«We live in a time of big challenges and small leaders»

«We live in a time of big challenges and small leaders»
«We live in a time of big challenges and small leaders»

Former Minister of Development of Venezuela, former executive director of the World Bank, author of essays that have become ‘best sellers’, global analyst, Moisés Naím (Tripoli, 1952) is considered one of the most influential opinion leaders in the world. His new book, ‘What’s Happening to Us. 121 ideas to scrutinize the 21st century’ (Debate), contains a selection of columns, written between 2016 and 2023, in which he offers his view on political phenomena and the challenges facing the planet. And yes, the title of his new editorial has to do with this quote from Ortega y Gasset: “We don’t know what is happening to us, exactly that is what is happening to us.” Oh, what he would give to be able to play tennis today like in those happy days.

– When did you become a reader?

– Although I have a brother, who I love very much, twelve years older than me, the age difference obviously made him a rather lonely child. A reading child who read and read.

– It started with enthusiasm.

– Yes, but the problem was that I did not read what they sent me at school, but rather I read, after doing my searches, what provoked me and what I wanted.

– With what consequence?

– With the one where I ended up knowing a lot about something that no one had asked me to know. [ríe]. Books accompanied me, they are fantastic company. I remember that, as a child, once a week they gave me money to buy a book.

– What usually happens to you?

– I get bored very quickly, and that’s why I always need to do different things.

– Any special sport?

– When I was little I played tennis. Now I am a fan of [Carlos] Alcaraz, like everyone.


«Humanity suffers a great threat, the poor mental health of people, which has to do with social networks, technology and all that»

– What’s coming up for us?

– We are already experiencing very important changes, but other even more important ones are coming, and the problem is that it is not at all clear that we will know how to live up to them: we neither have the best ideas, nor the clearest ones; neither the most solid and effective institutions, nor the people capable of really solving the serious problems that are going to affect us all. We are living in a time of great challenges and small leaders, because the leaders who now govern the world do not measure up, they are not adequate for the magnitude of the challenges that are coming. Important, different, new, simultaneous changes that will generate a new reality. Changes that we do not know when or where they are going to hit us, nor to what extent they will affect our families, our jobs, our countries…


– Would you say that we are in a very dangerous moment?

– I would say that we are in a moment of chiaroscuro. Nothing is ever completely catastrophic, nor completely worthy of celebration. Many of the things that are happening are dual. For example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not simply more computing and computers, but something truly transformative and profound that becomes permanent. Those kinds of things are going to be with us for a while, right? And that has a positive and a negative aspect. For example, the fight against climate change and the diagnosis and treatment of serious health problems are being addressed more effectively thanks to the use of AI. It will change the world, it will affect the poor and the rich, politicians, businessmen, scientists, democrats, autocrats, illiterate people, singers, writers…; All lifestyles and all professions will be affected by AI. Now, it is a double-edged sword: it will not be long before terrorists, dictators, scammers and criminals use AI with dire consequences for Humanity. AI could engender global chaos, we must be very alert.

– What do you think of the images of the great leaders at the G-7 summit, so smiling, all hugs and complicity, as if the world was experiencing a sweet moment?

– I have a certain familiarity with this type of meetings, and I can tell you that that is what they are paid for, to give the image that they know exactly what is happening, where we are going and what to do about it; Leaders of this caliber cannot afford to come out and say that we are going to be hit, but that we do not know when or how. But they are the ones who know better than anyone the challenges we face.

– Things are not there for many smiles.

– No, right, and remember that at the same time that we received those images of the leaders, others arrived in which Miami was flooding, it was completely submerged. There we have a perfect example of the consequences of climate change.

-And the fact that the host was a far-right president, Giorgia Meloni?

– It is the choice of the Italians. He is learning to know what it means to be a leader at the European level, and to be one at the global level, and to realize what she lacks and also what she can have left. Many are surprised by the way he handles the agenda of challenges he faces. Giorgia Meloni is a clearly talented lady and she is going to gain the support of many people who could never imagine that she would support a politician who comes from a career like hers. However, I believe that in Europe she is going to be a leader who is going to play a decisive role.

– Do you understand the rise of the extreme right, especially in countries like France and Germany?

– I can share the anxiety that the rise of the most radical can cause, but this rise has been possible, among other things, because of how ineffective and unhelpful the reactions of the opposing forces have been. What counteroffers have the moderate left and right made to voters to make the radical right less attractive to those who voted for it? Those to blame for what is happening with the radical right are those who voted for it, in the first place, but also a left that has not been able to articulate a competitive message.

