In 1980 a movie came out that turned popular thought to the damage that globalization imposes on cultural identity. “The Gods Must Be Crazy” highlights a simple way that globalization threatens cultural identity. In this movie, the Sho tribe of the Kalahari Desert believes that it has been gifted with a special treat when an empty glass Pepsi bottle falls from a light aircraft flying overhead.
Because the Sho are a resourceful people, they find many uses for this bottle. Unfortunately, the Sho are not accustomed to having a limited resource. Their experience is that everything that had been given by the gods was given in sufficient supply for everyone to use. The existence of a single bottle, an allegory for globalization, threatens their cultural identity as jealousy, anger, and the concept of personal possessions begins to infiltrate their tribe. Even violence, as yet inexperienced by this tribe, creeps into their hearts as they fight over the single Pepsi bottle.
By its very nature, globalization does require some release of cultural identity. This is as true for tribal cultures as it is true for generational cultures. The above mentioned movie demonstrates how tribes can be affected by the infiltration of the outside culture. Also though, even the generational culture of the Baby Boomers can be affected by globalization when it is confronted with the new values and habits of younger generations who are more tech savvy and less comfortable to shelving their own desires for the greater good.
In America, a land once referred to as a “Melting Pot,” globalization has been lauded as an important value. However, many of the various people groups that immigrated to America began to lose their cultural identity for the sake of globalization. Over the course of a few generations, this caused America to move towards the “Salad Bowl” theory of globalization. The end result is that members of various ethnic and cultural groups retain what they can from their background, while attempting to integrate what is good and worthy from surrounding cultures.
The “Salad Bowl” theory is a way to reduce the threat of globalization towards cultural identity. It affects the language children are taught, the food people eat, and even the way people interact with one another in the work place. An immigrant family may choose to teach their child the native language and rely on local school systems to teach the child English. This helps the family maintain an important part of their cultural heritage – language – while still ensuring their child receives the benefit of living in another culture.
In heavily immigrant communities, such as south Florida, the Hispanic population outnumbers the non-Hispanic population, bringing a new meaning to globalization. There are segments of the city that resemble very closely the native countries of those areas residents. Despite this, the threat of globalization still exists as younger generations grow up and have to make hard decisions about whether not to stay in their current cultural ghetto or to move into another area.
Globalization does affect cultural identity. However, it does not need to threaten it. Each culture can choose for itself what it wants to keep and want it wants to share. In this way, every culture might find itself all the better for its exposure to other cultures.