Globalisation's One Hell of a Drug
Having taken Geography for my GCSEs and A Levels, I was able to regurgitate the meaning of globalisation.
…how the world is becoming interconnected by trade and culture exchange…it has created a global supply chain meaning that different parts of a product are produced all over the world…it has given rise multi/transnational corporations who have a global presence
I knew about Multinational Corporations and Transnational Corporations having branches of their companies all over the world and that production of one item could happen in over 5 countries before it ends up on a shop's shelf. With the United Kingdom being see as a major player on the global field, I never really questioned the process of globalisation. Seeing all these brands around me just made sense so although we regularly critiqued the process of globalisation in class, it never occurred to me to apply this to the world around me.
I recently travelled to Jamaica and Portugal and worked in China a couple of years ago and suddenly globalisation started screaming in my face. In countries that have such strong cultures, what are the effects of globalisation?
A couple of years ago I went to Beijing, China for a month for an internship. Our apartment building was right next to a small shopping centre that had a Mcdonald's and behind was a road of restaurants including a Starbucks and 7-Eleven. Although there were so many Chinese restaurants around, which we did go to, we spent a lot of time in these places. Even in the supermarkets we were often drawn to the brands and products that we knew e.g. Dove, Oreos. Something I found very interesting is that in Mcdonald's and Starbucks is that their menus were were in both Mandarin and English and majority of the staff could speak at the very least conversational English.
The minute I stepped out of my hotel I saw the Burger King logo with a Harley Davidson store across the road. The hotel's food options also included Sushi, Pizza, Pasta and American food alongside Jamaican cuisine. Just like China, the supermarket also stocked brands that I was familiar with from home e.g. McVities, Twinings amongst others.
I think my trip to Portugal really opened my eyes up to globalisation. It made me realise that there's more to globalisation that simply trade and interconnectivity, there's a migration and also power aspect to it to. In Portugal, there were so many British pub style restaurants. There was even a restaurant called Little Britain. Driving around we saw brands such as Aldi, Lidl, KFC and Ikea. On my first day there, we took a trip to an area called New Town and our first stop was at a Mcdonald's and, like China, most staff could speak English to a level that allowed them to take orders. Stepping into that Mcdonald's really made me question myself and led to me making a snapchat with the caption 'Globalisation's one hell of a drug.' What is it about these brands that keep us coming back to them, no matter where we are in the world? What cost does culture pay with globalisation causing such addictive behaviours?
Globalisation's One Hell of a Drug
I guess because technology has allowed the world to become so interconnected, it does make sense that our lives are shaped by the world too but I have some concerns.
Just like drugs, globalisation may seem like enticing for all the 'highs' it comes with; the products/services we consume, travel, the creation of jobs. We can drive European cars, eat different foods and talk to our families in other continents with phones designed and built across the world in at least 3 different countries. It seems to make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
It also has damaging effects that we often try not to talk about. The paths of exchange for globalisation aren't always created just because a company has decided to target another country's market for their product or service. Some of these paths have historic foundations. They were often created as a result of colonialism, conflict and a result of structural adjustment. When there is no historic foundations for these paths, there can also be neo-colonial elements to these activities. We must understand what comes with these global connections. Do they reinforce certain narratives, such as elitism? Do they erode the cultural heritage of these countries? There is a power element to globalisation, especially when it comes to companies in countries of the global south. Who really benefits from globalisation? There's also the environmental aspect of globalisation. Globalisation has accelerated consumption and caused heavy use of non-renewable energy, destructive extraction of natural resources and pollution. Can we really protect our world whilst continuing to build globalised markets?
Unfortunately, just like many issues that I have learnt about it, there is a lot of discussion critiquing globalisation but not much discussion on solutions that help to keep the highs whilst protecting people and countries from the damaging effects. I, myself, don't have a solution but do believe that we should be more aware of processes like globalisation and their implications.