Milei’s Rise

«Anti-politics is one of the most dangerous poisons that society faces right now»

-How possible do you see Donald Trump’s return to the White House?

– You already know that it is said that if the elections in the United States were held today, Trump would be the winner.

-And what would that victory mean?

– First of all, a threat to democracy. It is not that the day after winning he declared himself a dictator, but there are other ways to weaken the checks and balances that make democracy possible, especially when there is the will to undermine it. But, on the other hand, he was already president, he has experience, he learned things.

– For example?

– That not everything one wants to do can be done. Neither was the great wall that would definitively separate Mexico from the United States possible, nor were oil drilling increased as desired. What would be very serious is if he maneuvered everything necessary so that the presidential mandates could be increased. Continuism is more dangerous than populism. If he wins, he will be able to carry out some of the things he proposes, but we will not see the revolution that some expect.

– Javier Milei, Argentina, the chainsaw. And it’s no joke.

– Those to blame for his rise are his opponents for offering such a sad offer, so limited to the electoral offer of the Kirchner family, that they are certainly not worthy of admiration. People get exhausted, it annoys them to always have the same leaders saying the same thing and making the same old promises that never work. So, you offer them a very contrary alternative and they find it attractive. Anti-politics is one of the most dangerous poisons that society faces right now. Many things have been done from politics that are unacceptable, such as everything that has to do with corruption.

When the wine runs out

– What question is asked regarding him?

– How long will your presidency be sustainable? Until now the truth is that he has not governed much, he has dedicated himself to visiting the great leaders of the world, hugging with them and giving speeches with which it must be recognized that he manages to attract the masses. But the question is what will happen when the inaugural party is over, because he is still partying. What will happen when the wine runs out?

– Any feeling?

– Well, I hope it turns out well. It is very important that this goes well because it is time for Peronism as an experiment to be declared a failure.

– By the way, I take this opportunity to ask you about the ‘Nayib Bukele phenomenon’ in El Salvador.

– Again, let’s see how long the party lasts. Thank goodness someone came to El Salvador and took the Salvatrucha gang, the M18 gang, etc. out of the game. Thank goodness someone did. Of course, in the process there must almost certainly have been significant human rights violations. It is impossible to do what they did without violating human rights, I believe. They achieved it, and the streets of El Salvador belong to the people; They can walk without fear of being murdered, extorted, kidnapped, raped… This was normal life there before Bukele. It is a new change of cycle that must be welcomed, but let’s see what the second chapter is like: once the Government has already managed to recover the streets, how is it going to now recover the economy, which is in a terrible state? ?

– Climate change.

– We are already very late to avoid greater evils. There has been progress, but nowhere near enough to offset everything we haven’t done right. We have not understood it yet, neither all nor completely: we are seriously risking the survival of Humanity.

Milei’s Rise

«Anti-politics is one of the most dangerous poisons that society faces right now»

– Well, it is already beginning to be seen that the tendency of public powers will be to relax with respect to ‘green policies’.

– Well, until the floods, fires, thaws, droughts increase… and people have no choice but to accept that we have to change course. Let’s not fool ourselves, this sounds very good to all or almost all of us that we have to save the planet, that we must fight against climate change, that we must protect nature…; but we forget that doing so carries a price, and that is when we become comfortable, we relax, we forget. We are not willing to make any sacrifices to stop climate change. And if we really want it not to be too late, we are going to need money, leadership, political vision and personal sacrifice.

– Is space exploration welcome?

– Of course, let’s welcome him and hope that he enjoys good health, but let’s not get confused: the solutions to our problems are not going to come from the Moon. We will have to find them here, on Earth.

– In favor of Francisco?

– Yes of course.

– What does it mean to live wisely?

– Today, a great threat to Humanity, people’s poor mental health, which has to do with social networks, technology, cybernetics and all that. Allowing yourself to be captured by social networks and Artificial Intelligence is dangerous for mental health. As for what I think helps a lot to live well, I would point out two things: not doing anything excessively, and having a solid community of friends and family. Happiness has to do with that, with being very careful with excesses and with not living without an emotional community around you.

– Do you live in peace?

– Of course not! Of course not.

– What personal challenge have you proposed?

– Do everything possible to age while maintaining control over my body and mind. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m afraid of not being able to handle myself. I wouldn’t want to accumulate loss of faculties, I don’t think living like this is worth it.

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