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TOTD 11 Feb 2002

I don't have any predictive abilities, but my experience makes me fearful of the imminent McDonaldization of the world. I've always savored the fantastic diversity of languages, sound systems, grammars, idioms. I love the sense of alienness you get when you cross a border, the magical sense of being in a different culture, of being in a place where you cannot speak your own language because they won't understand you. That is how it was when I first went to Europe many, many years ago, but now that sense of sharp cultural boundaries has faded enormously.

-Douglas Hofstadter

Those who visit foreign nations, but associate only with their own country-men, change their climate, but not their customs. They see new meridians, but the same men; and with heads as empty as their pockets, return home with traveled bodies, but untraveled minds.

-Caleb Colton

Thanks to Dave Krieger for the Douglas Hofstadter quote.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
vyoma
Feb. 11th, 2002 06:15 pm (UTC)
Its so easy to agree with Hofstadter when you've gotten as fed up with American culture as I have.
kmo
Feb. 11th, 2002 08:28 pm (UTC)
The Full Quote
Here's the full quote that Dave Krieger sent me:

"I don't have any predictive abilities, but my experience makes me fearful of the imminent McDonaldization of the world. I've always savored the fantastic diversity of languages, sound systems, grammars, idioms. I love the sense of alienness you get when you cross a border, the magical sense of being in a different culture, of being in a place where you cannot speak
your own language because they won't understand you. That is how it was when I first went to Europe many, many years ago, but now that sense of sharp cultural boundaries has faded enormously. It's fading even in China. Western things that were once unobtainable in China are now a dime a dozen. In fact, the scary thing is that it's traditional Chinese things that are getting hard to get in China.

"My friend David Moser, who lives in Beijing, told me a story about teaching English to a class of Chinese kids. He asked them if they knew who Mickey Mouse was, but instantly realized the fatuousness of his question when he noticed a picture of Mickey Mouse on one of the kids' lunchboxes. And then as he and the students scanned around the room, they found almost a dozen more images of Mickey Mouse. But there wasn't a single image of any character from classical Chinese literature -- not one. And David cynically remarked that if there had been an image of a Chinese character, it would have come through one medium and one medium alone -- the Disney movie 'Mulan.' If 'Mulan' gets popular in China, then maybe you'll see Chinese icons popping up on kids' lunchboxes.

"We used to hear about the 'Coca-Cola-ization' of the world, but these days, Coca-Cola seems positively innocent compared with Disney. I find it particularly depressing to go into Italian bookstores. Not long ago I was looking for some Italian books to take home to America that I could read to my kids at bedtime (we speak Italian at home), and in a couple of the bookstores I tried, roughly half the children's books and well over half the
videos were Disney. There is something repulsive in that. It is strangling."


Then, there's an article in the current issue of Wired: The Ever-Expanding, Profit-Maximizing, Cultural-Imperialist, Wonderful World of Disney: The Serious Business of Selling All-American Fun from which I took the following quote:

"Despite all this, the image of Disney -- and of America in general -- as an unstoppable cultural juggernaut is misleading. The truth is that selling American culture overseas is a tricky business. Disney and other big global brands are driven not by grand plans to promote American values, but rather by incremental, pragmatic, financially oriented, market research-based business decisions -- and even then, the companies struggle mightily to make their initiatives work. Success depends on some rather mundane factors: Have you selected good local partners? Do your executives understand local traditions and speak the language? Have you developed and organization that allows for strategic coordination across far-flung locations? Have you
earned the goodwill of citizens groups and government officials?

