Globalization as defined by dictionary.com is “worldwide integration and development.” During my time studying in New Zealand this concept has been apparent in the way locals dress, interact, and spend their free time. Many aspects of New Zealand culture closely resemble pieces of our own American culture. However, in a country such as New Zealand a certain level of globalization is expected. They have a similar history to that of the US in that Europeans also colonized them. Additionally, they have access to similar technologies, use similar agricultural techniques, and enjoy similar recreational activities. However, there are other countries where American culture is not expected, but prevalent. For example during a recent trip to Thailand I experience the harsh and upsetting reality of globalization first hand.
The markets in Thailand were astonishingly similar to the market featured in this week’s viewing “The Travels of a T-shit in the Global Economy.” The film featured the market of Zambia where locals buy and sell our second hand cloths. Charity such as this has created an environment where local goods and clothing are not longer needed, killing the entire textile and clothing market of the country. Thailand’s market is similar in that the local market has been destroyed. However, the mechanism of this destruction is quite different; rather than the market conforming to charity, the Thai markets have conformed to tourism. The streets are filled with stands selling knockoff Lewis Vuitton wallets, Gucci purses, Chanel jewelry, American Sports team appeal, Nike shoes, and much more. When preparing to go to Thailand this was not a market I was expecting to find. I expected large markets, but anticipated them being filled with local hand made goods that showed the intricate and innate aspects of Thai culture. However, among these stands it was challenging to find a unique product. I was able to find a few, for example the man in the photo below hand painted hundreds of wooden bowls and plates. His business was honest and produced a genuine fine craft. Unfortunately, this man was an anomaly and his talents are a dying craft suffocated by the globalized market.
The majority of the markets in Thailand were composed of knock off brands mass-produced with plastic only seen in the more developed parts of the world. I remember asking myself similar questions to the ones the narrator of the film presented;
How did these brands get here, where were the products made, would locals buy these knock off brands, and how did these people come to sell this clothing? These questions are not unique to Thaiand and Zambia. In the opening pages of Becoming World Wise, Slimbach references the globalization he finds on the televisions of small rural Vietnam households. Globalization can even been seen on the remote island village in Fiji I visited. Their clothing and Catholic traditions held a distinct western style that seemed odd in such a remote place. However, is there anything that can be done? Can we prevent globalization? Do we want to?
In the film the narrator says, “This is not about the second hand cloths, its about a country struggling” (The Travels of a T-shit in the Global Economy) Later it is mentioned that free markets are part of the problem because it creates a space where some people have no value, they are dispensable. If a man selling second hand cloths dies, there are many readily available to take his place in the market. Has this appeared in Thailand too? There, the streets were filled with hundreds of venders trying to sell the same items. This wasn’t just in one city; we saw the same goods being sold at almost every location we visited. As if globalization had created a uniform market were a unique product no longer held a higher or equivalent value. Thai culture has turned into that of one aimed at pleasing tourist rather than its own people similar to the way Zambia has created a market for second hand cloths over locally produced ones.
One benefit to globalization could be the universal acceptance of human rights. This would mean every man, women, and child of each and every country would have the same basic and agreed-upon rights. However, there is also the threat that globalization may destroy many of the unique and varying cultures around the world. Thus by creating a global community are we destroying our unique global culture? In class we defined a global community as” a shared living space of interdependent individuals endowed with universal human rights, while choosing to act upon them, embracing differences and working toward common goals.” I would argue that this statement needs to be edited in a way that includes the importance of preserving a local culture rather than a single global one. Without the unique cultures of the world the experience of traveling to a new country would be irrelevant because a uniform globe would be created. Thus a global community should simply be a shared living space for a variety of celebrated cultures and beliefs, which are all endowed with the same universal human rights.