Thursday, February 5, 2015

A world of nations or a national world

by Sofia Squittieri, Writing Intern

Globalization is our reality. The Webster dictionary defines this word: “the process by which the experience of everyday life, marked by the diffusion of commodities and ideas, is becoming standardized around the world.”

What does this mean? Is it profitable? Useful? Convenient? These questions should be answered in the following lines, but first consider another question: for whom?

Globalization facilitates communications all around the globalized world--making business easier. Skype allows us to talk, and video-chat, with people on the other side of the world. Music travels further than sound waves. Currency exchange and negotiation, are no longer issues.

The Euro, the currency used in most of the countries of the European Union, is an example of how globalization works.  In order to facilitate the movement of money, seventeen countries adopted the Euro, dissolving their own coins--the symbol of their nation and part of their identity. Arguably, the creation of the European Union means that people are no longer members of a country but of Europe. Laws guide the member countries. Anyone may work anywhere. Frontiers are open to any type of legal exchange. The idea is to create a single market, a major trading bloc or union. This way, national economic policies can be coordinated to solve challenges faster and more effectively. It works. As a Spanish citizen, I am able to travel freely and even work in any of the countries of the Union, which is especially helpful considering the current crisis in Spain. This is Europe, but what about the rest of the world? The USA and Canada also form a bloc that becomes stronger each year.

Another sign of this globalized world is that almost everyone speaks English, which acts as a lingua franca to facilitate communication between people of different places--it is a globalized language. English speakers no longer need to learn any other language if they travel. The rest of the world must become bi- or even tri-lingual. But are languages disappearing now? English is not.

Many English-speaking travelers actually expect people in other countries to know their language. They don’t pretend to make the effort of speaking the resident's language. As a Spaniard, I speak Spanish, English, German, and Catalan. When I went to Jordan, I learned the basics of the Arabic dialect. When I went to Italy, Italians felt offended when I was unable to speak to them in their language--even though I was able to understand them. Whenever we're in a situation like this, it is solved by speaking in English. So  it seems that English is THE language (editor’s note: by numbers of people speaking, one of the Chinese languages is “THE” language, but I don’t disagree with the point here).

The spread of English, the adoption of different currencies, the mixture of cultures (Santa Claus, Halloween), and traditions contribute to the disappearance of local languages and traditions. Everyone wants to know English because everyone needs to know English in order to participate in the global exchange (of ideas, goods, money…). Languages like Polish or Italian are rarely taught in other countries. Halloween is becoming more and more popular each year. Santa Claus now needs more than a night to provide presents to children all over the world. “Jeans,” “film,” and “stock” are even accepted by the Spanish Academy of the Language, and are more used than their Spanish equivalent.

Movies, books--arts are products often designed for a broad reach, not artistic spirit. That focus produces the opposite effect--nationalism, which grows from the necessity of vindicating an identity, the country’s personality. According to Webster’s, “a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.” 

So these two opposing movements are responsible for, and consequence of, each other.

And now comes the most polemic question: For whom? Which countries benefit from this system and ideology? Basically, the first world exploits the included third world countries--their resources and people. 

So, is globalization unifying or dividing the world? Does it have positive or negative consequences? Here, the world trends to opposite extremes. And by the end of the day opposing extremes are the same--extremes.


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