Sunday, 28 March 2004

the labelling of economies

it was interesting to read from The Economist that a couple of years ago, "frustrated by the old labels" used to categorise countries in the world, they proposed a new three-way split of the world's economies: paralysed economies (mainly poor ones in Africa); progressing economies (notably China and India, which are growing rapidly); and the paranoid economies (rich economies, such as America, which fear competition from the progressives). these labels didn't really take off, for some reason, but they remain some of the most up-to-date ones i've come across so far.... the old and cliched ones being "developed/developing nations", "industrial/agricultural economies", "first world/third world/second world" etc..

incidentally, i was talking to a friend (visting from overseas, specifically Europe) last night over dinner and she told me that the fear and paranoia that Europe feels about Asia is very real indeed. As the population of Europe shrinks while that of giants like India and China continues to grow, with economies to match, much of Europe wonders about its future, as well as its competitiveness, especially with Asia, particularly China, being termed the "next economic superpower"...

yet, as it is obvious from the ongoing controversy over globalisation, many countries, not just Asian countries such as Singapore, still fret over this so called "cultural dominance" by the Western world, in particular, the worldwide spread and dominance of the American culture ("Americanisation") via the mass media. more often than not, the Western media is seen as reflecting and projecting values that are automatically (and most certainly unfairly) assumed to be negative, including but not limited to those regarding sexual attitudes, lifestyles, family relationships etc.. They are seen not only as a threat to local cultures but also conflict with so-called "traditional values" held near and dear by the older generation.

"outraged intellectuals .. are preoccupied with protecting their cultural industries and institutions from American preponderance, the elite in developing countries are warning against the threat of the homogenization of the world under the auspices of American pop culture or Western consumerism in general. In fact, the war against Americanization of cultures has become the leitmotiv of political parties, pressure groups and intellectuals in many countries around the world." (Source: Fear of US Pop Culture Dominance Drives Anti-Globalization Sentiment By Jerry Tardieu)

personally, my sense is that the flow of culture globally is definitely not a one-way thing: Europe and the US are embracing yoga, taichi and Bollywood movies in as great measure as Asian countries are soaking up Western sitcoms, streetside coffee joints and hamburgers (? Mickey mouse? Powerpuff girls?). At the same time, young people from both sides of the globe are starting to gain a firmer appreciation and sense of identity of who they are - the typical teenager in Singapore, Taiwan or HK probably has a greater knowledge of Jap-pop, 5566 and F4 as they have of US boybands, while the Western teen will have his equivalent in Hollywood stars and all... in so many ways, the culture exchange that is happening isn't bad at all if it does lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of cultures and ways of life vastly different from ours.. in some ways, i really like to think of it as the world finally learning to connect in a real, meaningful and mutually beneficial way..

wish i could explore this issue in greater depth but i think i should go and continue to do my lesson plans.. hah! :)

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