When traveling to another country, it is impossible not to interfere with the flow of globalization. Everything you do is different from that of your host culture: the way you eat, dress, and talk, for example, are representative of your home culture. That is not to say, however, that these disparities impact the receiving culture in a negative way, but that there must be a healthy balance between celebrating differences while attempting assimilation.
The series, “The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy” is a perfect example of how Western globalization can negatively impact a society. According to export agent, Barney Lehrer, “the largest export product from the United States to Africa, in general, is used clothing.” The camera then pans hundreds of Zambians wearing shirts with the faces of American celebrities, like Kurt Cobain and Michael Bolton, or slogans of American organizations like Boy Scouts and Disney World. One man sporting a Detroit Pistons t-shirt says, “I think it’s got a name of a basketball team…I think…in Detroit, Michigan…yeah.” Personally, I think it is quite odd to wear clothes representing people or organizations of which you are unfamiliar. Therein lies the problem of Western globalization; North America has strongly imposed its culture, via secondhand clothing imports, rendering Africans blind supporters of things of which they are clueless. Interestingly enough, Mark O’Donnell, spokesperson for Zambian Manufacturers Association, informs us that before 1991, clothing was the sole product that was not imported, but instead made in Zambia. Due to the incessant arrivals of used clothing, however, all of the manufacturers lost their businesses.
During my two-month stay in Paris, I have readily observed this type of negative globalization. French teenagers sport Adidas sneakers while drinking caramel macchiatos from Starbucks and snacking on a bag of Chicken McNuggets. It is even recognizable in the Americanized slang that has crept into the French language. Words like “stop,” “relax” and “job” are a few of the many English words that have found their way into the Francophone vernacular. Furthermore, much of the music and cinema in France are indeed, American. I even went to the movies last week to watch an American movie that did not have voiceover, yet still displayed French subtitles. Thus, my purchase of a ticket reinforces the demand for American cinema in France. This is true of most examples mentioned above, like “McDonaldization” or the high demand of American coffee.
Not all of globalization is negative, either. It can be a mutually beneficial experience for all parties involved. For instance, the French public transportation system is significantly more efficient than its American counterpart. Conversely, Americans know how to successfully get their point across during a disagreement without holding up its cities and half of the surrounding suburbs during strikes. If each country respectively extracted different aspects from the other’s culture, this would support the theory of positive globalization. Kevin Robins, author of “Encountering Globalization,” explains, “With mobility, comes encounter. In many respects, this may be stimulating and productive. Global encounters and interactions are producing inventive new cultural forms and repertoires” (240). In other words, the ideal culture should not be uniformly American or French. Instead, we should strive to incorporate ideals that the other cultures perform better, as I mentioned before. Without American musicians and actors, the French would not have much of its current music or cinema. Without French Haute Couture, Americans would be strangers to Chanel or Dior. Modern cultures would not be what they are today without the influence, positive or negative, of globalization.
I have included a picture of two opposing faces: one adorned with the American flag, the other with the French flag. It symbolizes that while they are two very distinct cultures, they are able to work in harmony and mutually benefit from each other’s strengths. This is especially apparent in today’s society when the world must unite in the fight against terror.