Distortion or evolution of culture?

by Anna Dreveau

In our globalized world, information is transmitted, exchanged and shared throughout a big part of the planet. As information is shared, so is culture. Movies, TV shows, books and even commercials from different counties would be known across the world and deliver a certain reflection of its country of origin. However, this image of the culture do not get the same treatment as it is used to in its own country: should we be talking about “distortion” of culture and condemn it?

If the distortion of culture is considered as negative – as the choice of the word “distortion” clearly conveys – what about the evolution and mixing of cultures? Being exposed to other cultures has inspired local artists in a different way than if they would have been without globalization. Music is mixing genres with Da Arabian MC, as they took Black-American Hip Hop and Arabic poetry. They revitalize what Hip Hop has been – a music of protest – and while letting aside what it became – merchandised music –, mixing traditional Arabic poetry and Palestinian way to write songs to convey a message that is fully them, but similar to Hip Hop messages used to be.

This mix of cultures thus enrich every single cultures involved and create something new, part of a more globalized culture.

Nevertheless, the fear about distortion can be real. Steve Derné have written an article about culture globalization in India. He describes the attitude of middle-class Indian people towards Western views about gender roles. While being exposed to a culture promoting women liberation and love marriage, they refuse those same principles, as they would rather stick to the traditional gender roles and arranged marriage. However, they are more than accepting toward the image convoyed by action movies as they stress male domination and violence, which find echoes in Indian culture.

By only taking a part of what American culture proposed about gender role, India get to stick with its traditional values, reinforce them and does not change in any way while America values get impoverished in foreign soil.

Those thus are extreme reactions; one is understanding and adapt the culture and its own to create something new and even more striking while the other is closing its understanding of other cultures to only select what suit him best. The biggest difference between Da Arabian MC and those middle-class Indians is not only open-mindedness and also their feeling of closeness with the other culture. Da Arabian MC choose to work with Hip Hop music because they feel that Black-American back then suffer from the same fate they are currently coping with.

Yet, middle-class Indians do not have the means to stick to love marriage, as parents still play a very important role in young couples’ life and thus see those egalitarian ideas as completely foreign. However, as Steve Derné mentions in his article, give them the means (i.e. high income class Indians) and even Indians will be more than willing to accept those new ideas, as they convey something that can find echo in their economic and living situation.

Transforming a culture while it is sent overseas seem to be the fate of those undertaking globalization. Whether it is just a interpretation restriction, an evolution by mixing cultures, culture changed for the people who will receive them. When you think about it, it is not so different from interpretation of books. As books are written, the author was hinting a certain message but the readers can not see it. It can interpret it in a completely different way, but can you say that it is the wrong way to interpret it if it makes sense with the content of the book ? Umberto Eco stresses something though: do not ignore parts of the book to make it suit your own message. This criticism can transposed to middle-class Indians way of interpreting American culture, which is too restrictive to bring the positive effects of being opened to others cultures.

Environmental Class Discrimination Takes on a Global Scale

by Miko Borys

Throughout the 80′s, less affluent neighborhoods began noticing that they suffered a highly disproportionate share of the pollution from the same industry that produced resources for all. Demonstrations such as the one in Warren County in 1982 where 550 citizens protested non-violently and were arrested, or in Southeast Chicago in 1987 where African-Americans blockaded 57 trucks from entering a waste incinerator, were happening all over America. Furthermore, the minority neighborhoods were statistically the most affected, having more toxic waste in their neighborhoods than any surrounding area: “of [the] nine proposed and constructed incinerators in the greater Chicago area… seven were in African American communities and two were in working class and/or white ethnic neighborhoods” (Pellow 90).The lesser chance of litigation in poorer minority neighborhoods supposedly made it an attractive option for industry initially. Groups like PCR, the People for Community Recovery led a movement in the US dubbed the “Environmental Justice” movement. The EJ movement believed, among other supporting ideals, that “all people have the right to protection from environmental harm” and they challenged the environmental inequality all over the U.S. Eventually, they successfully brought reform hindering the proliferation of environmentally unsound civil development. But where did the pollution go?

Thanks to such movements the environmental burdens of industrial development were seemingly abated. But the burdens were not abated in terms of distributing them more evenly, rather they were moved physically until they were no longer local. The regulations passed were so stringent, that environmentally challenging industry decided it would be in their best interest to remove their factories from the country entirely. The regulations and the effects weren’t exactly harmonious with what the EJ movement idealized. Even though the activists succeeded with getting pollution out of their neighborhoods the issue with pollution wasn’t resolved, it was just shifted further away.

Poorer neighborhoods might not be struggling with keeping pollution out as much as poorer countries are now. The pollution haven hypothesis states: when firms from industrialized nations seek to setup factory or office abroad, they will choose the country with the cheapest resources and labor, often at the expense of sound environmental practice. Even though the EPA might be seeing guidelines met in the U.S. for reduced emissions, the resolution might have just been “fancy bookkeeping” from the companies part. For instance, in Oregon the last coal-fired power plant is set to close by 2020. Yet the same town of Boardman closing down the power plant is considering the construction of a new large coal export facility. This coal export facility like others will take Powder River Basin coal from Montana and Wyoming and export it to the less environmentally restricted markets of Asia.

