Can you please tell me who fought the most when Japanese fought against Chinese? The Communist or the Nationalist?
By Jason on Tuesday, November 9, 1999 - 03:36 am:
One of the major themes of the 20th century not explicitly featured on this site is that of globalisation. Due to the advancement of transportation and communications technology, the world seems to have shrunk, with geographic distances, time zones and diversity of culture becoming less and less of a barrier to interaction between people in far-flung corners of the earth.
As a result of globalisation, mass media, commerce and tourism has grown explosively on a global scale, leading to the increasingly strong concept and perception of a global culture that has subsumed all those before it. But does this global culture really exist and how widespread is it? Below is a slightly modified version of an essay I wrote on this topic for an exam at school.
Note: I do not claim to be an authority on global culture and this submission is merely a flawed personal opinion expressed under the pressure of an examination.
Globalization and Global Culture:
To what extent is our impression of a global culture illusory?
For the last few decades of our century, the world has been chanting the mantra of "globalisation", espousing the belief that the world of the future will be one where borders are meaningless and the nations of the world will be joined as one big "global village". As a result of the opening up of economies and countries to foreign investment and influence, many sociologists now predict and in fact point out the development of a new "global culture". As such, how true is our impression of this global culture and does it really exist?
The average lay person would understand "global culture" as a culture shared by the rest of the world, where people in Cape Town, Calcutta or Chicago all possess a certain homogeneity and oneness with each other. They would hence speak the same language, read the same books, show concern towards the same issues, eat the same food and so on. Using this simple definition, it is elementary to see why many would whole-heartedly subscribe to the existence of a global culture since the world now increasingly speaks English, reads Michael Chrichton, protests against human rights abuses, eats fast food and so on.
Despite all this, however, I personally feel that although there are, and have always been, some elements of a global culture, today there still does not exist any one culture that can claim to be the truly global which has superseded all others.
Today, vast media conglomerates such as Time-Warner, Disney and NewsCorp encircle the globe, broadcasting their news and views via satellites which orbit the skies. Megamalls in cities around the world now have pretty much the same mix of fast food outlets, brand name boutiques and stores while chain supermarkets stock foods produced by Nestle and General Mills. Writers everywhere have noted the irony of being served Mexican food by an Armenian waiter in London or enjoying a Bollywood film about cross-ethnic marriages in San Francisco. The backpackers of today rarely need phrase books or the bravery to try weird foods: they can speak English and order a Big Mac and receive a Disney toy anywhere from Kansas City to Kathmandu. They can then retire to the nearest Holiday Inn or Hilton hotel where they can send e-mail to friends anywhere in the world and keep up with the latest news by watching CNN or listening to the BBC before returning home with a souvenir Hard Rock Café T-shirt.
In fact, the idea of having a global culture is nothing new. To a certain extent, people throughout the ages have always shared a common identity. At the most basic level, people have always sought to have comfortable lives and enough food on the table; to have the freedom to follow their own beliefs and customs; to love and protect their families and friends. World religions like Islam, Judaism and Christianity along with sprawling empires such as the Aztec, Mayan, Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Russian, British and Roman all caused large proportions of the world's population to share a highly similar culture long before the true advent of "globalisation".
Nevertheless, today people everywhere are more similar than they ever were previously. Under the constant assault of global influences, many elements of the diverse cultures of the world have been seemingly eroded, replaced quickly by those of the developed world.
But to what extent is the homogeneity of the new cultures of the world real? While cultures everywhere have undoubtedly evolved to keep up with developing technology and modern day needs, have they really fused into one big global culture? The answer lies both within our own borders as well as without.
Firstly, our impression of global culture has been formed mainly by influences from the Developed World, which forms merely a fifth of the world's population. We have been beguiled by the triumphalism and generalisations of the First World into thinking that theirs is a culture that is quickly becoming the basis for a global one. For instance, many people believe that English is the most widely spoken language on earth, influenced, no doubt, by the constant influx of First World literature and other media. In fact, while English can be spoken by nearly a quarter of the world's people, Mandarin has in fact the most native speakers (about 885 million) with nearly three times the number of native English speakers. Meanwhile, the native speakers of Spanish, Bengali, Hindi, Portuguese and Russian together outnumber those of English by nearly four times.
