Here in the Gold Coast, I do not even have to leave my bedroom to encounter globalization. I can see the bright signs for Macca’s (McDonalds), K-Mart, Target and H&M all from my balcony. I have visited many different cities and suburbs in my two months here, and nearly every one is home to a Hungry Jacks (same owner, menu and logo as Burger King) or a Nandos. Peanut butter is even sold in stores labeled as “American-style Peanut Butter” (Although that name makes it falsely seem like there is an Aussie style peanut butter). I am still surprised each time I discover another chain here that we also have back at home. While there are some benefits to these companies serving such a diverse clientele, there are also many issues. McDonalds may have adapted to each culture in which it is present, but the “McDonaldization” has also caused major health issues for many poor communities. Fast food places have provided the cheapest food options for low-income families. The increase in high-calorie, high-fat diets contributes to the growing obesity rates across the world.
Likewise, the “coca-colonization” that Robbins also discusses has created a growing problem in many poorer areas. In my Nutrition class here in Australia, we watched a video about the presence of Coke in Mexican schools and communities. In places where safe drinking water is not readily available, The Coca-Cola Company has come “to the rescue”, providing free or extremely inexpensive bottles of cola to school children and their families. The drink has taken over the community, and some babies are even being fed Coke in their bottles instead of milk or formula. In a way, this is a human rights issue, as the people are not being made aware of the health risks of consuming so much of the soft drink. As a result, they are developing health issues like obesity and diabetes, and they do not have the resources to properly treat them.
The movie T-shit Travels really surprised me, because while my family and I donate trash bags full of used clothing each year, I never thought it would ever leave the United States. It is crazy to me that people on the other side of the world are making a living off of things that we Americans basically discard as trash. It is also upsetting that the export of our used goods has completely ruined the clothing manufacturing business in these communities. It really adds a whole new depth to the idea that every action has a much larger effect than we can see.
Again, we must reconsider our working definition of global community to incorporate the need to fight for the human rights of others in our community. As fellow members, this is our responsibility. Thus, a global community also acts as activists for its members to ensure each is receiving all of their inherent human rights.
So as the cultures of the world continue to merge and deviate, gracefully or not, it is important to take the friction and tension as a learning experience and not as an opportunity to oppress or offend another culture. As Robbins suggests, “we should not think of globalization in terms of homogenization, then, in line with what is commonly believed and feared. But nor should we see it in terms of diversity and differentiation, which is the opposite temptation that many more critical spirits have succumbed to. What globalization in fact brings into existence is a new basis for thinking about the relation between cultural convergence and cultural divergence” (245). With more readily available forms of international transport and communication, there is more and more need for the formation of a true global community, in which members can interact with as little conflict as possible. So as study abroad students, what is our role in globalization and the formation of a global community? It may not be possible to determine at this time, but in my opinion the best place to start is with education. In learning about other cultures, we learn to respect and honor people for who they are and what they believe, creating a smoother transition for both the convergence and divergence of the world’s cultures.
The picture I have chosen to represent globalization shows the many paths of flight used each day. We are now able to connect with other countries and cultures faster than ever before. With more travel comes more global interactions and greater potential for globalization. Education and understanding are the most important factors in the success of this movement.
Robins, K., 2002. Encountering Globalization. In: C. Held & A. McGrew, eds. The Global Transformations Reader. Cambridge: Polity. Ch. 20.