Sunday, April 25, 2010

Its A Small World After All...

Robert Overholt

The world is getting small.

You look around and see different nationalities mingling, becoming friends, getting married. It is simply unbelievable how much integration has taken place in the last few decades. In America as well as across the world, many cultures have coexisted with minor tension. Yet, globalization is not simply everybody living happily together like in the Disney Ride, It’s a Small World. Globalization is not always a positive.

The Roman Empire thrived for many years on diversity. They welcomed the cultures of conquered peoples and embraced each different practice. As the empire rapidly expanded, the number of cultures grew and eventually there was no unity among the population. This lack of a cultural foundation led to their downfall. There territory and influence spread farther than they could handle, and they had no culture or religion to fall back on when the Empire was destroyed. As a result, the fall of the Roman Empire was one of the most ponderous collapses in history. Could this be our fate? By embracing a global network of cultures, are we also ridding ourselves of a cultural backbone?

Personally, I am ambivalent about globalization. From a cultural standpoint, globalization is brilliant. It teaches kids as well as adults to work with people that come from different backgrounds. In order to be successful in such a fast-paced and far-flung economy, one has to be able to work with people of different cultures. Moreover, by blending cultures, we develop an in depth understanding of the lifestyles in other parts of the world. Whether an American goes to India or an Indian goes to America, the exposure is positive to character development.

On the other hand, by being exposed to so many cultures we often lose sight of our own. For example, an immigrant from Indonesia may be accustomed to certain traditions. If that child is exposed to a European child who is not involved in as many traditions, the Indonesian child may think his traditions are stupid and unnecessary. This is a prevalent occurrence that I have witnessed first hand in America. Cultures should be exposed to other cultures and appreciate them, but not at the expense of their own culture. Americans struggle with this concept. We try to convert every immigrant to the American way. In our eyes, it is the American way or the highway to the airport back to their country. In the interest of preserving a cultural foundation, this may be a positive. If you flip the situation, an American visiting China is naturally going to adapt to Chinese ways. It is the cycle of globalization.

In our modern world, a collapse such as that of the Roman Empire seems unlikely. However, history does tend to repeat itself. Globalization has its positives and negatives, and hopefully the former will prevail. We have become obsessed with embracing different cultures at the expense of nationalism. It all depends on your priorities. Are you an American or an immigrant living in America?

I never did like that ride at Disney. Those chanting faces are terrifying.


  1. Robert,
    I think you're absolutely correct about everything thing you said. Globalization is more than just an economical expansion it's cultural as well and I think that in the process of intercultural mingling heritages are forgotten or left behind.
    I think it's important that people stay true to their culture no matter where they are but that they understand other cultures when they travel abroad. I agree that it's important for countries especially empires to have a backbone that people stem from but that within that empire other cultures are accepted too.
    Also agree that It's A Small World is probably one of the most frightening rides I've ever been on.

  2. I agree with Robert. Globalization seems to bring the world together, which makes it more connected. Also, the level of communication with the different countries is getting easier and more reliable. I think that having a mass of different cultures is a good thing, but if we continue to mash them altogether, they tend to lose their value and meaning.