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Good Move. People Move. Ideas Move. And Cultures Change高英

Today we are in the throes of a worldwide reformation of cultures, a tectonic shift of habits and dreams called, in the curious argot of social scientists, "globalization." It's an inexact term for a wild assortment of changes in politics, business, health, entertainment. "Modern industry has established the world market. All old-established national industries are dislodged by new industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes." Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote this 150 years ago in The Communist Manifesto. Their statement now describes an ordinary fact of life. How people feel about this depends a great deal on where they live and how much money they have. Yet globalization, as one report stated, "is a reality, not a choice." Humans have been weaving commercial and cultural connections since before the first camel caravan ventured afield. In the 19th century the postal service, newspapers, transcontinental railroads, and great steam-powered ships wrought fundamental changes. Telegraph, telephone, radio, and television tied tighter and more intricate knots between individuals and the wider world. Now computers, the

Internet, cellular phones, cable TV, and cheaper jet transportation have accelerated and complicated these connections. Still, the basic dynamic remains the same: Goods move. People move. Ideas move. And cultures change. The difference now is the speed and scope of these changes. It took television 13 years to acquire 50 million users; the Internet took only five. Not everyone is happy about this. Some Western social scientists and anthropologists, and not a few foreign politicians, believe that a sort of cultural cloning will result from what they regard as the "cultural assault" of McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Disney, Nike, MTV, and the English language itself—more than a fifth of all the people in the world now speak English to some degree. Whatever their backgrounds or agendas, these critics are convinced that Western—often equated with

American—influences will flatten every cultural crease, producing, as one observer terms it, one big "McWorld." Popular factions sprout to exploit nationalist anxieties. In China, where xenophobia and economic ambition have often struggled for the upper hand, a recent book called China can say no became the best-seller by attacking what it considers the Chinese willingness to believe blindly in foreign things, advising Chinese travelers to not fly on a Boeing 777 and suggesting that Hollywood be burned,

There are many Westerners among the denouncers of Western cultural influences, but James Watson, a Harvard anthropologist, isn't one of them. "The lives of Chinese villagers I know are infinitely better now than they were 30 years ago," he says. "China has become more openpartly because of the demands of ordinary people. They want to become part of the world—I would say globalism is the major force for democracy in China. People want refrigerators, stereos, CD players. I feel it's a moral obligation not to say: ‘Those people out there should continue to live in a museum while we will have showers that work.'" Westernization, I discovered over months of study and travel, is a phenomenon shot through with inconsistencies and populated by very strange bedfellows. Critics of Western culture blast Coke and Hollywood but not organ transplants and computers. Boosters of Western culture can point to increased efforts to preserve and protect the environment. Yet they make no mention of some less salubrious aspects of Western culture, such as cigarettes and automobiles, which, even as they are being eagerly adopted in the developing world, are having disastrous effects. Apparently westernization is not a straight road to hell, or to paradise either. But I also discovered that cultures are as resourceful,

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