Even when we’re cautious to keep pollution out of our own neighborhoods it still finds its way to the climate through cracks in environmental policy elsewhere in the world. Even though one of the core fundamentals of the “Environmental Justice” movement was for “all people [to] have the right to protection from environmental harm” the movement stopped short when polluting industry crossed international borders. Even once the environmental movements cross borders, will pollution still find its place? Perhaps extra-terrestrially.

References

Environmental Racism” http://www.pollutionissues.com/Ec-Fi/Environmental-Racism.html

“Cutting Carbon Means More than Fancy Bookkeeping” http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2112907,00.html

David N. Pellow. “Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago”

Gunnar E. Eskeland and Ann E. Harrison. Moving to Greener Pastures? Multinationals and the Pollution Haven Hypothesis. NBER Working Paper No. 8888. http://www.ncpcbarchives.com/

Names and things

by Janic Kühner

I grew up in a surrounding in which I was given much time that I could spend according to what came to my mind. Educators of mine, as part of this environment, exerted few pressure to make me learn since they mostly regarded my output as good enough. Different activities were interesting to me at different points. I started some, stopped others after having lost any drive to engage in them or picked up them up again when my interest came back. Today, most of these actives as such would not earn me an instant yaki-soba. However, I believe that there can be meaning and maybe also value in everything we do, even if it is hard to measure with the rulers we used to use in mathematics class.

People with physical appearances that some might easily point back to an origin from foreign countries were as present in my life as there where those people others would or could not tell apart. Reflecting, grouping people based on an idea of valid relations between physical appearances and who these people actually are, was not a trait that would become significant to govern how I behave. Today, so it is, I believe to not only know that establishing such relationships is in most cases imprecise and too generalising but also that I feel it.

Reading scholarly texts about discrimination that focus on skin colour or race pose me questions that stay unanswered. Why IS this person black if we are talking about the person’s skin colour? If we’d copy to a piece of paper various skin “colours”, would any of these “colours” actually ensemble black, yellow, white? Why do authors talk about, let’s say, “Veracruzanos”, “Asian Americans” or “Germans” as if they were single entities? What is a “lower class” and why does everybody wants to get out of it? Why is it valid to measure lives or the quality of live in occupation, income and “education”?

I wonder, are these questions unworthy of consideration?

Post scriptum:

Making sense of this post as a whole might not be easy. However, I was preparing it with consideration and I would enjoy to hear about any advised reaction.

Why Does Skin Color Matter in Indian Marriages?

by Sho Hamamoto

It seems that having fair skin still matters in Indian marriages. Many Indian men and women are suffering from an obsession with fair skin. Why is it important to have fair skin in Indian marriages? There are three possible reasons for the obsession. Jyotsna Vaid (2009) mentions maintaining the purity of the bloodstream of the upper castes and an association between darker skin and lower class working under a hot sun. India is a very strict class society due to the caste system and sensitive to social classes. This is one of reasons why the percentage of arranged marriages in India stands at 90%. Arranged marriages prevent marriages between different classes. Skin color is one of class symbols. As Glenn mentions, there is an association between darker skin and lower class working under a hot sun in India. Due to the fact that skin color represents one’s class in India, people prefer fair skin (upper class) to darker skin (lower class).

Agrawal (2012) provides another reason for the preference for fair skin is a mind-set by British rule. Under the British rule, Whites were superior to Indians (darker skin people). The legacy of British rule may still remain in the Indian society and create an image that lighter skin is superior to darker skin.

Lastly, media is a major contributor to creating an image that lighter skin is better than darker skin. In media including TV programs, ads, and movies, lighter skin tends to be described as a sophisticated feature. People on media tend to have fair skin and those media create an ideal image of people. As a result, people have had an image that lighter skin is more sophisticated than darker skin.

As seen above, skin color still matters in India marriages because of a strict class society in India, British rule, and an image that fair skin is sophisticated created by media. It is not easy to change the situation because you have to change the structure (class society, media and so on).

An interesting point is that an association between fair skin and “a sophisticated image” can be seen in many other countries, such as Japan, China, Korea, and Singapore. Why is the sophisticated image of fair skin shared in different countries? Personally, a class society has much to do with this phenomenon. Darker skin may be linked to lower class working under a hot sun while fair skin is linked to upper class. This historical image has created the sophisticated image of fair skin and media has bolstered the image. This can be an explanation for the shared image of fair skin in many different countries.

References

Agrawal, V. (2012). Why Indian men want fair skin brides? Retrieved from http://www.bollywoodshaadis.com/article/lifestyle–health/relationships/why-indian-men-want-fair-skin-brides

Glenn, E. (2009). Shades of difference. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Lancy. (2013, April 15). Does skin color really matter in Indian marriages?. Retrieved from http://browse.feedreader.com/c/Makeup_and_Beauty_Home/390094216

Statics Brain. (2012). Arranged/forced marriages statistics. Retrieved from http://www.statisticbrain.com/arranged-marriage-statistics/

Why Indian Men want Fair Skin Brides from www.bollywoodshaadis.com