Technology has now created the possibility and even the likelihood of a global culture. The internet, satellites and cable TV are sweeping away cultural boundaries. Global entertainment companies shape the perceptions and dreams of ordinary citizens, wherever they live. This spread of values, norms, and culture tends to promote western ideals of capitalism. Will local cultures inevitably fall victim to this global “consumer” culture? Will English eradicate all other languages? Will consumer values overwhelm peoples’ sense of community and social solidarity?
Stroll into your local Starbucks and you will find yourself part of a cultural experiment on a scale never seen before on this planet. In less than half a century, the coffee chain has grown from a single outlet in Seattle to nearly 20,000 shops in around 60 countries. Each year, its near identical stores serve cups of near identical coffee in near identical cups to hundreds of thousands of people. For the first time in history, your morning cappuccino is the same no matter whether you are sipping it in Tokyo, New York, Bangkok or India. Of course, it is not just Starbucks. Select any global brand from Coca Cola to Facebook and the chances are you will see or feel their presence in most countries around the world. It is easy to see this homogenization in terms of loss of diversity, identity or the westernization of society.
Led by the mass media, the fashion industry and the education curriculum, the perception of self-image is increasingly being defined by western parameters. The inundation of western culture is undeniable as it has effects that are both unconsciously beneficial and detrimental in our daily lives. The Internet has helped teenagers with their social lives; fast food has made food prep less time consuming; and MTV has shown them a whole new different world of pop culture. As the influx of Western behaviors and thinking continues, teenager’s lives will be disparate to those of parents.
Through globalization, teenagers are also experiencing new cultures that are absolutely different from their own and this can make these youths much more adaptable and accepting to distinctions that vary among societies. Unconsciously and involuntarily, teenagers often suffer from the loss of their own unique culture. For instance in India, factors like great mobility, a demanding school system and mixed marriages are churning up a startling consequence: a generation of urban children is growing up largely monolingual — speaking, thinking and dreaming only in English.
Change and development is inevitable and natural anywhere. But change beyond limits is pernicious to one’s diversity and individuality. Our country has 22 official languages including English, with many colloquial dialects spoken by native speakers. Yet parents who speak to children only in English are content that it is a global language and that their children will learn other languages if they are interested in them. A few years from now, will we be surprised if English becomes the single spoken language and kids go to special schools to learn India’s regional languages? We need to change the misconception that speaking ones native language will hurt us socially and academically. In fact bilingual people have more mental agility, better social skills and many windows of opportunities to enrich their life.
We are now at a loss in the attempt to guard and cherish our enriching culture and identity. The random influx of ideology and lifestyles and unmonitored intercultural communication has resulted in the creation of a pseudo culture that is common across boundaries. The inability to find one’s self can lead to an identity crisis. Though today’s society is pushing expectations in our faces; the best choice is to be an individual with traditional and modern values. When we have both, only then can we truly find ourselves and be secure. Culture is very much like language and vice versa. We can master our own as well as western cultures at the same time and don’t need to give up one for the other.