Centered on Civil Liberties & Political Issues, Human Development & Socioeconomic Matters
The impact of globalization on Arab culture is not a matter of simple statistics and reports. It is, in essence, a diagnostic line of analysis to consider its pluses and minuses on the Arab general public.
Globalization consists of social, economic, and political adjustments that people may embrace to epitomize their culture and incorporate into with the world. It is a concept that has economic, social, and political roots; and thus many consequences.
To a large extent, globalization promotes the integration of the world and calls for the removal of all cultural barriers. Although globalization is a vital process to transfer knowledge and education to the world, it still has its negative effects on most cultures and civilizations. Its impact on cultures, particularly on Arab culture, is somewhat controversial.
Many nationalists and cultural trustees of the Arab world, for instance, condemn the influences of globalization on their culture. Conservative Arab nationalists and fundamentalists argue that their culture cannot adhere to many globalized notions. For them, any claim to the contrary is just an inspiration to degrade other cultures in favor of a dominant one, or an attempt to certify the domination of one culture, mainly the modern version of Western culture, over the others.
While its advocates rationalize that with the support of those momentous technological information devices, such as computers, satellites, internet and social media, Arab culture can be acclimatized to retain most globalized concepts despite its variances with Western culture and the distinctions between their historical and religious roots.
Critics of globalization argue that this cultural invasion will lead to the disintegration of identity and cultural spirit. Contrastingly, its cheerleaders consider the decline of cultural distinctions as a substantial sign of enhanced communications, a measure of integration of societies, and a scope toward unification of civilizations.
Actually, the magnification of global media networks and satellite communication technologies enable some dominant powers to have a truly global reach. Distinctly, technological superiority is a definite advantage when it comes to originating a culture as it formulates its universal appeal. Though it is a necessary credit, it is also insufficient.
The fact that the internationalization of information has provided networks of communication and interaction between different cultures of the world is clear and certain. However, the great accomplishments of this Information Age, which shortened the time, distances and shrank the world, should not be employed to determine the guidelines of any civilization or reshape the Arab national cultures.
However, it is worth noting that the tools now obtainable in order to bring cultures closer have also drained many cultures of this world. This is mainly because the organic structure of culture is grounded in human intellect, traditions, and activities, most of which were implanted in a particular geographical and historical settings.
On the economic level, a 262-page annual study commissioned by the UN Development Program, in 1999, counseling the unevenness of globalization revealed that open markets are contributing to cultural insecurity in poorer nations, which have removed barriers against Western imports.
This imbalanced flow of Western economic views and lifestyle heading for one direction, from rich countries to the poorer and from giant industrial countries to the developing nations, have made in effect these lesser countries under invasion by the global socioeconomic forces of the industrialized West.
Louise Frechette, the then UN Deputy Secretary-General, argued (while addressing UN delegates, in 1999) the phenomenon of globalization saying: “It brings up many opportunities to learn from each other, and to benefit from a wider range of choices, but it can also seem very threatening.’’
She added, “instead of widening our choices, globalization can seem to be forcing us all into the same shallow, consumerist culture giving us the same appetites but leaving us more than ever unequal in our ability to satisfy them. Many millions of people have yet to feel its benefits at all.”
In fact, this rapid economic, technological, social, and political intrusion of foreign culture into the Arab world may put their cultural magnitude in jeopardy and will force people to fear for the loss of their religious and societal characteristics.
However, should globalization have been introduced with significant educational, social, and economic support of which Arab countries could flourish alongside foreign cultures, then it might have been fully accepted as a universal culture, not a western one, in which Arabs may come under its umbrella at equal terms with other cultures.
History shows that bridging cultural gaps and functioning as a home to diverse peoples requires a superior ideology and social structure that have far-reaching economical systems that can adopt foreign cultures and surpass any cultural hindrance. Yet, none seem to have it all.
At large, compelling a Western model on dissimilar countries may harm the economic future and cultural standing of Arab countries as well as that of other worlds. However, alternative approaches harmonizing economic and cultural diversities should be pursued, and not sameness of the culture.
Unfortunately, what is globalized is only the image of modernity, not modernism. Though information barriers have dropped off, yet a cultural stone wall is rising up instead.
Autor’s Note: This article was first published in “The Daily Star” newspaper