By Harout Ekmanian
Globalization is a word that is on everyone's lips these days, from politicians and businessmen to preachers and school teachers. It’s a subject that needs intensive examination in Syria, because we cannot exclude ourselves from the world affairs while living in the heart of the crossroads of various cultures and civilizations.
Globalization is not new; it existed even before the dawn on the Roman Empire. But the modern globalization is a product of the industrial revolution of the 19th century. The pace, scope and scale of globalization have accelerated dramatically since World War II, and especially in the last three decades. There’s even a generation called after it, which is the Millennial generation, starting from births of 1982 and so on. And, yes, they exist in Syria too.
In Syria, the rapid spread of advanced communication technologies, the increasing growth of trade, and branches of multinational companies operating across the country are changing the way people organize their functions, and increasingly allowing their lifestyle to be more globalized.
This dynamic got pretty obvious, especially in Aleppo, during the last decade. Many people couldn’t predict these huge changes coming in this very short period of time. For example, a few years ago having a mobile phone was considered almost a luxury, while I was called an old fashioned by a school kid just last week for not having a blue tooth in my mobile phone. People used to pay hundreds of Syrian pounds for an hour of internet connection in a café, which offered a single dial up connection to more than ten PCs. But now, the situation is quite different, even if you still have to wait a couple of months to get an ADSL internet line for example.
A tour in the various markets of Aleppo will allow us to see how globalized they are. Inside those traditional little shops in those old alleys you can find silks from China, kitchen tools from Germany, souvenirs from Russia, or even hand made gifts from Morocco or Egypt. All these help us to realize the interconnectedness between Aleppo and the global common market.
Apart from its economic, technological and many other factors, the term globalization also includes the increasing number of cross-border social and cultural links. Beyond good or evil
In Aleppo, one can notice that most of the lectures, publications, articles and researches about globalization regard it as a force of evil, without acknowledging its positive sides. With a growing uniformity in dress, food and business practices multinational companies like Benetton, KFC, and Facebook are growing their influence. They say that globalization kills culture. But on the other hand, globalization isn’t just about eating burgers and drinking Pepsi, or consumerism in general, but it breaks down cultural boundaries across the world increasingly commonplace like no time before. It allows interaction even where language might be a barrier. We can even see the savor in globalization for the shrinking or relatively little practiced cultures as it is a tool of internationalism and introduction to the world.
Globalization may have a very positive and advanced meaning for some people in Aleppo, depending on their personal views. As English is the most popular and globalized language in the world, those people use the only 50 English words they know in all their conversations, to show off how much they are advanced and liberal…
On the other hand, there are still people like Abou Kasser, our military education teacher in high school, a sworn enemy of globalization, who used to punish all the guys putting wax on their hair, and call them “Madonna” or “Michael Jackson” (RIP) meant in a sarcastic way. For him caring about your hair and wearing Nike are the first signs of the “globalization flu”. But now, by a wise step from our government, that whole inconvenient subject has been removed from the high school curriculum, let alone its hardliner teachers.
However, globalization isn’t about the hairstyle, dressing or just the image, but it’s a complete way of thinking. Otherwise, a shallow sense of globalization can only turn us into bad copies of the west…
Globalization in itself is not a nasty thing. There are endless opportunities for everyone in the world to take advantage of these advancements and interconnectedness to work and bring their own standards of living up substantially. However, globalizing a bad thing makes it worse, but globalizing a good thing is usually good. That’s why we must be very careful to not let globalization lead the way, but instead we must balance it.
At the end, to put it in a lighter way, let’s take a look at the credits in the welcome window that shows up every time you open the Photoshop program in your computer. There you will see an Indian name, five Chinese names, six or seven Anglo-Americans, a Bulgarian, an African, and maybe two Japanese names. This is exactly what they call it internationalism, this is the globalization. It’s one of the most exciting things in the human history, and you cannot stop it or drive it away, cause by doing so you’ll join Abou Kasser at the end of the truck. It’s been over the phase at which one could stop it a very long time ago, because it’s already waving at you from your TV on your home desk!
Article appeared in the October 2009 issue of Forward Magazine, published by Haykal Media in Syria.
Posted in Azad-Hye with the consent of the author.