Similarly, travel, the only means of truly learning whether a world culture exists, has tricked us into believing that all the world is similar. Tourists today often prefer the sanitised, pre-packaged version of an exotic country. Millions of people pour each year into the Caribbean, Asia and Europe but return home with almost identical experiences: luxury cruise ships, sun-soaked beaches, western-style buffets and perhaps a forgettable little taste of bastardised "local cuisine" or "ethnic dance" or maybe a day trip to the local market or mall. What does this mean? Certainly not that a unique and distinct local culture was not flourishing outside the Club Med compound, but merely that many modern tourists refuse to experience it.
What's more, our impression of the global culture is strongly influenced by our own native culture. Like the emperors of the Chinese Middle Kingdom, we tend to egocentrically believe that the "global culture", if it exists at all, is just like ours. When we travel, we tend to ignore the more obvious differenced in customs and dress and language; but spot a McDonalds outlet and we are assured that this foreign land is really no different from our own.
At the same time, there has been an increasing backlash by ethnic and religious groups who refuse to be subsumed into a global culture. Movements have sprung up all over the world to preserve local customs and languages to ensure that the culture continues to flourish. Multinationals have also constantly had to adapt to local customs in order to turn a profit. Witness vegetarian McDonalds in largely vegetarian India and the Maori "language-immersion child care centres" in New Zealand, where children spend the day with fluent elders.
In conclusion, there is in fact evidence that the time and world situation is now favourable for the development of a global culture and already, elements of it exist on the shared identity and ideals that people around the world share. However, our perception of what global culture already exists has been coloured by our own cultural backgrounds and is not based on accurate knowledge of the Majority World. Above all, there is reason to believe that there will always be some diversity in cultures worldwide as people everywhere are increasingly proud and protective of their right to a unique culture.
By Julie on Tuesday, November 2, 1999 - 05:38 pm:
The Century - A poem
The century is almost over and
It's been a blast.
We've blasted off to the moon
And then blasted off to Mars;
But we blasted a hole in Japan
And another in the ozone layer.
We built the Skyscraper and the suspension bridge
And the supertanker, satellite and sewing machine.
We tore down the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain
And with it: Communism and Fascism.
We tinkered with genes and flying machines,
We conquered the depths and scaled the heights.
We built great sprawling, teeming cities
And lit them up with electric lights.
We declared our Rights and protected our children,
Defined Equality, Democracy and Peace.
But poverty grew wild and we fought quite a lot,
Although we said we wouldn't.
We consumed and produced with nary a care,
And left the forests and animals a terrible plight.
As the century closes and the last chapter unfolds,
Let look back towards the beginning,
Have we progressed? Regressed? Depressed?
The pictures and films, poems, songs and books tell a tale:
The Passing of a Century, a chapter in the Story of Man
By Ralph on Saturday, October 23, 1999 - 11:15 am:
Antibiotics in the 20th Century
"How 'bout gettin off those antibiotics....?"
If the line from Alanis Morissette's "Thank you" were a challenge to the world, it would be one which humanity would certainly decline.
The principle of using organic compounds to fight infection has been known since ancient times and the first observation of what is called the "antibiotic effect" was made in the 19th century by Louis Pasteur. However, it is in the 20th century that antibiotics were finally identified and produced for clinical use and in the late 20th century the mechanism behind antibiotics was finally understood.
The most famous antibiotic of them all was Penicillin, discovered by accident by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928 and fianally purified and used to fight many infectious diseases, including syphilis, gonorrhea, tetanus (1926), and scarlet fever after the 1940s.
Today, antibiotics are used all around the world to treat almost all bacteria-caused infectious diseases, helping millions of people to lead disease-free lives.
So, aren't antibiotics truly the greatest 20th century discovery?
(Message originally in the Forum)
By Robin on Tuesday, October 19, 1999 - 10:26 pm:
Please find a brief essay on my experiences regarding Apartheid in South Africa. They are by no means comprehensive, but instead give my highly personalized impressions and experiences.
I was born into a working class 'white' South African family. My father was an Engineer and my mother was a housewife. I have one brother who is nine years older than me. I never really questioned the political system of the country until I attended University for four years. This was from 1981- 1984. This was during a particularly turbulent time in the political history of the country. By the end of my fourth year at University, I was required by law to serve in the military for two years. This involved me in either being sent to one of the border conflicts, or else being sent to the townships to quell unrest against Apartheid rule. I made up my mind that I could not be a part of this.
