Cultural Imperialism?

The world is such a vast and diverse place that, unavoidably, there are countless ways in which perception can vary. The way we perceive is coloured by such things as culture, history, religion, and societal mores. Travelling and seeing the world is a great way to alter and widen perception. You learn that not everyone thinks the same way, meanings and values change alongside language and cuisine. I adore how interconnected the world has become. Xenophobia and anti-globalist approaches baffle me. I think cultural exchanges are important and more necessary than ever, but there are times when it goes beyond a mere exchange, and one society’s culture comes to be dominant, supplanting local parlance and ideology.

One thing I love to grouch about, mostly in jest, with my brother, is what I’ve termed American Cultural Imperialism. I come from a place where our culture is largely a hybrid. We celebrate each other’s cultural and religious holidays, whether it be Divali, Eid, or Easter, wearing the relevant attire and feasting on the appropriate delicacies. It never occurs to anyone that we should stay within some box divided by an invisible cultural barrier. Of course, there are occasions and ways by which cultures are disrespected and disparaged, but the way people on the internet go about screaming cultural appropriation at any slight opportunity they can find, is often what I see as a perplexing reach for the sake of being outraged when there are other issues that should be discussed, such as cultural imperialism.

There is a staggering amount of American slang and American ways of thinking which have insinuated the cultures of less dominant states. The BBC even had an article earlier this month on whether Americanisms were killing British English (It’s an interesting read, check it out – http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170904-how-americanisms-are-killing-the-english-language). Although it can be annoying to hear your own dialect begin to sound like a watered down echo of foreignisms, or a subconscious cry for help due to a still unnoticed identity crisis, the more troubling aspect is the force with which people feel by some measure, to conform their thought patterns to that of the cultural imperialist. There’s an almost pernicious imbalance, as it seems to always be a larger power, such as the States, influencing that of a less significant one. I once had  a Canadian teacher that did not see the irony in telling her students that the cultural terms which we use were incorrect and derogatory, even though the meanings and the intent differed from what they were in Canada.  She didn’t take into consideration that we were coming from different cultural paradigms, and in doing so, her trying to be culturally sensitive resulted in her being the exact opposite.

If we’re going to live in a globalised world, dialogue is important. Exchanging ideas, stemming from socio-historical and cultural influences, isn’t a bad thing. There’s a lot that can be learnt from Americans, Canadians, and Brits, but it can’t be one sided. American culture is so prevalent due to the media but it shouldn’t be a bad thing. There shouldn’t be this erasure amongst other cultures as a result. Yet, there is and it stems from an unwillingness to infringe on their own cultural dominance. It’s the reason we get American remakes of perfectly fine German, Korean, British, and French films, or mediocre interpretations of Japanese manga and anime as live-action films (I’m talking about you, awful Netflix Death Note). On the internet, you can sometimes see this hostile, negative outlash if people don’t think in a way which the culturally dominant majority thinks is right, or they’ll impress their own societal expectations or experiences onto a person, assuming the origins of their opinions or beliefs to be racist or bigoted, when in fact, it’s just coming from a different place culturally. There needs to be more of a balance, but those guilty of being cultural imperialists, need to realise that it’s happening, and I don’t mean by blindly shouting ‘cultural appropriation’.

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