"In most countries, media-related industries in particular are still dominated by domestic firms, and there is little reason to think that will change in the near future. Disney gets less than 20 percent of its revenue from overseas, a share that's been stagnant even though management has long cited the international market as a major growth area. The company's experience abroad suggests that even in this age of interconnection, where the combination of technology and American hegemony makes a shallow global monoculture a possibility, that dull new world won't be arriving anytime soon."
vyoma
Feb. 12th, 2002 05:47 am (UTC)
Re: The Full Quote
All you've gotta do is look at what's happened since McDonald's started operating franchises in China. There's been a huge increase in childhood obesity already, just in the last few years. Something like a 20% jump. Sound familiar?
venusflytrap
Feb. 12th, 2002 10:57 am (UTC)
Re: The Full Quote
Obesity is an epidemic. It is serious and often degrades quality of life. Personally, I dont think that its only $hitDonalds' responsibility. It is a way of life and the food industry is biting the hand that feeds it. I think someone should pit the insurance industry against $hitDonalds. We'll see who is more powerful.
vyoma
Feb. 12th, 2002 05:36 pm (UTC)
Re: The Full Quote
I did hear of a class action lawsuit recently (maybe a month ago) against a fast-food chain, I think, but I don't remember the details other than that it was health-related. At the very least, I think that marketing this kind of food to children is as bad as marketing cigarettes or alcohol to them. There's a McDonald's a few blocks from where I live that's having a "special in-store appearance" by Grimace on 2/17. I'm thinking of crashing it, of buying candy cigarettes and leaving them around for the kids to find. I figure, that's not illegal, but maybe it'll get a point across to a few of the parents. I don't know if I'll actually do it, though. I can't really afford to get arrested right now. I'd do it for sure if I had free legal representation in the wings!

You're right, it's not just McDonald's. Its not even just fast food restaurants! Ever see the fat and calorie count on Lunchables (a quick, pre-packaged lunch for kids in all the supermarkets)? About the same as a Big Mac, I think.
venusflytrap
Feb. 11th, 2002 11:51 pm (UTC)
I agree. Re the second quote...my husband grew up in different places, but always was physically far away from his 'cultural homeland'. His mother made sure that their home, within its four walls, was always like the home where she grew up. It took a long time for him to realise that the 'culture shock' that he had learned to despise everytime he was transplanted was more of an adventure than it was a nuisance and disturbance. And to a certain extent, I suspect, it was also because of me..because I literally crawled out of the cradle when I met him and hence had no real grasp of what 'tradition' means...and he had to deal with sharing his living space and oxygen with me.

Me, on the other hand because of a rather..how can i put it...hazy childhood, had to learn everything from scratch(so that we didnt end up like 2 angry cats in a burlap sack) and because I was learning about my own culture at an age when I can question and compare I benefited a lot more than others do. It has been an unpleasant as well as an enormously satisfying learning experience. This was most definitely different from a way of life being ingrained or a manner of thought being spoonfed to a child.

As far as the first comment(again, this is without considering the second post you made wrt the full article) is concerned..again, I agree. Have you noticed how even the sunshine is different in every place ... the smell of the earth after summer showers...and then you look at the strangers..speaking their strange tongue..eating their strange foods...wearing their strange clothes and living in their strange little worlds. But soon enough, the strangeness dissolves into comforting familiarity ...and you know why?! Because, we are all the same!! We lust. We hunger. We desire. We hate. We despise. We cry. We laugh. We err. We love. We live and then we all die. The most wonderful truth that I have discovered is that underneth all the glaring differences we care to display so willingly...behind the whispered lines spoken in strange tongues...we are all essentially one and the same!(a digression, but essential point...this is how I learned to love cooking...its amazing..just like Mythology...or at another extreme, Religion..., one soon realises that contrary to popular opinion most of the world's cuisine is essentially more similar than diverse) There are no strangers amongst us. There are only interesting people...:)

Sorry about the long post..another sleepless night here..
kmo
Feb. 12th, 2002 08:49 am (UTC)
"Sorry about the long post"
No need for that. I enjoyed reading it. I'm glad to know both you and your husband. You know you're both welcome to come stay with us here at scenic Cult Headquarters just about any time. I suggest coming in the summer. Lots of great light for photography.
venusflytrap
Feb. 12th, 2002 11:02 am (UTC)
Re: "Sorry about the long post"
LOL...is that what its called.."Cult Headquarters". Thank you for the invitation...:). Much appreciated.

I want to climb Mt.Rainier in June or early July. Hopefully..all things going well..fingers crossed. A visit to the Cult HQ too.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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