Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Globalization: good news or bad?

In order to write about globalization, it would be a good start if we knew what “globalization” means. This term, that we hear and use on a daily basis, has suffered from inflation: it means everything and sounds meaningless at the same time. And why is that? Because “globalization” is a very broad term which can apply to many areas. According to Wikipedia, globalization has to do with integration of different economies, societies and cultures through “a globe-spanning network of exchange”. The different kinds of possible exchange range from economy to technology, culture, language, politics, ideas, etc. It is exactly because of this wide spectrum of “meanings” that it becomes difficult to label Globalization as either good or bad. For this reason, we will approach just one aspect of globalization: the cultural aspect.

Of course, the term culture, in turn, carries a lot of different meanings, one of which relates to information and knowledge. Now, can you think of any other time when knowledge and information were as much accessible as now? Thanks to the mechanisms underpinning globalization, this is the Age of Information. As much so that, if we ask our grandparents what language is spoken in “America”, they would probably answer “American”, and this is not only because they were/are not interested in learning, it is also because when they were young and their brains were eager to learn new things, they were not given enough information and stimuli. What happens if we ask the same question to a 6-year-old today? They will not only tell you that Americans speak English, but they will also tell you about Obama, the White House, Washington and their last trip to Disney World or New York City.

Nowadays, in fact, it is much easier to obtain information on other countries and to visit them as well. Thanks to globalization, our world looks much smaller than it used to be and this enables us to learn more things about different places, different cultures and different languages. And since when learning things is bad for us? The important thing is that we be sensible and critical towards what we learn. It is not a matter of embracing a new culture: it is a matter of learning and understanding about other people’s costumes and realizing that there are other ways of living besides our own. Furthermore, when we are presented with a different culture, the contrasts that we perceive between our own costumes and the new ones foster a deeper understanding of our own selves and our own identity. In a nutshell, learning about others promotes a deeper view into ourselves. There is no way this can be considered a bad thing.

Finally, when we have a deeper consciousness of who we are, we appreciate what is unique and important to preserve in our own culture. And that is when the opposite process of globalization takes place: glocalization. This new concept applies to those people who are able to bridge the gap between global and local thinking by being open to the new globalized age without forgetting their own roots and history.

This awareness prevents us from forgetting who we are without preventing us from interacting with the New and the Different, therefore this is the attitude we should all look for and promote in our kids. Globalization cannot be stopped, but we can give it a positive twist, if we only want to.