24 April 2006

We are globalised, but have no real intimacy with the rest of the world [The Guardian]

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We are globalised
With globalisation, most anticipate an inter-connected world with greater understanding of multiple cultures more than ever before. Martin Jacques, a senior visiting research fellow at the Asia Research Institute in Singapore, argues in The Guardian that this assumption is at odds with the tone of globalisation, based on a “one-size-fits-all” model of western cultural imperialism.

Whereas European colonialism included exporting self-defined values of civilisation, it did not strive to refashion other cultures in the image of the West. Underlying globalisation, on the other hand, is the belief that the world is moving toward a common culture.

What is disturbing for Jacques is that the shift is taken to mean the mass export of US, neo-liberal and mass-consumption values at the expense of traditional mores and standards of other societies.

Often, self-proclaimed experts on cultural exchange hold but a mere surface understanding of other cultures that are rapidly becoming receptacles for the transfer of western politics, economic models and lifestyles.

In an age of connection facilitated by technology and tourism, a lack of respect for difference has emerged. Globalisation has produced a worldwide intimacy that is, sadly, coupled with intolerance because mental distances have changed little.

Globalisation has fostered the illusion of intimacy while intolerance remains as powerful and unyielding as ever – or rather, has intensified, because the western expectation is now that everyone should be like us.

Ironically, the non-West continues emerging as a world force. Jacques points out that the current hubris of the West hints that future reactions and conflicts will not be so benign.

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