I left the country at the end of 1984 and went to Zimbabwe. There I applied for Refugee Status,which was granted to me. During the five years that I was in Zimbabwe I studied, and organized various activities to highlight the plight of Refugees ( this included and Art Exhibition for Refugee Day on an annual basis). During this time my mother passed away, and I could not return to the country for her funeral. As you can imagine this was not an easy time for me. In addition, there were also numerous attacks on refugees homes by South African Agents in Harare. Some refugees living nearby to me had their home rocketed, and a refugee from Mozambique who lived in the same road, was killed by a bomb planted in a TV set. Finally in 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and the liberation movements were unbanned. I made immediate plans to return to the country, where I have worked as a Teacher up until this point.
The details of Apartheid atrocities are well documented. Now with the series of hearing at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, those who were responsible for the deaths of thousands of all race groups during Apartheid, are now confessing. Unfortunately many of these people still do not understand that what they did was wrong. Fortunately we now do have a public record of their activities.
We have a massive backlog interms of providing equal services to everyone in the country,as well as a major crime problem. Fortunately though we have one of the most liberal Constitutions in the world, as well as tremendous human and natural resource potential. The challenge now seems to be for us to guide ourselves and others in the right direction, so as to achieve our full potential.
by Robin Opperman, Durban, South Africa
By Jose C. on Monday, October 18, 1999 - 01:11 pm:
The Most Important Invention of All
To me, the most important 20th century invention of all is undoubtedly mechanised flight in the form of the Wright brothers' airplane. That day in 1901, the Wright brothers began man's extraordinary conquest of the air.
Man has long since looked to the skies and marvelled at the birds soaring through the air. Flight was soon associated with freedom and being without a care. Most great mythical, magical creatures were bestowed the power of flight by their creators; witness: the Dragon, the Griffith, the Phoenix and Pegasus. The desire to stretch forth one's arms and take to the skies has been immortalised in myth and literature alike, from Icarus and his wings of feathers and wax to the airborne Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Hence, when man finally realised his centuries-old dream of flying, the supremacy of Science, engineering and Man was firmly established, a mindset which characterised much of the 20th century.
The new boldness and confidence that the conquest of the skies gave rise to spurred on the development of other inventions and discoveries which would continue to shape the world we live in.
Even on it's own, the development of air travel meant that people and goods could be transported from one point of the earth to another in a fraction of the original time needed. For instance, crossing the Atlantic from America to France took about a week by passenger liner. However, the travel time by plane was counted in hours. This naturally, had a profound effect on the way business and travel was done. The development of commercial airliners spawned a whole new range of employment opportunities: airport building, operation and maintenance; airplane design, construction and repair; airplane pilots and crew; customs officials and so on. All this helped to boost economies the world over as once faraway, exotic lands suddenly became accessible to businessmen.
Naturally, not all of the airliners' passengers were on business. As air travel became increasingly affordable, millions began to travel for enjoyment or to visit distant relatives and so on. Today, the global tourist industry is worth uncountable billions and can be said to be one of the world's biggest industries with many countries relying almost solely on tourism as a means of employment and foreign revenue.
IT is now obvious, in hindsight, that the invention of the aeroplane has had an enormous impact on the world and on man himself, causing profound changes in the spheres of science and discovery, travel and tourism, business and industry. It has opened up both jaded minds as well as distant lands. Hence, the invention of the airplane has a rightful claim to being the most important invention of the 20th century.
Contributed by: Jose C. from Manila
By Janine on Wednesday, September 22, 1999 - 11:26 am:
A great literary work influenced by WWII
Lord of the Flies
by William Golding
William Golding served in World War II as a lieutanant in the British Royal Navy, and took part in the sinking of the German ship Bismark, and the Normandy Landing. The most devastating war in history has had a deep effect on writers and thinkers of the 20th century. Golding was also set thinking about the nature of mankind. He said,
The war was unlike any other fought in Europe, it taught us not about politics, fighting or the follies of nationalism, but about the human nature of Man
His first novel, Lord of the Flies, was published in 1954. However, only much later, did it gain recognition and in 1983, it won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Lord of the Flies was so groundbreaking, because it did not tell us, but vividly showed us the "darkness of man's heart" in a very human and realistic setting. Golding used fiction to illustrate the point extremely well...and from there, we see the impact of World War II and the atomic bomb. They certainly have changed perspectives forever.