Noor in a Nutshell: Trading culture for globalization

Noor Naji, Opinion Editor

Whether you’re in Diamond Bar, or across the world in Zimbabwe, you are guaranteed an almost identical cup of coffee at any Starbucks shop. Not long ago, this would have seemed impossible. You can thank globalization for that. Or should you?

It is alarming to realize the rate at which many corporations and brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s and many more have become popular worldwide. And although globalization has many economic benefits, it could be catastrophic to cultures.

The main engine behind  this sudden acceleration is the internet and social media.In “Cultural Globalization in Contemporary India” written by Biswajit Ghosh, a professor at University of Burdwan, he writes, that “cultural hegemony” is shaped to the demands of the market and therefore, “replaces customs and rituals by goods and services.”

Homogeneous societies have long been idealized in futuristic books. However, this is simply a form of modern colonialism, where nations, instead of sending troops, simply establish their spheres of influence through companies under the banner of creating “a common thread around the world.”

Continuing with Starbucks as an example, The Diplomat, a South Korean magazine, claims that the corporation has been a threat to local coffee shops. This imbalance can be seen in annual sales numbers, with Starbucks at around 470 million dollars and Angels-In-Us, a coffee chain in South Korea and its biggest competitor in the region, at around 294 million.

The main cause of this disparity is due to the effects of social media, which has placed Starbucks and the like as luxury brands. In “Asian Brands and the Shaping of a Transnational Imagined Community,” it points out that many people “become united through common brand experience rather than national belonging.” This illustrates the danger facing local cultures in weaker countries. If this trend continues, culturally significant items like food, music and coffee will fall to the margins in each country.

Of course, it is almost impossible for cultures to be truly extinct, even in the face of ever-growing homogeneous communities. However, it is important to recognize the importance of heterogeneous sets of beliefs and values, which allows for various individual identities internationally.

While no one is really to blame for this issue, it is worth noting the fast pace of this dramatic change. There is no doubt that globalization has changed the world for the better economically, politically and, to a minor extent, socially. But in spite of that, there is a cost; we are trading the benefits for the death of hundreds of cultures worldwide.

Too often, we are so taken away by the genius of our innovations, that we willingly, and at times subconsciously, overlook its negatives, which risks the downfall of human culture as we know it.