Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cultural Differences

I never felt satisfied by our discussion in class concerning Steger's question in Chapter 5 of Globalization: "Does globalization make people around the world more alike or more different?" So I bring it up here.

I understand where Steger was coming from. Yes, McDonald's keeps appearing in random places (holy crap, CHINA!) and Hollywood is a major player in the homogenization of culture. Trends in fashion span the globe; music is echoed from one studio to another and there's probably some other poor guy that can't get MIA's "Paper Planes" out of his head halfway across the world. For my own experience, I see more Filipinos doing more American things (ahem...basketball? We are not supposed to be able to do that sort of thing...) and more Americans doing Filipino things (our cuisine is quite delicious, if you give it a chance). Our cultures seem to be merging, and while America is definitely dominating the world cultural market, there is a definitive middle ground.

However, that merging of cultures is also what breeds the separation of individuals. Really, when was the last time you met an MMA-fighting cannibalistic Filipino familiar with American contemporary, hip-hop, and swing dance? Similarly, it's always a pleasure to find an American that understands Tagalog or practices Kali/Eskrima/Anis or that I can share some balut with (and that last one is really rare). While the merging of cultures does seem to bring a measure of homogeneity to society, it is the combination of many cross-cultural experiences that makes an individual.

Of course, I am speaking from my own experience and that is not applicable to individuals who have little exposure to other cultures, directly (meeting people) or indirectly (TV, news, studies, etc.). On the whole, though, I feel that Steger tempers his statements by bringing up this new synthesis of cultures and how it has created "new symbolic expressions."

This is even apparent in smaller microcosms. I will use the MMA world as an example. We're all trained in various forms of striking and grappling and wrestling. Professional fighter Georges St.-Pierre is a prime example of the individuality present in our sport given through cross-cultural training. He is a traditionally a Kyokushfin karate fighter, yet he has been cross-trained in Muay Thai, boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While most of us are indeed cross-trained in multiple arts, we all have unique syntheses based on our natural abilities and the experiences we have had in cross-cultural martial arts.

Staying with combat applications, but moving into larger microcosms, observe our police and military forces. Kali/Eskrima/Anis training has become mandatory from some, or simply absorbed and adapted into a regimen (such as MCMAP). The ever-increasing presence of Kali instructors has led to police forces around the nation employing their services to teach officers more effective ways to engage hostile individuals with a baton or in hand-to-hand combat. Our knife training has been implemented into all U.S. military forces and in many other militaries across the globe as well. While this training may be from the same art, we have to consider the other factors: the teacher (your friends that have Search clearly don't all have someone as awesome as Dr. J), the individual's physical capabilities, their mental preparedness, or that person's cross-cultural martial arts training. All these result in an individual synthesis that includes a new form of martial art (the antithesis) being combined with whatever knowledge, or lack thereof, they had possessed before (their original thesis).

Anyway, that's my spiel. Thoughts?


MVP said...

I would agree in so far as it is highly improbable to have a very vast middle ground. I doubt we'll see a Firefly-esque world with U.S. and Chinese culture blended together seamlessly. There's just too many other cultures that you ignore in order for that to happen.

But on a small scale, yes, it happens, and I don't really mind it. I can almost 100% guarantee you that my wife is not going to be Vietnamese. (watch me eat my words one day) On the one hand, it's fine, go America/cultural assimilation, I don't mind it, but there is a little bit of old fashioned Vietnamese, er, bias in me from my mother that says "marry a Vietnamese girl, keep the bloodline going." Now, I don't mind, but I know that there are those out there who still dislike race mixing and there are those who feel lost and without a cultural identity due to being a "half-breed" or "mudblood." I've already felt the weight of mixtures of cultural identity (cmon, an Asian kid in America?) so it's not too much of a problem for me. But it will be in the end for many people and that's just how it might have to be in order to offset the growing power of globalization. (not advocating racism)

claire said...

Ridiculously white and blandly all-American as I am, I don't know that I have much more to say about culture and race that I haven't said already somewhere on the blog.

Americanized-surname aside, I'm about as Italian as Pizza Hut.
As open-minded and progressive as I fancy myself, there's one bit of patriarchal tradition it would pain me to lose. My brother is the only remaining male DelBove with any chance of reproducing.
Yeah, I could pass on the family name myself, not put all the eggs in one basket - but of course I'd be bringing shame on it in the eyes of most of my living relatives.

Octo-hobo said...

I think you kinda missed the point, Michael. My analysis was aimed on an individual basis, not a generalization. I don't expect any Firefly stuff to happen (Btw, if you were to be any Firefly character who would you be? I liken myself mostly to Mal, or maybe Jane on my bad days). And your experience as a Vietnamese American just proves my point.

And Claire is a pizza.

Andrew Campbell said...

Octo-Hobo, you raise an excellent point in this blog post, but I'd really like to comment on one thing. When examined, the homogenization of culture does sprout out new ideas and individualism. However, would it be fair to mention that this aspect of globalization could take on a cyclic pattern? I mean, when you have new ideas and such, couldn't there be new trends or future types of cultural homogenization? Back long ago before Starbucks was largely established, I doubt people imagined that there would be a coffee-house chain that served as one of the most powerful, widespread economic institutions ever created. A coffee house for Christ's sake!! I believe that although there are new expressions in thought that arise outside of specific homogenized cultural trends, new homogenized cultural trends could take shape in the future. I hope this makes sense!

Andrew Campbell said...

Hmmm. Let me clarify a little more...I meant that new ideas and the rise of diversity, as a result of homogenized cultural trends, could essentially spark new "norms" and new forms of homogenized culture. In other words, this "separation of individuals" could lead to the formation of new cultural trends.

Octo-hobo said...

YES! Right on Andrew. That's where I was going with the synthesis thing, only you extrapolated it into a larger microcosm, indeed you have applied it to a macrocosm. I give you a high five.