The great threat posed by globalisationSince globalisation tends to homogenise cultures, we need to be critical of its values to preserve our own identity.
Despite having some advantages, globalisation—in which we can trace the legacy of imperialism—tends to homogenise cultures, places and peoples by completely expunging the diversities. That is why globalisation has become a great threat to cultural identities and local specificities. Each nation or locale has its own cultural civilisation, but due to the flourishing influence of globalisation, the entire world has become a ‘melting pot’ of overlapping cultures. Globalisation doesn’t merely refer to the exchange of cultures but rather to the flow of culture. The process of globalisation involves power politics. There is an unequal flow: A few countries, with their powerful hold on the world economy, politics and ideology, are disseminating their cultures all over the world and the cultural civilisations of less powerful countries are going into crisis.
The world is being flattened with advancements and innovations in transportation and information technology that help to intensify the world’s interconnectivity. But there are many instances of an asymmetrical flow of consciousness or ideology, and it is predominantly of the West, and what is the norm for the West maybe not so for the rest of the world. Because of the homogenising and humiliating attitude of the West, cultures are gradually being wiped out in the rest of the world. We are witnessing that the lifestyle, education, fashion, music, movies and goods originating in the West are continually invading other cultures. I don’t mean that cultures from other countries aren’t reaching the West, but my concern is about the status and existence of those cultures in the West.
Are they getting equal treatment? Of course not. Countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, France and Germany are economically much more powerful and politically more stable and organised. So they have established their hegemony throughout the world. Ideological hegemony is a more powerful form of domination and it is more perilous than military hegemony. So we need to be critical of the interests of the West behind globalisation which they are striving to legitimise by creating terms like a global village and global citizen.
English, which is the lingua franca, is the epitome of Western hegemony due to which many languages of the world have already disappeared and are continuing to disappear. On the one hand, there is growing global significance of a few languages, particularly English, Spanish and French. On the other, the decline of other languages is continuing. At the time of the birth of British colonialism in the late 16th century, only approximately 7 million people used English as their mother tongue. By the 1990s, with the passage of time, the number had increased to over 350 million native speakers, with 400 million more using English as a second language. Today, more than 75 percent of the content posted on the internet is in English.
Moreover, the number of spoken languages in the world, according to the Globalisation Research Centre at the University of Hawaii, had dropped from 14,500 in the early 16th century to 7,500 as of the early 20th century and 6,703 as of the late 20th century. Some linguists predict that, if the rate of decline remains the same, 50-90 percent of the currently existing languages will have disappeared by the end of the 21st century. This trend, which demonstrates the clout and hegemony of a few languages, is sufficient to show the homogenisation of cultures by the effect of globalisation.
The volume and extent of cultural transmission in the contemporary period has far exceeded that of earlier eras. The Western cultural industry based in London, New York, Hollywood and Milan is increasingly homogenising popular cultures. For example, Amazonian Indians wearing Nike training shoes, denizens of the Southern Sahara purchasing Texaco baseball caps, Palestinian youths proudly displaying their Chicago Bulls sweatshirts in downtown Ramallah, youths imitating the hairstyles of Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and Neymar; people enjoying English music of the Eagles, Greenday and Metallica; and Nepali youths celebrating Valentine’s Day, New Year's Day and Christmas demonstrate the Anglo-American cultural influence over other cultures.
The media has played a vital role along in the spread of cultural globalisation. The global media increasingly shapes people’s identities and the structure of desire around the world. The media, being part of the culture industry, is merely supporting capitalism.
Globalisation, along with ideological and epistemological domination, frequently distorts images and ideas which are often employed to legitimise certain political interests or defend the dominant power structure of the West. Ideologies like capitalism, consumerism and Christianity have become dominant tools to manipulate people’s minds through the means of the culture industry where marginalised cultures of the non-West remain impotent bystanders and are getting wiped out. Since globalisation, despite having good aspects, tends to homogenise cultures, we need to be critical of its values to preserve our own culture and our own identity instead of entirely disregarding it.
Timsina completed his masters from the Central Department of English, TU.