The next century will be a time of uncertainty as the cultural globalization phenomenon finds itself on a larger scale than the world has ever seen. Alongside uncertainty, much debate commonly follows. A number of interesting questions have risen in the wake of the controversy―does globalization mean that we will all share one culture? Is globalization simply the westernization of the world?
In an attempt to tackle these questions, we must first take a step back and look at the history of globalization. Cultural globalization has pre-existed far beyond the western world, and dates back further than the British, and even Roman, empires. It has been occurring for as long as we can know and is the natural order of the world. Like all ‘empires’, the American one will pass to give way to a new one.
There is undoubtedly much more evidence that globalization has and continues to occur around us. Take the internet, or the telegram before that, for example. Or ideologies such as Marxism, Islam, or Christianity, to name a few. These may not seem like globalization to us at first, simply because the spread of these ideas and technologies precede us. In fact, there are many different forms of globalization apart from the commonly held theory of the expansion of an empire.
This is why the term globalization has always been met with fear and resistance, because it is a term that is used as another word for ‘empire’. In the context of a traditional empire, culture was something that was handed down from the center of the empire to its subjects, so to say.
However, what is not taken into consideration nowadays is that anyone who is able to access the internet has the ability to be a center and source of culture. Whenever we post on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter we are actors in the shaping and creation of a global, cultural identity.
The realization that almost anyone on this planet, regardless of where they live, can access the web and contribute to our global culture should sufficiently discount the Westernization theory. Just because the world shares American music, movies, and even food, does not mean that they share the same culture. It may prove otherwise, actually. In Indonesia, we are served rice at McDonald’s and there is sambal (hot sauce) available, instead of ketchup. In this instance, a symbol of American imperialism is adapting to the Indonesian culture and preserving it: it is not a matter of forcing conformity by any means.
More so, the integration of the world and its cultures has given rise to Nationalism and even Regionalism. It is now more important than ever for communities to use culture as a tool to distinguish themselves from the rest of the world. Empires will pass, says Régis Debray, “Let’s at least make sure that it does not leave irreparable damage to our creative abilities behind it”.