Occupy Wall Street

Is there room for the protester at Davos?

January 25, 2012: 11:12 AM ET

No matter how new or bold the conversation topic might be, you risk reaching the same old conclusions if you involve the same old participants.

By Vineet Nayar, guest contributor

FORTUNE -- Being stuck on the ground, waiting in an airport for a delayed flight to take off, often provides me with a surprisingly eye-opening and high-level perspective on the world. As an antidote to the boredom, I'll scan the waiting area and imagine how the worldview of someone in the room differs from mine.

Sitting in the New Delhi international terminal as I made my way to the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, I noticed a young man who was dressed in the counter-cultural style of his generation. I wondered what he might say if I told him where I was going -- that is, to join a discussion among political, business, and cultural leaders about the problems facing our uncertain world.

"Why you and not me?" he might ask. The answer was obvious -- until I further imagined his explanation. "I am your future. My generation represents almost 50% of the world's population. We are the force that brought about all the revolutions in the world last year -- whether it was Tahrir or Tunisia or Occupy Wall Street. I am the one looking for and finding solutions … you guys are just talking!"

I was still thinking about the young man as my car drove into Davos, Switzerland. As I checked into my hotel, I heard about a group of protestors who had come to "occupy" the Forum summit. This resolute group of youth was camping out in igloos at a car park just outside the security cordon around the meeting.

The theme of Davos this year is "The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models." And I wondered, somewhat doubtfully, if the sort of disaffection that young people have with an out-of-date status quo would play any part in this year's Davos discussions.

Nonetheless, I have arrived in hope. The event's more than 100-page agenda suggests that there is more to the event than just the intent as spelled out in the theme. No less than 10 sessions, for example, are being organized to explore the new contours of capitalism, starting with a TIME magazine debate on the question "Is 20th-century capitalism failing 21st-century society?" More

Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.