ID number). This will be the foundation for all aspects of our lives thenceforward: where we will work and live, how we will eat, sleep, travel, communicate and even how we will think and pray. In short, everything will be connected through the Internet of Things, the Internet of Value (hence the rage for blockchain databases powering a new global currency) and the Internet of Moving Things. Groundbreaking new technology will be used to make the Global Citizen concept a reality, while social engineering techniques will persuade us that we all need to sacrifice something for the common good of mankind and for our beloved planet earth (a concept first mainstreamed by the Club of Rome in the late 1960s).
Future articles in this series will explore the technologies that are being developed and tested right now. One such invention is envisaged to lay the groundwork for a brilliant and compelling plan to persuade us merely to accept this new system. This is necessary because if the scheme ever does come to fruition, the proposal in the offing to us will be both diabolical and yet highly compelling, and highly difficult to resist.
Meanwhile, our business leaders are being wooed by the siren call of the Vatican. They are being coaxed to put their talents and influence to the service of a supposedly divine vocation: to step into “their transformative role … as co-creators and partners with God … to serve the good of humanity”, as Cardinal Peter Turkson flattered his rapt audience during the Global Forum.
In reality, life in this system of global finance, global government and a global identity will be one of severe limitations. The promised utopia of the Global Citizen may well turn out to be a nightmare rather than a dream of peace in our time.
Part II of this series is here and Part III is here.
More information can be found at the following links:
Fortune + Time 2013 Global Forum overview
Pope Francis concludes Global Forum 2016
Working Group Solutions presented to Pope Francis
Pope Global Forum speech calling for creative business models